The Word of The Buddha
An Outline of the teachings of the Buddha in the words of the Pali canon
Compiled, translated, and explained by Nyanatiloka

Preface to the Eleventh Edition

The Word of the Buddha, published originally in German, was the first strictly 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. From the book itself it will be seen how the teachings of the Buddha all ultimately converge upon the one final goal: Deliverance from Suffering. It was for this reason that on the title page of the first German edition there was printed the passage from the Anguttara Nikaaya which says:

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

The texts, translated from the original Pali, have been selected from the five great collections of discourses which form the Sutta-Pitaka. They have been grouped and explained in such a manner as to form one connected whole. Thus the collection, which was originally compiled for the author's own guidance and orientation in the many voluminous books of the Sutta-Pitaka, will prove a reliable guide for the student of Buddhism. It should relieve him from the necessity of working his way through all these manifold Pali scriptures, in order to acquire a comprehensive and clear view of the whole; and it should help him to relate to the main body of the doctrine the many details he will encounter in subsequent studies.

As the book contains many definitions and explanations of important doctrinal terms together with their Pali equivalents, it can serve, with the help of the Pali Index (page 89), as a book of reference and a helpful companion throughout one's study of the Buddha's doctrine.

After the first German edition appeared in 1906, the first English version was published in 1907, and this has since run to ten editions, including an abridged student's edition (Colombo, 1948, Y.M.B.A.) and an American edition (Santa Barbara, Cal., 1950, J. F. Rowny Press). It has also been included in Dwight Goddard's Buddhist Bible, published in the United States of America.

Besides subsequent German editions, translations have been published in French, Italian, Czech, Finnish, Russian, Japanese, Hindi, Bengali and Sinhalese. The original Pali of the translated passages was published in Sinhalese characters (edited by the author, under the title Sacca-Sangaha, Colombo, 1914) and Devanagari script in India.
The 11th edition has been revised throughout. Additions have been made to the Introduction and to the explanatory notes, and some texts have been added.

Preface to the 14th Edition

The venerable Author of this little standard work of Buddhist literature passed away on May 28, 1957, aged 79. The present new edition commemorates the tenth anniversary of his death.

Before his demise, a revised reprint of this book being the 12th edition, was included in The Path of Buddhism, published by the Buddhist Council of Ceylon (Lanka Bauddha Mandalaya). On that 12th edition the text of the subsequent reprints has been based, with only few and minor amendments. Beginning with the 13th edition (1959), and with the kind consent of the former publishers, the Saasanadhaara Kantha Samitiya, the book is now being issued by the Buddhist Publication Society.

Along with this edition the Society is publishing, in Roman script, under the title of Buddha Vacana.m, the original Pali texts which are translated in the present book. This Pali edition is meant to serve as a Reader for students of the Pali language, and as a handy reference book as well as a Breviarium for contemplative reading for those already conversant with the language of the Buddhist scriptures.

Buddhist Publication Society
Kandy, Ceylon,
December 1967.

Preface to the Electronic Edition

This edition of The Word of the Buddha was prepared by scanning the pages of the 14th Edition and capturing the text using OCR software. The following editorial changes were made while editing the text for presentation:
  1. Citations placed in the margin at the start of each quotation, replacing the numbered footnotes of the original.
  2. British spellings such as colour changed to American.
  3. Punctuational styles, and the form of bibliographic listings, changed to reflect contemporary usage.
  4. Index of Pali Terms (page 89) expanded to link every use of every term.

  5. In other respects, the text is unchanged from the original.
    These files were output in two versions: one in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) for viewing with Adobe Acrobat®; one in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) for viewing in any web browser. Both versions are hypertext-linked so that clicking a heading in the table of contents or a word in the index turns to the page referenced.

    The PDF version reproduces the diacritical marks that indicate Pali pronunciation in the original. The page size (8 in x 5.3 in; 48 x 32 picas) is similar to the original, so the pages can be printed to give a likeness of the original book. With appropriate software, the pages can be printed `two-up' as a booklet, using either U.S. letter stock or European A4 paper.

    An HTML document cannot emulate a printed page or display nonstandard accent marks. The HTML version uses a modern convention for the Pali diacriticals, which is less readable but uses only standard characters (see "The Pronounciation of Pali" on page xii).


    The source of each quotation is shown by a marginal note at the head of the quotation. The citations use the following abbreviations:


Document Referred To


Dîgha Nikaaya. The number refers to the Sutta.


Majjhima-Nikaaya. The number refers to the Sutta.


Anguttara-Nikaaya. The Roman number refers to the main division into Parts or Nipaatas; the second number, to the Sutta.


Samyutta-Nikaaya. The Roman number refers to the division into `Kindred Groups' (Sa.myutta), e.g. Devataa-Sa.myutta = I, etc.; the second number refers to the Sutta.


Dhammapada. The number refers to the verse.


Udaana. The Roman number refers to the Chapters, the second number to the Sutta.


Sutta-Nipaata. The number refers to the verse.


Visuddhi-Magga (`The Path of Purification').


Buddhist Dictionary, by Nyanatiloka Mahaathera.


Fundamentals of Buddhism, by Nyanatiloka Mahaathera.

The Pronounciation of Pali

Adapted from the American edition

Except for a few proper names, non-English words are italicized. Most such words are in Pali, the written language of the source documents. Pali words are pronounced as follows.



Should Be Sounded


As u in the English word shut; never as in cat, and never as in take.


As in father; never as in take.


Long, as a in stake.


As in pin.


As in machine; never as in fine.


Long as in hope.


As in put or oo in foot.


As oo in boot; never as in refuse.



Should Be Sounded


As ch in chair; never as k, never as s, nor as c in centre, city.


As in get, never as in general.


Always, even in positions immediately following consonants or doubled consonants; e.g. bh as in cab-horse; ch as chh in ranch-house: dh as in handhold; gh as in bag-handle; jh as dgh in sledge-hammer, etc.


As in joy.


As the `nazalizer' is in Ceylon, usually pronounced as .ng in sung, sing, etc.


Always as in this; never as in these.


As ny in canyon (Spanish: cañon) or as gn in Mignon.


As in haphazard; never as in photograph.


As in hot-house; never as in thin nor as in than.


As in yes.

.t, .th, .d, .dh, .l are lingual sounds; in pronouncing, the tongue is to be pressed against the palate.
Double consonants: each of them is to be pronounced; e.g., bb as in scrub-board: tt as in cat-tail.

The Buddha

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 persona1 name was Siddhattha, and his clan name Gotama (Sanskrit: Gautama). In his 29th year he renounced the splendor 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 (sammaa-sambodhi), under the Bodhi tree at Gayaa (today Buddh-Gayaa). Five and forty years of tireless preaching and teaching followed and at last, in his 80th year, there passed away at Kusinara 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

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-Pi.taka, the "Three Baskets," namely: (I) the Vinaya-pi.t aka, or Collection of Discipline, containing the rules of the monastic order; (II) the Sutta-pi.taka, 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-pi.taka, or Philosophical Collection; presenting the teachings of the Sutta-Pi.taka 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

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: Saariputta who, after the Master himself, possessed the profoundest insight info the Dhamma; Moggallaana, who had the greatest supernatural powers: Ananda, the devoted disciple and constant companion of the Buddha; Mahaa-Kassapa, the President of the Council held at Rajagaha immediately after the Buddha's death; Anuruddha, of divine vision, and master of Right Mindfulness; Raahula, the Buddha's own son.

The Sangha provides the outer framework and the favorable 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 Threefold Refuge

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' ( of the Buddhist, in the words by which he professes, 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:

Buddha.m gacchaami
Dhamma.m sara.n a.m gacchaami
San gha.m gacchaami.
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.)

The Five Precepts

    1. Paanaatipaataa veramani-sikkhaapadam samaadiyaami.
    2. I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from killing living beings.
    3. Adinnaadaanaa veramanii-sikkhaapada.m samaadiyaami.
    4. I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from taking things not given.
    5. Kaamesu michcaacaaraa samaadiyaami.
    6. I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct.
    7. Musaavaadaa sikkhaapada.m samaadiyaami.
    8. I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from false speech.
    9. Suraameraya - majja - pamaada.t.thaanaa verama.nii-sikkhaapada.m samaadiyaami.
I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from intoxicating drinks and drugs causing heedlessness.


Sincere thanks to Dr. Binh Anson for providing us with this electronic book


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