I’m filled with joy and happiness to see all the wonderful people on this forum providing amazing resources, helpful information, as well as support on the path of new Buddhists. It’s heart-warming, and I’m calmly excited about walking this spiritual path. By way of a quick introduction:
I have always yearned for a spiritual root, and feel that it’s something missing in my life. In the past I’ve studied all kinds of religions, and initially Buddhism interested me but I wasn’t in a point of my life where I had the time or resources to jump in. I do now, and recently immersed myself in self-education:
Watching various YouTube channels, including BWSA, and Dharma/LamRim sessions from my local Buddhist centers.
Study Buddhism which has a huge amount of articles ranging from beginner to advanced.
Recently purchased and started on Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand by Pabonka Rinpoche, and The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh.
While I have learnt a lot, there is a lot of material out there and various directions about how to get started! An overwhelming amount really. And so, onto the question(s):
What is the best way for a beginner to start precisely?
Should I focus on LamRim exclusively? Or incorporate only pieces of that, along with other studies?
Am I better off reading Buddhist Life, Buddhist Path and coupling that with the lectures found here?
How much meditation should I do, along with all this learning?
I apologize for the amount of questions, I’m sure many of you see these questions a lot. I’m also very grateful in advance for any help that I’m able to receive here.
Welcome to the Sutta Central Forum, dravage, and thank you for introducing yourself so beautifully. I hope you continue to find much to interest you here. If you have any difficulties just ask. You can ask anywhere, but there is @helpdesk-dd for technical help, and @moderators for difficult difficulties.
Regarding LamRim, that is a practice of Tibetan Buddhism while this site concentrates on the Early Buddhists Texts and is interested in Theravadan Buddhism, which developed mainly in Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand. But others are sure to comment further.
In the Buddha’s own words, " “Monks, this is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of dukkha and discontent, for acquiring the true method, for the realization of Nibbãna, namely, the four satipatthãnas.”—-Satipatthana sutta, Majhima Nikaya 10 (MN 10)
Here the Buddha is referring to the four foundations of mindfulness as explained in the Satipatthana sutta of the Pali Canon. Except for BSWA, some of the other teachings mentioned do not come from the Pali Canon, but from historically later doctrines. To follow the Buddha’s recommendation, one should begin to study the Satipatthana sutta as elucidated by a modern commentator such as Analayo, found here and use that as a basis:
Well, obviously that’s my recommendation Along with any of the other courses or material on the site. The only thing I’ll add is to start (or continue) your meditation practice while studying, preferably with a group and/or teacher if that’s possible.
Thanks for pointing this site out. I’ve never heard of it before
No worries. If you have any more, you know where to find us Welcome to SC!
One cannot meditate without having a direction, and that is provided in the Anapanasati sutta, Majhima Nikaya 118, which describes the steps in mindfulness of the breath and body, and applies them to the Satipatthana sutta.
In the introduction to the Anapanasati sutta, the Buddha lists the breath as the foundation subject for the other practices.
After giving this a read, I realize how challenging it can be to digest, with a good deal of repetition (“Sangha of bhikkhus”) and a lot of work needed to really pick out the intentions of the passage. Is that quite typical with these translations, and a fair bit of analysis is usually required to understand the full meaning, either by oneself or with a teacher perhaps? I am a little daunted by how archaic it can sound at times, and how challenging it might be to put some of this into practice.
You are quite right. There is a ton of material to read and understand. Unless you are careful it is easily possible to get bogged down.
As you you might have already noticed in this site, there are three main sections ie; Sutta, Vinaya and Abhidhamma.
You will be better off starting with the Suttas. May be start with the middle length discourses (Majjhima Nikaya). Read as many translations as possible because translators try to impose their own understanding of the Buddha’s teaching into their translations. But when you read a lot of translations over a long period of time you will get a sense of the Buddha’s message. Learning Pali will be immensely helpful.
Finally never give up.
Good luck in the path ahead.
Go over it like 5 times. Then repeat the doctrine chapter until you understand enough. Then concentrate a few days for meditation. Like 1 week. Self experience directly what is said by Buddha in the doctrine Chapter. In truth that book has all you need to start.
Have patience, what you are attempting amounts to a change of culture, so it is not easy or quick. “With a teacher”= The translations differ according to the modern author. For example “sangha of bikkhus” in the Anapanasati sutta is translated as “this community of monks” in the Access to Insight translation here:
You will discover which translation suits and stick to that. That author, who also has books and videos then becomes your online teacher, assisted by questions here.
I recommended the Anapanasati sutta followed by the Satipatthana and that is the simplest way anyone can start. Analayo also has a recently published book on Anapanasati but it is not available online yet.
In meditation you would only be expected to grapple with the first tetrad (four steps) of the Anapanasati sutta:
"  Breathing in long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in long’; or breathing out long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out long.’  Or breathing in short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in short’; or breathing out short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out short.’  He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.’  He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.’
“Understand the full meaning”= The Buddha’s instructions are similar to any learning process. Steps 1&2 are familiarization. Step 3 involves some effort in developing awareness of the breath’s influence throughout the body. Step 4 then calms at the end of the exercise.
My recommendation for those I study with, and those I talk about the dhamma with…consider evaluating the ethics, and the way in which one leads their life prior to contemplating or beginning meditation. Learning about and coming to terms with establishing right view is essential prior to going to deep. To my knowledge there is no sutta giving one a quota on how much they must meditate either. As @Khemarato.bhikkhu mentioned, gradual introduction is the way to go. But as I say a lot… what do I know? Ha!
There is also this wonderful introduction to the Pali Nikkayas (Early Buddhist Texts) by Bhante Sujato. It is a wonderful clear outline of the structure of what the Buddha said. Well worth investigating. It’s like a road map.
Buddhism is vast, pluralistic and diverse, with many different schools and methods. I would suggest getting a sense of the big picture first, an overview.
“The Tree of Enlightenment” is a good general introduction, it’s available as a PDF on the Buddhanet site. Most people settle on one school, since a mix and match approach can be quite confusing.
Meanwhile maintain a daily practice, and spend some time with other Buddhists if you can. Lam Rim is fine, though as a beginner you might be better just doing some simple breathing meditation.
There is no rush, just spend some time exploring, and see what you really connect with.