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What the Buddha Taught: Revised and Expanded Edition with Texts from Suttas and Dhammapada Paperback – 1974
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Beneath the enormous umbrella of Buddhism, there is a diverse galaxy of customs and beliefs, but there is also a kernel of truth that every sect holds dear. Rahula Walpola, scholar and monk, discovers this foundation of Buddhism for us first through straightforward explication, never skipping over a point that has yet to be substantiated, then through translations from key scriptures. Logical and focused, these are the essentials of Buddhism; know them first, then move comfortably on to other Buddhist works.
From Library Journal
Rahula is a scholar monk who trained in the Theravadan tradition in Ceylon. His succinct, clear overview of Buddhist concepts has never been surpassed. It is the standard.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Several years ago, I bought another copy of What the Buddha Taught (my UCSD copy was long gone) and reread it. It confirmed what I remembered: this book pales in comparison to other books on the Buddha's teachings. For example, In the Buddha's Words, by Bhikku Bodhi, George Grimm's The Doctrine of Buddha, Hans Wolfgang Schuman's Buddhism: An Outline of Its Teachings and Schools, and Ananda Coomerawamy's The Living Thoughts of Gotama the Buddha are all better than Walpola Rahula's What the Buddha Taught--but the best book on the Buddha's teachings, in my opinion, is Some Sayings of the Buddha, by F.L Woodward (See my Amazon review.)
In What the Buddha Taught, Rahula, ad nauseum, emphasizes that the Buddha (and Mahayana Buddhist schools) deny the existence of a Self (or Atman, or transcendental Essence). This is patently false. And if you read Coomeraswamy, Grimm, Christmas Humphreys, and F.L Woodward, you'll see that it is. The Buddha, in fact, directed his disciples to take refuge in the Self (or Buddha-nature). And most Mahayana Buddhist schools, contrary to what Rahula writes, acknowledge a Buddha-nature and exhort their student to awaken to it.
Rahula has no real understanding of Hinduism, from which Buddhism derives. He mistakenly reduces the `I AM' to a vague feeling rather than the blissful, transcendental realization of Being. Rahula, unlike many Buddhist scholars, never figured out that Buddhist Nirvana(the end of Becoming) is equivalent to Hindu Self-realization (timeless abidance in Being).
Mr. Rahulas claim, like that of Mr/Mrs. "Trinity" below is that, without evidences or citations from scripture, that Buddhism denied negated the Soul (attan/atman). This is however a baseless claim which cannot be substantiated in Sutra. In fact anatta is an adjective, not a noun. Buddhism says specifically: SN 3.196 "What does anatta mean Lord (Buddha)?...It means that form is non-self (anatta), feelings are non-self (anatta), and the other 3 aggregates.".
I'm afraid that anyone reading this book will confuse Mr. Rahula's personal views as expressed by and thru his school (Hinayana/Abhidhammism) and superimpose that belief system in his book upon Buddhism's doctrine. In fact, Buddhism says:The Soul is Charioteer"[Jataka-2-1341], "I leave you now, having made my Soul the refuge (saranamatta) DN 2.120 and "The Self (atman) as refuge, with nary another as refuge" DN 2.100.
I dare say that the claim by Rahula in his book that "anatta rejects the belief in a permanent unchanging Soul", is not scripturally verifiable in the least. Anatta is an adjective which refers to 22 things being devoid of Atman, "no-Soul" is specifically the Pali term: NATTHATTA' (literally "there is not/no[nattha]+atta'[Soul]), not anatta.
The claim below to the effect that: "The central message of Buddhism is that ALL things are empty and dependently arising", is correct, the all (sabbe) is phenomena (sankhara), and are devoid of (sunna) the Atman and are dependently arisen (paticcasamuppada), however both Buddhism and the Upanishads say the identically same thing, to conclude that ABCDEF is not X (atman/soul), therefore X does not exist, (the conclusion of Rahula and a reviewer below) is a fallacy of composition.
To parrot a reviewer below who said: "But don't believe either one of us just because we said so!" is true, which is why I have provided the scriptural evidences from Buddhist Sutta proving Rahula's "no-soul = Buddhist philosophy" claim to be groundless. I do not see the reviewer below refuting or upholding Rahula's claims by quoting Buddhism's sutras, hence it is ipso facto a "baseless claim composed entirely of conjecture". Mr. Rahula's book should correctly be titled "The secular opinions by and of Theravadins", it is incorrect and misleading to title this book "what the Buddha taught", since empirically the book contradicts Buddhism's main tenant to wit: "Dwell with the Soul as your Light, with the Soul as your refuge, with none other as refuge." [SN 5.154, DN 2.100, SN 3.42, DN 3.58, SN 5.163].
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The idea of Atman, no Atman is also