What The Buddha Taught by Walola Rahula

This book is available free online and this is an article summarizing it and providing links to related articles.

Here are the most important points:

  • Buddha claims no inspiration from any God or external power.
  • Man is his own master and there is no higher being or power that sits in judgement over his destiny.
  • Man has the power to liberate himself from all bondage through his own personal effort and intelligence.
  • Man’s emancipation depends on his own realization of Truth, and not on the benevolent grace of a God or any external power as a reward for his obedient good behavior.
  • The root of all evil is ignorance and false view.
  • This spirit of tolerance and understanding has been from the beginning one of the most cherished ideals of Buddhist culture and civilization (no shedding of blood). What is essential is seeing the thing, understanding it.
  • But in Buddhism emphasis is laid on seeing, knowing, understanding, and not on faith or belief.
  • The moment you see, the question of belief disappears.
  • To be attached to one thing (to a certain view) and to look down upon other things (views) as inferior – this wise men call a fetter.

In Buddhism it is important to understand the question of suffering, how it comes about, and how to get rid of it, and then to work accordingly with patience, intelligence, determination, and energy.

The central tenants of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths.

The First Noble Truth: “The Noble Truth of Suffering (dukkha)”

Happiness is a part of life, a part of dukkha, but like everything else it has no permanence.

The Five Aggregates of Attachment or Suffering:

  • Aggregate of Matter
  • Aggregate of Sensation
  • Aggregate of Perception
  • Aggregate of Mental Formation
  • Aggregate of Consciousness

The Second Noble Truth: “Arising of Suffering”

This addresses man’s desire or craving. All the evils in the world are produced by selfish desire. This “thirst” or attachment is not only for wealth, power, and sense-pleasures, but can also manifest itself in attachment to ideas, opinions, theories and beliefs. This arises from an organism’s “desire, the will to be, to exist, to re-exist, to become more and more.”

According to the karma theory, the effects of a volitional action may continue to manifest themselves even in a life after death.

The Third Noble Truth: “The Cessation of Dukkha

There is liberation, freedom from suffering, from the continuity of dukkha. It eliminates the root cause of suffering, and leads to liberation which is known as Nirvana.

The author explains that language is too poor to express the real nature of the Absolute Truth or Ultimate Reality which is Nirvana. One could describe it as cessation of the very “thirst”.
Absolute Truth: Extinction of desire, hatred and illusion. Absolute Truth is beyond duality and relativity.

Absolute Freedom is freedom from all evil, craving, hatred, and ignorance; from all terms of duality, relativity, time and space.

Absolute Truth: There is nothing absolute in the world; everything is relative, conditioned and impermanent, there is no Self or Soul (note: this has to be understood as “Self” as an “autonomous entity” because we are not really separate, autonomous beings – this website is somewhat helpful about this topic).

To see things as they are without illusion or ignorance is the extinction of craving “thirst”.

The Fourth Noble Truth: The Way leading to the cessation.

This Truth is the path that leads to Calm, Insight, Enlightenment, Nirvana. By taking the Middle Path we avoid two extremes. The one extreme being the search for happiness through the pleasure of the senses (low, common, unprofitable and the way of the ordinary people) and the other being the search for happiness through self-mortification in different forms of asceticism, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable.

This Middle Path is generally referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path:

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Thought (self detachment)
  3. Right Speech (no lies)
  4. Right Action (moral conduct)
  5. Right Livelihood (no harm to others)
  6. Right Effort (preventing evil, bringing good)
  7. Right Mindfulness (awareness of body and feeling, mind and ideas)
  8. Right Concentration

They are to be developed more or less simultaneously, as far as possible according to the capacity of each individual. They are all linked together and each helps the cultivation of the others. The eight factors aim at perfecting the three essentials of Buddhist training and discipline: Ethical Conduct, Mental Discipline and Wisdom

One should develop compassion (love, charity, kindness, tolerance) and wisdom (qualities of the mind) .

The way of life is self-discipline in body, word and mind, self-development and self-purification.

You have to rely on yourself and not on others.

6 Directions:

  • East (parents are sacred to their children)
  • South (a pupil should respect and be obedient to his teacher)
  • West (relationship between husband and wife – respectful, faithful, devoted)
  • North (be hospitable to friends, relatives and neighbors)
  • Nadir (Master should pay adequate wages, medical needs should be provided, occasional bonuses – Servants should be diligent, honest and obedient)
  • Zenith (Lay people should look after the material neeeds of the religios with love and respect).

Minimum moral obligations of a lay Buddhist:

  • Not to destroy life
  • Not to steal
  • Not to commit adultery
  • Not to tell lies
  • Not to take intoxicating drinks

Ten duties of the King:

  • Liberality, generosity, charity
  • High moral character
  • Sacrificing everything of the good of the people
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Kindness and gentleness
  • Austerity in habits (no luxury)
  • Freedom from hatred, ill-will, enmity
  • Non-violence (promoting peace).
  • Patience, forbearance, tolerance, understanding
  • Non-opposition, non-destruction (don’t oppose the will of the people)

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