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.
The following excerpts are from The Word of The Buddha:
The Four Noble Truths
Thus has it been said by the Buddha, the Enlightened One:
It is through not understanding, not realizing four things, that I, Disciples, as well as you, had to wander so long through this round of rebirths. And what are these four things? They are:
The Noble Truth of Suffering (dukkha);
The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering (dukkha-samudaya);
The Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering (dukkha-nirodha);
The Noble Truth of the Path that leads to the Extinction of Suffering (dukkha-nirodha-gaamini-pa.tipadaa).
S. LVI. 11
As long as the absolutely true knowledge and insight as regards these Four Noble Truths was not quite clear in me, so long was I not sure that I had won that supreme Enlightenment which is unsurpassed in all the world with its heavenly beings, evil spirits and gods, amongst all the hosts of ascetics and priests, heavenly beings and men. But as soon as the absolute true knowledge and insight as regards these Four Noble Truths had become perfectly clear in me, there arose in me the assurance that I had won that supreme Enlightenment unsurpassed.
And I discovered that profound truth, so difficult to perceive, difficult to understand, tranquilizing and sublime, which is not to be gained by mere reasoning, and is visible only to the wise.
The world, however, is given to pleasure, delighted with pleasure, enchanted with pleasure. Truly, such beings will hardly understand the law of conditionality, the Dependent Origination (pa.ticca-samuppaada) of everything; incomprehensible to them will also be the end of all formations, the forsaking of every substratum of rebirth, the fading away of craving, detachment, extinction, Nibbaana.
Yet there are beings whose eyes are only a little covered with dust: they will understand the truth.
I. The Noble Truth of Suffering
What, now, is the Noble Truth of Suffering?
Birth is suffering; Decay is suffering; Death is suffering; Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief, and Despair are suffering; not to get what one desires, is suffering; in short: the Five Groups of Existence are suffering.
What, now, is Birth? The birth of beings belonging to this or that order of beings, their being born, their conception and springing into existence, the manifestation of the Groups of Existence, the arising of sense activity: this is called birth.
And what is Decay? The decay of beings belonging to this or that order of beings; their becoming aged, frail, grey, and wrinkled; the failing of their vital force, the wearing out of the senses: this is called decay.
And what is Death? The departing and vanishing of beings out of this or that order of beings. their destruction, disappearance, death, the completion of their life-period, dissolution of the Groups of Existence, the discarding of the body: this is called death.
And what is Sorrow? The sorrow arising through this or that loss or misfortune which one encounters, the worrying oneself, the state of being alarmed, inward sorrow, inward woe: this is called sorrow.
And what is Lamentation? Whatsoever, through this or that loss or misfortune which befalls one, is wail and lament, wailing and lamenting, the state of woe and lamentation: this is called lamentation.
And what is Pain? The bodily pain and unpleasantness, the painful and unpleasant feeling produced by bodily impression: this is called pain.
And what is Grief? The mental pain and unpleasantness, the painful and unpleasant feeling produced by mental impression: this is called grief.
And what is Despair? Distress and despair arising through this or that loss or misfortune which one encounters: distressfulness, and desperation: this is called despair.
And what is the `Suffering of not getting what one desires’? To beings subject to birth there comes the desire; `O, that we were not subject to birth! O, that no new birth was before us!’ Subject to decay, disease, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, the desire comes to them: `O, that we were not subject to these things! O, that these things were not before us!’ But this cannot be got by mere desiring; and not to get what one desires, is suffering.