SuttaCentral

Eclectic Buddhism


#1

The following is a list of things I plan to study, contemplate, practice and attain. Do tell me what you think about this list. I know it is very comprehensive, but I know I don’t have the time to carry out everything on the list but just do as much as I can.

  • My Buddhist Divisions and Perfections (see below)

  • Faith and Devotion

  • Energy and Effort

  • Mindfulness

  • Concentration

  • Wisdom

  • Buddhist study

    • Basic Buddhism: Books and Bhikkhu Bodhi’s Ten Lecture Series
    • Theravāda: books, articles, essays and Dhamma talks
    • The whole Sutta Piṭaka, the Mahāyāna sūtras, and the Tibetan Kangyur and Tengyur
    • The Vinaya and the Pāḷi commentaries and subcommentaries if I am a monk
    • Abhidhamma: the Vibhaṅga, books, articles and Bhikkhu Bodhi’s YouTube lectures
    • Zen: both Sōtō and Rinzai
    • Gelug and a bit of the other Tibetan Buddhist schools
    • Lamrim
    • Mahamudra
    • Dzogchen
    • Kalachakra
    • Tenet systems: Cittamatra, Madhyamaka, Prāsaṅgika, Sautrantika, Svātantrika, Vaibhāṣika, Vijñānavāda, Yogācāra
    • A bit of other Buddhist traditions out of curiosity
    • Books and other texts
      • Maitreya Buddha/Bodhisakta
      • Maitreya’s Abhisamayālaṅkāra
      • Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakośa
      • Many more books
  • Contemplation

    • The Four Noble Truths

    • The Three Characteristics of Existence

    • Dependent Origination

  • Buddhist practice

    • Meditation
      • Samatha
        • Ānāpānasati
      • Vipassanā
      • Brahmavihāras
        • Mettā
        • Karuṇā
        • Mudita
        • Upekkha
      • Zen meditation
        • Zazen
        • Shikantaza
      • Positive memories recollection
    • Kōan practice
    • Mantras
    • Tantra
    • Ngöndro
    • Dzogchen
    • Mahamudra
    • Kālacakra
    • Association with Buddhist monks and asking questions of them and on Buddhist Internet forums
    • Dāna to the temple
    • Volunteering at the temple every weekend
  • Things to attain

    • Happiness, bliss, inner peace and freedom of mind

My Buddhist Divisions

  1. Honesty, truthfulness and acceptance of and adherence to Truth
  2. Faith and devotion
  3. Association with superior people
  4. Study and learning: gaining theoretical and practical knowledge
  5. Discussion and asking questions
  6. Contemplation and reflection for the purpose of full and clear comprehension
  7. Acquiring Right View
  8. Letting go and acceptance of suffering
  9. Love, compassion, kindness and caring
  10. Basic integrity in terms of body, speech and livelihood, i.e. basic moral scruples
  11. Practice and development, including energy, effort and self-discipline
  12. Meditation, including mindfulness and concentration
  13. Realization, direct knowledge and full comprehension of the Truth (Dhamma/Dharma)
  14. Letting go of, abandoning, eliminating and overcoming all defilements, cankers, fetters, etc., especially letting go of wanting, desire and craving
  15. Attainment of liberation, enlightenment or happiness
  16. Teaching, instructing, helping and caring for others
  17. Parinibbāna, final passing away as an Enlightened being

My Perfections, Virtues and Qualities

Truth
(honesty, sincerity, truthfulness, genuineness)
Faith
(belief in the right thing, trust, conviction, doubtlessness)
Friendship with superior people
(associating with wise, confident, good, compassionate, intelligent, disciplined, peaceful, kind, energetic, mindful, happy, helpful people)
Confidence
(mental strength, toughness, courage, boldness, intrepidity, audacity, fearlessness)
Knowledge
(learning, reading, observation, listening, discussion, contemplation, investigation, understanding, planning, preparation)
Self-discipline
(heedfulness, careful attention, diligence, restraint)
Contentment
(letting go, letting it be, making peace, patience, acceptance [of suffering], renunciation, detachment, dispassion, giving up, uncovetousness)
Caring
(love, kindness, compassion, enthusiasm for and rejoicing in the success and well-being of others, empathy, respect, gratitude, friendliness — people skills)
Goodness
(virtue, moral discipline, ethics, rectitude, righteousness, integrity, uprightness, decency, etiquette, manners, courtesy, civility, politeness, harmlessness, generosity, avoiding bad, wrong, unskillful, unwholesome, negative, detrimental actions by body and speech and in one’s livelihood and occupation, and performing good, right, skilful, wholesome, positive, beneficial deeds, for oneself and others)
Effort
(energy, vigour, zeal, exertion, determination, persistence, perseverance, strength, practice, work, just doing it)
Meditation
(mindfulness, awareness, clear-comprehension, concentration, stillness, wholesome one-pointedness of mind, calm, tranquillity, serenity, insight, Samatha, Vipassanā, Mettā, Silent Mind, Mahamudra)
Wisdom
(insight, clear knowing and seeing, discernment, full comprehension, reason, intelligence)
Realisation

(gnosis, true knowledge)
Elimination and destruction of defilements
Happiness and freedom from suffering
(bliss, freedom of body and mind, inner peace of mind and calm, joy, rapture, ecstasy, euphoria, equanimity and balance of mind, liberation, emancipation)
Helping and teaching others
(making other people and beings happy and helping them deal with problems by sharing, counselling, teaching, giving them things or a helping hand, inspiring them and urging them to do good and avoid bad so as to be happy and be free from suffering, and by being their friend, guide and helper, being kind, loving, concerned, strong, positive, and seeing the good inside them (enthusiastic about them), uplift them and teach them the Dhamma from both a theoretical and practical standpoint through experience)


#2

Perhaps MN121 might help:

Now, as before, I usually practice the meditation on emptiness.

Acquiring massive information about renunciation might be counter-productive. If you do so, you may deprive yourself of a journey of fresh, individual insight corroborated with ongoing study.

:pray:


#3

I don’t know what half of these things you plan to study and practice are. The Buddha warned about studying such discourses which are literary compositions made by poets, witty words, witty letters, by people from outside [the Dhamma], or the words of disciples;

they will lend ear, they will apply their mind on knowledge, they will consider those teachings as to be taken up and mastered.

http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/samyutta/nidana/sn20-007.html

As i see it the study of the Four Nikayas is alone enough to keep one occupied for 3-15+ years depending on phase and extent of one’s study. It is a huge task and working out all the points of controversy is not something one is likely to do in a few thousand hours. Further if one wants to study outside of the Four Nikayas it is imo natural that one would attempt to study the later texts chronologically, so i would go with the peri canonical texts like the Patisambhidamagga and the Abhidhamma. Having done that i think one could study other early texts from 1-3rd century but if one does have a good grasp on Sutta and Abhidhamma (with verified confidence) one could definitely consider learning Sanskrit and Pali very well and do some scholarly work like translating the texts where there is a need for it or doing extensive analysis of later texts Theravadin and otherwise.

I think this is enough to keep one occupied for decades.

As for practice i also think that one should limit it to what is in the Four Nikayas because therein are more practices than most people will ever try out let alone master. I think it is best to undertake what will be comprehensive and essential, focusing on that one should make an effort to attain the cessation of perception & feeling.

This list of practice and study is in my opinion more than enough and is probably overly scholarly to the point where if one was to do all that one will not only be utterly peerless as in nobody or very few people will be able to appreciate the level or to fully benefit from it but it would also be difficult to fulfill both the study and meditation goals. It is probably most optimal to study just enough to attain the immediacy and to keep studying just enough to develop the higher paths.


#4

A better question to study and contemplate is “why do I want to study all of this?”, “what benefit will this bring?”.

If you are interested in what the Buddha taught, go to the Pāli Nikayas, the earliest accounts, which are retained in the Theravāda tradition. In addition to the comparative studies done by Anālayo giving one the sense of what is early and what isn’t.

The views presented in the various meditation techniques and studies you mentioned can be at times contradictory making right view difficult to acquire. Even within the Theravāda tradition’s commentaries and Abhidhamma we can see such inconsistencies. So again stick to the early texts, come to know them, and only then venture into later texts. That way you’ll be equipped to know what is in accordance.

Another quote from the Majjhima Nikaya, sutta 22:

“Bhikkhus, the Dhamma well proclaimed by me thus is clear, open, evident, and free of patchwork. "


#5

Nice list! I’ve been compiling a similar Buddhist “curriculum” in the form of a Google Drive library of free material. Feel free to check it out here and let me know what you think!

Happy studies, and may you attain the (one and only) goal: nibbāna :wink:


#6

The Science Delusion :+1:t5:


#7

Yeah! Awesome article, no?


#8

I find it strange that you include so many works by a variety of contemporary monks trained in SEA and not a single book of Abhidhamma. I would personally not include anything but the canonical, peri and quasi canonical texts in a base curriculum. As for commentary and contemporary works i don’t mind entertaining the ideas and the suggested interpretations but i wouldn’t accept them as true until i know exactly how these are derived and their relative merit.

I think we are very lucky by the virtue of an immense scholarly effort of the last century to have translated and figured out what the Theravadin Canon is and which texts are the early texts and therefore it is now time to study it. However there is still a pressing need to redo the translations because so many of them are biased and based on personal interpretations. I also think that the canon will turn out to be antagonistical to a lot of views held and taught by contemporary monks and the established traditions. Therefore it is Vibbhajjavada time :slight_smile:


#9

Awesome compilation! Will for sure be exploring this!


#10

Oops I thought it was the book by Rupert Sheldrake. Only took a brief glance at the Drive page.

This is a later addition to the Buddha’s teachings-- see Venerable Anālayo’s “The Dawn of Abhidharma”. As you said later on in your post, stick to the early texts (everyone seems to think that this isn’t enough, that external resources are needed).


#11

Later does not mean wrong tho. I personally think that if people study only the earliest text many will develop mutually exclusive interpretations and run into a lot of things they can’t figure out. Some people will understand it but obviously most people won’t. If studying the early texts guaranteed conforming to the ideas expressed therein then there would be no schisms.

Now apparently people did study the early discourses and developed many kinds of wrong views, which is evident by the existence of various mutually antagonistic schools and interpretations. This very corruption would create a need to create texts akin to the Kattavathu and other Abhidhamma books to maintain a razor of orthodoxy to combat heresy.

Therefore as far as commentarial works go, the Abhidhamma books are very valuable and interesting. They are such not only as a supposed conformity guide but also as a collection of interpretations which mind you have yet to be refuted or established as contradictory to the Canon by anybody (afaik).

For all these reasons anyboody who wants to get rid of Abhidhamma without very presise substantiation is of very suspect motives.


#12

The “wrongness” comes in when the Abhidhamma is confused for the Buddha’s words and this mistake is easily made because everything we have is written in Pāli. It also occurs when the Abhidhamma is in direct opposition to what is said in the suttas such as seeing the path a a momentary event instead of a process,when rebirth takes place and omniscience. Having later tradition is fine, let’s just not misconstrue it with the oral transmission of the Buddhavāca.

This is no fault of the early texts and also no reason to then extrapolate on them in attempts to help clear up wrong views. SImply, people bring their preconceived notions and proclivities and encounter cognitive dissonance, thus arises wrong views. And the extrapolations that we have from the Abhidhamma and commentaries have not cleared up wrong view.

Going to let Anālayo do the talking here:

“The Kathāvatthu then states that the Buddha was omniscient, and the Pāli commentaries even go so far as to refer to the Buddha already before his awakening as the “omniscient bodhisattva”.

“According to the Paṭisambhidāmagga, the Buddha’s omniscient knowledge was such that he knew everything past, present, and future”.

The Atthasālinī (Dhammasaṅgīni commentary) reads in it’s introduction that anyone who denies the authenticity of the Abhidhamma and the Buddha’s omniscience is both a heretic and is committing one of the 18 causes of schism in the Saṅgha. One must also consider that the Abhidhamma and the commentarial tradition was a response to competing spiritual traditions and thus took extra steps to ensure the survival of Buddhism.

“Although early Abhidharma analysis takes off from eminently practical concerns, in the course of its trajectory such concerns tend to lead to analysis undertaken for its own sake.”

“Once the task is no longer just to point out the way, but rather to provide a complete map of the whole territory to be traversed, there is inevitably a danger that the actual road to be taken might become buried under the amount of details provided.” – very much related to OP’s question

Passages with the Four Noble Truths (Dhammacakkapavattana-sutta) give the impression that this basic degree of analysis is sufficient for practical purposes, without a need for a detailed breakdown.

From a footnote: “the early teachings are like a handful of leaves. In contrast, the present instance (Abhidhamma) reflects an effort to go beyond the mere handful in an attempt to collect as many leaves in the grove as possible”.


#13

I agree with this, i think it seems to be a mere commentary made by one of the several Sarvastivadin schools and it is utterly unlikely that the Buddha taught it in Tusita heaven where his mom and Bodhisatta dwell. I think that at best it was compiled by Arahants during the first 500 years after Parinibbana and at worst a compilation of hearsay that was around during the 1st century.

As for the claims made by Analayo in regards to contradictions i have not studied it extensively so i can’t coomment on this. I hope that in the next 100 years there will be more comparative analysis to answer these exact kind of questions.

First of all i do agree that if one does not understand the Dhamma after reading the Four Nikayas then reading additional 7 books of Abhidhamma is not going to help very much.

However i disagree that extrapolation is useless because refining the expression of the meaning is useful and it is seen being done several times in the Sutta wherein monks will go to a senior monk and ask to extrapolate on what was said in brief.

you took what i said out of context, if you refer to my post you can see that i never said that Abhidhamma is an epistimological razor;

They are supposed to be serving that purpose which is what i meant. Whether it does or doesn’t i can’t answer because i am not versed enough to make that judgement, ask me again in 10-15 years and i might have an answer.


#14

Ah! Will check it out!

But, no. No such books here, sadly. I’m trying not to run afoul of copyright law! :joy:


#15

There are a few places…
-4 rupa jhana in the EBTs. 5 rupa jhana in the Abhidhamma, by analysis.
-‘Citta’ of Abhidhamma is a compound. It can’t be an ultimate reality.
-‘black and white karma’ of the sutras, aren’t present. Everything is black or white.

with metta


#16

Hi Stiphon, I hope the comments here will not put you off this forum. What you are proposing seems more aligned with a Vajrayana curriculum, which would include the Theravada and Mahayana as core preliminary teaching. It might be that accomplished practitioners in that school would show you models of how to integrate so much diverse knowledge into real practice.
Or else just practice with the EBT’s up to some kind of noble realization before undertaking the later schools. :slightly_smiling_face:
The type of “eclectic” Buddhism that seems useful to me would include developing the crosslinks between EBT and one’s own culture and intellectual training . Without such a synthesis I found the EBT to be too much catechism and not enough meaning. So:
:pushpin: acknowledging that “science” is the modern religion defining what seems to be “true” or “real”
:pushpin: and studying philosophy to clearly understand the western thought world and how it is the same and different from the world of the EBT.
ps. A Western monk trained in Burmese Abhidhamma system advised caution in studying abhidhamma before getting much success in meditation; but after gaining meditative experience the abhidhamma helps to place the mental phenonema in a map.