According to sutta, and any other Theravada sources.
Good question. I am not sure of an exact answer. However, I guess all Dhamma is good, from basic to advanced, from the fruits of ethics to the fruits of Arahantship, per Snp 2.4, for example.
These are just guesses.
The Buddha’s training is called the gradual training. Based on his advice to the Kalamas, along the lines of practice and see for yourself, we can surmise that each stage of practice brings its own benefits and reduction in drawbacks. The gradual accumulation of benefits at any given stage of the practice may be what makes it good in the beginning, middle and end.
A particular teaching (e.g. sutta) that the Buddha gives might be good in the beginning, middle and end because it is consistent within itself and what he has taught before. Therefore the listener leaves the Buddha less confused.
I don’t believe there is an explication anywhere in the EBTs, although I could be wrong. I bet the commentaries have something to say about it. Bhante @Dhammanando?
Buddhaghosa gives nine explanations of the meaning.
To me the first four seem improbable, the eighth unintelligible and the rest plausible.
My own favourites are the seventh:
It is good in the beginning because it is the good discovery made by the Buddha. It is good in the middle because it is the well-regulatedness of the Dhamma. It is good in the end because it is the good way entered upon by the Saṅgha.
and the ninth:
When listened to, it does good through hearing it because it suppresses the hindrances, thus it is good in the beginning. And when made the way of practice it does good through the way being entered upon because it brings the bliss of serenity and insight, thus it is good in the middle. And when it has thus been made the way of practice and the fruit of the way is ready, it does good through the fruit of the way because it brings unshakable equipoise, thus it is good in the end.
I’ve understood it simply as a formula connoting completeness, i.e. the Dhamma is wholly good.
I like this quite a bit. Thank you for sharing this with us.
Yes: the path brings benefits at every stage of practice.
I do not see the explicit explanation in suttas, and I do not know much about other external resources or commentaries. Therefore, this is just base on my own understanding of the Dhamma.
The Buddha’s Dhamma begins with ethics, generosity, cultivating wholesome activities and avoiding unwholesome activities… Cultivating these qualities, we will experience happiness, and we can also see our own sufferings are eventually reduced; therefore, it is good from the beginning. Moreover, it has good destinations such as rebirth to a good family, beauty, rich, power, enjoying heaven, etc. These destinations are “the middle.” Therefore, The Dhamma is good at the middle. Most of other religions or paths end here. However, Buddhism does not. The Dhamma does not end here since these destinations are impermanence, and if we stay there, that goodness will become “not-goodness” soon.
Seeing the danger and not waiting for that goodness to become “not-goodness,” the Dhamma guides us to the higher path. That is the path of renunciation. Following this path, we will reach the ultimate refuge - Nibbana. This is the end of the path and it is unconditioned and permanent. Therefore, it is good at the end.
It seems like only the path to Nibbana has the true good end. The good end of other paths will eventually become bad end because of the impermanence nature if they are not reaching Nibbana. Only Nibbana is the safest refuge; therefore, the Buddha’s Dhamma is called “good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end.”
I always interpreted that phrase as meaning that the dhamma has something for everyone at every stage.
No disrespect to anyone, but it sounds an awful lot like an American advertisement for a candy bar, cupcake, or sandwich cookie. “Good at the first bite, good in the middle, and good in the end”. Ugh! I’ve been polluted by marketing!
By reading another source I came with this conclusion.
Buddha teaches to see all as empty. Because in reality everthing is free from what we perceive.
To the one who see correctly, there is nothing.
We dont own nothing. Where wife, son? If yourself dont belong to yourself.
All this is Maya illusion. The appearence that makes us bonded not to see Brahman. Which is unbounded.
Buddha dharma is the attaintment of Brahman through the middle way. As is mentioned in sutta.
This Beyondness is free in the beginning, middle , and end. Nibbana is awakening to seeing past the illusion that there is something wrong with you and the world.
Its the end just because there is nothing more higher to seek. Not because you where in ignorance. Because ignorance was never there.
There is nothing more to say. May you all be happy and free! Like most of us realize, there is nothing else to do than just sit and let go. In reality its there already waiting for you to wake up.
Thanks for sharing
Hmm… this contradicts the suttas. To say that something was never there is to say that it had no effect on anything else. If ignorance was never there then non of us would expect to suffer. It is because we are ignorant that we suffer. Of course, ignorance doesn’t exist in isolation or in an absolute sense. But to say that it was never there is inaccurate. To the degree that we suffer, we are ignorant. To the degree we are ignorant, ignorance exists.
You yourself say ignorance doesnt exist in the absolute sense. Right now. In instance if you see reality its gone. Thats here and now. No Ending and Beginning.
Absolute meaning regardless of all things. In relation to suffering it exists as a proximate cause.
Its not true meaning my friend. All what see in duality. All what we use in language. All is part of the illusion. Remove illusion. you see things as they truly are. Go beyond your ordinary mind is seeing in the Absolute nature of things. In the state is beyond language. And its here and now. At this moment. Without ending and beginning. Good always
“Owning nothing, taking nothing” “akincanam anadanam”
At the end you realize there wasnt mine. So where ignorance as mine?
We will have to agree to disagree on this. Language is only an approximation and can’t be equated to experience. Nonetheless, it is because we are ignorant of the causes of suffering that we create suffering. One the causes are identified and uprooted, the experience of suffering ceases.
Buddhagosa suttanipata commentary,
Thus when it is said that this person named so and so whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down -bends and stretches by way of bending and stretching any of the limbs in any posture here or there, this occurs in the way stated through the arising of the thought of bending or stretching. Therefore this is the motion of the body. There is nothing else here; this is empty of any being or person walking or stretching. The supreme meaning here is simply this:
On account of the difference in the mind, there is a difference in the air element. Because of the difference in the air element,
there is difference in the body’s motion.
Now when the body is held for a long time in a single posture there is bodily oppression, and a change in postures takes place for the purpose of dispelling that oppression.
This is non-self. This is suffering. This is impermanence.
Commentaries are tricky because those who made them weren’t ariya (i.e. stream-winner, once returner, non-returner, arahant). So they should be relied on only with caution.
See for example what Ajahn Amaro explain here
I hope you understand better.