I have been reading Gil Fronsdal's "The Buddha before Buddhism."
It is a translation of the Atthakavagga, one of the books that is included in the Sutta Nipata, which is believed to be among the earliest and purest Buddhist texts.
Fronsdal believes this section to "pare down the Buddha's teaching to its most uncomplicated essence."
'Keeping with The Book of Eights’ emphasis on peace and non-clinging,
the main teaching on views is the importance of not clinging to any views,
philosophies or religious teachings.
This would include views about what happens after death, the nature of the “self,”
or whether or not it is possible to fly.
The text teaches that someone should shake off every view
without embracing or rejecting anything.
In addition, a number of verses are critical of any judgment
that one’s own religious views are the truest or best while others are inferior."
Then, from the text itself:
"One who is attached gets into disputes over doctrines;
But how and with what would one dispute someone unattached?
By not embracing or rejecting anything
A person has shaken off every view, right here."
I also have V. Fausböll's original translation, but it is pretty old-fashioned and dry when compared to Fronsdal's.
Has anyone else read the book?
Fabulous topic! I've seen the book reviews of this book, and it's on my "to buy" list. Thank you for posting this review. I think it can be very valuable to get down to the Buddha's basics. What's so appealing is that the Buddha made everything so simple.
Later on, after his death, and especially with the dissemination of "commentaries" by people who interpreted his teachings and expanded on them, the philosophy became very complex. It spun away into its own philosophical universe from just the simple practice and basic ideas the Buddha outlined. It can be very refreshing to pare all that away, and dwell in what we know to be the Buddha's original teachings, without having to worry about outside influences, or anything else.
This would be a really good topic for a Buddhist bookclub discussion. Is anyone else game?
Buddhist bookclub! Count me in !!
Never did an online bookclub discussion, but if other people are interested in discussing the book, I only need some guiding on how we do it, @Dakini.
My humble synopsis of the first part of the introduction is:
Fronsdal finds four main thems in the book:
1) Letting go of views,
2) Avoiding sensual craving,
3) The qualities of a sage, and
4) The training to become a sage.
The book proposes practices to attain peace in this lifetime, and the first two themes are the behaviours most associated with nonclinging.
The last two themes show us the model of person who has attained this peace, and the means to attain it.
There is a relationship between the states to be attained (peace / equanimity) and the activities to be let go of (clinging, craving, being entrenched and quarrelling).
No mention is made of basic Buddhist notions such as the 4NT, the N8P, four foundations of mindfulness, four jhanas, five aggregates, etc., and rebirth.
There are no concerns with rebirth, nor is the Buddha viewed in superhuman forms.
This book is believed to date back to the times of the Buddha's recent awakening, since there is also no mention to monastic life.
wow that's great .the book sounds amazing.
Really can't wait for this book to arrive. Thank you so much @DhammaDragon . This page you have shared really resonates with me.
More notes on the Introduction:
1) The Buddha's preferred way of referring to the ideal goal is peace (santi) and commonly describes those who have realized this goal as peaceful.
2) Some chapters mention monastic life, probably as the result of a later addition to the original chapters, and only once do we find a respectful adressing to the Buddha as such.
3) Fronsdal upholds that metaphysical references, gods and heavenly realms are mentioned as uttered by disciples, not by the Buddha himself.
He never mentions such things: his utterances are basically of a pragmatic and practical tone.
4) The Buddha does not prefer the use of the word "purity."
His goal is always "peace."
As in inner peace and peace in our interrelations with other people.
Yeah, I've always figured the Buddha was agnostic.
It's good not to have too many beliefs.
I must admit this sounds like a fascinating book. An excellent find.
I've also had my doubts about quite a few topics within Buddhism, and wondered how close even the Pali Cannon is to the actual words of the Buddha.
Some things, like the extremely pragmatic approach of the 4NT and dependent origination and the untangling of the Three Poisons and their effect on the mind, contrast very sharply with the more supernatural lore around reincarnation, karma, tantra and the Mahayana doctrines around the bodhisattva.
For example the Tibetans teach that Mahayana concepts were introduced by the Buddha at the third turning of the wheel of dharma but to me if I look at the lore it doesn't feel like a single person's work.
I'll join ... not sure I can study properly ...
I notice moulting, rhino practice and other lifestyle practices are available in the early works
Fronsdal finds four main themes in the book:
1) Letting go of views,
2) Avoiding sensual craving,
3) The qualities of a sage, and
4) The training to become a sage.
Mary and Time ...
Well, if we want to all discuss the book together, those who are interested (including myself) would have to order the book ASAP, or get it from their local bookstore.
Are we up for this, gang? Do you all have time to do some steady reading after the book arrives?
I would be interested in reading as well!
I am ready anytime, @Dakini.
All interested members, let us know when you get the book.
The Atthakavagga consists of sixteen chapters, with Frondsdal's explanations.
According to Fronsdal, there is a huge difference between what we Buddha said himself, and what was probably added later on by his followers, @Kerome.
And yes, @David, the Buddha was agnostic
OK, so visit your bookstore and see if they have it. I just ordered a copy from Amazon, expedited delivery, so we can get started without a long delay.
It is very easy reading and Fronsdal's clear explanations make it even easier, people
Is it online?
That is the whole sutta nipata, my beloved but rather dated Fausböll version, @lobster
This is a more modern version for the whole Sutta Nipata:
And a more direct link to the Atthakavagga sutta:
I'll be following the thread, but delivery time for the book is 1-2 weeks here in the Netherlands. I will be getting it next time I make an order on the site.
Oh, this sounds very interesting. Fronsdal's comments will be very stimulating and enjoyable, I expect.
I admit ....I read the review/summary from SBA before this thread...so...I might be a little too bias for a discussion....but I'm in.
What is the deadline for having or actually reading the book? Are we doing by section...or we meet up when we complete the whole thing? ?
Personally as a begginer spiritual explorer I would prefer to discuss the books in chunks. I think it would pave a better understanding and help further reading. But I am just one member of our democratic book group. Should we put it to a vote?
I will order my book tonight. But I believe it is only courteous to wait until we all have our copies. Not only for them but for us too. We can all give great insights in discussion I wouldn't want anyone to miss out in listening or participating.
I listen to Gil Fronsdale's teachings on podcast and this book sounded interesting to me. I'll probably get it this weekend. I'm not always the most disciplined reader though so hopefully I can join in.
Good question. I plan to add comments here as soon as I read something in the book that impresses me enough to comment on it. I may have the book as soon as the middle of next week. I figure I'll read the first few chapters, then we'll see. So perhaps by next weekend, or early the following week, I'll probably be posting about the book. Others can join in as they acquire the book and read the first couple of chapters, I guess.
OP, what do you recommend we read, prior to getting started? Is there a good introduction? And then do you feel it's necessary to read the whole book first, or can we do it a couple of chapters at a time?
edit; it sounds like @person will be diving into the book this weekend. Eggsavior suggests waiting until everyone has the book and has read at least the first couple of chapters. That may make the most sense, instead of having people trickle in as they get the book; it depends on how long it takes people to receive the book, if they're ordering online. I ordered mine "expedited delivery", so as not to hold the whole thing up.
Can we start with Peace and the practices required to be onioned saged, please? Will we require a tree to sit under?
I ordered today. Not supposed to get here until the 23rd. Realistic deadlines can keep everyone on track and I also agree with going a couple chapters at a time.
Our fearless leader (OP) will keep us going, I'm sure! ? ? Or....was it @Dakini that said something about a book club? Hahaha.
I did post some points from the introduction, but will wait till we are all set to go for further comments.
I think discussing by chapters is better, since they are only sixteen, and not really long.
I think it would be good to have a separate thread for each chapter. That will make it easier for people to jump into a discussion if they're reading it later.
@person has a very good idea
As soon as everyone gets the book, we will begin a separate thread for the introduction and the sixteen different chapters, then ???
Well, what about comments that tie chapters together, or broader observations and discussions about whether the material in the book represents "authentic" teachings vs. later teachings, or whatever may come up? I don't think the format should limit discussion to chapter-specific comments. Maybe that sort of thing could come at the end, I guess. We can play it by ear. This will be an experiment, in any case.
Good point. I imagine things will play out much like other threads here do, wandering here and there. Or, having started reading, the introduction is fairly long and gives an overview of the book so if we have a separate thread for that general comments could go there.
Teachings are the catalyst for authentic study. Pretend study is not very deep.
Bodhi Nasrudin went to back to study after years of being regarded as a strange teacher of some sort.
"What have you learned?" he was asked by the curious.
"Nothing," replied Nasrudin, "The teachers insist I provide questions and learn to study, when I already have all the answers."
As I'm reading I'm jotting down a few points that I'd like to discuss along with the page number so I don't forget.
Regardless of how smoothly this goes, may our project inspire further group learning. Is our Sangha expanding? I think more activities like this would really be beneficial to all of us. Let's wait and see
I still think the chapter by chapter analysis will help better grasp concepts step by step.
In the introduction, Fronsdal does bind chapters according to themes.
We could take it from there too.
I am going slowly in my reading because I prefer to wait till we are all ready to go.
And yes, @eggsavior, we could hold a bookclub for other books to come❤
I would suggest...
...a series of threads for chapter by chapter, with one additional thread to expand on different viewpoints, general comments, observations, etc.
Head each thread: "Book of Eights chapter #1," (Changing the chapter number as you progress, obviously!) and one other thread "Book of Eights: General Comments." Keep them to one sub-forum (Arts and Writings) and I will 'pin' the General discussion thread until the project is completed.
I like that, Fede.
Let's see what other people think.
And please give us a hand when the moment comes....
I'm so poor with this technological stuff...?
I'll start it off for you....
Really looking forward to start! Unfortunately amazon emailed to say my expected delivery date is 27th June. Don't know why that long? Usually things arrive much quicker. I will email to see if it can be expedited!
I actually picked this up on kindle after reading @DhammaDragon initial impressions of it in this thread. I didn't follow up with the thread so had no idea there was a discussion forming until I saw @federica thread a bit ago. I'm in! I haven't started reading yet but I will get to chapter today. I am interested to see how the discussions go, I've not done book discussions on Buddhism at all, it should be fun. As a TB practitioner there is a lot of complicated stuff mixed in (and some I find completely unnecessary and it's easy to get lost in it and lose sight of the most important basic tenets). Reading the comments about this book in this thread about gave me goosebumps, so I'm excited to jump in.
@Hozan is it possible your order is going through a 3rd party bookstore via Amazon? I've found many of the 3rd party sellers use media mail so it takes 2 weeks. You could check to see if it's available from amazon directly which should greatly shorten shipping.
@karasti thank you good tip! I just double checked and its direct from amazon for sure. It says 3 to 5 working days but then gives a 27th june delivery date. Hopefully it's a mistake and it will arrive by the end of this week
I usually get my books from Amazon UK and Germany pretty fast...
Sorry that they are taking so long with you, @Hozan
OK, this makes sense. Looking forward to it!
My book will be arriving today or tomorrow!
I've ordered my copy, but it won't arrive for another 6-10 days. Please don't wait for me though, I'd hate to hold everything up. I'll just lurk on the threads until the book arrives.
We are in no hurry, @Kerome and @eggsavior.
So we can wait till everyone interested has the book
i will check it in the store if they have it in stock.i really think this is a good book.