Dhamma Study

Dhamma is the teachings, the philosophical or doctrinal foundations of Buddhism. Although Buddhism is very much concerned with practice, including how we live our lives, the Dhamma provides a framework and a direction for that practice. At Sitagu we offer classes, lectures, individual instruction and access to our library to facilitate the understanding of the Dhamma.

Just to clarify our focus, Dhamma is a word in the Indic Pali language that corresponds to the better-known Sanskrit word Dharma. The entire teachings of the Buddha are known as Dhamma-Vinaya, where Vinaya is the discipine, generally intended for monastics. Whereas different schools of Buddhism are based on different scriptural foundations, the Theravada or Southern School makes use of texts preserved in the ancient Pali language, widely regarded as the language of the Buddha. These texts include the following:

  • Pali Canon
    • Vinaya, monastic discipline
    • Suttas, discourses of the Buddha and early disciples.
    • Abhidhamma, philosophical exegesis.
  • Pali Commentaries, comments on the canon compiled around 500 AD.
  • Pali Subcommentaries, comments on the comments.

The Vinaya and the Suttas and their variants in diverse languages and adaptations form the basis of all of Buddhism. For instance, in China a version of the Vinaya is studied by monks and nuns that is close to the Pali but was first preserved in the Gandhari language then translated into Chinese. A version of the Suttas, called the Agamas but very close in content to the Pali Suttas, was first preserved in Sanskrit then translated into Chinese. However the Chinese Agamas have been largely eclipsed by the later Mahayana Sutras in China as subjects of study.

The Pali Abhidhamma, Commentaries and Subcommentaries are unique to the Theravada School. The Theravada School is also unique in its access to the original teachings of the Buddha through the close attention given to the words of the Buddha in the Suttas but also their preservation in an early Indic language (Pali), which is widely studied in Theravada to facilitate more accurate interpretation of the scriptures. The relative emphasis given to these various Pali scriptures tend to vary widely within Theravada, with the Abhidhamma assuming particular importance in Burma. We may teach occasional classes in comparative Buddhism and certainly have many resources on the non-Theravada schools of Buddhism in our library.

Classes and lectures may be offered in either English or Burmese. Frequent reference is made to Pali terms because of their precise technical meaning in the Buddhadhamma. We offer occasional classes in Pali language (perhaps alongside occasional classes in English and Burmese as second languages). We also offer a Buddhist Sunday School on Sunday mornings for kids, in English. Please check our schedule and our breaking news page to see which classes are currently offered or upcomming.