Reply To: Approach to Dhamma


I think the title you selected is good.

Top-down and bottom-up approaches can mean different things in different situations. So let me explain what I had in mind regarding learning/practicing Buddha Dhamma.

1. Top-down approach is to start with Abhidhammic analysis, the theoretical framework. One could learn about the world in terms of its building blocks: citta, cetasika, and rupa.
– One would learn about 81 (121) types of citta, 54 types of cetasika, and 28 types of rupa.
– How the fundamental units of rupa (suddhatthaka) arise in javana citta, and how some incorporate kammic energy to create the basis of life: hadaya vatthu and a set of pasada rupa (version of namarupa).
– When a purified mind stops making such “life-creating” namarupa, one attains Arahanthood.
– One may be able to grasp that lobha, dosa, and moha (and the mundane versions of alobha, adosa, and amoha) are the main defilements that can give rise to such namarupa.

2. Bottom-up approach is to start with learning about dasa akusala, kamma, kamma vipaka, rebirth, etc. I started learning those even before starting school. In Sri Lanka, those concepts are taught from primary school through high school. In addition, we used to go temple often and listen to discourses by bhikkhus, making offerings to them regularly (the local community sustains temples).
– That approach is a combination of learning and practice. We were taught to obey the five precepts and took the eight precepts on “Poya days.”
– One could proceed to Arahanthood that way. The “Abhidhamma analysis” (as we call Abhidhamma today) was not there during the time of the Buddha. As I have explained, Buddha taught Ven. Sariputta the framework of that analysis, and Ven. Sariputta only got started on it with his students. That analysis was finalized only by the Second Buddhist Council held 200 years after the Parinibbana of the Buddha.
– See “Abhidhamma – Introduction” for details.

3. I don’t think one can proceed to Arahanthood strictly by approach #1. That is what I was trying to say.
– Of course, one is likely to start “practicing” (i.e., living by five/eight precepts first and then making that a deeper practice via comprehending the Noble Truths/Paticca Samuppada/Tilakkhana) when it becomes clear of the importance of “living by Dhamma” as one learns Abhidhamma.

4. I think a combination of #1 and #2 would be the best if one can tackle it. That may be Dosakkhayo’s approach.
– It is impossible for me or anyone else (unless it is Buddha) to recommend a specific way. Each person needs to find their way.
– Furthermore, I have no idea about anyone’s state of understanding. I can see that some people are likely to have made progress, and I am delighted. When I started the website, I was unsure whether there would be much interest. I thought that my efforts would not have gone to waste even if one person attained the Sotapanna stage. So, it makes me happy to see many people are making progress.

5. I think hojanyun (Ja-nyun Kim) and Tobias Große are doing a great service through their Korean and German puredhamma websites. Seng Kiat has been involved from the beginning and has done much work to maintain the English website. Many people contribute by commenting on the forum. I hope we all can try our best to spread the correct teachings of the Buddha. Of course, we should give priority to making progress ourselves.

6. There is another angle to this. We all have been exposed to Buddha Dhamma (by many previous Buddhas) in this rebirth process with no discernible beginning. Thus, some people have practiced in previous lives and have achieved a significant level of progress. It could be easier for them to “catch up” without much effort.
– A similar situation is there in the cultivation of jhanas. It is relatively easy for some people to attain anariya jhanas. I have discussed that.

7. Dosakkhayo wrote: “I would like to deliver to everyone else what I got. From now, I’m starting to write a column that I planned before. I’ll write it down in Korean for now, but I plan on drawing it into comics.”
– That sentence didn’t register in my mind while reading your comment earlier.
– That is an extremely bad idea. Buddha Dhamma is to be treated with respect. I don’t want to have any association with this kind of stuff.