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Pali Canon

Posted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 11:29 am
by greggorious
For someone new to Theravada where do you think is the best starting place in terms of the Pali cacon? All I know so far is the Dharmapada which I've ordered off the internet.
Also I assume that the Pali canon isn't meant to be Gospel like the Bible? Are you meant to believe and accept all that you read? I'm a natural born sceptic :)

Re: Pali Canon

Posted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 11:39 am
by retrofuturist
Greetings,

The Pali Canon consists of three baskets (aka ti-pitaka).

There's the Sutta Pitaka which contains the Buddha's teachings (of which Dhammapada is a small part)
There's the Vinaya Pitaka which covers the monastic discipline, and finally...
There's the Abhidhamma Pitaka which covers psychological analysis of mindstates, and was ratified at the Third Buddhist Council.

The teachings are to be investigated, and if they seem reasonable, put into practice to see whether they are beneficial.

If/when they are seen to be beneficial, one is inclined to investigate and test them more deeply.

Whilst of course you can't validate the existence or truth of certain milestones before you get there, you can determine whether the application of these teachings (as best as you understand them and are capable and committed to following them) is bringing you happiness, calmness and a reduction in suffering.

If you like what you see in the Dhammapada, I would recommend further investigation of the Sutta Pitaka, either through books, or on sites like Access To Insight where suttas can be read for free.

If you wish to pursue meditation to complement your investigations, there are also many options available in that space too.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Re: Pali Canon

Posted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 11:53 am
by greggorious
Thanks Retro. At the moment I'm in the process of finding the right Theravada tradition for me. I'm going to stay at a Thai Forest centre in a few weeks, though the nearest centre to me is a Sri Lanken one. I've heard that the Thai tradition doesn't concentrate on the pali cannon? Not sure about the Sri Lanken one though. Apologies for my ignorance :D

Re: Pali Canon

Posted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 12:38 pm
by retrofuturist
Greetings,

Regardless of which sub-tradition appeals to you most, all follow the same path - namely the Noble Eightfold Path. They just have slightly different ways of going about it, and slightly different emphases.

Regardless, all of them accept the Sutta Pitaka as the Buddha's teaching - some might just focus more on meditation than study or vice versa, for example. Therefore I wouldn't regard them as being in any way incompatible for the very reason that they each take the Buddha's teachings as their anchor.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Re: Pali Canon

Posted: Wed Oct 05, 2011 1:06 pm
by puppha
Hi greggorious,
greggorious wrote:For someone new to Theravada where do you think is the best starting place in terms of the Pali cacon? All I know so far is the Dharmapada which I've ordered off the internet.
Also I assume that the Pali canon isn't meant to be Gospel like the Bible? Are you meant to believe and accept all that you read? I'm a natural born sceptic :)
Just to build a bit on what retrofuturist posted.

The Vinaya pitaka deals with monastic rules, so that's probably not the best place to start with. An "advanced" lay Buddhist will probably benefit from it though, both for him/herself and to understand how to deal with monks/nuns.

The Abhidhamma is the "Advanced Dhamma" and is very technical, so it makes sense to start with the Sutta pitaka. You can start with the first book: the Digha Nikaya, which fairly accessible and (relatively) entertaining in some places.

The Tipitaka itself is about 11 times the size of the Bible, so that's a lot to go through! :reading: :candle:

In my opinion, it is not to be taken as perfect in any way. My personal opinion is that it is likely that some embellishements have been added, and possibly more. The Digha Nikaya in particular has a number of references to devas, special powers, etc. However, if you look closely, you will see that these are just embellishments; you can remove them and the substance of the text remains unchanged.

The Buddha encouraged followers to put his teachings to the test, in the same way miners would test samples of a vein to check if they indeed found gold or not. It it said that one quality of the Dhamma (the teachings the Buddha unveiled) is that it is "inviting investigation". Just blindly accepting the teachings as truth without investigation is probably not the right way to go.

Hope this help!

With metta

Re: Pali Canon

Posted: Thu Oct 06, 2011 5:50 am
by Jason
greggorious wrote:For someone new to Theravada where do you think is the best starting place in terms of the Pali cacon? All I know so far is the Dharmapada which I've ordered off the internet.
Here's a good place to start.
Also I assume that the Pali canon isn't meant to be Gospel like the Bible? Are you meant to believe and accept all that you read? I'm a natural born sceptic :)
Of course not. The teachings are pragmatic tools to be utilized, not blindly believed. The image the Buddha uses is that of a raft used to cross a river. Some may seem more fanciful than others; but the good news is that you can always take the aspects you find useful and just leave the rest aside.

Re: Pali Canon

Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 5:07 am
by nicholas
greggorious wrote:For someone new to Theravada where do you think is the best starting place in terms of the Pali cacon? All I know so far is the Dharmapada which I've ordered off the internet.
Also I assume that the Pali canon isn't meant to be Gospel like the Bible? Are you meant to believe and accept all that you read? I'm a natural born sceptic :)
accesstoinsight actually has a page devoted to just your question! http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... nding.html

here are some other ideas from my personal experience:

if you have your heart set on picking up a complete volume from the canon i would say the majjhima nikaya. it has a lot of good teachings and is very in depth.

if you mean where to just jump in i would say the anapanasati sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html (mindfulness of breathing), the maha satipatthana sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html(overview of mindfulness techniques and a synopsis of the four noble truths and eightfold path), and the pancavaggi Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html(teaches about the not self characteristic) are good places to start.

if you want a compilation then there are two that are must haves: "the life of the buddha" translated by bhikkhu nanamoli (this presents the suttas that tell the story of the buddhas life in sequential order directly from the pali canon and has a great section on his teachings also directly from the canon) and "in the buddhas words" by bhikkhu bodhi (this is a compilation of important suttas with commentary by bhikkhu bodhi and others.

Re: Pali Canon

Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 12:08 pm
by Zom
For someone new to Theravada where do you think is the best starting place in terms of the Pali cacon? All I know so far is the Dharmapada which I've ordered off the internet.
The best place is Digha Nikaya Part I. There you can find a full description of the Path (for example DN 2) that starts with faith and morality and culminates in final superknowledge. All steps of the path are explained in more details elsewhere in canon.

But generally pali canon is a huge jig-saw puzzle - it will take many years to make it up :reading:

Re: Pali Canon

Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 12:20 pm
by Modus.Ponens
puppha wrote:Hi greggorious,
greggorious wrote:For someone new to Theravada where do you think is the best starting place in terms of the Pali cacon? All I know so far is the Dharmapada which I've ordered off the internet.
Also I assume that the Pali canon isn't meant to be Gospel like the Bible? Are you meant to believe and accept all that you read? I'm a natural born sceptic :)
Just to build a bit on what retrofuturist posted.

The Vinaya pitaka deals with monastic rules, so that's probably not the best place to start with. An "advanced" lay Buddhist will probably benefit from it though, both for him/herself and to understand how to deal with monks/nuns.

The Abhidhamma is the "Advanced Dhamma" and is very technical, so it makes sense to start with the Sutta pitaka. You can start with the first book: the Digha Nikaya, which fairly accessible and (relatively) entertaining in some places.

The Tipitaka itself is about 11 times the size of the Bible, so that's a lot to go through! :reading: :candle:

In my opinion, it is not to be taken as perfect in any way. My personal opinion is that it is likely that some embellishements have been added, and possibly more. The Digha Nikaya in particular has a number of references to devas, special powers, etc. However, if you look closely, you will see that these are just embellishments; you can remove them and the substance of the text remains unchanged.

The Buddha encouraged followers to put his teachings to the test, in the same way miners would test samples of a vein to check if they indeed found gold or not. It it said that one quality of the Dhamma (the teachings the Buddha unveiled) is that it is "inviting investigation". Just blindly accepting the teachings as truth without investigation is probably not the right way to go.

Hope this help!

With metta
The Buddha did teach about devas and psychic powers. It's an intelectualy dishonest position to think otherwise, having read a good amount of suttas. If you are a skeptic, that's fine, but this is the discovering Theravada section, and newcomers should hear the Theravada position, not the skeptic position.

Buddhist skeptics have a need to spread that they do not believe this or that, I don't know why.

Re: Pali Canon

Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 7:15 pm
by BKh
The link below is for a site focused on developing a daily practice of reading the suttas with suggestions on texts to start with, overcoming hindrances to reading, etc.

http://readingfaithfully.org

If you are just beginning I would recommend starting to make a personal anthology as explained in this article.

http://readingfaithfully.org/37-2/

That way if you ever stop a daily reading practice you will still have those suttas close by that have touched you most deeply.

Re: Pali Canon

Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 7:42 pm
by mikenz66
I would start with "In the Buddhas Word" by Bhikkhu Bodhi.
http://www.wisdompubs.org/pages/display ... n=&image=1" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

This has a great selection of Suttas that give a good overview of the Buddhas teachings to a variety of followers.

And the odd Deva... As Retro and Modus.Ponens say, you don't have to take everything literally, but everything is worth looking into.

:anjali:
Mike

Re: Pali Canon

Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 7:51 am
by puppha
Dear Modus.Ponens,
Modus.Ponens wrote:The Buddha did teach about devas and psychic powers. It's an intelectualy dishonest position to think otherwise, having read a good amount of suttas. If you are a skeptic, that's fine, but this is the discovering Theravada section, and newcomers should hear the Theravada position, not the skeptic position.

Buddhist skeptics have a need to spread that they do not believe this or that, I don't know why.
:oops:
That's a very valid point, I ought to make some corrections.

I was actually more referring to parts of the text that can be safely removed without impact on the underlying message. For example, in the Digha Nikaya, in the first sutta if my memory is correct, the Buddha told a proud young brahmin that if he does not anwser a Buddha's question after the third time the question is asked, he will get is head split in 7! Then a yakkha appears, ready to execute the sentence! The young brahmin answers the question and the yakkha disappears. Another example later on in the Digha Nikaya is the case where the Buddha walks up and down in the air to attract the attention of somebody else.

It is indeed correct that the Buddha taught about devas and supernatural powers. My previous post might give the impression I think otherwise, which is not the case. I am sorry for the confusion, I'll be more careful next time.

With metta

Re: Pali Canon

Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 10:40 am
by Modus.Ponens
Thank you for the clarification puppha. :smile:

Re: Pali Canon

Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 10:56 am
by Ben
Moderator note:

Please read the following guidelines for the Discovering Theravada forum prior to responding to this thread:
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Many thanks,

Ben