Available topics:

  1. Non-Self and The Five Ag­gre­gates
  2. Dependent Orig­i­na­tion - Paticca­samuppāda
    a)  The Here-and-Now Inter­pre­ta­tion
          2nd Edition
    b)  The Wheel of Life
          Audio recording of a talk at Wat Suan Mokkh
  3. Karma and Merit in (Thai) Buddhism
  4. Free Will in Buddhism and West­ern Philosophy
  5. Bhikkhuni Ordi­na­tion Con­tro­ver­sy in Thera­vāda Buddhism

This page offers articles about selected im­por­tant and somewhat con­tro­ver­sial Buddhist topics. At present five articles and one audio are avail­able for down­loading, others may follow.

An introduction into the basics of Buddhism is avail­able at the Books page of this web­site.

1. Non-Self and The Five Aggregates

The teaching about anattā (egolessness, non-self, no un­chang­ing, permanent, enduring core or essence to any­thing) is one of the pillars of Bud­dhism and is a doctrine which sets Bud­dhism apart from all other re­ligions as those, in one form or another, postulate some­thing perma­nent, a self or a soul.

The Buddha said that the self is not a reality. He did not say that there is nothing at all how­ever, but all there is, is just an ever chang­ing process of nature, consisting of an ever chang­ing body and an ever chang­ing mind. He labelled this process the Five Aggre­gates, no abiding self to be found in it.

The concept of non-self is of utmost importance for the under­standing of other core Bud­dhist principles like De­pend­ent Orig­ina­tion (the 2nd Noble Truth) including re-birth (who or what is re-born if there is no self?) or the doctrine of karma (which non-self receives the result of a karmic action com­mit­ted by a non-self?). A lot of confusion amongst Bud­dhists and people inter­ested in Bud­dhism is caused by misin­ter­preting the doctrine of anattā.

2. The Here-and-Now Interpretation of Dependent Origination - Paticcasamuppāda

In the first of the Four Noble Truths the Buddha states that human existence is governed by Dukkha (dis­con­tent­ment, suf­fer­ing); the second Noble Truth dem­on­strates the arising or the cause of Dukkha, sum­ma­rized in a teaching called De­pend­ent Origi­nation or De­pend­ent Arising or De­pend­ent Co- Arising, the Pāli ex­pres­sion is Paticca­sa­muppāda.

Various forms and dif­fer­ing explanations of this teaching are given today, the most fre­quent­ly dis­cussed ones being:
  • The Three-Lives-Theory is an explanation covering three life­times, a past, the present and a future life, that is, it is used to teach rebirth.
  • The Here-and-Now-Theory proclaims that De­pend­ent Origi­nation is concerned with the present life only, with the 'here and now', with the birth and death of the notion of 'self', happening count­less times each day.
Both theories aim to explain how Dukkha arises and how to put an end to it. At first a brief idea about the Three-Lives-Theory is given but the main focus of this paper is the Here-and-Now Interpretation.

According to the late Tan Ajahn Buddhadāsa, a prominent Thai Buddhist monk and proponent of the Here-and-Now- Theory, the arising of suf­fer­ing equals the arising of the notions of 'self', 'I', 'me' and 'mine' in the ignorant human mind. Resulting self­ish­ness does not only lead to personal calamities but to problems in society and to the pollution and exploi­tation of the natural resources of our planet too. The ignorant person thinks it is the same 'self' that is living life from the cradle to the grave; here an attempt is made to show how the mind constructs the concept of a permanent

Graph Dependent Origination - Paticcasamuppada

The 12 links of Dependent Origination

'self' out of countless momentary 'selfs' arising with sense-contact.

Wherever possible the early Buddhist texts, the Nikāyas, have been used for reference. The relevant quotes are given either in the text itself or in foot­notes so that readers who do not have the Nikāyas at hand can follow up easily.

Picture of Dependent Origination - Paticcasamuppada Dependent Origination - Paticcasamuppāda: Photo of a paint­ing at the Inter­na­tional Dharma Hermitage - Wat Suan Mokkh
The recording of a talk given to the participants of the June 2016 med­i­ta­tion retreat at the Inter­na­tional Dharma Her­mit­age - Wat Suan Mokkh, Thai­land is avail­able as audio (mp3) for down­loading below.

Khun Reinhard explains the theory and practical con­se­quen­ces of the Here-and-Now inter­pretation of De­pend­ent Origi­na­tion by referring to the picture to the left of this text. A higher resolution copy of this picture is pro­vid­ed for down­loading as well. The original paint­ing has a size of approx. 2m x 3m.

While the article above contains more detailed and in depth material regarding the teaching of De­pend­ent Arising, the re­cord­ed audio gives some general information about the Wheel of Life as well.


The above article (37 A4 pages) as a pdf-file:
Dependent Origination - article (851 kB)

The audio (1:06:24) as a mp3-file:
Dependent Origination - audio (34.8 MB)

The picture (768px x 1097px) as a jpg-file:
Dependent Origination - picture (222 kB)

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3. Karma and Merit in (Thai) Buddhism

The topic is Karma and Merit in (Thai) Bud­dhism and thus we will define at first the meanings of the terms karma and merit before we in­ves­ti­gate in which ways they con­trib­ute to the unique form of Thai-Bud­dhism, but much of the ex­pla­na­tion is valid for other Bud­dhist coun­tries as well.

Karma is intentional action of body, speech and mind based on volition and will bring about a result (vipāka). Karma is not fate or destiny. Ac­cord­ing to the early Bud­dhist texts the result can ripen in this life or in a future life or even in sub­se­quent lives. This is the gen­er­ally accepted under­standing of the Law of Karma, the worldly level, on which the teach­ing re­gard­ing karma and merit is usu­ally of­fered and this seems to be the level most people prefer.

Complementary to the basic mundane inter­pre­ta­tion of karma and merit is the supra­mun­dane or spir­i­tual level of the doctrine which clarifies that the teach­ings on anattā (non-self) and karma do not nec­es­sari­ly con­tra­dict each other. The worldly ex­pla­na­tion helps people to behave prop­erly in this word while devel­op­ing their mind to a higher level; the tran­scen­den­tal teach­ing follows the Noble Eight­fold Path to the end of all suffering.

4. Free Will in Buddhism and Western Philosophy

From the beginning of western phi­loso­phy the pos­si­bili­ty of a human free will has been con­ten­tiously debated. Today the lit­era­ture re­gard­ing the free will problem and offered so­lu­tions are vast and conflicting.

In early Bud­dhism the pos­si­bili­ty of a free will has not been discussed. Neither in the Nikāyas, the early Bud­dhist texts of Thera­vāda-Bud­dhism, nor in the scrip­tures of Mahā­yāna Bud­dhism the free will problem is mentioned. It was only when people from the West started to get inter­ested in Bud­dhism that the pos­si­bili­ty of a free will had become a topic.

Relevant Buddhist teachings are the ones about non-self (anattā), the prin­ci­ple of causality (idappa­ccayatā) rep­re­sent­ed by the law of De­pend­ent Orig­ina­tion (paticca­sa­muppāda) and the law of Karma and its results. Not acci­den­tal­ly an intro­duction into these teachings is avail­able in the three arti­cles given above.

The present text is meant to provide an easily under­stand­able intro­duc­tion into the problem. At first a few def­i­ni­tions from a western point of view are given, followed by in­tro­duc­ing some basics regarding the free will ques­tion from a western and Bud­dhist per­spec­tive. The dis­cussion of the Bud­dhist view­point is based mainly on the Thera­vāda-Bud­dhist scrip­tures. The inter­ested reader will find additional material in the quoted lit­era­ture.

5. Bhikkhuni Ordination Controversy in Theravāda Buddhism

The Pāli-word for a male monk is Bhikkhu. The female equiv­a­lent of a Bhikkhu is a Bhik­khuni. In Thera­vāda Bud­dhism it is widely but not unani­mously accepted that Bhik­khunis (nuns) need to be ordained in a dual ceremony by both the male Sangha and the female Sangha (com­mu­nity of monks and nuns). It is believed that ap­proxi­mate­ly 1,000 years ago the Bhik­khuni lineage died out and there were no more nuns left to ordain new Bhik­khunis and since then until recently Thera­vāda Bhik­khunis did not exist. At the end of the 20th century more and more women voiced interest to revive the Bhik­khuni Sangha and to receive full ordi­na­tion in Thera­vāda Bud­dhism again.

In a grand ordi­na­tion ceremony in 1998 Bhik­khuni ordi­na­tion in the Thera­vāda tradition was re-estab­lished. While this was acknowledged by the Bhikkhu Sangha in Sri Lanka the monks in other Thera­vāda Bud­dhist countries still do not accept Bhik­khuni or­di­na­tion.

After a short look at the his­tori­cal back­ground of Bhik­khuni ordi­na­tion in Bud­dhism, some arguments for and against a revival of female or­di­na­tion in Thera­vāda Bud­dhism will be pre­sent­ed and, as I'm living in Thai­land, we will spe­cifi­cally look at the situation in this country.

"In such cases, if there are [...] no senior dis­ci­ples among the nuns, ... no middle-ranking or junior nuns, ... no white-robed lay fol­low­ers, male or female, celibate or other­wise [...], then the holy life is not perfected."

Pāsādika Sutta, Digha Nikāya 29.12


The complete text (12 A4 pages) can be
down­loaded as a pdf-file at:
Bhikkhuni ordination.pdf (388 kB)

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