WHY Buddhacloud

Buddhacloud is a new means of accessing teachings of the Buddha. With simple and direct translations from the ancient Pali sources, arranged into a library of categories, the Buddha’s Dharma is easier to navigate than ever before.

Early Buddhist teaching is a highly original system of thought, and a unique source of wisdom. Although the Buddha lived in North India in the fifth century BC, much of his advice still applies today.

Whether speaking to enquirers from distant lands, or to priests, kings, grizzled ascetics or drunks, the Buddha always has useful guidance on how to live correctly, and how to create spiritual purpose.

Human problems are perennial; according to the Buddha, the world will always be in some kind of trouble. His teachings were offered as a raft to cross a flooded river, or a medicine to heal a poisoned wound.

This medicine includes teachings on psychological discipline, the impermanence of all worldly things, the problems with desire and addiction to pleasure, the practice of mindfulness, the simple merits of being kind, and the attainment of the ultimate freedom, Nirvana.

Buddhacloud is a new and contemporary presentation of the Buddha’s thoughts on the problem of human existence, and the solutions to it.

Creating Buddhacloud

The creator of Buddhacloud is Alexander Wynne, who was born in 1974 in Liverpool, England. After studying Buddhism and practising meditation from the age of 18, he studied at the Universities of Bristol and Oxford and is now a leading authority on early Buddhism. The author of numerous articles on early Buddhist meditation and philosophy, his books include The Origin of Buddhist Meditation and Buddhism: An Introduction. He is Assistant Director of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies and creator of the OCBS Pāli Online Courses.

‘The Buddha’s teachings should be easy to understand, since they emerge from personal encounters between enquirers and the Buddha: questions are asked and direct answers given. But these teachings were preserved by a highly formulaic type of communal chanting. The Dharma was meant to be heard, not read; literal translations can be dense and difficult to follow. Buddhacloud simplifies this problem by focusing on meaning rather than literal accuracy. What emerges is a collection of vivid stories in which the Buddha’s advice can be contemplated in a more personal and direct form.’

Whether speaking to enquirers from distant lands, or to priests, kings, grizzled ascetics or drunks, the Buddha always has useful guidance on how to live correctly, and how to create spiritual purpose.

Alexander Wynne

FAQs

What is Buddhacloud?

Buddhacloud is a library of early Buddhist teachings, drawn from ancient traditions about the Buddha. These teachings have been newly translated and arranged into simple categories.

What is different about Buddhacloud?

Since the Buddha lived before writing was used, his teachings were preserved through group chanting. In this form, the teachings are dense and repetitive, and quite difficult to read. While remaining faithful to the meaning, Buddhacloud does not follow the wording exactly; presenting the Buddha’s teachings as smaller pieces of wisdom makes them easier to understand.

Why does Buddhacloud use categories?

Traditional collections of early Buddhist teachings are mostly arranged according to the length of individual texts. Although some parts of the Pali canon are arranged according to subject matter, the arrangement still makes it difficult to find what one wants. Buddhacloud uses nine categories, which focus on what individual teachings are mostly about. This makes it easier to search the library and find teachings according to one’s interest.

Where do the Buddhacloud teachings come from?

All the teachings come from the Buddha’s discourses as preserved in the Pali canon, the sacred texts of Theravada Buddhism, transmitted in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and Laos. Theravada Buddhism emerged from a series of missions to South India and Sri Lanka in the mid 3rd century BC, about 150 years after the Buddha’s death. It arrived in South East Asia several hundred years later.

What do the abbreviations under the translations stand for?

AN - Anguttara Nikāya

Dhp - Dhammapada

DN - Dīgha Nikāya

It - Itivuttaka

Ja - Jātaka

MN - Majjhima Nikāya

SN - Samyutta Nikāya

Sn -  Suttanipāta

Thag - Theragāthā

Thī - Therīgāthā

Ud - Udāna

Why use the teachings from the Pali canon?

The Pali canon is the only complete set of ancient Buddhist teachings in an Indian language. The Chinese Buddhist canon contains much of the same material from different Indian Buddhist schools (although some of these were closely related to the Theravadins). Teachings similar to those of the Pali canon are also found in Sanskrit and Tibetan translation, and texts that exist in other Indian dialects. Of all these collections, the Pali canon has preserved the Buddha’s teachings in a language close to what the Buddha would have used.

What is Pali?

‘Pali’, the language of the Pali canon, is a northern Indian dialect close to the language of the Buddha. The exact language of the Buddha is unknown. But the inscriptions of king Aśoka – emperor of India and a Buddhist convert who lived about 150 years after the Buddha – use three main dialects. Pali is a version of one of these dialects, which in any case would have been mutually intelligible. The Buddha would have spoken more or less the same language.

Who was the Buddha?

The Buddha lived in northern India in the fifth century BC (c. 480-400 BC). At the age of 29 he renounced the world to search for a solution to the problem of suffering. After six years of wandering and experimenting in different spiritual disciplines, he had an ‘awakening’ and became known as buddha, the ‘awakened one’. The Buddha spent the rest of his life explaining his ideas and experiences to others, and the Buddhist movement crystallised around this.

What do we know about the Buddha?

The Buddha was from the Sakya tribe, a small republic based around the modern border between India and Nepal. His family lineage name was ‘Gotama’; in early Buddhist texts the Buddha is often called ‘the ascetic Gotama’. Since the Buddha’s teachings are realistic and recount numerous dialogues with many different people – including spiritual seekers, lay supporters and critics – the early texts are full of remarkable details about ancient Indian life. A good picture of the Buddha’s personality emerges in the teachings attributed to him.

Did the Buddha really exist?

Even in the early Buddhist period, the life of the Buddha was turned into an elaborate myth. It came to be believed that the Buddha was the seventh in a series of Buddhas, who in different world ages are born to reveal the same message and establishing the same religion. Such ideas are mostly marginal in the Pali canon, and hence are not prominent in Buddhacloud, which instead focuses on the realistic depiction of the Buddha and his teachings. One exception is that Buddhacloud includes tales from the Jātakas, old fables based around the Buddha’s exploits in his past lives.

What did the Buddha teach?

In the Buddha’s teachings, a negative analysis of the human condition is balanced by the possibility of a positive spiritual solution to it. Human life is characterised by ‘unsatisfactoriness’ or ‘suffering’: illness, physical pain, death, sorrow, depression and so on, which continues from one life to the next (the Buddha believed in rebirth or reincarnation). But this negative situation can be resolved by following a spiritual path based on the principles of wisdom, morality and meditation. The goal of Buddhism is the state of Nirvana, in which the repeated sufferings of life cease for good.

Are the Buddha’s teachings relevant today?

The Buddha was a highly original thinker. His teachings combine subtle insights into such things as the nature of the mind, psychological health, the existential dilemmas facing human beings and their ethical choices. While civilisation has evolved since the time of the Buddha, human beings have not; our basic problems are the same as those of the Buddha. Besides its ostensible spiritual purpose, the Buddha’s thought is of great contemporary interest in many areas, including philosophy of mind, cognitive science, therapy and mental health.

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