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The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon Paperback – September 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pariyatti Publishing; 1st BPS Pariyatti ed edition (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1928706126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1928706120
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“If you want to read only one book about the Buddha, this is the undisputed best choice.” —Paul Fleischman, author, Karma and Chaos


“An incredible resource for the West. . . . It is a work of tenderness, scholarship, and beauty, a tremendous contribution from one of the first Englishmen to embrace the Buddhist path.” —Mark Epstein, author, Going on Being and Thoughts Without a Thinker

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)

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Customer Reviews

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You can learn a lot of useful qualities and make you life a more meaningful one after reading it.
Choo Siew Yen
Whether you are a serious student of Mahayana (I am) or Theraveda Buddhism, or just generally interested in what the Buddha taught, this book will be meaningful.
Jesse Goode
It adheres to the Pali Canon, the most ancient Buddhist texts, and organizes them into a linear historical sequence resembling a biography.
Paul R. Fleischman M.D. author of Wonder: When and Why the World Appears Radiant.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

141 of 146 people found the following review helpful By Roger H. Fisher on January 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
One of the most ancient Buddhist texts, the Digha Nikaya, summarizes the Buddha's teaching this way:
"To do no evil deeds, to give effect to good, to purify the heart."
The essense of this teaching can be conveyed no more powerfully than by a carefully told account of the Buddha's life, and no account of his life can be told more carefully than the one by Bikkhu Nanamoli.
Nanamoli, a scholar-monk, deliberately chooses not to glorify the tale by weaving it into yet another overly rich, silk-and-gold tapestry of the sort which the oriental world has loved to make of it. Instead he patiently pieces together dozens of bits from the oldest fabrics he can find, and creates from them a simple quilt, stunning in the geometrical honesty of its design and beautiful in the precision with which it is crafted.
The ancient fabrics from which Nanamoli snips out the elements of this biography are selected exclusively from works encompassed by the Pali Tipitika. By imposing this limit on his sources Nanamoli does not compromise the completeness of the work nor diminish the elegance of the story; in a remarkable way, he actually enhances both. Nanamoli brings to life a flesh-and-blood Buddha, and convinces the reader than anxient India and its people are more like the world today than different from it. The evolution of the Buddha's doctrine is allowed to remain an epic, but on a human scale. Nanamoli preserves the grandeur of the great Teacher's achievements without aggrandizing him as a person. By the book's end the reader will surely concede that fanciful myth and axaggerated exploits about the Buddha are not needed to enhance our admiration of him.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Daiho VINE VOICE on November 23, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Buddhists have no equivalent of the Bible. But this book is perhaps is as close as it comes in the English language, a history of the Buddha, his teachings, and his community, derived entirely from original translations of the earliest sources.

Shortly after World War II, Englishman Osbert Moore went to Sri Lanka to monastic vows - and a Buddhist name. In his 11 years of practice, he translated a number of important Buddhist texts to English, but perhaps his best known work is this history of the Buddha, published posthumously after a heart attack at the age of 55 in 1960.

Bhikku Nanamoli's work is based on his own translations of the Tripitaka, the earliest written records of the Buddha and his teachings, recorded in the ancient language of Pali more than 200 years after the Buddha's death. The bulk of the material included monastic rules and a collection of suttas, the Buddha's lectures and sermons. There is no chronological history linking these rules and teachings, which requires a historian to search the Tripitaka for clues to help place events in some sort of sequence. Nanamoli consulted two additional sources in corroborating his sequencing, a 5th century BCE Pali source (the Acariya Buddhaghosa) and a 15th century Burmese history (the Malalankaravatthu).

Besides problems of historicity, Nanamoli has in brining this text to a modern English readership to wrestle with issues of accuracy and style. As the Tripitaka was for nearly three centuries an oral tradition, it's structure was built on repetition, both of phrases and key ideas. As modern song writers employ a verse-chorus-verse-chorus pattern, so too did the monks of 2,500 years ago repeat elements in their verse to facilitate memorization.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Sarakani on August 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book using only material from the earliest accounts provided from the time of the Buddha.
You can make your own mind up about this enigmatic human being rather than relying on hearsay. It includes biographical material by observers, autobiographical accounts from the Buddha and also includes a section on the teaching. All sections are prefaced with opening remarks like the acts of a play in more or less chronological sequence of the Buddha's life.
Nanamoli was one of the best Pali translators and tries to produce as authentic and as lucid an account based on the Pali sources used.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Harlan Kerr on November 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
Firstly, Bhikkhu Nanamoli (Osbert Moore) was a gifted intellectual and prized authentic textual translation above mere book writing. Unlike soooo many Buddhist authors in the West, he was NOT looking to sell a book and become an Author to impress friends and family or help sell his meditation retreats. His intent was always aimed at a scholarly (re: intellectually rigorous) rendering of sacred texts. This rare combination of a deeply intellectual mind with the veneration of a monk's spirit towards his textual sources has given us some of the most pristine English translations of the Buddha's works.
This book was culled from the Pali canon and aims to give the modern reader an overview of the life of the Buddha. As the texts chosen for this work are strewn across 10 000 or so pages of the Pali language canon, the author has achieved a remarkable feat of editing. It gives the English world an authentic overview of who the Buddha was and what he did. The selections are rendered in clear lucid English, with every passage referenced. It is not a biographical novel however. There are no artificial attempts at plot, or other literary devices, or to turn the Canon into something more conventional. It is wholly faithful to the source material.
If you have any interest in whom the Buddha was and what he taught, start with this book. And leave the pseudo-biographies and novelizations to the hacks.
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