Corruption of the dhamma

Corruption of the dhamma

The Buddha was chiefly interested in the ending of dukkha.

After he passed away the focus has very unfortunately changed due, I believe, to influences from other ascetic traditions. After years of study of the suttas, reading many books and essays and my personal practice and realisation, I came to the conclusion that the original dhamma of the Buddha has been corrupted in at least six main aspects, as follows:

  1. The 1st corruption was the introduction of the four samāpattis above the four jhānas. These four attainments are the attainments that the future Buddha learned from his two teachers. He quickly became very good at them and each teacher in turn wanted him to teach with them but the future Buddha said: “No, that’s not good enough. This does not remove my dukkha.” So he moved on. He moved on once, he moved on twice. In the end, he abandoned these samāpattis. I now have a question. What could be the reason to re-insert into the dhamma the samāpattis that he rejected before becoming the Buddha? The difference was for him that after having tried these attainments he tried very ascetic practices he came to realise, that this is a waste of time as this is not removing my dukkha. Then he remembered, what for me was his stream-entry moment when he had his first jhāna. I consider this as the stream-entry event of the future Buddha because at that moment he removes doubt about the path to awakening. From there he went into a totally new and different path than everybody else. Why will he reintroduce later on these practices that he had rejected before, for not being good enough for realising nibbāna? There are a certain number of suttas where you find this four samāpattis as a progression after the four jhānas. But most importantly they are not found in very important suttas such as DN 2 where the Buddha talks to a King about the benefits of the spiritual life. This would have been the perfect place for reinforcing that, yes, after the four jhānas you have to do the four samāpattis and eventually the cessation of perception and feelings (nirodha), but no, he didn’t! There are many suttas that talk about jhāna, several hundreds of them where there is no mention of the samāpattis and of nirodha. My interpretation of this situation is that a certain number of suttas were given to some monks or nuns for them to memorise and pass on from generation to generation and in some cases, these people came from the Hindu tradition, they were already trained in these samāpattis and decided to put them into the suttas of the Buddha. And where to put them if not after the jhānas? If you study these suttas you realise that there was no other place to put them. This has caused a huge misunderstanding in some Theravada circles which is that jhāna must be a concentration activity in preparation for more concentration activities, the samāpattis. Today we found this discrepancy between these suttas, not that many by the way, and the other suttas that present the jhāna on their own without anything after. Finally, and this is the main thing, the samāpattis and the nirodha are not in the Eight-fold-path, there are not in the 7 factors of awakening, and they are not in the 37 wings of awakening as listed in the mahāvagga section of the Samyutta Nikāya, while the four jhānas are part of the 8FP and of the 7 factors of awakening, are the samādhi components. All scholars, including monks and nuns, agree that nobody knows what these states are for. So if we don’t know what they are for, let’s apply the Kalama sutta approach, which is: is it useful? Is it going to produce the goods? Am I going to realise nibbāna with these things? If you are not convinced then don’t practice them. Luckily I didn’t go into any of these practices. In the end, I didn’t need them and I’m quite happy not having wasted my time trying these practices. The samāpattis are concentrative states. The result of inserting them in some suttas after the jhānas caused people to believe that the jhānas are also concentrative activities. This causes major confusion for people who thought then that jhānas are the result of concentrative practice, while jhānas occur naturally as a result of having abandoned the five hindrances. This is a major corruption as now people focus on meditation instead of focusing in abandoning the causes of dukkha.
  2. For the Mahayana tradition that develops starting four hundred years after the Buddha, becoming an arahant is not the goal. The goal is to develop bodhicitta wanting to become a Buddha. But the term Buddha is just an honorific one applied to the one who has re-discover the path to the ending of dukkha. When the ending of the causes of dukkha happens to anyone they will become exactly the same as the Buddha said he was: i.e. an arahant. An arahant is not a perfect person. There is no concept of perfection in the dhamma. Instead, an arahant is a worthy person: worthy to themselves first, then to others as having stopped projecting their ego (cravings, fears & aversions) to the world their attitude is not driven by any desire for gain for themselves. The new goal of bodhicitta is the second major corruption of the dhamma.
  3. Lay people cannot become free from dukkha. You have to be a monastic. A variant is: if you become free as a lay person then you have to become as soon as possible a monastic otherwise you’ll die. There is no sutta that says that two things. Instead, the Buddha wanted to make sure before he passed away that the dhamma was well established in the four communities of male and female monastics and lay. For me, that means that you should find “Noble persons”, stream-enterers and arahants in all four communities. In the Therigāthā (collection of nun’s testimonies) there are three nuns that claim they became nuns after having reached their goal as lay persons.
  4. Another corruption from all Buddhist traditions is the emphasis on “insight” or “knowledge”. This corruption may have originated from the fact that the chief cause of dukkha is “ignorance” or “delusion”. So it seems logical that insight and knowledge would dispel ignorance and delusion. Unfortunately, this is not true. Yes, we need an initial acknowledgment of being deluded about something in order to commit to transforming ourselves. Knowledge does not remove the effects (i.e. the cravings) of ignorance and delusion. We need to abandon the effects of a delusion in order to eventually abandon completely the delusion. For example, we may come to realise that anger is not a useful answer to unpleasant situations. Having realised this, does it remove anger from our psyche? Unfortunately not! We need to go thru the process explained in the Transforming Emotions course where we 1st make peace with the past (events and associated people), then we repeatedly stop our anger reaction until the new habit of just staying present with the unpleasantness of the situation without reaction. The emphasis on insight (renamed vipassanā by some traditions) is another major corruption of the dhamma. It was developed again due to the lack of success of “doing” jhānas which is not doable but the result of abandoning the five hindrances. the vipassanā movement is something relatively recent in the Buddhist world. As far as I know, it started at the end of the 19 century in Burma. From there it spread around the world and became a popular movement that we are still living through at the moment. When you look at the suttas, vipassanā is not described as a practice. It is a quality that needs to be developed. If you look at the number of suttas where the word vipassanā appears, compare to the number of suttas where the words samatha, jhāna, and samādhi appear, you will see that the word vipassanā appears very rarely and it’s almost all the time associated with samatha or samādhi. For me, samatha and vipassanā are the two sides of the same coin. It is a set of qualities, samatha is peacefulness, tranquillity of body and mind and vipassanā is the insight as a result of that. You don’t ‘do’ vipassanā, you don’t ‘do’ samatha. Again once you have done a good job at abandoning greed, hatred and delusion then naturally you experience samatha and then because your mind is in peace and tranquil you have true insights coming into you without again having to do anything.
  5. Doing jhānas. Several Theravada teachers are presenting methods for doing jhānas. They are based on the assumption that jhānas are highly concentrated states of mind. Some even teach that the body is gone while in jhānas. As result, there is controversy about what one experiences while in jhānas. Several suttas present clearly the qualities one experiences in each of the 4 jhānas. Some qualities are mental (I.e pīti (joy), equanimity), and others are physical (I.e. the various sukha-pleasure). But these teachers are saying that sukha is not physical so for them, jhāna is purely a mental experience. This does not go well with the suttas that talk about the three types of pleasure: of the 5 senses, of jhānas and of having realised nibbāna.
  6. How to use the 8FP to abandon the causes of dukkha? The knowledge has been lost soon after the Buddha was gone. This is due to the fact that in the suttas we found what needs to be achieved and the tools to be used but not the “recipe” for how to use the tools and when. As result, associated with the new emphasis on “insight” or “knowledge” the 8FP, in particular the 1st component, “view”, has lost its potency. Developing the “right view” is simply seen as “right understanding” in particular regarding the Four Truths. This is a very narrow, limited use of “view” and this will not remove the causes of dukkha. Instead, we have to develop a “complete view” for each component of our specific list of cravings, fears and aversions that would allow us to then put in place the “right intention” to abandon them.
  7. As a result of introducing the samapattis into the Path there were additional corruptions: the introduction of additional 5 fetters and of two stages between stream-entry and arahants. All these additions are just inserted here and there without any details. If one compares the treatment of the jhanas, the 5 fetters, stream-entry, arahanship in the suttas we found many suttas describing them in quite good detail, instead there are no suttas describing in detail the samapattis qualities and the additional stages of once-returner and non-returner.

Good post, I agree with several conclusions that you’ve arrived at. The suttas do make clear that the formless “jhanas” (ayatanas) are optional.

It’s less clear in the suttas, but it is true that vipassana and samatha are not things you do but things that happen as a result of following the proper practice, mainly suppressing the 5 hindrances, and once done, seeing that 5 aggregates are anicca, dukkha, anatta.

From that point on then you would see the light nimitta, which is a result of purifying knowledge (nanadassana) according to the suttas, rather than traditonal theravada stating it’s a nimitta for jhanas. In the suttas the Buddha states after balancing the mind via jhanas, he started to see light, then he saw form, then he saw devas, then he started talking to devas, then he asked them about their rebirth which led to him developing an understanding of kamma. (AN 8.64)

In general, there’s a lot of conflicting information between different sources of texts like the Vissuddhimagga vs the suttas. It’s up to people to carefully study the suttas to discern the difference, and not simply rely on mainstream teachings like light being a nimitta that you need to focus on to enter jhanas.


I initially fell for this rhetorical trick, like most people. It is amazing how it has worked so well for 2,000 years and still is now.

Basically it appeals to people’s conceit

I will be a Buddha! Not just a lowly arahant!

This is exactly what I was told when I took an introductory class to Tibetan Buddhism

What about anapanassati?

This practice is highly recommended by the Buddha (SN 54.11), explained in detail, even when to practice it: after one’s meal (SN 54.8, one of the most important suttas), and it leads to those esoteric and seemingly elusive jhanas:

Now, a mendicant might wish: ‘May neither my body nor my eyes became fatigued. And may my mind be freed from grasping without defilements.’ So let them closely focus on this immersion due to mindfulness of breathing.

Now, a mendicant might wish: ‘May I give up memories and thoughts of the lay life … may I enter and remain in the first… second… third… fourth absorption…

To me the reason why people got confused about what jhana is is because their predecessors neglected practicing them so they had no one to tell them there was no mystery: just follow SN 54.8 and you’ll get there. I assume in the course of history some individuals must have gotten it.

From “The Life of Nyanatiloka Thera The Biography of a Western Buddhist Pioneer” p.11:


Large institutions, especially those endorsed by the state (think Emperor Ashoka) eventually have their own agendas. Converts often bring their own baggage as well.

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I feel it is not beneficial to talk about corruption of Dhamma because we will never ever really know.

Oke, now then you can assume EBT is the real Dhamma, or you assume that parts of EBT are the real Dhamma or the Pali Canon as w whole is real Dhamma or Abhidhamma is the real higher dhamma…pffff…whatever.

I believe such ideas about corruption and also what is pure Dhamma only feed bad unwholesome qualities.

Buddha did study his mind. And what do his pupils? They are always, day in day out, fighting with eachother what is true Dhamma, pure Dhamma, what-the-Buddha-really taught, absolute Dhamma, universal Dhamma, light of Dhamma…
“In this and that text it said this and that”…using texts as weapens in battle. Trying to convince others and especially oneself. am fed up with it. I am gonna stop.

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I see no way around it. The canon, as we have it, is several canons. Its like a bag with puzzle pieces from many puzzles. If we put together puzzle pieces that actually fit together and are of the same thickness, material, etc… and produce a coherent whole, we almost certainly have a canon. It may be one of many in the bag, but we can at least make sense of it and evaluate it for whether or not we want to organize our lives around it. The alternative is going on in a state of profound cognitive dissonance, kidding ourselves that what is in the bag is a coherent whole produced by one person.

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There are many indications that the Buddha wanted his disciples to admonish those who would hold views that are contrary to Dhamma and Vinaya. So your idiosyncrasy is that you may not like it, but that doesn’t make it a worthless conversation at all. Judging by what came down to us in the suttas and the vinaya, the Buddha would have wanted us to discuss what is the true Dhamma and what isn’t


The term, vipassana ‘insight’, is a noun form. It combines two elements, vi and the verbal form, passati, in the sense that ‘seeing completely and perfectly’, phenomena as they really are. For the practical meaning of vipassana, you need to look at the verbal form, passati, in the suttas (particularly in SN/SA suttas). Note: passati is always come together with another verb, jaanaati.

Thus, samatha and vipassana are not the same practice.

Page 34 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (69.3 KB)
Page 53 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (87.8 KB)

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It seems MN 140 has a good discussion about this matter, namely, why to not continue samadhi development into the immaterial spheres. In short, it seems the four immaterial spheres are excessive thus unnecessary. Yet, imo, they do represent a continuation of samadhi development. Keep in mind a stock phrase in the suttas about the departure from samadhi development is: "When my mind had become immersed in samādhi like this—purified, bright, flawless, rid of corruptions, pliable, workable, steady, and imperturbable—I extended/directed it toward… " Therefore, it seems, for the Buddha, the purity of the 4th jhana was sufficient or ideal for use in wisdom/insight development.

Possibly @SDC can comment on this, in light of their apparent exaltation or veneration of the missionary monks in AN 6.46, who were ‘practising’ for the welfare and happiness of the people, for the benefit, welfare, and happiness of gods and humans.

I’m not sure it counts, i.e., is conclusive, but AN 9.7 says: 'A mendicant with defilements ended can’t… have sex… store up goods for their own enjoyment like they did as a lay person.’ Plus the suttas seems to have no accounts of lay arahants.

MN 149 seems to strongly support the above conclusion.

The issue or unclarity or subject of debate here seems to be the word ‘kaya’ used in the 3rd jhana description (sukhañca kāyena paṭisaṁvedesiṁ) or used in the similes in MN 119, etc, may not necessarily refer to the physical body. ‘Kaya’ is one of those words, similar to sankhara & dhamma, with diverse contextual usage.

Very good. I agree. :pray:t2:

There seem not many but there seems to be a some such as AN 3.86 and Iti 96.

Excellent post btw. Thank you :slightly_smiling_face: :pray:t2:

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You mean the monks who the Buddha called “rare”?

“Therefore, friends, you should train yourselves thus: ‘Those of us who are meditators will praise those bhikkhus who are Dhamma specialists.’ Thus should you train yourselves. For what reason? Because, friends, these persons are astounding and rare in the world who see a deep and pithy matter after piercing it through with wisdom.”

It’s always a joy to have so much of your attention. I honestly wish I had more time to address each of your comments. :hugs:

Yes. I imagine it is “rare” for monks to devote themselves to mere scholarship but without fruits of meditation. Personally, I have met merely a few in my life therefore it is indeed “rare”. :slightly_smiling_face:

Thank you. I do recall the Buddha taught somewhere metta for others brings joy. :pray:t2: :two_hearts:

As I mentioned above, the practice of vipassana is presented in the SN/SA suttas in the content of the verbal form, passati-janati (i.e., right view) Corruption of the dhamma - #8 by thomaslaw

So, the vipassana movement in Burma and the practice of passati (right view) indicated in Samyutta/Samyukta suttas are not entirely the same teaching.

It is an enourmous task to become oneself and let go of all these ego-longing and really stop fighting or defending and protecting this or that. This ego always wants to fight for something. A fighter must fight. If he cannot fight, he feels lost.

Especially the accumulation of scriptural knowledge becomes the spiritual ego’s battlefield. I see this very clearly, in myself and others. Yes, addicted to fighting, the spiritual ego stands up as a real and pure Dhamma-protector who will teach and correct others (never himself!). This is ultimate self- and other-deception.

All this fighting over what is true and pure Dhamma is only bhava tanha. It is only addiction to passion and self/ego-aggrandizement. Even if one would like do it otherwise, one cannot. The kilesa’s are totally in control.

How hard it is to let go of this…the holy fight, the holy battle about a true and pure Dhamma…My Lord, we are lost, Lord we are lost.

Would the Buddha stimulate this, surely not. Moreover, Buddha always says that one must correct others with a loving heart. This is not happening. People critizise others never with a loving heart but with a heart full of defilements, teachings them a lesson but not teaching Dhamma.

Oke, some do their utmost best to forcefully supress their hate, the agression and pretent a loving and caring atmosphere, but one who knows and sees cannot be fooled anymore. It is all madness.
With love for Dhamma it has nothing to do.

When will the fighter ever stop fighting? What needs to happen for this? One can say: practice Dhamma, but the problem is, for a fighter also Dhamma practice becomes a battlefield.

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Or alternatively we can engage in polite and thoughtful debate. There is no reason polite and thoughtful discussions should be impossible, is there?


You fight about what?

:grin: :rofl: :joy:


Then it might come to even worse situation:

Question: Are you coming to bed?
Answer: I won’t (never). This is important.
Question: What?
Answer: Everyone else says that I am wrong on the internet.
(or another version: No one else is right on the internet.)
:grin: :rofl: :joy:

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first I didn’t think to get involved in the discourse of this thread at all …

But just a bell ringed to recall a poem, that I’ve written in my young years (~24 yrs) on fighting and how do we stop this/ourselves …

Unfortunately, I think (at the moment) I cannot give a good translation to english, but perhaps there are some here around understanding german and as well interested in this workout :slight_smile:
(Remark: the “VVN” is a community of victims of the nazi-regime in Germany, and I as a young man tried to get contact, and inspiration, from them; the poem is a reflection after a visit on an event in my hometown)

Don’t know what “happened” here to (spiritually) “stop fighting for the ego” :wink: Perhaps it has been a good exercise to be able to find contact to the Buddha another 24 years later …

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I don’t think much can be inferred from that, for in the suttas vipassanā is most often expressed not with the word “vipassanā”, but rather with the phrase:

X yathābhūtaṁ sammappaññāya daṭṭhabbaṁ

“X should be seen as it really is with right understanding.”

Of this phrase, there are 216 occurrences in the first four Nikāyas:

DN. 3
MN. 74
SN. 111
AN. 28


To me it’s kind of like debating which branch of a tree most authentically represents the trunk. Things change and evolve - so it goes. The solution is pretty simple: just find a native speaker of Pali that grew up in 5th century bc vedic India and is fluent in modern language and culture. They can explain everything. I am confident that all the various translators will get on board immediately.