What Buddha Did NOT Teach - This is a brilliant review by Geoff Hunt of "the difference between the right (simple) and wrong (complicated) view of the Buddha's teaching."

Geoff Hunt's words are lucid and grounded. Nothing superfluous, abstract or spiritual, really. It's all about the individual practice that relieves suffering. That's it.

Hunt emphasizes that Buddha didn't theorize or philosophize. Others did that later. Buddha simple taught a practice that helps set one free from pain and suffering.

This practice MUST be an individual journey and discovery. Buddha can teach a method, but the individual must experience and observe the practice and its effects for him or herself.

You can lead a person to the Buddha, but you can't make him practice.

Central to Hunt's ideas about Buddha is the Buddha's repeated emphasis on what are helpful questions and, more important to most of us initially, what questions are not helpful.

Helpful questions reduce or remove suffering. Is there a god or not? Doesn't matter. You can't know for sure, so don't waste your labor; it's not a helpful question.

Is that chickening out? Is bashing your head against a wall good for you? Stop bashing your head against a wall of un-helpful questions. Walk around the wall. For the wall is not important to living a good life, for relieving suffering.

Really? I'd love to know if there is a God or not. No, what I'm saying is I'd love to know there is a God. That would thrill me on a deep level. However, knowing there was NOT a God would be devastating to the same measure. Hmm...Knowing one way or the other would change everything.

Source - what the buddha did not teach- "Here is a table to help clarify the difference between a right (simple) and wrong (complicated) view of the Buddha's teaching."

If link dies, read cached copy below. Regardless, visit Geoff Hunt's Modern Buddha Way. It's filled with simple, yet profound teaching.

What the Buddha Taught

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Modern Buddha Way


Geoff Hunt - 23rd July 2006

The Buddha said you should rely on yourself; to see and understand for yourself. He emphasized that he did not conceal anything and had no secret teaching. There is nothing he asks you to believe and he was not giving us any theories or philosophy. He would want us to make sense of his teachings as best we can, and deal honestly with inconsistent or contradictory representations of his teaching. He emphasized that he was only interested in one thing: human suffering (dissatisfaction) and how to alleviate it. He saw that most philosophical or metaphysical perplexity (such as 'what happens to me when I die?') can never be answered intellectually, but such questions are dissolved by practice. With sufficient practice one can simply see why such questions are meaningless.

The scriptures of the Pali Canon do not always appear to be consistent, and there can be no doubt that (as with any world scripture) there have been misleading interpolations by transcribers and interpreters, usually borrowing from the dominant Brahmin religion of the time (what we now call 'Hinduism'). Sometimes his teachings have been misunderstood and sometimes have been presented in a way that causes confusion. For example, sometimes his followers present his teaching as though he were trying to teach us about ‘the nature of reality’ or ‘the self,’ – but he was not doing so. Here is a table to help clarify the difference between a right (simple) and wrong (complicated) view of the Buddha’s teaching. At the bottom of this page are a couple of excerpts from the Pali scriptures.

WRONG VIEW (theory)

RIGHT VIEW (Practice)

Buddha has a view about 'self' - NOT

Buddha has no view about ‘self’ and it is not his starting point. He starts from the fact of human suffering (persistent dissatisfaction with life). What he says about our sense of ‘self’ only arises in connection with understanding the causes of suffering. He does have a practice in which we ‘look into ourselves’.

Buddha denies the existence of self - NOT

Buddha neither affirms nor denies the existence of self, because that is a fruitless question. In the practice of meditation we look into ourselves and eventually notice that everything going on in us (sensations, thoughts, feelings, pain, etc.) is not permanent but impermanent, not separate and isolated but interdependent, and not substantial but insubstantial. When we see this for ourselves we first feel insecure, and then we have to accept it as a fact and this changes our sense of what we are.

Buddha has a theory of non-self. Buddha was a philosopher and/or psychologist who wanted to promote a theory about self - NOT

Buddha has no theory of non-self, and no theory about anything at all. He is not a theorist. He teaches us only how to do something to change our understanding of ourselves so that dissatisfaction is subdued.

Buddha had a theory or belief in impermanence, interdependence and insubstantiality - NOT

Buddha had no theory or belief in impermanence, interdependence and insubstantiality but used similar words and phrases in his own language only to draw our attention to what we can see for ourselves when we look into ourselves. Eventually, we can see that a refusal to accept these facts (i.e. ignorance) is the source of clinging, craving and dissatisfaction. These are the facts that we have to accept in order to change and live in peace.

Buddha denied the existence of 'soul' and of 'God' - NOT

Buddha neither affirmed nor denied the existence of soul and God, because he thought these were fruitless questions. People can always argue about beliefs, but they cannot argue about what they find in themselves – so the Buddha teaches us how to look.

The Buddha argued that you do not really exist, you just appear to exist - NOT

The Buddha taught nothing about the nature of reality or existence, and no theory about the distinction between reality and appearance.

The Buddha argued that the ‘self’ is unreal because it is a temporary construction of five elements (aggregates, khandha) - NOT

The Buddha had no theory about five elements (aggregates, khandha). As a teacher trying to be helpful about the method of seeing the source of dissatisfaction he said that if you look into yourself (insight meditation) you may at first get the idea that you are ‘essentially’ body, or pain and pleasure, or sensations, or thoughts and feelings, or consciousness, etc. (E.g. ‘I am really my consciousness’.) But actually one can see that these only arise in the act of looking into oneself. They are not ‘separate things’ at all. With this insight we become free of attachment to them, and thus free of clinging, craving and dissatisfaction.

If I have no self how can I be responsible for my actions? - NOT

Wrong questions arise from wrong views. The Buddha did not think you have no self, and instead emphasized that you and only you are responsible for looking into yourself in a way that leads to letting go (not clinging) and thus to peace.

Question: If there is no self then who becomes enlightened.

Answer: No one does.

 - What?'''

Wrong answers arise from wrong questions which arise from a wrong view of the Buddha’s teaching.

You become more enlightened every time you accept the facts (mentioned above) that you find when you look honestly into yourself. You become more endarkened (ignorant and dissatisfied) every time you ignore or reject these facts.

What is the state of enlightenment like? - What?

Wrong Question again.

There is no separate and unique state of enlightenment to be achieved, so the question of what it is ‘like’ does not arise. Instead enlightenment is a process or path. You are traveling along it, stuck on it or traveling backwards. Traveling forward along it there may be a significant point, in which one’s entire view of things fundamentally changes and this is (metaphorically) a ‘rebirth’.

There is a ‘fully enlightened being’ called an ‘arahant’, who is perfect - NOT

There is no such thing as an arahant who is completely different from ordinary people because he/she is perfect. The question of whether someone can be perfect is fruitless and unhelpful. Every person can move in the enlightenment direction, and away from the endarkenment direction. (It is probably better not to speak of ‘arahants’.)

Question: If there is no self, then who accumulates good karma or bad karma?

Answer: No self accumulates it; it accumulates by itself.


A wrong view gives rise to a wrong question and a wrong answer. The Buddha did not hold the belief that there is no self. Obviously, if you do good it has results for you and others and if you do wrong it has results for you and others.

If there is no self, who is reborn?

You are not reincarnated, but something with a likeness to you is reborn (like one candle flame from another) - NOT

A wrong view gives rise to a wrong question and a wrong answer. The Buddha neither affirmed nor denied the existence of a person after death, because it is a fruitless question. When you have looked into yourself sufficiently you will see things differently and you will have no further interest in the question of birth and death.

Bad karma is reborn, and good karma accumulates and eventually releases us from the 'round of rebirth' - NOT

The Buddha thought it was fruitless to ponder whether life and the world is eternal or cyclic or whatever.

It is obvious to most people that good thoughts and actions live on in other people and the environment, and bad ones do too. This is one way in which all human life is interconnected. But this is not a belief or philosophy, but ordinary experience of life.

How you live your life determines whether you become more enlightened, stuck or endarkened. A whole society can also (historically) become more enlightened or stuck or more endarkened. But this was not the Buddha’s main concern.

‘Rebirth’ is not primarily about what happens in time or history, but about you ‘here and now’. As mentioned above, as you persistently and honestly look into yourself you become more enlightened until you feel a significant change has come over you. You might like to describe such a point as a ‘rebirth’.

So, if I am really good I won’t come back to this world, but if I am bad then I will? - NOT

The belief or theory about ‘release from the round of rebirth’ is confused, and arises from misunderstanding ‘rebirth’ as a historical process. Although in some Buddhist scriptures we find such a belief put into the mouth of the Buddha, he could not have held such a view. This is because it contradicts his basic teaching (which he discovered for himself) about looking into oneself to dissolve the source of dissatisfaction. The Buddha said many times that he was not concerned with the intellectual question of whether there is life after death (whether you will be historically reborn, etc.).

The Buddha was a ‘Lord’ and savior of the world - NOT

The Buddha never professed to be ‘Lord’ and savior of the world. He was concerned only with you seeing the truth for yourself now so that your dissatisfaction ceases. ''' The Buddha gave''' a great deal of guidance on what we can sensibly talk about, and on what we should sensibly remain silent. This crucial teachings of his cannot be ignored in any discussion of 'rebirth', 'kamma' etc. or other 'philosophical' matters.

What the Buddha did not teach

What the Buddha Taught

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