Excerpt from Buddha’s Lists, chap. 1
See home page for the link to the complete book.
“Science without religion is lame;
Religion without science is blind.”
“Do not believe in something because it is
reported. Do not believe in something because it has been practiced by
generations or becomes a tradition or part of a culture. Do not believe in
something because a scripture says it is so. Do not believe in something
believing a god has inspired it. Do not believe in something a teacher tells
you to. Do not believe in something because the authorities say it is so. Do
not believe in hearsay, rumor, speculative opinion, public opinion, or mere
acceptance to logic and inference alone. Help yourself, accept as completely true
only that which is praised by the wise and which you test for yourself and know to
be good for yourself and others.”
The Buddha, The Kalama Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya, Sutta Pitaka
Introduction; The Nine Ways not to accept something as true
The famous and very revolutionary quote on the previous page is from the
Buddha and summarizes much of his teachings. No longer were people to rely
on the words of authorities, scriptures, or even gurus or teachers. All
power was given to the individual in finding his or her way to salvation.
Even the Buddha shunned away all forms of extreme glorification or worship
of himself. The Buddha never claimed to be a god or anything other than
human and his revolutionary teachings are becoming increasingly popular in
the modern age. The statement above by the Buddha clearly puts the Buddha’s
teachings in line with that of a type of scientific analysis. Based on
personal experience and observation and nothing else, is seen as the
foundation for accepting anything as true or worth practicing.
The Buddhist scriptures of the Pali Canon consist of three sections or
baskets; the Suttas, which are the Discourses; the Vinaya, which is the
rules of the monks and nuns; and the Abhidhamma, the higher doctrine of the
philosophy and psychology of the teachings written only in Ultimate Truth
language of analysis. The complete Pali Canon is roughly about 20,000 pages
long. Setting aside the stories and the biographical / historical
information in the scriptures and you are virtually left with only a whole
pile of lists from the Buddha and long explanations about the lists. The
Buddha was like a scientist observing reality and Ultimate Truth from the
deepest levels of Insight and enlightenment of this mind-body. The lists are
the break-down of the doctrines, concepts, reality, and the mind-body.
Thus, we find all of the Buddha’s teachings and a summary of the 20,000
pages of scriptures in the lists. The most important lists are discussed in
detail in the chapters that follow. After further study of these concepts
from books, scriptures, and practice, these lists can then be a reference
for recalling the major concepts and doctrines of Buddha-Dharma. It can be
used as a reference for teachers and students. Not all of the Buddha’s lists
could be included here, there are simply too many. The Buddha literally had
hundreds of lists. Included here are only the most important ones, but still
providing a good summary of all three baskets of scriptures.
Many philosophical and religious traditions require a self-realization of
truth, not a mere blind-faith acceptance of a scripture. The Buddha’s Middle
Way (or Path) is one such philosophy, which requires practice through
meditation to reach the ultimate truths. However, to decide on taking a
path, any path, one must choose based on logic and reason. The ultimate
enlightenment may be through an experiential event, but the process requires
a conscious decision based on logic and reason.
That is, a person may obtain enlightenment (seeing into the nature of all
things, a right understanding of the ultimate truths) through meditational
practice, however, the decision to search or meditate requires some
foundation in reasoning and logic as to which course of action to take.
The Buddha’s teachings are highly scientific and compatible to the findings
of modern science. This statement does not mean that we all need to put on
white laboratory coats and perform experiments. The term science is used
here to refer to logic, personal observation, and scientific method. In the
scientific method a hypothesis is created, which is an educated guess of
some outcome you might expect. This becomes the theory which is to be
tested. Some type of experiment may be performed or survey and then the
research is concluded with a discussion of the results and the conclusion.
Scientific method is not just used by members of the hard core natural
sciences, but also in the social science fields such as sociology and in
nearly all other fields, including journalism. The crux of scientific method
is actual observation of facts and testing of the theories.
This scientific method is used in spiritual traditions such as Buddhism with
its use of an experiential event of meditation. The practitioner engages in
various techniques to delve into the mind and experience reality and obtain
wisdom. Just like the Buddha did with his many lists, a scientist breaks
down his subject into parts, even to the smallest parts, visible only by a
microscope. The Buddha’s lists go to this extent too, analyzing every
thought moment and mental formation.
There were many forms of meditation practice in place even during the
Buddha’s time, but the Buddha was the founder of vipassana. Vipassana means
insight meditation and when done correctly leads to the inner calm found in
other meditation practices and also to insight or wisdom.
This book contains information that will hopefully be helpful to the
beginner in showing the logic and science of this way of life, thereby
encouraging one to proceed with this practice. This book will also be
helpful to the more intermediate and advanced practitioners by encouraging
the continuation of their practice and also I have included some information
that has not been compiled or presented in other dharma books. This includes
chapters on the many lists of The Buddha, focusing on the 28 most important
lists. A total of 28 lists are discussed in detail in the 20 chapters. There
is also a chapter which presents some of the other lists which are not
discussed in detail. The lists in this book summarize the entire Pali
(Theravada Buddhist) scriptures. Also included here is a chapter on the Ten
Hindrances to Enlightenment, which is rarely talked about, but in my
opinion, perhaps the most important thing to talk about in a dharma book.
The ten hindrances to enlightenment is a subject fitting for analysis by all
levels of practitioners from all, any, or no religions.
There is a chapter on tolerance which includes the new and never done before
translation of key verses from the Bible from the original biblical Hebrew
to English. This corrected translation is not a new interpretation of the
Bible, but simply a corrected translation of key verses. These verses are
translated to the correct words, not to disprove the Bible, but on the
contrary to show the Bible’s valuable information to shed more information
on the nature of divinity in the Bible and how it relates to the Buddha’s
There is a chapter on the Seven Factors of Enlightenment and a step-by-step
guide to Awakening. Again, this is unique to this dharma book as I have not
seen any other dharma book delve into an attempt to finally lay out the
step-by-step procedure to full enlightenment.
The knowledge and use of the lists in personal practice is designed to
assist all in reaching full Awakening. It is the hope that this will be a
useful reference in your practice. The lists can be referred back to over
and over again so that your knowledge will be like second-nature. A complete
memorization of the 28 most important lists is not necessary, just the
general knowledge of the material so that you can apply the information to
your daily practice.
Vipassana (Insight) meditation and the eightfold middle path represent the
art of living. It is a technique, philosophy, and teaching that is traced
back to the Buddha. The Buddha did not teach a sectarian religion, only
dharma (dhamma in Pali, meaning Truth or Law) which is the way to
liberation, to the end of suffering. The teachings are universal and
applicable to all religions and people from all backgrounds and religions.
People who practice vipassana include Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims,
Hindus, agnostics, and atheists. It is a universal teaching which is beyond
petty cultural rituals, blind-faith, and intolerance.
All world religions have in them a mystical side which includes common
doctrines and practices, including karma and re-birth, the one-ness of the
universe, some form of meditation for self-realization, and a concept of God
that is impersonal, such as a Universal Consciousness in which enlightened
souls unite with upon their passing from this life. In Judaism the mystical
tradition is the Kabbalists; in Christianity, the Gnostics; in Islam, the
Sufis. Most mystical traditions practice some type of meditation, typically
for union with God or for relaxation. Vipassana leads to the inner calm of
relaxation and also to the insight or wisdom of reality.
Current teachers and leaders of vipassana in America include everyone from
brain surgeons to college professors to monks and nuns to lawyers to auto
mechanics. It is a teaching that rejects all forms of discrimination be it
race, sex, religion, economic status, national origin, or handicap. The
Buddha was the first person in known history to condemn slavery, racism, and
the caste system of ancient India. He was the first person in known history
to try to abolish slavery. (Narada, 1992)
The teachings are completely experiential. One must find their beneficial
value by himself / herself through the practice of Insight meditation.
Nothing needs to be accepted by faith alone.
The truth will become realized through the practice and not by the sermon or
preaching of some individual. The answers to life and the end to suffering
are found by yourself as your own teacher and discoverer. As the Buddha
stated, everything can be found within your own mind-body. This is achieved
through the practice of Insight meditation.
The Buddha was born a prince of the Shakya province in ancient India on the
Full Moon day of May 563 B.C. (Mahayana school typically uses April 8 for
the birthday celebration). He lived over 500 years before the birth of Jesus
Christ. He gave up his kingdom and claim to the throne in search of
philosophical Truth. He tried all of the ascetic, extremist practices and
reached high levels of tranquility and trance, but no ultimate liberation.
Finally after six years of struggle in the forests of India including
practices such as extreme fasting to the point of near death, he discovered
that the middle way was best. By avoiding the extremes he attained
enlightenment with full wisdom into the answers of birth, death, suffering,
and the end to suffering. Enlightenment came to him at the age of 35 in the
year 528 B.C. He taught to all for 45 years until his death at the age of 80
in the year 483 B.C.
Modern historians have uncovered information, which states that he may not
have been the son of a king, but rather the son of an elected official.
Whichever the case may be, his father being an elected leader or king, he
clearly was of a privileged birth due to the evidence of life in palaces
with many servants. He was born into a high (warrior) caste, but rejected
these hereditary rights and power for the pursuit to the answers that will
lead to the end of suffering.
Archaeological evidence has confirmed the life of the Buddha who was born in
Lumbini, in present day Nepal. The famous King Ashoka of India erected many
stone pillars and edicts praising the Buddha and marking his sites. Buddhist
writings on locations, culture, and cities have been confirmed in the
physical archaeological record.
The information we have about the Buddha and his teachings, like most
religions also come from scriptures. The Theravada-Pali scriptures are about
20,000 pages in length. Other schools of Buddhism, such as the Mahayana and
Vajrayana (Tibetan) have additional scriptures, but not as long or detailed
as the Pali. In general, the other schools of Buddhism accept all or nearly
all of the Theravada scriptures and simply have added other writings to be
inclusive with them. The Theravada scriptures are written in Pali, which is
by historical records either the language of the Buddha or the closest
written language to the Buddha’s dialect. The Mahayana scriptures are in
Sanskrit that is further removed from the Buddha’s language, but a close
relative in linguistic form. Like other religions the Buddha’s teachings
remained oral for 150 to 300 years before being written down into
scriptures. The same is true in regard to the scriptures of Christianity,
Judaism, Islam, Taoism, etc. The story we hear in the Buddhist scriptures is
that the oral tradition (up until the time it was written) was maintained by
enlightened monks who because of their full-enlightenment had the same
insights as the Buddha and thus, the words and teachings were the same, with
no deviation from truth or the Buddha.
The authenticity of religious scriptures strikes great debates and
controversy in every religion. The difference, however, with the Buddha’s
teachings is that there is no blind-faith. As we have seen in the Buddha’s
quote at the beginning of this chapter, the authenticity is not quite so
important in Buddhism. This is because the Buddha’s teachings are a come and
see approach. The Buddha advises us, perhaps even commands us to see for
yourself if the teachings make sense, are scientific, are and agreeable to
what is correct and good. Thus, the literal word of each verse has little
meaning or purpose in the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha explains his
philosophy, but in the end it is up to us to discover the truth on our own.
The Mustard Seed
There are many legends about the Buddha. Some of these include multiplying
food, walking on water, and a later story that he was conceived by
immaculate conception. Such legends about great religious leaders are
common. However, the Buddha never claimed to be anything other than a man.
All Buddhist schools and historians agree on that point.
There are many stories and incidents in the Buddha’s life that portray his
wisdom, but just one is presented in this section as it particularly wakes
us to the realities of life. This is the story of the mustard seed that
demonstrates the wisdom and logic of the Buddha’s teachings.
A woman named Gotami came to the Buddha crying that her son had died and she
wanted the Buddha to bring her son back to life. The Buddha told her to find
some mustard seed from a family that has never experienced a death in their
household. Gotami was excited and went all over looking for mustard seed.
She found mustard seed in every household she visited but could not find a
household that had not experienced a death in the family. Finally she
realized what the Buddha was teaching her and she asked for more
instruction. The Buddha was teaching her that death is unavoidable and he
also taught her compassion. Gotami had discovered that death is unavoidable
and also that everyone grieves from this loss of loved ones, thus she
developed compassion. No one escapes this suffering from mourning. If there
was a personal-God who freely brings people back to life, such as the
raising of Lazarus in the New Testament, the logical question is, why did
God allow him to die in the first place? It does not make logical sense and
is not fitting with everyday life where death is common and guaranteed. This
should not be taken as a criticism of Jesus; no it is a question raised to
the authenticity of the legend created by the Greek writers of the New
Testament. The Buddha never claimed to be the only Buddha or enlightened
one. He stated that there were several before him who existed in
pre-historical times and that there will be many, many more. Jesus could
very well be an enlightened one too (see below, the chapter on Buddha and
Tolerance: The 84,000 Dharma Doors).
The Four Noble Truths and the
Eightfold Middle Path
The Buddha’s teachings are primarily centralized in the Four Noble Truths
and the Eightfold Middle Path. This is outlined in the next two chapters.
The first part of the Path is Right Understanding. Right Understanding is
the focus of this book because it is where a practitioner starts and ends.
Right Understanding begins with faith, then knowledge, then experience, and
then wisdom. To begin on the Buddha’s Middle Path one first needs some faith
or some level of understanding that this is something worth pursuing. After
that one proceeds on the Path, following and practicing the other components
of the Eightfold Middle Path. As one proceeds, one learns the Buddha’s
doctrines and concepts. After that one continues with the concentration and
mindfulness exercises of meditation, which results in first-hand experience,
and then finally to the wisdom which enlightenment experiences provide.
Thus, the following summarizes the role of Right Understanding to the
Eightfold Middle Path of the Buddha:
Faith in the teachings, that it is something worth pursuing.
Knowledge of the teachings and their compatibility to logic and science.
Experience of the teaching through meditation techniques.
Wisdom through enlightenment experiences.
The Eightfold Middle Path is a cyclical process where one starts with Right
Understanding and finishes with Right Understanding. During the whole
process or Path, the other components are just as important and practiced
and experienced simultaneously. On the cover of this book is a circular
representation of the Eightfold Middle Path.
The four parts of Right Understanding are very much related to the four
evolutionary stages of religion, discussed by Bhante Punnaji in the
Foreword. You start with a faith in the teachings, which is similar to the
devotion stage in the evolution of religion. The second stage of religion is
discipline, which is similar to the knowledge you get in the second part of
Right Understanding. The third stage of religion is tranquility, which is
achieved through the experience of meditation techniques, the third part of
Right Understanding. The final stage in religion and Right Understanding is
wisdom and understanding from enlightenment experiences.
The organization of this book is to the four parts of Right Understanding.
This is done by looking at the most important lists of the Buddha. The
beginning chapters demonstrate the amazing wisdom of Buddha, discussing his
accomplishments and how his teaching became the forerunners of many modern
scientific discoveries. The amazing things that the Buddha knew more than
2,500 years ago, before science discovered the same facts gives us faith in
the wisdom of Buddha before we ourselves have experienced any sort of
Subsequent chapters demonstrate the logic and science of the Buddha’s
teachings. This encourages us on the Path and to continue the practice. Some
final chapters deal with the techniques of meditation that will allow us to
experience the Buddha’s truth.
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