Knowing how Suttas are cited in various manners from the Nikayas

The achievements of The Pali Text Society of London

The Pali Text Society of London (PTS) brought out the Roman text edition of the Pāli Canon with the backing of the Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka who underwrote the printing costs. The Pali Canon or Tipitaka consists of the Sutta Pitaka is among the other two being Vinaya Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka. The Sutta Pitaka contains the five collections or Nikayas, but only four are regularly referred.

The early English translations of the four popular Nikayas from the Sutta Pitaka were also undertaken by Pali Text Society from 1899 to 1957 by able scholars. They included the numbering format of the Roman text edition for reference to the subjects or topics. Later translators like Maurice Walshe of Digha Nikaya and Bhikkhu Nanamoli of Majjhima Nikaya, whose works were published by Wisdom Publications, also included the same numbering format for consistency.

Retention of divisions and inclusion of page numbers of the Roman text of the Pali Canon

The PTS edition of English translated text of the Nikayas maintained the same divisions as the Roman text edition of the Pali Canon. The table below shows Digha Nikaya consists of three separate volumes is the same as the Roman text edition of the Pali Canon. The Wisdom Publications edition of the Digiha Nikaya is in a single volume but the text is divided into three divisions. The other Nikayas are treated in similar manner respectively.

The page number of an English translated Nikaya is dependent on the length of the translation which cannot be corresponding to the Roman text. For verification and cross reference to the Roman text, its page number is notated in square brackets, for illustration: “[4]”, which is included in the text of the English translated Nikaya.

Tabulation of The Pali Text Society and Wisdom Publications editions of Nikayas by volume.

Tabulation of The Pali Text Society and Wisdom Publications editions of Nikayas by volume.

Digha Nikaya in 3 separate volumes by PTS and single volume by Wisdom Publications divided into 3 divisions

Digha Nikaya in 3 separate volumes by PTS and single volume by Wisdom Publications divided into 3 divisions

Different ways and styles of citing suttas from the Nikayas

The authors and writers of Buddhist books and literature often cite suttas or selected verses, stanzas or passages from various suttas to elucidate and illuminate a topic or subject to give authenticity to it. There are various ways and styles to denote a citation from a Nikaya as a matter of preference by individual author and writer. Below are examples of some of the different ways and styles to denote citation from the Nikayas, notable and commonly used by some writers and authors.

(a) “Digha Nikaya Sutta 1, Brahmajala Sutta: The Supreme Net”;

(b) “DN 1, Brahmajala Sutta”;

(c) “DN 1” and

(d) “D.1,4”.

The recommended text book “The Buddha and His Teaching” by Narada Maha Thera denotes citation as “Majjhima Nikaya, I, 26, Ariyapariyesana Sutta, p. 171”. Interpretation: The citation quoted is from Majjhima Nikaya, Volume 1, Sutta 26 – Ariyapariyesana Sutta on page 171 in accordance with reference to the PTS Roman text of the Pali Canon numbering format.

Another popular book, The Life of the Buddha According to the Pali Canon by Bhikkhu Nanamoli denotes citation from the Nikayas as MN 85, DN 30, etc. Interpretation: Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta 85; Digha Nikaya, Sutta 30, etc.

In the Visuddhi Magga (The Path of Purification) by Bhikkhu Bodhi denotes citation as ”M I 328”. Interpretation: Majjhima Nikaya, Volume 1, page 328 in accordance with reference to the PTS Roman text of the Pali Canon numbering format.

For beginners and new readers who have limited knowledge on Buddhism, it is preferably to denote the citation in detail although it may by lengthy, for instance: ”Digha Nikaya, Sutta 1, Brahmajala Sutta: The Supreme Net. What the Teaching Is Not (Wisdom Publications edition, page 67)” for easy reference to assist them.

As a reader, how to relate or verify a citation to the Nikaya?

When referring to a citation from a sutta of the named Nikaya as in the above scenarios listed as (a) to (c) is straight-forward. Just refer to the content page of the pertinent Nikaya and look for the sutta number which is accompanied by the name of the sutta and the corresponding page number, and turn to the page.

Where a stanza, verse or a passage is quoted from a particular the sutta then one has to read through the whole sutta to identify it. It is a simple way to get to the sutta, but takes time to read and identify the stanza, verse or passage, is not an efficient way.

Making reference to a citation which is a verse, stanza or passage from the sutta, it more cumbersome and complex but it makes reference directly to the source. Scenario (d) above is the case in point.

The citation as referred to, “D.I,4” is derived from “Digha Nikaya, Volume 1 page 4” in accordance with reference to the PTS Roman text of the Pali Canon numbering format. This way or style of citation is included in the text of the English translations of the Nikayas by both the PTS and Wisdom Publications editions.

Many writers also adopted this way or style of citation in their works, and one such world renowned person is Venerable S. Dhammika, a prolific writer residing locally. It is, therefore, imperative to know how to look for the source of the citation denotes, such as “D.1,4” present in Buddhist books or literature from the English translated Nikayas. It seems that many writers are subscribing to this way or style of citation.

So let us look at the two different forms from the English translated Nikayas of the PTS and Wisdom Publications editions.

Source from The Pali Text Society edition …

Facsimile twin-page Digalogues of the Buddha Volume 1 (Digha Nikaya) of PTS edition

Facsimile twin-page Digalogues of the Buddha Volume 1 (Digha Nikaya) of PTS edition

Analysis: The facsimile twin page is from Volume 1 of Dialogues of the Buddha (Digha Nikaya) of PTS edition.

On the header the digit “2” on the left top corner of the page and “3” on the top corner of the right page are the respective page number of the book.

The header on page 2: “1. BRAHMA-GALA SUTTA” is the number and name of the sutta in Pali.

The header on page 3: “MINOR DETAILS OF MERE MORALITY” Is the English translated name of the sutta.

Reference to the denoted way or style of citation “D.1 4” refers to “Digha Nikaya, Volume 1 page 4” of the Roman text of the Canon Pali Canon, is notated on page 3 of the above page located three lines from the bottom of the page with the digit 4 in square brackets “[4]”.

Similarly, for “M.II 4”, it denotes “Majjhima Nikaya, Volume II page 4.” To locate this citation go to Majjhima Nikaya Volume II and look for [4] in the text.

… and from Wisdom Publications edition

Facsimile twin-page of Digha Nikaya, Wisdom Publications edition

Facsimile twin-page of Digha Nikaya, Wisdom Publications edition

Analysis: The above illustration shows the following pertinent pointers:

Number “68 and “69” of the header on the top left and right corner respectively are the respective page number of the book.

Following the page number “68” is the name of the sutta in Pali and the Sutta number: “Brahmajala Sutta: Sutta 1“.

The two notations residing side by side in the center ”i4” and “i6” denote “Volume 1 page 4” and “Volume 1 page 6” respectively. These references related to the PTS Roman text Pali Canon are included in the English translated Nikayas such as the above.

Preceding the page number “69” is the name of the sutta in English translation “What the teaching Is Not.”

On page 68 in the text, the digit 4 in square brackets “[4]” (eleven lines from the bottom) represents the page number where the citation resides which is also the page number of the PTS Roman text of the Pali Canon.

In the nutshell, when referring any citation in this form or style to the Nikaya, look for the volume number and the page number in square brackets to locate the source.

The same treatment goes for the other Nikayas published by the PTS and Digha Nikaya translated by Maurice Walshe and Majjhima Nikaya translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli, the latter two published by Wisdom Publications.

Exceptions to the Rule

Samyutta Nikaya and Anguttra Nikaya both translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi and published by Wisdom Publications deviate from The PTS Roman text of the Pali Canon numbering format.

Also the English translation of selected suttas from the various Nikayas published by Myanmar Pitaka Association (MPA) do not subscribe to the PTS Roman text of the Pali Canon numbering format.

For example, The Mahaparinibban Sutta is numbered as Sutta 16 in the Pali Canon is widely known and accepted as appeared in PTS and Wisdom Publications editions. However, this Sutta as appeared in MPA edition of “Ten Suttas from Digha Nikaya” is numbered as Silakkhandha Vegga, III Mahaparinbanna Sutta.

For the above instances, it would be wise to denote the citation in full and with identity of the publishers.

Khuddaka Nikaya

The Khuddaka Nikaya is the fifth Nikaya consists of 15 to 18 books depending on traditions. The original Pali Canon has 15 books while the Thai edition has 17 and the Burmese edition 18 books. (The Buddhists Encyclopedia of Buddhism, Editor Subodh Kapoor, page 1366). Among them, the more frequently referred are Dhammapada, Udana, Itvuttaka, Sutta Nipata and Jataka Tales. Citation from Khuddaka Nikaya is straight forward.

For example Ratana Sutta (The Jewel Discourse) is cites as “Sn, II.I”. It is taken from Sutta Nipata, (the 5th book of the Khuddaka Nikaya) Chapter II, Sutta 1.

Likewise The Dhammapada – Twin Verses (the 2nd book of the Khuddaka Nikaya) by chapter and verse number and normally just the verse number as “Dhp 1 & 2”.

 Conclusion

It is hoped that this writing would be helpful to readers to understand the various forms or styles of citations from the Suttas from the various Nikayas for cross reference and further reference in the pursuit of learning the Dhamma.

This is a small contribution towards the propagation of Buddhism, making learning easier.

Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

Contributor: Chin Kee Thou

Date: April 18th 2015

About Chin Kee Thou

Reading Buddhist scriptures and writing articles for the blog and newsletters.
This entry was posted in Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Dhamma in Daily Life, Meditation in Daily Life, Sutta in Daily Life, Sutta Study Class. Bookmark the permalink.

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