There is a Buddhist monk from Theravada tradition that only follows Vinaya and the 4 Nikayas, he avoids talking about Abidhamma or other sources like Jakata Tales, he said some later stories contradicts the Buddha's teachings and gave some interesting examples, he also avoids the commentaries.

He claimed the true Dhamma the Buddha spoke of before dying (to be the teacher) were the Vinaya and suttas in the 4 Nikayas.

I would like to know, is there a tradition inside theravada that follows this logic? I couldn't ask if he was following a particular tradition/school or if it was just his personal view. I would like to understand and explore it.

  • I'm always puzzled by such questions... If there is a certain way to interpret something, there will be people interpreting it that way. What difference does it make if this interpretation is passed down a traditional lineage -- would that give it more legitimacy? As if there were no "official" traditions with absurd teachings...
    – Andriy Volkov
    Oct 28, 2014 at 1:41
  • I think to remember some discussions this line in the last years, but none impulse of this type seem to have found big audience or even constancy (but maybe they have but disappear then from the large&wide-discussion). "True Dharma", "Dharma-yana", "Buddha-yana", "Sutta-yana" were some of the labels which have been tried. I confess that I sympathize with that impulse, but cannot give some adress or point-of-access except the hint to ones own studies of that historical material and ones own experiences to be achieved. (This is only a comment because it may easily be there is a better answer) Oct 28, 2014 at 9:19
  • Just out of curiosity, would this happen to be the Ven. Dhammavuddho from Vihara Buddha Gotama in Temoh, Malaysia?
    – Bakmoon
    Oct 28, 2014 at 12:25
  • Yes!!!! I went to a theravada centre in KL and got a pack of CD with his Dhammatalks, I have been following his teachings since them. I really like him.
    – konrad01
    Oct 28, 2014 at 13:21
  • @konrad01 Ok, that clears things up. The Ven. Dhammavuddho decided on this system of study and teaching on his own as far as I know. There are others who emphasize the original texts and historical analysis, but he's the only person to my knowledge who specifically identifies with the Vinayapitika and the 4 Nikayas.
    – Bakmoon
    Oct 28, 2014 at 17:57

3 Answers 3


Bhante Punnaji and Bhante Vimalaramsi (following Bhante Punnaji) and Bhikkhu Nanavira also teach this approach to Dhamma study. I also believe this is a good approach from the point of view of investigating an unknown doctrine. Go to the original sources as much as possible.

In really attemtpting to understand Psychology would it not make more sense to go to Freud first, then read those who came after with their modifications and perhaps misunderstandings? I'd rather generate my misunderstandings first hand.

There are those who say that reading the commentaries is helpful for understanding difficult positions. The reply is how can one be certain that the 'clarification' isn't mystification? You can only know by going to the original sources. Why waste the time going in circles like that?

Trust in the mind! To the clear, calm mind the solution to every problem will be seen.

One needs to remember that what Buddhism is talking about is salvation from the eternal round of pain and misery. Are you going to trust your salvation to secondary sources?

The Buddha says over and over again that he has taught Dhamma in the best way to teach Dhamma. see http://obo.genaud.net/dhamma-vinaya/bd/an/03_threes/an03.123.olds.bd.htm At least until one knows for certain otherwise it seems wise to take the man's word for it. It is, after all, his wisdom one is studying.

  • I really found your answer very useful, thanks for that
    – konrad01
    Dec 20, 2014 at 15:51

I tend to side with this approach. In many ways a good working example of its beauty is the Thai Forest Tradition. You can read more about it on the DhammaTalks website.

Noted teachers are: Ajaan Mun, Ajaan Lee, Ajaan Fuang Jotiko, Ajaan Chah, and Ajaan Suwat.
Also, an American monk who had trained there for over 10 years: Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

There are many things in later texts (e.g. Abdhidhamma) which directly contradict instructions given in the canon - instructions which, though hard to follow, seem to have razor-sharp reasoning and efficiency if adhered to. The Thai Forest Tradition shows that you don't need a PhD. in Buddhist Studies in order to penetrate the message. As Ajaan Chah once put it,

If a mango is five meters off the ground and we want it, we can’t use a tenmeter picking pole to pick it, because it’s too long. We can’t use a two-meter picking pole either, because it’s too short. Don’t go thinking that a person with a PhD. has an easy time practicing the Dhamma because he knows so much. Don’t go thinking that way. Sometimes people with a PhD. are too long.

  • I like your answer, I just don't wanna start another debate about Mahayana and Theravada, that is why I tried to keep the question very tied to Theravada, it is better to explore that way. And yes, he gave some good examples of contradictions that caught my attention!
    – konrad01
    Oct 28, 2014 at 10:29
  • The Thai Forest Tradition doesn't reject the use of the entire canon or the use of the classical commentaries and such. For example, Ajahn Mun himself, the founder of the tradition never traveled anywhere without a copy of the Abhidhammatasanghaha, and I think that Ajahn Chah studied a little bit of the Visuddhimagga.
    – Bakmoon
    Oct 28, 2014 at 12:23
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    @SankhaKulathantille See wiki about the origins of Abhidhamma - it's said to be a later addition. One contradiction is that the Abhidhamma speaks of so many esoteric details which have no relevance to the practice, like where do Brahamas get born depending on their current plane of existence, etc. This doesn't hold with the "handful of leaves" approach spread throughout the canon.
    – Sadhana
    Oct 28, 2014 at 14:39
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    Here's a better source than wikipedia: accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/abhi It's wrong to assume that preachings such as planes of existences are not useful for one's spiritual progress. Ex: Sapthasuriyuggamana sutta preaches about how the world will end. Many monks attained Arhanthship at the mango grove of Ambapali after listening to that. Being comprehensive and profound does not contradict with the "handful of leaves" approach. The Buddha is omniscient. So compared to everything the Buddha knew about the universe, even the whole Tipitaka itself is indeed just a handful of leaves. Oct 28, 2014 at 14:56
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    What teaching is enough for one to attain enlightenment differs from person to person. But I'm pretty sure venerable Cullapantaka wouldn't have discarded the whole Tipitaka and instructed everyone just to keep rubbing clothes, just because that was enough for him. Abhidhamma is a part of the Canon. That's why it's called the Tipitaka :) Oct 28, 2014 at 15:14

Not sure if that venerable's position represents the typical approach. They didn't call it "Tipitaka" (Three Baskets) for no reason.. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tripi%E1%B9%ADaka )

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