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I recently published a text and translation of Arthaviniścayasūtram, a Sanskrit discourse which collects some of the most important teachings found in the early tradition. I have examined the contents and their collection in the Introduction to that work, to which I refer the reader.
The work itself struck me as being one of the finest collections of early Buddhist material that I have come across, and I thought therefore to produce a Pāḷi collection based on the same topics, but an expanded version with extra sections, that included other important teachings, and with a rearrangement of some of the topics.
I have also introduced a new set of topics concerning the Abhidhamma, or Abstract teaching, drawing from the proto-Abhidhammic Mahāniddesa, the Abhidhamma books themselves, and the post-Abhidhammic Paṭisambhidāmagga – all of this material is late, but still canonical.
We therefore first have seven Dhamma topics, then seven topics concerning meditation, in the middle the 37 Factors of Awakening, the new section with Abhidhamma-type topics, and then a series of seven topics concerning the special qualities of the Buddha – it is in this latter that three of the four extra-canonical pieces in this work are found The fourth one is an analysis from the Nettippakaraṇa expanding on the Four Right Endeavours (section 16). which are drawn from Milindapañhā, Dīghanikāyaṭṭhakathā and the Milindaṭīkā (sections 30, 32 & 35) respectively. I have also added a new section here, on the modes of deportment (section 34) that are listed in Majjhima 91.
As with the Sanskrit text, there are three basic ways of presenting the topics: simple lists, extended analytic lists, and lists followed by analyses, or further definitions. In the Sanskrit text these were roughly equal (8, 10, 9). But in this collection I have tried to give more details by including definitions, sometimes from sources other than those that the lists themselves come from.
Simple lists may sound uninteresting, but they do serve to delineate the topic they are defining, and many of the more extensive analyses also use lists to analyse the main subject they are examining.
14. The Sixteen Modes of Mindfulness while Breathing
17. The Four Bases of Spiritual Power
26. The Twenty-Two Triads
27. The Twenty-Four Conditions
32. The Eighteen Qualities of a Buddha
33. The Thirty-Two Marks of a Great Man
35. The Eighty Secondary Characteristics
3. The Four Factors of a Stream-Enterer
9. The Four Formless Attainments
10. The Four Spiritual States
13. The Ten Thoughts
28. The Seventy-Three Knowledges
31. The Ten Strengths of a Realised One
34. The Sixty-Two Ways of Deportment
Lists and Analysis:
1. The Three Marks
2. The Four Noble Truths
4. The Five Components that provide Fuel for Attachment
5. The Six Elements
6. The Ten Types of Wholesome Deeds
7. The Twelve Factors of Conditional Origination
8. The Four Absorptions
11. The Four Ways of Practice
12. The Four Cultivations of Meditation
15. The Four Ways of Attending to Mindfulness
16. The Four Right Endeavours
18. The Five Faculties
19. The Five Strengths
20. The Seven Factors of Awakening
21. The Noble Eightfold Path
22. The Two (Aspects of) Sense Desires
23. The Three Thoughts
24. The Six Designations
25. The Seven Underlying Tendencies
30. The Four Analytical Knowledges
The material has some other important characteristics, which are also found throughout the texts, and which it is well to point out here: they include mapping items against each other, repetition and contextualising.
One strategy is to map teachings against other teachings, and play them out, so that in the first of the sections presented here, for instance, the Three Marks of Existence (Tilakkhaṇa) are mapped against the Five Components (Pañcakkhandha), and show how the components are affected by the marks teachings.
Repetition is a hallmark of the early teachings, so that a teaching is often repeated with small, but sometimes interesting, variations that help bring out the deeper meaning of that particular teaching.
Teachings which otherwise stand in their own right are often included within other teachings, and then throw light both on the new subject, by explaining it, or helping to analyse it, and on the original teaching which is shown as having relevance in a new context.
Here is a summary showing where the material has been drawn from, I have mainly used the Myanmar Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana edition of the text, with some small unnoted changes to correct ahistorical irregularities in that edition, like writing vīriya, a Sanskritic form, instead of Pāḷi viriya. with the para-canonical and non-canonical sources highlighted in dark red:
In the English-only version I have added in key words in Pāḷi so that the text may serve as a primer for the teachings; for those who want to delve more deeply into the Pāḷi, it is given with a very exact line-by-line (interlinear) translation in the text and translation version.
There is also a Pāḷi-only version of the text, with a reading, so that students can learn some of the important passages that recur in the teachings.
I hope that this collection can act as a primer for people to familiarise themselves with some of the most important teachings that the Buddha gave, and provide an insight into the complex and interwoven world of the early Buddhist teachings.
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last updated: December 2016