Recommendations on fundamentals

Dear all,

I just read a post where @sujato wrote the following:

Every serious student of Buddhism should have read all the suttas and the Vinaya and be well versed in them. There is no excuse. They should also have a proper grounding in early Buddhist philosophy and practice on a historical and text-critical basis. They should be aware of the evolution of the schools and the impact of Ashoka.

I am reading and studying (and started translating the Samyuktagama) the sutta’s and the Vinaya.

Would you be so kind as to provide good resources and guidance for learning about:

  • Early Buddhist philosophy
  • Practice on a historical and text-critical basis
  • Evolution of the early buddhist schools
  • The impact of Asoka

Thank you very much in advance!

Kindest regards,

1 Like

I promise I’m not be mischievous when I ask this, but are trying to learn about Buddhism or are you trying to practice it? The answer matters, and will be the difference between members recommending solid, well-researched scholarly writings or those that directly address how to actually go about developing the eightfold path in your day to day life.


I do not perceive you in any way as mischieveous :slight_smile:

As a practitioner, I find it important to also study the tradition to which I belong. The two go hand in hand for me.

So, to answer your question: any solid resources (scholarly or not) on the four topics listed above would be greatly appreciated.


1 Like

Well, since you asked, here are my recs…



For those looking, this is the quoted discussion.


Fair enough. The history is worth looking into, and it is always interesting to get those glimpses of the society and culture that existed during the time the Buddha was alive. Though what is always most illuminating are the commonalities, and that although the contemporary world is so much more complex and varied, it still boils down to that liability to suffering. To old age, disease and death. When you can clearly see that it doesn’t matter what the worldly circumstances are, the immediate experience here and now is much easier to quantify and simplify for practice.

All in all, if the intent is to legitimately apply these principles to your life, it is helpful to read with the purpose of understanding why the goal is even relevant. Because it is one thing to know about Buddhism, but it is an entirely different thing when the lifestyle is altered through effort. Taking refuge in the triple gem and taking the five precepts, for instance, is not simply one formal effort. It is sets a precedent. A standard. It is an alteration of the entire of mode of being, which, if developed correctly, will give a useful context to much of what you find in the suttas. And though it may be helpful to also find that context objectively described in a text or commentary, the actual context - the relevant context - is the one present in your intentions and reasons for reading and practicing in the first place, and nothing is more significant than that when it comes to taking on the path. And that is why I was curious about the distinction in my initial post, because information will only be so useful if there is any lack of intention to apply it to how you are living day in and day out, and while you can amass a large quantity of information, it may have nowhere to apply if the lifestyle doesn’t follow suit.

While it takes a bit of effort in the subtext, I would recommend the Theragāthā and Therigāthā, for a striking glimpse of not only a historical context, but of a fascinating look at the individual experience of practice. These are the verses of the senior monastics, mostly all of which describe the gain of liberation, and will give a true sense of what the path means on a very personal level. I’ve always found these verses as a great enhancement and amplifier to the suttas (which don’t always remind you that they are there to apply to YOU). What I mean is, that context of the striving individual won’t always be emphasized, and if it is not brought to the fore, it is easy to read a sutta objectively, as if it were perpetually about someone else.

I hope this post is helpful.


See the following information:


Thank you, this is great.

And thank you for guiding me towards The Open Buddhist University: what a treasure grove! :pray:

1 Like

I am in the process of reading this one since last week, thank you nonetheless!