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Sutta Directory

This page will serve as a comprehensive directory for English translations and summaries of the early Buddhist teachings collected in the four primary bodies of the Sutta Pitaka. It assumes a basic level of understanding regarding the Buddha's teaching - many basic ideas will not be explained. I recommend beginning with this write-up if you are new to the study of Buddhist teachings.
The "synopsis" links will take you to a new page containing my own, more detailed summary of the contents of the sutta, and in some cases, a brief look at any parallel texts in the Chinese Buddhist Canon.
There will be off-site links to several different English translations of each sutta.
Use "ctrl+f" to search for a particular sutta or keyword.

~ Shortcuts ~

Introduction
Digha Nikāya
Majjhima Nikāya
Samyutta Nikāya
Anguttara Nikāya



Introduction

The body of Buddhist scriptures is massive, spanning across space and time. It consists of texts composed in different countries, languages, and periods of time, with the earliest texts being rooted in the 5th century BCE (the time of the Buddha) and later works stretching well into the common era. Within this giant body of texts are three primary canons: the Pali Canon, the Chinese Canon, and the Tibetan Canon.

The Tibetan Canon is composed of two subcategories: the Kangyur and the Tengyur. Tibetan Buddhists believe the texts of the Kangyur are teachings and monastic rules spoken by the Buddha. I am not interested in arguing whether or not this is the case; I am only interested in collecting the earliest strata of Buddhist texts in one index. The Kangyur contains only a small portion of early suttas (sermons of the Buddha), mostly copied from the now-extinct Sarvāstivāda sect. The majority of the Kangyur texts are Mahāyāna or Tantric teachings which surfaced later. These are beautiful and valuable teachings, but they fall outside the scope of this project. Likewise, the Tengyur is not of interest to us here, because it collects a variety of hymns, commentaries, and philosophical works written by other authors. For this reason, the Tibetan Canon will not be important in this project.

The Chinese Canon refers to a vast corpus of works from many different Buddhist traditions which were collected and preserved in China. There are various editions of this canon across East Asia, with the most commonly used version being the Japanese collection called the Taishou Revised Tripitika. It was published in Tokyo in the early 1900s, and consists of 100 volumes spanning a massive scope of material, from the Buddha's early sermons to very late commentaries and everything in between (including illustrations). The first two volumes contain the body of work known as the Āgamas, which are the early Buddhist discourses.

Finally, we have the Pali Canon, which is actually the earliest complete canon. It is also the only canon which is entirely produced from one sect - the Mahāvihāravāsins of Sri Lanka, now known as the Theravāda sect. The Pali Canon is also called the Tipitaka, which is Pali for "three baskets," referring to the three divisions of texts it contains. The first and third baskets are, respectively, the Vinaya Pitaka (Monastic Code Basket) and Abhidhamma Pitaka (Higher Teaching Basket). The Vinaya is a collection of monastic rules, which seems to have passages from the Buddha's lifetime intermixed with later monastic insertions. Much of it is early, but is explicitly for monks and nuns. The Abhidhamma is almost entirely composed of later compositions, stemming from a time when monks became interested in systematically organizing and elaborating on the Buddha's teachings, often extrapolating at length on incredibly minute details which the Buddha never discussed in his sermons. Neither of these baskets are of interest to me for this project.

This leaves us with the Sutta Pitaka - the Discourse Basket. This basket contains the Buddha's sermons, presented in 5 divisions organized primarily by length. The Sutta Pitaka has a stunning amount of overlap with the Āgamas of the Chinese Canon. Despite differences in organization and minor inconsistencies regarding narrative framing (such as where the Buddha was when he gave a particular sermon), these two collections agree with and support one another on major doctrinal points. This overlap is where the interest of our project lies. The points of agreement between the Sutta Pitaka and the Chinese Āgamas allow a hypothetical reconstruction of the earliest body of Buddhist teachings, inherited by every sect of Buddhism after the sangha began to split into different schools and develop innovations. Presumably, the differences between the two canons reflect these post-sectarian changes.

This project, then, aims to provide an easily-accessible index of the suttas as preserved in the Pali Canon, alongside easily-digestible summaries and comparisons to parallel texts in the Chinese Āgamas in an attempt to aid anyone interested in learning about the earliest strata of Buddhist teachings, often called the Early Buddhist Texts (EBTs).

For now, this project is only focusing on the four primary subdivisions of the Sutta Pitaka. The fifth, the Khuddaka Nikaya (Minor Collection), contains a wide variety of different texts, some which are certainly as old as any of the other suttas, and some which are certainly later additions. Some of these texts also have parallels in the Chinese Āgamas. I hope to add the early Khuddaka selections to this index eventually, but for now, I'm leaving it out.


* Digha Nikāya *

Introduction
Sīlakkhandhavagga (DN 1 - 13)
Mahāvagga (DN 14 - 23)
Pāthikavagga (DN 24 - 34)

Introduction

The Digha Nikāya (Long Volume) is the first collection of the Sutta Pitaka. As the name suggests, it contains the longest suttas of the canon. However, the volume as a whole is rather small, containing only 34 suttas. The Digha texts often rely heavily on narrative, featuring elaborate stories as framing devices for the central teachings of each sermon. It is also rife with fantastic details on mythic topics such as otherworldly beings and miraculous powers. Crucially, it details many conversations between the Buddha (or his disciples) and other religious figures of his time. The Digha suttas, then, seem primarily occupied with establishing Buddhist doctrine and explaining why the Buddha's teaching is superior to the teachings of the many other teachers who wandered India during the 5th century BCE.

In the Chinese Canon, the parallel collection is called the Dirgha Āgama. It was preserved from the now-extinct Dharmaguptaka sect. It has 34 suttas, 4 more than the Pali Canon's volume.

Sīlakkhandhavagga (DN 1 - 13)

Sīlakkhandhavagga means something like "Chapter on the Entirety of Ethical Practice." These suttas deal primarily with morality, and all 13 contain the same 3 sections on the different levels of morality observed by the Buddha. They also discuss the jhanas (states of meditative absorption), mental powers attained through meditation, and becoming an arahant (the name given to a person who attains enlightenment through following the Buddha's teachings). Sermons are primarily given to laypeople, and there are also many comparisons between the Buddha's teachings and the teachings of rival teachers.

DN 1: Brahmajāla Sutta (The Net of Brahmā)

After a teacher named Suppiya slanders the Buddha, his teaching, and his monks, the Buddha teaches the monks to not be moved by slander or praise. He then proceeds to discuss three levels of ethical practice, for which the Buddha is sometimes praised, but he insists that simple ethical practices are not worthy of celebration. He concludes by discussing 62 types of “wrong view,” which—like a great net—trap people in the cycle of dukkha. The overcoming of these views is what makes the Buddha worthy of praise.

Synopsis

Full Translations: [1] - [2]

DN 2: Samaññaphala Sutta (The Fruits of Renunciation)

King Ajātasattu, burdened with guilt after having his father killed to seize the throne, comes to the Buddha in hopes of having one question answered - a question which 6 other religious leaders had failed to answer previously. That question is: "What are the benefits, observable within this lifetime, of renouncing the world and taking up the homeless life?" The Buddha answers, listing benefits ranging from the mundane to the supernatural. The king is so delighted with the Buddha's response that he converts to a lay follower.

Synopsis

Full Translations: [1] - [2]

DN 3: Ambattha Sutta (The Sermon Delivered to Ambattha)

A Brahmin teacher named Pokkharasāti hears rumors of a great man in the area - our very own Buddha - and sends his student Ambattha to see if this man's body bears 32 Marks which could confirm his status. Ambattha is very rude and speaks poorly of the Buddha and his clan (the Sakyas), which leads to the Buddha giving a lengthy deconstruction of Ambattha's ideas of classist supremacy and pride in his heritage. In doing this, the Buddha reveals Ambattha's true heritage as a descandant of a slave. However, the Buddha completely subverts the idea that this is something to be ashamed of by revealing this ancestor eventually became a brilliant sage. He demonstrates to Ambattha why the Brahmins should not be so proud, and after revealing the great marks the Brahmin was looking for, Pokkharasāti visits him, invites the Buddha and his monks for a meal, and converts to a follower of the Buddha.

Synopsis

Full Translations: [1] - [2]

DN 4: Sonadanda Sutta (The Sermon Delivered to Ambattha)

A Brahmin named Sonadanda joins a large crowd of people traveling to visit the Buddha, despite pleas from his kinsmen to make the Buddha come visit him instead (as a show of power). On the way, Sonadanda becomes very anxious about making a fool of himself when he speaks to the Buddha, but the Buddha picks up on his worries and works together with the Brahmin in order to have a smooth, productive conversation. The Buddha asks him about the qualities a Brahmin must possess, and Sonadanda lists five; however, in their discussion, the two agree that there are only two qualities which are important: being ethical and being knowledgable. In doing so, the Buddha de-emphasizes the more exclusionary requirements associated with the title "Brahmin," giving it a more broad meaning applicable to anyone willing to practice ethics and morality as taught by the Buddha. This is reflective of a wider trend in the suttas, where the Buddha robs the term of its classist implications and reappropriates it as a title which can be earned by anyone, regardless of class. Sonadanda converts to a lay disciple, though only half-heartedly; his concern for his reputation and what his peers will think of him prevents him from becoming a full-fledged disciple.

Synopsis

Full Translations: [1] - [2]

DN 5: Kūtadanta Sutta (The Sermon Delivered to Kūtadanta)

This sutta is strikingly similar to the previous one. A Brahmin named Kūtadanta joins a large crowd of people traveling to visit the Buddha, despite pleas from his kinsmen, etc. This Brahmin asks the Buddha how to correctly perform a great sacrifice. The Buddha tells him a story about King Mahāvijita, and how the king’s head priest—later revealed to have been a past incarnation of the Buddha—instructed him in performing the sacrifice. In this story, we see Buddhist ideals of governance through peace and social welfare, as well as an argument for the rights of animals and lower-class humans which were typically brutalized by Brahmins. The Brahmin idea of a ritual animal sacrifice is reinterpreted as a bloodless ceremony, performed after the material needs of citizens are guaranteed by the king. The Buddha concludes by telling Kūtadanta that there are numerous acts of religious devotion which are greater “sacrifices” than the grand ceremony from his story. Kūtadanta converts to a lay disciple of the Buddha.

Synopsis

Full Translations: [1] - [2]

DN 6: Mahāli Sutta (The Sermon Given to Otthaddha Mahāli the Licchavi)

DN 7: Jāliya Sutta (The Sermon Given to Jāliya the Ascetic)

DN 7 simply repeats a section from DN 6, so they are both presented here. While on retreat, the Buddha is visited by two groups of men. One group of men, coming from Licchavi, is led by Otthaddha Mahāli, who has a question for the Buddha. One of his fellow countrymen is a disciple of the Buddha, and that person has been able to see heavenly sights during meditation, but has not heard heavenly sounds. Otthaddha wants to know why, and the Buddha explains the difference between "one-sided samādhi" and "two-sided samādhi." He next explains that these things aren't very important, and instead teaches that monks should strive to attain one of the "Four Noble Fruits," which are states of being along the irreversible journey towards enlightenment.

There is also a story, repeated in DN 7, about two ascetics named Mundiya and Jāliya, who ask the Buddha about the nature of the soul and the body. Ultimately, the Buddha states that these questions are inappropriate (since they don't have anything to do with the cessation of dukkha).

Synopsis

Full Translations: [1] - [2]

DN 8: Mahāsīhanāda Sutta (The Greater Sermon of the Lion's Roar)

The Buddha is approached by a "naked ascetic" named Kassapa, who has heard that the Buddha has spoken out against all forms of austere, ascetic practices. The Buddha insists this isn't true, because he knows that some forms of self-mortification lead to rebirth into the heavenly realms, while the more severe forms produce rebirth in the hell realms. The Buddha takes this opportunity to explain to Kassapa that people should compare him as a teacher to his rivals, and his order of monks to the students of his rivals, insisting that wise people will realize that the Buddha teaches the truth, and his monks are more accomplished than the disciples of other teachers.

The Buddha tells Kassapa that if he follows the "Noble Eightfold Path," he will be able to see for himself that what the Buddha teaches is true and beneficial. Kassapa is still hung up on the issue of self-mortification, and lists a bunch of extreme ascetic practices which he has heard are holy and worthy of practice. The Buddha rejects them, and says that there are spiritual practices which are higher: the developments of ethics, mind, and wisdom. After all, anyone can starve themselves and walk around wearing rags - it's far more difficult to undergo the training which leads to enlightenment.

The Buddha then talks about his "lion's roar," which gives this sutta its title. He declares that he speaks the truth confidently, never shying away from those who would question him or disparage his teaching. Those who hear his "lion's roar" are filled with confidence, follow his teachings, and see results as they progress along their spiritual path. Having heard the lion's roar, Kassapa joins the sangha - after a 4 month probation period, since Kassapa came from a rival teacher's order - and swiftly becomes an Arahant.

Synopsis

Full Translations: [1] - [2]

DN 9:

Synopsis

Full Translations: [1] - [2]