Ancient Buddhist Scriptures: The Sutta Pitaka

Ancient Buddhist Scriptures: The Sutta Pitaka2018-03-10T02:53:02+00:00

Everything we teach comes from the ancient sermons taught by Gautama Buddha and his enlightened disciples that lived with him. They have been preserved in the Sutta Pitaka by the Theravada Buddhist tradition. Below you can see an outline of the books that make up the Sutta Pitaka as well as titles of translations into simple English.

For beginners: We recommend In The Buddha’s Words, by Bhikkhu Bodhi. This commercially published book contains sections from the collections listed below organized around different aspects of the Buddha’s teachings: The nature of life, meditation, the nature of the mind, the life and enlightenment of the Buddha, etc.

Dīgha Nikāya –  Long Discourses (D or DN): Contains 34 suttas that range in length from 5 to 47 pages.

Majjhima Nikāya –  Middle Length Discourses(M or MN): Contains 152 suttas, most from 5 to 10 pages.

Saṁyutta Nikaya –  Connected Discourses(S or SN): Contains thousands of short suttas grouped by topic.

  • The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Saṁyutta Nikāya, by Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications.
  • Two sections have bee published individually: Stories of Sakka, Lord of Gods, and Stories of Brahmas.

Aṅguttara Nikāya –  Numerical Discourses(A or AN): Contains thousands of suttas mostly one or two pages long.

Khudhaka Nikāya –  Short Books: This nikāya is a group of smaller autonomous books, explained individually below.
Khuddakapāṭha (Khp): This is a collection of 10 suttas.
Dhammapada (Dhp): This is a collection of 423 short verses, grouped into 26 chapters. This is an excellent text for newcomers and experienced practitioners alike. It takes about 4 minutes to read one chapter so it is well suited to someone with a short amount of time available. Even just reading a single verse each day will instill your life in the Blessed One’s wisdom.

  • Dhammapada, translated by Venerable Acharya Buddharakkhita.

Udana (Ud): This collection contains 80 suttas composed of (usually) a story in prose form followed by an inspired verse.

  • The Udāna and the Itivuttaka, Two Classics from the Pali Canon, translated by John D. Ireland, Buddhist Publication Society (BPS) Complete text.

Itivuttaka (ITV): This collection contains 112 suttas of prose followed by the verse. Most suttas are two pages or less.

  • The Udāna and the Itivuttaka, Two Classics from the Pali Canon, translated by John D. Ireland, Buddhist Publication Society (BPS) Complete text.

Sutta Nipāta (Sn or Snp,): Seventy-one sets of verses, sometimes preceded by a prose story.
Vimānavatthu (Vv) and Petavatthu (Pv): Teachings in verse about the results of good and bad action

  • Stories of Heavenly Mansions
  • Stories of Ghosts from the Petavatthu

Theragāthā (Thag) and Therīgāthā (Thīg): Verses of Arahant Bhikkhus and Bhikkhuṇis. Two excellent collections for practice. The ultimate source of inspiration and reminder of the goal of the practice.

  • Voice of Enlightened Monks: Theragata
  • The Voice of Enlightened Nuns: Therigata

Jataka (J): The canonical part of this collection are only verses. What is commonly known as the Jataka stories are actually the commentary stories behind them.

  • Jataka Tales of the Buddha: An Anthology, Volume 1-3, by Ken Kawasaki and Visakha Kawasaki. This is a selection of the stories.