The Buddhist Suttas

The Buddhist suttas (suttas in Pali, sutras in Sanskrit) are the original talks (discourses) the Buddha offered to the monks and nuns of his Sangha. They were memorized and handed down as an oral tradition for about 300 years after the Buddha’s death. They were then transcribed into written documents in Sri Lanka. Paper was not at hand in 200 BCE. The suttas were inscribed on palm leaves. Each collection was piled onto a large basket. The suttas were collected into 5 baskets, tipitaka in Pali. Thus we have the Sutta Pitaka. More than 10,000 suttas were recorded.

We have:

  • Digha Nikaya, The “Long” Discourses consists of 34 suttas
  • Majjhima Nikaya, The “Middle-length” Discourses consists of 152 suttas
  • Samyutta Nikaya, The “Grouped” Discourses consists of 2,889 relatively short suttas grouped together by theme into 56 samyuttas.
  • Anguttara Nikaya, The “Further-factored” Discourses consists of several thousand short suttas, grouped together into eleven nipatas according to the number of items of Dhamma covered in each sutta.
  • Khuddaka Nikaya, The “Division of Short Books.” Of these short books, two are most often read and quoted:  Dhammapada — The Path of Dhamma and Sutta Nipata — The Sutta Collection

For further discussion of the Suttas, Access to Insight also offers a searchable database of many, many suttas, translated by a great many scholars.

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