'What the Buddha Taught' by Walpola Rahula

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    Hi everyone,

    This is really just a book recommendation, this book introduced me to Buddhism when I was about 13 years old and my mum bought it for me after I expressed an interest in Buddhism (thanks mum)!

    It takes a very simple Theravadin approach to Buddhism (Rahula was a monk from Sri Lanka), mainly focusing on the exposition of the core of the Buddha’s teachings with lots of great references to the Pali Canon. It has a chapter on each of the Four Noble Truths, and then a chapter on the doctrine of no-self (Anatta), and one on meditation.

    It’s available on Amazon here.

    Rahula’s attitude has definitely heavily influenced my approach to Buddhism (I’ve got Theravadin instincts so to speak) and generally appeals to common sense and rationality. It’s this attitude that has always made me suspicious of esoteric doctrines and gurus, which worry me because of the potential for abuse of power. I don’t think it’s appropriate to treat a fallible human as a divine messenger. Following the example of the Buddha:

    It is on this principle of individual responsibility that the Buddha allows freedom to his disciples. In the Mabāparinibbāna-sutta the Buddha says that he never thought of controlling the Sangha (Order of Monks), nor did he want the Sangha to depend on him. He said that there was no esoteric doctrine in his teaching, nothing hidden in the ‘closed-fist of the teacher’ (ācariya-muṭṭhi), or to put it in other words, there never was anything ‘up his sleeve’.

    That is in part why I am so happy to have found Culadasa’s teachings. Previously I never really appreciated the importance or value of meditation, or the developmental progress of samātha. It’s really the missing piece to Rahula’s work, which doesn’t have much to say on establishing meditation practice.

    I strongly recommend this book to anybody who has so far pursued a more ‘secular’ approach to meditation. Its a highly lucid and down-to-earth explanation of the core principles of Buddhist philosophy, from a true scholar with a convincing profile of the Buddha’s attitude to teaching. Well worth a read, either as an introduction or a refresher.

    Has anyone else read this book?


    • This topic was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by  Jamie.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by  Jamie.
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    Another little excerpt:

    The Buddha once visited a small town called Kesaputta in the kingdom of Kosala. The inhabitants of this town were known by the common name Kālāma. When they heard that the Buddha was in their town, the Kālāmas paid him a visit, and told him:
    ‘Sir, there are some recluses and brāhmaṇas who visit Kesaputta. They explain and illumine only their own doctrines, and despise, condemn and spurn others’ doctrines. Then come other recluses and brāhmaṇas, and they, too, in their turn, explain and illumine only their own doctrines, and despise, condemn and spurn others’ doctrines. But, for us, Sir, we have always doubt and perplexity as to who among these venerable recluses and brāhmaṇas spoke the truth, and who spoke falsehood.’
    Then the Buddha gave them this advice, unique in the history of religions:
    ‘Yes, Kālāmas, it is proper that you have doubt, that you have perplexity, for a doubt has arisen in a matter which is doubtful. Now, look you Kālāmas, do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts, nor by mere logic or inference, nor by considering appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea: ‘this is our teacher’. But, O Kālāmas, when you know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome (akusala), and wrong, and bad, then give them up . . . And when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome (kusala) and good, then accept them and follow them.’
    The Buddha went even further. He told the bhikkhus that a disciple should examine even the Tathāgata (Buddha) himself, so that he (the disciple) might be fully convinced of the true value of the teacher whom he followed.

    Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught pp.30-31

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