Questioning the Buddha

Questioning the Buddha

A Selection of Twenty-Five Sutras

Peter Skilling


  • Description
  • Author
  • Info
  • Reviews


An important new book unlocking the words of the Buddha contained in the vast Tibetan canon, one of the main scriptural resources of Buddhism.

In the forty-five years the Buddha spent traversing northern India, he shared his wisdom with everyone from beggar women to kings. Hundreds of his discourses, or sutras, were preserved by his followers, first orally and later in written form. Around thirteen hundred years after the Buddha’s enlightenment, the sutras were translated into the Tibetan language, where they have been preserved ever since. To date, only a fraction of these have been made available in English. Questioning the Buddha brings the reader directly into the literary treasure of the Tibetan canon with thoroughly annotated translations of twenty-five different sutras. Often these texts, many translated here in full for the first time, begin with an encounter in which someone poses a question to the Buddha.

Peter Skilling, an authority on early Buddhist epigraphy, archaeology, and textual traditions, has been immersed in the Buddhist scriptures of diverse traditions for nearly half a century. In this volume, he draws on his deep and extensive research to render these ancient teachings in a fresh and precise language. His introduction is a fascinating history of the Buddhist sutras, including the transition from oral to written form, the rise of Mahayana literature, the transmission to Tibet, the development of canons, and a look at some of the pioneers of sutra study in the West.

Sutras included in this volume are: Four Dharmas Not to Be Taken for Granted; The Benefits of Giving; The Exposition of Four Dharmas; The Merit of the Three Refuges; Four Dharmas Never to Be Abandoned; Advice for Bodhisatva Dharmaketu; Advice for Bodhisatva Jayamati; Sutra Comparing Bodhicitta to Gold; Bodhisatva Maitreya’s Question about the Gift of the Dharma; Four Summaries of the Dharma Spoken to the Naga King Sagara; The Stanza of Dependent Arising; The Heart Formula of Dependent Arising; Prediction of the Boy Brahmasri’s Future Buddhahood; Ksemavati’s Prediction to Future Buddhahood; The City Beggar Woman; An Old Woman’s Questions about Birth and Death; The Questions of Srimati the Brahman Woman; The Questions of the Laywoman Gangottara; Brahma Sahampati’s Question; Advice to King Prasenajit; Passage to the Next Life; Instructions for King Bimbisara; Instructions for King Udayana; Buddhas as Rare as a Grain of Golden Sand; and Predictions on the Eve of the Great Final Nirvana.


Peter Skilling:
Peter Skilling is a Buddhist researcher, translator, and lecturer on subjects ranging from history and philosophy to art, archaeology, and epigraphy. At present he is a special lecturer at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, where he is based. He has published widely and has been visiting professor at leading universities around the world such as Harvard and Oxford. His fields of interest include the history of South Asian and Southeast Asian Buddhism and the development of Mahayana thought.