List of Buddhist Lists

One of the first things a newcomer to Buddhism is struck by is all the lists - the 4 of this, the 5 of that, 12 of these and the 37(!) of those. This information can be a bit overwhelming especially since there are 100s of these lists. The following is my attempt to come up with a basic list of lists. If you can get your mind wrapped around just these lists, you will hopefully have the essentials necessary to understand the Buddha's teaching.  

One List of One

Two Lists of Two

  1. 2 Things to be Developed
    • Wisdom
    • Compassion

  2. 2 Types of Truths
    • Relative
    • Absolute

Three Lists of Three

  1. 3 Refuges
    • Buddha
    • Dharma
    • Sangha

  2. 3 Characteristics of All Phenomena
    • anicca   not stable; impermanent
    • dukkha  unsatisfactory when clung to
    • anatta   empty of any inherent existence

  3. 3 Divisions of the Teachings
    • sila   morality, virtue, ethics
    • samadhi   concentration, indistractibility
    • paa   wisdom

Four Lists of Four

  1. 4 Noble Truths
    • Dukkha Happens
    • Dukkha is caused by craving
    • Stop craving and the Dukkha stops
    • Practice the 8 Fold Path to learn to stop craving

  2. 4 Foundations of Mindfulness (satipatthana)
    • kaya   the physical body
    • vedana   initial reactions to sensory input
    • citta   mind states; moods
    • dharmas   phenomena with respect to 5 specific teachings

  3. 4 Right Efforts (sammappadhana)
    • To make an arisen, unwholesome state of mind cease
    • To make an unarisen, unwholesome state of mind not arise
    • To make an unarisen, wholesome state of mind arise
    • To make an arisen, wholesome state of mind continue

  4. 4 Highest Emotions (brahma-vihara)
    • metta   Unconditional Love
    • karuna   Compassion
    • mudita   Joy at others (or ones own) Good Fortune
    • upekkha   Equanimity

Five Lists of Five

  1. 5 Precepts

  2. 5 Hindrances
    • Sensual Desire
    • Anger and Ill-will
    • Sloth and Torpor
    • Restlessness and Remorse
    • Skeptical Doubt

  3. 5 Khandas [Heaps, Aggregates]
    • rupa   physical form
    • vedana   initial reactions to sensory input
    • saa   perception; identifying ability of the mind
    • sankhara   mental formations (thoughts, emotions & memories)
    • viana   consciousness

  4. 5 Dharmas of which to be Mindful

  5. 5 Faculties (indriya)   [same as 5 Strengths (bala)]

One List of Six

  • 6 Senses
    • Seeing
    • Hearing
    • Smelling
    • Tasting
    • Touching
    • Thinking

One List of Seven

Two Lists of Eight

One List of Ten

  • 10 Perfections (parami)
    • Generosity
    • Morality
    • Renunciation
    • Wisdom
    • Energy
    • Patience
    • Truthfulness
    • Determination
    • Unconditional Love
    • Equanimity

One List of Twelve

One List of Thirty-seven


For cannonical lists, see Khp 4, AN 10.27 (link goes to excerpt only), AN 10.28
Daniel Thorton's Graphical depiction of major Buddhist lists
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Leigh Brasington / / Revised 23 Mar 14