Suttas for the uninitiated

Do you know what a "sutta" is? It might help explain what the hell these Buddhist fanfics are about. Quick historical primer:

Theravāda Buddhism, which claims to be religion's oldest school, bases its teachings around a huge collection of texts written in a dead Indian language called Pālī. The Pālī Canon is divided into suttas (Pālī: discourses). Theravādin monks claim that the suttas are the direct teachings of Siddhartha Gotama, also called the Buddha (Palī: awakened one.) Interestingly, the Buddha didn't speak Palī, but some other unknown Indo-European language.

It was in 100 BCE, around 400 years after the death of the Buddha, that the suttas were translated into Pālī, systematized, and written down. The long telephone game of oral tradition in the interim meant that some elaborations were bound to creep in.

In addition to their grounded wisdom, the suttas (like most religious texts) also contain a fair bit of repetition, counting, theorizing about the origins and ends of the world; talk about beings in the sky, ghosts, spirits, various realms of heaven and hell; and, naturally, a lot of made-up stories. So I wrote some of my own made-up stories to provide a kind of balance and posted them here. I like the idea of creating my own, cartoonish version of Gotama, re-fashioned as a chill guy you might be able to crush a few Corona— er, I mean, Miller Lights with. Plus I like to sprinkle in my own little philosophy on how Buddhism might have been had the Buddha been a rationalist.

The Buddha was by all accounts a kind, practical, and thoughtful person, but he was also someone who for years struggled to find peace. He's notable for having claimed success and building a set of teachings that presumably lead to the same kind of insight.

If you're interested in actual Buddhism but don't want to get bogged down with spiritualism, magic, or devotion, there are plenty of suttas minus that flavor of madness. The Buddha Before Buddhism by Gil Fronsdal explores this in some detail.


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