This is an important thing to understand about what the Buddha taught, and how we get so caught up in philosophizing and needing to know details not conducive to awakening. I love Ajahn Brahmali’s understanding of the teaching not as a philosophy, but a psychology. Ajahn Brahmali is not afraid to tell it how it is, I admire that, he doesn’t compromise dhamma.
Starting at around 6 minutes in Ajahn Brahmali tells the simile of the handful of leaves then :
The Buddha did not teach all the extraneous stuff, all this stuff that is philosophical, metaphysics, ideas about the world, which may or may not be true, but are not really related to the practice.
and yet, as human beings, we love philosophy, we love to sit back, light our little pipe, and philosophize about the world, and this is the human state of mind, how we act as human beings, and of course from that restlessness of the mind, from that philosophizing, the Buddha says don’t philosophize, these are the practical teachings, forget about all the other stuff.
and what do the monks do as soon as the Buddha has passed away? they start philosophizing, they say ” ok now the Buddha has passed away, now the problem with the Buddha’s teaching, he taught all these things, all very nice, very good, all very practical, but its not very complete, theres little holes here and there, he didn’t divide everything up into absolute final terms and the most minute details like how many bits can you divide a second into, a billion or a trillion bits, how many bits are there in there? How many mindstates are possible, how do they all relate to each other. The Buddha said lots of nice stuff but he didn’t lay everything down, so now it is our job to fill in all the gaps and holes in the teachings”
and that is exactly what happened after the Buddha passed away, and from that, the result of all that philosophizing, trying to fill in all the gaps, the result of all that is known as the Abhidhamma. Abhidhamma is sometimes translated as the “higher teachings” but they are not the higher teachings, they are just philosophy. It was simply monks thinking about things, working it all out and creating Buddhist philosophy.
Buddhism is not meant to be a philosophy, it’s not meant to describe the state of the world in all it’s aspects. The Buddha knew that philosophizing is very addictive, and will take you down the wrong track, there is no end to philosophizing.
The Buddha’s teaching is supposed to be a practical path on how to make your life better.
– Ajahn Brahmali
Excellent to point this out. Sadhu sadhu sadhu! One of the things I like about the Dhamma is it’s not bogged down with philosophies about the unknowables, which don’t help me deal with here and now.