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TipitakaSutta PitakaContext of the Khuddaka Nikaya

The Khuddaka Nikaya
The Collection of Little Texts

The Khuddaka Nikaya, or "Collection of Little Texts" (Pali khudda = "smaller; lesser"), the fifth division of the Sutta Pitaka, is a wide-ranging collection of "books" containing complete suttas, verses, and smaller fragments of Dhamma teachings. Many of these have been treasured and memorized by devout Buddhists around the world for centuries; some offer inspired and inspiring verses of Awakening by the early monks; and some are just plain obscure, never having even been translated into the English language.

Unless otherwise indicated, the suttas in these archives 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.

The eighteen books of the Khuddaka Nikaya are as follows:

1. Khuddakapatha ("The short passages") -- A collection of nine short passages that may have been designed as a primer for novice monks and nuns. It includes several essential texts that are chanted to this day by laypeople and monastics around the world of Theravada Buddhism. These passages include: the formula for taking refuge; the ten precepts; the Metta, Mangala, and Ratana suttas; and some suttas (7 & 8) on the importance of making "merit" (pu˝˝a).

2. Dhammapada ("The Path of Dhamma") -- This much-beloved collection of 423 short verses has been studied and learned by heart over the centuries by millions of devoted Buddhists around the world. The beautiful kernels of practical wisdom it contains are just as valuable for all of us today. Two complete translations of the Dhammapada are available here:

3. Udana ("Exclamations") -- A rich collection of short suttas, each of which culminates in a short verse uttered by the Buddha. Here you will find the parable of the blind men and the elephant (Ud VI.4); the story of Nanda and the "dove-footed nymphs" (Ud III.2); and many memorable similes (e.g., "Just as the ocean has one taste -- the taste of salt -- so this Dhamma-Vinaya has one taste, the taste of release." (Ud V.5)). Many gems here!

4. Itivuttaka ("The Thus-saids") -- A collection of 112 short suttas, in mixed prose and verse form, each of which addresses a single well-focused topic of Dhamma. The Itivuttaka takes its name from the Pali phrase that introduces each of the suttas: iti vuttam Bhagavata, "Thus was said by the Buddha." Two versions are available here:

5. Sutta Nipata ("The Sutta Collection") -- 71 short suttas, including the very famous Karaniya Metta Sutta (Discourse on Loving-Kindness) and the Maha-Mangala Sutta (Great Discourse on Protective Charms), and many more.

6. Vimanavatthu ("Stories of the Celestial Mansions") -- 85 poems, each explaining how wholesome deeds led to a particular deity's rebirth in one of the heavenly realms. [??]

7. Petavatthu ("Stories of the Hungry Ghosts") -- 51 poems, each explaining how unwholesome deeds led to the rebirth of a being into the miserable realm of the "Hungry Ghosts" (peta). [??]

8. Theragatha ("Verses of the Elder Monks") --
9. Therigatha ("Verses of the Elder Nuns") -- These two books offer exquisitely beautiful personal accounts, in verse form, of the lives of the early monks and nuns, often culminating in a lovely simile to describe their experience of Awakening. These verses depict -- in often heart-breaking detail -- the many hardships these men and women endured and overcame during their quest for Awakening, and offer deep inspiration and encouragement to the rest of us.

10. Jataka ("Birth Stories") -- 547 tales that recount some of the Buddha's former lives during his long journey as a Bodhisatta aspiring to Awakening. (Although no literal translations of the Jataka stories are available here, several of these tales have been "retold" by Ken & Visakha Kawasaki in a series of Bodhi Leaves booklets, which are available.)

11. Niddesa ("Exposition") -- Commentaries on the Sutta Nipata. Some scholars attribute the Niddesa to the Buddha's chief disciple, Ven. Sariputta; others regard this as a much later work. I don't believe an English translation is available. [??]

12. Patisambhidamagga ("Path of Discrimination") -- An analysis of certain Abhidhamma concepts. [??]

13. Apadana ("Stories") -- Biographies, in verse, of the Buddha, 41 Paccekabuddhas ("silent" Buddhas), 549 arahant bhikkhus and 40 arahant bhikkhunis. This one appears to fall in the "very obscure" category, as the Pali Text Society catalog lists the Pali edition as "Not available" and there is no listing for its English translation. [??]

14. Buddhavamsa ("History of the Buddhas") -- Biographical accounts of Gotama Buddha and of the 24 Buddhas who preceded him. [??]

15. Cariyapitaka ("Basket of Conduct") -- Stories, in verse, of 35 of the Buddha's previous lives. These stories, purportedly retold by the Buddha at Ven. Sariputta's request, illustrate the Bodhisatta's practice of seven of the ten paramis (perfections). [??]

16. Nettippakarana (Thai & Burmese Tipitaka only) --
17. Petakopadesa (Thai & Burmese Tipitaka only) -- About all I know of these two short books is that they are "different from the other books of the Tipitaka because they are exegetical and methodological in nature" [Guide to Tipitaka, p.138] and "this is considered an important text that explains the doctrinal points of Buddhism" [Handbook of Pali Literature, p.100]. [??]

18. Milindapa˝ha (Burmese Tipitaka only) ("Questions of Milinda") -- This is a fascinating dialogue between the arahat Ven. Nagasena and the Greek King Milinda (Menander). The King, a philosopher and skilled debater, bombards Ven. Nagasena with one question after another concerning the Dhamma, each of which Ven. Nagasena masterfully answers. Like so many stories from the Pali Canon, this one has a happy ending: the king, profoundly impressed by Ven. Nagasena's wisdom, converts to Buddhism, hands his kingdom over to his son, joins the Sangha, and eventually becomes an arahant.


Note

The books above marked with "[??]" are those with which I am totally unfamiliar; their corresponding comments are thus entirely based on other sources:

  • The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction (4th ed.), by Robinson & Johnson (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1996)
  • Guide to Tipitaka, by U Ko Lay (Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1990)
  • Handbook of Pali Literature, by Somapala Jayawardhana (Colombo, Sri Lanka: Karunaratne & Sons, 1994)

 


Updated: 1-7-2000

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