Guide to the Pali Canon?

T Dan S-, modified 8 Years ago at 3/3/14 4:52 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 3/3/14 4:52 AM

Guide to the Pali Canon?

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
Recent intense PCE-like experiences have prompted me to trawl this forum and the AFT site for AF-related resources.
Motivation for this thread comes from this one:

Specifically, #2 in this list Tarin's provides:

(a) reading (at least the articles in richard's section of) the af trust website (for an understanding of what actual freedom and the path towards it are authoritatively described to be) and
(b) putting the actualism method into practice (for an understanding of how the experience of an actual freedom and/or the path towards it accord with the authoritative accounts);

(a) reading the canonical buddhist discourses,
(b) reading modern scholarship done on the those discourses (for various senses of which things can and cannot be known about those discourses),
(c) reading posts and articles written by practitioners who have declared that their models of practice and fruits reflect the contents of those early buddhist discourses, and have provided sources and citations (for various senses of what may be practised and achieved in accordance with the contents of those early discourses), and
(d) putting into practice instructions derived from a practical reading of those discourses; and

(a) reading MCTB,
(b) reading 'practical insight meditation' (both parts 1 and 2) by mahasi sayadaw and performing the exercises therein prescribed, and
(c) trawling thoroughly through the dho archives for discussions beginning in 2009 which concern the topics of actualism/actual freedom, differing models of practice and enlightenment, and realisations and development. many threads will contain replies seemingly posted by 'wet paint' (which indicates that the thread existed on and was moved over from the previous dho forum, which lived on a hosting platform called 'wet paint'); those threads are a good place to begin (or end, if you're reading in reverse chronology).

My problem with #2:
This is more a request for assisstance than anything else. All other reading of the canon is from posts DhO members have made, quoting parts of it as they pertain to practice (usually concentration).
It is hard to find a complete online database of the canon. Here are the sites I have found with large pieces of it:

I read DN1: The All-embracing Net of Views and came away from it confused by what was meant by the final conclusion: how “experiencing that feeling without contact” is impossible.

I read SN111: One by One as They Occurred, and saw a lot that I could relate to as far as Jhanas, wet insight, etc worked, but I suspect this is partially because the topics discussed are covered extensively by MCTB and ongoing discussions on the DhO, which I attempted kept abreast of.

Basically, this is a large amount of reading, which I have no problem undertaking and intend to post rough summaries/links in one place, but I suspect that without guidance I’ll get lost and burn a lot of time running in circles.
To be clear, the goal is getting a wider context for how the goals of AF contrast with Buddhist, specifically Theradevan goals as presented in the discourses. Can you offer any assistance with regard to what I should be reading, show I should go about finding/reading it, and/or how to get assistance in interpreting these texts?

Thank you,
Florian, modified 8 Years ago at 3/3/14 6:14 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 3/3/14 6:09 AM

RE: Guide to the Pali Canon?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Dan

Yeah, I read large parts of the Sutta Pitaka. There is a fairly complete German translation online at

For English, I think you have to buy dead-tree editions if you want to read every last sutta. If however it is not your ambition to read every single sutta, the selection online at is quite good, as far as I am able to judge. Last I checked, that site has a slight bias to towards a western secular audience, leaving out the painfully detailed descriptions of, for example, the hell realms. No big loss in my opinion, as we have ample tradition of the hells in our own western culture. They largely coincide, too, FWIW.

As to a guide to the texts... I just started reading. After some time, resistance to the convoluted, repetitive style of oral transmission died off, and it became an interesting daily practice for a few years. But then I'm a geek for old texts. YMMV.

I started with the Middle-Length Discourses. I finished all four of the "major" sections (middle, long, grouped, factored), and read most of the "little" texts as well.

You may find, like I did, that the summary presented in MCTB is quite accurate, it is a good tour of the Buddha Dhamma. You may still find it to have been worthwhile to read the old texts, because they are nowhere as smoothed out and unified-looking as a summary like MCTB. It's like reading the Gospels and noticing things like how only John has all the "I am ..." quotes, how there are two different genealogies for Jesus in two different gospels, both of which lead to his step-father ironically; how his last words were reported differently and so on. All of these you will miss if you only consume some harmonized summary.

Maybe you have a taste for hairsplitting over minute details, and then comparing parallel suttas (such as Bahiya and Malunkyaputta Suttas) will be right up your alley.

What is your fear regarding "getting lost" or "running in circles"? After all, it's just a huge corpus of old texts. They can be read sequentially, like Game of Thrones or the Lord of the Rings or the Iliad or the Bible.

Maybe it would be a good moment to ask yourself, what do you want to get out of this project?

Edited to addI can't really comment on commonalities/differences between AF and Theravada. As far as I am concerned, the doctrines presented in the Suttas are not the unified monolith which later commentaries, and the Abidhamma, make them. Thus contrasting "The Suttas" with the AF Trust Website is not very meaningful in my opinion.

Bruno Loff, modified 8 Years ago at 3/3/14 7:55 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 3/3/14 7:55 AM

RE: Guide to the Pali Canon?

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
What I have read of the cannon came from reading the anthology:

Wings to Awakening: An Anthology from the Pali Canon

by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

It is a really good book, the suttas that it presents are well organized and helpfully contextualized. I thought it offered me a very thorough overview of what the buddhist path is, without a lot of the common distortions / washing-down / etc.
T Dan S-, modified 8 Years ago at 3/3/14 11:13 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 3/3/14 11:13 AM

RE: Guide to the Pali Canon?

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
Thanks, Florian and Bruno!
This gets me started. I appreciate it.