Condensed version of the teachings within texts

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Dharmasherab
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Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by Dharmasherab » Wed Nov 15, 2017 8:37 pm

The Pali Canon is voluminous with many Suttas and other types of books within it. For the purpose of memorisation we can appreciate the repetitions and the patterns in which these repetitions occur. There is also the same aspect of the Dhamma explained in different ways in different parts of the canon. However the formidable nature of the Pali Canon could be a barrier for the average lay Buddhist to access the entirety of teachings within this canon.

Has there been an attempt to extract the essence of the Pali Canon (and other texts such as Visuddhimagga) and to consolidate it into a single volume (or few volumes)? Because if such a text is made with a combined effort of monastics and scholars then it would help to bridge the gap between the average lay Buddhist and the useful content within the Pali Canon in my opinion. It could even serve as a stepping stone to make more and more people feel motivated to read the Pali Canon.

So my questions are -

1. Has there been an attempt to extract the essence of the Pali Canon (and other texts such as Visuddhimagga) and to consolidate it into a single volume (or few volumes)?

2. If such an attempt was to be made, then what would be the best course of action to bring this about as well as giving this text an official status within the Theravada community?

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Sam Vara
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Nov 15, 2017 9:05 pm

You might want to try In the Buddha's Words, compiled by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

https://www.amazon.com/Buddhas-Words-An ... 0861714911

It's an anthology which tries to cover a lot of the most important teachings. There are of course lots of explanatory texts which attempt to give readers an interpretive summary of the Dhamma in the authors' own words and concepts, but they are subject to disputes as to whether the author has really understood what s/he is writing about.

With regard to bringing about other "condensed versions", I have no idea how they might be given official status. But the act of producing one would be an extraordinarily difficult and massive act of scholarship and spiritual acumen. Bhikkhu Bodhi would be a very hard act to beat.

paul
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by paul » Wed Nov 15, 2017 10:08 pm

It is correct and elementary to conclude that it is better to study a book by a sutta scholar before going to the suttas themselves. There is an internal unity to the dhamma which is not discernible to the untrained eye and a superficial reading gives a wrong impression, particularly with regard to the difference between the path leading to nibbana and nibbana itself, the former being conditioned and the latter unconditioned. It is the human tendency, unbalanced by excessive ambition (viriya), to focus on the view from nibbana while overlooking the graduated nature of the conditioned path, attempting to clone an awakened view without attending to the method of getting there, thus precluding progress.The Noble Eightfold Path by Bikkhu Bodhi provides a primary grounding in the integration of the factors according to the threefold division of sila, samadhi and panna, which once gained enables a later study of the development of insight.

“The present book aims at contributing towards a proper understanding of the Noble Eightfold Path by investigating its eight factors and their components to determine exactly what they involve. I have attempted to be concise, using as the framework for exposition the Buddha's own words in explanation of the path factors, as found in the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali canon. To assist the reader with limited access to primary sources even in translation, I have tried to confine my selection of quotations as much as possible (but not completely) to those found in Venerable Nyanatiloka's classic anthology, The Word of the Buddha. In some cases passages taken from that work have been slightly modified, to accord with my own preferred renderings. For further amplification of meaning I have sometimes drawn upon the commentaries; especially in my accounts of concentration and wisdom (Chapters VII and VIII) I have relied heavily on the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification), a vast encyclopedic work which systematizes the practice of the path in a detailed and comprehensive manner. Limitations of space prevent an exhaustive treatment of each factor. To compensate for this deficiency I have included a list of recommended readings at the end, which the reader may consult for more detailed explanations of individual path factors. For full commitment to the practice of the path, however, especially in its advanced stages of concentration and insight, it will be extremely helpful to have contact with a properly qualified teacher.”—“The Noble Eightfold Path”, Bikkhu Bodhi.
Last edited by paul on Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:44 am, edited 3 times in total.

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cappuccino
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by cappuccino » Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:31 pm

The teaching in the suttas is already condensed.
Last edited by cappuccino on Thu Nov 16, 2017 7:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.

JohnK
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by JohnK » Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:53 am

Dharmasherab wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 8:37 pm
...It could even serve as a stepping stone to make more and more people feel motivated to read the Pali Canon
The book suggested by Sam Vara did exactly that for me (Bhikkhu Bodhi's In the Buddha's Words).
(Perhaps interesting, it was Stephen Batchelor's work that got me interested in taking the first step to Bodhi's Anthology -- causation is a funny thing.)
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

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mikenz66
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Nov 16, 2017 4:02 am

JohnK wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:53 am
The book suggested by Sam Vara did exactly that for me (Bhikkhu Bodhi's In the Buddha's Words).
It's an excellent book.

See this thread:
In the Buddha's Words - Open Source Version

:heart:
Mike

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Dharmasherab
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by Dharmasherab » Thu Nov 16, 2017 2:39 pm

Thank you for the suggestions. I do haveboth of them and I hope to read them.

In Buddha's Words by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Noble Eightfold Path by Bhikkhu Bodhi

JohnK
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by JohnK » Thu Nov 16, 2017 4:48 pm

Dharmasherab wrote:
Thu Nov 16, 2017 2:39 pm
Thank you for the suggestions. I do haveboth of them and I hope to read them.

In Buddha's Words by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Noble Eightfold Path by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Mentioning those two together makes me think of another one: Thanissaro Bhikkhu's On The Path.
Like the first book, it includes extensive sutta reading, and like the second, it is focused on the path factors.
https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Wri ... n0001.html
[Bodhi's Eightfold is not a sutta anthology.]
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

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bodom
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by bodom » Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:44 pm

Look no further:
The Buddha's Path to Deliverance: A Systematic Exposition in the Words of the Sutta Pitaka (Vipassana Meditation and the Buddha's Teachings)

A classic entry in the Pali canon, this anthology charts the entire course of spiritual development as prescribed in the most ancient Buddhist texts. Drawing upon the Buddha’s own words from Sutta Pitaka, they are arranged in accordance with two overlapping schemes of practice: the threefold training in virtue, concentration, and wisdom, and the seven stages of purification. A lengthy chapter on concentration provides sutta sources for all 40 classical subjects of meditation, while a chapter on wisdom cites texts relating to the development of insight.
It can be read for free here:

https://store.pariyatti.org/Buddhas-Pat ... _2561.html

:namaste:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

paul
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by paul » Thu Nov 16, 2017 8:27 pm

There is a time progression connecting these three books, they were first written in this order: The Buddha's Path to Deliverance 1952, The Noble Eightfold Path 1984, In The Buddha's Words 2005. The first two were written in Sri Lanka and the third soon after returning to the US from Sri Lanka. The importance of the western scholar monks who published from SL over that time period can be compared in influence to the Thai forest tradition from which Thanissaro Bikkhu hails. He has lived in the US longer and his writing style is more difficult to read, being the first to attempt to go beyond theory and come to grips with applying the principles from the suttas to western conditions. 'On The Path' was published in 2017 and reflects the present Theravada era's preference towards jhana, whereas the three earlier books come from the vipassana era. These factors have a major bearing on interpretation in the respective works, stemming from whether right mindfulness is directed more at right effort (vipassana) or at right concentration (jhana). The advantage of 'The Buddha's Path to Deliverance' is that it includes the Seven Stages of Purification, the treatise on the development of insight.

paul
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by paul » Thu Nov 16, 2017 11:04 pm

cappuccino wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:31 pm
The teaching in the suttas is already condensed.
This is because of efficiency to facilitate oral transmission, but it's the very thing that today, leads to misinterpretation.

"Here again, though, there are many disagreements on what the suttas say, largely because very few people have read them carefully and understood their idiom. This is why I have collected this anthology of passages dealing with the factors of the noble eightfold path, drawn from the suttas and Vinaya—disciplinary rules—of the Pāli Canon, so that you can read the Canon’s teachings on these topics for yourself. I have also provided introductions to the readings as an aid in comprehending the idiom in which the suttas are written, so that you can enter into the mindset of the compilers of the suttas and gain an intuitive feel for what they’re getting at."---"On the Path", Thanissaro.

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cappuccino
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by cappuccino » Thu Nov 16, 2017 11:21 pm

because very few people have read them carefully and understood
:shrug:

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DooDoot
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by DooDoot » Fri Nov 17, 2017 1:24 am

Dharmasherab wrote:
Wed Nov 15, 2017 8:37 pm
Has there been an attempt to extract the essence of the Pali Canon...
In Pali, the word 'essence' or 'heartwood' is 'sāra': https://suttacentral.net/define/s%C4%81ra . The 'sara' of the Pali suttas is 'liberation' (vimutti sārā sabbe dhammā). Therefore, when reading the suttas, there are two sorts of teachings (as stated in MN 117), namely, teachings for morality and teachings for liberation/transcendence.

When reading the suttas, this basic principle should be kept in mind, namely, in general, a sutta is either a moral teaching or a transcendent teaching. For example, any sutta that infers 'rebirth' is moral & any sutta that is about non-attachment or 'anatta' is transcendent.

Generally (but not always), moral suttas are addressed to Brahmans & laypeople and transcendent teachings are addressed to the bhikkhus (monks).

Apart from that, the essence (sāra) of the suttas is pretty straightforward, namely, the four noble truths, the three trainings (morality, concentration, insight), impermanence & not-self, non-attachment, non-craving, non-harming, metta.
And what is right view? Right view, I tell you, is of two sorts: (i) There is right view with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions [of becoming]; and (ii) there is right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata — deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness — are being recited. We will lend ear, will set our hearts on knowing them, will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering.' That's how you should train yourselves.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Kosambi in a siṃsapa grove. Then the Blessed One took up a few siṃsapa leaves in his hand and addressed the bhikkhus thus: “What do you think, bhikkhus, which is more numerous: these few siṃsapa leaves that I have taken up in my hand or those in the siṃsapa grove overhead?”

Venerable sir, the siṃsapa leaves that the Blessed One has taken up in his hand are few, but those in the siṃsapa grove overhead are numerous.

So too, bhikkhus, the things I have directly known but have not taught you are numerous, while the things I have taught you are few.

And what, bhikkhus, have I taught? I have taught: ‘This is suffering’; I have taught: ‘This is the origin of suffering’; I have taught: ‘This is the cessation of suffering’; I have taught: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ And why, bhikkhus, have I taught this? Because this is beneficial, relevant to the fundamentals of the holy life, and leads to revulsion, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna. Therefore I have taught this.

https://suttacentral.net/en/sn56.31
Sakka, ruler of gods, went to the Blessed One, and after paying homage to him, he stood at one side and asked: "Venerable sir, how in brief is a bhikkhu liberated in the destruction of craving, one who has reached the ultimate end, the ultimate security from bondage, the ultimate holy life, the ultimate goal, one who is foremost among gods and humans?"

Here, ruler of gods, a bhikkhu has heard that nothing is worth attaching to. When a bhikkhu has heard that nothing is worth attaching to, he directly knows everything; having directly known everything, he fully understands everything...

https://www.dhammatalks.net/Books9/Bhik ... _Sutta.htm

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Dharmasherab
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by Dharmasherab » Sat Nov 18, 2017 9:36 pm

I just want to confirm the reason why I made this original post was about considering what is the best way of presenting Theravada Buddhism to those who are new to it as well as where they can find all the summarised versions of the teachings and whether such an effort was ever made. It was not about asking what I needed even though I am thankful for the suggestions. Just in case anyone misunderstood. As in I dont need to even explain myself here as it is clearly mentioned in the original post that I put up.

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DooDoot
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Re: Condensed version of the teachings within texts

Post by DooDoot » Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:29 pm

Dharmasherab wrote:
Sat Nov 18, 2017 9:36 pm
I just want to confirm the reason why I made this original post was about considering what is the best way of presenting Theravada Buddhism to those who are new to it as well as where they can find all the summarised versions of the teachings and whether such an effort was ever made. It was not about asking what I needed even though I am thankful for the suggestions. Just in case anyone misunderstood. As in I dont need to even explain myself here as it is clearly mentioned in the original post that I put up.
I think a person needs help if they do not know the best way of presenting Theravada Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism is pretty simple, which is why the Buddha often summarised his teachings in a few sentences, such as: "Avoid all evil; Be ready in virtue; Purify the mind".

The Pali suttas say the Dhamma is presented for "those who wish for it and who listen attentively" therefore presenting the Dhamma is based on what the student or the audience wishes for or needs. Theravada Buddhism does not use the methods & urgency of Evangelists & Mahayanists. In Theravada Buddhism, is OK or 'suchness' (tathata) that most beings will not be Buddhists, let alone not be liberated.

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