Can anyone recommend to me a book or a treatise about the philosophy in the EBTs?

I hope that I chose the right tag. I ask because although there are many books introducing the philosophy of Buddhism, they tend to be dealing with Mahayana Buddhism as far as I am aware.

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TBH I don’t really know one, someone should write it!


Just my opinion, the BuddhaDhamma written by Bhikkhu P. A. Payutto can be considered a very good treatise about this subject.


There is a current translation project of “la philosophie du Bouddha” to english. I have a friend who is doing the english proofreading.

Mohan W., the author, is famous for his book “Buddhist Monastic Life: According to the Texts of the Theravada


Great. I already have that set of books. Still, i am interested in what other people here say.

Why not “In the Buddha’s Words”?


There are numerous scholarly monographs that focus on specific topics.

For epistemology, there’s KN Jayatilleke, “Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge”.

Gombrich’s “What the Buddha Thought” is a classic which discusses various issues, like Buddha’s view of karma and how Early Buddhism relates to Brahamanism.

Collin’s “Nirvana and other Buddhist felicities” focuses on Nirvana.

And there’s also Peter Harvey’s “The Selfless Mind: Personality, Consciousness and Nirvana in Early Buddhism”



This is a book that we studied with our former French Dhamma group. It’s one of the pieces of the puzzle that brought me where I am now. :smiley:


the-truth-taught-by-all-the-buddhas.pdf (4.7 MB)

I believe this might help you greatly… Straight from’not ordinary venerable monk’.

the-truth-taught-by-all-the-buddhas.pdf (4.7 MB)

I believe this might help you greatly… Straight from’not ordinary venerable monk’…

Regarding the teachings or philosophy in EBTs based on both Pali and Chinese versions, the following books by Dr. Choong Mun-keat may be useful:

The book I recommend and give to everyone is Bhikkhu Bodhi’s In the Buddha’s Words. Each section has a priceless introduction that draws on BB’s lifetime of wisdom.


This book, What the Buddha Taught by Rahula, may be useful:

The work is mainly on the four noble truths based on the Pali texts.

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Early Buddhist Teachings by Y. Karunadasa?

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I have been reading Buddhist Life/Buddhist Path: the foundations of Buddhism based on earliest sources


Bhikkhu Cintita (John Dinsmore)

In it, Bhikkhu Cintita reviews practices from both a lay and monastic persepctive (characterized as life vs. path). Both are available and relevant to both groups, but the lay perspective places Buddhist practices in a context typically considered more accessible to lay practitioners (e.g. merit-making, faith, etc…), while the monastic perspective delves into more and nuanced detail of the eightfold path and so-called higher trainings. All of this deriving from EBT/suttas with no reliance on commentarial and abbhidhamma works.

Not sure how well recieved this work is from more experienced practitioners, but I’ve found it quite good.

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Hi @sean.farrell,

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I feel like we should clarify: are we talking about a general introduction to the teachings in the EBTs? Because there are several good books that have been suggested here for that.

But if we’re talking specifically about philosophy, then there are, so far as I know, only a few specialized studies like Jayatilleke.

A book on early Buddhist philosophy would discuss things like:

  • epistemology, i.e. the theory of knowing
  • ontology, i.e. the theory of being (what does it mean to say that something “is”?)
  • the foundational principles underlying EBT ethics
  • the theory of mind, what it is and how it works
  • the nature of causality

And so on. There is plenty of material in the Suttas on these and related philosophical questions, but a philosophical analysis is different than a summary of teachings. Many of the more general books will touch on philosophical issues, but few will really go into them with any depth. A philosophical analysis would attempt to uncover the systematic or theoretical principles that describe the different diverse statements, and would place that in relation to the history of ancient Indian thought, and possibly modern philosophy as well.

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That is indeed exactly what I was looking for - something along the lines of, for example, Mark Siderits’s new book “How Things Are An Introduction to Buddhist Metaphysics”.

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Yeah, idk. Imma have to push back on that a bit. Who says the Buddha’s teachings aren’t “proper” philosophy? That’s just Eurocentrism

Western philosophical preoccupations are not objective, neutral categories but come (“always, already”) with cultural assumptions and baggage.

If you want to study Buddhist philosophy “As It Is” you need to understand the indigenous categories first and only then engage in second-order projects like metaphysics. If you try to start with secular philosophical categories, you just get e.g. Steven Bachelor.


Yes, I think you make a very good point about the indigenous categories.