Sutta Nipāta | The Discourse Group

The collection includes some of the most famous poems in the Pali Canon. It also contains two sets of poems that were apparently well-known in the Buddha’s time as deep expressions of advanced points of doctrine: the Aṭṭhaka Vagga, a set of sixteen poems on the theme of non-clinging, and the Pārāyana Vagga, a set of sixteen dialogues, with a prologue and epilogue, in which the Buddha provides succinct answers to questions posed to him by brahmans who appear to have been adept in concentration practice. In addition to these more well-known poems, the collection also contains many useful instructions of a highly practical nature, covering everything from the most basic standards of conduct to the most subtle issues of discernment.

  • Introduction
  • I : The Snake Chapter (Uraga Vagga)

    • Sn 1:1  The Snake  —  One who advances far along the path sloughs off the near shore and far, like a snake who sloughs off its skin.
    • Sn 1:2  Dhaniya the Cattleman  —  A poetic dialogue contrasting the wealth and security of lay life with the wealth and security of a person who has lived the renunciate life to its culmination. If you have trouble relating to someone like Dhaniya who measures his wealth in cattle, then when reading this poem substitute stocks and bonds for cows and bulls, and economic downturn for rain.
    • Sn 1:3  A Rhinoceros  —  If you can’t find a good teacher, it’s better to wander alone.
    • Sn 1:4  To Kasi Bhāradvāja  —  The Buddha answers a farmer who claims that monks do no useful work and so don’t deserve to eat.
    • Sn 1:5  Cunda  —  Four different types of contemplatives and how to recognize them.
    • Sn 1:6  Decline  —  The various actions and attitudes that lead to spiritual decline.
    • Sn 1:7  An Outcaste  —  Being an outcaste is a matter of behavior, not birth.
    • Sn 1:8  Goodwill  —  The practice of developing universal goodwill: the practices that form a foundation for the practice, the attitude of universal goodwill itself, and the steps that lead from goodwill to awakening.
    • Sn 1:9  Hemavata  —  The Buddha explains to a yakkha how one crosses over the flood.
    • Sn 1:10  Āḷavaka  —  A yakkha challenges the Buddha with riddles and threatens to “hurl out his mind, rip open his heart, or hurl him across the River Ganges” if he doesn’t solve the riddles to the yakkha’s satisfaction.
    • Sn 1:11  Victory  —  Victory over the defilements through contemplation of the unattractiveness of the body.
    • Sn 1:12  The Sage  —  The characteristics of the ideal sage, who finds happiness and security in living the solitary life. (This sutta is apparently one of the series of passages that King Asoka recommended for study and reflection by all practicing Buddhists.)

    II : The Lesser Chapter (Cūḷa Vagga)

    • Sn 2:1  Treasures  —  The many treasures to be found in the Triple Gem.
    • Sn 2:2  Raw Stench  —  People are defiled, not by eating meat, but by engaging in evil conduct.
    • Sn 2:3  Shame  —  How to recognize a true friend.
    • Sn 2:4  Protection  —  A list of the types of skillful behavior that give blessings and protection.
    • Sn 2:5  Suciloma  —  Another yakkha challenges the Buddha with riddles and threatens to “hurl out his mind, rip open his heart, or hurl him across the River Ganges” if he doesn’t solve the riddles to the yakkha’s satisfaction.
    • Sn 2:6  The Dhamma Life  —  The Buddha encourages the monks to avoid monks who are evil in their desires.
    • Sn 2:7  Brahman Principles  —  How brahmans, through greed, abandoned the good principles of their ancestors.
    • Sn 2:8  A Boat  —  A good teacher, like a good boatman, is one who knows firsthand how to cross to the further shore.
    • Sn 2:9  With What Virtue?  —  The attitudes and behavior that enable one best to learn and benefit from the Dhamma.
    • Sn 2:10  Initiative  —  Get up! Don’t let the opportunity for practice pass you by.
    • Sn 2:11  Rāhula  —  Ven. Rāhula reflects on the teachings he received from his father, the Buddha.
    • Sn 2:12  Vaṅgīsa  —  Ven. Vaṅgīsa, the foremost poet among the Buddha’s disciples, praises the Buddha in verse.
    • Sn 2:13  Right Wandering  —  The sort of person who, having gone forth, is fit to wander through the world.
    • Sn 2:14  Dhammika  —  The proper code of conduct for lay followers of the Dhamma.

    III : The Great Chapter (Mahā Vagga)

    • Sn 3:1  The Going Forth  —  The young Bodhisatta (Buddha-to-be), soon after leaving home, explains why he refuses King Bimbisāra’s offer of a position in his court.
    • Sn 3:2  Exertion  —  Māra attempts to dissuade the Bodhisatta from his path.
    • Sn 3:3  Well-spoken  —  Four characteristics of well-spoken speech.
    • Sn 3:4  Sundarika Bhāradvāja  —  A brahman questions the Buddha to see if the latter deserves to receive the cake resulting from his sacrifice.
    • Sn 3:5  Māgha  —  What are the qualities of a recipient that produce the most merit from a gift?
    • Sn 3:6  Sabhiya  —  A sutta dating from early in the Buddha’s teaching career. A wanderer, disappointed in the teachings he has received from other teachers, approaches the Buddha with his questions.
    • Sn 3:7  Sela  —  Sela the brahman praises the Buddha to see how the latter responds to praise.
    • Sn 3:8  The Arrow  —  Death and loss are inevitable, but grief is not.
    • Sn 3:9  Vāseṭṭha  —  Is one worthy of respect because of one’s birth, or because of one’s actions?
    • Sn 3:10  Kokālika  —  A follower of Devadatta slanders Ven. Sāriputta and Ven. Moggallāna and, after suffering a painful disease, falls into hell. The sutta then gives a graphic description of the sufferings awaiting him there.
    • Sn 3:11  Nālaka  —  A sutta in two parts. The first part gives an account of events soon after the birth of the Bodhisatta. The second part describes the way of the sage.
    • Sn 3:12  The Contemplation of Dualities  —  Not all dualities are misleading. This sutta teaches ways to contemplate the duality of the origination and cessation of stress and suffering so as to reach awakening.

    IV : The Octet Chapter (Aṭṭhaka Vagga)

    • Introduction
    • Sn 4:1  Sensual Pleasure  —  The drawbacks of sensual desires.
    • Sn 4:2  The Cave Octet  —  Those who remain attached to the body, to sensuality, and to their sense of “mine” will have a hard time freeing themselves from fear of death and from further becoming.
    • Sn 4:3  The Corrupted Octet  —  Freedom isn’t to be found by boasting of your precepts and practices or by debating your views.
    • Sn 4:4  The Pure Octet  —  How to avoid the trap of letting go of one thing only to cling to something more subtle.
    • Sn 4:5  The Supreme Octet  —  The conceit that comes from clinging to practices or views—even if they’re supreme—is a fetter preventing full freedom.
    • Sn 4:6  Old Age  —  Life is short. Possessiveness brings grief. Freedom comes from abandoning any sense of “mine.”
    • Sn 4:7  To Tissa-metteyya  —  The drawbacks of falling away from the celibate life.
    • Sn 4:8  To Pasūra  —  The drawbacks of engaging in debates, for winners and losers alike.
    • Sn 4:9  To Māgandiya  —  Māgandiya offers the Buddha his daughter in marriage. The Buddha refuses and further subdues Māgandiya’s pride by describing a state of peace that Māgandiya doesn’t understand.
    • Sn 4:10  Before the Break-up (of the Body)  —  How to live at peace.
    • Sn 4:11  Quarrels & Disputes  —  The Buddha is questioned on the source of quarrels and disputes, and on the highest level of spiritual attainment.
    • Sn 4:12  The Lesser Array  —  If the truth is one, how should a person behave in a world where many different truths are taught?
    • Sn 4:13  The Great Array  —  How to maintain freedom in a world full of disputes.
    • Sn 4:14  Quickly  —  The attitudes and behavior of a monk training for the sake of total release.
    • Sn 4:15  The Rod Embraced  —  The Buddha speaks in poignant terms of the saṁvega that led him to leave the household life. He concludes with recommendations for practice and a description of the person who has attained the goal of true peace and security.
    • Sn 4:16  To Sāriputta  —  When a monk, disaffected with the world, takes up the life of seclusion, what fears should he overcome? What dangers should he beware of? How should he train to blow away the impurities in his heart?

    V : The To-the-Far-Shore Chapter (Pārāyana Vagga)

    • Introduction
    • Prologue  —  A brahman teacher sends his students to the Buddha to see if the latter is truly awakened.
    • Sn 5:1  Ajita’s Questions  —  A brahman questions the Buddha about mindfulness, discernment, and the cessation of name-and-form.
    • Sn 5:2  Tissa-metteyya’s Questions  —  Who in the world is truly contented, truly free, truly a great person?
    • Sn 5:3  Puṇṇaka’s Questions  —  Birth and aging can be overcome, not through sacrificial rituals, but through training the mind to go beyond perturbation.
    • Sn 5:4  Mettagū’s Questions  —  How does one cross the flood of birth and old age, sorrow and grief?
    • Sn 5:5  Dhotaka’s Questions  —  How can one become freed of all doubt?
    • Sn 5:6  Upasīva’s Questions  —  What support should one hold on to in order to cross over the flood of craving? Can an awakened person be described?
    • Sn 5:7  Nanda’s Questions  —  Who deserves to be called a sage? Who has crossed over birth and aging?
    • Sn 5:8  Hemaka’s Question  —  How do you cross over entanglements in the world?
    • Sn 5:9  Todeyya’s Questions  —  How to recognize an emancipated person.
    • Sn 5:10  Kappa’s Question  —  What is the island above the flood of the great danger of birth?
    • Sn 5:11  Jatukaṇṇin’s Question  —  How does one abandon birth and aging?
    • Sn 5:12  Bhadrāvudha’s Question  —  Bhadrāvudha asks the Buddha: How did you come to know the Dhamma?
    • Sn 5:13  Udaya’s Questions  —  How to reach unbinding and bring consciousness to a halt.
    • Sn 5:14  Posāla’s Question  —  How to develop insight after mastering the perception of nothingness.
    • Sn 5:15  Mogharāja’s Question  —  How should one view the world so as to escape the king of Death?
    • Sn 5:16  Piṅgiya’s Questions  —  Alarmed by the deterioration of his aging body, Piṅgiya asks the Buddha how to conquer birth and decay.
    • Epilogue  —  Piṅgiya, after becoming a non-returner, explains to his former teacher his devotion to the Buddha.
  • Bibliography