The Buddha was a list-maker

Beginning with “The Four Noble Truths”1, “The Noble Eightfold Path”2, and so on, the Buddha was a list-maker. I recently found a wonderful book, now out of print but freely available as a pdf. By David Snyder, Ph.D., it is called “The Complete Book of Buddha’s Lists - Explained”

Snyder does a brilliant job of reinterpreting these lists and framing them in the context of what the social sciences say about how we function individually and in groups.

I was particularly struck by his treatment of The Four Brahmavihārās, along with their near and far enemies.

Brahmavihārās Meaning Near enemy Far enemy
metta loving-kindness self-affection painful ill-will
karuna compassion pity cruelty
mudita sympathetic joy exuberance resentment
upekkha equanimity indifference craving, clinging

Whether the book is a useful introduction to Buddhist philosophy and practice would be a matter of debate; but for someone who understands its basic tenets, the book is outstanding.

  1. 1. It is in the nature of life to suffer. 2. Suffering is caused by desire. 3. Suffering ceases when we let go of desires. 4. There is a process for letting go of desires. Sometimes I think that the word “desire” is too loaded in English. I like David Snyder’s interpretation; he reframes it as “unreasonable expectations.” ↩︎

  2. As the name implies, eight practices of mind and being in the world that yield liberation from the suffering caused by desires. An article on the Noble Eightfold Path. ↩︎