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Book of Eights: General comments

federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

Please use this thread for general comments, observations or perceptions regarding the Atthakavagga - Book of Eights.


  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran
    edited June 18

    I have copied and pasted here the general notes I observed from Gil Fronsdal's introduction to the book, as already posted in the original thread, with some changes or updates.

    Fronsdal finds four main themes in the book:
    1) Letting go of views,
    2) Avoiding sensual craving,
    3) The qualities of a sage, and
    4) The training to become a sage.

    The book proposes practices to attain peace in this lifetime, and the first two themes are the behaviours most associated with non~clinging.
    The last two themes show us the model of person who has attained this peace, and the means to attain it.

    There is a relationship between the states to be attained (peace / equanimity) and the activities to be let go of (clinging, craving, being entrenched and quarrelling).

    No mention is made of basic Buddhist notions such as the 4NT, the N8P, four foundations of mindfulness, four jhanas, five aggregates, etc., and rebirth.
    There are no concerns with rebirth, nor is the Buddha viewed in superhuman forms.

    This book is believed to date back to the times of the Buddha's recent awakening, since there is also no mention to monastic life, except for a couple of chapters which could be a later addition.


    1) The Buddha's preferred way of referring to the ideal goal is peace (santi) and commonly describes those who have realized this goal as peaceful.

    2) Some chapters mention monastic life, probably as the result of a later addition to the original chapters, and only once do we find a respectful addressing to the Buddha as such.

    3) Fronsdal upholds that metaphysical references, gods and heavenly realms are mentioned as uttered by disciples, not by the Buddha himself.
    He never mentions such things: his utterances are basically of a pragmatic and practical tone.

    4) The Buddha does not prefer the use of the word "purity."
    His goal is always "peace."
    As in inner peace and peace in our interrelations with other people.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    I feel this book has come along at a time that I really needed something like this. I've been in the Tibetan tradition mainly for on and off 20 years, but I've come to realize that while I embraced the philosophy my actual practice has never really followed the TB model and I've been finding my own way. More recently this difference has come into more direct conflict within me and I've turned to a local western Theravada center modeled after Fronsdale's IMC for my practice.

    My impression so far is that this style of direct and tangible understanding of the practice is sort of in direct contradiction with the TB practice which, in my experience, focuses more on merit making and building up a reserve of positive karma in order to gain some improvement or ultimately freedom from the round of rebirth.

    I don't want to come off as too negative towards TB because I've come across many deeply authentic and sincere practitioners and a handful of deeply kind and realized people. And I still find the philosophy to be rigorous and stimulating and still attend teachings.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @person I agree. The merit-making is highly regarded and focused on in my Sangha as well. In some ways I find comfort in the rituals but more so because I see what it brings to the practitioners. But I often find there is so much "stuff" that the basic teachings are muddied quite a lot. I just started the book but I am intrigued by working with peace here and now, in this life. That was my entire goal in coming to Buddhism. But within TB there has always been a sense that the goal is to escape here and now because there is little peace to be found. I've never agreed with that. It also might be just my perception but I think Buddhism absolutely can offer that and I look forward to getting back to that goal. I very much enjoy my teacher and our Sangha brothers and sisters. But there is still a lot of focus on an end goal of either ending rebirth or becoming a Bodhisattva that there is less focus on the present (which is ironic). When asked why it's seen as ok to strive in that manner, the answer is that spiritual striving is different than, say, career striving. I am not so sure that it is so different.

    I am efficient and simple at my core, and so far I feel like this book will help me re-center on that. It seems to me that that would be the whole idea behind what Buddha taught after his awakening but before everything started being organized.

    I am intrigued on the idea presented in the introduction about avoiding interpersonal and interreligious conflicts. It seems so difficult to avoid personal conflicts when you are within a family (whether you are talking extended or partner/children). Our house has a lot of minor conflicts because my husband is stepparent to my older kids whose father died a number of years ago. I look forward to seeing what the book says about conflict and finding peace.

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran
    edited June 18

    My quibble with TB has been what @person expressed.

    The four attachments (upadanas) consist in clinging to sensuality, clinging to views or opinions, clinging to rules or rituals, and clinging to notions of self.

    I have often felt that this emphasis by Tibetan schools on rites and ceremonies was too close to the third upadana.
    I already mentioned before that I find that Tibetans are the Catholics of Buddhism.

    The Sutta Nipata in general and the Atthakavagga in particular offer some of the most purist Buddhist teaching and develop the upadanas in detail.
    The latter, which is the focus of Fronsdal's book, focuses in the here in now, in attaining peace (an early nirvana definition of sorts?) in this lifetime, not in future rebirths.
    It seems like a very down-to-earth book.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Despite normally enjoying books in physical form I am quite enjoying the Kindle version of thisbecause I can highlight in multiple colors so I can highlight in yellow the questions I might want to bring to the group and highlight in pink the things I really enjoyed and want to be able to look back on etc. Then I can un-highlight them so the next time I read it, my previous hightlighting doesn't impact seeing the passages from a new perspective. That is my one qualm of dog-earring or highlighting in regular books - when I go back it always influences what I place importance on. Anyhow, I've been having to pare down my real book collection after they started piling in the corners of the house, lol. I still buy real books since I prefer them but I am pretty discerning what I choose since I now have limited space :cry:

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem switzerland Veteran

    Sorry for getting sidetracked, but I have a passion for old books.
    I am not sure I could ever buy a kindle.
    I love rare, Buddhist books and underline them and highlight them voraciously.

    This 1896 edition of Henry Clarke Warren's "Buddhism in Translations," belonged to a woman who apparently was as crazy about taking notes on the books -and adding a photograph of a temple to boot, in this case- as me.
    The first picture are the traces this former lady owner left.
    The second picture are my own...

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    It drives me crazy to have underlining in books, even my own, :lol: . But particularly when I buy used books and someone else has determined what is important. It sways the way I read it then. I hated that about textbooks in school because they were always used. I do love and prefer real books. I just don't have room for them and find getting rid of them about as desirable as getting rid of my own feet. I have them organized now, but if I buy a physical book, then another has to go, so it has to be pretty important for me to replace the ones I've deemed important enough to carry.

    Anyhow, I am quite enjoying the book! I look forward to our discussions. Poetry is not usually my favorite way to learn anything. It's abstractness is definitely not my strong suit. But I quite enjoy most of the Buddhist teachings in that way. It makes sense that it made it easier to memorize.

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