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Walpola Rahula

Walpola Rahula
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Walpola Rahula (1907–1997) was a Buddhist monk, scholar and writer. He is considered to be one of the top Sri Lankan intellectuals of the 20th century. In 1964, he became the Professor of History and Religions at Northwestern University, thus becoming the first bhikkhu to hold a professorial chair in the Western world. He also once held the position of Vice-Chancellor at the then Vidyodaya University (currently known as the University of Sri Jayewardenepura). He has written extensively about Buddhism in English, French and Sinhalese. His book, What the Buddha Taught, is considered by many to be one of the best books written about Theravada Buddhism.


He was born in 1907 at Walpola, a tiny village in southern Sri Lanka. At thirteen, he entered the Sangha. His education covered Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit, Buddhism, history and philosophy. He studied at the Vidyalankara Pirivena and at the University of Ceylon, where he associated with E. F. C. Ludowvk, G.P Malalasekera, E. W. Adikaram and other luminaries. After his period at the Sorbonne, he became Vice-Chancellor of Vidyodaya University. He was noted not only for his erudition but also for his strong socialist views, as well as his belief that monks have a duty to play a role in guiding the political consciousness of the people. His book Bhikshuvakage Urumaya (Heritage of the Bhikkhu) was a strong voice in the Buddhist Nationalist movement that led to the 1956 electoral victory of Solomon Bandaranaike. He left Vidyodaya University in 1969, due to political differences with the government of the day. Thereafter, he returned to the West and worked in many academic institutions in Europe. He returned to Sri Lanka during his last days, and lived in the temple near the New Parliament in Kotte, until his death.
Academic career

Rahula attended Ceylon university (now known as the University of Colombo). He obtained a B.A. Honours degree (London), and then earned a Doctorate of Philosophy, having written a thesis on the History of Buddhism in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Then he went on to study Indian Philosophy at Calcutta University and later studied Mahayana at the Sorbonne. It was during his time at the Sorbonne in the late 1950s that he produced What the Buddha Taught, a highly regarded introductory text on Buddhism, for which he is best known.

Rahula is the first Buddhist monk to become a professor in a Western University. When he became Professor of History and Literature of Religions there were no Theravada Temples in the United States. He later became a Professor Emeritus at the same University. Rahula also held positions at several other American Universities. He was a visiting lecturer at Swarthmore College and Regents Lecturer at UCLA. He became Vice-Chancellor of Vidyoda University (now Sri Jayawardhanapura University) in 1964. He was later instrumental in encouraging the formation of the first Theravada temple in the United States, the Washington Vihara.

Rahula was awarded several titles during his lifetime. The highest honorary title, Tripitakavagisvaracarya (Supreme Master of Buddhist Scriptures), was given him by Sri Kalyapi Samagri Sangha-sabha (the Chapter of the Sangha in Sri Lanka) in 1965, with the qualification Sri (Gracious), a title held by only two or three scholars in Sri Lanka. He was also awarded the title "Aggamaha Panditha" from Burma.

Rahula wrote extensively about Theravada Buddhism. Apart from his world-renowned book What the Buddha Taught, he published an enormous number of papers on Buddhism. Notable books written by him include, History of Buddhism in Ceylon, Heritage of the Bhikkhu, Zen and the Taming of the Bull and Le Compendium de la Super Doctrine (French).
What The Buddha Taught (1959, ISBN 0-8021-3031-3)
History of Buddhism in Ceylon: The Anuradhapura period, 3rd Century BC–10th Century AD (1966)
Humour in Pali Literature and Other Essays (1997, ISBN 955-650-000-6)
The Heritage of the Bhikkhu: A Short History of the Bhikkhu in Educational, Cultural, Social, and Political Life (1974, ISBN 0-394-49260-9)
Heritage of Bhikkhu (1974, ISBN 0-394-17823-8)
Zen and the Taming of the Bull: Towards the Definition of Buddhist Thought: Essays (1978, ISBN 0-900406-69-0)
The Heritage of the Bhikkhu: The Buddhist Tradition of Service (2003, ISBN 0-8021-4023-8)
See also
"Basic Points Unifying the Theravāda and the Mahāyāna" (1967/1981), developed by Ven. Rahula

Jump up^ Remembering Walpola Rahula, by Ven. W. Piyananda
Amara Samara in Sinhala.
External links
Walpola Rahula, (1996). What the Buddha Taught, ISBN 955-9219-19-7

What the Buddha Taught
Venerable Walpola Rahula: A brief biographical sketch by Udaya Mallawarachchi. From the book Buddhist Studies in Honour of Walpola Rahula, 1980, ISBN 0-86092-030-5

Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught

by Walpola Rahula

Text from the electronic edition by PBS
Proofreading by F. Ruzsa based on the undated
‘Not for sale’ edition by Grove Press, Inc., New York.
Online version by V. Máthé

Table of Content

The Buddha
The Buddhist Attitude of Mind
The Four Noble Truths
The First Noble Truth: Dukkha
The Second Noble Truth: Samudaya
The Third Noble Truth: Nirodha
The Fourth Noble Truth: Magga
The Doctrine of No Soul: Anatta
Meditation or Mental Culture: Bhāvanā
What the Buddha Taught and the World Today


The Buddha went even further. He told the bhikkhus that a disciple should examine even the Tathāgata (Buddha) himself, so that he (the disciple) might be fully convinced of the true value of the teacher whom he followed.

According to the Buddha’s teaching, doubt (vicikicchā) is one of the five Hindrances (nīvaraṇa) to the clear understanding of Truth and to spiritual progress (or for that matter to any progress). Doubt, however, is not a ‘sin’, because there are no articles of faith in Buddhism. In fact there is no ‘sin’ in Buddhism, as sin is understood in some religions. The root of all evil is ignorance (avijjā) and false views (micchā diṭṭhi). It is an undeniable fact that as long as there is doubt, perplexity, wavering, no progress is possible. It is also equally undeniable that there must be doubt as long as one does not understand or see clearly. But in order to progress further it is absolutely necessary to get rid of doubt. To get rid of doubt one has to see clearly.


Other points that can be clarified are --

 Rebirth theory is the fundamental theory around which Hinduism survives. See the elaborate funeral ceremony, Karumathi ceremony (Hindi -Chautha) (14th day ceremony after death), annual ceremony (Thithi)(Hindi -Shrartha). Originally Buddha negated the concept of Soul itself. But, unfortunately later Buddhist accepted this soul and rebirth theory , which ultimately destroyed Buddhism.

1) Rebirth theory is one of the main theory for decline of Buddhism ---later Shankaracharya (from Kerala) argued and defeated Buddhist that there are no differences between Hinduism and Buddhism. This concept was like a "Trojan Horse" (or) modern day version "Trojan Virus" , which destroyed Buddhism.

2) Acceptance of rebirth theory indirectly admits the existence of soul ---which is totally incorrect --- Both these theories adapted from Hinduism have practically destroyed Buddhism.


Forgiveness linked:
(Reference ) --- https://sites.google.com/site/rahulawhatthebuddha/the-second-noble-truth
Now, the Pali word kamma or the Sankrit word karma (from the root kṛ to do) literally means ‘action’, ‘doing’. But in the Buddhist theory of karma it has a specific meaning: it means only ‘volitional action’, not all action. Nor does it mean the result of karma as many people wrongly and loosely use it. In Buddhist terminology karma never means its effect; its effect is known as the ‘fruit’ or the ‘result’ or karma (kamma-phala or kamma-vipāka).

Volition may relatively be good or bad, just as a desire may relatively be good or bad. So karma may be good or bad relatively. Good karma (kusala) produces good effects, and bad karma (akusala) produces bad effects. ‘Thirst’, volition, karma, whether good or bad, has one force as its effect: force to continue – to continue in a good or bad direction. Whether good or bad it is relative, and is within the cycle of continuity (saṃsāra). An Arahant, though he acts, does not accumulate karma, because he is free from the false idea of self, free from the ‘thirst’ for continuity and becoming, free from all other defilements and impurities (kilesā, sāsavā dhammā). For him there is no rebirth.

The theory of karma should not be confused with so-called ‘moral justice’ or ‘reward and punishment’. The idea of moral justice, or reward and punishment, arises out of the conception of a supreme being, a God, who sits in judgment, who is a law-giver and who decides what is right and wrong. The term ‘justice’ is ambiguous and dangerous, and in its name more harm than good is done to humanity. The theory of karma is the theory of cause and effect, of action and reaction; it is a natural law, which has nothing to do with the idea of justice or reward and punishment. Every volitional action produces its effects or results. If a good action produces good effects and a bad action bad effects, it is not justice, or reward, or punishment meted out by anybody or any power sitting in judgment on your action, but this is in virtue of its own nature, its own law. This is not difficult to understand. But what is difficult is that, according to the karma theory, the effects of a volitional action may continue to manifest themselves even in a life after death. Here we have to explain what death is according to Buddhism.