The Buddha before Buddhism: Wisdom from the Early Teachings (Paperback)

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A translation of a very interesting set of poems that many scholars believe is part of the oldest strata of Buddhist texts. The author does admit that he chose a provacative title, as it is not known exactly when these words were written down or if they were used only in a specific community of practitioners. None of that detracts from the powerful directness of these seemingly simple poems or from Fronsdal’s lucid commentary. Many of them do not have the numbered lists which became prominent with later systematizations of Buddhism, e.g., the five aggregates, the twelve links, four Noble Truths. The main message is one of letting go—of views, of the need to become anything or not become anything, of sensual desire...

— Andy


A translation with commentary of one of the earliest of the surviving Buddhist texts, which reveals the teachings to be remarkably simple and free of religious trappings.

The Aṭṭhakavagga, or “Book of Eights,” is believed by scholars to be among the earliest of written Buddhist texts, and in it we find the Buddha’s teaching pared down to its most uncomplicated essence. Gil Fronsdal’s translation and commentary reveals the text’s central concern to be the joy that comes from recognizing and letting go of attachment to the illusory views that create suffering. It’s simple medicine that works for us today as well as it did for the Buddha’s first listeners.

About the Author

Gil Fronsdal is co-teacher at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California. He has practiced Buddhism in both the Zen and Vipassana traditions for over forty years. He received his PhD in religious studies from Stanford University. He has published a highly praised translation of the Dhammapada, as well as two other books: the author of The Issue at Hand: Essays on Mindfulness Practice and A Monastery Within: Tales from the Buddhist Path

Praise For…

“Provocative, unsettling and inspirational, this extraordinary collection of early Buddhist poems reveals a radical vision of human freedom grounded in the non-reactive peace of nirvana.  Gil Fronsdal’s fine translation allows us to hear how the Dharma may originally have been uttered as poetry in the solitude of forests.  In challenging some of the received wisdom of Buddhist orthodoxy, these teachings invite the reader to question deep-seated beliefs about truth itself. “-Stephen Batchelor, author of After Buddhism

“Widely acknowledged as one of the oldest texts in the Buddhist canon, the Aṭṭhakavagga is intriguingly different from other Buddhist scriptures, lacking many of the doctrinal propositions that have come to be associated with Buddhism.  Gil Fronsdal’s fresh new translation, together with illuminating commentaries to each section of the text drawn both from scholarly research and from his many years of meditation practice, will make this classic text come alive for a new generation of readers.”–Jan Nattier, author of A Few Good Men: The Bodhisattva Path according to The Inquiry of Ugra
Product Details
ISBN: 9781611803242
ISBN-10: 1611803241
Publisher: Shambhala
Publication Date: November 29th, 2016
Pages: 192
Language: English