David's Book : Completing the Eightfold
[By Dr.David N. Snyder]
Completing the Eightfold
Wheel of Dhamma
This book has discussed the basic concepts and teachings of the Buddha and presented them in
the order of how we proceed on the Path. Right Understanding is the first and the final part of
the Buddha‘s Eightfold Middle Path.
The Path begins with Faith, then Knowledge, then Experience, and finally Wisdom.
In the beginning chapters we saw the Buddha‘s greatness in being the fore-runner or directly or
at least indirectly providing teachings on the following amazing accomplishments:
1. The Logic of the Four Noble Truths (the logic of a teaching based on the causes and cures to
our everyday suffering).
2. The Compatibility of the Sciences with Buddha‘s teachings.
3. Life on other planets
4. The evils of slavery and the caste system
5. The equality of women
6. The recognition of humans as members of the Animal Kingdom
7. A meditation technique beyond relaxation, but also for wisdom
8. The longevity (health) of the Buddha (killed at the age of 80 from poisonous mushrooms
during an age when life expectancy was 35 to 40 at best).
9. Tolerance to other religions
10. Humility of the Buddha
The above accomplishments are incredible when we consider that the Buddha lived nearly 2,600
years ago, over 500 years before Christ. His teachings were so advanced that many teachers in
secular and religious fields today have still not ―caught up with the Buddha‘s teachings. For
example there are still some teachers and other leaders who are entrapped in old ideas, such as
racism, sexism, or the belief that we are not animals, etc.
How did the Buddha know of these ideas, many of which would not be proven until thousands of
years after his death? The answer is his wisdom through the enlightenment process. Another
important accomplishment of the Buddha that has not been mentioned previously in this book is
the Buddha‘s humility. Considering the enormous intelligence and wisdom of the Buddha, he
was still incredibly humble. The Buddha did not claim to be a god or anything other than an
ordinary man. He could have claimed to be THE GOD or even one of the gods and the people of
the time would have believed him and worshiped him as such.
The Buddha went further stating that there were other Buddhas before him and that there will be
several more after him. There have been many other religious and secular leaders in history who
not only state that they are the best, but also that they are the only one or the last one. The
term ―Buddha‖ simply means ―enlightened one‖ and can refer to anyone who becomes
enlightened. The Buddha also predicted times in the future when his teachings would be very
popular and also other times when his teachings would almost disappear from the face of the
Earth. The Buddha did not prevent his followers from studying other religions or even practicing
other religions. This was the level of his confidence in his teachings and the height of his
Once Sariputta remarked, ―Venerable sir, I have such confidence in the Blessed One that I
believe there has not been nor ever will be nor exists at present another ascetic or brahmin more
knowledgeable than the Blessed One with respect to enlightenment. The Buddha responds,
―Lofty indeed is this bellowing utterance of yours, Sariputta, you have roared a definitive,
categorical lion‘s roar. Have you now, Sariputta, encompassed with your mind the minds of all
the Arahants, the Perfectly Enlightened Ones, arisen in the past and known thus: Those Blessed
Ones were of such virtue, or of such qualities, or such wisdom?‖ Sariputta responds, ―No,
venerable sir. Samyutta Nikaya 47.12
In that discourse, instead of agreeing with the bold praise of the Buddha given to him by
Sariputta, the Buddha basically asks him, ―Have you met every Buddha of the past, present, and
future? Then how can you call me the best that ever was or will ever be? Such was the
amazing wisdom, the intelligence, and humility of the Buddha of our time.
The Buddha talked about many of his past-lives. These stories are included in the Buddhist
scriptures and provide examples of some moral points or to the workings of kamma. Most of
those past-lives stories show the Buddha in the form of various animals. (Grey, 1994) We know
from statistical analysis that most or probably all of any one person‘s past lives must be as
animals by a sheer analysis of the statistics of the number of animals in the world. The Buddha
was not too proud and was free to admit that he had spent most of his past lives as various
animals, including a monkey, rooster, and a snake.
The above-mentioned accomplishments give us great motivation and faith in his teachings. As
we read and practice more, we become more knowledgeable about the Buddha‘s Dhamma. The
final chapters focused on the different techniques for practicing the Buddha‘s Dhamma which
leads to Insight experiences and finally to wisdom.
In mentioning the accomplishments of the Buddha you will notice that none of the legends of the
Buddha are included in the list above. This is because legends are very common for religious
leaders. Most likely legends are created by early followers of all religions to help elevate the
status of the founder of a religion. Legends for the Buddha are similar to legends for other
religious leaders, including walking on water, multiplying food, etc. It is better to look at
the content of the teachings and seeing how wise they are and the content and character of a
The Buddha‘s teachings are becoming more mainstream into the cultures of modern, developed
countries. This is due to the scientific nature of the teachings, the above-mentioned
accomplishments of the Buddha, and the timelessness nature of the teachings. As this progresses
we need to be careful in selecting Dhamma groups and teachers to belong to. Most cults and
cult-like groups in Europe and North America have been Christian-based. This is because
Christianity has been the dominant religion of Europe and North America for some time now.
As the Buddha‘s teachings progress into Europe and North America, we can also expect to see
more Buddhist-based cults arising. This is normal and not a problem to any select religion, but
rather to all religions. The reason for the arising of some cults is simply the greed and selfserving
interests of some teachers. Some things to look for and not-to-look for in choosing a
teacher of Dhamma group:
1. Beware of teachers who tell you not to read. Reading is good, educational, and enlightening.
They are most likely afraid that you will find out the truth (about some deceptive teachings that
may be part of their group) and leave them.
2. Beware of teachers or groups who try to control your personal and private behaviors.
3. Beware of groups where the leadership is centralized in one individual. Look for groups that
are primarily democratically run.
4. Beware of teachers who claim full-recollection of their past-lives and make claims that they
were this famous person or that famous person from history. As mentioned above it is highly
unlikely that anyone of us were human before.
5. Beware of teachers who make super-human claims, such as producing material things out of
thin-air, routine healings, levitation, etc. It is actually rather simple to perform some so-called
super-human, super-natural feats through magic tricks, slight-of-hand, etc. Healings have been
performed by clergy members from all religions, thus, healings never prove any one religion or
teacher to be ―true.‖ In Sri Lanka around the beginning of the twentieth century missionaries
were arriving to try and convert the poor and uneducated Buddhists to Christianity. Col. Olcott,
a famous Buddhist scholar traveled there to teach Buddhism to the people in an attempt to
persuade the people not to leave Buddhism. His intellectual teachings were too much for the
uneducated people as the Sri Lankan people became impressed at the healings the missionaries
were doing. Col. Olcott became frustrated and began performing some healings of his own. The
people responded favorably and remained in the Buddhist religion. Today Buddhism remains
the dominant religion of Sri Lanka. (Humphreys, 1951)
Some healers are genuine and good as they heal people through the use of the power of the mind
by the power of suggestion and faith (that it will work). There have been many people who
really have been cured of psycho-somatic illnesses and in some cases, illnesses that were not
psycho-somatic. But, in too many cases healers have been using their techniques to show a
super-natural ability in the clergy person which does not exist and is actually for the purpose of
Beware of teachers who claim psychic powers and abilities. The Buddha did not deny the
existence of psychic powers, but would not allow his monks and nuns with those powers to
display them. This is because it is almost impossible to display those powers without having the
ego involved. This can actually hinder the psychic in his/her spiritual quest. The Buddha did not
approve of people making a living or profit off the teachings, either. Any psychic who charges a
fee, you can rest assured is a fraud. If you carefully watch the so-called ―psychics at work, you
can spot their techniques. Typically psychics use probing comments and questions. For
example, a psychic who claims the ability to talk to the dead will say something like, ―I see
something white, I keep getting this white something in my head. At this point the grieving
person who just lost a loved one, inevitably says something like, ―oh yes, she had a white purse
which she loved.‖ This white thing could be almost anything as the psychic sent that ―probing‖
comment out on the ―fishing expedition. It could be a white dress or a white house, the
possibilities are endless. Or the psychic will say, ―I see the letter P. The grieving person might
say something like, ―her second husband‘s name was Paul.‖ The psychics send out the probes
and the unsuspecting clients fill in the blanks and then are sure that the psychic is genuine.
One of the common misconceptions/myths of Buddhism is that it is ―new age. But this is not
the case as new age philosophies tend to use pseudo-science techniques such as psychic claims
and typically for profit. The Buddha confirms this with the following:
―I saw a woman, foul-smelling and ugly; moving through the air. Vultures, crows, and hawks,
following her in hot pursuit, were stabbing at her and tearing her apart while she uttered cries of
pain. That woman was a fortune-teller in this same Rajagaha. Samyutta Nikaya 19.4
6. Do not expect too much of a teacher either. Do not expect every Dhamma teacher or even
any Dhamma teacher to be fully enlightened. Remember that they are human and will probably
not be that different from yourself. A teacher should have a good knowledge of the material
and have experienced some beginning Insights, but need not be fully enlightened. Judge a
teacher by the content of his/her character, behavior, actions, and teachings.
If you can not find a worthy teacher or group in your area, no problem. Help yourself, as the
Buddha said. You can be your own teacher or let the Buddha be your teacher. The Buddha is in
the ―state of nibbana, but his teachings are alive and time-less.
-------------to be continued-------------