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They indicate that he did indeed have a wife and son, but apart from that all we have is a stock descrip- tion of a life of luxury enjoyed by the very wealthy and privil- eged placed into the mouth of the Buddha himself: I was delicate, most delicate, supremely delicate. I used no sandal wood that was not from Benares. My turban, tunic, lower garments and cloak were all of Benares cloth.
A white sunshade was held over me day and night so that I would not be troubled by cold or heat, dust or grit or dew I too am subject to ageing, sickness, and death, not beyond ageing, sickness, and death, and that I should see an- other who is old, sick or dead and be shocked, disturbed, and disgusted -this is not fitting.
In the developed account this experience of disenchantment with the world is related in terms of the story of the Bodhisattva's rides with his charioteer. As he leaves the confines of his luxurious apartments, he encounters for the first time in his life a decrepit old man, a severely ill man, and a corpse being carried to the funeral pyre by mourners.
The experience is traumatic, and when he then sees a wandering ascetic with serene and composed features Gautama resolves that he will leave his home and take up the life of a wandering ascetic himself. Accompanied by his charioteer, Channa,.
According to traditional reckoning he was then 29 and this was the beginning of a six-year quest for awakening. Although he mastered their respective systems, he felt that here he had not found any real answer to the problem of human suffering. So next, in the company of five other wandering ascetics, he turned to the practice of severe austerities. Because of eating so little my limbs became like the jointed stems of creepers or bamboo; my backside became like a buffalo's hoof; my backbone, bent or straight, was like corded beads; my jutting and broken ribs were like the jutting and broken rafters of an old house; the gleam of my eyes sunk deep in their sockets was like the gleam of water seen deep down at the bottom of a deep well.
Then he recalled an experience from his youth. One day seated quietly beneath the shade of a rose-apple tree his mind had settled into a state of deep calm and peace. Buddhist tradition calls this state the first 'meditation' or dhyiina Pali jhiina.
According to the later Buddhist understanding, this state is the gateway to a state of perfect mental calm and equilibrium known as the fourth dhyiina. As he reflected, it came to the Bodhisattva that it was by letting the mind settle in this state of peace that he might come to find what he was look- ing for. This required that he nourish his body and regain his strength. His five companions thought he had turned away from the quest and left him to his own devices.
In the full legend this is the occasion of the young woman Sujata's or, according to some, Nandabala's offering of milk-rice to the Bodhisattva. It was once more the night of the Vaisakha full moon and he made a final resolve: 'Let only skin, sinew and bone remain, let the flesh and blood dry in my body, but I will not give up this seat without attaining complete awakening.
Perhaps because they do not exactly make for a good story, the later legend of the Buddha recounts the awakening in terms of the story of the Bod- hisattva's encounter with Mara. This is a story rather more vivid and immediately accessible than the abstract technical concepts of Buddhist meditation theory. Mara is a being who in certain respects is like the Satan of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. His name means 'bringer of death' and his most common epithet is 'the Bad One' piip1yiif!
Mara is not so much a personification of evil as of the terrible hold which the world-in particular the world of the senses-can have on the mind. Mara is the power of all kinds of experience to seduce and ensnare the unwary mind; seduced by Mara one remains lost in the enchantment of the world and fails to find the path that leads through to the cessation of suffering.
So as the Bodhisattva sat beneath the tree firm in his resolve, Mara, mounted on his great elephant, approached. He came accompanied by his armies: desire, aversion, hunger and thirst, craving, tiredness and sleepiness, fear, and doubt. His one pur- pose was to break the Bodhisattva's resolve and shift him from his seat beneath the pipal tree. Some relate how at this point the beautiful daughters of Mara. Mara then sent various storms against him. When this too failed, Mara approached to claim the Bodhisattva's seat directly.
He asked him by what right he sat there beneath the tree. The Bodhisattva replied that it was by right of having practised the perfections over countless aeons. Mara replied that he had done likewise and, what was more, he had witnesses to prove it: all his armies would vouch for him, but who would vouch for the Bodhisattva?
The Bodhisattva then lifted his right hand and touched the ground calling on the very earth as his witness. It sig- nals the defeat of Mara and the Buddha's awakening. As the Buddha touched the earth Mara tumbled from his elephant and his armies fled in disarray. With the ninth and tenth acts, the defeat of Mara and the attainment of complete awakening, Siddhartha had accomplished his goal. The legend of the Buddha is dense and rich at this point and we must pass over many of its details.
But according to tradition the Buddha spent as many as seven weeks seated beneath and in the vicinity of the Bodhi-tree enjoying the bliss of eman- cipation. Once a great storm arose as the Buddha was seated in meditation and a Naga, a great serpent, came and spread its hood over the Buddha to protect him.
Again this scene is often depicted, especially in images of Cambodian provenance. The Buddha had achieved his purpose; he had come to an under- standing of suffering, and had realized the cessation of suffering. In Buddhist terms, seated beneath the tree he had a direct experience of 'the unconditioned', 'the transcendent', 'the death- less', nirvai. Dharma Pali dhamma. It is said that at that point his mind inclined not to teach: This Dharma that I have found is profound, hard to see, hard to under- stand; it is peaceful, sublime, beyond the sphere of mere reasoning, subtle, to be experienced by the wise.
But this generation takes delight in attachment, is delighted by attachment, rejoices in attachment and as such it is hard for them to see this truth, namely The implications of this story are various. Sometimes it is sug- gested that it has been created as a device to show that even the gods already recognized at that time in India acknowledge the Buddha's superiority.
But there are perhaps other meanings. Thus even today, in certain traditions of Buddhism, when a layman makes a formal request to a Buddhist monk to teach Dharma he consciously repeats Brahma's original request by using the very words of the ancient formula. Then the Brahma Sahampati, lord of the world, with joined palms requested a boon: There are beings here with but little dust in their eyes.
Pray teach Dharma out of compassion for them. In this way he performed a buddha's elev- enth act: 'setting in motion' or 'turning the wheel of Dharma' dharma-cakra-pravartana! For the Buddha this was the beginning of a life of teaching that lasted some forty-five years.
Many stories and legends are recounted of the Buddha's teaching career. Indeed, fourteen of the thirty features given in the Pali sources as the rule for all bud-. To a large extent these incidents are preserved by the earlier tradition in no systematic order, and it is left to later tradition to organize them into a sequential narrative.
There is the story of the quar, relling monks at Kausambi and of how the Buddha retired to the Parileyyaka forest where he was attended by a lone elephant who had grown weary of the herd, of how a monkey came to the Buddha and offered him honey. There is the story of the disp1,1te with his cousin Devadatta, who attempted to kill him by releasing a rogue elephant which the Buddha subdued by the strength of his 'loving kindness' maitrf!
As we shall see, it is one of the great emphases of Buddhist teaching that the things of the world are impermanent and unre- liable. To the extent that the Buddha is of the world then he is no exception. There is a majestic and poignant account of the Buddha's last days preserved in the ancient canon under the title of 'the great discourse of the final passing' Mahiiparinibbiina Sutta. According to tradition it was some time in his eighty-first year that the Buddha fell ill: I am now grown old, Ananda, and full of years; my journey is done and I have reached my sum of days; I am turning eighty years of age.
And just as a worn out cart is kept going with the help of repairs, so it seems is the Tathagata's body kept going with repairs. Then the Buddha asked for him: Enough, Ananda, do not sorrow, do not lament. Have I not formerly explained that it is the nature of things that we must be divided, sep- arated, and parted from all that is beloved and dear? How could it be, Ananda, that what has been born and come into being, that what is com- pounded and subject to decay, should not decay?
It is not possible. Before his death the Buddha had given instructions that his remains should be treated like those of a wheel-turning monarch and enshrined in a stupa where four roads meet. The relics were thus divided into eight parts and eight different stupas were built over them. This is where we began this chapter. It is possible that the stupa excavated by Peppe represents an enlargement of an older stfipa -one that the Sakyas erected over their share of the -relics at Kapilavastu.
The reliquary unearthed by Peppe appears to date from the second century BCE. More recent excavations at the site have unearthed further reliquaries-without any inscriptions- from deeper within the stfipa. These may date from the fourth or fifth century BCE.
In that case Peppe's reliquary would seem to have been deposited when the stfipa was undergoing recon- struction some centuries after the death of the Buddha. The nature of a buddha The Buddha is presented to us as in certain respects simply a man: the sramat:ta or ascetic Gautama, the sage of the Sakya people. Yet at the same time he is presented as something much more than this: he was a buddha, an awakened one, the embodi- ment at a particular time and place of 'perfection', a Tathagata, one who comes and goes in accordance with the profoundest way of things.
At this point we need to begin to consider more fully. I have already referred to a generally accepted Indian view of things that sees ordinary humanity, ordinary beings, as being born, dying, and being reborn continually. This process is the round of rebirth known as sarrtsiira or 'wandering', and it is this that constitutes the universe. Beings wander through this vast end- less universe attempting to find some permanent home, a place where they can feel at ease and secure.
In the realms of the gods they find great joy, and in the worlds of hell great suffering, but their sojurn in these places is always temporary. Nowhere in this universe is permanently secure; sooner or later, whatever the realrri of rebirth, a being will die to be reborn somewhere else. So the search for happiness and security within the round of rebirth never ends. Now the question of what happens to a buddha when he dies takes us to the heart of Buddhist philosophical thinking.
Here Buddhist thought suggests that we must be very careful indeed about what we say, about how we use language, lest we become fooled. The Buddha cannot be reborn in some new form of exist- ence, for to exist is, by definition, to exist at some particular time and in some particular place and so be part of the unstable, shifting world of conditions. If we say that the Buddha exists, then the round of rebirth continues for the Buddha and the quest for an end to suffering has not been completed.
On the other hand, to say that the Buddha simply does not exist is to suggest that the Buddhist quest for happiness amounts to nothing but the destruction of the individual being-something which is specific- ally denied in the texts. The important point is that a Buddha is understood as a being who has in some way transcended and gone beyond the round of rebirth. Be is a Tathagata, one who, in accordance with the profoundest way of things, has come 'thus' tathii and gone 'thus'.
If one is thinking in categories dictated and shaped by the theologies of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and also modern Western thought, there is often a strong inclination to suppose that such a question should be answered in terms of the categories of human and divine: either the Buddha was basically a man or he was some kind of god, perhaps even God.
Beings that were once humans or animals may be reborn as gods; beings that were once gods may be reborn as animals or in hellish realms. Certainly, for the Buddhist tradition, the being who became buddha or awakened had been born a man, but equally that being is regarded as having spent many previous lives as a god. Yet in becoming a buddha he goes beyond such categories of being as human and divine.
A story is told of how once a brahmin saw on the Buddha's footprints one of the thirty-two marks, wheels complete with a thousand spokes, with rims and hubs. On catching up with the Buddha, he asked him whether he was a god or some kind of angel or demon. The Buddha replied that he was none of these.
The brahmin then asked if he was a human being. The Buddha replied that he was not. The brahmin was puzzled. So what was the Buddha? Just as a blue, red, or white lotus, born in water and grown up in water, having risen above the water stands unstained by water, even so do I, born in the world and grown up in the world, having overcome the world, dwell unstained by the world. Understand that I am a buddha.
A buddha is thus a being sui generis: a buddha is just a buddha. That is, all beings have the potential to become buddhas. Thus something has happened to Gautama the man that means that the categories that normally apply to beings no longer pro- perly apply. The different deeds, words, and thoughts of a being are an expression of these conflicting emotions and psychological forces.
But for a buddha all this has changed. He has rooted out any sense of pride, attachment, or hostility. A buddha can think, say, and do nothing that is not based on these. This is the effect or 'fruit' of what hap- pened as he sat in meditation beneath the tree of awakening.
The bodies of the Buddha One early Buddhist text puts it that the Buddha is 'one whose body is Dharma, whose body is Brahma; who has become Dharma, who has become Brahma'. Among other things Dharma is 'the right way to behave', 'the perfect way to act'; hence it is also the teaching of the Buddha since by following the teaching of the Buddha one follows the path that ends in Dharma or perfect action.
We have already come across the term Brahma denoting a divine being p. To say that the Buddha is dharma-kiiya means that he is at once the embodiment of Dharma and the collection or sum of all those qualities- non-attachment, loving kindness, wisdom, etc.
Thus the nature of a buddha does not inhere primarily in his visible human body-it is not that which makes him a buddha-but in his perfected spiritual qualities. Another passage of the ancient texts relates how the monk Vakkali was lying seriously ill on his sick-bed; when the Buddha arrives Vakkali explains to him that, although he has no sense of failure in his conduct, he is troubled by the fact that because of his illness he has not been able to come and visit the Buddha.
The Buddha responds: 'Enough, Vakkali. What point is there in your seeing this decaying body? He who sees Dharma sees me; he who sees me sees Dharma. This is misleading. Certainly, there is a rather sophisticated understanding of 'the three bodies' trikiiya of the Buddha worked out and expounded in the writings of the fourth- century CE Indian Mahayanist thinker Asmiga see Chapter 9.
But this theory stands at the end of a process of development, and some conception of the bodies of the Buddha is common to all Buddhist thought. What is common is the distinguishing between the 'physical body' rupa-kiiya and the 'dharma-body'. The physical body is the body that one would see if one happened to meet the Buddha.
Most people, most of the time, it seems, would see a man who looked and dressed much like any other Buddhist monk. However, recalling the stories of the brahmins who examined the Buddha's body after his birth and the brahmin who followed his footprints, some people some of the time see-or perhaps, more precisely, experience-a body that is eighteen cubits in height and endowed with the thirty- two marks of the great man as described in the Lakkha!
Ja Sutta, 'the discourse on the marks of the great man'. All this then is the physical body-the body as it appears to the senses. The Dharma- body, as we have seen already, is the collection of perfect qual- ities that, as it were, constitute the 'personality' or psychological make-up of the Buddha.
A Buddha's physical body and Dharma-body in a sense par- allel and in a sense contrast with the physical and psychological make-up of other more ordinary beings. According to a classic Buddhist analysis that we shall have occasion to consider more fully below, any individual being's physical and psychological make-up comprises five groups of conditions and functions: a physical body normally endowed with five senses; feelings that are pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral; ideas and concepts; various desires and volitions; and self-consciousness.
And in this respect a buddha is no different. Such a being having resolved to become a buddha by making a vow in the presence of some previous buddha of a far distant age, practises the perfections for countless lives and finally, born as a man, attains buddhahood by finding 'the path to the cessation of suffering'; he then goes on to teach this path to the cessation of suffering to others so that they may reach the same realization as he has done, so that they too may become 'awakened' or buddha.
Both Gautama and those who come to realization by following his teachings-the arhats-may be referred to as 'buddhas' since both, by the rooting out of greed, hatred, and delusion, have come to understand suffering and the path to its cessation. And yet, as the tradition acknowledges, some difference between Gautama and the arhats must remain.
Gautama, the Buddha, has found the path by his individual striv- ing without the immediate help of an already awakened being and then gone on to show others the way. We have then here two kinds of buddha: 'the perfectly, fully awakened one' samyak-lsamma-sambuddha like Gautama, and the arhat or 'one who has awakened as a disciple' sravaka-1 savaka-buddha.
Apart from becoming 'awakened' as a samyaksam-buddha or arhat, Buddhist texts also envisage a third possibility: that one might become awakened by one's unaided effort without hearing the teaching of a buddha and yet fail to teach others the way to awakening. Such a one is known as a 'solitary buddha' pratyeka-1 pacceka-buddha.
The sense that the achievements of these three kinds of 'bud- dha' are at once the same but different-the Buddha's achieve- ment being somehow superior-is a tension that lies at the heart of Buddhist thought and, as we shall see, explains in part certain later developments of Buddhist thought known as the Mahayana. How does the Buddha's superiority to arhats and pratyeka- buddhas manifest itself? In order to answer this question it is useful to return to a question raised earlier concerning the Bud- dha's nature as man or god.
In the context especially of early Buddhism and Buddhism as practised today in Sri Lanka and South-East Asia, once it has been established that theoretically the Buddha is neither a god nor a 'Saviour', there has been a tendency amongst observers to conclude that the Buddha ought then to be seen by Buddhists as simply a man-as if this was the only alternative. A further conclusion is then drawn that, since Buddhism teaches that there is no 'saviour', the only way to 'sal- vation' must be through one's own unaided effort.
True, the Buddha did not create the world and he cannot simply 'save' us-and the Buddhist would say that it is not so much that the Buddha lacks the power as that the world is just not like that: no being could do such a thing.
Yet although no saviour, the Buddha is still 'the teacher of gods and men, the un- surpassed trainer of unruly men'; in the Pali commentaries of fifth-century Sri Lanka he is often referred to as simply the Teacher satthar. That is, we have here to do with a question of alternative religious imagery and metaphor: not the 'Father' or 'Saviour' of Judaism or Christianity, but the Teacher.
If one is not familiar with the Indian cultural context it is easy to under- estimate the potency of the image here. A buddha may not be able to save us-that is, he cannot simply turn us into awakened beings-yet, if awakening is what we are intent on, the presence of a buddha is still our best hope. Indeed some contemporary Buddhists would suggest that it is no longer pos- sible to reach awakening since conditions are now unpropitious; rather it is better to aspire to be reborn at the time of the next buddha or in a world where a buddha is now teaching so that one can hear the teachings directly from a buddha.
For the Bud- dhist tradition, then, the Buddha is above all the great Teacher; it is his rediscovery of the path to the cessation of suffering and his teaching of that path that offers beings the possibility of fol- lowing that path themselves. As Teacher, then, the Buddha set in motion the wheel of Dharma. As a result of setting in motion the wheel of Dharma he established a community of accomplished disciples, the Sangha. Going to the three jewels for refuge is realized by the formal recitation of a threefold formula: 'To the Buddha I go for refuge; to the Dharma I go for refuge; to the Sangha I go for refuge.
Having considered the Buddha,let us now turn to consider his teaching and how that teaching is put into practice by those who take refuge in the three jewels. Moreover it is extremely unlikely that any of his immediate disciples wrote any- thing of his teachings down.
And yet we are told that the Buddha devoted some forty-five years of his life entirely to teaching and that by the end of his life he was quite satisfied that he had succeeded in passing on his teachings carefully and exactly, such that they would long be of benefit and help to the world.
Buddhism cannot be reduced to a collection of theoretical writ- ings nor a philosophical system of thought-although both these form an important part of its tradition. What lies at the heart of Buddhism, according to its own understanding of the matter, is dharma. Dharma is not an exclusively Buddhist concept, but one which is common to Indian philosophical, religious, social, and political thought in its entirety. According to Indian thought Dharma is that which is the basis of things, the underlying nature of things, the way things are; in short, it is the truth about things, the truth about the world.
More than this, Dharma is the way we should act, for if we are to avoid bringing harm to both ourselves and others we should strive to act in a way that is true to the way things are, that accords with the underlying truth f things. Ulti- mately the only true way to act is in conformity with Dharma. The notion of Dharma in Indian thought thus has both a descriptive and a prescriptive aspect: it is the way things are and the way to act.
Of course, when we examine the teachings of the various schools, we find that there is often substantial common ground and much borrowing from each other. Yet the. Buddha's vision and understanding of Dharma must be reckoned to have had a profound influence on Indian culture and, to an extent unpar- alleled by other visions of Dharma, on cultures beyond India.
The Buddha regarded the Dharma he had found as 'profound, hard to see, hard to understand, peaceful, sublime, beyond the sphere of mere reasoning, subtle, to be experienced by the wise'. Thus knowledge of Dharma is not something that is acquired simply by being told the necessary information or by reading the appropriate texts.
This does mean that such study may not have a part to play, yet it can never be the whole story. Thus in certain important respects the nature of the knowledge that the Buddha was trying to convey to his pupils is more akin to a skill, like knowing how to play a musical instrument, than a piece of information, such as what time the Manchester train leaves tomorrow.
That knowledge of Dharma was conceived of in this way explains in part why the written word was not originally the medium for its communication. This does not mean that at the time of the Buddha India had no literature. On the contrary, in the form of the 8-g Veda India has a literature that predates the Buddha by perhaps as much as a thousand years.
But this literature is 'oral'. It was composed orally, memorized, and then passed from teacher to pupil directly by a process of oral recitation for centuries, without ever being committed to writ- ing. The visible and concrete manifestation of this succession is in the first place the Sangha, the community of ordained monks bhikkhu and nuns bhikkhunz. Becoming a Buddhist monk or nun requires a particular ceremony that is legitimate only if properly carried out according to prescribed rules, which apparently go right back to the time of the Buddha himself.
In particular the pre- scriptions for the ceremony require the presence of a minimum of five fully ordained bhikkhus of at least ten years' standing. Thus when someone ordains as a Buddhist monk there is in effect a direct link back to the presence of the Buddha himself. Of course, the principle of the passing of the teachings directly from per- son to person may also operate outside the Sangha, for members of the Sangha do not only teach other members of the Sangha, they teach lay people as well.
Yet the Sangha remains the tan- gible thread of the tradition. In the Pali commentaries written down in Sri Lanka in the fifth century CE a distinction was made between two kinds of monastic duty: that of books and that of practice see below, pp. The latter is the stniightforward attempt to put the Buddha's system of training into practice, to live the spiritual life as prescribed by the Buddha and his followers.
Although this formal distinction is found in the writings of a particular Buddhist school, the point being high- lighted holds good for Buddhism as a whole. Something of the same tension is in- dicated in the sixth and seventh centuries in China with the arising of the Ch'an Japanese Zen school of Buddhism, whose well-known suspicion of theoretical formulations of the teach- ing is summed up by the traditional stanza: A special tradition outside the scriptures; Not founded on words and letters; Pointing directly to the heart of man; Seeing into one's own nature and attainingBuddhahood.
The rest of this chapter will primarily be concerned with Dharma as textual tradition. Dharma as textual tradition goes back to the teachings heard directly from the Buddha. These teachings were, it seems, mem- orized by the immediate followers of the Buddha. It is tempting for us in the modern world to be sceptical about the reliability of this method of transmission, but it was the norm in ancient India; the use of mnemonic techniques such as the numbered list and frequent repetition of certain portions of the material within a given text aided reliable transmission.
Even after these texts began to be com- mitted to writing their study was primarily a monastic concern. Thus the ordinary lay Buddhist's access to Buddhist teachings was always through the Sangha: he or she learnt the Dharma by sitting in the presence of a monk or nun and listening to their exposition of the teachings. Thus, in so far as a monk or nun neces- sarily follows a way of life defined by the prescriptions and rules of Buddhist monasticism, the study of Buddhist theory always took place in a context of practice.
It is only in the twentieth century-with the arrival of the modern printed book in tr. This event is commonly referred to in modern writings as 'the first Buddhist council'. Significantly the earliest Buddhist tradition attempts to resolve any tension between theory and practice by insisting that the first commmial recitation of scriptures was carried out by soo individuals who had each realized direct and perfect know- ledge of Dharma.
According to the accounts of this communal recitation, what was remembered of the Buddha's teachings fell into two classes: the general discourses of the Buddha, the siitra. Some accounts suggest there was a third category, miitrkiis Pali miitikii or summary mne- monic lists of significant points of the teaching. Three principal 'canons' of Buddhist scriptures survive today corresponding to the three main traditions of living Bud- dhism: the Pali or Theravada canon of the southern t.
All three of these collections are extensive. Modern printed editions of the Pali canon run to some fifty moderately sized volumes; the Taisho edition of the Chi- nese Tripitaka comprises fifty-five volumes, each containing some I,ooo pages of Chinese characters; together the Tibetan Kanjur and Tenjur comprise traditional poti volumes.
It is also apparent that the Chinese and Tibetan canons do not represent en bloc transla- tions of ancient Indian canonical collections of Buddhist texts, but rather libraries of translations of individual Indian works. In the case of Tibetan Kanjur and Tenjur the translation process was carried out between the seventh and thirteenth centuries, while the precise contents and arrangement of these two collections has never been fixed.
The use of the term 'Pali' as the name of the language of the Theravada canon of Buddhist scriptures derives from the expression piili-bhiisii, 'the language of the [Buddhist] texts'. This language is an ancient Indian language closely related to Sanskrit, the language of classical Indian cul- ture par excellence. At the time of the Buddha, Sanskrit appears to have been very much the language of brahmanical learning and religious ritual.
The Buddha therefore seems to have delib- erately and consciously eschewed Sanskrit, preferring to teach in the ordinary vernacular-the various Middle Indo-Aryan dialects, known as Prakrit, which were spoken across the north of India in the fifth century BCE. However, as time passed there was a tendency for the language of 'the scriptures' to become frozen and increasingly removed from any actually spoken dialect.
At the same time Sanskrit was becoming less an exclusively brahmanicallanguage and more the accepted language of Indian culture-the language in which to communicate learning and literature right across India. Although basically Middle Indo-Aryan, the language of the Pali canon is thus something of a hybrid, preserving lin- guistic features of several dialects and showing some evidence of sanskritization.
Theravada Buddhist tradition traces the Pali canon back to a recension of Buddhist scriptures brought from northern India to Sri Lanka in the third century BCE by Mahinda, a Buddhist monk who was the son of the emperor Asoka. Mahinda and his company brought no books, the texts being in their heads, but the tradition is that the Pali.
The historical value of this tradition is uncertain. Most scholars would be sceptical of the suggestion that the Pali canon existed exactly as we have it today already in the middle of third century BCE. We know, how- ever, that what the commentators had before them in the fifth century CE in Sri Lanka corresponded fairly exactly to what we have now, and the original north Indian provenance and relative antiquity of much of the Pali canon seems to be guaranteed on linguistic grounds.
U Significant portions of the material it con- tains must go back to the third century BeE: How many other versions or recensions of the canon of Bud- dhist scriptures existed in partially or more fully sanskritized Middle Indian dialects is unclear. The Pali canon is the only one to survive apparently complete in an Indian language.
Of the other ancient Indian versions of the canon, we have only isolated fragments and portions in the original Indian languages. More substantial portions are, however, preserved in translation especially in the Chinese Tripitaka. This, along with what Bud- dhist literature as a whole reveals about its own history, allows us to know something of the content of these other ancient Indian canons and also to identify the generally more archaic material-material that must be relatively close in time to the ancient Rajagrha recitation.
These texts constitute the essential common heritage of Buddhist thought, and from this perspective the subsequent history of Buddhism is a working out of their implications. This is not to imply that Buddhism can somehow be reduced to what is contained in these texts; one must understand that this 'working out' in prac- tice constitutes much of what Buddhism has actually been and, today, is. Nevertheless, in the quest for an: understanding of Bud- dhist thought these texts represent the most convenient starting point.
It is usual scholarly practice to refer to the Pali version by the term 'Nikaya' and the Chinese by the term 'Agama'. Like the Pali canon as a whole, it is impossible to date the Pali Nikayas in their present form with any precision. The Chinese Agamas were translated into Chinese from Sanskrit or Middle Indo- Aryan dialects around the end of the fourth century CE, but the texts upon which they rest must like the Nikayas date from the centuries before the beginning of the Christian era.
Portions of further versions of this material also come down to us in Tibetan translation in the Tibetan Kanjur. Finally there are two collections of shorter siitras. The first of these is 'the grouped collection' saf! In this book I generally quote from and refer to the Pali re- cension of these texts.
Using the Pali recension is in part a matter of convenience and not a question of thereby suggesting that the traditions it preserves are always the oldest and most authentic available to us, even if it is likely that this is generally the case. The Pali versions of these texts have been translated into English in their entirety unlike the Chinese and Tibetan versions and are readily available. That these texts have become widely known over the past century through their Pali form has sometimes led to an attitude which sees them as presenting the peculiar perspective of Theravada Buddhism.
But, as Etienne Lamotte pointed out forty years ago, the doctrinal basis com- mon to the Chinese Agamas and Pali Nikayas is remarkably uni- form; such variations as exist affect only the mode of expression or the arrangement of topics. U Far from representing sectarian Buddhism, these texts above all constitute the common ancient heritage of Buddhism. The failure to appreciate this results in a distorted view of ancient Buddhism, and its subsequent development and history both within and outside India.
This fifth collection included such works as the Dharmapada 'sayings on Dharma' and the Jiitaka or stories concerning the previous lives of the Buddha. B The Pali canon, Chinese Tripitaka, and Tibetan Kanjur all preserve versions of the ancient 'basket of monastic discipline' Vinaya Pitaka : the Pali canon and Kanjur one each, the Chinese Tripitaka four, plus an incomplete-fifth.
All six extant versions of the Vinaya fall into two basic parts. The older term for a dis- course of the Buddha preserved in Pali is sutta. It is not clear what this term originally meant. When Buddhists started sans- kritizing their texts they chose the word siitra.
This is a term which literally means 'thread' compare English 'suture' but in a literary context refers especially to authoritative brahmanical texts consisting of a string of terse, aphoristic verses which a pupil might memorize and a teacher might take as the basis for exposition.
Buddhist siitras, however, are not in this form. At one time the Lord was staying at.. The i! It is clear that from a very early date there is a tacit understanding that to claim this status for a text is not exactly to claim that it represents only what has actually been uttered by the Buddha in person.
As indicated above, the notion of a fixed canon of Buddhist scriptures is somewhat problematic. And we must be careful not to impose inappropriate notions of 'canon' and authenticity- derived, say, from Christianity-on the Buddhist tradition. Even in the accounts of the first Buddhist council we are told of a monk who, on hearing of the recitation of the Buddha's teaching by the soo arhats, declared that he preferred to remember the teaching as he himself had heard.
This state of affairs is reflected in the discussion of 'the four great authorities' mahiipadesa to which a monk might appeal for accepting a particular teaching as authentic Dharma: that he has heard it from the Buddha himself, from a community of elder monks, from a group of learned monks, or from one learned monk.
The discourses of the Buddha as preserved in the Nikayas do not of themselves constitute a systematic exposition of Buddhist thought with a begiml. And yet, the discourses as a whole do contain quite explicit indications of how these various themes relate to each other and fit together to form an overall structure and pattern.
Thus at times the question of who originally spoke the words appears irrelevant to the tradition: 'Whatever monk, nun, male or female layfollower, god or Brahma might teach and proclaim Dharma, it is all considered as taught and proclaimed by the Teacher [i.
And the question of just which texts are to be counted as the word of the Buddha has, at particular points in the history of Buddhism, been a critical one. The term abhidharma Pali abhidhamma means approxim- ately 'higher' or 'further' Dharma.
In many ways the extant works of 'the basket of Abhidharma', the third part of the ancient canon of Buddhist scriptures, can be seen as continuing the pro- cess of systematization already evident in the Nikayas. That some form of commentary and interpretation formed part of Buddhism almost from its inception is indicated by certain of the sutras in the Nikayas. The traditional understanding is thus that while the sfltras rep- resent the Buddha's teaching applied in particular circumstances at a particular time and place, the Abhidharma is the Buddha's teaching stated in bare and general terms without reference to any particular circumstances.
Something of the Abhidharma method must go back to the lifetime of the Buddha himself. Yet in addition to what is common, we begin to find in the Abhidharma literature interpretations and understandings of the Sutra material that are specific to particular schools of Buddhism. We must be careful, however, to understand this situation in the light of our knowledge of just what constituted a Buddhist 'school' in ancient India, and avoid the trap of thinking that Buddhist 'schools' evolved and defined themselves in the same way as, say, Christian 'sects' or 'denominations'.
We have substantial knowledge of the Abhidharma liter- ature and systems of only two ancient Buddhist schools: the Sarvastivadins and the Theravadins. The only obvious similarity between their respective Abhidharma Pitaka collections, how- ever, is that they both contain just seven works see Chapter 7. Despite the great status and authority attributed to the Abhid- harma and the claim that it is 'the word of the Buddha', both these schools explicitly acknowledge the work of the Buddha's chief disciples in arranging and transmitting the Abhidharma.
From this point of view, the Abhidharma has for the tradition the status of a sfltra or set of headings expanded by one of the Buddha's disciples and then subsequently endorsed by the Bud- dha. To sum up, a typical ancient Indian 'canon' of Buddhist texts consisted of 'three baskets' tripitaka : the Sfltra Pitaka or 'bas- ket of discourses' comprising four main collections of the dis- courses of the Buddha, often with a supplementary collection of miscellaneous texts , the Vinaya Pitaka or 'basket of monastic discipline', and the Abhidharma Pitaka or 'basket of further Dharma'.
How many other recen- sions of this ancient Tripitaka existed is unclear, but the contents and arrangement of others may be partially reconstructed on the basis of the surviving fragments in Indian languages and Chinese and Tibetan translations; in this respect we have the fullest knowledge of the canon of the Sarvastivadins. The origin of the ancient Buddhist schools and their exegetical literatures In turning to the complex problem of the origin of the ancient Indian Buddhist schools, we must at the outset register that we are speaking primarily of divisions and groupings within the community of monks and nuns or Sangha.
In most cases the basis of such divisions would have been of little or no concern to the ordinary lay Buddhist in ancient India. In other words, we are not dealing with great schisms of the kind associated with the Reformation in the history of Christianity, or with one Buddhist group accusing another of 'heresy'. In order to. As I have already mentioned, for an ordination to be legitimate the participation of at least five monks of ten years' standing is required.
Clearly in the first century or so after the Buddha's death, as the numbers in the Sangha increased and it expanded across first northern India and then the whole subcontinent, the establish- ment of groups of monks around particular teachers, perhaps asso- ciated with particular views on certain issues of Abhidharma, was both natural and inevitable.
But as long as such groups followed essentially the same Vinaya and recognized the validity of each other's ordination lineage, movement between the groups would present no problem: monks from one group could legitimately attend and participate in the ceremonies of another group; there was no question of formal division in the Sangha. One should note here that holding a particular opinion or view on any matter-let alone on a moot point of Abhidharma philo- sophy-cannot be grounds for expulsion from the Sangha.
The grounds for expulsion from the Sangha are sexual intercourse, taking what is not given, intentionally killing a human being, and falsely claiming spiritual attainments. The only opinion or view that is even to be censured according to the Vinaya is the view that sexual intercourse is not an 'obstacle'. Since the Vinaya left monks and nuns largely free to develop the Buddha's teaching doctrinally as. What was of public concern was living by the monastic rules, not doctrinal conformity.
We are dealing here with orthopraxy, not orthodoxy. The implications of this state of affairs were not fully realized in the earlier scholarly studies of the formation of the Buddhist schools, such as Andre Bareau's important work, Les Sectes bouddhiques du petit vehicule. As with the first 'communal recitation', the ancient sources that have come down to us via various schools are in broad agreement that one hundred years-the figure is likely to be approximate-after the death of the Buddha a dispute arose con- cerning ten points of Vinaya.
A group of senior monks convened at Vaisali Pali Vesali: , decided against the ten points, and ini- tiated a second communal recitation of the scriptures. The traditions preserved in the ancient sources concerning the Buddhist councils and the division of the Sangha into its various schools are complex and inconsistent. Despite the scholarly discussion that has been devoted to them, a satisfactory inter- pretation of these sources explaining the contradictions and presenting a coherent and consistent history of Buddhism in the centuries after the death of the Buddha has yet to be worked out.
It seems clear that, at some point after the'Vaisali meeting, the primitive Sangha formally divided into two parties each of which thenceforth had its own ordination traditions. The ancient accounts are inconsistent as to what provoked the split. Some suggest that it was the result of a dispute over five points, later associated with a monk named Mahadeva, concerning the nature of the arhat. That this was indeed the cause of the division was accepted by Bareau.
Other ancient sources attribute the division to a disagreement over questions of Vinaya, and the more recent scholarship suggests that this is the explanation to be preferred. According to this view a reformist group in the Sangha proposed tightening discipline on certain matters of Vinaya, while the majority were happy to leave things as they stood. With the growing scholarly consensus that dates the Buddha's death at the end of the fifth century BCE or even the beginning of the fourth, it seems that we must place the event of the first division of the Sangha some time around the beginning of the third century BCE before the accession of the emperor Asoka c.
In the century or so following this fundamental division of the Sangha into the Sthaviras and Mahasa:q1ghikas it is clear that further schools emerged. Yet the processes by which these schools came into being is not so clear; whether they occurred as the result of formal disagreements over some Vinaya issue that resulted in deadlock and was thus the occasion for formal divi- sion of the Sangha i. The names of the schools variously suggest characteristic teachings, geo- graphical location, or the followings of particular teachers.
At least some of the schools mentioned by later Buddhist tradition are likely to have been informal schools of thought in the manner of 'Cartesians', 'British Empiricists', or 'Kantians' for the history of modern philosophy. Yet another group were known as 'advocates of the doctrine of analysis' vibhajyaviidin. In some contexts this last group is represented as analysing exist- ence as either in the past, present, or future, in oppositio,n to the Sarvastivadins; elsewhere the exact significance of the appella- tion is not made clear.
The Sri Lankan Theravada or 'advocates of the doctrine of the elders' in facttraces its lineage through the Vibhajjavadins Sanskrit vibhajyaviidin. According to their tra- ditions the Vibhajjavadins were the favoured party in a dispute that took place at Pa! Bareau therefore concluded that this dispute concerned the split between the Sarvastivadins and Vibhajjavadins on the matter of the abstruse Abhidharma question of existence in the three times. The ancient accounts of this dispute are, however, confused and inconsistent.
The outcome is stated as the expulsion of the false monks from the Sangha and a third communal recitation after those of Rajagrha and Vaisali of the canon of Buddhist scriptures. The latter turned on-rather incongruously given the stated nature of the dispute-the exposition by Moggaliputtatissa of the Kathiivatthu 'Discussion Points' , a manual of moot Abhidharma points, which was thereafter counted as one of the canonical works of the Pali Abhidhamma Pi! Norman suggests, it would appear that two different events have been conflated.
The relevance of such abstruse matters as existence in the three times of present, past, and future to the theory and practice of Buddhism may not be immediately clear to the reader, and is something I shall return to in Chapter 8. But the very technical. The failure to realize this is something of a shortcoming in Bareau's pioneering and schol- arly study of the Buddhist councils. Certain non-Theravadin sources are also suggestive of a dis- pute at Pataliputra during the reign of Asoka, but they link.
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The Paritta texts have long been regarded as conferring special powers of protection upon those who hear or recite them. The "Island Chronicle. Mahinda 3 rd c. The text is based on the Dipavamsa , but contains new material drawn from the Atthakatha commentaries. Bode, , PTS Culavamsa various authors. Many historians now consider the Culavamsa to be an integral part of the Mahavamsa, the artificial distinction between the two Chronicles having been introduced in the late 19th c.
Commentary of the Mahavamsa. Since the Mahavamsa itself is an expansion of the shorter Dipavamsa , the Vamsatthappakasini is usually considered a sub-commentary tika. This account of the sacred bodhi tree of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, is mostly a compilation of material from older texts, including the Mahavamsa.
This gigantic tree is said to be a direct descendant of a cutting that was taken from the original bodhi tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment, and was brought ca. Sister Sanghamitta on a missionary expedition to Anuradhapura. Thupavamsa Vacissara; 12 th c. A poem recounting the early history of the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha, from the time of its removal from the Buddha's funeral pyre until the building of the first temple in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka 4 th c.
Samantakutavannana Vedehathera; 13 th c. Hazelwood, , PTS Hatthavanagalla-viharavamsa author unknown; 13 th c. The life story, in prose and verse, of the Buddhist king Sirisanghabodhi r. Saddhamma-sangaha Dhammakitti Mahasami; Thai; 14 th c. An outline of the literary and ecclesiastical history of Buddhism, including the first four councils, the first writing of Tipitaka, and the writing of the Tikas sub-commentaries. The source material for this book comes from the Tipitaka and the Atthakathas.
A short history of the construction of six stupas that enshrine the hair relics that the Buddha personally gave to six arahants. A catalog of ancient Buddhist commentators and their works. A history of Buddhism in India until the third Council, and then in Sri Lanka and other countries to which Buddhist missions had been sent.
The source texts for this work include the Samantapasadika , Dipavamsa , Mahavamsa , and the Burmese chronicles. This poem of verses gives an account of the Buddha's life up until his enlightenment. The life story of Metteyya, the next Buddha, told in verse. An account of the life of the Buddha, told in a poem of verses. A poem of stanzas in praise of the Buddha's physical beauty and wisdom. This account of the life of the Buddha begins with his birth in a previous life as the Indian King Sattutapa, and continues through successive lives until his final birth as Siddhattha Gotama.
It also includes descriptions of the Buddha's visits to Sri Lanka, the establishment of Buddhism there, and the early rise of Buddhism in Thailand. An introductory summary of the Abhidhamma. The Abhidhammattha-sangaha eventually superseded it as the best guide to Abhidhamma. A "short manual on Abhidhamma.
A summary of the Abhidhamma , used to this day as an introductory text to Abhidhamma. Aung and Mrs. An "introduction to the study of Abhidhamma ," in verse form. An " Abhidhamma text. A "short manual on the Abhidhamma. A manual on the matikas topics of the seven books of the Abhidhamma.
One of the last Pali works written in India. A "work on Abhidhamma. The original Pali text was long believed to have been lost; for centuries, discussions about the text therefore relied on a 5 th c. Chinese edition.
A Pali edition was published in This was Buddhaghosa's first opus, written at the behest of the elders of the Mahavihara community "in order to test his abilities prior to entrusting him with the weighty and responsible task of translating the Sinhal[a] commentaries into Pali. A summary, in verse form, of the first four books of the Vinaya. A summary, in verse form, of the Parivara, the fifth and final book of the Vinaya.
Commentary on the Visuddhimagga. This, the earliest of all the tikas, "explains in detail the brief references found in the Visuddhimagga These are short summaries on monastic discipline, meant to be learned by heart. A "manual of Dhamma" in prose and verse. These two works "throw interesting sidelight on the relation between Ceylon and Burma. A poem of stanzas that describes the five forms of rebirth: in hell, as an animal, as a hungry shade peta , as a human, or as a celestial being deva.
A collection of short verses in praise of the Dhamma. He had been falsely accused of indirectly rendering help in an intrigue of the wife of King Tissa The boiling oil cannot injure the Thera and he pronounces" stanzas that "deal with death and thought of death, of transience, of suffering, and of the unreality of the soul, etc.
Notes 1. In the early decades of the 1 st c. BCE in Sri Lanka — then the hub of Theravada Buddhist scholarship and monastic training — several forces combined that would threaten the continuity of the ancient oral tradition by which the Pali Tipitaka had been passed down from one generation of monks to the next.
A rebellion against the king and invasions from south India forced many monks to flee the island. At the same time a famine of unprecedented proportions descended on the island for a dozen years. The commentaries recount heroic stories of monks who, fearing that the treasure of the Tipitaka might forever be lost, retreated to the relative safety of the south coast, where they survived only on roots and leaves, reciting the texts amongst themselves day and night.
The continuity of the Tipitaka hung by a thread: at one point only one monk was able to recite the Niddesa. The commentary tells how Kisagotami, distraught by the death of her son, carried his corpse from door to door, in search of a cure for his ailment. Finally she met the Buddha, who promised a cure if she would simply fetch a few mustard seeds from a household that had never been touched by death.
Unable to find any such household, she eventually came to her senses, understood the inevitability of death, and was at last able to let go of both the corpse and her grief. Boston: Wisdom Publications, See BR p. See " 'When you know for yourselves Robinson and Willard L. Mendis, ed. Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, Documents linked from this page may be subject to other restrictions.
Last revised for Access to Insight on 1 December Anguttara Nikaya. Dhammapada-atthakatha Buddhaghosa; 5 th c. Burlingame, , PTS. Madhuratthavilasini Buddhadatta; 5 th c. Horner, , PTS. No commentaries exist for these books, which appear only in the Burmese edition of the Tipitaka. Atthasalini Buddhaghosa; 5 th c. Linatthapada-vannana Ananda Vanaratanatissa; th c. Sammohavinodani Buddhaghosa; 5 th c. After glancing at it for long minutes during which it refused to do anything at all, I started checking the internet for the Buddhist Emperor and found it very amusing.
A wildly passionate follower even drew a comparison saying that Alexander would have been but a Thug against the leadership practices of Ashoka. Everywhere resounded but one principle behind this legend of a man : Buddhism. Scouring this water body of information named the internet, I came up with the name of this book. There is but one foundation that underlies Buddhism that I could comprehend even with what little reading I have on this topic.
This is about suffering in Buddhist terms Dukha. The identification of pain or suffering, the cessation of pain and the path to the cessation of pain is what this entire belief system seems to be based out of. It is very easy to read a book that speaks to you on letting go of your desires but to implement that in practice would need more steel than even an army training camp can instill in you.
For eg : There is mention of life lived without an eye to victory or loss for a life of tranquility. With a few modifications here and there, Krishna suggests the same to Arjuna during the discourse of the Bhagavad Gita. If memory serves me right, it was about the need to perform one's duties without a thought of victory or loss for it is such thoughts that lead one to sorrow. Then again many a teaching here are akin to the ten commandments in that all time bestseller as well.
The translation as offered by Glenn Wallis is interesting and insightful to read. I in fact spent more time going through his notes than reading through the core text. The next time around I would want to stick to the core text and take it in little sips as a hot brew on an extremely cold and wretched day. In short : It is an energizer! Something from the text which bears an uncanny resemblance to the society we belong to now as it was centuries ago : Atula, this is from long ago, it is not recent: they find fault with one who sits silently, they find fault with one who speaks much, they find fault with one who speaks but little.
There is no one in this world who is not faulted. The sayings of Buddha as taken down by his followers. A beautiful and uplifting book. The Buddha is the closest figure I've had as a role model in my life and this elegantly translated compendium of his teachings rings very true to his word. Excellent work. A re-read, this time in English translation. I got the Oxford version, because its form looked good in Amazon review also its introduction is very clear and interesting; its explanatory notes are very useful too, very clear.
I think I got more out of this this time, maybe a few years really changed things. I'm not a Buddhist, not believing in reincarnation for example, but even so I got a lot of enjoyment and inspiration out of this. It's a slim volume, so it can be read quickly, but it can als A re-read, this time in English translation.
It's a slim volume, so it can be read quickly, but it can also be savoured by reading slowly. One can see clearly how it can be such a classic, and a good starting place for anyone practicing Buddhism or just having an interest in it. Clear and simple yet also deep and visual, beautiful.
Enjoyable and recommended. Sep 25, Cassandra Kay Silva rated it it was amazing Shelves: religion. Very good edition. The text is beautiful. The message is good. This is the kind of thing that can be read and reread throughout your lifetime and will bring different meanings at different places in your life.
I got a copy at the library. I will be looking for a personal copy to keep for my own. So beautiful. I really appreciated the accompanying notes. Mar 02, Himanshu Karmacharya rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction. The sayings are, obviously, easier said than done. But even following just a fraction of them can bring a drastic change in one's life and perspective. Fore-run by mind are mental states, Ruled by mind, made of mind. If you speak or ac Chapter 1 - Twins 1. Jan 10, I'm attempting to read a few non-Western classics of philosophy, and this was my first real brush with Buddhism.
I didn't find the Dhammapada quite as interesting as the Tao Te Ching, but perhaps through naivete I was surprised how Christian the path to perfection was, how deeply Franciscan. Just as few birds escape from a net, few souls can fly into the freedom of heaven.
Very reflective and wholesome moral truths for living, quite a fresh read in the world of inconsequential candy reads. While one might not agree with every Buddhist principle for living, as I myself don't, the general truths that you pick up and contemplate throughout the day are hard to escape. Easy and quick, yet full of substance and worthy of review time and again.
The first two pages of the preface to Gil Fronsdal's translation say it all: Fronsdal lays out the challenges a translator of an ancient text faces. He talks about the Dhammapada's history in English, about how "a translation mirrors the viewpoint of the translator" pp. Most pointedly, he notes that "Hindu concepts appear in English translations done in India" p.
Hint: think Easwaran. He goes on to say p. Fronsdal's introduction the preface discusses the translation issues is not so far ranging as Easwaran's, and certainly not as lengthy, but I found it more insightful and refreshingly accurate. Readers of my May 15, review of Easwaran's Dhammapada will understand my relief. For example, I thought he hit the nail on the head with this pointed remark p.
We might be alerted to this difference if we compare the beginning of the Dhammapada with the opening lines of the Bible, which emphasize God's role as Creator and, by extension, our reliance on God's power. In contrast, the first two verses of the Dhammapada emphasize the power of the human mind in shaping our lives, and the importance and effectiveness of a person's own actions and choices Ethical and mental purity [he goes on to say] The remainder of Fronsdal's introduction looks at its contrasting emotional moods-"energy and peace"-its themes, and the effects reading it have had on him.
Fronsdal again demonstrates his penetration of basic Buddhist teachings when he writes on page xxix "[I]t is not the world that is negated in the Dhammapada, but rather attachment to the world as in verse In other words, Fronsdal gets it-which is not so surprising when you consider the man has trained in both the Soto Zen and Theravadan traditions, has a Ph. In other words, he has every qualification needed to interpret the Buddha's teaching, qualifications Easwaran seemed to have but in fact was sorely lacking.
Anyway, on to the text proper. Despite my above praise, Fronsdal does make some interpretations I thought odd, though this is not to say I didn't understand his reasoning. For example, the title of the Dhammapada's first chapter, usually rendered as "Twin Verses" or "Paired Verses," Fronsdal names "Dichotomies. This was another problem I had with Easwaran's text-I could not tell which verses his endnotes pertained to unless I went to the back of the book.
Fronsdal maintains high standards in this regard; he explains his choices in detail in the endnotes, and having done so the reader can then appreciate that while some of his word choices are unorthodox, they are not without merit or insight. I realize not every reader will be interested in such linguistic and terminological details, but they need to be discussed somewhere if the translator is to maintain legitimacy. As for the reading experience of Fronsdal's Dhammapada: it has the spare, poetic feel I am familiar with from other translations of Pali Buddhist texts.
Also, as previously noted, he does seem to fulfill the aspiration he stated in the preface-that of producing a relatively literal translation, one reflecting its original time and place as opposed to the layers of mis interpretation later commentators and cultures have often imposed on the text.
As a result, Fronsdal's translation feels definitively like a Buddhist text, one that should be instructive to any newcomers to the Buddha's Dhamma. I hope they will leave it wanting more. I like how the author gave a thorough introduction to Buddha and the Buddhist thought before getting into the text itself.
There are many "sayings of Buddha" in this discourse. Full of wisdom that can apply to anyone at anytime in their life. Jan 07, Yasiru rated it it was amazing Shelves: philosophy-and-psychology , favourites. A wide-ranging and systematic sampling of Buddhist teachings, particularly in Theravada Buddhism, coming as it does from the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Pali Canon see the external links section for valuable resources, including the Access to Insight collection of translated material.
Highly economical and eminently accessible, these verses are indispensible in addressing the myriad misapprehensions and misrepresentations of concepts like karma, detachment, emptiness, et al. From the beginning 'Twin Verses' or 'Yamaka Vagga' the issues at hand are accorded an epistemic treatment in tandem with the traditional ontological and metaphysical concerns of similar religious sources.
The text is not as strong at forwarding the ethical complexities in Buddhist thinking, but establishes the basic tenets very well. That said, not many religions, especially monolithic dogmas, speak of morality as an abstract, likely so as to make the empathy approach they often forward all the stronger, but adherence to general guidelines fashioned on what others take to and are repelled by so as to minimise their suffering doesn't require an emotional attachment at all, this in only one possible motivation- it might as well be accomplished through discipline and the ability to see beyond the trappings of self and its gratification which is really what emotional attachment comes down to, be it even for 'good' ends; as Freud once put it: "Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires.
Like the Tao Te Ching, the Dhammapada suggests this view of morality, but without setting up and speaking of it in terms of a divine absolute the Tao in the former. A broader contemporary overview like the Ven. Walpola Rahula thera's What the Buddha Taught is a worthy follow-up for those who would have more detail and elaboration freely available online. Narada Mahathera and the Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya thera have much to commend them to the newcomer who does well to keep in mind that Eastern teachings tend to be about degrees and measures rather than absolutes.
Take care to avoid editions which offer commentary but are too free in their interpretations or attempt to restrict the work's purview to a context of other popular or extant philosophical eg- Plato- view spoiler [ I think it's noteworthy that Plato might be considered an answers man, at times with too easy and further reason-numbing answers like those from religious figures from Christ who tends to pop in when 'Western thought' is mentioned to take credit for modes of thought owed the Greeks to Muhammad to whatever other 'One Path' prophet- well, that's not entirely fair, but I think he's only a rung or two better in reasoning, though not asking for submission to dogma and open to criticism.
Socrates is the more cautious one, almost evasive on the points we desire answers the most, the man we need to find through the facade of Plato's generous offerings- like the Comedian must be found in Alan Moore's Watchmen, with apologies for the jarring, but still moral philosophy related reference, having just reread it except Socrates doesn't deny agency- that might be Tolstoy.
This same Socrates on the other hand has much in common with the Buddha I think, especially for his views on desire and its bleak ends. And of course, the Dhammapada is only that- an invitation, a primer; to have the teaching elucidated on further one must attempt hereafter to tackle denser discourses in the Pali Canon. The aforementioned translation by the Ven. A few other online versions are linked here , of which the Acharya Buddharakkhita translation is perhaps the best balanced.
View all 4 comments. I am giving this book three stars because, if I have learned anything by reading it, it is that giving a rating of either 5 stars or 1 would be too extreme and passionate. Okay, had to get that tacky wisecrack out of the way. For some time, I've wanted to read Buddhist scripture as well.
My major response is that I felt healthier for having read The Dhammapa I am giving this book three stars because, if I have learned anything by reading it, it is that giving a rating of either 5 stars or 1 would be too extreme and passionate. My major response is that I felt healthier for having read The Dhammapada.
So many of its passages steer me away from extremes. Yet, this book doesn't encourage lethargy or apathy, not as I understand them anyway. Here is an entire gospel built, as best I can tell, upon stopping to smell the roses--but also the dung that fertilizes them. What am I most inspired by? These teachings imply that the power to achieve a true healthiness and peace of mind is within me.
If I become a student of myself, I can find the ability within me to scrub away those things I find unhealthy. I like that notion a lot. I think these writings, geared toward a monastic lifestyle, have their limitations and are sometimes archaic. That is a small criticism though, given the wealth of wisdom contained in these writings.
The real reason I give this particular edition 3 stars is that it lacks an index or glossary. There are many helpful endnotes; however, whenever I needed to review the meaning of a given term, I had trouble finding the endnote that included a definition. This detracted from my reading experience.
Nevertheless, I recommend this book, or any other vetted translation of The Dhammapada. There is good fruit here. After some anonymous person on the internet tried to school me on what "karma" is, and ended up telling me "sorry for your ignorance, go read a book," I realized that I hadn't read The Dhammapada this year.
I purposefully sought out a different translation than the one I own a copy of, and found a translation by "various Oriental scholars" edited by F. Max Muller. I still prefer the Byrom translation, although there are things in this translation that really came through for me. Favorite passages: After some anonymous person on the internet tried to school me on what "karma" is, and ended up telling me "sorry for your ignorance, go read a book," I realized that I hadn't read The Dhammapada this year.
Favorite passages: Let no one forget his own duty for the sake of another's, however great; let a man, after he has discerned his own duty, be always attentive to his duty. The world gives according to their faith or according to their pleasure: if a man frets about the food and the drink given to others, he will find no rest either by day or by night. Cut out the love of self, like an autumn lotus, with thy hand! Cherish the road of peace. Nirvana has been shown by Sugata Buddha.
Now, I'm reading them in a random order. This booklet contains 'Captivating aphorisms illustrating the Buddhist dhamma, or moral system. And, to be quite frank, it was not an easy read. It was not even a nice read. The aphorisms at least the ones collected are often almost the same and just stated slightly different, or one is stating it positively and another one negatively. This made it so far my least favourite of the Little Black Classics even though I thought it was interesting to read something for a change that I perhaps wouldn't have picked up on my own.
Forget religion for a second, lets just focus on philosophy, because as a philosophy on how to live your life, this book is a pretty damn good one. This book speaks of peace, love, harmony, wisdom and self-improvement through realising you aren't always perfect, but you can always try to do better.
It does not go in to what happens after death or any of that nonsense, just how a Buddhist goes about life in simple verse. I'm already too far down the rabbit hole of being an insensitive, sarcastic, Forget religion for a second, lets just focus on philosophy, because as a philosophy on how to live your life, this book is a pretty damn good one. I'm already too far down the rabbit hole of being an insensitive, sarcastic, cunt for it to become a way of life for me though, still, I agree with peace and harmony and I found this to be an enjoyable, optimistic and quick read Surprisingly enjoyable in fact, like, it was fun to read in the same way the Art of War was, they just give you these infinitely quotable lines that make a whole damn heap of sense.
Sep 06, Tirtha Joshi rated it liked it. Buddha spoke and spoke all his life but he actually was what he didn't speak of. His actual teachings are the way to the Silence. Well, I expected this book to be the collection of his teachings to guide one to the Dhamma specially the technique of Vipassana.
Though the book talks of 5 moral precepts Silas , Purification of the mind Samadhi and wisdom and tranquility Prajna , it merely mentions these threefold training. The book is just an intellectual play but the Dhamma is much more than that. Fascinating how much of our understanding of what it means to be a good person in Western society stems from concepts deeply incorporated into Buddhism beliefs. The Dhammapada is a collection of aphorisms illustrating the Buddhist moral system.
These aphorisms are considered Buddha's own teachings and they deal with endurance, self-control and perfect joy. Despite having been worded hundreds of years ago, most of them are extremely contemporary. Most thoughts are expressed in a spiritual and philosophical way where it remains open to interpretation how to live your life according to them, but even if you aren't out to practice Buddhism, it's a nice way to familiarize yourself with the key themes of that belief system.
Including little stories from "around the world and across many centuries" as the publisher describes, I have been intrigued to read those for a long time, before finally having started. I hope to sooner or later read and review all of them! This wonderful collection of versified sayings from the Pali record of Buddha's teaching is traditionally held to be close to the actual words of the historical teacher.
Whether this is so or not, it is a beautiful, profound collection that is worth lingering over and contemplating. Take for example the opening few verses: What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts b This wonderful collection of versified sayings from the Pali record of Buddha's teaching is traditionally held to be close to the actual words of the historical teacher. Take for example the opening few verses: What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of the mind.
If a man speaks or acts with an impure mind, suffering will follow him as the wheel of the cart follows the beast that draws the cart. What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of the mind.
If a man speaks or acts with a pure mind, joy follows him as his own shadow. For hate is not conquered by hate: hate is conquered by love. This is a law eternal. In my opinion, the entire essence of the Buddha's teachings can be found in these words. I would love to get my hands on the Gandhari or Patna versions, which according to Wikipedia are in Sanskrit.
Being a crown prince, Siddharth would most likely have had some training in Sanskrit I feel bad reviewing this because I feel like I am being asked to review a religion which is wrong. This is a review of the book only. However the book is essentially the teachings of Buddhism in a nutshell. It seems obvious right? But maybe we do need to be reminded sometimes to be a good person. So what to say about it? However having said all that if you take it slowly and think about what you are reading it does work - in small doses.
To take any of its meaning in you need to take your time and mull it over. It was quite meditative. I would suggest that if you are interested in learning more about Buddhism there are other more practical books out there which are more interesting and more helpful. In the essay, he criticizes More for the "deliberately static nature of this ideal society and the failure to recognize the individual persona and his basic instincts, liberties, and even imperfections.
The removal of all struggle and all insecurity would logically and psychologically lead to the prayer: 'Give me something to desire. Nonsense needs to be called out for what it is. We are supposed to be tame elephants rather than wild elephants. Do people realize what it takes to make an elephant "tame"? The abuse it must go through? But that is the point.
To quote: "Best among humans is the tamed person who endures verbal abuse. To quote: "The Buddha's victory cannot be undone; No one in the world can approach it. The one that's coming to an end. Mar 12, Joseph Knecht rated it really liked it Shelves: spirituality.
Small pieces of timeless wisdom. Here are my favourite Readers also enjoyed. About Anonymous. Books by Anonymous. Readers' Top Nonfiction of So Far. Read more Trivia About The Dhammapada. Quotes from The Dhammapada. Welcome back. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. Secular Sangha: A Goodreads Librari
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Web Directories. Select sorting order Least popular first Most popular first Oldest first Newest first Least recently modified first Recently modified first. Description: A schedule of upcoming livestreams, online retreats, and virtual teachings from monastics worldwide. Description: Pujas. Shanta Vana. City: Pardubice. City: Khon Kaen. Website: Visit our Site. Description: Pali Sandhi is a phonetic transformation from two words into a new word.
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Start Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Next End. You are here: Home. Directory Contact us. New Vimuttimagga translation by Ven. Login Form Username. Remember Me. Third, these texts — particularly the commentaries — help us make sense of the suttas and give us clues about their context that we might otherwise miss.
For example, the famous Satipatthana Sutta MN 10 is popularly cited today as evidence that all one needs to achieve Awakening is a week or two of unrelenting mindfulness practice. It explains that the Buddha's audience for this particular discourse the villagers of Kammasadammam were already well established in their practice of mindfulness and virtue.
They were not coming to meditation practice "cold" but were, in fact, unusually well prepared to receive this deep teaching — a point not apparent from the text of the sutta itself. The commentary thus reminds us that there are some important fundamentals to be developed before one undertakes intensive meditation practice. Finally, the commentaries often contain magnificent stories to illustrate and amplify upon points of Dhamma that are made in the suttas.
For example, Dhp takes on a much richer meaning in light of the commentary's background story — the famous parable of Kisagotami and the mustard seed. One might reasonably wonder: how can a collection of texts written a thousand years after the Buddha's death possibly represent his teachings reliably?
How can we be sure they aren't simply derivative works, colored by a host of irrelevant cultural accretions? First of all, although many of these texts were indeed first written in Pali a thousand years after the Buddha, most Sinhala versions upon which they were based were written much earlier, having themselves been passed down via an ancient and reliable oral tradition.
But one might object mustn't those early texts themselves be suspect, since they are based only on hearsay? Perhaps, but by this argument we should reject the entire oral tradition — and hence the entire Tipitaka itself, which similarly emerged from an oral tradition long after the Buddha's death.
Surely that is taking things too far. But what of the credentials of the commentators themselves: can their words be trusted? In addition to living a monastic life immersed in Dhamma, the compilers of the commentaries possessed unimpeachable literary credentials: intimate acquaintance with the Tipitaka, mastery of the Pali and Sinhala languages, and expert skill in the art of careful scholarship.
We have no reason to doubt either their abilities or the sincerity of their intentions. And what of their first-hand understanding of Dhamma: if the commentators were scholars first and foremost, would they have had sufficient meditative experience to write with authority on the subject of meditation? This is more problematic. Perhaps commentators like Buddhaghosa had enough time and accumulated merit both for mastering meditation and for their impressive scholarly pursuits; we will never know.
But it is noteworthy that the most significant discrepancies between the Canon and its commentaries concern meditation — in particular, the relationship between concentration meditation and insight. It is important to remember that the ultimate function of the post-canonical texts is — like that of the Tipitaka itself — to assist the student in the quest for nibbana , the highest goal of Buddhist practice.
Concerns about authorship and authority recede when the texts are subjected to the same healthy skeptical attitude and empirical approach that should be familiar to every student of the suttas. If a commentary sheds light on a murky corner of a sutta or helps us understand a subtle point of Vinaya or of Abhidhamma, or if the chronicles remind us that we hold the future history of Dhamma in our hands, then to that extent they help us clear the path ahead. And if they can do even that much, then — no matter who wrote them and from whence they came — these texts will have demonstrated an authority beyond reproach.
In the following guide, I have arranged the most popular post-canonical titles thematically and by date Common Era. Authors' names are followed by the date of authorship if known. The authors of these texts were all monks, but for the sake of concision, I have dropped the honorific "Ven. Each non-commentarial title is followed by a brief description. Many of these descriptions were lifted verbatim from other sources see Sources , below.
For the purposes of this guide, the post-canonical texts may be grouped into the following categories:. Paracanonical Texts. Why these texts matter Post-canonical Pali literature supplements the Tipitaka in several important ways. The authority of the texts One might reasonably wonder: how can a collection of texts written a thousand years after the Buddha's death possibly represent his teachings reliably?
A Field Guide In the following guide, I have arranged the most popular post-canonical titles thematically and by date Common Era. Vajirabuddhi-tika Vajirabuddhi; th c. Saratthadipani Sariputta; 12 th c. Vimativinodani Mahakassapa of Cola; 12 th c. Patimokkha Kankhavitarani Buddhaghosa; 5 th c. Dighanikaya-tika Dhammapala; 6 th c. Majjhimanikaya-tika Dhammapala; 6 th c. Samyutta Nikaya Saratthappakasini Buddhaghosa; 5 th c. Samyuttanikaya-tika Dhammapala; 6 th c. Anguttara Nikaya Manorathapurani Buddhaghosa; 5 th c.
Vibhanga Sammohavinodani Buddhaghosa; 5 th c. This commentary covers all five books. These books are introductions to the teachings of Buddhism. The source material derives directly from the Sutta Pitaka. BCE, who ruled over much of what is now Afghanistan and the elder monk Nagasena concerning key points of Buddhist doctrine.
CE; some additions were probably made later. First translated into Sinhala in Horner, , PTS Paritta editor and date unknown. This ancient collection consists of material excerpted directly from the Tipitaka: twenty-four short suttas and several brief excerpts, including the three refuges, the precepts, ten questions for the novice monk, and a review of the thirty-two parts of the body. In Buddhist countries monks often recite passages from the Paritta during important ceremonial gatherings special full-moon days , cremation ceremonies, blessings, dedications of new temples, etc.
The Paritta texts have long been regarded as conferring special powers of protection upon those who hear or recite them. The "Island Chronicle. Mahinda 3 rd c. The text is based on the Dipavamsa , but contains new material drawn from the Atthakatha commentaries. Bode, , PTS Culavamsa various authors. Many historians now consider the Culavamsa to be an integral part of the Mahavamsa, the artificial distinction between the two Chronicles having been introduced in the late 19th c.
Commentary of the Mahavamsa. Since the Mahavamsa itself is an expansion of the shorter Dipavamsa , the Vamsatthappakasini is usually considered a sub-commentary tika. This account of the sacred bodhi tree of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, is mostly a compilation of material from older texts, including the Mahavamsa. This gigantic tree is said to be a direct descendant of a cutting that was taken from the original bodhi tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment, and was brought ca.
Sister Sanghamitta on a missionary expedition to Anuradhapura. Thupavamsa Vacissara; 12 th c. A poem recounting the early history of the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha, from the time of its removal from the Buddha's funeral pyre until the building of the first temple in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka 4 th c. Samantakutavannana Vedehathera; 13 th c. Hazelwood, , PTS Hatthavanagalla-viharavamsa author unknown; 13 th c.
The life story, in prose and verse, of the Buddhist king Sirisanghabodhi r. Saddhamma-sangaha Dhammakitti Mahasami; Thai; 14 th c. An outline of the literary and ecclesiastical history of Buddhism, including the first four councils, the first writing of Tipitaka, and the writing of the Tikas sub-commentaries. The source material for this book comes from the Tipitaka and the Atthakathas. A short history of the construction of six stupas that enshrine the hair relics that the Buddha personally gave to six arahants.
A catalog of ancient Buddhist commentators and their works. A history of Buddhism in India until the third Council, and then in Sri Lanka and other countries to which Buddhist missions had been sent. The source texts for this work include the Samantapasadika , Dipavamsa , Mahavamsa , and the Burmese chronicles. This poem of verses gives an account of the Buddha's life up until his enlightenment.
The life story of Metteyya, the next Buddha, told in verse. An account of the life of the Buddha, told in a poem of verses. A poem of stanzas in praise of the Buddha's physical beauty and wisdom. This account of the life of the Buddha begins with his birth in a previous life as the Indian King Sattutapa, and continues through successive lives until his final birth as Siddhattha Gotama.
It also includes descriptions of the Buddha's visits to Sri Lanka, the establishment of Buddhism there, and the early rise of Buddhism in Thailand.
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