The Archive uses over 500 tags to organize its contents. The tags themselves are organized in a hierarchical scheme based on the Pāli teachings when possible. New categories have been created for modern subjects. Mirroring the structure of the teachings, individual tags often appear multiple times in the hierarchy. For example, [Equanimity] (upekkha) appears as a factor of [Right Concentration] and in the lists of [Factors of Awakening], [Divine Abidings], and [Perfections]. One can explore the tag hierarchy by starting with the root tags and successively expanding them to reveal the subtags they contain.
The superstructure of the tagging scheme can be understood by examining this grouping of the 16 root tags:
A. Mental qualities
B. Modes of practice
C. Sources of Dhamma teachings
D. Context of teaching and and practice
E. Domains of teaching and practice
Like the teachings themselves, the tag structure gives first priority to understanding skillful and unskillful states of mind. Next come strategies for cultivating skillful states of mind and details about the transmission of the teachings, followed by tags describing the context within which this all occurs.
Tags are organized chronologically and conceptually; earlier and more fundamental tags come first. For example, the subtags of Skillful qualities begin by following the order of explanation in the Buddha’s first teaching: [Middle Path], [Noble Eightfold Path], [Four Noble Truths]. This is followed by the [Aids to Awakening], the Buddha’s own summary of his teachings comprising seven sets of skillful qualities, totalling 37 in all. Next come the sets contained with the Aids to Awakening that are not contained within the Eightfold Path itself: [Four Bases of Success], [Five Faculties], [Seven Factors of Awakening]. Following this are two canonical and one early post-canonical list: [Divine Abidings], [Seven Treasures], and [Ten Perfections]. Next comes [Progress of insight], a list of Pāli mind-states on the path to awakening which usually appear in this order but are not mentioned as a comprehensive group in the suttas. [Stages of awakening], the last major subtag, is followed by a series of skillful qualites mentioned in the recordings that don't fit neatly into any of the categories above.
Over the years, many Pāli terms have been translated into English in a multitude of ways. The primary English translation chosen for each tag corresponds to how Ajahn Pasanno generally uses the term. The Archive also includes alternative translations which either shed light on nuances of the Pāli term or have been widely used. English words and phrases which roughly approximate Pāli terms receive the corresponding Pāli tag. For example, “letting go” is glossed as [Relinquishment] (paṭinissagga), and “Arising and ceasing” is [Impermanence] (anicca). In a more complicated example, skillful thinking is glossed as [Directed thought and evaluation] (vitakka-vicāra), for which applied and sustained thought is an alternative translation.
Sometimes separate Pāli terms appearing in the various lists are sufficiently close in meaning it does not make sense to distinguish them as separate tags. For example, Non ill-will (abyāpāda) is subsumed under [Goodwill] (metta), and Rewards of heaven (sagga, part of the [Gradual Teaching]) is subsumed under [Deva].
Although the basic structure began with the Buddha’s lists, it evolved organically to fit the audio content. In the course of this process, many somewhat arbitrary decisions must be made, particularly regarding how to mesh Pāli and English concepts. For example, multiple Pāli terms are clearly related to [Discernment] (pañña; see “Why is discernment a better word for wisdom?”). When tagging English discourse, when to use [Discernment] and when to use related terms? The Archive uses the following scheme: [Investigation of states] (dhamma-vicaya) for identifying skillful and unskillful states of mind in the early stages of meditation and [Appropriate attention] (yoniso manasikāra) for acts of discernment related to the field of attention. Vīmaṃsā, one of the four Bases of Success describes reviewing the results of past actions with a view to further improve in the future, but the Archive subsumes this under the tag [Discernment].
Other somewhat arbitrary choices regarding specific tags include the following:
The root tags [History] and [Cultural context] contain many similar subtags. History tags apply to verifiable statements about people, dates, etc., while culture tags apply to generalized statements about culture in particular times and places. The latter are invariably subjective. The frequency of [Culture/Thailand] and [Culture/West] reflects an ongoing dialogue about how to skillfully adapt (or not adapt) the practices and attitudes of the Thai Forest Tradition to the modern Western context.