WHAT IS THE SUTTANTA PITAKA?
The Suttanta Pitaka is a collection
The Suttanta Pi¥aka brings out the meaning of the Buddha’s teachings,
The Suttanta Pi¥aka is divided into five separate collections known
The Sutta Pitaka (suttapiṭaka; or Suttanta Pitaka;
Basket of Discourse; cf Sanskrit सूत्र पिटक Sūtra Piṭaka) is the second of the three divisions of the Tripitaka or Pali Canon, the Pali collection of Buddhist writings of Theravada Buddhism. The Sutta Pitaka contains more than 10,000 suttas (teachings) attributed to the Buddha or his close companions.
scripture describes the first Buddhist council. It was held shortly
after the Buddha’s death, and collected the set of rules (Vinaya) and five sets of Dhamma.
Tradition holds that little was added to the Canon after this. Scholars
are more skeptical, but differ in their degrees of skepticism. Richard Gombrich thinks most of the first four nikayas (see below) go back to the Buddha, in content but not in form. The late Professor Hirakawa Akira says
that the First Council collected only short prose passages or verses
expressing important doctrines, and that these were expanded into full
length suttas over the next century.
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There are five nikayas (collections) of suttas:
This includes The Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness, The Fruits of the Contemplative Life, and The Buddha’s Last Days. There are 34 long suttas in this nikaya.
This includes Shorter Exposition of Kamma, Mindfulness of Breathing, and Mindfulness of the Body. There are 152 medium-length suttas in this nikaya.
There are, according to one reckoning, 2,889, but according to the commentary 7,762, shorter suttas in this Nikaya.
These teachings are arranged numerically. It includes, according to
the commentary’s reckoning, 9,565 short suttas grouped by number from
ones to elevens. According to Keown,
“there is considerable disparity between the Pāli and the Sarvāstivādin
versions, with more than two-thirds of the sūtras found in one but not
the other compilation, which suggests that much of this portion of the
Sūtra Piṭaka was not formed until a fairly late date.”
This is a heterogeneous mix of sermons, doctrines, and poetry
attributed to the Buddha and his disciples. The contents vary somewhat
between editions. The Thai edition includes 1-15 below, the Sinhalese
edition 1-17 and the Burmese edition 1-18.
For more on these editions also see Pali Canon
The first four nikayas and more than half of the fifth have been translated by the Pali Text Society. The first four have also been translated in the Teachings of the Buddha series by Wisdom Publications.
Selections (including material from at least two nikayas):
Sutta Pitaka, (Pali: “Basket of Discourse”) Sanskrit Sutra Pitaka, extensive body of texts constituting the basic doctrinal section of the Buddhist canon—properly speaking, the canon of the so-called Hinayana (Lesser Vehicle) doctrinal schools, including the Theravada (Way of the Elders) form of Buddhism predominant in present-day Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and Southeast Asia. The contents of the Sutta Pitaka are attributed, with few exceptions, to the Gautama Buddha himself. The schools whose works were written in Sanskrit divided this body of literature into four collections, called Agamas. Roughly comparable collections, called Nikayas, comprise the Pali texts of the Theravada school, but with a fifth group added—the Khuddaka Nikaya (“Short Collection”). The other four Nikayas are as follows:
1. Digha Nikaya (“Long Collection”; Sanskrit Dirghagama), 34 long suttas including doctrinal expositions, legends, and moral rules. The first, the Brahmajala Sutta
(“Discourse on the Divine Net”), renowned and much quoted, deals with
fundamental Buddhist doctrines and with rival philosophies and tells
much about everyday life and religious practices of the period. The Ambattha Sutta (“Discourse of Ambattha”) denounces the principles of caste and the pretensions of Brahmins. The Mahanidana Sutta (“Discourse on the Great Origin”) gives the fullest canonical treatment of the doctrine of dependent origination, or the chain of causation. The famous Mahaparinibbana Sutta
(“Discourse on the Great Final Extinction”—i.e., the Buddha’s release
from the round of rebirths), one of the oldest texts in the canon
(though containing later interpolations), narrates the activities and
teachings of the Buddha’s last year and describes his death. The Sigalovada Sutta (“Discourse of Sigalovada”), the only one of these discourses directly addressed to laymen, is a comprehensive treatment of domestic and social ethics.
2. Majjhima Nikaya (“Medium [Length] Collection”; Sanskrit Madhyamagama), 152 suttas, some of them attributed to disciples,
covering nearly all aspects of Buddhism. Included are texts dealing
with monastic life, the excesses of asceticism, the evils of caste,
Buddha’s debates with the Jains, and meditation, together with basic doctrinal and ethical teachings and many legends and stories.
3. Samyutta Nikaya (“Cluster Collection”; Sanskrit Samyuktagama), a total of 7,762 individual suttas, some quite brief, arranged more or less by subject matter into 56 samyuttas, or “clusters.” The best known of these is the Dhammacakkappavattana-sutta (“Discourse on the Turning of the Wheel of the Law”), which contains the Buddha’s first sermon.
4. Anguttara Nikaya (“Item-more Collection”; Sanskrit Ekottarikagama), a numerical arrangement, for mnemonic purposes, of 9,557 terse suttas. Its first nipata (“group”) contains suttas dealing with single things, such as the mind or the Buddha; the suttas in the second nipata
speak of pairs—e.g., 2 kinds of sin; in the third there are triplets;
and so on up to 11. Examples are the 3 praiseworthy acts, the 4 places
of pilgrimage, the 5 obstacles, the 6-fold duty of a monk, 7 kinds of
wealth, 8 causes of earthquake, 9 types of person, 10 objects of
contemplation, and 11 kinds of happiness.
The Sutta Pitaka, the second division of the Tipitaka,
consists of more than 10,000 suttas (discourses) delivered by the
Buddha and his close disciples during and shortly after the Buddha’s
forty-five year teaching career, as well as many additional verses by
other members of the Sangha. More than one thousand sutta translations
are available on this website.
The suttas are grouped into five nikayas, or collections:
The “Division of Short Books” (Pali khudda = “smaller,” “lesser”), consisting of fifteen books (eighteen in the Burmese edition):
BuddhaSasana Home Page
GUIDE TO TIPITAKA
BURMA PITAKA ASSOCIATION, 1986
WHAT IS SUTTANTA PITAKA?
The Suttanta Pitaka is a collection
The Suttanta Pitaka brings out the meaning of the Buddha’s
The Suttanta Pitaka is divided into five separate
In the Suttanta Pitaka are found not only the fundamentals
To begin with, one must make the right resolution to take
“Buddham Saranam Gacchami (I take refuge in
“ Dhamman Saranam Gacchami (I take refuge in
This recitation became the formula of declaration of faith
“Samgha Saranam Gacchami. (I take refuge in
(b) On the
As a practical step, capable of immediate and fruitful use
(i) The volition that starts with the thought ‘I shall
(ii) The volition that arises at the moment of making the
(iii) The volition accompanying the joy and rejoicing
Whether the offering is made in homage to the living
There is also explained in the discourses the wrong
A donor should avoid looking down on others who cannot
When the act of charity is motivated by expectations of
It is only when the good deed of alms-giving is performed
Examples abound in the discourses concerning charity and
(c) Moral Purity
Practice of Sila forms a most fundamental aspect of
In addition to the negative aspect of the above formula
Depending upon the individual and the stage of one’s
Sila of perfect purity serves as a foundation for the next
Mental cultivation for spiritual uplift consists of two
The Suttanta Pitaka records numerous methods of Meditation
The practice of mental cultivation which results
When he realizes that the five hindrances have been got
Thus one-pointedness of mind is concentration of mind when
(e) Practical methods of mental
The subject and methods of meditation as taught in the
As a second step in the practice of meditation, after
As he advances in his practice and his mind be comes more
With this knowledge of extinction of asavas he becomes
The Suttanta Piṭaka is a collection of all the discourses in their entirety delivered by the Buddha on various occasions;
(A few discourses delivered by some of the distinguished disciples of the Buddha, such as the Venerable Sāriputta, Maha Moggallāna, Ānanda, etc., as well as some narratives are also included in the books of the Suttanta Piṭaka.)
The discourses of the Buddha compiled together in the Suttanta Piṭaka
were expounded to suit different occasions, for various persons with
Although the discourses were mostly intended for the benefit of bhikkhus,
and deal with the practice of the pure life and with the exposition of
the Teaching, there are also several other discourses which deal with
the material and moral progress of the lay disciples.
The Suttanta Piṭaka brings out the meaning of the
Buddha’s teachings, expresses them clearly, protects and guards them
against distortion and misconstruction.
Just like a string which serves as a plumb- line to guide the
carpenters in their work, just like a thread which protects flowers from
being scattered or dispersed when strung together by it,
likewise by means of Suttas, the meaning of Buddha’s
teachings may be brought out clearly, grasped and understood correctly
and given perfect protection from being misconstrued.
The Suttanta Pitaka is divided into five separate collections known as Nikāyas. They are:
1. Dīgha Nikāya,
2. Majjhima Nikāya,
3. Samyutta Nikāya,
4. Aṅguttara Nikāya and
5. Khuddaka Nikāya.
In the Suttanta Pitaka are found not only the fundamentals of the
Dhamma but also pragmatic guidelines to make the Dhamma meaningful and
applicable to daily life.
All observances and practices which form practical steps in the
Buddha’s Noble Path of Eight Constituents lead to spiritual purification
at three levels:
Śīla — moral purity through right conduct,
Samādhi — purity of mind through concentration (Śamatha),
Paññā — purity of Insight through Vipassanā Meditation.
To begin with, one must make the right resolution to take refuge in
the Buddha, to follow the Buddhas Teaching, and to be guided by the
The first disciples who made the declaration of faith in the Buddha
and committed themselves to follow his Teaching were the two merchant
brothers, Tapussa and Bhallika.
They were travelling with their followers in five hundred carts when
they saw the Buddha in the vicinity of the Bodhi Tree after his
The two merchants offered him honey rice cakes. Accepting their
offering and thus breaking the fast he had imposed on himself for seven
weeks, the Buddha made them his disciples by letting them recite after
“Buddham Saranam Gacchāmi (I take refuge in the Buddha).”
“Dhammam Saranam Gacchāmi (I take refuge in the Dhamma).”
This recitation became the formula of declaration of faith in the Buddha and his Teaching.
Later when the Sangha became established, the formula was extended to include the third commitment:
“Sangham Saranam Gacchāmi (I take refuge in the Sangha).”
As a practical step, capable of immediate and fruitful use by people
in all walks of life, the Buddha gave discourses on charity,
almsgiving, explaining its virtues and on the right way and the right
attitude of mind with which an offering is to be made for spiritual
The motivating force in an act of charity is the volition, the will
to give. Charity is a meritorious action that arises only out of
volition. Without the will to give, there is no act of giving.
Volition in giving alms is of 3 types:
(I)The volition that starts with the thought “I shall make an
offering” and that exists during the period of preparations for making
the offering — Pubba Cetanā, volition before the act.
(II)The volition that arises at the moment of making the
offering while handing it over to the donee — Muñca Cetanā, volition
during the act.
(III)The volition accompanying the joy and rejoicing which
arise during repeated recollection of or reflection on the act of giving
— Apara Cetanā, volition after the act.
Whether the offering is made in homage to the living Buddha or to a
minute particle of his relics after his passing away, it is the
volition, its strength and purity that determine the nature of the
There is also explained in the discourses the wrong attitude of mind with which no act of charity should be performed:
A donor should avoid looking down on others who cannot make a similar
offering; nor should he exult over his own charity. Defiled by such
unworthy thoughts, his volition is only of inferior grade.
When the act of charity is motivated by expectations of beneficial
results of immediate prosperity and happiness, or rebirth in higher
existences, the accompanying volition is classed as mediocre.
It is only when the good deed of alms-giving is performed out of a
spirit of renunciation, motivated by thoughts of pure selflessness,
aspiring only for attainment to Nibbāna where all suffering ends, that
the volition that brings about the act is regarded as of superior grade.
Examples abound in the discourses concerning charity and modes of giving alms.
Practice of Śīla forms a most fundamental aspect of
Buddhism. It consists of practice of Right Speech, Right Action and
Right Livelihood to purge oneself of impure deeds, words and thoughts.
Together with the commitment
to the Threefold Refuge (as described above) a Buddhist lay disciple
observes the Five Precepts by making a formal vow:
(I) I undertake to observe the precept of abstaining from killing.
(II) I undertake to observe the precept of abstaining from stealing.
(III) I undertake to observe the precept of abstaining from sexual misconduct.
(IV) I undertake to observe the precept of abstaining from telling lies.
(V) I undertake to observe the precept of abstaining from alcoholic drinks, drugs or intoxicants that becloud the mind.
In addition to the negative aspect of the above formula which
emphasizes abstinence, there is also the positive aspect of Śīla. For
instance, we find in many discourses the statement:
“He refrains from killing, puts aside the cudgel and the sword; full
of kindness and compassion he lives for the welfare and happiness of all
Every precept laid down in the formula has these two aspects.
Depending upon the individual and the stage of one’s progress, other
forms of precepts, namely, Eight Precepts, Ten Precepts etc. may be
observed. For the bhikkhus of the Order, higher and advanced types of
practices of morality are laid down. The Five Precepts are to be always
observed by lay disciples who may occasionally enhance their
self-discipline by observing the Eight or Ten Precepts. For those who
have already embarked on the path of a holy life, the Ten Precepts are
essential preliminaries to further progress.
Śīla of perfect purity serves
as a foundation for the next stage of progress, namely, Samādhi purity
of mind through concentration- meditation.
Mental cultivation for spiritual uplift consists of 2 steps:
The first step is to purify the mind from all
defilements and corruption and to have it focused on a point. A
determined effort (Right Exertion) must be made to narrow down the range
of thoughts in the wavering, unsteady mind.
Then attention (Right Mindfulness or Attentiveness)
must be fixed on a selected object of meditation until one-pointedness
of mind (Right Concentration) is achieved.
In such a state, the mind becomes freed from hindrances, pure,
tranquil, powerful and bright. It is then ready to advance to the second
step by which Magga Insight and Fruition may be attained in order to
transcend the state of woe and sorrow.
The Suttanta Pitaka records numerous methods of meditation to bring about one-pointedness of mind.
In the Suttas of the Pitaka are dispersed these methods of
meditation, explained by the Buddha sometimes singly, sometimes
collectively to suit the occasion and the purpose for which they are
The Buddha knew the diversity of character and mental make-up of each
individual, the different temperaments and inclinations of those who
approached him for guidance.
Accordingly he recommended different methods to different persons to suit the special character and need of each individual.
The practice of mental cultivation which results ultimately in one- pointedness of mind is known as Samādhi Bhāvanā:
Whoever wishes to develop Samādhi Bhāvanā must have been
established in the observance of the precepts, with the senses
controlled, calm and self-possessed, and must be contented.
Having been established in these four conditions he selects a place
suitable for meditation, a secluded spot. Then he should sit
cross-legged keeping his body erect and his mind alert;
he should start purifying his mind of five hindrances, namely,
sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and
doubt, by choosing a meditation method suitable to him, practicing
meditation with zeal and ardour.
For instance, with the Ānāpāna method he keeps watching the
incoming and outgoing breath until he can have his mind fixed securely
on the breath at the tip of the nose.
When he realizes that the five hindrances have been got rid of, he
becomes gladdened, delighted, calm and blissful. This is the beginning
of Samādhi, concentration, which will further develop until it attains one- pointedness of mind.
Thus one-pointedness of mind is concentration of mind when it is
aware of one object, and only one of a wholesome, salutary nature. This
is attained by the practice of meditation upon one of the subjects
recommended for the purpose by the Buddha.
The subject and methods of
meditation as taught in the suttas of the Pitaka are designed both for
attainment of Samādhi as well as for development of Insight Knowledge,
Vipassanā Ñāṇa, as a direct path to Nibbāna.
As a second step in the practice of meditation, after achieving Samādhi,
when the concentrated mind has become purified, firm and imperturbable,
the meditator directs and inclines his mind to Insight Knowledge,
With this Insight Knowledge he
discerns the three characteristics of the phenomenal world, namely:
Impermanence (Anicca), Suffering (Dukkha) and Non-Self (Anatta).
As he advances in his practice and his mind becomes more and more
purified, firm and imperturbable, he directs and inclines his mind to
the knowledge of the extinction of moral intoxicants, Āsavakkhaya Ñāṇa.
He then truly understands dukkha, the cause of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha and the path leading to the cessation of dukkha.
He also comes to understand fully the moral intoxicants (āsavas) as they really are: the cause of āsavas, the cessation of āsavas and the path leading to the cessation of the āsavas.
With this knowledge of extinction of āsavas he becomes liberated. The knowledge of liberation arises in him.
He knows that rebirth is no more, that he has lived the holy life; he
has done what he has to do for the realization of Magga; there is
nothing more for him to do for such realization.
The Buddha taught with only one object — the extinction of Suffering
and release from conditioned existence. That object is to be obtained by
the practice of meditation (for Calm and Insight) as laid down in
numerous suttas of the Suttanta Pitaka.
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Setting at Savatthi. Then, in the morning, the bhikkhuni Vijaya dressed… she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day’s abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, desiring to arouse fear, trepidation, and terror in the bhikkhuni Vijaya,
desiring to make her fall away from concentration, approached her and addressed her in verse:
You are so young and beautiful,
And I too am in the bloom of youth.
Come, noble lady, let us rejoice
With the music of a fivefold ensemble.
Then it occurred to the bhikkhuni Vijaya: “Now who is this…? This is Mara the Evil One… desiring to make me fall away from concentration.”
Then the bhikkhuni Vijaya, having understood, “This is Mara the Evil One,” replied to him in verses:
Forms and sounds, tastes and odors,
Tactile objects that delight the mind:
I offer them right back to you,
For I, O Mara, do not need them.
I am repelled and humiliated
By this foul, putrid body,
Subject to break up, fragile:
I’ve uprooted sensual craving.
As to those beings who fare amidst form,
And those who abide in the formless,
And those peaceful attainments too:
Everywhere darkness has been destroyed.
Then Mara the Evil One, realizing “The bhikkhuni Vijaya knows me,” sad and disappointed, disappeared right there.