For my friend maz, a summary:

For my friend maz.

Who is a star.

Buddhism in a nutshell:

To start at the finish, buddhism in a nutshell is described in DN1 DN2 and DN9

But to be a little more elaborate,

About say 500 - 400 bce but we don’t know exactly when, there is reputed to have been a person called gotama of the sakya in the asian subcontinent, the earliest collection of substantial prose about whom probably appears in anything like the form we have it now in about 350 bce - whenever (lets say circa 0 ce).

These texts, called the four principle nikayas in the southern tradition and the four principle agamas in the north are the original canon of textual (group chanted) buddhism.

They are really one book, that starts with a chapter of the longest and most prestigious texts, followed by a chapter of less important miscellany, followed by a systematic scholastic work, followed by a catch all numerical index, and taken in that order I refer to them as D M S and E.

Leaving completely aside the prehistorical lifetime of the buddha, the problem of reconstructing a prototext of DMSE is quite difficult.

There are two principle sources readily available short of active manuscript research, that of the northern classical chinese and the southern pali.

These two sources only partially overlap, and where they diverge they often betray sectarian differences (and second rate thinking.)

Fortunately, where we take only those recitations that occur in the same volume in each of the Nikayas and each of the Agamas, and read them in order of prestige from D-M-S-E, noting carefully where the preponderance of divergence in the material taken individually (in the pali say), and comparatively (where more frequent divergences occur between the chinese and the pali).

Having done this one is able to say with some confidence that the ordering of this “common core” of the textual corpus of P (pali) and C (chinese) that the ordering in P is usually to be preferred over C of the passages of D.

Most often though it is P that is more prone to the replacement of tropes from later collections to earlier ones i.e S > M.

C collects much of its “aggregates” material in S and much less of it in M, and we should interpret this as being the more conservative corpus in this regard.

OK, so also leaving aside the question of just how much genuine divergence there is in the textual material after 0 ce as well as what was going on prior to say 350 bce, what does the text of DMSE actually say?

First of all it is soteriological in intent.

That is it is not primarily hagiography, or history, it is a collection of chants that are intended to awaken the mind of the participant to the truth of which they speak.

Leaving this too aside as not really what we are looking into, we may approach the text in a number of other ways.

I have a particular interest in what is often called “philosophy” in the western tradition, and fortunately for me there is much of philosophical interest in DMSE.

By our first hermeneutical principle of reading the texts in order of prestige, let us set aside MSE and take up D.

Applying our principle of prestige and a little common sense the most important section of the text is the first portion collecting the root teaching, which is followed in P by a tiumvarate of somewhat more systematic chants thus;



P C:

1 21

2 27

3 20

4 22

5 23

8 25

9 28

11 24

12 29


14 1 “vipassī”

15 13 “conditionality”

16 2 “gotoma dies.”

This heap of skillful means (sīlakkhandhavagga) and 3 sequels is the root of the root of the shared canon of southern and northern, and hopefully western schools too.

Once again putting aside the appendices we arrive at:

In P: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, …8, 9, …. 11, 12.

Going forward I will use links to the P with proviso that it is obviously important to find a way to read at least passable (possibly machine) translations of all 19 of these chants/texts.

DN1 62 wrong views (abayakata)

DN2 sekkha patipada

DN3 sekkha patipada

DN4 sekkha patipada

DN5 sekkha patipada

We thus revise our common ocre in one swoop to



DN8 sekkha patipada

DN9 philosophy! (abayakata again but different)

DN11 sekkha patipada

DN12 sekkha patipada.

So now we are down to




As our 3 chapters of the root text of the root canon of the southern, northern and western schools of buddhism. 3 chants.

And of course there is a hermeneutics of prestige by which from frequency of repetition the sekkha patipada portion of DN2 is by far the most important text in the canon.

this of course makes sense soteriologically, because it describes the way of life a person who wanted to realise the truth for themselves would undertake.

So, in a nutshell, “buddism” as pictured in D129 or we will now say D for short, but mean quite specifically to claim that these three works manifestly predate the 3 appendices culminating in the parinibanna by some distance, is buddhism in a nutshell.

What claims or arguments are made in these 3 texts?

the first claim ( DN1 )made is that there is no coherent theory of a “past”.

the alternatives given are


partial eternaliam (having both temporal and atemporal parts)

on theories of “space”



on theories of futility or unknowability.

on chance

on annihilationism or nihilism


these are clearly a suite of “abayakata” or “undeclarable” views, that is they are attacked in the first text as untenable.

all this is contrasted with conditionality.

The second text DN2 starts with another look at how philosophical views about eternity, space, time reality, personhood etc can mess you up, and then gives a complete description of the earliest picture of what life staring at a rock and begging for food might actually have looked like back in the day.

It’s meditation technique involves sitting still in the wilderness until all the distractions and fears and cloudiness and anxieties are gone and then allowing oneself to progressively stop thinking, feeling, or being any particular thing or non thing or both or neither.

DN9 then rounds us out with another deep philosophical romp around the philosophy and meditative practice of perception and the abayakata.

So in nutshell buddhism we have 3 things; abayakata, or undeclared positions, jhana, the first true teaching of the “buddhist” system of meditation (obv really more so the first true teaching of the buddhist way of life from curious to converted ), and conditionality, how can we reason in a situation where time and space and phenomena are all in a sense not real, not unreal, not both, not neither?

So to summarize using the orthodox philosopher of buddhism, nagarjuna:

“No entities whatsoever are evident anywhere that are arisen from

themselves, from another, from both, or from niether.”

Space cannot arise itself (i.e be self-subsistant)

Space cannot be other than space

Space cannot have both spatial and non spatial aspects

Space cannot be neither spacial nor non spatial in aspect.

Time cannot be infinite or finite any more than space can be

Entities in time and space are doubly problematized , as they themselves cannot be thier own reason, cannot be another reason, cannot be both, cannot be neither.

However, if I may be allowed to jump ahead to one of my favourite examples in the early material at MN72,

One can certainly say things of the sort;

There is a fire before me,

Where there is still fuel here this fire will keep burning

When the fuel runs out the fire will go out

It will not go out in the (hint) direction:

West (identity)

East (difference)

North or (parts of both)

South (none of either (but maybe something else))

Its out because it ran out of fuel, not because it “no longer exists” or some Abayakata like that :slightly_smiling_face:

so applying the fire/fuel conditional reasoning to the problem in front of one is the path.
thinking that any entity is real, unreal, composed of both real and unreal parts, or described in some way having to do neither with reality of fiction, is the thicket off the path, the abayakata.

“not self” is just short for

not self
not otherwise
not both
nor something else.

and it applies to any entities whatever, time, space, actions, causality, persons, beings beables etc.


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A while ago I undertook a pretty hefty comparative post project with the Pāli DN, Chinese DA and Sanskrit DA to assess a lot of the topics and questions you have also brought up here on the forum. I then got busy.

Things move slowly, but currently I’ve been looking into the proto-Samyutta and relationship between the AN, then MN/DN, and it’s quite interesting how we can relatively easily start pulling on threads in the nikāyas and dragging them out of where they’ve been re-stitched or tucked away.

I don’t think the division of the 4 nikāyas is the oldest, I think the proto-Samyutta 9 anga canon (with special emphasis on sutta, geyya, vyākarana) is, as evidenced by various passages internal to the canon and sectarian external ones.

Maybe I’ll pick that project up again and tie some of this together. I agree with DN 1 DN 2 and DN 9 being great general representatives of EB philosophy and praxis (which are really one: dhammavinaya). And the jhāna, abyākata, and anupubba sikkhā are also all definitely the integrated heartwood. But I have some objections to other assessments and conclusions you’ve drawn. Wanted to post to acknowledge your enthusiasm and say I too share it for the Sīlakkhandhavagga, and say there is potentially more to be discussed here in the future.


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Apologies for the colorful language in the OP, i had written most of it for elsewhere before i edited it for here and missed a few expletives and perhaps more agressive straw-manning than is appropriate here.

I have edited the most egregious bits.

Please forgive any remaining hyperbole and invective :slight_smile:

This is the position of both @sujato and of course Yin Shun and Chung Mung Keet, as @thomaslaw is fond of pointing out, and is therefore the mainstream view at least on this board.

My post is meant as a kind of “letter to a friend” with the imagined reader being someone open to my opinion and not requiring any evidence to support it.

However there is in fact ample textual evidence to indicate that what I outline is more likely than the sutacentral mainstream alternative, evidence I have offered this board over the last 12 months or so amounting to several hundred thousand words worth of specific argumentation about the content of these documents.

I will append some links in a bit.

That’s what I figured this post was and that’s why I made my comment under it. It’s a summary post of your findings. I’m glad you’ve been able to condense it down to this, even just three suttas (DN 1, DN 2, DN 9) which is actually an amazing pair of discourses for exhibiting the core of Early Buddhist practice. Well-done! :smiley:

I’m familiar with your posts and arguments, and I think you’ve raised really good, genuine questions about the proto-Saṁyutta theory. I agree with some of what you’ve written on, especially the importance of the gradual training, the undeclared points, and the meditative-based realization of conditionality.

There are things about the proto-Saṁyutta theory that tend to be left unaddressed. My idea and emphasis is not that of Mr. Thomas here on the forum, for example, in that I don’t think that what we find in the Saṁyutta collection common to the various recensions is the most representative of Early Buddhism above other collections.

What I’ve been doing is tracing the movement of discourses and the arrangement of discourses in the AN/MN/DN, informed by the SN/SA. A lot of your posts have not addressed, for example, that something found in the AN may actually originally be from the SN, as is extremely common. The same is true of much of the MN — there are many suttas originally from the SN, usually with various expansions and minor elaborations. If we start tracing all of this movement, re-arranging suttas and putting the SN back together into its more original thematic organization as the Sarvāstivādan one seems to have preserved, the canon starts making lots of sense. This type of comparative work has been very informative but is still early.

One thing that I’ve already found that needs more investigation is that much of the background and context of the first chapter of the DN is likely originally from the SN. The anupubba sikkhā formula as well most likely had an original home in the SN, as it still does in the SA to a small degree.

What you’ve highlighted here is that one chapter in one nikāya emphasizes the Buddhist path of practice in contrast with the views and doctrines of other spiritual traditions/practitioners of the time. This of course will provide us with something essential, down-to-earth, and core: the context alone demands as much. But there are a lot of other assumptions and gaps that have made you skeptical of things which is partly due to lack of research in the proto-Saṁyutta and the distribution of material into the nikāyas before they were necessarily 4 separate collections with distinct principles of organization, structure, and theme.



thank you for your reply, however I think we are simply in a fundamental disagreement about what chants came first.

the longest chants came first.

the chants that applied the doctrine of one chant to the doctrine of another chant came later.


What can be said:

Posit: X arises

Claim: With the arising of Xs there is an arising of Ys

What can’t be said:

Xs are spatiotemporal entities identical with themselves.

What also cannot be said:

Ys are spatiotemporal entities identical with themselves.

What by common sense therfore also cannot be said:

Xs and Ys taken together are a:

Spatiotemporal entitiy/entities identical or non identical or having both identical or non identical parts.

Therefore materialism is false.
Therefore idealism is false.
Therefore dualism is false.
Therfore no fouth alternative is possible*

*stochastic arguments?


posit, there is a fire.
subsequent the fire is fuel dependent
it obtains
with the absense of fuel there is absense of fire.

the idea that the fire is a physical entitiy is false.
the idea that the fire is an idea (perhaps of a physical situation) is false
the idea that the fuel causes the fire is false
the idea that the fire causes the fuel is false

it is also not the case that the cosmos or our talk about it is merely random nonsense.

thats the basic idea I think.

so without recourse to a background spacetime i.e GR and without recourse to a collection of point particles or waves or both or neither or whatever characterises materials in QM, nor any prior commitment to euclidian geometry or archemedic arithmatic, nor any commitments to aristotealean logic, we have a basic position with regard to how we should regard phenomena per se, the soteriological application of this via the jhanic experiences merely actualises its truth in the “subject” :slight_smile:

and just to get technical for a second:

Martin-L¨of’s theory gives rise to a full scale philosophy of constructivism. It is a typed theory of constructions containing types which themselves depend on the constructions contained in previously constructed types.

Finally this theory can be taken to contain a type construction principle which, like the general Cartesian product and general disjoint union, is based on dependent families of types. It is the type of well-orderings or well-founded trees which can be constructed using a family of branching types indexed by a previously constructed type.

so note the claim that types are introduced and illuminated at a level that is “pre-theoretical” in the sense that we need not depend on logic, or math, or whatever, we are introducing a simple idea, that the “mathematical” object of a tree or group of trees can give us an idea-tool that can be used for ALL of our logic, maths, science etc.

note that it does not need to claim that anything is real unreal both or neither, that anything is “spatiotemporal” in any possible sense, and is said to be able to motivate any construction we care to posit, including for the principia minded QR and GM.

the system may be thought of by analogy to the natural numbers:

T0 is the formal system for constructive mathematics due to Feferman. In the literature it has already been shown that within T0 one can define notions like arithmetic truth, the ramified analytic hierarchy and the constructive tree classes. Since T0 is one of the tools we use to estimate the strength of intuitionistic type theory with universes closed under well-ordering types, we include a brief discussion and summary. The language of T0, L(T0), has two sorts of variables. The free and bound variables (a, b, c, . . . and x, y, z . . .) are conceived to range over the whole constructive universe which comprises operations and classifications among other kinds of entities; while upper-case versions of these A, B, C, … and X, Y, Z, … are used to represent free and bound classification variables. The intended objects of the constructive universe are in general infinite, seen classically. Since the underlying logic of T0 is intuitionistic the objects of this universe are presented in a finitary manner and, without loss of generality, by natural numbers. As far as algorithmic procedures on natural numbers are concerned there are a variety of mathematical formalizations each of which gives a way of presenting the derivations of algorithms using fixed rules for computing as finite objects. To be treated as objects these are then coded by natural numbers. Examples are G¨odel numbers of formulae defining these functions in a formal theory, of formal derivations using schemes and codes of Turing machines. Yet another alternative, and the one adopted here, is G¨odel numbers of application terms built up from variables and the two basic combinators k and s using a binary application operation to represent effectively computable number theoretic functions. This is the sense in which these objects are elements of the constructive universe. In a similar fashion one obtains natural numbers coding the formulae defining properties which give classifications as elements of the constructive universe. Which of these objects actually populate this universe will of course depend on the axioms of T0. To facilitate the formulation of these axioms, the language L(T0) is equipped with defined symbols for term application and strong or complete equality

so the claim is that if we can count and add and multiply with the whole numbers we can build our fantastic pre-ideological machine!

not only that but any claims whatever we make about it aught to be verifiable by appeal to literal arithmetic and the idea of a branch in a path, by anyone trained in math.

*qoutes martin loff type theory from: