Louise's Reviews > What the Buddha Taught: Revised and Expanded Edition with Texts from Suttas and Dhammapada

What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula
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Apr 11, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction
Read from April 05 to 11, 2011

Everyone should read this at least once if they're even remotely interested in Buddhism. The first few chapters contain a straightforward introduction to Buddhism that's neither preachy nor touchy-feely. While it's not exactly straight from the horse's mouth because Buddha's teachings are still coming through a translator, I felt the principles of the book were as raw as one could get it without personally sitting under a bodhi tree with Buddha himself.

Originally, I was going to give this book 4 stars because I found some contradictions and inconsistencies. But then I realized it's an issue I have with philosophy itself and not with how the book is written or what the author is trying to explain.

I expected this book to answer a couple of questions I had about what happened after death, and if everyone really does have a soul (short answers: rebirth, and no, there's no such thing as a soul). While it did answer those questions, the book also opened a treasure trove of other questions that I don't even know where to begin seeking answers from.

I read this book after my cousin's death. Even though I vaguely believed in rebirth before, the way the book explained death and reincarnation did make me feel better about it.

Thanks to this book, my mind is full of questions like:

- If there is no soul or no 'self' what or who exactly is taking the Eightfold path?

- If there's no 'self' then what do you call this collection of experiences, senses, and ideas that gets reincarnated?

- If there's no reincarnation after nirvana is realized, then isn't the world population going to get smaller and smaller, since birth isn't creating something new and is just recycling something else for a new "cycle" ?

- If Buddhism is all about living in the present with no regrets of the past or worries about the future, then aren't all slackers excellent buddhists?

I was surprised that my least favorite chapter was the one about applying buddhist practice to ordinary life for normal people who don't want to live in isolation from modern society. I expected it to be more helpful than it was, but I found a lot what I thought were contradictions between it and buddhist philosophy. I guess I'll need to re-read that part again.
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Reading Progress

04/06
20.0% "Cliched to say this, but it gives a lot to think about."
04/08 page 52
27.08% "My head is spinning. Wanting nirvana conflicts with the path to nirvana which includes elimination of all wants."
04/26 marked as: read

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message 1: by Leighton (new)

Leighton With all the questions you have, you sound like a philosopher at heart to me. And I don't just mean philosophy in the specific sense. I mean it in the more general sense of thinking critically that give rise to the term PhD (doctorate in philosophy).


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