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Thread: Books about original teachings of Buddha

  1. #1

    Books about original teachings of Buddha

    So far most books I've read about Buddhism have been modern ones (meaning written in modern times by some still living author) and mostly about Zen tradition too. However I think looking at the "source" might provide some insights as well, or at least be interesting from the historical perspective, so the question arises.

    Which books / resources would you people recommend for getting best in touch with the original teachings of Buddha? By 'original' in this context I mean like the sutras and stuff that are reputedly derived directly from Siddhartha Gautama's speeches.

    Oh and I don't mean the books have to be hundreds of years old (), just that the contents include the canonical scripture and not just someone's interpretation of them in their own words. I don't mind included commentaries though.

  2. #2

    Re: Books about original teachings of Buddha

    Quote Originally Posted by Mika

    Which books / resources would you people recommend for getting best in touch with the original teachings of Buddha? By 'original' in this context I mean like the sutras and stuff that are reputedly derived directly from Siddhartha Gautama's speeches.

    Oh and I don't mean the books have to be hundreds of years old (), just that the contents include the canonical scripture and not just someone's interpretation of them in their own words. I don't mind included commentaries though.
    Hi Mika,

    First, please know that nobody really knows what are the "original teachings of Buddha". We actually have a better idea what are the original teachings of Jesus (because only 4 versions of that were first written down, and that decades, not centuries, after the fact). Still, people have been disputing the "meaning of Jesus" since that time. Same with Buddha ... every "Sutra" was written after the time of Buddha, by people with their own philosophical agenda.

    In Mahayana Zen too, we tend to look at Shakyamuni as Henry Ford is to cars ... the founder. That does not mean that we go away from his idea ... a modern car still has 4 wheels, a motor, steering wheel, breaks etc. It is just that we are somehow as focused on later design formulations built upon the basic framework! :-)

    That being said, I like this book very much as a good introduction ...

    Amazon.com
    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.


    http://www.amazon.com/What-Buddha-Taugh ... 0802130313

    Also, Gregor, I believe you recently recommended a compendium of early writings and Sutra ...

    In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon (Teachings of the Buddha) (Paperback)
    by The Dalai Lama (Foreword), Bhikkhu Bodhi (Editor).


    I have not read this, but I have ordered one.

    I will try to think up more that may come to mind, and I am interested if others have recommendations in this area.

    Gassho, Jundo[/quote]

  3. #3

    Re: Books about original teachings of Buddha

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    First, please know that nobody really knows what are the "original teachings of Buddha".
    Yes, I am very well aware of the fact and that is why I used the word "reputedly" in my question. Maybe I should've put the whole sentence in quotes like you did though.

    It is precisely because I am mostly familiar only with Mahayana and other "later" teachings that I want to check out from what it all started. Building from your Ford quote it might be like some fan of modern sports cars looking for the blueprints of T-Ford, just out of curiosity if not more.

    I am glad that despite the perhaps poorly chosen words you understood what I meant precisely and thank you for your suggestions. I'll look those up and look forward to what other sources anyone can suggest.

  4. #4
    Hi Mika,

    I like the Access to Insight website. Lots of excerpts from the Pali canon, even multiple translations of several of the main suttas. Best of all, it's free!

  5. #5

    Re: Books about original teachings of Buddha

    Hi Mika,

    A good book that I recently read and recommended on another thread is Glenn Wallis's "Basic Teachings of the Buddha." Wallis also translated the Dhammapada, which reads very well. In his new book, he takes 16 suttas probably accepted as essential by most Buddhists. I like this book because of its freshness and readability. Wallis renders some basic Buddhist teachings in some fresh ways. Here is the Amazon link:

    http://www.amazon.com/Teachings-Buddha- ... 575&sr=1-1



    Hi Jundo,

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    We actually have a better idea what are the original teachings of Jesus (because only 4 versions of that were first written down, and that decades, not centuries, after the fact).
    Please know I understand the point you were making to Mika, but I must respectfully disagree. There are actually many more versions of the teachings of Jesus than just the 4 canonical Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were simply the ones chosen by the powers that be at the Council of Nicea in 323AD, precipitated by Constantine. It was then that the 4 Gospels were chosen as scripture. However, many Gospels existed that were then considered heretical (e.g., Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Gospel of Judas, and many others). Many contemporary scholars actually consider some of these so-called heretical texts closer to the "real" teachings of Jesus. See the work of Elaine Pagels, John D. Crossan, Marcus Borg, Bart D. Ehrman, Robert Funk, and others.

    Gassho,
    Keith

  6. #6
    I would agree with Jundo that Rahula's "What the Buddha Taught" is an amazing place to start.

    When I wanted to start reading some of the 'original' teachings of the Buddha I began with the Dhammapada. It is said to be large collection of verses originating from the Shakyamuni himself, collected and arranged by topic. Though they are individual verses, they book has an unexpected flow, and is wonderful to read from cover to cover. I found it very inspiring and I've been itching to read it again.

    There are several translations availlable, one of the more popular seems to be by Muller:
    http://www.amazon.ca/Dhammapada-Anno...5436426&sr=8-7

    I personally read the translation by Gil Fronsdal and enjoyed it very much.
    http://www.amazon.ca/Dhammapada-Tran...5436301&sr=8-4

  7. #7
    Paige
    I like the Access to Insight website. Lots of excerpts from the Pali canon, even multiple translations of several of the main suttas. Best of all, it's free!
    I second that. There's a few more I came across. I don't know off hand. All found by Google search.

    Also, as a note, some of the more obscure suttas can only be found in Pali.

    Gassho Will

  8. #8
    Hi,

    'Mettanet' is also quite a good resource for the Tipitaka: http://www.mettanet.org/tipitaka/index.html

    Apart from the Pali and Sinhalese versions there are typically 1 or 2 English translations of many Suttas there as well.

    Gassho
    Kenneth

  9. #9

    Re: Books about original teachings of Buddha

    Thank you for your suggestions. Plenty of stuff to read it seems.

    Then a bit off topic...

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith
    See the work of Elaine Pagels, John D. Crossan, Marcus Borg, Bart D. Ehrman, Robert Funk, and others.
    I found Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus to be a pretty good (and interesting too) introduction to the textual criticism and history of the Bible.

    And speaking of textual criticism, has there been any attempts at Buddhist scripture? Any good books in English about it? I know Buddhists generally take the texts way less seriously than most Christians generally take theirs, but perhaps there have been some scholars who have taken interest?

  10. #10

    Re: Books about original teachings of Buddha

    Hi Mika,

    Quote Originally Posted by Mika
    Then a bit off topic...
    Quote Originally Posted by Keith
    See the work of Elaine Pagels, John D. Crossan, Marcus Borg, Bart D. Ehrman, Robert Funk, and others.
    Yes, it was a bit off topic. Sorry if I came across pompous and/or verbose!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mika
    I found Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus to be a pretty good (and interesting too) introduction to the textual criticism and history of the Bible.
    Yes, I liked that book, too. I also heard Ehrman on NPR. Good interview.

    By the way, love the Yoda quote! One of my favorites, too.

    Gassho,
    Keith

  11. #11
    I don't know an awful lot about textual criticism as it pertains to Christianity, though from what I have read from people interested in such things it is a fascinating subject.

    The Way on the other hand is based in practice rather than scripture, so I wouldn't think that someone else's analysis of texts would bring us any greater understanding of this path than our individual insight can.

    Even if the Pali Canon is somehow proved to be 100% what Gautama said, it is still only a shadow of what he actually experienced. Kinda like a jigsaw puzzle, we go by the picture on the box for reference but we still have to do all the work on our own.

    We aren't totally sure that this being we refer to as the Buddha was real, let alone what exactly he taught. I don't think it's important, at the core we have a solid an open framework for practice in the Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eight Fold Path.

    Regardless to our differences of opinion, interpretation, and methods of practice we still have this core to build on. So I guess in a way the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight Fold path are about as close as one can get to the "original teachings".

    But that is just my opinion.

    Rodney

  12. #12
    There's also the sacred-texts.com Buddhism section. And A Buddhist Library.

    Both have more Mahayana than Theravada resources I think.

    I'm sure there are plenty of good books on the history of the early Buddhist sects, but I've never read them! I can ask my teacher tomorrow if he can suggest any titles.

    I know that there are scholars comparing the Pali Nikaya against the Chinese Agamas - apparently they match up very well. And I've read a couple of articles concerning the evolution of some of the texts in the Chinese canon. Can't remember any titles now though, sorry.

    It is possible to hurt some Buddhists' feelings with textual criticism. Some do believe very strongly that the Mahayana sutras were taught by the historical Buddha, but in other realms and kept there for a long period of time (the Theravadins have a similar explanation for the Abhidharma).

  13. #13

    a bio

    Karen Armstrong's little Penguin bio of the Buddha was helpful to me, not so much with re. to teachings but clarifying to whom I was listening. fwiw

  14. #14

    Re: a bio

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Niederfrank
    Karen Armstrong's little Penguin bio of the Buddha was helpful to me, not so much with re. to teachings but clarifying to whom I was listening. fwiw
    Don! Where have you been hiding? :-)

    Nice to hear from you.

    Gassho, J

  15. #15
    Rev
    I don't know an awful lot about textual criticism as it pertains to Christianity, though from what I have read from people interested in such things it is a fascinating subject.

    The Way on the other hand is based in practice rather than scripture, so I wouldn't think that someone else's analysis of texts would bring us any greater understanding of this path than our individual insight can.

    Even if the Pali Canon is somehow proved to be 100% what Gautama said, it is still only a shadow of what he actually experienced. Kinda like a jigsaw puzzle, we go by the picture on the box for reference but we still have to do all the work on our own.

    We aren't totally sure that this being we refer to as the Buddha was real, let alone what exactly he taught. I don't think it's important, at the core we have a solid an open framework for practice in the Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eight Fold Path.

    Regardless to our differences of opinion, interpretation, and methods of practice we still have this core to build on. So I guess in a way the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight Fold path are about as close as one can get to the "original teachings".

    But that is just my opinion.

    Rodney
    I totally agree, but we have to do something with our time, I guess.

    Gassho

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by will
    I totally agree, but we have to do something with our time, I guess.

    Gassho
    I'm partial to chopping wood and making music.

  17. #17
    I'm partial to chopping wood and making music.
    If that's what you like. I haven't actually chopped wood since I was about 11.

    Gassho

  18. #18

    Re: Books about original teachings of Buddha

    Quote Originally Posted by Mika
    And speaking of textual criticism, has there been any attempts at Buddhist scripture? Any good books in English about it? I know Buddhists generally take the texts way less seriously than most Christians generally take theirs, but perhaps there have been some scholars who have taken interest?
    There's the book Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations by Paul Williams. It's quite good (but obviously, only about Mahayana texts). I don't know of any similar book concerning the Pali canon.

  19. #19
    Hi Harry,

    We already have "Hand of Thought" starting from January. Please propose the idea to the group again when we get to choosing the book after that.

    Gassho, Jundo

  20. #20
    Hi, Mika,

    I would recommend any of several of the works of Buddhadasa Bhikku that are available free on the net, including Handbook for Mankind, Anapanasati: Mindfulness with Breathing, and No Religion!, off the top of my head. Also, there are others available in bookstores -- Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree, and Paticcasamuppada: Practical Dependent Origination. There are many others, and I can email you copies of several of them as well if you are interested. I also have electronic copies of some of his books and essays that are not available on the web as well. Does this website have a files section?

    Also, I also highly recommend Phra P.A. Payutto's Buddhadhamma: Natural Laws and Values for Life. Whole-chapter excerpts from this book can be found at:

    http://www.geocities.com/athens/academy/9280/kamma.htm

    and

    http://www.geocities.com/athens/academy ... oarise.htm


    In this section of the second essay, Phra Payutto describes the Buddha's teachings on Dependent Origination in the here-and-now, as is unconcerned with speculative cosmological views:

    http://www.geocities.com/athens/academy ... arise5.htm

    Payutto's and Buddhadasa's works are independent of any speculative world- or cosmological views. Very refreshing.

    Guess I should also introduce myself, Hello, folks!

    Matt

  21. #21
    Senior Member Seizan's Avatar
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    This is an old thread, but I searched and found it so maybe other people still do, too! Two books I like are Thich Nhat Hanh's The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings and his Awakening of the Heart- it's modern commentary around the old sutras and Buddha-focused writings. I've only read TNH's commentary on the Middle Way Sutra so far, but loved it so much this book is next on my list.

    I also LOVE the Dalai Lama's commentaries, you can find many on Amazon. Look for the sutra commentaries if you want the "old school" more Shakyamuni based works. His Holiness's commentary on the Way of the Bodhisattva is amazing as well, I always go back to it. It's not a Shakyamuni based text but is well worth the read.

    Gassho!

  22. #22
    Oh my, this THREAD is almost as old as the original teachings of Buddha themselves!

    Of course, nobody is quite sure what were the Buddha's "original teachings" some 2500 years ago, as they were not even written down for a few hundred years ... while being passed down orally and embellished along the way. What is more, I sometimes describe Gautama Buddha as something like the "Wright Brothers" or "Henry Ford", and Buddhism did evolve and develop ... and even was greatly tuned up and improved ... from his basic framework and basic outline over the next millenia.

    However, a couple of other good books are ...

    For a general history of early Buddhism ...

    Buddhist Thought, A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition, Paul Williams and Anthony Tribe. (Jundo: Although meant as an introductory textbook, still wonderfully detailed ... although the writing is poor in places. I recommend this somewhat ahead of the two books by Walpola Rahula and David Kalipahana, for both readability and the presence of less of a personal religious ideology that tends to cloud the impartiality of those other books)

    and the later Mahayana interpretation of "what the Buddha Taught" ...

    Mahayana Buddhism, The Doctrinal Foundations, by Paul Williams

    Both are serious, meaty history books, by the way, and not a light, quick read.

    In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon (Teachings of the Buddha) by Bhikkhu Bodhi is a fantastic anthology of the "best of" the Pali Canon. Bhikkha Bodhi's footnotes tend to offer interpretations from his particular flavor of Theravadan Buddhism, but the Sutta's themselves speak to all of us.

    A wonderful attempt at biography based closely on the Pali Canon is the very readable The Life of the Buddha by Bhikkhu Nanamoli.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-19-2012 at 03:39 AM.
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  23. #23
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    I would really recommend "The Historical Buddha: The Times, Life, and Teachings of the Founder of Buddhism" by H.W. Schumann.
    http://books.google.ca/books/about/T...kC&redir_esc=y

  24. #24
    Nindo, that sounds interesting. Will give it a try.
    I recommend Walking in the footsteps of the buddha by TNH

  25. #25
    Senior Member Seizan's Avatar
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    Thank you, Jundo, Nindo & Rich! I will add those to my growing list! Bona fide bookworm here and a full out nerd in some aspects. The first one, Buddhist Thought, sounds very intriguing.

    Gassho,
    Dani

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