What the Buddha Taught – Walpola Rahula Thero

I read the book “What the Buddha Taught” by Reverand Walpola Rahula last year. It is a book that explains the core of the Buddhism in a simple language. The Reverand Rahula discusses The Buddhist Attitude of Mind, The First Noble Truth: Dukkha, The Second Noble Truth: Samudaya, The Third Noble Truth: Nirodha, The Fourth Noble Truth: Magga, The Doctrine of No Soul: Anatta, Meditation or Mental Culture: Bhāvanā, What the Buddha Taught and the World Today respectively.

There is a growing interest about Buddhism all over the world. But, due to political reasons, more (especially Americans) are attracted to the Dalai Lama and the Mahayana Buddhism. So, Dr. Rahula Thero’s book is an eye opener for those who seek the Theravada Buddhism. Dr. Rahula thero is highly qualified to write this book.

It has been discussed in this book almost everything which is commonly accepted as the essential and fundamental teaching of Buddha. These are the doctrines of the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Five Aggregates, Karma, Rebirth, Conditioned Genesis (Paticcasamuppāda), the doctrine of No-Soul (Anatta), Satipatthāna (the Setting-up of Mindfulness). The Western reader will find it difficult to read the books and comprehend it at the beginning but the reader is expected to go through the book once or twice to understand it fully. There are Pali terms and their English translations but it is difficult to translate some concepts such as “praying” as the Buddhists don’t find praying that is similar to Christianity or Islam.

Theravāda, which is regarded as the original orthodox Buddhism, is followed in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Chittagong in Bangladesh. Mahāyāna, which developed relatively later, is followed in other Buddhist countries like China, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, etc. There are certain differences, mainly with regard to some beliefs, practices and observances between these two schools, but on the most important teachings of the Buddha, such as those discussed here, Theravāda and Mahāyāna are unanimously agreed.

The Buddha, whose personal name was Siddhattha (Siddhārtha in Sanskrit), and family name Gotama (Sanskrit: Gautama), lived in North India in the 6th century B.C. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the kingdom, of the Sākyas (in modern Nepal). His mother was queen Māyā. According to the custom of the time, he was married quite young, at the age sixteen, to a beautiful and devoted young princess named Yasodharā. The young prince lived in his palace with every luxury at his command. But all of a sudden, confronted with the reality of life and the suffering of mankind, he decided to find the solution – the way out of this universal suffering. At the age of 29, soon after birth of his only child, Rāhula, he left his kingdom and became an ascetic in search of this solution.

For six years the ascetic Gotama wandered about the valley of the Ganges, meeting famous religious teachers, studying and following their systems and methods, and submitting himself to rigorous ascetic practices. They did not satisfy him. So he abandoned all traditional religions and their methods and went his own way. It was thus that one evening, seated under a tree (since then known as the Bodhi-or-Bo-tree, ‘the Tree of Wisdom’). On the bank of the river Neranjarā at Buddha-Gaya (near Gaya in modern Bihar), at the age of 35, Gotama attained Enlightenment, after which he was known as the Buddha, ‘The Enlightened One’.

After his Enlightenment, Gotama the Buddha delivered his first sermon to a group of five ascetics, his old colleagues, in the Deer Park at Isipatana (modern Sarnath) near Benares. From that day, for 45 years, he taught all classes of men and women-kings and peasants, Brahmins and outcasts, bankers and beggars, holy men and robbers – without making slightest distinction between them. He recognized no differences of caste or social groupings, and the Way he preached was open to all men and women who were ready to understand and to follow it.

At the age of 80, the Buddha passed away at Kusinārā (in modern Uttar Pradesh in India).

Today Buddhism is found in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Tibet, China, Japan, Mongolia, Korea, Taiwan, in some parts of India, Pakistan and Nepal, and also in the Soviet Union. The Buddhist population of the world is over 500 million.

The Rev. Dr. W. Rahula received the traditional training and education of a Buddhist monk in Ceylon, and held eminent positions in one of the leading monastic institutes (Pirivena) in that island, where the Law of the Buddha flourishes from the time of Asoka and has preserved all its vitality up to this day. Thus brought up in ancient tradition, he decided, at this time when all traditions are called in questions, to face the spirit and the methods of international scientific learning. He entered the Ceylon University, obtained the B.A. Honours degree (London), and then won the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of the Ceylon University on a highly learned thesis on the History of Buddhism in Ceylon. Having worked with distinguished professors at the University of Calcutta and come in contact with adepts of Mahāyāna (the Great Vehicle), that form of Buddhism which reigns from Tibet to the Far East, he decided to go into the Tibetan and Chinese texts in order to widen his ecumenism, and he has honoured us by coming to the University of Paris (Sorbonne) to prepare a study of Asanga, the illustrious philosopher of Mahāyāna, whose principal works in the original Sanskrit are lost, and can only be read in their Tibetan and Chinese translations. It is now eight years since Dr. Rahula is among us, wearing yellow robe, breathing the air of the Occident, searching perhaps in our old troubled mirror a universalized reflection of the religion which is his. (From http://buddhasociety.com/online-books/what-buddha-taught-walpola-rahula-9)

3 thoughts on “What the Buddha Taught – Walpola Rahula Thero

  1. I was very impressed to read the book, “Opening the door of your heart” written by Ajahn Brahm. It was a novel like page turner every Budhist should read. (I am not too sure wethear sinhala translation is available in srilanka.) It talks about reality and your own heart feelings in day to day life. You could find his teachings in vedeo format in U tube such as how to deal with emotions etc…..

    Ajahn Brahmavamso Mahathera ( known to most as Ajahn Brahm) was born Peter Betts in London, United Kingdom . He came from a working-class background, and won a scholarship to study Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University in the late 1960s. After graduating from Cambridge he taught in high school for one year before travelling to Thailand to become a monk and train with the Venerable Ajahn Chah Bodhinyana Mahathera.
    Whilst still in his years as a junior monk, he was asked to undertake the compilation of an English-language guide to the Buddhist monastic code – the Vinaya – which later became the basis for monastic discipline in many Theravadan monasteries in Western countries.
    In 1994, Ajahn Jagaro took a sabbatical leave from Western Australia and disrobed a year later, abruptly leaving Ajahn Brahm in charge. Despite initial reservations, Ajahn Brahm took on the role with gusto and was soon being invited to provide his humorous and uplifting teachings in other parts of Australia and South-East Asia. He has been a speaker at the International Buddhist Summit in Phnom Penh in 2002, and at four Global Conferences on Buddhism. He was the convener of the Fourth Global Conference on Buddhism, held in Perth, in June 2006. But such recognition has not stopped him from dedicating time and attention to the sick and dying, those in prison or ill with cancer, people wanting to learn to meditate, and of course his own Sangha of monks at Bodhinyana.
    Currently Ajahn Brahm is the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, in Serpentine, Western Australia, the Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society of Western Australia, Spiritual Adviser to the Buddhist Society of Victoria, Spiritual Adviser to the Buddhist Society of South Australia, Spiritual Patron of the Buddhist Fellowship in Singapore, and is currently working with monks and nuns of all Buddhist traditions to establish the Australian Sangha Association
    In October 2004, Ajahn Brahm was awarded the John Curtin Medal for his vision, leadership and service to the Australian community by Curtin University
    Hundreds of Ajahn Brahm’s Dhamma talks are now available for free download in both digital audio and video format. These are downloaded millions of times a year and it’s now true to say that barely a second passes when there isn’t someone, somewhere in the world downloading and listening to a Dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm.


  2. Buddha’s Brain
    Drs. Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius has written the book, “Buddha’s Brain” a clear and practical essential wisdom teachings of lord Buddha.
    Using the contemporary language of scientific research, he invites the reader to open to the mysteries of the mind, bringing a modern understanding to the ancient and profound teachings of inner meditation practice. Buddha’s Brain skillfully weaves these classical teachings with the revolutionary findings of neuroscience,
    which has begun to confirm the human capacities for mindfulness, compassion, and self-regulation that are central to contemplative training.
    In reading this book, you will learn both brain science and practical inner ways to enhance well-being, develop ease and compassion, and reduce suffering.
    You don’t need any background in neuroscience, psychology, or meditation to use this book. It weaves together information and methods—like an operating manual for your brain combined with a toolbox—and you’ll find the tools that work best for you.


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