Rahula and the Liberal Buddha


  • Mr Colin Edwards Independent scholar




Walpola Rahula, religious tolerance, fredom of thought


This article suggests that the popular western image of the Buddha of the Pali suttas has been influenced by the opening pages of Walpola Rahula’s book What the Buddha Taught. It examines two closely linked qualities postulated by Rahula as attributes of the Buddha: that he is respectful of other religions and that he encourages freedom of thought in his followers. It finds Rahula’s evidence faulty at every turn and goes on to give examples of the Buddha’s and suttas’ disrespectful attitude to other faiths, suggesting that in respect of its ‘exclusivism’, the Buddhism of the Pali suttas is no different from other religions.

Author Biography

Mr Colin Edwards, Independent scholar

early Buddhist thought, Buddhist ethics, Buddhist meditation and ritual, Theravada/Mahayana similarities


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Bodhi, Bhikkhu. 2000. ‘Two Styles of Insight Meditation’, Buddhist Publication Society Newsletter 45, cover essay. www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/bps-essay_45.html

Dhammananda, Venerable K Sri. 1996. Daily Buddhist Devotions, reprinted and donated by the Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, Taiwan, for free distribution.

Goldstein, Joseph. 2001. One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism. London: Rider.

Johansson, Rune E. A. 1981. Pali Buddhist Texts, 2nd edn. Richmond: Curzon.

Rahula, Walpola. 1974. What the Buddha Taught, 2nd enlarged edn. New York: Grove.




How to Cite

Edwards, M. C. (2008). Rahula and the Liberal Buddha. Buddhist Studies Review, 25(2), 232–243. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsrv.v25i2.232