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Sayings of the Buddha: New Translations from the Pali Nikayas (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – December 1, 2008
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"Rupert Gethin's Sayings of the Buddha [is] translated with an eye toward readability, dispensing with the turgid English found in early translations of the canon. This short volume is sure to join Gethin's other work as a resource for teachers and students, and anyone interested in early Buddhist literature."--Buddhadharma
About the Author
Rupert Gethin is the author of The Buddhist Path to Awakening and The Foundations of Buddhism.
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Containing both similarities and differences with Western religious figures, Buddha did not base his ethical or other practical teachings on a notion of the divine. Instead, he taught a way of virtuous action and meditation which could lead one out of the world of suffering and into nirvana.
The key insight of the Buddha is that suffering is the result of desire. Only when one ceases from desire, ceasing even to desire positive emotions, the health of the body, etc. can one find true happiness. Finally, one achieves enlightenment in which one realizes that individuality itself is an illusion leading one to realize the oneness of all being and escape from the pattern of births and rebirths into the oneness of the universe.
Whether one regards the Buddha’s teachings as divine, simply interesting or even slightly mad I would strongly recommend encountering this figure who so shaped world history. Using parables, repetition and dialogue the Buddhist understanding of civilization and the larger cosmos is forcefully brought home in this volume. With the world increasingly growing smaller, I highly recommend The Sayings of the Buddha to all those with an interest in understanding the source of much of East Asian culture.
*Sayings of the Buddha*, "The Simile of the Snake"
Buddhism is, of course, one of the major world religions. Still, many Westerners may not know, as I didn't until quite recently, that there is not really a centralized core of Buddhist "scripture" analogous to the Bible; for the most part the many divergent Buddhist traditions rely on oral transmission of doctrine. In fact, in the 19th century the German-American philosopher Paul Carus devised a *Gospel of the Buddha* to make the stories told about the Buddha accessible in a more "systematic" form. In the 21st century Oxford has made an "authentic" take on Carus' idea, *Sayings of the Buddha*, inexpensively available: it's great.
The closest thing to a written "body of doctrine" for Buddhism is the "Pali Canon", a large collection of ancient texts written in Indic languages similar to but distinct from Sanskrit (think Homeric Greek) and viewed as canonical by the Theravada Buddhists of Southeastern Asia; for many decades there has been a "Pali Text Society" producing critical editions of the texts. Rupert Gethin, a recent head of the PTS, has produced this book from them: a translation of carefully selected "suttas" (Sanskrit: "sutras") from three traditional categories ("Long Sayings", "Middle-Length Sayings", and "Grouped Sayings"), which share Buddhist religion in the form of anecdotes attributed to the historical Buddha.
Although Buddhist adherents have been a countercultural presence in Europe and the Americas for a over a century, there is now increasing interest in Buddhist doctrines from a more "intellectual" perspective: and although meditation techniques largely inspired by Buddhist practice have been taught to millions of Westerners with good results, the actual principles of the religion may be highly surprising to the uninitiated. Buddhism is sometimes described as actually being a kind of *atheism*, and although traditional Indian gods are occasionally mentioned in this book the lesson of the Buddha is that there is *no* transcendental being or principle the human being seeking enlightenment can appeal to, not even the self; spiritual victory is refraining from bad conduct caused by desire and *being done with* reincarnation.
The actual collected Pali texts run to 40-odd volumes, and so creating a manageably sized selection must have been daunting: all of the material presented by Gethin is highly stimulating and presented intelligently, with certain key terms being merely transliterated and explained in notes (as is becoming common in translations of Indian sacred texts) and other traditional terms "Englished" with good success. All in all, this is a fine introduction to a sprawling sector of world culture and thought.
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I will eventually read through some part of this book.Read more