Replacing What The Buddha Taught

I get asked a lot online to recommend an introductory book about Buddhism. Many of these people are young, open minded, and will quickly downlod free materials to read.

My go-to recommendatation is “What The Buddha Taught” by Venerable Walpoa Rahula

This book is short (151 pages), clear, and it covers most the important teachings of Buddhism. It even includes basic meditation instructions.

There are plenty of PDFs on the Internet that one can download for free, but the book is not for free distribution.

I have yet to find any book that is equally clear, equally short, equally thorough and for free distribution in an eBook format.

Any recommendations?

To be clear, the book should be for beginners( minimal jargon, not dry).

I would also like to respectfully request that all replies to this thread be kept on-topic.

Thank you!


Good Question, Good Answer, by Ven. Dhammika is very good and specifically for beginners.


“What the Buddha Taught” is available for free online here: they claim to have transcribed it from an earlier, free distribution edition, thus avoiding the subsequent publisher’s copyright.

My top five book recommendations are:

  1. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thích Nhất Hạnh
  2. The Noble Eightfold Path by Bhikkhu Bodhi
  3. Being Nobody, Going Nowhere by Ayya Khema
  4. The Fundamentals of Buddhism by Peter Santina
  5. Buddhist Life, Buddhist Path by Bhante Cintita

You can find all my recommended beginner-level stuff listed out here


I’m not a big fan of What the Buddha Taught. It’s much to Buddhist Modernist for my tastes.

Among the founders of religions the Buddha (if we are permitted to call him the founder of a religion in the popular sense of the term) was the only teacher who did not claim to be other than a human being, pure and simple. … Every man has within himself the potentiality of becoming a Buddha, if he so wills it and endeavours. … He was so perfect in his ‘human-ness’ that he came to be regarded later in popular religion almost as ‘super-human’.

There is nothing simple about a Buddha. And, sorry, no. We don’t all “have within” us to become a Buddha. Besides writing one of the foundational texts of Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka (which, TBF he later regretted) Ven. Rahula is the archetype of Asian Buddhist Modernism teachers. So I think it’s long overdue to replace WTBT as the first book we recommend to people.

I much prefer to recommend In the Buddha’s Words. Of course it’s not the simplest text. But I think it’s worth the risk and we owe it to people to get them actually reading what the Buddha taught right away. Too many people get started with wrong ideas about what the Buddha taught (in no small part from What the Buddha Taught) so if a replacement is going to be sought, good to avoid that problem.

Hope that all isn’t off topic. I mean it as a way to evaluate what a better replacement would be.


You’ll notice it wasn’t in my top five :wink:

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I’d highly recommend this. When I first started on this board I found the resources @Khemarato.bhikkhu put together very useful. And he has even more materials in place now.


If it weren’t for the criterion of being free, I would recommend Rupert Gethin’s Foundations of Buddhism.

But to conform to that criterion, I would suggest Ñānamoli’s Life of the Buddha.


Yep, the free part is essential, as well as the short and clear part.

These are people casually asking “What is Buddhism anyway?”. They are brochure, pamphlet level people willing to take a first look. They aren’t committed beginners, just open minded people willing to read something easy.

Yeah, I think Miracle of Mindfulness is perfect for that.

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I read that book years ago and I have it on my list to reread again soon. It is a nice introduction to Buddhist meditation. In seeking a replacement for my goto recommendation of WTBT, I am looking an easy introduction to Buddhism, essential teachings.

This looks like just what the doctor ordered. Where do they claim that it is free of copyrights? I clicked on the only two links that look like it would be about that and got a blank, snow white web page. :slight_smile:

Right there on the front page:

based on the undated ‘Not for sale’ edition

Thank you. The sentence that is part of is phrased in a way that makes it ambiguous. Yet another example of the importance of commas!

This solves my problem.

Thank you very much!

I tried to listen to this on (as per recommendation, thank you jhana4) youtube. I listen to many audiobooks on youtube with an ad free (can’t stand ads) youtube app.
I got tired of it becouse the narrator reads all of the footnotes. Although that sounds like a good idea at a glance, it is actually annoying and completely ruins the flow…i also just tried the “here” link above, and appears to be broken.

Try reading the book. :slight_smile: I recommended the book, not the audio. :pray:

I have to guess that the way that book is written it would be tedious to listen to it being read.

It would be really great if not for the footnote thing…

Of course, footnotes are not meant to be read out loud to people like stories. :slight_smile:

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I have listened to literally hundreds of audiobooks and have never experienced this before.

The miracle of mindfulness audiobook is on youtube.
I will listen and critique in the near future. It is never assumed by me that it will be a good listen until completed.
Thanks guys!!