Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

In the Buddha’s Words - Foreword

An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon

More than two thousand five hundred years have passed since our kind teacher, Buddha Śākyamuni, taught in India. He offered advice to all who wished to heed it, inviting them to listen, reflect, and critically examine what he had to say. He addressed different individuals and groups of people over a period of more than forty years.

After the Buddha’s passing, a record of what he said was maintained as an oral tradition. Those who heard the teachings would periodically meet with others for communal recitations of what they had heard and memorized. In due course, these recitations from memory were written down, laying the basis for all subsequent Buddhist literature. The Pāli Canon is one of the earliest of these written records and the only complete early version that has survived intact. Within the Pāli Canon, the texts known as the Nikāyas have the special value of being a single cohesive collection of the Buddha’s teachings in his own words. 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 teachings from the Nikāyas collected here provide fascinating insights into how the Buddha’s teachings were studied, preserved, and understood in the early days of Buddhism’s development. Modern readers will find them especially valuable for reinvigorating and clarifying their understanding of many fundamental Buddhist doctrines. Clearly the Buddha’s essential message of compassion, ethical responsibility, mental tranquillity, and discernment is as relevant today as it was more than twenty-five hundred years ago.

Although Buddhism spread and took root in many parts of Asia, evolving into diverse traditions according to the place and occasion, distance and differences of language limited exchange between Buddhists in the past. One of the results of modern improvements in transport and communication that I most appreciate is the vastly expanded opportunities those interested in Buddhism now have to acquaint themselves with the full range of Buddhist teaching and practice. What I find especially encouraging about this book is that it shows so clearly how much fundamentally all schools of Buddhism have in common. I congratulate Bhikkhu Bodhi for this careful work of compilation and translation. I offer my prayers that readers may find advice here—and the inspiration to put it into practice—that will enable them to develop inner peace, which I believe is essential for the creation of a happier and more peaceful world.

Venerable Tenzin Gyatso,
the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
May 10, 2005

How to cite this document:
© Bhikkhu Bodhi, In The Buddha's Words (Wisdom Publications, 2005)

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