Awakening : An Introduction to the History of Eastern Thought book cover
6th Edition

An Introduction to the History of Eastern Thought

ISBN 9781138063952
Published September 5, 2017 by Routledge
560 Pages 24 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Awakening: An Introduction to the History of Eastern Thought engages students with lively anecdotes, essential primary and secondary sources, an accessible writing style, and a clear historical approach. The text focuses primarily on India, China, and Japan, while showing the relationships that exist between Eastern and Western traditions. Patrick Bresnan consistently links the past to the present, so students may see that Eastern traditions, however ancient their origins, are living traditions and relevant to modern times. Updates to the Sixth Edition include a new introduction as well as new approaches to problem areas throughout the text, but with special emphasis in Chapter 5 (Ashtanga Yoga), Chapter 10 (Basic Teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha), Chapter 12(Mahayana Buddhism: Madhyamaka section) and Chapter 18 (Chan Buddhism: regarding the relationship of Chan Buddhism to Zen Buddhism). In addition, all references and source material have been brought up to date. The companion website includes two new videos and many new photos, produced by the author.

New to this Sixth Edition:

• A new introduction that provides a helpful overview of each of the nineteen chapters and important connections between them;

• An improved explanation of the nature of Vedanta philosophy, and a more logical organization of the Key Elements of the Upanishads in Chapter 3;

• An extensive rewrite of Chapter 5, which deals with the subject of Ashtanga Yoga as expressed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali;

• A greatly improved presentation of Buddha’s “Four Noble Truths” in Chapter 10;

• A total recasting of the teaching of Nagarjuna in the Madhyamaka section of Chapter 12;

• A clearer and easier to understand presentation of the teaching of the Dao De Jing in Chapter 14;

• A major revision of Chapter 18 so as to clearly distinguish Chinese Chan from Japanese Zen;

• Greater emphasis throughout, where pertinent, on the role of meditation practice in all Eastern traditions;

• Revised and updated Questions for Discussion at the end of each chapter;

• New photos and two newly produced videos prepared by the author for the book’s companion website:



Table of Contents


Part I Hinduism and Related Traditions of South Asia

Chapter 1: India Before the Vedas

The Lay of the Land

South Asia Before the Vedic Age

The Theory of Indo-Aryan Migrations

Varna: The Caste System

The Brahmin Caste

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 2: Veda and the Vedas

Yajna: The Vedic Sacrifice

The Vedic Pantheon

An Overview of Vedic Cosmology

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 3: Introduction to the Upanishads

Key Elements of the Upanishads

An Overview of Vedanta Cosmology

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 4: The Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita and the Mahabharata

The Opening Scene

The Bhagavad Gita as Metaphor

The Awakened Person

Karma Yoga

Raja Yoga

Bhakti Yoga

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 5: Ashtanga Yoga

The General Nature of Yoga

The "Eight Limbs" of Ashtanga Yoga

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 6: Darshana

The Orthodox Darshanas

The Heterodox Darshanas

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 7: The Devotional Movement

The Trimurti


The Hindu Temple

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 8: A Millennium of Strife

The Muslim Era

The Modern

Questions for Discussion

Part II Shakyamuni Buddha and the Early Development of Buddhism

Chapter 9: The Life Story of Shakyamuni Buddha

The Palace Youth

The Sadhu Years

The Awakening

The Teaching Years

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 10: Basic Teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha

The Doctrine of Anatman

The Four Noble Truths

The Noble Eightfold Path

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 11: Theravada Buddhism

The Early Centuries


Theravada Buddhism

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 12: Mahayana Buddhism

Diversity and Religious Elements in Mahayana

The Nature of Buddha



The Bodhisattva

Artistic Expression in Early Mahayana

Questions for Discussion

Part III Non-Buddhist Traditions of East Asia

Chapter 13: Confucius and Confucianism



Other Voices from the Period of a Hundred Philosophers

Later Developments in the Evolution of Confucianism

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 14: Daoism

Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching)

Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu)

Religious Daoism

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 15: Shinto

The Shinto Creation Story

The Shinto Shrine and Festival

Historical Development of Shinto

Questions for Discussion

Part IV Buddhism in China and Japan

Chapter 16: Early Buddhism in China

Buddhism in the Tarim Basin

Tiantai Buddhism

Huayan Buddhism (Hua-Yen)

Pure Land Buddhism

Persecution and Recovery

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 17: Tibetan Buddhism

The Establishment of Buddhism in Tibet

The General Character of Buddhism in Tibet

A Historical Overview of Buddhism in Tibet

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 18: Chan Buddhism



After Huineng

Questions for Discussion

Chapter 19: Zen Buddhism

Japan Before Zen

Rinzai and Soto Zen

The Zen Monastery

Zen and the Arts

Questions for Discussion

Works cited


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Patrick S. Bresnan is a retired professor of history and philosophy at De Anza College, Cupertino, California, where he created a four-quarter course, Introduction to Eastern Philosophy, dealing with the historical development of the major philosophical traditions of Asian countries. That, plus extensive travel and study in Asia, resulted in the production of the college-level text Awakening: An Introduction to the History of Eastern Thought. Other books by Patrick S. Bresnan include Them: The Adventures of a College Classroom Teacher (2012) and The Amazing Meditation Revolution: West Meets East (2013).


"The high praises attached to Awakening should not come as a surprise. This is the sixth edition of Awakening, and Bresnan has made significant changes in each edition—clarifying his presentations, honing the questions, and adding new elements. . . . [It] is truly a testament to a great educator who is well-versed in a wide range of Eastern traditions and philosophies."

– Paul J. D’Ambrosio in Teaching Philosophy