Who teaches according to the EBTs in the US?

Who are the teachers, ordained or lay, who:

• teach in the US and are available to students (either through retreat or privately)

• base their teaching and practice instructions primarily on the EBTs, rather than primarily on the commentaries or later practice traditions

• emphasize nibbāna and liberation

• avoid the hybrid Dhamma/Western psychology approach (no offense intended here)

• encourage developing and utilizing the jhanas

• do not exclude or reinterpret teachings that may be unpalatable to Westerners, such as rebirth, renunciation, sense restraint, cemetery contemplations, etc.

In short, who do you feel is teaching in a way that seems to you to fully embrace and align with the teachings and practices found in the EBTs?


How about Ajahn Thanissaro at the Metta Forest Monastery?


I think it is like asking: “Who teaches from the Bible?” Most EBT teachers & students cannot even agree on their respective interpretations of the EBTs.

But the EBTs are psychology, since their state purpose is liberation of mind (citta). Refer to MN 29, MN 30, MN 43, etc.

There are thousands of debates about what EBT rebirth really means. One does not have to reject rebirth to be a one-lifer. A one-lifer can be an EBT, imo. For example, in Thailand, a one-lifer named Buddhadasa was a major translator of EBTs from Pali to Thai.

Many meditators have overestimation about what jhana is so, again, this is not concrete.

This is the noble path rather than the lay person path in the EBTs. Again, unrelated to EBTs because the EBTs contain many teachings for laypeople.

I have tried to explain EBTs for many years on many forums. Why travel to the USA? :innocent:


Bhante Gunaratana(author of Mindfulness in plain english) and Bhavana Society(of west virginia) monastics teach only from the Nikayas, not commentaries or abhidhamma. We also tend to avoid a lot of the cultural traditions, we don’t consider ourselves sri lankan or thai or anything other then a place to train monastics and offer the dhamma of the EBTs to the public.

We are a straight up theravada forest monastery and retreat center. In all our dhamma talks you will hear many sutta references, we give the names and numbers for people to research on their own, and we encourage practicing as the Buddha taught, understanding the framework of the suttas, and practicing with that framework in mind.


What if Buddha appears today?
Are we going to follow him or EBT?

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What if my mother was a man, would I have two fathers?


I do not think he teaches early Buddhism.
Buddha never taught that the Nibbana is another type of consciousness.


I’m hoping to avoid nitpicking or debates about people’s opinions. It would be most helpful to me for replies to be simply personal opinions of teachers who one thinks meet the above criteria. I’ll handle the due diligence.

If you have a suggestion, please post it or DM me; I’d be most grateful. If you’d like to debate the OP or other people’s suggestions, I’d ask you kindly to please refrain from that.

Thank you for the suggestion, Andy. I’ve read many of Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s works and have found great value there.

And thank you, Bhante, for your suggestion. My first five retreats were with Bhante Gunaratana and Bhante Rahula at Bhavana Society (with Bhante Dhammaratana assisting now and then). I have deep respect and gratitude for their guidance during those difficult early years.


My apologies Christopher, perhaps I could not convey my message to you properly.
I am not sure who coin this word called EBT.
I do not think there is any teacher who teaches only EBT.
Your best bet will be to learn the EBT Sutta yourself.
Sutta Central is the best place I can think of.

Agree this 100%

Than-Geoff (Thanissaro Bhikkhu) is worth looking into. Good place to start is this article, which, in fact, deals with how to find and evaluate a teacher:

Then (ignoring what people say here, including this) check-out his teachings for themselves; there’s a vast amount of his books, translations, commentaries etc. in written form on-line, but perhaps start with listening to his voice teaching; a number of his day-long and single talk teachings (down-loadable audio files spanning 16 years) can be found at:
You can scan the list and sample topics of interest, and judge for yourself.

His teaching is definitely sutta-based (not abdhidhamma or commentarial, etc.); his primary interest is clearly in helping people to fulfill the path. Than-Geoff is perhaps the foremost critic of Western modernist psychological flavors of Buddhism – see his book “Buddhist Romanticism” for thorough coverage of this area. Much of his teaching is in fact s/w unpalatable to many Westerners, as he stresses dhamma-s like those you’ve mentioned.

‘EBT’ is a s/w fuzzy term, perhaps most clearly definable as a research endeavor, a work-in-progress. Than-Geoff focuses on the sutta-s, the vast majority of which are, so far, considered EBT, but he doesn’t focus on the authentic / inauthentic issue like some others. His main focus is teaching, and writing, translating towards that end. His translations tend to use uncommon choice of English terms, as he wishes to encourage understanding how Buddha dhamma involves uncommon dimensions of understanding and living. Less so academic scholarship per se – some quibble with his terms, his lack perhaps of philological rigor. In, in the Buddhist Romanticism book (and other writings and talks) he’s highly critical of more purely academic approaches.

Otherwise there are people like Bhante Gunaratana (who does use abhidhamma material in addition to sutta-s), Bhante Vimalaramsi (who doesn’t), and others with established teaching presence in the USA and would be hard to accuse of “inauthentic” teachings. There’s also a monastery in Northern California manned by monks of the English V. Amaro, V. Sumedho back to A. Chah lineage.

I’m stressing monastic teachers here, as the broad range of lay teachers fall into areas where the issue is less do they teach EBT, but more do they really teach Theravada Buddhism or some form of popularized, psychological new-age spiritualism.

Edit: In Northern California that’s the Abhaygiri Monastery:


Isn’t Abhidhamma non-EBT (ie: LBT)?

Since when is ‘EBT’ some kind of fundamentalist exclusive corner on the truth of the Buddha’s dhamma? Those who speak most convincingly about the value of investigation of the historical EBT, IMO, also note that “early” and “late” are not unequivocally the same “true” and “false”. Theravada tradition is rife with insight into the dhamma throughout it’s history.

One little point which amounts to a quibbling mis-interpretation, and therefore A. Thanissaro doesn’t at all teach early (“true”) Buddhism? Your authority vs his? Not much of a contest.


I don’t think there is anyone who would match the above criteria. It is a non-existent tradition.

Hi Peter -

To give a better idea, I was thinking of teachers in the vein of Venerable Analayo.


I’ve never met Bhante Gunaratana, but have read most of his books, listened to many of his dhamma talks. From the way he writes his books, this may be a Sri Lankan cultural thing, but for people who are familiar with the pali suttas that he bases his books on, his teachings really stick to the suttas, i.e. really stick to the EBT. In other words, you don’t really get a sense he injects any of his own personal views on top or on the side, he just tries to present, as his book titles say, “in plain English” what the suttas say. So keeping in mind I’ve never met him, he’d be high on my list of EBT compliant teachers in the USA.

Top on my list is Ven. Thanissaro, Wat Metta forest in southern Calif. Aside from some of the KN, he tends to treat all the Pali suttas as genuine EBT. I suspect this is just a practical stance, because as soon you start playing that game of which sutta is EBT, then things get messy quickly, everyone disagrees, and from the outside it just looks like there is no genuine EBT. Having translated probably all the suttas he considers the most important in the sutta pitaka, and vinaya, he’s got an amazing and comprehensive knowledge of the EBT.

This place I’ve never been to, but would be interested in visiting, and would like to hear other people’s opinion of:
They’re disciples of Ajahn Maha Boowa, who wrote most of the biographical books about Ajahn Mun and his disciples that are available. Ajahn Mun’s stance was that present day Buddhism is impure (he didn’t specify whether he was talking about Abhidhamma or the entire Tipitaka), but IMO the way Ajahn Mun practiced and taught, is the most pure of anything I’ve seen or read, based on my impression of reading EBT. That is, they really focus on the essentials of the nitty gritty and go all out. Seems to capture of the EBT as I interpret it. Ajahn T (Thanissaro) IMO doesn’t emphasize asubha enough.


What about in UK, or if there is no-one here, in Europe in general? I would be very interested. The only place I have come across so far in Europe is Metta Vihara, Ayya Khema’s place in Germany.

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Dear dhamma friends,

I hesitate sharing my thoughts here because I feel it might generate anger, but I am sharing this note in the hopes that skillful dialogue can be generated in what I am about to bring up.

I think a few of the comments in this thread, in my mind, are examples of why the term ‘EBT’ it self is problematic in the Buddhist practitioner community. Within Buddhism there are distinct textual collections that are synoptic with each other in terms of terminology, view, and practice. I think scholars would agree, and in fact any one can see, that there are similarities and differences between various textual collections in Buddhism. I think the problem with the term ‘Early Buddhist Texts’ is that it places a historical value judgment on the texts it is referring to based on academic specializations such as Archeology or History which use methodological scholastic tools that as social sciences necessarily generate speculative theories, meaning they may have real evidence and the theories themselves may work, but scientific theories in the sciences are understood as fallible and disposably replaced by the next best theory or new evidence. I think the Historical approach in classifying these texts is not only speculative and theoretical, even if it seems to work and is the best historical theory, but the use of the term by Buddhist practitioners is also divisive with the much larger Buddhist community who holds differing historical views from their various perspectives. Also I think taking a strong stance and clinging to a historical or anthropological theoretical method is not aligned with the practice of wholesome actions of body, speech, and mind as contained within this collection of text themselves.

I do agree and I think it is visible for all who look and compare that there are distinct textual differences between collections or even within collections, and that there are various Buddhist Teachers who teach from one or many of these various textual collections, but as dhamma practioners to label the textual collection that we are studying, practicing, and analyze as ‘EBT’ I think is not unifying nor does it bring concord to the larger community of practicers practicing the various practices contained within one or many of the various textual Buddhist collections. Yet we probably need to name the textual collection, we practice, as something for our own ability to distinctively communicate about it. I have played with terms like ‘Synoptic Buddhist Texts’ because the word ‘synoptic’ is the secular word the Christian community uses to refer to the three gospels that are textual similar in terms of content, language, and biography in comparison to the Gospel of John which has a different continuity and alternative set of teachings and sayings. It is important to note that the textual differences within these synoptic and non-synoptic gospels can not be disputed because they are directly visible, and Christian fundamentalists and more secular Christian scholars must articulate and theorize why there is this difference; which is aptly called the ‘Synoptic Problem.’ How various Christians or scholars go about understanding this Synoptic Problem is based in their own perceptions and views.

We could also call this collection of texts the ‘Common Buddhist Texts’ because the northern and southern Asian traditions share many discourses in common within the Nikayas and the Agamas. I am not trying to argue what the textual title should be, but with the example of the Christian community with its scholars and practitioners, they are able to use the term ‘synoptic gospels’ to refer to textual differences and similarities without mandatorally having to refer to a historical method that requires specialized academic training to be able to employ. Of course, most Christian Academics use the term ‘synoptic gospels’ to refer to the historical method and most Christian believers either don’t know about this term or explain the differences that the term is referring to in a way that does not contradict there faith, and of course there may always be a tension between the two, but the term itself is textually descriptive and not based in ‘view’ and also does not necessarily contradict one or the other position being more or less true. Naming and noticing a directly visible difference in texts does not mean that a fundamentalist Christians belief is wrong. Fundamental Christians will have their own theological reasons to describe their views of the textual differences. I worry that the term EBT itself creates a sort of new ‘Hinayana’ schism within the larger Buddhist community. I feel that words such as ‘Authentic’ and ‘Inauthentic,’ are speculative and based upon disposable theories, as long as they are based in the sciences, whereas direct practice and also the direct ability to compare texts side by side is not.

Of course all of you know that we live in the digital and internet age where many or most of the various Buddhist texts from all textual traditions are available in their native script or in translated English for any internet savvy person to be able to study and compare them side by side. Of course, there are still some texts which are still not translated and others which we can only buy in book form. However, any person can do this side by side comparison if they are inclined, whereas not every person has the vigorous academic training to be able to employ methodologies based on peer scrutiny to try and understand how the direct evidence fits into some sort of logical historical theory that any good scientist may champion but, as based in their training, any good scientist knows should not be clung to and probably will be proved inadequate or dated in the near future. In my understanding the practice of dhamma is ever applicable, direct, and the same in the past, the present, or the future. As a practitioner of these texts, I do not feel that the term ‘EBTs,’ as a predominate term used to refer to these texts, aligns with the ethics, principles, and practices found within whatever name we give this body of texts we are calling EBTs. And who knows, maybe we do need several different terms to describe this specific collection of texts. What are your thoughts?

Peace and metta,
Sincerely, Weston


Hi neonative. Could you please explain in layman’s terms, what this means? I can’t quite tell what you are saying.

If I can recollect my memory correctly, his famous Jhana thesis based on Visuddhimaga.
Visuddhimaga is not EBT.