Systematic & Structured Approach to Buddhism

I am looking for anyone who has made a chart or written an outline of Theravada Buddhism, where all the concepts and theories are linked together.

For example, I read a paper that begun like this. “The three truths are suffering, no-self and impermanence. To penetrate these truths one uses the 8 fold path which is a path to deep meditation. One equips the mind with power to meditate by abandoning the 5 Hindrances which are done using the 7 Factors of Enlightenment. The law is kamma which is cause and effect and the dhamma is Dependent Origination…”

It started like this but didn’t go much further. Is there anything else out there like this. A good base outline of Theravada Buddhism in a nutshell?


The only one that comes to mind is @Jayarava’s brilliant dependent origination mind maps.

The most comprehensive one can be found [here(

But I really don’t think what these depicts is Theravada Buddhism. I am very confident what these show is as well found in all EBTs (Pali and parallels) and therefore depict early Buddhism as a whole.


This site is concerned with Early Buddhist texts (EBT), their translation and the taught dhamma therein. Having said that, it would be worthwhile to try and create a highly concise outline of all the main concepts and how they relate together. First we might want to get a list of all the relevant concepts and then the challenge would be to put them all together showing how they relate to each other in as few words as possible!

Here is a basic incomplete list, please feel free to add to it or correct it.

The Four Noble Truths: 1. Dukkha (the five aggregates subject to clinging), 2. the cause of Dukkha (clinging), 3. the cessation of Dukkha (nibbana with remainder, nibbana without remainder) 4. the path leading to the cessation of dukkha (the eightfold path).

The Eightfold Path: Panna (1. Right view, 2. Right intention), Moral virtue: (3. Right speech, 4. Right action, 4. Right livelihood), Meditation: (6. Right effort, 7. Right mindfulness 8. Right samadhi)

Three Marks of Existence: anicca, dukkha, anattā

Five Aggregates : Form (rūpa), Feeling (vedana), Perception (sanna), Mental formations (sankhara), Consciousness (vinnaṇa) [Eye-consciousness, Ear-consciousness, Nose-consciousness, Tongue-consciousness, Body-consciousness, Mind-consciousness].

Dependent Origination and 12 nidanas

Mindfulness of breathing (anapanasati)

Four Foundations of Mindfulness

The Jhanas

Seven Factors of Enlightenment

Five hindrances

Four Brahma-viharas

Five Precepts

10 Fetters



Thanks @Gabriel_L Much apperciated

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Thanks @DaoYaoTao.

Much appreciated

If I may, I would like to suggest mentioning the noble truths in context of their enobbling tasks:

  • suffering is to be fully comprehended / understood
  • its causes are to be abandoned / let go
  • its eradication to be fully witnessed / verified
  • the path to his eradication is to be cultivated / developed

Hi Shaun

I have been working on that for the past nearly 20 years and believe it is meant to be the method of study the Buddha gave in this quote to ensure the long life of his teaching:

“… All you to whom I have taught these truths that I have realised by super-knowledge should come together and recite them, setting meaning beside meaning and expression beside expression, without dissension, in order that this holy life may continue and be established for a long time for the profit and happiness of the many…” DN29 : D iii 127

It seems the Buddhist Councils have overlooked looked this, which seems to be the instruction from the Buddha to hold councils for that purpose. As the first council is accredited to Bh. Mahākassapa.

It is true the sutta then goes on to list the 37 Enlightenment Factors, but we have one well know example of comparing two teachings by Bhi. Dhammadinna in MN44, where she compares the Three Trainings with the Noble Eightfold Path and the Three Trainings do not appear in the 37.

To put all the concepts and theories together would take a lot of space and indeed I believe some things are not authentic teachings, even in the EBTs. So they would not fit the pattern of Morality, Meditation, Wisdom, which Dr Rod Bucknell so skilfully showed was probably the pattern in authentic teachings in his article: The Buddhist Path to Liberation: An Analysis of the Listing of Stages | Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies.

Here are two of my charts attempting to do this:

I’d would be interested to see if others are doing similar work that matches up different teachings as a integrated whole, not patchwork. Ven Jayasara’s interesting work, unfortunately looks to patchwork-like to me and I think that’s because he tries to fit things to what I think is not the authentic teaching of Dependent Origination, that is the traditionally taught one.

best wishes


Thanks, Brother_joe, always appreciated

you’re welcome and my pleasure

I want to simplify as much as possible, bring it down to bare bones of what Buddha taught himself. In the end, his personal method in the way he attained enlightenment by himself before the monasteries, the councils, the different schools, the 100’s of suttas was clearly very simple. As with everything else be it medicine or study, there are always the core idea and teachings that one uses everyday and provides actual results. It’s like trying to make your engine faster by adding in all these small changes. You make the engine faster by putting a bigger turbo, or larger intercooler, fuel pump, large exhaust. Again, it’s the core things that matter not the little ones (in my opinion).

Is there any way to break them down to the most core early teaching lets say like the first ten. DaoYaoTao put forward those 14 core idea. Can we bring them down to like a core 14-18 for example of the earliest, earliest teachings and explain how they work together…A little like I was writing above… I’ll try to write one up that maybe we can work with but I need to ask:

How do the Four Brahma-viharas fit into the equation?

Also, how do the Three Marks of Existence fit into with the 4 Noble Truths?

With Metta


At some stage, the raft should be discarded too. It is very overlooked point that Buddhism doesn’t take us “over the line”. No method can do that, it would have been too easy :wink:

With metta


Hi Shaun

I think it’s a very important venture. I see it as part of developing the Vision of the Dhamma (Dhammacakkhu), where we don’t just memorise and repeat, but we internalise e.g. the Path teaching. It becomes part of us and we could present it in different ways. We don’t just say, for example, ‘the Noble Eightfold Path’ over and over to the question ‘what is the Path?’

The first three Noble Truths seem to be taught very simply/straightforwardly (not saying they are easy), but it seems that the Buddha taught the Path (the fourth Truth) in many ways, according to the development of the person. Looking at the first and last teaching may help in this.

First: Avoid the two extremes (behaviour) to realise the Four Noble Truths (wisdom)
Last: all things that arise cease (wisdom), strive on with heedfulness (behaviour)

I could summarise the Path, according to my understanding, in various numbers of steps (not exhaustive), and one could decide where one would cut it off as too complicated:


  • behaviour and wisdom (carana, vijja)
  • avoid the two extremes (behaviour) to realise the Four Noble Truths (wisdom)
  • all things that arise cease (wisdom), strive on with heedfulness (behaviour)
  • develop calm and insight (samatha, vipassana)

(seeing the qualities of the Five Clinging Aggregates - five clung to aggregates - as impermanent, suffering and not-soul, or seeing them as dependently arisen would be part of wisdom or insight)

the three trainings: ethics (related to precepts), meditation, wisdom


  • the Four Divine Abodes (Brahma Vihara) - these would produce a happy life, but wisdom would need to be developed based on it
  • the Four Form States of Awareness (following the Buddha’s statement that Jhana was the Middle Way)
  • the Four Efforts


  • the five powers (faith, effort, mindfulness/heedfulness, concentration and wisdom)

and the list could go on…

My internalised version of the sequential Path is:

  • associating with the wise
  • listening to what they say
  • reflecting on it
  • testing it
    (these four are called the ‘limbs’ to stream-winning)
  • develop ethics
  • develop meditation
  • develop wisdom.

and the path eradicates:
the 3 Asava
the 3 roots: greed, hatred, ignorance
the 5 hindrances
the 10 fetters…

The simile of the Raft is important to me and I think it should spur on the quest for a clear answer to the question ‘what is the Path’. Once the path has been trodden and one arrives at the destination, one should not try to carry the (physical) path around with one, but the knowledge and wisdom gained as to what the Path is and how to walk it would not be given up, as one would use it to help others.

hope that answers the question somewhat

the charts I linked to were comparing what I believe are different presentations of the 4th Noble Truth - the Path - which have different degrees of detail

best wishes


Dhamma Chart - hope this may some help.


Thanks to @Sumana :smile:

Why link to DW if you can just paste here the image’s full address (@sumana’s own website) and get it rendered here?

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You might want to edit your post to mention that it was created by @Sumana

Friends, just as the footprint of any living being that walks can be placed within an elephant’s footprint, and so the elephant’s footprint is declared the chief of them because of its great size; so too, all wholesome states can be included in the Four Noble Truths. MN28


with metta

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I’ve made some attempt at this kind of thing here:


It is just the familiarity and ease of location the source.
You see most of the time I give the link to Access to Insight instead of Sutta Central.

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good stuff!