One of the earliest of all Buddhist texts, the Atthakavagga, or “Book of Eights,” is a remarkable document, not only because it comes from the earliest strain of the literature–before the Buddha, as the title suggests, came to be thought of as a “Buddhist”–but also because its approach to awakening is so simple and free of adherence to any kind of ideology. Instead the Atthakavagga points to a direct and simple approach for attaining peace without requiring the adherence to doctrine.
The value of the teachings it contains is not in the profundity of their philosophy or in their authority as scripture; rather, the value is found in the results they bring to those who live by them. Instead of doctrines to be believed, the Book of Eights describes means or practices for realizing peace. Now in The Buddha before Buddhism: Wisdom from the Early Teachings, Noted Buddhist teacher and scholar Gil Fronsdal‘s rigorous translation with commentary reveals the text to be of interest not only to Buddhists, but also to the ever-growing demographic of spiritual-but-not-religious, those who seek a spiritual life outside the structures of religion.