il Fronsdal’s The Buddha before Buddhism is an elegant translation of Buddhist poems from the Atthakavagga or The Book of Eights, which is believed to be part of the Buddha’s first teachings. In this anthology, reality is not divided into a conditioned, worldly realm and an unconditioned, transcendent realm far removed from ordinary human life, which is a deviation from the usual Buddhist texts. Instead, the teachings point to peace that can be found in this life, in this world.
This collection of 16 poems points to a direct and simple approach for attaining peace without requiring an adherence to any specific ideology. In contrast to later Buddhist teachings that are predicated on the belief in rebirth, this book’s central theme is the joy that comes from recognizing and letting go of attachment to the illusory views that create suffering.