The Buddha

“In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Verses from the Pali Canon,” Edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi

In the Buddha's Words, by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Bhikkhu Bodhi stands as one of the foremost and most prolific modern translators of the Pali canon. He has translated The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (the Samyutta Nikaya) and revised Bhikkhu Ñānamoli’s translation of the Majjhima Nikaya (Middle Length Sayings). Both are published by Wisdom Publications, as is the volume under review.

Bhikkhu Bodhi’s latest tour de force is this indispensible anthology — thematically arranged — of key teachings from each of the five sections, or nikayas, of the Pali discourses. The selected teachings are organized into ten themes such as The Human Condition, The Path to Liberation, and Shining the Light of Wisdom. This arrangement has the advantage of giving a more balanced view of the Buddha’s teaching than would be gained by randomly dipping into the Buddhist scriptures, due to the fact that Buddhist teachings for lay people tend to be under-represented in relation to those intended for monastics, and the fact that some important teachings, like flecks of gold on a stream bed, appear infrequently in the canonical texts.

The Pali teachings are vast in scope — the Pali Text Society’s translations would fill several shelves, for example — and moreover tend to be dry and repetitive. This anthology does an excellent job of making the Pali teachings more accessible by eliding much of the repetition that is characteristic of the orally-transmitted Pali tradition, and this volume is therefore remarkably readable. Bodhi, himself a westerner, has also done an excellent job of selecting those parts of the Pali teachings that are likely to have an appeal for Westerners and for Buddhists living in modern societies anywhere in the world. The anthology includes a greater proportion of teachings addressing the existential issues at the heart of the human condition, and a greater proportion of teachings that address social issues than are found in the canon as a whole.

A highlight of the book is Bhikkhu Bodhi’s insightful introduction and chapter introductions. These passages supply useful contextual, historical, philological, and even spiritual background to the teachings, and would make an interesting and substantial book in their own right.

Any anthology represents a subjective evaluation by the editor or translator. It could be argued, for example, that Bhikkhu Bodhi’s selection over-represents the scant social teachings in the Pali canon, or that teachings given in verse (such as the Dhammapada) are underrepresented. There is of course no way to take a small percentage of a vast body of teachings and to satisfy all readers that the texts selected are a truly representative sampling of those teaching. But this anthology most certainly works, due, it must be said, to the mastery that the translator has of his field. This collection may be subjectively made, but it is made with an unparalleled depth and breadth of knowledge of its subject matter. Anyone seriously interested in gaining a better understanding of the full range of early Buddhist teachings should purchase this book.

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Buddhist shrine included in World Heritage list

MSNBC: Monks, scholars celebrate at Buddha’s enlightenment site in India

Monks chanted mantras as 400 worshippers from 25 countries gathered Thursday at Buddhism’s most sacred shrine to celebrate its inclusion in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Buddhists believe that Gautama Siddhartha, a prince from a Himalayan kingdom, attained enlightenment and became the Buddha 2,500 years ago while meditating under a bodhi tree where the Mahabodhi Temple stands at the Bodh Gaya religious center.

Buddhists believe that Gautama Siddhartha, a prince from a Himalayan kingdom, attained enlightenment and became the Buddha 2,500 years ago while meditating under a bodhi tree where the Mahabodhi Temple stands at the Bodh Gaya religious center.

The 164-foot temple, which dates from the 5th or 6th centuries, is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick, still standing in India, according to UNESCO.

The temple was declared a UNESCO heritage site in June 2002, but it took several months to prepare before the formal dedication could be held Thursday with the lighting of lamps, beating of drums and reciting of Buddhist scriptures by monks in red and saffron robes.

“We the people of India … would like peace and harmony to prevail in the world in the true spirit of Buddhism. We, therefore dedicate this temple to the world,” said Indian Tourism Minister Jagmohan, who uses one name.

Discord over seating arrangements
There was some discord at the ceremony in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, however, when five monks walked out in protest over the seating arrangements.

Bhadant Dhammaviriyo, president of the Monks Association at Bodh Gaya, objected to the chanting monks being seated on the floor, while other visitors — like a Cambodian princess and Singapore’s Trade Minister George Yeo — sat in luxurious chairs.

“This arrangement is in total violation of the established Buddhist tradition, where the monks are accorded a high pedestal,” said Dhammaviriyo. The temple’s chief priest, known as Bodhipal, refused to respond to the monks’ complaint, and some left.

Touching on another controversy, Tourist Minister Jagmohan said “shops and residential establishments will have to be relocated” and he urged the state government to remove beggars and vendors from the temple area.

For months leading up to the dedication, shopkeepers, residents and vendors have protested eviction plans and officials say many have erected makeshift constructions recently in hopes that they’ll be declared as part of the existing site and allowed to remain.

Bodh Gaya is about 80 miles southeast of Patna, capital of Bihar, considered India’s most lawless state.

UNESCO is responsible for implementing the 1972 U.N. Convention on the protection of cultural and natural sites around the world, with 754 sites listed in more than 120 countries.

Original article no longer available…

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