phil wrote:Hi all
Interesting question! I'd say the most fundamental principles are simpler. Avoiding evil, do good, purify the mind. And I'd reduce that to avoiding harming others, to begin with, i.e harmlessness. It seems from evidence in the suttas that the Buddha didn't teach the deep topics such as causality or even the four noble truths until he knew that the listener's mind was ready to receive them.
I think there is an MN sutta that lists 60(?) pairs of attributes that one should develop or abandon, and it starts with harmlessness. "Others will be harmful, we here will be harmless" or something like that. In his talk on that sutta, Bhikkhu Bodhi said that harmlessness is considered to be the fundamental starting point, if I recall correctly.
Hi again. A clarification. It's MN 8, the Salekkha Sutta. The line is "Others will be cruel, we shall not be cruel here" and the BB note says "non-cruelty (avihimsaa) which is a synonym for compassion, is mentionned at the beginning because it is the root of all virtues, especially the root-cause of morality."
Seeing that the training begins with morality (sila), I would say that avihimsaa (I prefer "harmlessness" to "non-cruelty," personally) is the fundamental teaching. But I guess that depends what one means by fundamental! Obviously the previous posters are getting into the higher/deeper truths.