Categories in Buddhism

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Categories in Buddhism

Postby ananda » Sat Jul 30, 2011 7:25 am

In Buddhism it seems that I am encountering a lot of things that are categorized like for example : Ten realms of being, Seven factors of Enlightenment, Twelve Nirdanas, Five Paramitas, The Six Faults in Sitting Down, 108 defilements, Five Grave Sins, Eighteen root downfalls, Ten Five and even more precepts, Six Realms, Four different kinds of Buddhists, Four Bodhisattva Vows,...etc.
Do I need to memorize all of these things it seems that the number of categories is overwhelming.
Do I need to know these things to have a proper grasp of Mahayana Buddhism ?

I hope you can understand what I am trying to ask
If I do need to know all of these categories can I get a list so that it's easier to learn them ?

Another example are categories spoken of in the Brahma Net Sutra: Ten Dedications, Ten Dwellings, Ten Practices, Ten Dhyana Samadhi,...

All these lists in Buddhism can be confusing
Last edited by ananda on Sat Jul 30, 2011 8:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Categories in Buddhism

Postby LastLegend » Sat Jul 30, 2011 8:08 am

ananda wrote:I need to memorize all of these things it seems that the number of categories is overwhelming.
Do I need to know these things to have a proper grasp of Mahayana Buddhism ?


If you join a temple or monastary, you will be learning those. But I don't think it's important. And personally I don't even know anything about those realms, emptiness, or whatever I haven't experienced.
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Re: Categories in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jul 30, 2011 9:30 am

ananda wrote:In Buddhism it seems that I am encountering a lot of things that are categorized like for example : Ten realms of being, Seven factors of Enlightenment, Twelve Nirdanas, Five Paramitas, The Six Faults in Sitting Down, 108 defilements, Five Grave Sins, Eighteen root downfalls, Ten Five and even more precepts, Six Realms, Four different kinds of Buddhists, Four Bodhisattva Vows,...etc.
Do I need to memorize all of these things it seems that the number of categories is overwhelming.
Do I need to know these things to have a proper grasp of Mahayana Buddhism ?

I hope you can understand what I am trying to ask
If I do need to know all of these categories can I get a list so that it's easier to learn them ?

Another example are categories spoken of in the Brahma Net Sutra: Ten Dedications, Ten Dwellings, Ten Practices, Ten Dhyana Samadhi,...

All these lists in Buddhism can be confusing


Learning them is useful, but not absolutely necessary.

A very serious student of Buddhism will memorize them, just as someone who seriously studies Chemistry will memorize the periodic table of the elements.
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Re: Categories in Buddhism

Postby Madeliaette » Sat Jul 30, 2011 1:31 pm

I found in overwhelming when i first began to read Buddhist books. :reading: I kept finding '6 of these' and '8 of those' all over the place and I did not think I would ever learn anything about all the lists if each list contained even more lists - not if it was all numbers.

A few years later on, I find that just by having constantly read this or that Buddhist book, various number-lists seems to have made it to my memory and stuck there. I suppose that the more one hears of a list, the more likely it is to be recalled. So, I have not tried to learn any of the numerical lists - yet several have stashed themselves into my head anyway from the multitude of books i have read, talks i have heard, etc.

I guess the 4 Noble truths is the main one - that might be the best one to really learn!!
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Re: Categories in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Sat Jul 30, 2011 3:34 pm

The lists by numbers are used to sum up the teachings of the Buddha. It is an ancient method that also appears in one of the primary collections of the Buddha's teachings, the Anguttara Nikaya.

A useful picture of the essential teachings:
The Middle Way

A very basic list:
List of Buddhist Lists

Improved list:
Buddhism by Numbers

Huge list:
The Complete Book of Buddha's Lists — Explained (PDF) by David N. Snyder, Ph.D. (founder of this forum)
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(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

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True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

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Re: Categories in Buddhism

Postby mudra » Sun Jul 31, 2011 5:08 am

Basically what we perceive as the Buddha's 'penchant' for creating lists is actually a very skillful means.

It is both a mnemonic device and a way of ensuring that we get the whole picture with the various possibilities for each section of the dharma that we happen to practice.

In the days of the Buddha no one wrote down what he said, it simply wasn't the way it was done. The mnemonic device of listing was simple and effective.

It is useful to work a bit at a time to memorize whichever lists are relevant to what you are exploring, starting perhaps with the Four Arya (Noble) Truths, the Three Jewels etc. It's just daunting at first because perhaps you haven't started to do that. Make it relevant.
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