Traditional sutta order

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Traditional sutta order

Postby Vakkali » Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:20 am

Hi everybody!

I was hoping that someone here could help me with a question about the Sutta-pitaka. I really enjoy reading Buddha-vacana, but the way that the suttas are organized (by length?) frustrates me. Are they understood to have been delivered in a certain chronological order, from the Dhammacakkapavattana sutta onward? I know that chronological order isn't necessarily important, but I feel like I would get more out of my readings if I had a better sense of their context.

I'm new to the board and had some trouble using the search function, so I apologize if this has already been covered in another thread.

I would appreciate any insight into this matter. Thanks so much for your time and patience!
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Re: Traditional sutta order

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:37 am

Vakkali wrote: I know that chronological order isn't necessarily important, but I feel like I would get more out of my readings if I had a better sense of their context.
There is no real chronological order that matter in the sense of reading the text. Scholars hold the Sutta-Nipatta, particularly chapter 8, is probably the oldest of the texts. Some of the longer suttas in the Digha and the Majjhima are held by some to be younger.

An interesting book in terms of chronology is Ven Nanamoli's THE LIFE OF THE BUDDHA. I would strongly recommend this book. Click on the title and you'll get a detailed description of the book.

Here is chapter 12 of Ven Nanamoli's book:

http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh428.pdf
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Traditional sutta order

Postby Vakkali » Thu Nov 17, 2011 8:20 am

You know, I've had my eye on that book for a while. Glad to know that it's been well-recieved by more experienced practitioners. If the 12th chapter is any indication, then Ven. Nanimoli's book seems like a great place to start. I can't thank you enough!
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Re: Traditional sutta order

Postby Zom » Thu Nov 17, 2011 9:24 pm

I think you should start either with Digha, or - with chapters of Samyutta nikaya. In the last one there are comprehensive explanations of numerous terms.
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Re: Traditional sutta order

Postby Vakkali » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:04 am

Thank you for the suggestion, Zom!

I took some time to think about it, and I guess this is what I really meant to ask: in what order is the Buddha said to have delivered the discourses? I read that the Vinaya organizes at least some of the discourses this way; it looks like the Dhammacakkapavattana sutta is supposed to be the Buddha's first discourse, followed by the Anattalakkhana sutta second and the Adittapariyaya sutta third? I don't know if this is accurate. Is there a traditional list of all the suttas in the order they were supposedly uttered by the Buddha himself?

I'm so sorry if I'm not being clear enough. I don't mean to be a pest. I really appreciate your consideration, guys.
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Re: Traditional sutta order

Postby yamaka » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:40 am

Dear Vakkali,

Some important discourse as Dhammacakkhapavattana Sutta, Mahasatipatthana Sutta, Anapanasati Sutta,Anattalakkhana Sutta, Aditapariyaya Sutta are worth to read as a begining IMHO.

:anjali:
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Re: Traditional sutta order

Postby daverupa » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:43 am

There isn't an easily discernible chronological order, and even something like the First Discourse is itself probably a composite text. The best we can do is something along the lines of a relative chronology, and then only generally speaking (for example, perhaps the Noble Eightfold Path was formulated early on, and then later the tripartite Sila-Samadhi-Panna formulation was developed which encompassed the N8P while at the same time shifting the focus for those at the start of the practice from insight to morality. This would reflect a shift in ordination demographics - mostly existing renunciates at first, then growing numbers of householders and merchants and such - and correlate with the incremental development of the Vinaya.)

Speculative, but interesting and perhaps even illuminating. Just about any piece of writing by Richard Gombrich would be recommended if this sounds like what you're after.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Traditional sutta order

Postby Vakkali » Fri Nov 18, 2011 3:21 am

Yamaka, devarupa, thank you so much. We used Gombrich's collection of sutta translations during my time in college, and I always intended to look into his other work. I guess now's the time, huh?
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Re: Traditional sutta order

Postby Zom » Fri Nov 18, 2011 9:25 am

There is no order in sutta exposition. They are just discourses, given by the Buddha at different times, places, to very different people.

So all suttanta is like a jigsaw puzzle - you can start anywhere, but if you are smart enough, you will get the whole picture :reading: ;)
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Re: Traditional sutta order

Postby santa100 » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:17 pm

Hi Vakkali, you've probably already seen great praise for Bhikkhu Bodhi's "In the Buddha's words: an anthology of discourses from the Pāli canon" in many DW's threads here. It's a great book that gives a good solid foundation for your study of the Pali canon. Strongly recommend it..
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