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Basic Teachings of the Buddha (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – August 14, 2007


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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Modern Library Pbk. Ed edition (August 14, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812975235
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812975239
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #459,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Siddhartha Gautama (Pali: Siddhatta Gotama) (ca. 480-400 B.C.E.), widely known as “the Buddha” (“the awakened one”), was an Indian mendicant whose lucid instructions on the overcoming of human unease form the basis of Buddhism.

Glenn Wallis has a Ph.D. in Sanskrit and Indian Studies from Harvard. He is an associate professor of religion at the University of Georgia and teaches applied meditation at the Won Institute of Graduate Studies, near Philadelphia. Wallis is the author of Mediating the Power of Buddhas and the translator and editor of the Modern Library edition of The Dhammapada.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Sutta 1

The Hawk

Saku.nagghi Sutta; Sa.myuttanik¯aya 5.47.6

ji

The Buddha related this story to a group of his followers.

Once, in the distant past, a hawk suddenly swooped down and seized a quail. As the quail was being carried away by the hawk, it lamented, “How unfortunate I am, what little merit I possess to have wandered out of my natural habitat into a foreign domain. If I had wandered within my native domain today, within my own ancestral, natural habitat, this hawk would certainly not have been a match for me in battle.”

“What is your native domain, quail? What is your own ancestral, natural habitat?” asked the hawk.

The quail answered, “That clod of earth freshly tilled with a plow.”

Then the hawk, not boasting about its own strength, not mentioning its own strength, released the quail, saying, “Go, quail; but having gone there, you cannot escape me.”

Then the quail, having gone to the clod of earth freshly tilled with a plow, climbed onto the large clod of earth and, standing there, said to the hawk, “Come get me now, hawk, come get me now!”

Now the hawk, not boasting about its own strength, not mentioning its own strength, folded up its wings and suddenly swooped down on the quail. When the quail fully realized that the hawk was coming, it got inside that clod of earth. And the hawk, striking against it, suffered a blow to its chest.

So it is when someone wanders out of his or her natural habitat into a foreign domain. Therefore, do not wander out of your natural habitat into a foreign domain. Death will gain access [1.1]* to the person who has wandered out of his or her natural habitat into a foreign domain, death will gain a footing.

Now, what is for you a foreign domain, outside of your natural habitat? It is the fivefold realm of sensual pleasure [1.2]. Which five? Forms perceptible to the eye, which are pleasing, desirable, charming, agreeable, arousing desire, and enticing; sounds perceptible to the ear, which are pleasing, desirable, charming, agreeable, arousing desire, and enticing; scents perceptible to the nose, which are pleasing, desirable, charming, agreeable, arousing desire, and enticing; tastes perceptible to the tongue, which are pleasing, desirable, charming, agreeable, arousing desire, and enticing; tactile objects perceptible to the body, which are pleasing, desirable, charming, agreeable, arousing desire, and enticing. This is for you a foreign domain, outside of your natural habitat. Death will not gain access to the person who lives within his or her native domain; within his or her own ancestral, natural habitat, death will not gain a footing. Now, what is your native domain, your own ancestral, natural habitat? It is the foundation of present-moment awareness [1.3] in four areas [1.4]. What are the four areas? Now, being ardent, fully aware, and mindful, and having put down longing and discontentment toward the world, live observing the body in and as the body, live observing feelings in and as feelings, live observing mind in and as mind, and live observing mental qualities and phenomena in and as mental qualities and phenomena.

ji

This is your native domain, your own ancestral, natural habitat.

* Numbers refer to notes in the Guide.

More About the Author

I hold a Ph.D. in Buddhist studies from Harvard University's Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies. My scholarly work focuses on various aspects of Buddhism. For a long time I was concerned with how to make classical Buddhist literature, philosophy, and practice relevant to contemporary life. So, a good deal of my work stems from that concern. Presently, I am more interested in a critique of the tedious tessellation called "Buddhism."

For more information, please visit my personal website: http://www.glennwallis.com.
Also, my blog: http://www.speculativenonbuddhism.com.



Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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I highly recommend this book if you would like to learn about Buddhism.
Hard Drive
To sum, I really appreciate the care and effort with which Mr. Wallis has provided this translation, his introduction, and the guide to the texts.
nick
This is a book that is a pleasure to read once, but really begins to reveal its value upon repeated rereadings.
Dennis Herron

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Hard Drive on October 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book provides an excellent introduction to the writings of Buddha. Mr. Wallis has selected 16 passages that provide insight into the core teachings of Buddhism. I purchased this book because I simply wanted to learn more about Buddhism, and found that it has had a positive impact on my life.

Wallis writes carefully, and his notes are full of discussions about the terminology used in the book, and the origins of the words themselves. He has the linguistic care of a well trained philosopher, and the insight and heart of a person who seems to truly love his subject. His writing is warm and well crafted.

A word of warning: This is not a `For Dummies' cartoon book. Wallis's writing dives deeply into the meaning of the passages, and the analysis gets heady at times. I found myself reading some of the notes twice to grasp what he was getting at. But that's what makes the book so good!

I highly recommend this book if you would like to learn about Buddhism. It makes a great starting point.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By B. L. Cloud on April 11, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Since someone wrote a wildly inaccurate review and gave the book only two starts, as a way of setting the record straight, I felt compelled to write a more nuanced review.

First of all, a word about "original" or "basic" Buddhism. Some scholars (I'm thinking of Donald S. Lopez in particular) would argue that the idea of an "original" or "basic" Buddhism is a by-product of colonialism. When Westerners discovered Buddhism, it had for the most part died out in India. Rather than looking at how Buddhism was actually practiced by followers in, say, Sri Lanka, Western scholars created a supposed "original" Buddhism based solely on texts that they exhumed. These texts were shipped back to Britain, and most scholars never visited the countries where Buddhism was practiced. In fact, Henry Steel Olcott, a leading early Western proponent/expositor of Buddhism, went to Sri Lanka, basically telling the locals that they had adulterated the original religion, himself believing that Buddhism had no ritual or dogma. I could go on and on, but briefly, an example of a dogmatic belief in Buddhism would be Mount Mehru. In Buddhist cosmology, at the center of the universe is a huge mountain, Mt. Mehru, which is surrounded by four islands, our world being the southern island. In an 1873 debate in Sri Lanka between Gunananda (a monk) and Rev. da Silva, Rev. da Silva stated that science had never discovered such a mountain, and so Buddhism could not be true. Gunananda cited a book by Richard James Morrison (now obscure) which "refuted" Newton's view of the universe. In a similar vein, Tibetan Buddhists refused to believe that the world was round (until the 20th century), because the Buddha said that the world was flat.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E. Godfrey on August 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Unlike the myriad other books published under the premise of being a basic introduction to Buddhism, Wallis' cuts to the very heart of the Buddha's teaching by focusing on the Buddha's own words through referencing the Nikayas. In doing so, this introductory book emphasizes the interface of theoria and praxis whereas most spend undue time on theoria, as if there were some essence of Buddhism to be grasped through words and ideas.

Wallis makes his case for the heart of Buddhism by drawing from 16 carefully selected suttas that delineate the steps along the path of liberation. The strength of this method comes from systematically presenting what the Buddha himself had to say about each of these stages. It seems that most introductory books summarize Buddhism leaving the reader with a vague sense of unease and disappointment wondering just where and how the Buddha actually taught these messages. Leaving the story telling to the Buddha himself I found to be very effective.

This books is also arranged in such a way that mirrors self-cultivation (bhavana), beginning with the mind of incorrect discernment (avidya) and ending with the clear-seeing, awakened mind. This strikes me as slightly analogous to the layout of the Ten Ox-Herding Paintings, to a degree. But instead of ten frames, Wallis uses six sections, citing 16 suttas to do so. I find this intuitive layout to be exceedingly powerful for articulating the Buddhist path.

So that a potential reader can get a better ideas as to what he/she is getting into, I've provided here a brief thematic outline of Wallis' work. The first section of this work is called "habitat" which draws from "the hawk" (sakunagghi sutta) which demonstrates that we are not actually in our original abode.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
Similar to Stephen Batchelor's existential re-evaluation of dharma, scholar Glenn Wallis corrects the distortions of "Buddhist-hybrid-English terms" which interfere with true understanding of key concepts, in sixteen suttas. (Often known to us as "sutras." This type of reversion to the Pali, closer to the language by which the Buddha would have transmitted--and had preserved in oral form by his followers--his teachings in, rather than Sanskrit, shows how exacting this translation and commentary will be.) I found this approach to go back to early texts very compatible with Batchelor's "Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist" (2010) and "Buddhism Without Beliefs" (both reviewed by me) as a serious study of how teachings can answer our own longings and challenge us as post-modern readers.

Umberto Eco may be familiar, but not in a book on Buddhism; he and Hans-Georg Gadamer suggest model approaches for Wallis' reader: a dialogue must be entered with a text, lest it as a "lazy machine" prove inert for us. The heavy work we put into mastering these sometimes repetitive, intricate, insistent teachings pays off. Wallis expects us after studying these "basic teachings" to have a "doctrinally responsible basis" for more study, and to put words into practice as actions.

I could have read a whole book on what his introduction hints at in three-dozen concentrated pages of suggestion, insight, and challenge. "Religious literature is immediately recognizable as religious in large part because of its extravagant language. Such language is 'not' inviting the reader to examine closely, much less argue with, the claims that it is conveying.
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