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Basic Teachings of the Buddha (Modern Library Classics)

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In Basic Teachings of the Buddha, Glenn Wallis selects sixteen essential dialogues drawn from more than five thousand Pali-dialect suttas of the Buddhist canon. The result is a vibrant introductory guide to studying Buddhist thought, applying its principles to everyday life, and gaining a deeper understanding of Buddhist themes in modern literature. Focusing on the most cr In Basic Teachings of the Buddha, Glenn Wallis selects sixteen essential dialogues drawn from more than five thousand Pali-dialect suttas of the Buddhist canon. The result is a vibrant introductory guide to studying Buddhist thought, applying its principles to everyday life, and gaining a deeper understanding of Buddhist themes in modern literature. Focusing on the most crucial topics for today’s readers, Wallis presents writings that address modern psychological, religious, ethical, and philosophical concerns. This practical, inspiring, and engaging volume provides an overview of the history of Buddhism and an illuminating analysis of the core writings that personalizes the suttas for each reader. “Glenn Wallis brings wisdom and compassion to this work of scholarship. Everyone should read this book.” –Christopher Queen, Harvard University “A valuable sourcebook with a good selection of the fundamental suttas enhanced by an eloquent introduction and comprehensive notes–altogether a very useful text.” –Peter Matthiessen (Roshi), author of The Snow Leopard and Nine-Headed Dragon River “Glenn Wallis’s new and accessible translations of some of the Buddha’s lectures to his original students, along with Wallis’s elegant guide to the texts, gives twenty-first-century readers in the modern West a fresh chance to learn from this teacher.” –Charles Hallisey, University of Wisconsin-Madison


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In Basic Teachings of the Buddha, Glenn Wallis selects sixteen essential dialogues drawn from more than five thousand Pali-dialect suttas of the Buddhist canon. The result is a vibrant introductory guide to studying Buddhist thought, applying its principles to everyday life, and gaining a deeper understanding of Buddhist themes in modern literature. Focusing on the most cr In Basic Teachings of the Buddha, Glenn Wallis selects sixteen essential dialogues drawn from more than five thousand Pali-dialect suttas of the Buddhist canon. The result is a vibrant introductory guide to studying Buddhist thought, applying its principles to everyday life, and gaining a deeper understanding of Buddhist themes in modern literature. Focusing on the most crucial topics for today’s readers, Wallis presents writings that address modern psychological, religious, ethical, and philosophical concerns. This practical, inspiring, and engaging volume provides an overview of the history of Buddhism and an illuminating analysis of the core writings that personalizes the suttas for each reader. “Glenn Wallis brings wisdom and compassion to this work of scholarship. Everyone should read this book.” –Christopher Queen, Harvard University “A valuable sourcebook with a good selection of the fundamental suttas enhanced by an eloquent introduction and comprehensive notes–altogether a very useful text.” –Peter Matthiessen (Roshi), author of The Snow Leopard and Nine-Headed Dragon River “Glenn Wallis’s new and accessible translations of some of the Buddha’s lectures to his original students, along with Wallis’s elegant guide to the texts, gives twenty-first-century readers in the modern West a fresh chance to learn from this teacher.” –Charles Hallisey, University of Wisconsin-Madison

30 review for Basic Teachings of the Buddha (Modern Library Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Max

    In this book, Glenn Wallis provides a concise overview of the history of Buddhism and its core texts, some contextualization for his own views, and his translation of and commentaries on 16 suttas that he feels encapsulate the core teachings of Siddhartha Gotama. Wallis's selections and commentary are rather explicitly geared towards modern Western readers, specifically those who were likely raised with theistic ways of thinking, and at least one of his selections (the Tevijja Sutta) is, he ackn In this book, Glenn Wallis provides a concise overview of the history of Buddhism and its core texts, some contextualization for his own views, and his translation of and commentaries on 16 suttas that he feels encapsulate the core teachings of Siddhartha Gotama. Wallis's selections and commentary are rather explicitly geared towards modern Western readers, specifically those who were likely raised with theistic ways of thinking, and at least one of his selections (the Tevijja Sutta) is, he acknowledges, selected primarily for this reason, and is not generally regarded as a core teaching. Still, overall I think the selections are difficult to argue with, containing some of the best known and most translated suttas in the canon (Dhammacakkappavattana (Turning the Wheel of the Dharma) Sutta, Anapanasati (Awareness of Breath) Sutta, Mahasatipatthana (Establishments of Mindfulness) Sutta) as well as other selections that illustrate key Buddhist ideas. I felt that the structure of the text (which is divided, somewhat convolutedly, into an introduction, the translations, commentaries, and extensive footnotes, none of which really stand on their own without being read together (a commentary on dependent co-origination, maybe?)) and the language used could be intimidating and academic at times, which I think is unfortunate because it could constitute a barrier for many readers. I also found Wallis's choice to largely operate outside of the existing commentarial tradition on the texts to be frustrating at times; he positions himself as an independent free-thinker standing outside the edifice of Buddhism, boldly reinterpreting its core ideas, but the selection of writers he approvingly quotes throughout his introduction (Emerson, Whitman, Bloom) clearly establish that Wallis is indeed working from within a tradition: a Western literary tradition, with a clear emphasis on Romanticism. Wallis's translation choices are frequently idiosyncratic, as he opts for his own translations for terms that already have well-established 'stock' translations in much English Buddhist literature. He generally provides a compelling rationale for such choices, and overall the decision is obviously geared towards providing a fresh encounter with the ideas and avoiding our human tendency to reify them into stock phrases and lists, losing our direct contact with them. While I appreciate this drive to push us into more direct contact with the meaning expressed by the texts, his aversion to using common translations can also have a disorienting effect. I found myself frequently having to consult other books I had already read to find the 'usual' terms or names for what was being discussed in a given sutta so that I could establish what I had already read about the concepts contained within it. This is not really a major issue, but could create confusion for the reader who is new to Buddhist concepts, so I would suggest this book for readers who already have some level of exposure to them. I also feel that Wallis's choices in translation frequently veer towards the austere, having a hard-edged feeling to them at times. For metta, which is commonly rendered as 'loving kindness', Wallis gives us 'friendliness,' a decidedly less, well, loving term. Beyond individual translation choices, the dharma Wallis presents us with here is decidedly one of sharp edges. Where Thich Nhat Hanh in The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and LiberationThe Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation goes to excessive pains to sand down the rough patches of the Buddha's teaching in an effort to make it friendlier and warmer, Wallis has a tendency towards the opposite extreme, at times seeming to relish in the imagined discomfort of the reader as their ideas are challenged. Yet for all the significant differences between these two thinkers' approach to presenting the dharma, the ultimate conclusions they reach are extremely similar (though I suspect Wallis would not enjoy hearing me say so—his blog has published some rather harsh critiques of Thich Nhat Hanh). They both emphasize the ultimate humanness of the Buddha, and every person's ability to apply his teachings and realize liberation and ease at any time by dwelling with awareness in the present moment.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Siddhartha Dey

    From the intricate web of interpretations and analyses of the several schools of Buddhism, each of whom claim themselves to be authentic, Wallis tries to extricate the sutras in their pristine form, so that the reader may find out their significances for himself. The chapters are arranged in form of a workbook encouraging the reader to place himself in the position of Siddhartha and to think and discover on his own, an art the Buddha relentlessly championed... Read more of my take on this book an From the intricate web of interpretations and analyses of the several schools of Buddhism, each of whom claim themselves to be authentic, Wallis tries to extricate the sutras in their pristine form, so that the reader may find out their significances for himself. The chapters are arranged in form of a workbook encouraging the reader to place himself in the position of Siddhartha and to think and discover on his own, an art the Buddha relentlessly championed... Read more of my take on this book and some other books on the Buddha here... https://nextreads2018.com/2018/05/01/...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    I was expecting this book to be more introductory. While very I depth on 16 scriptures (suttas), the guides provided on how to read the text were a little too academic for where I am currently at. I would have preferred something with more plain language. The academic writing is a bit opaque at times; which does not pair well with the opaque suttas for the uninitiated. Once having a more intermediate understanding Buddhist teachings this would be a great book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    A scholar/believer's guide to core Buddhist teachings through a selection of 16 (out of 5000+) teachings attributed to the Buddha, copiously end-noted so as to provide additional key contexts and explanations. It's a manageable and satisfying introduction to Buddhist thought and practice that is sincere and earnest without being heavy-handed (though the author's impatience with anthropomorphic concepts of divinity is intermittently evident).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tim Sharp

  6. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dave

  8. 5 out of 5

    Zack Long

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jason Comely

    This book cherry-picks the suttas that best define Buddha's core teachings (a formidable task as there are thousands of them). A good starting point.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emma (Kamalamani)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  13. 5 out of 5

    J

  14. 5 out of 5

    Manpreet Kaur

  15. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alex Macon

  17. 5 out of 5

    Wei Shen

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carlos Gonzalez Ruiz

  19. 4 out of 5

    Greg Lico

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alison

  21. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

  22. 5 out of 5

    Scrim Door

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elina

  24. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Mielke

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hank Norman

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robert M Freud

  27. 4 out of 5

    Adin

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rambling Reader

  29. 5 out of 5

    Aleksandra

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gregory Tilden

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