Hi fellow steemians! Here is a short introduction to the teachings of the Buddha, taken from "The Buddha and His Teachings"
Many valuable books have been written by Eastern and Western
scholars, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, to present the
life and teachings of the Buddha to those who are interested in
Amongst them one of the most popular works is still The
Light of Asia by Sir Edwin Arnold. Many Western truth-seekers
were attracted to Buddhism by this world-famous poem.
Congratulations of Eastern and Western Buddhists are due
to the learned writers on their laudable efforts to enlighten the
readers on the Buddha-Dhamma.
This new treatise is another humble attempt made by a
member of the Order of the Sangha, based on the Pāli Texts,
commentaries, and traditions prevailing in Buddhist countries,
especially in Ceylon.
The first part of the book deals with the Life of the Buddha,
thc second with the Dhamma, the Pāli term for His Doctrine.
The Buddha-Dhamma is a moral and philosophical system
which expounds a unique path of Enlightenment, and is not a
subject to be studied from a mere academic standpoint.
The Doctrine is certainly to be studied, more to be practised,
and above all to be realized by oneself.
Mere learning is of no avail without actual practice. The
learned man who does not practise the Dhamma, the Buddha
says, is like a colourful flower without scent.
He who does not study the Dhamma is like a blind man. But,
he who does not practise the Dhamma is comparable to a library.
There are some hasty critics who denounce Buddhism as a
passive and inactive religion. This unwarranted criticism is far
from the truth.
The Buddha was the first most active missionary in the world.
He wandered from place to place for forty-five years preaching
His doctrine to the masses and the intelligentsia. Till His last
moment, He served humanity both by example and by precept.
His distinguished disciples followed suit, penniless, they even
travelled to distant lands to propagate the Dhamma, expecting
nothing in return.
“Strive on with diligence” were the last words of the Buddha.
No emancipation or purification can be gained without personal
striving. As such petitional or intercessory prayers are denounced
in Buddhism and in their stead is meditation which
leads to self-control, purification, and enlightenment. Both meditation
and service form salient characteristics of Buddhism. In
fact, all Buddhist nations grew up in the cradle of Buddhism.
“Do no evil”, that is, be not a curse to oneself and others, was
the Buddha’s first advice. This was followed by His second admonition
– “Do good”, that is, be a blessing to oneself and others.
His final exhortation was – “Purify one’s mind” – which was the
most important and the most essential.
Can such a religion be termed inactive and passive?
It may be mentioned that, amongst the thirty-seven factors
that lead to enlightenment (Bodhipakkhiya-Dhamma), viriya or
energy occurs nine times.
Clarifying His relationship with His followers, the Buddha
“You yourselves should make the exertion.
The Tathāgatas are mere teachers.”
The Buddhas indicate the path and it is left for us to follow that
path to obtain our purification. Self-exertion plays an important
part in Buddhism.
“By oneself is one purified; by oneself is one defiled.”
Bound by rules and regulations, Bhikkhus can be active in their
own fields without trespassing their limits, while lay followers
can serve their religion, country and the world in their own
way, guided by their Buddhist principles.
Buddhism offers one way of life to Bhikkhus and another to
In one sense all Buddhists are courageous warriors. They
do fight, but not with weapons and bombs. They do kill, but not
innocent men, women and children.
With whom and with what do they fight? Whom do they
They fight with themselves, for man is the worst enemy of
man. Mind is his worst foe and best friend. Ruthlessly they kill
the passions of lust, hatred and ignorance that reside in this
mind by morality, concentration and wisdom.
Those who prefer to battle with passions alone in solitude
are perfectly free to do so. Bhikkhus who live in seclusion are
noteworthy examples. To those contended ones, solitude is
happiness. Those who seek delight in battling with life’s problems
living in the world and thus make a happy world where
men can live as ideal citizens in perfect peace and harmony, can
adopt that responsibility and that arduous course.
Man is not meant for Buddhism. But Buddhism is meant for
According to Buddhism, it should be stated that neither wealth
nor poverty, if rightly viewed, can be an obstacle towards being
an ideal Buddhist. Anāthapindika, the Buddha’s best supporter,
was a millionaire. Ghatikāra, who was regarded even better
than a king, was a penniless potter.
As Buddhism appeals to both the rich and the poor it appeals
equally to the masses and the intelligentsia.
The common folk are attracted by the devotional side of
Buddhism and its simpler ethics while the intellectuals are fascinated
by the deeper teachings and mental culture.
A casual visitor to a Buddhist country, who enters a Buddhist
temple for the first time, might get the wrong impression
that Buddhism is confined to rites and ceremonies and is a superstitious
religion which countenances worship of images and
Buddhism, being tolerant, does not totally denounce such
external forms of reverence as they are necessary for the masses.
One can see with what devotion they perform such religious ceremonies.
Their faith is increased thereby. Buddhists kneel before
the image and pay their respects to what that image represents.
Understanding Buddhists reflect on the virtues of the Buddha.
They seek not worldly or spiritual favours from the image. The
Bodhi-tree, on the other hand, is the symbol of enlightenment.
What the Buddha expects from His adherents are not these
forms of obeisance but the actual observance of His Teachings.
“He who practises my teaching best, reveres me most”, is the advice
of the Buddha.
An understanding Buddhist can practise the Dhamma without
external forms of homage. To follow the Noble Eightfold
Path neither temples nor images are absolutely necessary.
Is it correct to say that Buddhism is absolutely otherworldly
although Buddhism posits a series of past and future lives and
an indefinite number of habitable planes?
The object of the Buddha’s mission was to deliver beings from
suffering by eradicating its cause and to teach a way to put an
end to both birth and death if one wishes to do so. Incidentally,
however, the Buddha has expounded discourses which
tend to worldly progress. Both material and spiritual progress
are essential for the development of a nation. One should not
be separated from the other, nor should material progress be
achieved by sacrificing spiritual progress as is to be witnessed
today amongst materialistic-minded nations in the world. It is
the duty of respective Governments and philanthropic bodies
to cater for the material development of the people and provide
congenial conditions, while religions like Buddhism, in particular,
cater for the moral advancement to make people ideal
Buddhism goes counter to most religions in striking the
Middle Way and in making its Teaching homocentric in contradistinction
to theocentric creeds. As such Buddhism is introvert
and is concerned with individual emancipation. The Dhamma
has to be realized by oneself (sanditthiko).
As a rule, the expected ultimate goal of the majority of mankind
is either nihilism or eternalism. Materialists believe in complete
annihilation after death. According to some religions the goal
is to be achieved in an after-life, in eternal union either with an
Almighty Being or an inexplicable force which, in other words,
is one form of eternalism.
Buddhism advocates the middle path. Its goal is neither nihilism,
for there is nothing permanent to annihilate nor eternalism,
for there is no permanent soul to eternalize. The Buddhist
goal can be achieved in this life itself.
What happens to the Arahant after death? This is a subtle and
difficult question to be answered as Nibbāna is a supramundane
state that cannot be expressed by words and is beyond
space and time. Strictly speaking, there exists a Nibbāna but no
person to attain Nibbāna. The Buddha says it is not right to state
that an Arahant exists nor does not exist after death. If, for instance,
a fire burns and is extinguished, one cannot say that it
went to any of the four directions. When no more fuel is added,
it ceases to burn. The Buddha cites this illustration of fire and
adds that the question is wrongly put. One may be confused.
But, it is not surprising.
Here is an appropriate illustration by a modern scientist.
Robert Oppenheimer writes:
“If we ask, for instance, whether the position of the electron
remains the same, we must say ‘no’; if we ask whether the
electron’s position changes with time, we must say ‘no’; if we
ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say ‘no’; if we ask
whether it is in action, we must say ‘no’.
“The Buddha had given such answers when interrogated as
to the condition of man’s self after death, but they are not familiar
answers from the tradition of the 17th and 18th century science.”
Evidently the learned writer is referring to the state of an
Arahant after death.
What is the use of attaining such a state? Why should we
negate existence? Should we not affirm existence for life is full
These are not unexpected questions. They are the typical
questions of persons who either desire to enjoy life or to work
for humanity, facing responsibilities and undergoing suffering.
To the former, a Buddhist would say:— you may if you like,
but be not slaves to worldly pleasures which are fleeting and il-
lusory; whether you like it or not, you will have to reap what you
sow. To the latter a Buddhist might say:— by all means work for
the weal of humanity and seek pleasure in altruistic service.
Buddhism offers the goal of Nibbāna to those who need it,
and is not forced on any. “Come and see”, advises the Buddha.
Till the ultimate goal is achieved a Buddhist is expected to lead
a noble and useful life.
Buddhism possesses an excellent code of morals suitable to
both advanced and unadvanced types of individuals. They are:
(a) The five Precepts – not to kill, not to steal, not to commit
adultery, not to lie, and not to take intoxicating liquor.
(b) The four Sublime States (Brahma-Vihāra): Lovingkindness,
compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity.
(c)The ten Transcendental virtues (Pāramitā):— generosity,
morality, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience,
truthfulness, resolution, loving-kindness, and equanimity.
(d) The Noble Eightfold Path: Right understanding, right
thoughts, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right
effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
Those who aspire to attain Arahantship at the earliest possible
opportunity may contemplate on the exhortation given to Venerable
Rāhula by the Buddha namely,
“This body is not mine; this am I not; this is not my soul”
(N’etam mama, n’eso’ hamasmi, na me so attā).
It should be humbly stated that this book is not intended for
scholars but students who wish to understand the life of the
Buddha and His fundamental teachings.
The original edition of this book first appeared in 1942. The
second one, a revised and enlarged edition with many additions
and modifications, was published in Saigon in 1964 with
voluntary contributions from my devout Vietnamese supporters.
In the present one, I have added two more chapters and an
appendix with some important Suttas.
It gives me pleasure to state that a Vietnamese translation
of this book by Mr. Pham Kim Khanh (Sunanda) was also published
In preparing this volume I have made use of the translations
of the Pāli Text Society and several works written by Buddhists
and non-Buddhists. At times I may have merely echoed
their authentic views and even used their appropriate wording.
Wherever possible I have acknowledged the source.
I am extremely grateful to the late Mr. V. F. Gunaratna who,
amidst his multifarious duties as Public Trustee of Ceylon, very
carefully revised and edited the whole manuscript with utmost
precision and great faith. Though an onerous task, it was a
labour of love to him since he was an ideal practising Buddhist,
well versed in the Buddha-Dhamma."
14th July, 2522–1980.
Vajirārāma, Colombo 5.
Please note that this is only an introduction to this religion and I will be writing more about it in the following days. This is not my writing only serves as a proper introduction to those who are interested in how this whole religion works. I hope you like it and find it helpful. Here is a video of a professor who shortly describes the 10 must know facts about Buddhism.