In the Buddha's Words - An Anthology of Discourses From the Pali Canon

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I like this very much. It sounds like the gospel of Buddha.
Ultimately, if there would be one thing to live by, that would be it.

FOREWORD - Venerable Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

More than two thousand five hundred years have passed since our kind teacher, Buddha Śākyamuni, taught in India.
After the Buddha’s passing, a record of what he said was maintained as an oral tradition.
Canon is one of the earliest of these written records.
These teachings cover a wide range of topics; they deal not only with renunciation and liberation, but also with the proper relations between husbands and wives, the management of the household, and the way countries should be governed. They explain the path of spiritual development—from generosity and ethics, through mind training and the realization of wisdom, all the way up to the attainment of liberation.


The Buddha’s discourses preserved in the Pāli Canon are called suttas, the Pāli equivalent of the Sanskrit word sūtras.
they are the closest we can come to what the historical Buddha Gotama himself actually taught.

Wisdom Publications pioneered this development in 1987 when it published Maurice Walshe’s translation of the Dīgha Nikāya, The Long Discourses of the Buddha.
in 1995, my revised and edited version of Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli’s handwritten translation of the Majjhima Nikāya, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha,
followed in 2000 by my new translation of the complete Saṃyutta Nikāya, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha.
In 1999, an anthology of suttas from the Aṅguttara Nikāya, Numerical Discourses of the Buddha.

two types of readers:


The teacher did not intend to present a complete system of ideas; his pupils did not aspire to learn a complete system of ideas. The aim that united them in the process of learning—the process of transmission—was that of practical training, self-transformation, the realization of truth, and unshakable liberation of the mind.

Chapter I is a survey of the human condition as it is apart from the appearance of a Buddha in the world. Perhaps this was the way human life appeared to the Bodhisatta.
It is a world in which people aspire to live in harmony, but in which their untamed emotions repeatedly compel them, against their better judgment
by their own ignorance and craving, from one life to the next, wandering blindly through the cycle of rebirths called saṃsāra.

Chapter II. his conception and birth, of his renunciation and quest for enlightenment, of his realization of the Dhamma, and of his decision to teach.

Chapter III. Buddha’s teaching. Dhamma is not a secret or esoteric teaching but one which “shines when taught openly.” It invites investigation and appeals to personal experience as the ultimate criterion for determining its validity.

chapter IV. benefit the Buddha’s teaching. “the welfare and happiness visible in this present life”

chapter V. second type of benefit. the welfare and happiness pertaining to the future life. through one’s accumulation of merit.

Chapter VI. conduce to happiness and good fortune within the bounds of mundane life, in order to lead people beyond these bounds, the Buddha exposes the danger and inadequacy in all conditioned existence. He shows the defects in sensual pleasures, the shortcomings of material success, the inevitability of death. the perils of saṃsāra.

The following four chapters are devoted to the third benefit that the Buddha’s teaching is intended to bring: the ultimate good (paramattha), the attainment of Nibbāna.

chapter VII: overview of the path to liberation. the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path. the monastic training from the monk’s initial entry upon the life of renunciation to his attainment of arahantship.

Chapter VIII. the taming of the mind, the major emphasis in the monastic training.

Chapter IX. “Shining the Light of Wisdom,” deals with the content of insight. the development of wisdom. the five aggregates, the six sense bases, the eighteen elements, dependent origination, and the Four Noble Truths.

The final goal is passing through a series of stages that transforms an individual from a worldling into an arahant, a liberated one.

chapter X, “The Planes of Realization,”


The Buddha did not write down any of his teachings, nor were his teachings recorded in writing by his disciples. Indian culture at the time the Buddha lived was still predominantly preliterate. The Buddha wandered from town to town in the Ganges plain, instructing his monks and nuns, giving sermons to the householders who flocked to hear him speak.
The records of his teachings that we have do not come from his own pen or from transcriptions made by those who heard the teaching from him, but from monastic councils held after his parinibb̄na—his passing away into Nibbāna—for the purpose of preserving his teaching.

During the Buddha’s life, the discourses were classified into nine categories according to literary genre: sutta (prose discourses), geyya (mixed prose and verse), veyyākaraṇa (answers to questions), gāthā (verse), udāna (inspired utterances), itivuttaka (memorable sayings), jātaka (stories of past births), abbhutadhamma (marvelous qualities), and vedalla (catechism).


Sadly, the canonical collections belonging to most of the early mainstream Indian Buddhist schools were lost when Indian Buddhism was devastated by the Muslims that invaded northern India in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
Only one complete collection of texts belonging to one of the early Indian Buddhist schools managed to survive intact. This is the collection preserved in the language that we know as Pāli.

The Pāli Canon is the collection of texts the Theravāda regards as Word of the Buddha (buddhavacana).
The Pāli Canon is commonly known as the Tipiṭaka, the “Three Baskets” or “Three Compilations.”

  1. The Vinaya Piṭaka, the Compilation of Discipline, which contains the rules laid down for the guidance of the monks and nuns.
  2. The Sutta Piṭaka, the Compilation of Discourses, which contains the suttas, the discourses of the Buddha.
  3. The Abhidhamma Piṭaka, the Compilation of Philosophy, a collection of seven treatises

The Sutta Piṭaka, which contains the records of the Buddha’s discourses and discussions, consists of five collections called Nikāyas.
The four major Nikāyas are:


Readers of the Pāli suttas are often annoyed by the repetitiveness of the texts. It is difficult to tell how much of this stems from the Buddha himself, who as an itinerant preacher must have used repetition to reinforce his points, and how much is due to the compilers. It is obvious, however, that a high proportion of the repetitiveness derives from the process of oral transmission.

I. The Human Condition


Like other religious teachings, the Buddha’s teaching originates as a response to the strains at the heart of the human condition.

The teaching begins by calling upon us to develop a faculty called yoniso manasikāra, careful attention. The Buddha asks us to stop drifting thoughtlessly through our lives and instead to pay careful attention to simple truths that are everywhere available to us, clamoring for the sustained consideration they deserve.

One of the most obvious and inescapable of these truths is also among the most difficult for us to fully acknowledge, namely, that we are bound to grow old, fall ill, and die. It is commonly assumed that the Buddha beckons us to recognize the reality of old age and death in order to motivate us to enter the path of renunciation leading to Nibbāna, complete liberation from the round of birth and death.
The initial response the Buddha intends to arouse in us is an ethical one. By calling our attention to our bondage to old age and death, he seeks to inspire in us a firm resolution to turn away from unwholesome ways of living and to embrace instead wholesome alternatives.

He tries to make us see that to act in accordance with ethical guidelines will enable us to secure our own well-being both now and in the long-term future.
His argument hinges on the important premise that actions have consequences.
when we miss the hidden warning signals of old age, illness, and death, we become negligent and behave recklessly, creating unwholesome kamma with the potential to yield dreadful consequences.

The realization that we are bound to grow old and die breaks the spell of infatuation cast over us by sensual pleasures, wealth, and power. It dispels the mist of confusion and motivates us to take fresh stock of our purposes in life. We may not be ready to give up family and possessions for a life of homeless wandering and solitary meditation, but this is not an option the Buddha generally expects of his householder disciples.
Rather, the first lesson he draws is an ethical one interwoven with the twin principles of kamma and rebirth.
The law of kamma stipulates that our unwholesome and wholesome actions have consequences extending far beyond this present life: unwholesome actions lead to rebirth in states of misery and bring future pain and suffering; wholesome actions lead to a pleasant rebirth and bring future well-being and happiness.
Since we have to grow old and die, we should be constantly aware that any present prosperity we might enjoy is merely temporary. We can enjoy it only as long as we are young and healthy; and when we die, our newly acquired kamma will gain the opportunity to ripen and bring forth its own results. We must then reap the due fruits of our deeds.

In the second section, “The Tribulations of Unreflective Living.”
These types of suffering differ from those connected with old age and death in an important respect. Old age and death are bound up with bodily existence and are thus unavoidable, common to both ordinary people and liberated arahants.
In contrast, the three texts included in this section all distinguish between the ordinary person, called “the uninstructed worldling” (assutavā puthujjana), and the wise follower of the Buddha, called the “instructed noble disciple” (sutavā ariyasāvaka).

1/the response to painful feelings.
The worldling reacts to them with aversion and therefore, on top of the painful bodily feeling, also experiences a painful mental feeling: sorrow, resentment, or distress.
The noble disciple, when afflicted with bodily pain, endures such feeling patiently, without sorrow, resentment, or distress. It is commonly assumed that physical and mental pain are inseparably linked, but the Buddha makes a clear demarcation between the two. He holds that while bodily existence is inevitably bound up with physical pain, such pain need not trigger the emotional reactions of misery, fear, resentment, and distress with which we habitually respond to it. Through mental training we can develop the mindfulness and clear comprehension necessary to endure physical pain courageously, with patience and equanimity. Through insight we can develop sufficient wisdom to overcome our dread of painful feelings and our need to seek relief in distracting binges of sensual self-indulgence.

2/the changing vicissitudes of fortune.
the eight worldly conditions. gain and loss, fame and disrepute, praise and blame, pleasure and pain.
While the worldling is elated by success in achieving gain, fame, praise, and pleasure, and dejected when confronted with their undesired opposites, the noble disciple remains unperturbed.
By applying the understanding of impermanence to both favorable and unfavorable conditions, the noble disciple can abide in equanimity, not attached to favorable conditions, not repelled by unfavorable ones. Such a disciple gives up likes and dislikes, sorrow and distress, and ultimately wins the highest blessing of all: complete freedom from suffering.

worldlings are agitated by change, especially when that change affects their own bodies and minds.
The Buddha classifies the constituents of body and mind into five categories known as “the five aggregates subject to clinging”
form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness.
These five aggregates are the building blocks that we typically use to construct our sense of personal identity; they are the things that we cling to as being “mine,” “I,” and “my self.”
The five aggregates are thus the ultimate grounds of “identification” and “appropriation,”. by which we establish a sense of selfhood.
Since we invest our notions of selfhood and personal identity with an intense emotional concern, when the objects to which they are fastened—the five aggregates—undergo change, we naturally experience anxiety and distress. In our perception, it is not mere impersonal phenomena that are undergoing change, but our very identities, our cherished selves, and this is what we fear most of all.
However, as the present text shows, a noble disciple has clearly seen with wisdom the delusive nature of all notions of permanent selfhood and thus no longer identifies with the five aggregates. Therefore the noble disciple can confront their change without anxious concern, unperturbed in the face of their alteration, decay, and destruction.

Agitation and turmoil afflict human life not only at the personal and private level, but also in our social interactions.
The names, places, and instruments of destruction may change, but the forces behind them, the motivations, the expressions of greed and hate, remain fairly constant.
Although his teaching, with its stress on ethical self-discipline and mental self-cultivation, aims primarily at personal enlightenment and liberation, the Buddha also sought to offer people a refuge from the violence and injustice that rack human lives in such cruel ways.

conflicts between laypeople as arising from attachment to sensual pleasures, conflicts between ascetics as arising from attachment to views.
fundamental distortions that affect the way our perception and cognition process the information provided by the senses.
the three roots of evil—greed, hatred, and delusion have terrible repercussions on a whole society, issuing in violence.

Most beings live immersed in the enjoyment of sensual pleasures.
Others, driven by the need for power, status, and esteem, pass their lives in vain attempts to fill an unquenchable thirst.
Many, fearful of annihilation at death, construct belief systems that ascribe to their individual selves, their souls, the prospect of eternal life.
A few yearn for a path to liberation but do not know where to find one. It was precisely to offer such a path that the Buddha has appeared in our midst.



(1) Aging and Death

“Venerable sir, is anyone who is born free from aging and death?”
“Great king, no one who is born is free from aging and death. Even those affluent khattiyas—rich, with great wealth and property, with abundant gold and silver, abundant treasures and commodities, abundant wealth and grain—because they have been born, are not free from aging and death. Even those affluent brahmins … affluent householders—rich … with abundant wealth and grain—because they have been born, are not free from aging and death. Even those monks who are arahants, whose taints are destroyed, who have lived the holy life, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, reached their own goal, utterly destroyed the fetters of existence, and are completely liberated through final knowledge: even for them this body is subject to breaking up, subject to being laid down"

“The beautiful chariots of kings wear out,
This body too undergoes decay.
But the Dhamma of the good does not decay:
So the good proclaim along with the good.”

(2) The Simile of the Mountain

"I have been engaged in those affairs of kingship, with the intoxication of sovereignty, who are obsessed by greed for sensual pleasures."
"As aging and death are rolling in on me, venerable sir, what else should be done but to live by the Dhamma, to live righteously, and to do wholesome and meritorious deeds?"

“Venerable sir, kings intoxicated with the intoxication of sovereignty, obsessed by greed for sensual pleasures, who have attained stable control in their country and rule over a great sphere of territory, conquer by means of elephant battles, cavalry battles, chariot battles, and infantry battles; but there is no hope of victory by such battles, no chance of success, when aging and death are rolling in. In this royal court, venerable sir, there are counselors who, when the enemies arrive, are capable of dividing them by subterfuge; but there is no hope of victory by subterfuge, no chance of success, when aging and death are rolling in. In this royal court, venerable sir, there exists abundant bullion and gold stored in vaults and lofts, and with such wealth we are capable of mollifying the enemies when they come; but there is no hope of victory by wealth, no chance of success, when aging and death are rolling in. As aging and death are rolling in on me, venerable sir, what else should I do but live by the Dhamma, live righteously, and do wholesome and meritorious deeds?”

“Just as mountains of solid rock,
Massive, reaching to the sky,
Might draw together from all sides,
Crushing all in the four quarters—
So aging and death come
Rolling over living beings—

They spare none along the way
But come crushing everything.

“There’s no hope there for victory
By elephant troops, chariots, and infantry.
One can’t defeat them by subterfuge,
Or buy them off by means of wealth.

“Therefore a person of wisdom here,
Out of regard for his own good,
Steadfast, should settle faith
In the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha.

“When one conducts oneself by Dhamma
With body, speech, and mind,
They praise one here in the present life,
And after death one rejoices in heaven.”

(3) The Divine Messengers

There is a person of bad conduct in body, speech, and mind. On the dissolution of the body, after death, he is reborn in the plane of misery, in a bad destination, in a lower world, in hell.
There the warders of hell seize him by both arms and take him before Yama, the Lord of Death:
This man, your majesty, had no respect for father and mother, nor for ascetics and brahmins, nor did he honor the elders of the family. May your majesty inflict due punishment on him!
King Yama questions that man, examines him: