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What the Buddha Taught (1959)

av Walpola Rahula

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This clear and informative guide draws on the words spoken by the Buddha to convey the true nature of Buddhist wisdom. It also features an illustrative section of texts from the Suttas and the Dhammapada, a glossary of Buddhist terms and an up-to-date bibliography.
Senast inlagd avTallyChan5, AaronPt, rstarker, rossofermo, robnbrwn, munhak, calmness
Efterlämnade bibliotekIris Murdoch

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From LibraryThing Reviews

The Practice of Buddhism is the Heart of Buddhism, January 17, 2007

The first thing that strikes one upon reading this text is the entirely this-worldly character of Buddhist thought. Like the philosophers that we are familiar with in the West the Buddha ("The Enlightened One") does not claim to be other than a man or posses other than human knowledge. That is, the Buddha is not a god or a recipient of a god's revelation. Now, unlike our modern philosophers, the Buddha does not deny the existence of the gods; perhaps even more radically - he ignores them. According to our author, Walpola Sri Rahula, the Buddha teaches that, "man's emancipation depends on his own realization of the truth, and not on the benevolent grace of a god or any external power..." This does indeed remind one of Kant's definition of Enlightenment as adulthood. In a nutshell, no one can grant adulthood to you - you must achieve it yourself. In fact, according to our author, the Buddha goes so far as to advise us to be, "not led by the authority of religious texts..." And he adds that the Buddha "discovered and showed the Path to Liberation, Nirvana. But we must tread the Path ourselves." Any modern philosopher (Kant, Hegel, e.g.) would say the same of his path (i.e., philosophy).

Our author quotes with approval the following remark of one Buddhist monk (or bhikkhu) to another:

"without devotion, faith or belief, without liking or inclination, without hearsay or tradition, without considering apparent reasons, without delight in the speculations of opinions, I know and see that the cessation of becoming is Nirvana."

What is required for Buddhistic Enlightenment is the modesty of reason, not the enthusiasm and hubris of speculation, which always brings in its wake the indignation of warring factions. Buddhists tell us with deserved pride that there are no Buddhist wars, crusades or jihads. One comes to Enlightenment not by reciting some articles of faith but by thinking things through on ones own. Our author correctly reminds us that with Buddhism it "is always a question of knowing and seeing, and not that of believing."

So, the Buddha, the Enlightened One, brings knowledge - not faith. It seems to follow that it is not necessary to be a 'Buddhist' to achieve salvation, i.e., enlightenment. Indeed, our author goes on to say that if "the medicine is good, the disease will be cured. It is not necessary to know who prepared it, or where it came from." The comparison of the Buddhist teaching to a type of medicine is very interesting. Medicine is a very practical discipline, concerned with alleviating the suffering (Dukkha, this term can also mean: conflict, unsatisfactorily, unsubstantiality, emptiness) of those it treats. If a person is healthy he needs no medicine at all. Thus what shined through to me (a non-Buddhist) in reading this book is that the Buddha teaches a series of behaviors, or, if you prefer, a circle of practices, whose only purpose is to protect the individual from all suffering - whether the suffering is produced by will, desire or thought. The Buddha clearly judged his teachings not on their truth content but rather on their results; that is, on the type of lives his followers would live. So, one could perhaps infer that when a patient is cured he no longer has the slightest need for the medicine...

Rahula's recounting of a story about what the Buddha replied when asked by a young Brahmin to explain "the idea of maintaining or protecting the truth" might illustrate the point:

'A man has a faith. If he says "This is my faith", so far he maintains truth. But by that he cannot proceed to the absolute conclusion: "This alone is Truth, and everything else is false".'
Rahula immediately adds, in his own voice, "In other words, a man may believe what he likes, and he may say 'I believe this'. So far he respects truth. But because of his belief or faith, he should not say that what he believes is alone the Truth, and everything else is false.
The Buddha says: 'To be attached to one thing (to a certain view) and to look down upon other things (views) as inferior - this the wise men call a fetter'."

Now, does this mean that all the ideologies and revelations that demand that everyone be an adherent of their particular view are, according to the Buddha, fetters? ...No? 'Oh, but the fetters are so sweet' we hear many replying, 'how could they be fetters?' Not only Christians and Liberals but also far too many Buddhists that one meets (at least here in the West) are very interested, if not obsessed, in what we in the West might call theology, ontology and metaphysics. That is, the Truth of what might be called the 'Whole' or the Cosmos. But did the Buddha share this obsession? Our author tells a wonderful story about what the Buddha knew and what he taught:

"He took a few leaves in his hand, and asked his disciples: 'What do you think? O bhikkhus? Which is more? These few leaves in my hand or the leaves in the forest over here?'
'Sir, very few are the leaves in the hand of the Blessed One, but indeed the leaves in the Simsapa forest over here are very much more abundant.'
'Even so, Bhikkhus, of what I have known I have told you only a little, what I have not told you is very much more. And why have I not told you (those things)? Because that is not useful... not leading to Nirvana. That is why I have not told you those things'."

Knowledge of the Whole, whatever it might be, does not lead to enlightenment! Today, we who are influenced by philosophy would, following the Buddha on this point, speak of the abyss that (seemingly) forever looms between theory and practice. But the 'mania' of theory nevertheless insists upon showing each leaf to every inhabitant in the forest in the name of some 'Truth', while the moderation of philosophical practice remains helpless when trying to control the strife that inevitably results between the various (Christianity, Socialism, Islam, and Fascism, e.g.) possessors of 'Truth'. We are now perhaps in a position to say that post-classical western philosophy (i.e., theory) has been the process of showing every leaf in the forest to everyone. - No matter what the consequences! One day it may well be said that western philosophy showed everything except the 'practical truths' that the Buddha held in his hand. ...One day.

Be that as it may, the "Buddha was not interested in discussing unnecessary metaphysical questions which are purely speculative and which create imaginary problems." In fact the Buddha compares teachings to a raft and then wonders at those that say, "This raft was a great help to me. With its aid I have crossed safely over [...] It would be good if I carry this raft on my head or my back wherever I go." Thus Man goes from the correct use of a raft (i.e., a teaching), to help one across a river, to the incorrect carrying of rafts when they are no longer needed. Note that these 'rafts' only have a practical value. What determines their value is purely the circumstances one happens to be in. But did the Buddha think of his own teachings in this manner? Our author tells a wonderful story of how the Buddha, in a debate with a representative of Jaina Mahavira, refused to allow the man to become a Buddhist! ("When Upali expressed his desire again, the Buddha requested him to continue to respect and support his old religious teachers as he used to.") Why? Well, Rahula says this is an instance demonstrating the Buddha's tolerance. In my opinion this explanation is incoherent; all of the Buddha's followers came from other religious traditions, was the Buddha being intolerant when he accepted them as his followers? No, the reason the Buddha didn't let the Jain Upali convert was that he was sent to debate him by Jaina Mahavira himself and such a conversion could only lead to conflict. In other words, the Buddha looked at circumstances to evaluate this particular conversion and quite admirably concluded that circumstances trumped doctrine...

Another story told by Rahula shows the Buddha refusing to answer questions about the eternity and infinity of the universe, about the relation between soul and body, and existence after death put to him by Malunkyaputta, one of his own monks. Why doesn't the Buddha answer these questions?

"Because it is not useful, it is not fundamentally connected with the spiritual holy life, is not conducive to aversion, detachment, cessation, tranquility, deep penetration, full realization, Nirvana. That is why I have not told you about them.
Then what, Malunkyaputta, have I explained? I have explained dukkha, the cessation of dukkha, and the way leading to the cessation of dukkha. Why, Malunkyaputta, have I explained them? Because it is useful, is fundamentally connected with the spiritual holy life, is conducive to aversion, detachment, cessation tranquility, deep penetration, full realization, Nirvana. Therefore I have explained them."

So we see the overriding importance that the Buddha assigned to the practical and results. The Buddha did not preach some Truth, he presented a cure to suffering (dukkha). The Buddha laughed that people carry their rafts (ideologies and revelations) when they are no longer needed, but today, the various possessors of 'truth' even use the rafts as an excuse to hate and kill. In the Buddha the moderation inherent in philosophical practice triumphed, but in the world around us it is the mania of theory and speculation that has triumphed. If the moderation of practice triumphs in the future we can create a world in which all can live; if not, there is no future at all...

Rahula ends this book, fittingly, with the last words of the Buddha. "'Then, Bhikkhus, I address you now: Transient are conditioned things. Try to accomplish your aim with diligence." One stands in awe, and gratitude, of how one so dedicated to extinction (i.e., Nirvana) could so actively and tirelessly pursue his aim. Now, this book contains only a small selection (pp 92 - 138) of the sayings of the Buddha and it was from the last text in this section that this last quote comes from. There is also a very helpful, but still too brief, glossary with an even briefer bibliography also included. Rahula's study and the selected texts are based upon the earliest texts (the so-called Pali texts) of the Buddha's sayings that have come down to us.
  TallyChan5 | Oct 3, 2020 |
The first on the Buddhism list! (from CIMC) Definitely interesting as a background book - it's nice to know that meditation techniques are so old. His rules for living seem more slippery though and the frequent references to purity and defilement are off-putting. The way that the translator complains about the validity of other people's translations is kind of entertaining and is also a reminder to take it all with grains of salt. (April 11, 2006) ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
This indispensable volume is a lucid and faithful account of the Buddha’s teachings. “For years,” says the Journal of the Buddhist Society, “the newcomer to Buddhism has lacked a simple and reliable introduction to the complexities of the subject. Dr. Rahula’s What the Buddha Taught fills the need as only could be done by one having a firm grasp of the vast material to be sifted. It is a model of what a book should be that is addressed first of all to ‘the educated and intelligent reader.’ Authoritative and clear, logical and sober, this study is as comprehensive as it is masterly.”
This edition contains a selection of illustrative texts from the Suttas and the Dhammapada (specially translated by the author), sixteen illustrations, and a bibliography, glossary and index.
  PSZC | Mar 29, 2019 |
> LE livre pour débuter dans le bouddhisme
Par Zuihô (Livresbouddhistes.com), le 4 mars 2018 (Sur Amazon.fr) 5/5… ; (en ligne),
URL : https://www.amazon.fr/gp/customer-reviews/RTBTQNGASJ52X/

> Bareau André. Walpola Rahula. L'enseignement du Bouddha.
In: Revue de l'histoire des religions, tome 164, n°1, 1963. p. 101… ; (en ligne),
URL : https://www.persee.fr/doc/rhr_0035-1423_1963_num_164_1_7904

> « Le révérend Rahula a reçu selon toutes les règles la formation traditionnelle d’un moine bouddhiste à Ceylan et revêtu d’éminentes fonctions dans un des principaux instituts conventuels (Pirivena) de cette île où la Bonne Loi fleurit depuis le temps d’Asoka et a conservé jusqu’à nos jours toute sa vitalité. ...
Le livre qu’il a bien voulu me demander de présenter au public occidental est un exposé lumineux et accessible à tous, des principes fondamentaux de la doctrine bouddhique, tels qu’on les trouve dans les textes les plus anciens, ceux qu’on appelle en sanscrit “la Tradition” (Agana) et en pali “le Corpus canonique” (Nikaya), et auxquels le révérend Rahula, qui en possède une connaissance incomparable, se réfère constamment et à peu près exclusivement. » --Paul Demiéville

> Ouvrage de base indispensable
Par cecilaldin, le 4 mars 2018 (Sur Amazon.fr) 5/5… ; (en ligne),
URL : https://www.amazon.fr/review/RFQJD8YONXV0Z/

> Le Zen du Concombre. Walpola Rahula : L’enseignement du Bouddha, d’après les textes… ; (en ligne),
URL : http://www.leconcombre.com/biblio/zen/walpola-00.html

> href="http://www.librarything.fr/work/14670439/book/105587308" rel="nofollow" target="_top">Revue Française de Yoga, n°1
Walpola RAHULA est un moine bouddhiste, docteur en philosophie, spécialiste de l’histoire du Bouddhisme à Ceylan. Ce petit ouvrage résume de façon remarquablement concise, claire et vivante les caractéristiques du Bouddhisme quant à l’attitude mentale qu’il implique chez ses adeptes (sens de la responsabilité, tolérance, non attachement, pas même à la Vérité ....) et à l’aspect réaliste (ni optimiste, ni pessimiste) qui fait sa force et son actualité. Les grands principes de la doctrine (origine et sens de la souffrance, recherche de la Vérité, recherche du Sentier du Milieu, nature de l’Ame, rôle de l’attention et de la méditation) sont présentés de façon imagée et émaillés de nombreux exemples tirés de la vie du Bouddha et de ses moines, et de citations du canon pâli. Le dernier tiers de l’ouvrage offre une petite anthologie des textes fondamentaux du Bouddhisme (discours ou sûtra énoncés par le Bouddha). --Revue Française de Yoga

> Enseignement du bouddha d'après les textes les plus anciens de Walpola Rahula (What the Buddha taught)
Se reporter au compte rendu de FRUNNY
In: critiqueslibres.com, le 29 septembre 2010… ; (en ligne),
URL : https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Tp01NUyMqrXEFTQIBCT6ywOHEMNQF8ak/view?usp=shari... ( )
  Joop-le-philosophe | Nov 20, 2016 |
A Therevada Buddhist monk lays out the basic doctrine of that tradition, to which most varieties of Buddhism you're likely to encounter owe some debt. ( )
  phrontist | Jun 1, 2011 |
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Walpola Rahulaprimär författarealla utgåvorberäknat
Demiéville, PaulFörordmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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Among the founders of religions the Buddha (if we are permitted to call him the founder of a religion in the popular sense of the term) was the only teacher who did not claim to be other than a human being, pure and simple.
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This clear and informative guide draws on the words spoken by the Buddha to convey the true nature of Buddhist wisdom. It also features an illustrative section of texts from the Suttas and the Dhammapada, a glossary of Buddhist terms and an up-to-date bibliography.

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