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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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Top Customer Reviews
- Writing is targeted to well-educated intellectual reader. It's not overly simplistic and thoughts are concise and pointed
- Half of the book is Western explanation and half are actually suttas that Buddha spoke. So you get author's interpretation of the concept and then compare it with the source
I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to discover Buddhism.
I absolutely recommend it. Even if you are not a Buddhist and are only curious about it, it is a worth reading and the author makes an awesome job explaining it.
I at times disagree with the interpretation and try to find the basis, under which Dr Rahula comes to some conclusions - the citations or references to primary sources are not often very clear and secondary texts have been cited as if they were primary expositions of the Buddha or Buddhist scripture. Having said this, I find nothing in this book deviates from a non-denominational understanding of Buddhism.
The main issue most negative reviewers have of this text is the interpretation Walpola makes of Anatta - in my opinion it stays true to the original canon of Buddhism in maintaining the soul is not necessary accepted or rejected (similar argument to God) but ultimately there is no real reconciliation between Walpola's strong voice of "no-soul" with rebirth and how it is perceived in different traditions. This is an issue that cannot necessarily be well accommodated in an introductory book; so I think the text stays true to the creed, voices clearly what is understood of the Buddhist perspective and leaves the reader to make further enquiries.
While there is a heavy reliance of the Pali Canon - there is really something to be said about this text as it further enhanced my understanding of whatever I have read of Bodhidharma or other great masters of Buddhism.
Anyway, he was 100% right. Going into it, I knew next to nothing of Buddhism, other than the bastardized teachings in my High School's week long session on "World Religions" (which basically outlined Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, then spent a few seconds on Hindu and Buddhism (as if they're the same?) They also presented to me great misinformation on the topic, and almost seemed to be presenting the philosophy in Christianized terms (using words such as "salvation" and "afterlife.")
So, I sought out this book to learn the real ways of The Buddha. And what I found was great. The writing is superb, the author gives constant reference and notes to different Buddhist texts (in 2 original languages, to then construct an appropriate English translation), and analyzes them in accordance with the traditions and teachings of The Buddha. The layout is neat and efficient, and presents material in a very simple and cumulative manner. The book is also short enough that it creates an excellent digestable "first bite" of Buddhism. This is not to say, however, that it is in any way sparse, as it is quite thorough and I intend to read it several times over to truly let all of the fascinating information sink in.
If you have skimmed the surface as I had, this is the best way to get yoruself started and knowledgable on the topic. If you *think* you know something about Buddhism, this is going to be the best way to clarify everything for you. Heck, I bet even someone who outright calls themselves a Buddhist would find some very valuable lessons and analyses in this book. Five stars all the way.