While others may praise or criticize the Buddha, they tend to focus on trivial details. The Buddha presents an analysis of 62 kinds of wrong view, seeing through which one becomes detached from meaningless speculations.
The newly crowned King Ajātasattu is disturbed by the violent means by which he achieved the crown. He visits the Buddha to find peace of mind, and asks him about the benefits of spiritual practice. This is one of the greatest literary and spiritual texts of early Buddhism.
A brahmin wishes to undertake a great sacrifice, and asks for the Buddha’s advice. The Buddha tells a legend of the past, in which a king is persuaded to give up violent sacrifice, and instead to devote his resources to supporting the needy citizens of his realm. However, even such a beneficial and non-violent sacrifice pales in comparison to the spiritual sacrifice of giving up attachments.
The Buddha is challenged by a naked ascetic on the topic of spiritual austerities. He points out that it is quite possible to perform all kinds of austere practices without having any inner purity of mind.
The longest of all discourses, this extended narrative tells of the events surrounding the Buddha’s death. Full of vivid and moving details, it is an ideal entry point into knowing the Buddha as a person, and understanding how the Buddhist community coped with his passing.
When deities from all realms gather in homage to the Buddha, he gives a series of verses describing them. These verses, which are commonly chanted in Theravadin countries, give one of the most detailed descriptions of the deities worshiped at the the time of the Buddha.
This is a long and entertaining debate between a monk and a skeptic, who went to elaborate and bizarre lengths to prove that there is no such thing as an afterlife. The discourse contains a colorful series of parables and examples.
This discourse gives a specially good example of dialog between religions The Buddha insists that he is not interested to make anyone give up their teacher or practices, but only to help people let go of suffering.
In illustration of his dictum that one should rely on oneself, the Buddha gives a detailed account of the fall of a kingly lineage of the past, and the subsequent degeneration of society. This process, however, is not over, as the Buddha predicts that eventually society will fall into utter chaos. But far in the future, another Buddha, Metteyya, will arise in a time of peace and plenty.
In contrast with the brahmin’s self-serving mythologies of the past, the Buddha presents an account of evolution that shows how human choices are an integral part of the ecological balance, and how excessive greed destroys the order of nature.
Following the death of Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta, the leader of the Jains, the Buddha emphasizes the stability and maturity of his own community. He encourages the community to come together after his death and recite the teachings in harmony.
The Buddha encounters a young man who honors his dead parents by performing rituals. The Buddha recasts the meaningless rites in terms of virtuous conduct. This is the most detailed discourse on ethics for lay people.