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Venerable Nyanatiloka Mahathera

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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.

    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" ).


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

Abbreviation Document Referred To
D. Diigha Nikaaya. The number refers to the Sutta.
M. Majjhima-Nikaaya. The number refers to the Sutta.
A. Anguttara-Nikaaya. The Roman number refers to the main division into Parts or Nipaatas; the second number, to the Sutta.
S. 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.
Dhp. Dhammapada. The number refers to the verse.
Ud. Udaana. The Roman number refers to the Chapters, the second number to the Sutta.
Snp. Sutta-Nipaata. The number refers to the verse.
VisM. Visuddhi-Magga ('The Path of Purification').
B.Dict Buddhist Dictionary, by Nyanatiloka Mahaathera.
Fund. 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.


Letter Should Be Sounded
a As u in the English word shut; never as in cat, and never as in take.
aa As in father; never as in take.
e Long, as a in stake.
i As in pin.
ii As in machine; never as in fine.
o Long as in hope.
u As in put or oo in foot.
uu As oo in boot; never as in refuse.


Letter Should Be Sounded
c As ch in chair; never as k, never as s, nor as c in centre, city.
g As in get, never as in general.
h 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.
j As in joy.
.m .n As the 'nazalizer' is in Ceylon, usually pronounced as .ng in sung, sing, etc.
s Always as in this; never as in these.
~n As ny in canyon (Spanish: ca~non) or as gn in Mignon.
ph As in haphazard; never as in photograph.
.th As in hot-house; never as in thin nor as in than.
y 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.

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