What cannot be answered by Suttas Alone?

A previous post was about answering nonCT’ers complaints about the commentaries, such as the language difference, the controversial items and many other things that we can actually answer very easily.

I have seen a few mentions of questions that nonCT’ers cannot answer with Suttas alone and it would be good to collect such a list here. So fire away!

kasina meditation

Kasinas are mentioned in the suttas but there are no instructions


The 8 bases of mastery.


The ambiguity of the context with the suicide of some disciples of the Buddha. Killing is against the First Precept and includes suicide. In the Suttas, the Buddha simply said they are “blameless.” It was the Commentaries that explained that they attained arahanthood as they were dying, not before taking the knife.

The Dhutangas.
The Sattavisuddhis.
Upadaya-rupas like gender, jivita etc…
Types of causes (hetu, arammana, upanissaya etc.).
Achievable Jhana-levels of the different types of meditations.
What is the Jhana with vicara but no vitakka (mentioned in suttas as “avitakka vicaramattha samadhi”).
Difference between Dhamma-ayatana and Dhamma-arammana.
Difference between Dhamma-dhatu and Dhamma-arammana.
The factors of Mana-ayatana and Dhamma-ayatana.
The factors of The Mano-dhatu, Dhamma-dhatu and Manovinnana-dhatu.
Difference between Mana, Mano-vinnana and Manovinnana-dhatu.
Difference between Mind and Mental factors.
The fact that Apo-dhatu can not be felt by the body.
Paticcasamuppada explanation (in a sensible way).
Nitattha suttas and Neyyatha suttas.
Who appended “evam me sutam” in Suttas.
Why Buddha, Paccekabuddha and Mahasavakas are different in wisdom and the reason for it.
Why no other monk can achieve the level of wisdom of venerable Sariputta.

And many more …


Few questions not precisely answered by suttas:

What is vitakka and vicāra?
What meditation objects bring the first, second, third, fourth jhāna?
How do you attain the arūpa jhāna? How do you attain abhiññā? How do you discern paticcasamupāda?
Do you discern anicca dukkha anattā first and paticcasamupāda after or the opposite?
What is the materiality derived from the four elements?
Can you develop mastery of phalasamāpatti?
How long occurs magga phala?

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How to actually practice Buddhism. I read In the Buddha’s Words, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi fifteen years ago, and found that I needed a great deal more than just the suttas to form any kind of clear practice instructions. Many suttas read like they are written for someone already familiar with the teachings, or something to be accompanied by commentary.

As a thought experiment to demonstrate this point, if we took a thousand people and had them read the suttas alone, and then asked them to explain how to practice, for example, anapanasati, we’d likely get wildly differing answers. However, take those same thousand people, and have them read the Visuddhimagga, and we’d get much more consistent answers.

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One of the prominent Dhamma knowledge lacking in the suttas is both the theorycal and practical explanations about vipassanā.

In the suttas, nāma rūpa, khanda, āyatana, paticcasamupāda have only general answer, not precise. What these terms exactly mean, it is not explained fully. The ultimate realities are not explained in details.
For exemple, nāma. What are the kusala, akusala and abyakata nāma dhamma? Not given. Here and there we can try to find something about it, but no comprehensive answer.

Next is the way to know and see these realities.
It is only very broad, very general in the suttas.
Not precise.

Here is a quote from directly after the Buddha’s first sermon. Not only can you see that other monks are sharing the food from the alms collected that day, but we can also correctly point out that the sermon was not all that was needed for the monks to fully grasp the teachings. The Buddha remained, while the other two collected food. The suttas do not explain what was being taught to the remaining 4 monks during this time to become enlightened.

Atha kho bhagavā tadavasese bhikkhū nīhārabhatto dhammiyā kathāya ovadi anusāsi.
Living on the food brought to him, the Buddha then instructed and taught the remaining monks.

Yaṃ tayo bhikkhū piṇḍāya caritvā āharanti, tena chabbaggo yāpeti.
The six of them lived on the almsfood brought by three.


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Yes Bhante they needed more explanations than the Ven Kondañña to attain sotapatti, and all of them practiced until Arahantship the fifth night.
And we don’t know precisely how the Buddha instructed them as details are not given.

However for such monks, very advanced one, we can infer that they did not need a lot of details, comparing to normal nowadays yogis.

They were powerful monks who knew the Buddha personnaly and attained Arahantship within few days. How much previous practice they had? Under past Buddhas for sure they had already fulfilled the Vipassanā knowledges just under gothrabū ñāna. For sure under previous Buddha they have contemplated paticcasamupāda, the khandas as anicca dukkha anattā, and for sure they had already heard Dhamma desanā and Pāli words together with stromg knowledge.
Such one, even instructed a little, is closed to Arahantship by the power of his bodhipakkiya just like a pot already filled with water. That is why the needed less instruction.

A yogi nowadays is far from having the same samsāric experience and Dhamma abilities. Anyone who overlook this reality is far from real Dhamma nature and far from the real sāsana- unless he is beginner or does not have wise teachers. Unfortunately it is what do some non CTfollowers.
They think the previous practice have no or little influence. They think one is able to practice till Arahantship with the same words than this Venerable. It can not be. And because they overlook this aspect - they also overlook the details of the commentaries, since according to their views, with few words anyone motivated can deeply practice until Arahantship.