Systematic & Structured Approach to Buddhism

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!

oops, should have mentioned ethics covers: thought word and deed, for me and in that order.

For me, one good thing with this presentation of the Path is it addresses, what I think is a serious downfall of the traditional teaching of the Path (taking it as sequential):

  • Right View is given first, but it is said to be a fruit of Stream-entry, so with the pairs of path and fruit, there must be some practice (the path) before and leading to Right View (the fruit). To me that is the four ‘limbs’ of stream-winning.

To me, Right View and Right Aspiration are examples of ethics in thought, then we see, ethics in word, then deed in the traditional presentation of the Path.

Right View - thought
Right Aspiration - thought
Right Speech - word
Right Action - deed
Right Livelihood - deed

Thus, I believe, the Buddha goes to the heart of the matter from the start. It would be easier to change word and deed than thought and if thought is not changed first, the change to word and deed would be only temporary.

best wishes

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Nice charts – could they be provided in formats and page-sized chunks to be printed-out and taped together to form larger posters, and be readable?

My favorite graphic summary so far is the one I think compiled by the Pa Auk people, at least I got a copy from Shaila Catherine who got it at a 3-month retreat with the Pa Auk Sayadaw a couple of years ago (in the USA). (This is obviously the Visuddhimagga view of the path.)

There’s another one, with Chinese as well as English text. I can’t seem to jam in the link here (which triggers a download), but from this link, clicking the blue link titled “Chart” in the quotation from “atipattoh” should get the download:

Going for absolute comprehensiveness (ALL the Buddha’s teachings) in one presentation would seem rather problem-prone. How to be so exact without also becoming sectarian?

Perhaps any reasonably broad and accurate summary-image which appealed to one would be enough for an individual to practice with and attain the goal. And that might be a variety of flavors of summary, perhaps even different sects, depending on the individual.


I see the following also as presentations of the whole Path:

  • 4 Foundations of Mindfulness
  • 12 Experiential Items (steps) in Dependent Origination as found in Upanisa Sutta (
  • 13 mental jhana factors, not the only the five of the commentarial and possible late sutta/s: viveka, vitakka, vicāra, pīti, sukha, ekodibhāva (ekaggatā in the commentaries), samādhi, sampasāda, virāga, upekkhā, sati, sampajañña, parisuddhi (, so I follow the simpler definition of ‘right concentration’ as any concentration with the previous path factors
  • 16 steps of Mindfulness of Breathing (

as a summary of wisdom:

best wishes

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Thank you for giving me the credit for the chart.

You also wanted an outline, so check out , also made by me.


I agree that Buddhism, even the early king, doesn’t take us ‘over the line’, it is only Dhamma that does that. I do not agree that ‘no method can do that’. From my experience and some early suttas, it’s not easy to see Dhamma.

Hi @Shaun

While the teachings are summarised in certain fundamental points, listed in the 37 bodhipakkhiyadhamma, adding to them the teachings on the twelve nidana, the four ariyasacca, the five upadanakhanda, and the three lakkhana … as you can see, not only is it nearly impossible to agree in neither the details and nature of this all-inclusive method that you seek, nor its very existence, but also, observation of other practitioners on the Path will immediately show that the right method does not exist in abstraction, but only in correspondence to the kamma and citta of each individual practitioner. There isn’t even one right way or method to practice formal meditation. The Path is difficult and bitter without a flexible, intuitive, and experimental understanding of Dhamma, and without self-understanding of one’s kamma and citta. You have to be the formulator of your right method; as it is hard to find a teacher that can do this for you, I believe! Good luck :upside_down_face:


Hello Dhammarakkhita,
Thanks for the taking the time to write what you did. I have come to the same conclusion as you and therefore it is nice to hear it from someone more cultivated. May I ask, where are you based?

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:grinning: I love Asian countries but not yet based in any particular one! More like a feather in the tempest of chance!

Hi Shaun, I created a chart years ago that i use to help me in my own studies. I’m not sure how accurate it is by an experts standards but it has really help me figure out what teachers are talking about. I hope it helps and i welcome any feedback anyone has so i can continue to improve it: