Imagery in the Early Buddhist Texts


This is part 26 of a course going systematically through Bhikkhu Analayo's Excursions series.

Illustration by Ayya Vimalayani aka "Ven Yodha"

That's enough, venerable sir — what you have done, what you have offered. ~ SN 41.4

Final Reflections

Thinking back to all the similes we read in this class: What similes do you remember most vividly? Did they have anything in common? Do you remember any similes involving water? Fire? Animals? Crafts?

What do these similes say about Indian society at the time of the Buddha? Can you come up with any similes that might speak to a more modern audience?

As you leave this course and continue your life, I hope that you will take some of the wisdom and attentiveness of this course with you and stay on the lookout for situations and images that remind you of the Buddha’s wisdom. In this way, we can begin to transform our everyday world into a “pure land” where every tree, fish and stream teaches us the precious Dharma.


Further Reading



An incredible music video, perfectly capturing the world-weary feeling of saṃvega.

Canonical Works

A long and entertaining debate with a skeptic who went to extravagant lengths to prove that there is no such thing as an afterlife.

So this holy life, bhikkhus, does not have gain, honour, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of virtue for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakeable deliverance of mind that is the goal of this holy life, its heartwood, and its end.

And how is a mendicant not skilled in characteristics? It’s when a mendicant doesn’t understand that a fool is characterized by their deeds

Suppose a trustworthy and reliable man were to come from the east. He’d approach you and say: ‘Please sir, you should know this. I come from the east. There I saw a huge mountain that reached the clouds. And it was coming this way, crushing all creatures.’

Insofar as it disintegrates, it is called the ‘world.’

I say it’s not possible to know, see or reach the end of the world by traveling. But I also say there’s no making an end of suffering without reaching the end of the world.


Advanced Courses

The Majjhima Nikāya
A course on the Majjhima Nikāya taught by the one and only Bhikkhu Bodhi.
Nibbāna: The Goal of Buddhist Practice
In this course, we do a deep dive into the imagery surrounding and the meaning of just a single, crucially important term in the Early Buddhist Texts: nibbāna.
An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy
An overview of Theravada Buddhist philosophy which provides a systematic frame for the themes we've covered in this course
or feel free to check out any of our University's other fine offerings.