It is widely accepted that the Sutta Nipata contains the earliest recorded version of the Buddha's teaching. It is an anthology of poetry and prose - 70 titled suttas of varied instruction and temperament arranged in five chapters.
At the start are two of its most famous suttas: The Snake, in which the actions of the practising bhikkhu approaching liberation is likened to a snake that 'leaves its old, worn-out skin'; and The Rhinoceros Horn, which expounds the virtue of solitude for those with serious spiritual intent. But this anthology is full of character and characters: the Buddha condemns caste (which still blights Indian society); he engages with a varied host of questioners, from householders and brahmins to spiritual seekers, clarifying their confusions and exhorting them to pursue a path of wisdom and compassion.
Uncompromising and ancient in tone, it offers a flavour of the very early days of the Buddha's teaching and the India of his time. K. R. Norman's authoritative translation ensures clarity and immediacy of comprehension.
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