The importance of understanding Buddhist philosophy

How important is it to understand Buddhist philosophy (such as the origins of subjects and objects)? Is it okay to understand the basic influence even though I cannot explain it to someone else?


Understanding 100% of Buddhism is what will get you Enlightened.

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I wouldn’t think that one answer fits everyone. The path starts with the practice of generosity and training in keeping the ethical precepts.

Also there are different ways of understanding. There/s intellectual understanding and intuitive understanding.

Sorry to be of so little help. :wink:


It is important for scholarly work, or cross-examining Buddhism with other systems of thought, or providing a theme to explain Buddhist culture, perceptions and way of life.

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For the best practice, as I see it, it isn’t necessary to read many books. Take all the books and lock them away. Just read your own mind. You have all been burying yourselves in books from the time you entered school. I think that now you have this opportunity and have the time, take the books, put them in a cupboard and lock the door. Just read your mind.

Whenever something arises within the mind, whether you like it or not, whether it seems right or wrong, just cut it off with, “this is not a sure thing.” Whatever arises just cut it down, “not sure, not sure.” With just this single ax you can cut it all down. It’s all “not sure.”

For the duration of this next month that you will be staying in this forest monastery, you should make a lot of headway. You will see the truth. This “not sure” is really an important one. This one develops wisdom. The more you look the more you will see "not sure’-ness. After you’ve cut something off with “not sure” it may come circling round and pop up again. Yes, it’s truly “not sure.” Whatever pops up just stick this one label on it all . . . “not sure.” You stick the sign on …"not sure’ . . . and in a while, when its turn comes, it crops up again . . . “Ah, not sure.” Dig here! Not sure. You will see this same old one who’s been fooling you month in, month out, year in, year out, from the day you were born. There’s only this one who’s been fooling you all along. See this and realize the way things are.

When your practice reaches this point you won’t cling to sensations, because they are all uncertain. Have you ever noticed? Maybe you see a clock and think, “Oh, this is nice.” Buy it and see . . . in not many days you’re bored with it already. “This pen is really beautiful,” so you take the trouble to buy one. In not many months you tire of it again. This is how it is. Where is there any certainty?

If we see all these things as uncertain then their value fades away. All things become insignificant. Why should we hold on to things that have no value? We keep them only as we might keep an old rag to wipe our feet with. We see all sensations as equal in value because they all have the same nature.

When we understand sensations we understand the world. The world is sensations and sensations are the world. If we aren’t fooled by sensations we aren’t fooled by the world. If we aren’t fooled by the world we aren’t fooled by sensations.

The mind which sees this will have a firm foundation of wisdom. Such a mind will not have many problems. Any problems it does have it can solve. When there are no more problems there are no more doubts. Peace arises in their stead. This is called “Practice.” If we really practice it must be like this.

- Ajahn Chah : Purify your mind


An odd quote to be posted by a moderator on the forum of a website with thousands of texts. :wink: It’s also important to be aware that he would have said this to a particular audience at a particular moment in time. I’m not convinced that he would approve of all the things that his later disciples would go on to promote having just “looked at their own minds” instead of learning really what the Buddha taught.

It’s very important to know what the Buddha said, and by that, know what he didn’t say. For example, the whole “subject and object” thing really isn’t found in the suttas despite it’s popularity in the Ajahn Chah tradition.


Touche! :rofl:

This was offered as a direct response to the OP…

IMO, at some point one has to let go of reading commentaries and scholarly explanations and actually find out for oneself. To my mind, OP seems to be at the threshold of deciding to go down the path of becoming a practitioner vs being a scholar… (the two need not be mutually exclusive, though!)

Probably the most balanced advice with regard to study/practice is to be found in the foreword of the undergraduate Textbook of Medicine…


No need to understand completely …but if you try to understand completely it will be easier.
If you have complete faith in 3 jewels & just live your life unblemished and devoted to eightfold path, then there won’t be need for you to bother about understanding complete path, as that understanding will eventually come to you.

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Ah, I didn’t see that at all in their post. @Avadhutananda?

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I must admit that I did not see my question in this light at first, but that @faujidoc1 show a great deal of insight. I do enjoy studying (and reading) a great deal and I am about to do a degree in Religious Studies. At the same time I am serious and earnest in practicing my beliefs. I guess sometimes the two gets a bit mixed up while I am also in some consternation when I struggle to understand something. I think sometimes it is okay not to understand everything, but it bothers me that I will not be able to explain myself to my non-Buddhist surroundings. Does that make sense?


Devotion to the Three Jewels, the Dharma, the Sangha, and the Buddha give quick and mature realizations on the Path. As long as you are engaged in Buddhist Practice, Realizations will come, and you will begin to fully understand Buddhism, without any doubts. For Buddhism is without blemish or doubts.


Buddhism is not a philosophy.

Teaching is a raft to take one to the other shore……based on morality, concentration leading to “wisdom “.

Wisdom is not the normal mundane understanding via words but rather a surpamundane one which is directly experienced……so one can be freed from illusionary samsara.


what do you mean, once you are free from Samsara, do you decern everything knowing all

I can suggest one thing. Chanting Om Mani padme hum helps. I had experience with it…many things in the past (not just concepts related to Buddhism and any religion but almost all the things which we require to live satisfied and problem free life) I couldn’t understand I simply started understanding. That’s my experience you can try. Because it definitely helps increasing own wisdom.

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Dependent Origination (DO) will be the key to understanding Buddhism and applying in everyday’s life.
We start differing from Vedana (how we perceive) influenced by repeated karma in previous existences.
By interepreting/reacting to those sensations, our Khandas move from Vedana to Tanha.
Then the misconception of “I” (ego) takes control of the wheel leading to “must-react” point (Upadana) and again to karmic actions (mental, verbal, physical - Bhava)
Referring the Paticcasamuppada, if we can see from Vedana point and former origins, there is only one truth which is Nobel Truth -Dukkha.
However, if we go more and more beyond Vedana point, we differ a lot in views and actions speared by various interpretations and egoes (I’s) leading to many conventional truths in the world.

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Wow marvelous sir. You explained it very clearly!!!


There has been some thinking about Buddhism as a philosophy, and a start might be made here Buddha (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) Another approach would be to consider the influence of Buddhism on western philosophers, such as Schopenhauer, or the attempts by modern Buddhists to incorporate western ideas. For this last, Thanissaro Bikkhu’s work on how western Buddhism is sometimes conflated with German Idealism Titlepage | Buddhist Romanticism is quite interesting. I would suggest that Buddhism is not properly speaking a philosophy because the Buddha explicitly ruled out most areas of philosophic inquiry (comparing them to a wounded man wanting information about the man who shot him when treatment for an arrow wound was what was needed.) Buddhism seems to me to be, although in many ways profoundly philosophical, not in intent or emphasis a philosophy.

That being said, I have found that knowing western philosophy can deepen one’s understanding of some aspects of Buddhism, and I think some Buddhists might wish to consider this. I find that Stoicism parallels Theravada teaching in some interesting ways, while Kant’s first Critique deconstructs physical experience in ways that resonate with the Buddhist view of phenomena as empty.

I think your desire to be able give a good account of yourself and your beliefs is both creditable and attainable.



When I go with my experience I think once you are taking your beliefs serious (as you said), things start to fall in place piece by piece. The right material shows up when needed (i.e. a book or a talk), the right people step into your life, others go etc.
When I started “my path”, I didn’t understand a lot. I found it quite daunting in the beginning (I started with Tibetan Buddhism).
Trying to understand everything got too theoretical for me and I “found” the the Thai Forest Tradition . This is when things started to make more sense and my heart opened up.

I can understand how frustrating it is when you want your non Buddhist friends to understand what you see. I think that will never happen as long they don’t have it in their heart / on their agenda. Living your beliefs (i.e. precepts), realising the change in you, will show them more than explaining things.

This is just my opinion. Maybe you find yourself a bit in it.
I wish you much joy and advancement in your path :blossom:

With metta


I chant Om Mani Padme Hum regularly. Thanks for the advice