Basics. Gautama Buddha (563?–483? BC) said he was not the only Buddha. Buddha signifies an Enlightened One, Awakened One, but there are many additions to and elaborations on that essential meaning, as well as many Buddhas to reckon with. (Enlightened One, Awakened One). [Wikipedia, s.v. "Buddhahood" and "List of the twenty-eight Buddhas"].
After Gautama Buddha's yogic enlightenment he devoted 45 years to sharing his teachings. The consensus among modern scholars is they were not written down in his lifetime, only decades afterwards, from disciples' memory. They were written on palm leaves. Then translated into many languages found in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Tibet and Sri Lanka at the time. In later years much has been translated into English too.
In dealing with sayings of Gautama Buddha, there are no well proven, verbatim quotations, for nothing seems to have been down in writing on the spot by anyone. He taught in ways that are well suited for remembering oral teachings. His teachings were memorised for tens of years before they were written down. This suggests that sayings ascribed to Gautama Buddha in old texts are attributed to him there, and dependent on memorisation or recall of them. Further, one is allowed the benefit of doubting the many long-range benefits. Gautama Buddha allows it in the Kalama Sutta. For all that, scholars think that many of the old, extant teachings that are handed over, do convey his teachings well, although there are differences between some of the texts to reckon with too. The teachings of Buddha as handed over from ancient times, are always kept in honour in Buddhism.
Gist of his teachings stands out from many texts in other branches than Theravada and its Pali canon, which is a corpus of texts. Buddha teaches in them. When it comes to Gautama Buddha's teachings, careful summaries or key points could be a sane approach.
Some cornerstones can be rendered as "Suffering can be ended," and "Right livelihood favours contemplation" [well implied].
Sayings attibuted to Buddha shine through in the various forms of Buddhism.Below are key points about Gautama Buddha's ideas, points that often are ignored, but serve more rational coping:
Cornerstones of Couch Buddhism. Many ancient texts contain similar points he said or that were put in his mouth, or were distortions. Yet there is no reason to despair completely for the lack of provable, exact Gautama quotations. Ancient texts contain OK thought anyhow.
Below are sayings and extracts from ancient texts of Buddhism. Most of the sayings are attributed to Gautama Buddha. It means he either said them, said something quite similar, or did not say them that we know of - according to uncertainties involved in several of the ancient texts. Yet some of them allow for degrees of certainty. It is quite probable that Buddha said certain things, more probable that he fostered the key ideas involved in various sentences, and no absolute certainty that he really did so. Also, there are things he hardly said or went for or ranked as the best things to do, even though they are recurrent in later "Couch Buddhism". It is marked by departures from key teachings of Gautama Buddha, and by other parts included, such as unhappy servility for wrong ends - And that is a point which should not be overlooked; for then we can deal with it.
Attributed. Some fuss about the use of attributed Buddha sayings. That a Buddhist thought is "attributed to Buddha" signifies that there may be no provable, exact Buddha quotation at hand and may never be. All so-called Buddha quotations can be scrutinised and found to be attributed somehow by the same measure.
Still, above the variegated word-level there is the idea-level of basic notions and attitudes that differing statements are due to. Consider:
When clansmen have gone forth from the home life into homelessness out of faith in me, they have me for their leader, their helper, and their guide," said Buddha.
Basic shelter of a Buddha: a tree. Buddha thought a tree was the basic shelter for monks, but monasteries were in time established and well-endowed, and gave rise to a more settled life in village monasteries and town monasteries, and not wandering about homeless. Note that monks dropped ways Buddha thought highly of, and consider who is the smartest of the Buddhism Gründer or deviants from the original message or spirit or both. For example, Buddha taught his message openhandedly, he said. Thus, beware of guys in robes or without robes, making much of secret methods and submissions to superiors. It was not part of Gautama's way.
I have set forth the Dharma ["proper fare of life" etc.] without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; nothing is held back. The Truth-arriver (Tathagatha, i.e. Buddha) holds no idea that he should lead the community of bhikkhus, or that the community depends upon him.
Beware. The gist of his message runs across many ancient scriptures. There are actually sects and flocks that ignore it. They may offer speedy progress by secret methods and submission, not heeding the clarion call of Buddha across many centuries. Thus, in contemporary Buddhism there is Buddha's doctrines and ways, and other claims and ways. As for Buddha's words, there are some problems to get aware of against getting stupefied by those who do not live pristine Gautama teachings and wear the garbs of monks. Some may hamper or limit unnecessarily, and not help; there is that risk. Buddha says, "He honours me best who practices my teaching best." [Narada 1988;287]
Approximations all? It may be like this: There is no proof that a written statement put in the words of Buddha - with a lot of repetition that looks added according to ancient formula writing - is an authentic quotation. However, it may well express his key notion in the matter.
Thus, authentic, verbatim quotations of Gautama Buddha do not exist that we know of, but approximations are found from antiquity, and some are translated or understood a bit differently. It is not so bad - but much accord across the "Buddhisms" that are around. There are these possible quotations - which may be considered renderings handed over by disciples orally, and put down in writing eventually. There is a sources of error there already.
Make salient points helpful in life. There is Buddha gist (Buddha summaries) around. They contain one or several points from ancient texts. It is best if the sources are shown in detail. Such keynotes should not be confused with quotations, for they are not. However, they may well carry through key ideas of Buddha, and are useful for that noble use, often avoiding repetitions of the scriptures. Some like the repeated phrases as conjured up, others prefer pertinent summaries, essentials, rather. We go wrong when we say that gist - summaries Buddha points - are fake quotations. What is more, salient points presented as gist, may be of immense help.
Attributed, or loosely dubious? There are sayings loosely labeled as "attributed to Buddha" on the Net. There may or may or may not be a fine textual source to back them up, for what we know when first encountering such attributed sayings. As I have mentioned, much content of the old scriptures seem to be of just this kind, even long texts may be of this kind. And they may still contain excellent points. And a good point is a good point is a good point - to paraphrase Gertrude Stein a bit. The truth and applicability of the ideas in a statement is of key interest to a practical person. The way salient points are structured further down, is designed to help practical, sensible handling.
Bodhidharma of the early 400s CE says something better:
The sutras [here: discourses] of the Buddha contain countless metaphors. Because mortals have shallow minds and don't understand anything deep, the Buddha used the tangible to represent the sublime. People who seek blessings by concentrating on external works instead of internal cultivation are attempting the impossible. (Bodhidharma 1989:94)
The sayings that follow, come from a variety of sources. More than half of them are from the earliest writings of Buddhism, Theraveda canon. That is no guarantee that Buddha is cited verbatim, though, for the canon was put down in writing long after his death. And there is something else involved, which Poul Tuxen explains it in his foreword to the Buddhist poem Dhammapada:
The stanzas that the work contains, are in large part known from other sources too; over half of them are found in other Buddhist texts, and many have been traced from outside Buddhism in Brahmaniacal sources . . . Obviously, many stanzas are common Indian heritage, and sayings that were current and taken into now this work, now that. [1953:9]
This is to say that Professor Tuxen identifies a common Indian nature and origin in the sayings of the Buddhist poem Dhammapada [Tuxen 10]. For all that, the statements are meant as appetisers, as aperitifs. If a saying is modulated by me, it is shown after the saying in question. The meaning of markers like 'Mod' and other abbreviations mean, is shown on a connected page; there is a link to it at the end of this page. On top and bottom of the page there is also a link to the site's Buddhist literature: 'The Set'. - TK
Be greatly aware of reality as you meet or confront it each day, and from that become fit enough to deal with it
WHATEVER, after due examination and analysis, you find to be kind, conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings; believe and cling to that doctrine, and take it as your guide. [Buddha]
As the bee collects nectar and fragrance, so let the sage dwell on earth. [Mod Buddha]
A generous heart is good for the right sort of people. [Mod Buddha].
A man is not to be considered a good man just because he is an able talker. [Buddha]
Be greatly aware of the present. [With Buddha]
Profound truth, so difficult to perceive, difficult to understand, tranquilizing and sublime, is not to be gained by mere reasoning and is perceived only by the wise. [Buddha]
By overcoming mental formations in a right way, bliss opens up. [With Buddha]
In the proper season they give, those with discernment. [Buddha]
Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful. [Buddha]
Right focus brings about reality -. [Buddha]
Sensuous craving often gives rise to dissension, quarrelling and fighting, and so on. [Mod Buddha]
Thought-habits can harden into character. So watch your thoughts. [Buddha]
We are shaped by our thoughts to some extent, but not all that much. [Opp Buddha]
STRIVE to be true to the best you know. [Mod Buddha]. (2)
Right conduct is to form a proper livelihood to prosper by. [With Buddha]
One is to cultivate the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, investigation into phenomena, energy, bliss, tranquility, concentration, and equanimity. [Buddha, Maha-parinibbana Sutta 9]
A good path is free from torture and groaning and suffering. [Buddha]
A great gift - a gift of Dharma conquers all gifts. [Buddha]
The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart. [Buddha]
Avoid aiming at the ruin of others. [Buddha]
Both frivolous talk and covetousness may be unwholesome. [Mod Buddha]
Death is not to be feared so much by one who has lived wisely. [With Buddha]
Living well favours a serene death and rebirth in a happy state. [Buddha]
Giving properly means doing so confidently and without too much encumberments. [With Buddha]
Fit speech stems from fit thought most often. [With Buddha]
Hatred does not cease by hatred, but enough harr-harr, assumedly. *
One should understand according to reality and true wisdom. [Buddha]
One should refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs. [With Buddha]
The prudent man ministers to the chaste and virtuous. [Buddha, Maha-parinibbana Sutta]
Lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what hold you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom. [Buddha]
By taking what is not given (stealing) one seldom reaches great freedom from animosity. [Buddha]
It should pay to make proficient use of vert best meditation teachings, for few seem able to enter paradise unaided. Most fools fall short of it
A GOOD friend who points out mistakes and imperfections and rebukes evil is to be respected as if he reveals a secret of hidden treasure. [Buddha]
A good way lessens suffering, a great way routs it out. [Cf. Buddha]
Avoid evil deeds as a man who loves life avoids poison. [Buddha]
Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. [Buddha]
Of all the worldly passions, lust is the most intense. Make proper use of it. [In part Buddha]
On life's journey [certain] deeds are a shelter. [Buddha]
One should strive to understand what underlies sufferings and diseases - and aim for health and wellbeing while gaining in the Path. [Cf. Buddha]
Though all his life a fool associates with a wise man, he may no more comprehend the Truth than a spoon tastes the flavour of the soup. [With Buddha]
To abstain from lying is essentially wholesome. [Buddha]
A family is a place where minds come in contact with one another. If these minds love one another the home will be as beautiful as a flower garden. But if these minds get out of harmony with one another it is like a storm that plays havoc with the garden. [Buddha]
With an unhesitant mind one should give where the gift bears great fruit. [Buddha]
Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care. [Buddha]
DISSENTION is part of the misery of sensuous craving. [Buddha] (4)
Conquer a liar with truth. [Buddha]
Neither overrate nor underestimate what you have received. [Cf. Buddha]
Doubt can be a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations, thorn that irritates and hurts. [Mod Buddha]
Few are the people who make it to heaven unaided. [Cf. Buddha]
A heap of many sores, diseased, soon to be devoured by old age, is a prey. [With Buddha]
Faithfulness is essentially very good. [With Buddha]
Holding fast to the Truth they shall reach the topmost height. [Buddha]
Perfect Ones have pointed out the way. [With Buddha]
Freedom from remorse comes in the end from a wholesome morality. Let us hope that. [With Buddha]
You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your
love and affection than you are yourself, and that person will not be found: You yourself,
as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection. [Buddha]
Travelling well one finds delight and proper understanding of what counts. It relates to inner purity
BETTER than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace. [Buddha]
Being undisturbed and very steadfast of mind is a gain to be used or directed toward Great Deliverance. [With Buddha]
How few here see clearly! [Buddha]
It is good to travel well sometimes. [Mod Buddha].
How can you find delight and mirth? [Buddha]
To keep the body in good health is a good task. Otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. [With Buddha]
Right understanding is great. [Buddha]
An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea. [Buddha]
Only the experience of nirvana makes it comprehensible to the wise. [Buddha]
We have to understand well to think well. [Cf. Buddha]
Wrong views are essentially unwholesome. [Buddha]
Untarnished virtues may be conductive to contemplation. [Mod Buddha]
Whose body is calmed, experiences ease more easily. [With Buddha]
YOU yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. [Buddha]
Happiness can be the outcome of doing good. [With Buddha]
Fit efforts bring on greater and greater mindfulness. [Mod Buddha]
Go from freedom from oppression to welfare. [Cf. Buddha]
He who envies others does not obtain full peace of mind. [With Buddha].
Find your own light. [Buddha]
He could be able who thinks he is able. [With Buddha]
Insight relates to inner purity. [Cf. Buddha]
However many wholesome words you read and speak, what good will they do you if you do not act sagaciously on them? [Taking off from Buddha]
In the ignorance of the whole truth, each person maintains his own arrogant point of view. If that is your case, try to make the best out of it anyway. [Mod Buddha]
Let go of mere opinions. [With Buddha]
Know well what leads you forward and what hold you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom. [Buddha]
One should learn to watch and examine carefully. [Mod Buddha]
Of that which is transient and subject to suffering and change, one cannot rightly say: `This belongs to me; this am I; this is my Self'. [Buddha]
Proper efforts at being mindful culminate in samadhi (absorbtion). [Buddha]
Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others. [Buddha]
Men cannot live at all without a spiritual life foundation. [Mod Buddha]
Our theories of the eternal are as valuable as are those which a chick which has not broken its way through its shell might form of the outside world. [Buddha]
A favourable reputation is a nice thing to have. If not, make the best out of that. [In part Buddha]
There are three kinds of feeling: pleasant, unpleasant, and neither pleasant nor unpleasant (quite indifferent). [With Buddha]
One had better refrain from incorrect speech. [With Buddha]
The words we utter should be chosen with care, for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill. [Buddha]
They do not follow righteous ways who resort to violence to achieve their purpose. But those who lead others through non-violent means, knowing right and wrong, may be guardians of righteous ways. [Buddha]
To the one who endures, the final victory comes. [Buddha]
The enlightened express their approval for giving. [Buddha]
Sorrow, lamentations and sufferings tend to repel most others. *
A very able man directs the unruly thoughts properly. [Buddha]
To abstain from harsh language can be very wholesome. [Buddha]
"Where, lord, should a gift be given?" "Wherever the mind feels confidence". [Buddha]
You must leave unrighteous ways behind, at the very least. [With Buddha]
Wise persons are diligent persons. [Buddha]
You should free yourself from sufferings while there is time left. [Mod Buddha]
You should seek to escape becoming a corrupt corpse while living . . . [With Buddha]
ONE should go for great increase of wealth through sound diligence. [With Buddha] (7)
If you can escape disease, by all means do so. [Mod Buddha]
Let us try to face reality squarely, exactly as it is. [Mod. Buddha]
If mind is transformed, can wrong-doing remain? [Buddha]
There is a realm where there is neither solid nor world [Great Beyond]. This I call the end of suffering. [With Buddha]
One had better refrain from sexual misconduct. [With Buddha]
Old age may not be avoided full well. [Mod Buddha]
One had better refrain from what leads to great carelessness. [With Buddha]
There are six classes of consciousness: consciousness of forms, sounds, odours, tastes, bodily impressions, and of mental objects (lit.: eye-conscious-ness, ear-consciousness, etc.). [Buddha]
Wherever in the world there are delightful and pleasurable things, there much craving may subside for a while. *
What is given to a virtuous person could bear great fruit. [With Buddha]
There are beings whose eyes are only a little covered with dust: they may come to understand the truth. [With Buddha]
You can make known the Truth by helping in setting it forth - and making it your own. [Buddha]
After his enlightenment Buddha decreed that no one was to make an image of him or to paint him. But a nameless artist who saw him sitting deep in contemplation on the banks of the Ganges at Varanasi (Benares), was so moved by the sight that he wanted to portray Buddha in some way: He used Buddha's reflection in the rippling Ganges and in this way made a portrait without defying Buddha's injunction. Many representations of the youthful Buddha thus have folds in their garments - it is called the water-ripple effect.
Bodhidharma. The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma. Tr. Red Pine. New ed. New York: North Point Press / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989.
Narada. The Buddha and His Teachings. 4th ed. Kuala Lumpur: Buddhist Missionary Society, 1988.
Tuxen, Poul, trans. Dhammapada. Copenhagen: Gyldendalsk Nordisk Forlag, 1953.
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