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TipitakaSutta PitakaContext of the Digha Nikaya

The Digha Nikaya
The Long Discourses

The Digha Nikaya, or "Collection of Long Discourses" (Pali digha = "long") is the first division of the Sutta Pitaka, and consists of thirty-four suttas, grouped into three vaggas, or divisions:

  • Silakkhandha-vagga -- The Division Concerning Morality (13 suttas)
  • Maha-vagga -- The Large Division (10 suttas)
  • Patika-vagga -- The Patika Division (11 suttas)

Selected suttas from the Digha Nikaya

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, these suttas were translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. An anthology of Thanissaro Bhikkhu's sutta translations is also available in Microsoft Word 6 (Macintosh/Windows) format.

  • Sama˝˝aphala Sutta (DN 2) -- The Fruits of the Contemplative Life. King Ajatasattu asks the Buddha, "What are the fruits of the contemplative life, visible in the here and now?" The Buddha replies by painting a comprehensive portrait of the Buddhist path of training, illustrating each stage of the training with vivid similes.
  • Kevatta (Kevaddha) Sutta (DN 11) -- To Kevatta (Kevaddha). This discourse explores the role of miracles and conversations with heavenly beings as a possible basis for faith and belief. The Buddha does not deny the reality of such experiences, but he points out that -- of all possible miracles -- only the miracle of instruction in the proper training of the mind is reliable. As for heavenly beings, they are subject to greed, anger, and delusion, and so the information they give -- especially with regard to the miracle of instruction -- is not necessarily trustworthy. Thus the only valid basis for faith is the instruction that, when followed, brings about the end of one's own mental defilements. The tale that concludes the discourse is one of the finest examples of the early Buddhist sense of humor. [TB]
  • Lohicca Sutta (DN 12) -- To Lohicca. A non-Buddhist poses some important questions: If Dhamma is something that one must realize for oneself, then what is the role of a teacher? Are there any teachers who don't deserve some sort of criticism? The Buddha's reply includes a sweeping summary of the entire path of practice.
  • Maha-Nidana Sutta (DN 15) -- The Great Causes Discourse. One of the most profound discourses in the Pali Canon, which gives an extended treatment of the teachings of dependent co-arising (paticca samuppada) and not-self (anatta) in an outlined context of how these teachings function in practice. An explanatory preface is included.
  • Maha-Parinibbana Sutta (DN 16) -- The Last Days of the Buddha [two translations: Sister Vajira and Francis Story, trs. (complete text) | Thanissaro Bhikkhu, tr. (excerpt)]. This wide-ranging sutta, the longest one in the Pali Canon, describes the events leading up to, during, and immediately following the death and final release (parinibbana) of the Buddha. This colorful narrative contains a wealth of Dhamma teachings, including the final instructions from the Buddha that serve to define how Buddhism would be lived and practiced long after the Buddha's death -- even to this day. But this sutta also depicts, in simple language, the poignant human drama that unfolds among the Buddha's many devoted followers around the time of the death of their beloved teacher.
  • Maha-Samaya Sutta (DN 20) -- The Great Meeting. A large group of devas pays a visit to the Buddha. This sutta is the closest thing in the Pali Canon to a "who's who" of the deva worlds, providing useful material for anyone interested in the cosmology of early Buddhism.
  • Sakka-pa˝ha Sutta (DN 21) -- Sakka's Questions (excerpt). Sakka, the deva-king, asks the Buddha about the sources of conflict & hostility, and about the path of practice that brings them to an end. This discourse ends with a humorous account about Sakka's frustration in trying to learn the Dhamma from other contemplatives. It's hard to find a teacher when you're a king.
  • Maha-Satipatthana Sutta (DN 22) -- The Great Frames of Reference (The Great Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness). This sutta offers comprehensive practical instructions on the practice of mindfulness meditation. The Buddha describes how the development of continuous mindfulness of the four satipatthana ("foundations of mindfulness," or "frames of reference") -- mindfulness of the body, of feelings, of the mind, and of mind-objects -- can lead ultimately to full Awakening. [The text of this sutta is identical to that of the Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10), except that the Majjhima version omits the exposition of the Four Noble Truths (sections 5a,b,c and d in part D of this version).]
  • Sigalovada Sutta (DN 31) -- To Sigala/The Layperson's code of Discipline [Narada Thera, tr.]. The householder's code of discipline, as described by the Buddha to the layman Sigala. This sutta offers valuable advice on how householders should conduct themselves in relationships with parents, spouses, children, pupils, teachers, employers, employees, friends, and spiritual mentors.


Updated: 1-7-2000

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