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In Theravada Buddhism, anupubbikathā or ānupubbikathā[1] (Pali) – variously translated as "gradual discourse,"[2] "gradual instruction,"[3] "progressive instruction,"[4] and "step-by-step talk"[5] – is a method by which the Buddha taught the Dhamma to suitably receptive lay people. In this approach, the Four Noble Truths are the consummate teaching. The common formula is:

  1. Generosity (dāna)
  2. Virtue (sīla)
  3. Heaven (sagga)
  4. Danger of sensual pleasure (kāmānaṃ ādīnava)[6]
  5. Renunciation (nekkhamma)
  6. The Four Noble Truths (cattāri ariya-saccāni)[7]

From the Pali Canon

In the Pali Canon, the title for this training, its general intent and outline are provided in the following narrative formula (in English and Pali) which is found in multiple discourses:[8]

Details for this training are provided in DN 2[11] and, to a lesser degree, in MN 27 and MN 51.[12]

See also


  1. For some alternate spellings of this Pali word, see Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 39, entry for "Anupubbikathā," retrieved 2008-01-21 at Also note that, in the La Trobe University (n.d.) on-line edition of the Canon, the middle "i" of anupubbikathā or ānupubbikathā has a macron (ī).
  2. "Gradual discourse" is found, for instance, in Walshe (1995), p. 215.
  3. The translation "gradual instruction" is used, for instance, by Nyanatiloka (1980), entry for "ānupubbī-kathā" at
  4. "Progressive instruction" is used, for instance, Ñāṇamoli & Bodhi (2001), p. 485.
  5. Thanissaro (1998).
  6. In regards to translating ādīnava, Bullitt uses the word "drawbacks" while Ñāṇamoli & Bodhi (2001) use "danger" (p. 485), and Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25) recommend "disadvantage, danger" (p. 99, entry for "Ādīnava," retrieved 2007-11-13 from
  7. See, for instance, Bullitt (2005).
  8. According to Nyanatiloka (1980), three discourses that include this formula are DN 3, DN 14 and MN 56 (see Nyanatiloka, 1980, entry for "ānupubbī-kathā" at A search of the on-line La Trobe University (n.d.) database reveals that the compound term ānupubbīkathaṃ (seeānupubbīkathaṃ Archived September 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.) can be found ten times in the Vinaya Pitaka and eight times in the Sutta Pitaka including: DN 3 (D.i.110), DN 5 (D.i.148), MN 56 (M.i.379), MN 91 (M.ii.145), AN 8.12 (A.iv.186,, AN 8.20 (A.iv.209,, AN 8.21 (A.iv.213,, and KN's Ud. 5.3 (Ud. 48) (see Thanissaro, 1998). Additionally, a search of the La Trobe University database for ānupubbiṃ kathaṃ (seeānupubbiṃ%20kathaṃ ) results in two instances of the formula being found in DN 14 (D.ii.41, D.ii.44). In DN 14, the identified formulaic statement is not stated by Gautama Buddha (who, according to the Pali canon, is the 28th Buddha) but by Buddha Vipassī (the 22nd Buddha), thus reinforcing that the Four Noble Truths are "the teaching special to the Buddhas," that is, Buddhas in addition to this age's self-awakened one, Gautama Buddha (see Walshe, 1995, pp. 215-16).
  9. Upāli Sutta ("To Upāli," MN 56), verse 18, trans. by Ñāṇamoli & Bodhi (2001), p. 485. The final fourfold "special teaching" is a reference to the Four Noble Truths.
  10. La Trobe University (n.d.), Majjhima Nikaya, vol. I, BJT page 72, PTS pages 379-80. (retrieved 2007-11-12 at
  11. See, for instance, Thanissaro (1997).
  12. Bodhi (2005), p. 226.


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