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Succinct Overviews

Bhikkhu Bodhi

Access to Insight: Dhamma


Lumbini, Nepal

The First Sermon

Deer Park, Sarnath

Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion




Lecture Notes (Moses 1/28/2008)

Based on Walpola Rahula. What the Buddha Taught. 2nd Ed. (NY: Grove Press, 1974)

See also:

Four Noble Truths

  • Dukkha: suffering; impermanence of pleasure, existence
  • Samudaya: thirst for pleasure, existence, nonexistence
  • Nirodha: cessation of dukkha; nibbana
  • Magga: the middle path of the eightfold way
    • Right Understanding
    • Right Thought
    • Right Speech
    • Right Action
    • Right Livelihood
    • Right Effort
    • Right Mindfulness
    • Right Concentration

Anatta: Doctrine of No Soul

  • Five Aggregates (see Ego Development)
  • 12 Factors of Conditioned Genesis
  • "the vague feeling 'I AM' that creates the idea of self" (Rahula 65)

Bhavana: Mindfulness of:

  • kaya: body
  • sensations: vedana
  • mind: citta
  • moral and intellectual: dhamma

Ten Duties of Sovereignty

  • charity
  • character
  • sacrifice (for, not of) the people
  • integrity
  • geniality
  • frugality
  • forgiving
  • nonviolence
  • tolerance
  • nonobstruction


Notes from Samuel Bercholz and Sherab Chodzin Kohn, Eds. The Buddha and His Teachings. (Boston: Shambala, 1993).

  • Pali Canon (Tripitaka or Three Baskets): canonical texts for Buddhism in the Pali language by :*Theravada Monks of Ceylon (see:
    • Sutra Pitaka or Discourse Basket (Discourses narrated by Ananda, Buddha's personal assistant)
    • Vinaya Pitaka or Discipline Basket (Rules of Conduct narrated by bhikkshu Upali)
    • Abhidarhma Pitaka or Special Teachings Basket (Lists of terms or matrika narrated by disciple :*Mahakasyapa)

(Bercholz and Kohn 46)


It is fitting that we should borrow some notes on Generosity from John Bullitt's online selections of Buddhist texts at because his work is a gift to the reader who wants online access to classic Buddhist sources in English (see especially "A Gradual Training" at where he lists the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

In preparation for the "Four Noble Truths" five stages of gradual training are encouraged, the first of them being generosity (dana). But generosity can have many motivations. In the Dana Sutta (Trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu; AN 7.49), Buddha critically reviews six kinds of motivations for giving, ranking them in ascending order: "I'll enjoy this after death"; "Giving is Good"; "It is customary"; "I am well off. They are not"; "I am gratified"; "This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind".

Says Thanissaro Bhikku in his commentary on the Economy of Gifts, "For the monastics, this means that you teach, out of compassion, what should be taught, regardless of whether it will sell. For the laity, this means that you give what you have to spare and feel inclined to share. There is no price for the teachings, nor even a "suggested donation." Anyone who regards the act of teaching or the act of giving requisites as a repayment for a particular favor is ridiculed as mercenary."

An early controversy among Buddhist monks (Sangha) involved the acceptance of gold or silver "exchange currencies" (Bercholz and Kohn 46-47).

By the end of the 3rd Century BCE, 18 schools of Buddhism had developed, including:

Sthaviravada traditionalists (monastic, adhering to canonical Tripitaka);

  • Known also as Theravada, Small Vehicle, Little Ferry (S.E. Asia today)
  • Adopted by King Ashoka (r 276-232 BCE)
    • "institutions of compassion and nonviolence were established throughout much of India": hospitals :*and animal hospitals, welfare officials, rest stops

Mahasanghikas (fallibility of enlightened ones; open to lay community);

  • Prefigures Mahayana, Great Vehicle, Big Ferry (N.E. Asia today)

Sarvastivadans (past, present, and future "all exists") (Bercholz and Kohn 47).


Prajnaparamita: The Perfect Wisdom

The Mahayana in 2nd Century CE produced "a new wave of sutras" and "replaced the ideal of the arhat with that of the bodhisattva. Whereas arhats sought to end confusion in themselves in order to escape samsara, bodhisattvas vowed to end confusion in themselves yet remain in samsara to liberate all other sentient beings" (Bercholz and Kohn 48).

Buddha "no longer limited to a series of historical personages, the last of whom was Shakyamuni, but referred also to a fundamental self-existing principle of spiritual wakefulness or enlightenment" (Bercholz and Kohn 49).

  • Nagarjuna (2nd-3rd Cent. CE) head of Nalanda Univ., Prajnaparamita Sutras, Madhyamaka School (Middle :*Way)
  • Asanga (4th Cent.) Yogachara ("experience as the ultimate principle")
ZEN (Chan): Sudden Enlightenment
Diamond Sutra:


Diamond Vehicle, Tantra Sutras, "all experiences, including the sensual, are sacred manifestations of awakened mind, the buddha principle" (Bercholz and Kohn 50)

By 13th Century, Buddhism in India suppressed largely by Islamic conquerors