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Basic Teachings of the Buddha (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – August 14, 2007
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About the Author
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.
Saku.nagghi Sutta; Sa.myuttanik¯aya 5.47.6
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.
This is your native domain, your own ancestral, natural habitat.
* Numbers refer to notes in the Guide.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm reading this book as a member of Sutta Study Group organized by my local Insight Meditation Circle. Mr. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Racquela Acorn
Wallis is a good teacher. "Basic Teachings of the Buddha", like Walpola Rahula's "What the Buddha Taught" is an excellent introduction to Buddhism. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jerry
If you're looking for some of the original dharma talks, this is a great place to start!Published 4 months ago by D. Stearns
Very In depth. Author a tad stuffy but the book is Terrific when it comes to the Teachings of the Buddha!!!Published 13 months ago by Peter S.
Dr. Wallis is more than a mere translator. He is a compassionate teacher who doesn't want students of Buddhism to lose the forest for the trees. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Seeker
I've enjoyed this book thoroughly throughout the years that I've owned it. The introduction is very well-written, and generates a spirit of critical-thinking that is so important... Read morePublished 23 months ago by nick
I had read a few "basic introduction" books about Buddhism in the late 1990s, as well as the Dao Deh Jing, doing my own study on comparative religion and/or philosophy. Read morePublished on April 3, 2014 by Hamza Philip