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The Snelling Sutra

Quan Âm in Salt Lake City

The Snelling Sutra? Dan, you’ve got to be kidding! I recently ran across a statement outlining the basic orientation of Buddhism that is so well-stated, so concise, so precise and so effective that I had to put it on The Refuge web pages. It comes from a book for children entitled Buddhist Festivals by John Snelling. If this isn’t scripture, it oughta be:

What is Buddhism About?

Buddhism doesn’t begin with a creator God who made the world, nor is it very concerned with what happens to us after we’re dead. Buddhism begins in fact with the basic truth that all human beings suffer. To the Buddha, every other matter was of secondary importance, and he suggested we consider the case of a man who has been shot by an arrow. The poor man lying there with the arrow plunged deep into his flesh isn’t going to begin asking who made the arrow, what kind of feathers it has, how long it is and questions like that. For him the most important thing is to get the arrow out.

Basically the question is: How can you achieve release from suffering? The Buddha found that there are certain steps that can be taken. Buddhism therefore offers its followers things that they can do rather than things for them to believe.

One thing Buddhists try to do is to lead good lives by not causing suffering to others. They also actively try to do good, be kind and helpful, and if possible, put others first. They study the teachings of the Buddha and test them out in their ordinary lives. Finally, many Buddhists meditate.


You must have seen pictures of the Buddha sitting with his legs crossed, his back and head very straight and his eyes half-closed. He looks very calm. When people are meditating, they are not frantically caught up in all the pictures and thoughts that are milling about in their heads. Rather, they are peacefully allowing these to settle down. They do not, however, allow their minds to go blank. In fact, they stay very alert and watch everything that comes into their minds.

By doing this day after day for a very long time, a person is first able to achieve great calmness and clarity. He or she then begins to see into the true nature of the world: To see things as they are rather than as they appear. they see, in fact, that everything is unsatisfactory and tainted with suffering and that everything is impermanent and subject to change. Finally they see that nothing, including human beings, has any sort of underlying soul or essence. They realize, in short, that everything passes away and that nothing has any sort of permanent self.

Proceeding in this way, it is possible for anyone with enough persistence and determination to gain for themselves the same enlightenment that the Buddha discovered beneath the Bo tree at Budh Gaya. Then they too can find peace and become free, no longer touched by the pains and sorrows of human existence.

From Buddhist Festivals by John Snelling: 1987 Rourke Enterprises, Vero Beach, FL pp. 12-15 ISBN 0 86592 980 7

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