What does an early buddhist practice consist of?
Here we mainly try to read the suttas, and if those who can do it, got enough time, do comparative studies.
Then follow instructions of the suttas, see what came later, what’s most likely from the Buddha. Then can have a better picture of which ones maybe not essential, which ones are essential.
In general, the normal 4 Noble truths, Noble 8fold path as taught as the basis in all traditions are there, and many of the teachings can be seen as elaboration of it. There’s a lot of techniques also within the sutta. Best to read it for oneself to explore, cause if anyone summarize it here for you, it becomes commentaries again.
Welcome to the Suttacentral D&D forum!
Many resources are here available: may these be of assistance along the path!
Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post.
I’m coming from a Vajrayana background and mainly what I’m wondering about is prayers, rites and rituals, and chanting etc. for my daily practice. I’m thinking of taking refuge, studying a Sutta and then meditating as my daily practice. I will always consider myself to be a beginner.
I found one of the Suttas for beginners (translated by bhante Sujato) is being explained here by a famous young Pali scholar.
If by early buddhist we’re referring to the 4 main nikayas and 6 books of khuddaka nikaya then I would say 24/7 awareness (yoniso manasikara & sati-sampajanna) of the 5 hindrances and thoughts arising, as well as employing strategies of removing those hindrances and unwanted thoughts like contemplating loathsomeness of body and such.
This is the what I consider “the core dhamma”
"And what is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening, the path factor of right view in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
Emphasis on Noble (ariya) and Analysis of qualities (dhamma vicaya)
From Anapanasati sutta:
2] Remaining mindful in this way, he examines, analyzes, & comes to a comprehension of that quality with discernment. When he remains mindful in this way, examining, analyzing, & coming to a comprehension of that quality with discernment, then analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.
Analysis of qualities means starving the 5 hindrances and nurturing the 7 factors of awakening: SuttaCentral
A stream winner attains joy (pamojja) from knowing his mind is clean and free from the 5 hindrances, pamojja (joy) is required for attaining jhana.
And how does the view that is noble and emancipating lead one who practices it to the complete ending of suffering? It’s when a mendicant has gone to a wilderness, or to the root of a tree, or to an empty hut, and reflects like this, ‘Is there anything that I’m overcome with internally and haven’t given up, because of which I might not accurately know and see?’ If a mendicant is overcome with sensual desire, it’s their mind that’s overcome. If a mendicant is overcome with ill will, dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, doubt, pursuing speculation about this world, pursuing speculation about the next world, or arguing, quarreling, and disputing, continually wounding others with barbed words, it’s their mind that’s overcome. They understand, ‘There is nothing that I’m overcome with internally and haven’t given up, because of which I might not accurately know and see. My mind is properly disposed for awakening to the truths.’ This is the first knowledge they have achieved that is noble and transcendent, and is not shared with ordinary people.
- MN 48
The Buddha instructs you to keep your mind clean
“Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu who is not skilled in the ways of others’ minds should train: ‘I will be skilled in the ways of my own mind.’ It is in this way that you should train yourselves.
“And how is a bhikkhu skilled in the ways of his own mind? It is just as if a woman or a man—young, youthful, and fond of ornaments—would look at her or his own facial reflection in a clean bright mirror or in a bowl of clear water. If they see any dust or blemish there, they will make an effort to remove it. But if they do not see any dust or blemish there, they will be glad about it; and their wish fulfilled, they will think, ‘How fortunate that I’m clean!’ So too, self-examination is very helpful for a bhikkhu to grow in wholesome qualities.
“One should ask oneself: (1) ‘Am I often given to longing or without longing? (2) Am I often given to ill will or without ill will? (3) Am I often overcome by dullness and drowsiness or free from dullness and drowsiness? (4) Am I often restless or calm? (5) Am I often plagued by doubt or free from doubt? (6) Am I often angry or without anger? (7) Is my mind often defiled or undefiled? (8) Is my body often agitated or unagitated? (9) Am I often lazy or energetic? (10) Am I often unconcentrated or concentrated?’
“If, by such self-examination, a bhikkhu knows: ‘I am often given to longing, given to ill will, overcome by dullness and drowsiness, restless, plagued by doubt, angry, defiled in mind, agitated in body, lazy, and unconcentrated,’ he should put forth extraordinary desire, effort, zeal, enthusiasm, indefatigability, mindfulness, and clear comprehension to abandon those same bad unwholesome qualities. Just as one whose clothes or head had caught fire would put forth extraordinary desire, effort, zeal, enthusiasm, indefatigability, mindfulness, and clear comprehension to extinguish the fire on his clothes or head, so too that bhikkhu should put forth extraordinary desire, effort, zeal, enthusiasm, indefatigability, mindfulness, and clear comprehension to abandon those same bad unwholesome qualities.
Thank you for posting this video. I’m the lowest of the low practitioner because I have a very poor memory and struggle with English so I have a hard time with Pali, Sanskrit or Tibetan. I’m in no way a scholar but I can meditate. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a progressive early Buddhism/Theravada teacher, preferably female who can assist me on the path.
Woliwon (thanks in Penobscot) for your comment
Moreover, a very nice introduction is given by Bhikkhu Bodhi in his book “The Noble Eightfold Path”.
The category “Reading Guides” of this forum contains some guidance on reading the suttas.
As a meditation manual, I personally recommend to my curious friends “Kindfulness” at the beginning and then “Mindfulness, Bliss and beyond”, both by Ajahn Brahm.
Please consider this only as a possible starting point.
Ayya Vayama passed away last fall.
That is true, sorry for the confusion. I was referring mainly to the recordings of Ayya Vayama’s teachings, which are still available.
Dhammasara nuns monastery is now led by Ayya Hasapanna, who is also very skilled in explaining the Dhamma. And there are many other wise and kind nuns who currently offer teachings, from there and other locations.
Listen to Buddha/Arahants who explains how the world works in relation to our mind → attains Sotapanna → as Sotapanna you have the ability to uproot permanently hindrances and go thru stages → Full Nibbana → Repeat for others
Early Buddhism focuses mainly on the suttas. There’s rather a lot of them , so a good sutta anthology might give a good feel for these without having to do an enormous amount of reading. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s In the Buddha’s Words would be a nice example and a good start point, but there are some other options (some online and downloadable - I list a few in an old post here).
Bhante Sujato has some very nice books (free and online) on Early Buddhism, e.g., A History of Mindfulness, giving an idea of the whole area (with some books more focused on the theme of meditation like A Swift Pair of Messengers). Early Buddhism is usually concerned with trying to figure out what the pre-sectarian Buddhist teachings were (before Buddhism split into different schools and things diverged a bit). We have versions of most suttas from more than one early schools (often in Chinese and sometimes Tibetan and other languages, not just in Pali). There’s a lot of similarity between the different versions but differences too. Things that are common to all versions are more likely to be earlier.
For meditation approaches influenced/inspired by Early Buddhism, I find personally writings by Bhikkhu Analayo helpful. He’s a scholar monk who spends a portion of each week just meditating and another portion writing books and academic articles (an interesting blend of theory and practice). He has several books on various types of meditation: anapanasati (breath meditation), metta (loving kindness meditation) and satipatthana (mindfulness meditation). In many of these books, there is often a section in the later half where a selection of passages from the suttas on the topic is explored (usually with his own translations from Chinese or other versions of the relevant suttas as well as the Pali versions, often looking for common elements) with a large part of the book then describing a meditation approach he has developed for himself inspired by this learning (turning some of these ideas on early Buddhism into a practical and usable meditation practice). Analayo is a big one for guided meditation audios for these techniques (he usually releases free guided meditation audios online for such books).
On other practices like chanting, Theravada (the type of Buddhism practised in countries like Thailand) might be a place to look (it’s the closest existing school to Early Buddhism, though they are not the same – see an interesting list of the differences by Bhante Sujato here). For example, a nice source of chanting can be found on the Amaravati website (a UK Theravada monastery in the lineage of Ajahn Chah). There’s a chanting book and corresponding audios (many in English, as well as in Pali too):
Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post
Wonderful, thank you
PS: I just had a chance to check out the chanting books you posted and it was nice to see they had English translations
prayers, rites and rituals, and chanting etc. for my daily practice.
I am sure that you can use these from any existing tradition, including Vajrayana. The chanting formula for refuge is found in every tradition.
I use my knowledge of early buddhism to inform me on how I give meaning to traditional ritual.
Ritual is just a tool to condition our mind, to prepare for meditation.
Keep ethics. Don’t do bad things. Purify action, speech, mind.
Meditate, try to overcome five hindrances
After that, try observing the three characteristics: impermanence, suffering/ unsatisfactory, no self.
Thank you for your most excellent comment
This my first post here and I’m a bit shy! But as an ex Vajrayana practitioner, from about ten years ago,like many others I’m sure, I remember wondering what to do as I tried to get as close to the earliest teachings of the Buddha as I could. What I ended up with, as a result of reading the Suttas, were:
6 precepts (the usual five plus one to have metta to myself and others)
Recitation of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold path,
Recitation of the five daily recollections,
Recitation of the wish to develop the four Brahmaviharas,
Recitation of the Metta Sutta,
Recitation from the Phena Sutta, about the analogies of the aggregates of clinging to foam, a water bubble…
Recitation of “This is peaceful, this is sublime…”
This sounds a lot but actually doesn’t take very long, recited mindfully, and they prepare my mind as well as I possibly can for the meditation that follows.
This has developed over several years. I started off with just the Three Refuges, the Five precepts and the Four Noble Truths. The rest have been added gradually as a result of studying the Suttas and as I recognised that my mind needed regular reminding!
I apologize for not naming all the Suttas. I need to take a lot more trouble over that.
But I just wanted to show that mostly the Suttas themselves, when you’ve read quite a lot, will show you what you need to do. However, I am grateful for the many excellent explanations given by the Sangha both online and in books. We are so fortunate to have access to so much excellent teaching at the moment! However, it takes discrimination to see which part of the feast is appropriate at any given time! Enjoy your Sutta exploration!
With metta, Sue
Welcome to the community @Dreamer ! Enjoy exploring all the wonderful resources available here.
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Welcome @Dreamer! and thanks for your post.
I would just comment on one thing…
Others may have a different opinion on this, but creating extra precepts isn’t really a thing in Theravada or the EBTs. I see the 5, 8, 10, 227, 311 precepts as something special created by the Buddha and not something we can add to.
However, “to have metta to myself and others” would be considered to be a determination (adhiṭṭhāna) or vow. It is a wonderful determination to make, very wholesome, etc, etc. But it doesn’t really match with the precepts because it is inherently so ambiguous when you may or may not break it.
An example we have of vows in the EBTs is Sakka’s seven vows.