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What the Buddha Taught

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  7,268 ratings  ·  339 reviews
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 si ...more
Paperback, Revised and Expanded Edition, 192 pages
Published January 11th 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1959)
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Francis Fish Questions are part of the tradition. Teachers are of course revered by their students but unquestioning faith is not expected. In the Tibetan…moreQuestions are part of the tradition. Teachers are of course revered by their students but unquestioning faith is not expected. In the Tibetan tradition they say that faith eventually comes from understanding, not the other way round.(less)

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Bookdragon Sean
As strange as it may sound, many of the books I’ve read on Buddhism do not actually pay much attention to Siddhartha- the Gautama Buddha himself. Normally the prose is driven by explanations of the concepts behind the philosophy rather than delving into its origins. I’ve often relied on internet searches to supplement my readings.

So this book begins with the beginning, and expands outwards. But rather than trying to conceptualise ideas, and explain them in his own personal way- as many other wr
Riku Sayuj

Invitation Complications
Who is the Best Spokesperson for a Religion?

Who can write about a religion best? An insider or an outsider? Obviously it takes a lifetime’s learning to understand the religion, just to get a ‘feel’ for it. It might even need a lifetime's ‘practice’, and it could very well be that the first innocent impulses can only be absorbed at a very young age — like a language, a religion is also a mode of expression.

Then surely the insider is the one best placed to introduce ot
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Erik Graff
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: comparative religion/Buddhism fans
Recommended to Erik by: Harold Kasimow
Shelves: religion
This book, assigned for a class entitled "Introduction to Eastern Religions" at Grinnell College, was influential, along with Coomaraswamy's Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism, in first shaping my sense of what that "religion" was all about. Maintaining, as I recall, that the oldest Pali texts and the Theravada tradition were, if anything, practical and antimetaphysical--as opposed, say, to later Mahayana tendencies, these books disposed me favorably to Buddhism in its supposedly "original" formu ...more
Bill Viall
Nov 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the only worthwhile book on Buddhism I've come across. Other books I've read wallow in touchy-feely mumbo-jumbo. Rahula is straight forward, treating Buddhism not as witchcraft or God's thoughts, but as the best devised way of proceeding through this veil. He lays Buddhism out clearly & simply, making a sober & cogent argument for what it has to offer.
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, religion
Quyển này mình đọc bản gốc tiếng Anh (What the Buddha taught) rồi quay sang đọc bản dịch tiếng Việt của sư cô Thích Nữ Trí Hải. Review dài tóm tắt nội dung có lẽ tạm thời cho vào kế hoạch mười năm lần thứ nhất, còn giờ thì mình chỉ muốn nói là nếu ai quan tâm đến cốt tủy của tư tưởng Phật học thì có lẽ nên bắt đầu với quyển này hoặc Phật học tinh hoa của Nguyễn Duy Cần. Không phải tự nhiên mà cụ Cần gần như dịch toàn bộ chương một của cuốn này để làm tài liệu viết chương hai cho sách của cụ. Nếu ...more
Nov 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Finished Reading What the Buddha Taught (Original English Version)

I read the Chinese version of Ven. Walpola Rahula’s What the Buddha Taught for several times. I have to say the translation is just perfect, by a Taiwan-based Chinese Buddhist scholar, Mr. Gu Fa-Yan. Today I just finished reading the book in its original English version for the first time. Nothing is like the original? I don’t know in this case, cuz it’s been really tough to me. It was written in a scholastic British style. Too ma
كان بوذا بين مؤسسى الديانات ( إذا جاز لنا أم نسمية مؤسس ديانة بـ المعنى الشعبى لـ المصطلح ) ، المعلم الوحيد الذي لم يدعى إنه شئ آخر غير كائن إنسانى خالص وبسيط ، المعلمون الآخرون كانو تجسيدات إلهية أو قالو عن أنفسهم إنهم ملهمون من الله .. أما بوذا فـ لم يكن كائناً بشرياً وحسب ، بل إنه لم يدعى بـ أنه ألهم من إله أو من قدرة خارجية ، فـ قد عزا إنجازة وما أكتسبة وأتمة إلى المجهود الإنساني وحده وإلى الذكاء الإنساني وحده ..
إن رجلاً ، رجلاً وحسب ، يمكنه أن يصبح بوذا .
بوذا فيلسوف بكل ما تحمله الكلمة من م
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
I wish I had read this book several years ago, when my interest in Buddhism was reignited and I began to study it seriously. While I have read a few good books and resources that outlined Buddhist practice and belief, none have encompassed quite so much in such a tight and direct manner. I think also that this book could have corrected some confusion and misunderstandings that took a while for me to get through. It is probably the best book for beginners I have encountered, though the approach i ...more
Jan 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing

January 2007

The Practice of Buddhism is the Heart of Buddhism

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 existenc
Steven Galley
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me as an ideal book for a newcomer to Buddhism. It definitely lived up to its recommendation and then some. Very clear and concise descriptions from the author, which left me feeling very much comfortable with all of the topics included in the book.

Read this book if you wish to understand more clearly the basic concepts, principles and structure of Buddhism.
Edith Hope
Apr 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
The first book I've ever read about Buddhism. It feels strange to rate something like this, as I have nothing to compare it to. Still, I found it fascinating, clear and soothing. I am very interested in learning more.
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I came across this book by accident, but now believe it to be a classic text as an introduction to Buddhism.

It is a short read, but very clear and the concise nature of the read allied to the very clear prose makes it essential.

Chapter VIII 'What the Buddha Taught and the World Today' was simply a revelation to me as this was one of the first books I bought after reading Gunaratana's "Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness".

Highly recommended.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've always been curious about Buddhism as a non-violent religion that encourages questioning and does not expect the followers to believe in anything blindly, or really to "believe" in anything that can't be seen. I am curious to know if modern practice/teachings actually work like this.

The main 8 chapters of this book are truly fascinating, and I think many non-religious people and non-believers may find that they already relate to many of the ideas presented by the Buddha. I was very pleasant
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Dr Rahula is very clear about what the Buddha taught and what he did not teach - he clarifies many misunderstandings of the teaching and, like the Buddha whom he quotes liberally, does not mince his words and does not hesitate to call a fool a fool. I benefited especially from his clarification of the meaning of Nibbaana, as well as his exposition of Anatta or Non-Self - his exposition of these difficult-to-grasp doctrines is one of the clearer and more understandable attempts I have come across ...more
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When I started reading this text, I honestly thought I had the wrong book, not the guide recommended by the local Zen master. It has the feel of a vague, open apologia for Buddhism, not the hardheaded brass-tacks guide for a believer that I was expecting. Then I looked up Walpola Rahula's credentials, discovering that he was the first Buddhist cleric to hold a chair at a major American University (in this case, Northwestern). You may call me on my ad hominem if you like, but that turned my head ...more
Khaldun Chaloob
Aug 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
خمس نجوم و من الكتب الي تگدر تقرا مرة ثانية و ما راح تشعر بالملل.
من الكتب الي راح تترك أثر بيك و تضل تسولف بيها و تمدح، كتاب لازم الكل تقرا و تعرف شنو و منو هو بوذا بدل ما تگول "يعبدون ربهم السمين".
ملاحظة: اذا قريته و ما حسيت شي تغيّر بطريقة تفكيرك او شلون تشوف الناس و الالم و السعادة و الخ، انت تعاني من مشكلة و لازم تتعالج.
"the absolute truth is that there is nothing absolute in the world, that everything is relative, conditioned and impermanent."
Craig Shoemake
Easily the best introductory text for Buddhism. This should be everyone's starting place...
Nov 19, 2015 rated it liked it

Nice introduction to Buddhism.
A little dense but okay.
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it

The man who gathers only the flowers (of sense pleasures), whose mind is entangled, death carries him away as a great flood a sleeping village.

Libro serio, hermoso y brutal. Justo es leer sobre una visión de mundo que prende fuego los delirios narcisistas y dualistas de buena parte de 'Occidente'.
Apr 28, 2008 rated it liked it
This book made clear to me how challenging it's going to be to get a true picture of the Buddha and Buddhism because I'll be reading everything in translation. (I think I may have only finished this book and only enjoyed it at the three-star level because I read much of it outside at night with a little booklight; the stars and animal singing definitely heightened the experience.) This translator spends many, many footnotes disagreeing with and correcting the translations of others. Which transl ...more
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
For a long time whenever people ask me for something to read about basic Buddhist ideas, this has been the book I've recommended. It's not the most up-to-date scholarship and Rahula is a bit of a "Protestant Buddhist" (i.e., a movement in the 19-20th centuries to represent Buddhism as more secular, downplaying its religious aspects). But as a bibliophile, some books become friends, and this book is one of my good friends. Rahula explains complex topics of Buddhist philosophy in an elegant, thoug ...more
Forest Tong
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Without any meditation experience, I think this book might be a bit too difficult to grasp; having taken a Vipassana course, I still found the concepts difficult to grasp but greatly appreciated the author's explanations. One of the big things I gained was a greater appreciation for the breadth and depth of Pali words used in Buddhism such as dukkha.

My main objection to this book is that the author sometimes editorializes and strays from a pure explanation of what the Buddha taught. For example
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
This book, in my opinion, shows Buddhism at its most basic, before it acquired all the baggage of different cultures. It represents one school of thought; there are obviously many others. But if you want to know the essentials of Buddhism, this is a great place to start.
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Clear, concise and easy to read. Would recommend to anyone willing to get to know what Buddhism is.
Troy Nevitt
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I will preface that I'm not a Buddhist, nor was I persuaded to become a Buddhist. I would even say that I'm opposed to the teachings of Buddhism. I think this book still deserves a good rating.

Very helpful explaination of the subject. I needed a resource for class. Not a Buddhist, but I would recommend this for someone who wants to know more of their beliefs.

It didn't surprised me that there were a lot of misunderstandings, but finding out which ones they are is always a surprise.

Meditation, fo
Chris Armer
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great into to core Buddhist teachings

I wanted a book that provided an overview of core Buddhist teachings that had not been Westernized. I think this book scratched that itch. If you want depth, then you may not be fully satisfied by the book but it does whet the appetite for further teaching.
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
This book is a little dated (originally published in 1959) and suffers somewhat from Buddhist Boosterism and Westernization but I found the four chapters devoted to the four noble truths very good. Everything starts with those four concepts. And probably ends.
Dec 13, 2016 rated it liked it
It's been awhile since I've read about Buddhism and this was a nice, short, unchallenging but detailed read about the more important tenants of Buddhism. Good fit for someone who knows the basics but wants refined details and specifics without being inundated. But note that the author paints a purely positive view of Buddhism and does not discuss some of the negatives (treatment and view of women) at all.
Things I enjoyed:
I practice both mindfulness and detachment, and it was discussed in some d
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Goodreads Librari...: The author is missing from.. his own book :-) 2 22 Jun 30, 2015 01:59AM  
  • The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya
  • In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon
  • The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya
  • Heart of Buddhist Meditation: The Buddha's Way of Mindfulness
  • The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā
  • The Way of the Bodhisattva: A Translation of the Bodhicharyavatara
  • What Makes You Not a Buddhist
  • Buddhism without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening
  • The Experience of Insight: A Simple & Direct Guide to Buddhist Meditation (Shambhala Dragon Editions)
  • Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness: Walking the Buddha's Path
  • The Heart Sutra
  • A Buddhist Bible
  • The Three Pillars of Zen
  • The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation
  • The Words of My Perfect Teacher
  • Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism
  • The Diamond Sutra and The Sutra of Hui-Neng
  • Buddha Is as Buddha Does: The Ten Original Practices for Enlightened Living
Walpola Rahula (1907–1997) was a Buddhist monk, scholar and writer. He is one of the Sri Lankan intellectuals of the 20th century. In 1964, he became the Professor of History and Religions at Northwestern University, thus becoming the first bhikkhu to hold a professorial chair in the Western world. He also once held the position of Vice-Chancellor at the then Vidyodaya University (currently known ...more
“First of all, Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. If anything at all, it is realistic, for it takes a realistic view of life and the world. It looks at things objectively (yathābhūtam). It does not falsely lull you into living in a fool's paradise, nor does it frighten and agonize you with all kinds of imaginary fears and sins. It tells you exactly and objectively what you are and what the world around you is, and shows you the way to perfect freedom, peace, tranquility and happiness.” 37 likes
“The question has often been asked; Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy? It does not matter what you call it. Buddhism remains what it is whatever label you may put on it. The label is immaterial. Even the label 'Buddhism' which we give to the teachings of the Buddha is of little importance. The name one gives is inessential.... In the same way Truth needs no label: it is neither Buddhist, Christian, Hindu nor Moslem. It is not the monopoly of anybody. Sectarian labels are a hindrance to the independent understanding of Truth, and they produce harmful prejudices in men's minds.” 27 likes
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