Pay attention! Give ear! This is for your Good! For Your Profit for many a long day. Don't play with your food!

Dhamma Vicaya

Researching Dhamma

Michael, The King of New York
"Start Anywhere.
Start Here!"

— Michael, The King of New York
"Here Goes! The King of New York" [Lost Manuscript]

Start Here

The Pali Line[1]

Beginners! It is highly recommended that you read this introduction to practice which is modeled on the course taught by Ananda to beginners at the time of the Buddha.

This is a practical as well as magical way to begin studying what the Buddha taught for the following reason: It has the very interesting property of always being complete (and therefore useful), almost no matter how little into it one progresses.

A study/research method that is the basis for the design of this section is to begin with The Pali Line and then follow the links around and round until an ... um ... well-rounded ... picture of the whole sphere of study is able to be rounded up in the mind.

 

The pali Line

An Introductory through Advanced Course in Pali Buddhism.

Title Page

The Pali Line Table of Contents (Detailed — Serves As A Good Subject Index)

Part I: The Gradual Course (A complete Introductory Course)

NOTE: The Gradual Course is contained in 13 small files for quick downloads and easy reference. The structure looks like this:

The Gradual Course (Contents)
Nidana (Introduction — includes The First Lesson)
Dana (Giving)
Sila (Ethical Culture)
Jagariyanuyoga (Self Discipline)
The Advantages and Disadvantages

(And under the category of Cultivating the Mind):

Lesson 2 (Nama/Rupa — Name/Form)
Lesson 3 (Vedana — Sensation)
Lesson 4 (Cattari Ariyasaccani — The Four Truths)
Lesson 5 (Panca Upadana Kkhandha — The Five Stockpiles)
Lesson 6 (Salayatana — The Six Sense Realms)
Lesson 7 (Satta Sambojjhanga — The Seven Dimensions of Self-Awakening)
Lesson 8 (Ariya Atthangika Magga — The Aristocratic Eight Dimensional HighWay)

Part II: The Great Master's Satisfaction Pastures (Creating a Satisfied Mind)

Part III: High Get'n High(Meditation.)

Part IV: The 10th Question, Part I (This is where it starts to get Deeper)

Part V: The 10th Question, Part II, End

 


 

A good logical way to begin is to begin with the Buddha's own first Sutta: Dhamma-Cakkappa-Vattana Sutta.

 


 

Another way to begin is in the form of making a study of The Compilation, The Sangiti Sutta, Sutta #33 of the Digha Nikaya.

This sutta, you may discover later in your dhamma-vicaya, is likely not an original sutta; nevertheless it presents a very comprehensive list of all the important doctrines of the system arranged in accordance with the number of subjects it contains.

A good way to approach this would be to start from the beginning and work through to the end. This is not a method that is very gentle on the beginner (although there are explanatory footnotes throughout which should help). There is no build-up, and some of the segments with only a few concepts (in other words, at the beginning) are also very advanced ideas. This is a good place to round out your understanding, and if a beginner wants to start here, I would recommend taking it very slowly, and following all the links around.

 


 

An early and enduring American collection of translations, Warren's: Buddhism In Translations is an excellent way to begin study of original sources.

Organized around the "Tripple-Gem" (The Buddha, his work — the dhamma, and the life of the disciple — the sangha), it provides a beginning selection of translations from a number of the different Pali resources.

 


 

Another method is to begin with and follow major themes, some of the most important of which have been put into "Resources" groups listed below.

Begin with one major concept, and flesh out the details by following links and doing further research; done conscientiously it will lead to a comprehensive picture of the system.

How is this?

Because the various approaches to the goal all encompass each other, that's how.
Start with one and keep pushing it's limits and you will eventually incorporate all of the other methods.

 

Satipatthana Resources

Satipatthana Suttanta Resources Table of Contents

Certainly the most popular approach to the study of the Buddha's method of meditation. A large collection of resources.

Highlight:
The Setting-Up of Mindfulness(The Classic Rhys Davids Translation)

 

Mulapariyaya Resources

The Mulapariyaya Resources Table of Contents

An important sutta that is largely overlooked. It isn't the first sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya and called 'the root of all things' for nothing!

Highlight:
The text of The Root of All Evil (Olds translation)

 

Sunnata Resources

Suññata Resources Table of Contents

See for yourself what the Buddha is speaking about when he speaks of 'emptiness.'

Highlight:
A Little Spell of Emptiness (Olds translation)

 


 

Still another way to begin your studies is to start with what many consider to be the beginning of the Buddhist collection of suttas: The Digha Nikaya.

Highlights:
The complete three-volume set of the Rhys Davids translation is now in the Public Domain and available here.

Also read the Olds translation of the first Sutta of the Digha: The BrahmaNet Spell.

Then move on to the translations of The Majjhima Nikāya, Aŋguttara Nikāya and The Saɱyutta Nikāya. All volumes of these sets, the core of the Buddhist Cannon, are now available on this site and can be easily accessed via the Sutta Index.

 


 

The thing to remember when first confronting the huge volume of information now available to Buddhists is that this was originally a spoken tradition taught to groups of interested individuals encountered by the Buddha or by one of his disciples as they wandered from place to place: in other words although we may have a very large number of suttas, each individual sutta (or small series of suttas) was delivered with the expectation that by itself it would be sufficient for the salvation of the hearers.

One could, if this site were a book, or if the reader pulled a book of translations off the shelf, open it almost anywhere and begin and expect to be presented with enough information to master the system within one or two or a small number of suttas. The rest is re-inforcement in the situation we are in today [Thursday, March 03, 2005 3:35 AM] where face-to-face instruction from a knowledgable teacher is very hard to come by.

The difficulty comes in when considering the very beginning level of the listener. The suttas were most often delivered in response to questions. Questions provide the information needed to determine the level of the questioner and the response can (and was) tailored to that level.

Here it must be assumed that every reader is beginning with no understanding whatsoever. These "beginnings" therefore suggest various courses that are suitable for those who are starting "from scratch"

...on the other hand, our education (at least in the USA today — November 30, 2002) is so slack concerning our own welfare, that it would likely be a good idea for even those who think they are already far along the path to give The Pali Line a shot, just to see if they havn't skip't over, say ... training in ... generosity, ethical culture, self-discipline ... in favor of meditation practice.

The advantage to one who begins with The Pali Line is that should the course be interrupted for some reason (and there is always some reason in the beginning), then what has been learned to that point will prove valuable in whatever direction one has decided to go.

Beginning with meditation practice one is like a kite in a high wind without a string under the control of some intelligent being at the other end.

 


 

Compare Sutta with Sutta

Nearly everyone begins by making the the same sort of methodological error: they start out accepting authority.

Accepting the Zen or Tibetan or Mahayana or Theravada School as the true teaching of what the Buddha Taught is accepting authority.

Accepting the Vipassana school, accepting the Abhidhamma, accepting the commentaries, accepting any of these is accepting authority.

Starting out to study what the Buddha taught should not be equated with accepting even what the Buddha taught at the start, let alone some interpretation of what it is that he taught.

You study the Original Sources to determine what the Buddha Taught by comparing sutta with sutta and eliminating anything that is not completely without conflict with anything else in the suttas (that means even if it is in the core suttas!). (Later you may find you have misunderstood and need to re-introduce things, but the method says that until you see the harmony, disgard the discord — in the beginning students would do one and all a great favour by not forming rigid opinions concerning what is and what is not Dhamma, and, reflecting on this non-formation of rigid opinions, keeping one's talk to asking questions rather than stating ill-formed contrary opinions).

"If you are going to study what the Buddha taught, go to the original sources."
This is well said, but what are the original sources?

The only real clue we have about what can be considered original sources is what the Buddha states to be original sources in the works accepted by all Buddhists as original sources: the core Suttas and the Vinaya[2].

It might have been rational in an earlier day to accept the word of another as to what the Buddha taught because of the difficulty involved in checking with original sources, today, in this age of the computer, there is absolutely no excuse for accepting as what the Buddha taught something not found in the suttas.

Guard your own minds friends!
You will hold yourself accountable at the end for not having taken the time to do it right.

Here is a suggested "pariyaya" (curriculum) for very beginners who wish to establish themselves in a rock solid foundation in what the Buddha taught:

It begins with the assumption that this or some other site, book, etc. has been found accidentally or by recommendation and has managed somehow to interest one in really understanding what it was that the Buddha taught.

So: up past what you have found interesting here or elsewhere:

1. Read: The Pali Line.

2. Read: Warren, Buddhism in Translations

3. Read the Pali Text Society Translations of:

The Dialogs of the Buddha [Digha Nikaya]
The Middle Length Sayings [Majjhima Nikaya]
The Gradual Sayings [Anguttara Nikaya]
The Kindred Sayings [Sanyutta Nikaya]

They are all available on this site and can be accessed from the Sutta Index on this site.

While reading on-line is convenient, what you will eventually find more satisfying is a collection of the suttas in book form. On-line versions, especially interlinked as they are here, are very helpful for research, but for reading pleasure and pondering there is nothing like a book.

Early NYC Weiser's Storefront

Early NYC Weiser's Storefront

If you cannot afford to buy these books new, they are often to be found in used bookstores.

If you cannot afford them and cannot find them, I suggest you read the Wisdom Publications editions mentioned (#6) below; if you cannot afford these either; browse through the 'Sutta Index' on this site where all the major available on-line translations along with other on- and off-line resources are listed with links where possible.

This order of priority is suggested because it is in this order that the sutta translations have evolved and there is a certain amount of building on one-another and dialog between them that has occurred.

4. Go to the Rhys Davids/Stead: Pali/English Dictionary and look up the various words discussed in the footnotes of the above. This dictionary is organized based on the Pali alphabet and is extremely difficult to use for beginners in hard copy. On-line you can use your search tool to search the word you are looking up.

Another on-line version of this dictionary is set up for individual word look up. See: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/pali/index.html.

5. Get hold of the original Pali texts. These are on line here and are linked-to from all translations and are also available on a very inexpensive CD: http://www.vridhamma.org/Home.aspx). There are several versions of the Pali, but for the most part the differences do not create problems in understanding the doctrine. The CSCD has been well-edited. The version on this site is a mixed bag. Some suttas (particularly those translated by myself) have been carefully proofread against the PTS text and formatted phrase by phrase for easy comparison with the translation. Others, I am sorry to say are still being proofed and formatted and are often in worse shape than those on the CSCD. If you have got as far as reading in the Pali, I suggest using both sources, as the source here is fully expanded whereas the CSCD (as is the PTS hard copy text) highly abridged.

It is not necessary to understand Pali as a language to understand the important words: you want the Pali to be able to determine for yourself the words being referenced when a unit of the teaching is translated in different ways. This is not to say that an early start on learning Pali is not valuable: it is; but the beginner is cautioned against putting the study of Pali ahead of the intent to comprehend the teaching.

6. Read the Pali Text Society Translation of the Vinaya Pitaka

7. Read the Wisdom Publications translations of:

The Long Discourses of the Buddha, M. Walshe, trans.
The Middle Length Discources of the Buddha, Bhk. Ñañamoli trans, Bhk. Bodhi edited,
The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, Bhk. Bodhi, trans.
The Numerical Discourses of of the Buddha, Bhk. Bodhi, trans.

8. Read other translations of these core suttas:

Read some of the many translations of the very important and widely-followed Satipatthana Sutta. Many translations and reference materials are available here in the Satipatthana Resources section

Read The Middle Length Sayings The Mulapariyaya, the first sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya
The Gradual Sayings The Book of Ones, the first book of the Gradual Sayings.

Peruse the Sutta Index for other translations of suttas that interest you.

And, of course, read the translations of Ol'Begga Ols.

In spite of the propaganda out there that will tell you that you cannot understand the Dhamma just by reading the Suttas alone (as opposed to reading commentaries first or alongside), this is simply not true ... and when the individual you are trying to research, says of his own teaching that he has taught it well, and that it can be understood — seen for one's self in the Here and Now — and he further says that it is by comparing sutta to sutta that the true teaching is revealed, to believe otherwise until tested for one's self is to go against reason. The other works are of doubtful origin, not accepted by all schools; the core suttas (as in #3) are accepted by all schools; none dare say not.

Until such time as you can say you have understood the Dhamma as set forth in the core Suttas, do not waste your time reading the Jatakas, the volumes of the Khuddaka Pitaka, Path of Purity, The Psalms of the Brothers/Sisters; any of the Commentaries, any of the volumes of the Abhidhamma, any of the commentaries on the Abhidhamma or any of the commentaries on the commentaries, or any of the vast number of books out there that explain what the Buddha taught (and if you had asked me first whether or not I would recommend reading the non-sutta materials here before the Suttas, I would say read the Suttas first).
You would be better off, if you wish to venture outside the core suttas, to read some other system altogether.[3] This would result in less confusion than reading what some commentator has to say.

 


 

The Four Great References

Here is one of the several passages in which the Buddha describes the proper method for determining the authenticity of his word. This is from Digha Nikaya, #16: Maha Parinibbana Sutta (Rhys David's Translation; from 'Buddhist Suttas'. Chapter 4.) (Here diacriticals, footnotes, etc. have been eliminated):

Now there at Bhoga-nagara the Blessed One stayed at the Ananda Cetiya.

There the Blessed One addressed the brethren, and said:
'I will teach you, O brethren, these
Four Great References.
Listen thereto, and
give good heed, and
I will speak.'

'Even so, Lord!' said the brethren, in assent, to the Blessed One,
and the Blessed One spoke as follows:

'In the first place, brethren, a brother may say thus:
"From the mouth of the Blessed One himself have I heard, from his own mouth have I received it. This is the truth, this the law, this the teaching of the Master."
The word spoken, brethren, by that brother should neither be received with praise nor treated with scorn.
Without praise and without scorn every word and syllable should be carefully understood, and then put beside the scripture and compared with the rules of the order.
If when so compared they do not harmonise with the scripture, and do not fit in with the rules of the order, then you may come to the conclusion,
"Verily, this is not the word of the Blessed One, and has been wrongly grasped by that brother."
Therefore, brethren, you should reject it.
But if they harmonise with the scripture and fit in with the rules of the order, then you may come to the conclusion,
"Verily, this is the word of the Blessed One, and has been well grasped by that brother."
This, brethren, you should receive as the first Great Reference.

'Again, brethren, a brother may say thus:
"In such and such a dwelling-place there is a company of the brethren with their elders and leaders. From the mouth of that company have I heard, face-to-face have I received it. This is the truth, this the law, this the teaching of the Master."
The word spoken, brethren, by that brother should neither be received with praise nor treated with scorn.
Without praise and without scorn every word and syllable should be carefully understood, and then put beside the scripture and compared with the rules of the order.
If when so compared they do not harmonise with the scripture, and do not fit in with the rules of the order, then you may come to the conclusion,
"Verily, this is not the word of the Blessed One, and has been wrongly grasped by that company of the brethren."
Therefore, brethren, you should reject it.
But if they harmonise with the scripture and fit in with the rules of the order, then you may come to the conclusion,
"Verily, this is the word of the Blessed One, and has been well grasped by that company of the brethren."
This, brethren, you should receive as the second Great Reference.

'Again, brethren, a brother may say thus:
"In such and such a dwelling-place there are dwelling many elders of the order, deeply read, holding the faith as handed down by tradition, versed in the truths, versed in the regulations of the order, versed in the summaries of the doctrines and the law. From the mouth of those elders have I heard, from their mouth have I received it. This is the truth, this the law, this the teaching of the Master."
The word spoken, brethren, by that brother should neither be received with praise nor treated with scorn.
Without praise and without scorn every word and syllable should be carefully understood, and then put beside the scripture and compared with the rules of the order.
If when so compared they do not harmonise with the scripture, and do not fit in with the rules of the order, then you may come to the conclusion,
"Verily, this is not the word of the Blessed One, and has been wrongly grasped by those elders."
Therefore, brethren, you should reject it.
But if they harmonise with the scripture and fit in with the rules of the order, then you may come to the conclusion,
"Verily, this is the word of the Blessed One, and has been well grasped by those elders."
This, brethren, you should receive as the third Great Reference.

'Again, brethren, a brother may say,
"In such and such a dwelling-place there is there living a brother, deeply read, holding the faith as handed down by tradition, versed in the truths, versed in the regulations of the order, versed in the summaries of the doctrines and the law. From the mouth of that elder have I heard, from his mouth have I received it. This is the truth, this the law, this the teaching of the Master."
The word spoken, brethren, by that brother should neither be received with praise nor treated with scorn.
Without praise and without scorn every word and syllable should be carefully understood, and then put beside the scripture and compared with the rules of the order.
If when so compared they do not harmonise with the scripture, and do not fit in with the rules of the order, then you may come to the conclusion,
"Verily, this is not the word of the Blessed One, and has been wrongly grasped by that brother."
Therefore, brethren, you should reject it.
But if they harmonise with the scripture and fit in with the rules of the order, then you may come to the conclusion,
"Verily, this is the word of the Blessed One, and has been well grasped by that brother."
This, brethren, you should receive as the fourth Great Reference.'

'These, brethren, are the Four Great References.'

 


 

Other Resources

Don't let the gloves intimidate you; the gloves are off.

BuddhaDust DhammaTalk Archives: Annotated Contents Page

Discussions — Essays — Examinations of Aspects of the Dhamma from a wide variety of sources; serves as a sort of FAQ, Book Review, and Orientation area.

 


 

Indexes to Sutta Resources

 Digha Nikaya   Majjhima Nikaya   Anguttara Nikaya   Samyutta Nikaya

 


 

toolshed

 [Dhamma-Vinaya]  [Naya]  [DhammaTalk Forum]  [BuddhaDust DhammaTalk Forum Archives]  [Exercises]  [One-Liners]  [Posters]  [Appendixes]  [Glossology]  [Indexes]  [Bibliography]  [Gallery]  [Files and Download Links]  [Links]


 

Up for a Challenge?

 


 

[1] Readers will note that much of this course duplicates materials found in 'The Method'. The difference here is that there will be a gradual introduction of Pali terminology, use of footnoting and an increasingly complex interlinking of files. The Method, being intended as an illustration of the manner in which the units of the Dhamma inter-link, will remain largely free of Pali terms and links to materials outside of that section.

[2] See: On Reliance on Authority, note 1 and the reference in that note to Rhys Davids: Buddhist India, Literature II: The Pali Books; Appendix
and see also above, Rhys Davids The Four Great References, which uses the same terminology and makes the same argument.

[3] I have, for a very long time now recommended that the work of Carlos Castaneda be used as just such an outside system. This work has, along with conclusions that are completely different than those reached by Gotama, a huge number of parallels with the Buddha's system, and further is a document of extraordinary clarity of reportage: one sees from this work the first hand experiences of those who would venture into the discovery of the mind.

 


 

References:

An extensive examination by Bhikkhu Thanissaro of the issue of authority and the authenticity of the Dhamma has been posted on Access to Insight:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/authenticity.html