Buddhism in Buddha’s Words


The present text – Buddhism in Buddha’s own words – is a systematic exposition of all the main tenets of the Buddha’s Teachings presented in the Master’s own words as found in the Sutta-Pitaka of the Buddhist Pali Canon.

While it may well serve as a first introduction for the beginner,

its chief aim is to give the reader who is already more or less acquainted with the fundamental ideas of Buddhism, a clear, concise and authentic summary of its various doctrines,

within the framework of the all-embracing ‘Four Noble Truths,’ i.e. the Truths of Suffering (inherent in all existence), of its Origin, of its Extinction, and of the Way leading to its extinction,  as also the Noble Eight-fold Path to Liberation.

From the text itself it will be seen how the teachings of the Buddha all ultimately converge upon the one final goal: Deliverance from Suffering.

It is for this reason that Aṅguttara Nikāya says:

Not only the fact of Suffering do I teach,
but also the deliverance from it.

As the text contains many definitions and explanations of important doctrinal terms together with their Pali equivalents, it can serve as a text of reference and a helpful companion throughout one’s study of the Buddha’s doctrine.


A. Buddha - Dhamma - Sangha

B. The Four Noble Truths
1. I. The Noble Truth of Suffering
2. II. The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering
3. III. The Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering
4. IV. The Noble Truth of the Path That Leads To the Extinction of Suffering

C. The Eightfold Path:

1. Right Understanding
2. Right Thought
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration

D. The Progress of the Disciple


The citations use the following abbreviations:

D. Dīgha Nikāya. The number refers to the Sutta.
M. Majjhima-Nikāya. The number refers to the Sutta.
A. Aṅguttara-Nikāya. The Roman number refers to the main division into Parts or Nipātas; the second number, to the Sutta.
S. Samyutta-Nikāya. The Roman number refers to the division into ‘Kindred Groups’ (Saṁyutta), e.g.
Devatā--Saṁyutta = I, etc.; the second number refers to the Sutta.
Dhp. Dhammapada. The number refers to the verse.
Ud. Udāna. The Roman number refers to the Chapters, the second number to the Sutta.
Snp. Sutta-Nipāta. The number refers to the verse.
VisM. Viśuddhi-Magga (‘The Path of Purification’).

This is the Commentary, not the original Sutta text...



BUDDHA or Enlightened One—lit. Knower or Awakened One—is the honorific name given to the Indian Sage, Gotama, who discovered and proclaimed to the world the Law of Deliverance, known to the West by the name of Buddhism.

He was born in the 6th century B.C., at Kapilavatthu, as the son of the king who ruled the Sakya country, a principality situated in the border area of modern Nepal.

His personal name was Siddhattha, and his clan name Gotama (Sanskrit: Gautama).

In his 29th year he renounced the splendour of his princely life and his royal career, and became a homeless ascetic in order to find a way out of what he had early recognized as a world of suffering.

After a six year’s quest, spent under various religious teachers and in a period of fruitless self-mortification, he finally attained to Perfect Enlightenment (sammā--sambodhi), under the Bodhi tree at Gayā (today Buddh-Gayā).

Five and forty years of tireless preaching and teaching followed and at last, in his 80th year, there passed away at Kusināra that ‘undeluded being that appeared for the blessing and happiness of the world.’

The Buddha is neither a god nor a prophet or incarnation of a god, but a supreme human being who, through his own effort, attained to Final Deliverance and Perfect Wisdom, and became ‘the peerless teacher of gods and men.’

He is a ‘Saviour’ only in the sense that he shows men how to save themselves, by actually following to the end the Path trodden and shown by him.

In the consummate harmony of Wisdom and Compassion attained by the Buddha, he embodies the universal and timeless ideal of Man Perfected.


The Dhamma is the Teaching of Deliverance in its entirety, as discovered, realized and proclaimed by the Buddha.

It has been handed down in the ancient Pali language, and preserved in three great collections of hooks, called Ti-Piṭaka, the “Three Baskets,” namely:

(I) the Vinaya-piṭaka, or Collection of Discipline, containing the rules of the monastic order;

(II) the Sutta-piṭaka, or Collection of Discourses, consisting of various books of discourses, dialogues, verses, stories, etc. and dealings with the doctrine proper as summarized in the Four Noble Truths;

(Ill) the Abhidhamma-piṭaka, or Philosophical Collection; presenting the teachings of the Sutta-Piṭaka in strictly systematic and philosophical form.

The Dhamma is not a doctrine of revelation, but the teaching of Enlightenment based on the clear comprehension of actuality:

It is the teaching of the Fourfold Truth dealing with the fundamental facts of life and with liberation attainable through man’s own effort towards purification and insight.

The Dhamma offers a lofty, but realistic, system of ethics, a penetrative analysis of life, a profound philosophy, practical methods of mind training—in brief, an all-comprehensive and perfect guidance on the Path to Deliverance.

By answering the claims of both heart and reason, and by pointing out the liberating Middle Path that leads beyond all futile and destructive extremes in thought and conduct,

the Dhamma has, and will always have, a timeless and universal appeal wherever there are hearts and minds mature enough to appreciate its message.


The Sangha—lit. the Assembly, or community—is the Order of Bhikkhus or Mendicant Monks, founded by the Buddha and still existing in its original form in Burma, Siam, Ceylon, Cambodia, Laos and Chittagong (Bengal).

It is, together with the Order of the Jain monks, the oldest monastic order in the world.

Amongst the most famous disciples in the time of the Buddha were:

Sāriputta who, after the Master himself, possessed the profoundest insight into the Dhamma;

Moggallāna, who had the greatest supernatural powers:

Ananda, the devoted disciple and constant companion of the Buddha;

Mahā-Kassapa, the President of the Council held at Rājagaha immediately after the Buddha’s death;

Anuruddha, of divine vision, and master of Right Mindfulness;

Rāhula - the Buddha’s own son.

The Sangha provides the outer framework and the favourable conditions for all those who earnestly desire to devote their life entirely to the realization of the highest goal of deliverance, unhindered by worldly distractions.

Thus the Sangha, too, is of universal and timeless significance wherever religious development reaches maturity.


The Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha, are called ‘The Three Jewels’ (ti-ratana) on account of their matchless purity, and as being to the Buddhist the most precious objects in the world.

These ‘Three Jewels’ form also the ‘Threefold Refuge’ (ti-saraṇa) of the Buddhist, in the words by which he pro- fesses, or re-affirms, his acceptance of them as the guides of his life and thought.

The Pali formula of Refuge is still the same as in the Buddha’s time:

Buddhaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi
Dhammaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi
Sanghaṁ saraṇaṁ gacchāmi.

I go for refuge to the Buddha
I go for refuge to the Dhamma
I go for refuge to the Sangha.

It is through the simple act of reciting this formula three times that one declares oneself a Buddhist. (At the second and third repetition the word Dutiyampi or Tatiyampi, ‘for the second/ third time,’ are added before each sentence.)


After the formula of the Threefold Refuge follows usually the acceptance of the Five Moral Precepts (pañca-śīla). Their observance is the minimum standard needed to form the basis of a decent life and of further progress towards Deliverance.

1. Pānātipātā veramaṇī-sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi.
I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from killing living beings.

2. Adinnādānā veramaṇī-sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi.
I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from taking things not given.

3. Kāmesu michcācārā veramaṇī -sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi.
I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct.

4. Musāvādā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi.
I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from false speech.

5. Surāmeraya - majja - pamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī--sikkhāpadaṁ samādiyāmi.
I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from intoxicating drinks and drugs causing heedlessness.