These essays began as a course given at the Buddhist Library, Sydney, in 2004. It was intended to introduce students to the art of reading the Buddha’s teachings, and to generate an interest in sutta study. We confined ourselves to readings from Majjhima Nikaya, using as our text Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995 (Second edition 2001). The suttas we focused on were Mūlapariyāya Sutta (The root of all things M1), Madhupiṇḍika Sutta (The honeyball M18), and two discourses on emptiness, Mahāsuññatā Sutta (Greater discourse on emptiness M122) and its companion, Cūḷasuññatā Sutta (Shorter discourse on emptiness M121).
We begin with an introduction to the Pāli suttas, then proceed to examine how Mūlapariyāya Sutta describes how we create our delusion, and the pain that comes from that delusion.
After beginning with more reflections on how suttas are to be read, we look at how Mūlapariyāya Sutta describes the process of understanding, how we work our way out of our delusion.
We move on to Madhupiṇḍika Sutta's analysis of what lies beneath our everyday sense of ourselves and our world. The key term here is papañca, "proliferation."
We examine the Buddha's teaching on emptiness (suññatā), using Mahāsuññatā Sutta, and its companion, Cūḷasuññatā Sutta. Notice that we are not interested in the later Mahāyāna understanding of emptiness, but that of the Buddha.
Here we look at the relationship between emptiness and the practice of satipaṭṭhāna ("grounding mindfulness," or "establishing mindfulness"). We look at the radical simplicity of the practice, and the relationship between this simplicity and the issue of progress-over-time.