Hirakawa began work on it, he intended
to write a handbook for students interested in the development of Buddhism across Asia that would serve as a useful guide to the basic issues
in Buddhist doctrine, history, and bibliography.
Although the project
soon became much longer and had a narrower focus than he had originally planned, it benefited in at least two ways from Hirakawa's original intention.
First, it is an exceptionally comprehensive discussion of
Indian Buddhism, treating its history, doctrine, and bibliography with
an admirable degree of completeness. Most of the significant topics in
Indian Buddhism are discussed in some detail.
Second, it ·is a very
clearly written text. Because Hirakawa wrote it with students as the
intended audience, he composed it in a style that could be readily
understood by students and informed general readers.