Many thousands of discourses were given by the Buddha and his leading disciples. Here you will find some key teachings that every Buddhist should be familiar with. Some are available as PDF files framed with a decorative border for printing on a single sheet of A4, which can be printed to put on the wall as a daily reflection.
The Buddha spent the rainy season residing in one particular monastery, in the Bamboo Grove at Rājagaha during the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years of his dispensation, and he often stayed at the Jeta Grove donated by Anāthapiṇḍika in Sāvatthi during the later years. After the rains he would set off on tour with the monks, travelling to towns and villages on foot. In the last period of his life, he walked from Rājagaha to Kusinārā via Pāṭaliputta and Vesāli. This is related in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta.
The Map of India gives some perspective to the life of the Buddha and the monks as they wandered throughout the Ganges valley, or even further afield, to spread the teaching about the direct path to nibbāna.
To read the Pāḷi texts — edited during the Sixth Buddhist Council, in Rangoon — download the CST4 software from Tipitaka.org. Read my review page for help on installing and using it.
A collection of 423 verses in 26 chapters, with a brief extract from the Commentary explaining the circumstances in which the Buddha uttered each verse. The verses are often referenced in other texts. The commentaries are sometimes essential to understand their meaning in context. Click the PDF icon to download it.
Selected discourses from the Long Discourses of the Buddha.
Selected discourses from the Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha.
Selected discourses from the Book of Gradual Sayings or the Numerical Discourses of the Buddha.
Selected discourses from the Book of Kindred Sayings or the Collected Discourses of the Buddha.
Selected discourses from the Discourse Collection of the Khuddakanikāya.
Some discourses commonly recited for protection of danger, disease, and other misfortunes. Includes links to audio and video files.
Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta sends his disciple, Prince Abhaya, to the Buddha with a dilemma that he won’t be able to answer. The Buddha answers the dilemma easily and Prince Abhaya becomes a disciple of the Budda.
Five facts that should be recollected constantly by a woman or a man, by a householder or by one gone-forth.
The Buddha’s discourse to 1,000 Fire-worshipping ascetics led by the three Kassapa brothers on the fiery nature of greed, hatred, and delusion. After the Dhammacakka Sutta, the Hemavata Sutta, and the Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta, this is the fourth discourse taught by the Buddha. It is found in the Vinaya, Mahāvagga, and is there called the Ādittapariyāya Sutta, but in the Saṃyuttanikāya it is called the Āditta Sutta — the Ādittapariyāya Sutta in the Saṃyuttanikāya refers to a different sutta on a similar topic, but with a more detailed exposition.
A discourse to a wander on not clinging to any views.
The different attitudes of uninstructed ordinary persons and noble ones when faced with suffering
The Buddha relates a discourse given by the previous Buddha Kassapa to an ascetic who was a strict vegetarian, who condemned the eating of meat and fish as stench. The Buddha explained that physical, verbal, and mental misdeeds are stench, not eating meat or fish.
The Buddha teaches his son, the newly ordained novice Rāhula, about the dangers of telling deliberate lies, and the importance of reflecting well on one’s physical, verbal, and mental actions.
Five perils for the future of the Buddha’s teachings
The Buddha’s third discourse (the second was the Hemavata Sutta), given to his first five disciples. After listening to the discourse, they all became Arahants.
Three individuals are found in the world: the blind, the one-eyed, and the two-eyed.
The story of Aṅgulimāla’s conversion and attainment of Arahantship.
Eight essential characteristics of a wise man who could fully understand the Buddha’s teaching.
An extract from a discourse of the Majjhimanikāya, teaching sceptics how to choose a wise course to follow.
The Buddha teaches the monks about the bad man and one inferior to the bad man, about the good man and one superior to the good man.
At one time the Buddha’s relatives, the Sakyā, were taking up arms to fight with their neighbours, the Koliyā, over the irrigation waters of the river Rohīṇī, which divided their territories. The Buddha admonished them, asking them which was more valuable, blood or water, and the conflict was averted.
Four things that lead to hell, and four that lead to heaven.
Eight powers possessed by different kinds of people.
The Buddha teaches how one should not long for the past, anticipate the future, not get caught up in the present.
The Buddha teaches Sujātā, the daughter-in-law of Anāthapiṇḍika, about the seven kinds of wives.
Wrong-view and right-view are the source of all fruits.
The Buddha relates his renunciation, ascetic practices, and enlightenment to refute the statement by Prince Bodhi that happiness is to be gained through suffering.
The Buddha teaches a group of elderly and wealthy brahmins about the noble conduct of the brahmins of ancient times, which had declined by the time of the Buddha.
Five losses and five gains: relatives, wealth, health, morality, and view.
The behaviour that leads to becoming an “outcaste,” a person who should be shunned by good and wise followers of the Buddha.
An elderly Mahāsāla Brahmin approaches the Buddha with his followers, and a sixteen-year-old student of his engages in a dialogue with the Buddha.
An explanation of the satisfaction and misery of sensual pleasures.
The exposition of the Buddha’s teaching on ownership of one’s kamma (volitional actions).
The Buddha teaches the monks the difference between good and bad men.
The Buddha explains to Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī the relative benefit of different gifts to individuals and to the Saṅgha.
Five advantages of brushing the teeth.
This discourse from the Suttanipāta describes the correct practice for a disciple who is a monk or a householder. It covers the observance of the uposatha for householders during the Rains Retreat.
The brahmin student Dhotaka asks the Blessed One to liberate him from doubt.
The Buddha teaches “Long Nails,” the nephew of the Venerable Sāriputta, about relinquishing views.
The least results of eight unwholesome deeds if reborn again as a human being.
Selected chapters from the first book of the gradual sayings or numerical discourses (Aṅguttaranikāya).
While wandering in the Kosala kingdom, the Buddha smiles at a point beside the path, and when questioned by the Venerable Ānanda, relates his previous life as Jotipāla when he was a dear friend of Ghaṭikāra, and when he went forth as a monk.
A warning by the Buddha on how not to chant the sacred discourses. When recited as they often are these days, the audience fails to pay attention to the meaning, and becomes distracted by listening to the sound only.
Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī requests the going-forth and eventually obtains it by accepting the eight weighty rules after the intervention of Ānanda on her behalf.
Three individuals are found in the world: a speaker of excrement, a speaker of flowers, and a speaker of honey.
One on his eight wonderful and marvellous qualities, the second on the four bases of harmony, and the third to Hatthaka Devaputta after his rebirth in the Pure Abode of Avihā.
On giving gifts to gain great fruit, to King Pasenadi
The Brahmin Jāṇussoṇi visits the Buddha and asks whether gifts and rites for the departed are of any benefit.
Two discourses given to the physician of King Bimbisāra (and later the physician of the Buddha and Saṅgha). The first is on the eating of meat; the second on the good practice for a lay disciple.
A brahmin farmer, having promised to offer alms, has his crop destroyed by a flood, and is greatly disappointed at his lost opportunity. The Buddha teaches him about the dangers of sensual pleasures, and he becomes a Stream-winner.
The Buddha teaches a farmer how he ploughs and farms the fruit of the deathless.
How to decide if someone is fit to discuss with or unfit to discuss with.
More commonly known as the “Kālāma Sutta,” this is the Buddha’s advice on how to make a thorough investigation of the teachings. It is often misquoted as a “free-thinker’s charter” to reject any teaching that doesn’t agree with logical reasoning, or with “common-sense.” A closer examination of this discourse shows that “logical reasoning” and “common-sense” are not to be trusted. One should make a thorough inquiry by experimentation.
A warning to his disciples on always remaining open to instruction and admonishment by one’s fellow monks and well-wishers.
The Buddha teaches about the three kinds of mystic wonder to a devout follower from Nāḷanda.
Two Arahants, Khema and Sumana, come to the Buddha and ask him if Arahants consider themselves superior, inferior, or equal to others. The Buddha approves of their statements.
This is the first book of the Khuddakanikāya. It is a collection of verses and discourses that a newly ordained novice should be taught.
The seven causes for the decline of the Buddha’s teaching, and seven for its longevity.
A discourse to the shameless group of monks who were followers of Assaji and Punabbasu. They were guilty of many kinds of misbehaviour such as growing flowers, making garlands, giving them as presents to women, eating at the wrong time, using perfumes, visiting shows, singing, and playing games. They were admonished as “Corrupters of families,” who liked their behaviour.
Three kinds of individuals: one like writing carved in stone, one like writing scratched on the ground, one like writing traced in water.
An important discourse on how the effects of kamma give different results for different individuals.
An explanation of wrong-view, mundane right-view, and supramundane right-view.
Mahācunda admonishes learned monks not to disparage meditators, and meditators not to disparage learned monks, but to praise each other.
The Buddha teaches the six recollection to Mahānāma the Sakyan.
The Buddha declares his Ten Powers of a Tathāgata, after Sunakkhatta leaves the Order and makes public claims that the Buddha has no direct knowledge (abhiññā), but relies on reasoning.
A brief extract from »» Mahasuññata Suttaṃ, with the Buddha’s advice to Ānanda for monks to cultivate seclusion, and to avoid socialising.
The Buddha admonishes Bhikkhu Sāti who clings to an eternalistic view regarding the transmigration of consciousness.
Queen Mallikā, the beloved young queen of King Pasenadi of Kosala, approached the Buddha and asked him about the causes of beauty, wealth, and influence.
An elderly monk comes to the Buddha and asks for brief meditation instructions. The Buddha teaches him the practice of bare awareness: “When you see, just know that you see it …”
On the acceptance of money by monks.
The eleven benefits of constantly practising loving-kindness.
The Buddha shows by comparing the dust on the tip of a fingernail to the entire earth how few human beings regain human rebirth again after death, and how little suffering remains for one who has attain Stream-winning compared to one who has not.
Nakulamātā exhorts her husband who is ill with a serious disease, and he recovers.
Practising meditation on loving-kindness is more meritorious than giving alms.
Ten facts that one gone-forth should recollect constantly.
The Buddha exhorts Mahāmoggallāna, teaching him seven methods for staying awake. He then attains Arahantship just seven days after his ordination.
The Bodhisatta battles with Māra on the eve of his Enlightenment.
The antithesis to the Maṅgala Sutta on Blessings, also taught to a deity at Sāvatthi.
This is the introduction to the Paṭṭhāna of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, enumerating the twenty-four types of conditional relations: Root Condition (hetupaccayo), Object Condition (ārammaṇapaccayo), etc.
A wanderer is annoyed when the Buddha refers to him as a householder, as he has abandoned a householder’s way of life. The Buddha explains how one cuts off all the affairs of a householder in the discipline of the noble ones.
Seven kinds of individuals who are worthy of offerings, worthy of hospitality, etc.
Venerable Puṇṇa asks the Buddha for a brief admonishment before setting off for his home district of Sunāparanta. The Buddha queries him to see if he has the necessary qualities to live in that hostile region.
A discourse between the Venerable Sāriputta and the Venerable Puṇṇa Mantāṇiputta on the seven stages of purification.
A discourse on how to abandon all of the outflows (āsavā) using seven different methods.
A charming discourse from the Gradual Sayings advising how to do things thoroughly, not hastily.
A teaching on the unrighteous conduct that leads to rebirth in the lower realms after death, or the righteous conduct that leads to rebirth wherever one wishes.
A discourse from the Suttanipāta on the removal of grief.
The Buddha’s advice to his step-mother, who was the first Bhikkhuṇī, on how to distinguish Dhamma from what is not Dhamma.
The four holy sites to be visited by Buddhists.
The wanderer Moḷiyasīvaka visits the Buddha and asks how the Dhamma’s qualities are verifiable.
The Buddha questions the Venerable Ānanda about the schism at Kosambī and relates the four advantages seen in schism by a wicked monk.
Two discourses from the Gradual Sayings.
He gives a gift with faith, he gives a gift with respect, he gives a gift at the right time, he gives a gift without clinging, unreservedly, he gives a gift without harming himself or others.
Five treasures that are rare and difficult to get in the world.
The Buddha teaches the Licchavī about the seven factors of non-decline
King Pasenadi of Kosala pays respects to a group of ascetics who pass by while he is attending on the Buddha and asks if they are Arahants.
The Buddha teaches the monks about the bad man and the good man
An acrobat and his apprentice perform tricks on a bamboo pole. The Buddha instructs the monks to protect themselves by practising mindfulness, thus they will protect others.
Four postures: the hungry ghost, the sensualist, the lion’s, and the Tathāgata’s.
The Buddha teaches General Sīha, a disciple of the Nigaṇṭhā (Jains), who the becomes a disciple and a Stream-winner. He invites the Saṅgha for the meal and offers them various kinds of hard and soft food including meat. The Nigaṇṭhā blame him, but he is indifferent to their slander.
The Buddha gives ten reasons why he makes the lion’s roar in assemblies.
An important discourse on social responsibilities.
Five ancient Brahmin practices maintained by dogs, but not by Brahmins
The Buddha describes three sights that led to his renunciation of the life of extreme delicacy and comfort that he enjoyed as a Bodhisatta.
Nine things that an Arahant cannot possibly do (includes the Sajjha Suttaṃ with a different list of nine things).
An actor asks the Buddha about the destiny of actors after death.
The nine things rooted in craving.
The Buddha refutes the three wrong-views of fatalism, creationism, and nihilism, and declares his own teaching, which cannot be refuted.
Seven kinds of individuals submerged in water.
The four perils faced by newly ordained monks.
Defiled by four defilements the sun and moon do not shine; defiled by four defilements, recluses do not shine.
The Buddha teaches Upāli ten reasons for laying down of the training rules.
Four individuals like four storm clouds.
Two discourses: one on wrong-livelihood for Buddhists, and another on the reasons for failure and success in business.
The Buddha teaches a fire-worship brahmin about the moral defects that make someone an outcaste.
The Buddha gives similes of hatching eggs, wearing away the handle of an adze, and the rotting of a ship’s rigging to describe the progress of purification.
The Buddha teaches Anāthapiṇḍika about the benefits of giving even poor quality almsfood.
A large number of monks commit suicide, or murder one another, due to disgust with the human body. This is also the introductory story to the third offence of defeat for monks — killing a human being.
The Buddha teaches the monks the six roots of contention.
See footnote 1 to the Tālapuṭa Sutta.
Four possible ways to reach Arahantship