Digha Nikaya

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The Digha Nikaya (P. Dīghanikāya; "Collection of Long Discourses") is the first of the five nikayas, or collections, in the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon.

Some of the most commonly referenced suttas from the Digha Nikaya include the Mahāparinibbāṇa Sutta (DN 16), which described the final days and passing of the Gautama Buddha, the Sigālovāda Sutta (DN 31) in which the Buddha discusses ethics and practices for lay followers, and the Samaññaphala Sutta (DN 2), Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1) which describes and compares the point of view of Lord Buddha and other ascetics in India about the universe and time (past, present, and future); and the Poṭṭhapāda (DN 9) Suttas, which describe the benefits and practice of Samatha meditation.

The Digha Nikaya corresponds to the Dirgha Agama found in the Sutta Pitikas of various early Buddhists schools of the Sanskrit tradition.

Structure and Contents

The Digha Nikaya consists of 34 [1]discourses, broken into three groups:

  • Silakkhandha-vagga—The Division Concerning Morality (suttas 1-13);[1] named after a tract on monks' morality that occurs in each of its suttas (in theory; in practice it is not written out in full in all of them); in most of them it leads on to the jnanas (the main attainments of samatha meditation), the cultivation of psychic powers and becoming an arahant.
  • Maha-vagga—The Great Division (suttas 14-23)[1]
  • Patika-vagga—The Patika Division (suttas 24-34)[1]

Suttas of the Digha Nikaya

Sutta number Pali title English title Description
DN 1 Brahmajāla Sutta[2] The All - embracing Net of Views[2] Mainly concerned with 62 types of wrong view
DN 2 Sāmaññaphala Sutta[3] The Fruits of the Contemplative Life King Ajatasattu of Magadha asks the Buddha about the benefits in this life of being a samana ("recluse" or "renunciant"); the Buddha's reply is in terms of becoming an arahant
DN 3 Ambaṭṭha Sutta[4]   Ambattha the Brahmin is sent by his teacher to find whether the Buddha possesses the 32 bodily marks, but on arrival he is rude to the Buddha on grounds of descent (caste); the Buddha responds that he is actually higher born than Ambattha by social convention, but that he himself considers those fulfilled in conduct and wisdom as higher.
DN 4 Soṇadaṇḍanta Sutta)[5]   The Buddha asks Sonadanda the Brahmin what are the qualities that make a Brahmin; Sonadanda gives five, but the Buddha asks if any can be omitted and argues him down to two: morality and wisdom.
DN 5 Kūṭadanta Sutta   Kutadanta the Brahmin asks the Buddha how to perform a sacrifice; the Buddha replies by telling of one of his past lives, as chaplain to a king, where they performed a sacrifice which consisted of making offerings, with no animals killed.
DN 6 Mahāli Sutta   In reply to a question as to why a certain monk sees divine sights but does not hear divine sounds, the Buddha explains that it is because of the way he has directed his meditation.
DN 7 Jāliya Sutta   Asked by two Brahmins whether the soul and the body are the same or different, the Buddha describes the path to wisdom, and asks whether one who has fulfilled it would bother with such questions
DN 8 Kassapa Sīhanāda Sutta
(alt:Maha Sīhanāda or Sīhanāda Sutta)
  The word sihanada literally means 'lion's roar': this discourse is concerned with asceticism.
DN 9 Poṭṭhapāda Sutta[6] About Potthapada Asked about the cause of the arising of saññā, usually translated as perception, the Buddha says it is through training; he explains the path as above up to the jhanas and the arising of their perceptions, and then continues with the first three formless attainments; the sutta then moves on to other topics, the self and the unanswered questions.
DN 10 Subha Sutta   Ananda describes the path taught by the Buddha.
DN 11 Kevaṭṭa Sutta
alt: Kevaḍḍha Sutta
To Kevatta Kevaddha asks the Buddha why he does not gain disciples by working miracles; the Buddha explains that people would simply dismiss this as magic and that the real miracle is the training of his followers.
DN 12 Lohicca Sutta[7] To Lohicca On good and bad teachers.
DN 13 Tevijja Sutta   Asked about the path to union with Brahma, the Buddha explains it in terms of the Buddhist path, but ending with the four brahmaviharas; the abbreviated way the text is written out makes it unclear how much of the path comes before this; Robert Gombrich has argued that the Buddha was meaning union with Brahma as synonymous with nirvana.[8]
DN 14 Mahāpadāna Sutta The Great Discourse on the Harvest of Deeds "The Buddha teaches about the six Buddhas of the past, and tells a lengthy account of one of those, Vipassī."[9]
DN 15 Mahanidāna Sutta The Great Causes Discourse On dependent origination.
DN 16 Mahaparinibbāna Sutta The Last Days of the Buddha Story of the last few months of the Buddha's life, his death and funeral, and the distribution of his relics.
DN 17 Mahasudassana Sutta   Story of one of the Buddha's past lives as a king. The description of his palace has close verbal similarities to that of the Pure Land, and Rupert Gethin has suggested this as a precursor[10]
DN 18 Janavasabha Sutta   King Bimbisara of Magadha, reborn as the god Janavasabha, tells the Buddha that his teaching has resulted in increased numbers of people being reborn as gods.
DN 19 Maha-Govinda Sutta   Story of a past life of the Buddha.
DN 20 Mahasamaya Sutta The Great Meeting Long versified list of gods coming to honour the Buddha
DN 21 Sakkapañha Sutta Sakka's Questions The Buddha answers questions from Sakka, ruler of the gods (a Buddhist version of Indra)
DN 22 Mahasatipaṭṭhāna Sutta The Great Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness The basis for one of the Burmese vipassana meditation traditions; many people have it read or recited to them on their deathbeds.[11]
DN 23 Pāyāsi Sutta
alt: Payasi Rājañña Sutta
  Dialogue between the skeptical Prince Payasi and a monk.
DN 24 Pāṭika Sutta
alt:Pāthika Sutta
  A monk has left the order because he says the Buddha does not work miracles; most of the sutta is taken up with accounts of miracles the Buddha has worked
DN 25 Udumbarika Sihanada Sutta
alt: Udumbarika Sutta
  Another discourse on asceticism.
DN 26 Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta The Wheel-turning Emperor Story of humanity's decline from a golden age in the past, with a prophecy of its eventual return.
DN 27 Aggañña Sutta   Another story of humanity's decline.
DN 28 Sampasādaniya Sutta   Sariputta praises the Buddha.
DN 29 Pāsādika Sutta   The Buddha's response to the news of the death of his rival, the founder of Jainism.
DN 30 Lakkhaṇa Sutta   Explains the actions of the Buddha in his previous lives leading to his 32 bodily marks; thus it describes practices of a bodhisattva (perhaps the earliest such description).
DN 31 Sigalovada Sutta
alt:Singala Sutta, Singalaka Sutta or Sigala Sutta
To Sigala/The Layperson's Code of Discipline Traditionally regarded as the lay vinaya.
DN 32 Āṭānāṭiya Sutta The Discourse on Atanatiya Gods give the Buddha a poem for his followers, male and female, monastic and lay, to recite for protection from evil spirits; it sets up a mandala or circle of protection and a version of this sutta is classified as a tantra in Tibet and Japan[12]
DN 33 Saṅgāti Sutta   L. S. Cousins has tentatively suggested[13] that this was the first sutta created as a literary text, at the Second Council, his theory being that sutta was originally a pattern of teaching rather than a body of literature; it is taught by Sariputta at the Buddha's request, and gives lists arranged numerically from ones to tens (cf. Anguttara Nikaya); a version of this belonging to another school was used as the basis for one of the books of their Abhidharma Pitaka.
DN 34 Dasuttara Sutta[14]   Similar to the preceding sutta but with a fixed format; there are ten categories, and each number has one list in each; this material is also used in the Patisambhidamagga.

Correspondence with the Dīrgha Āgama

The Digha Nikaya corresponds to the Dirgha Agama found in the Sutta Pitikas of various Sanskritic early Buddhists schools, fragments of which survive in Sanskrit. A complete version of the Dīrgha Āgama of the Dharmagupta school survives in Chinese translation by the name Cháng Ahánjīng (ch:長阿含經). It contains 30 sūtras in contrast to the 34 suttas of the Theravadin Dīgha Nikāya. In addition, portions of the Sarvāstivādin school's Dīrgha Āgama survive in Sanskrit and in Tibetan translation.[15]


Complete Translations:


  • The Buddha's Philosophy of Man, Rhys Davids tr, rev Trevor Ling, Everyman, out of print; 10 suttas including 2, 16, 22, 31
  • Long Discourses of the Buddha, tr Mrs A. A. G. Bennett, Bombay, 1964; 1-16
  • Ten Suttas from Digha Nikaya, Burma Pitaka Association, Rangoon, 1984; 1, 2, 9, 15, 16, 22, 26, 28-9, 31


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Digha Nikaya: The Long Discourses". www.accesstoinsight.org. Retrieved 2015-12-12. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Brahmajāla Sutta: The All-embracing Net of Views". www.accesstoinsight.org. Retrieved 2015-12-12. 
  3. "English translation of DN 2, "The Fruits of Recluseship"". Sutta Central. Retrieved 2015-12-15. 
  4. "English translation of DN 3, "To Ambaṭṭha"". Sutta Central. Retrieved 2015-12-15. 
  5. "English translation of DN 4, "To Soṇadaṇḍa"". Sutta Central. Retrieved 2015-12-27. 
  6. "English translation of DN 9, "To Poṭṭhapada"". Sutta Central. Retrieved 2015-12-15. 
  7. "English translation of DN 12, "Lohicca"". Sutta Central. Retrieved 2015-12-15. 
  8. Gombrich, Richard (1997), How Buddhism Began: The Conditioned Genesis of the Early Teachings, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., ISBN 81-215-0812-6 
  9. SuttaCentral icon square 170px.png Mahāpadānasutta, SuttaCentral
  10. Journal of the Pali Text Society, volume XXVIII
  11. Malalasekera, Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, volume II, page 564
  12. Skilling, Mahasutras, volume II, parts I & II, 1997, Pali Text Society, Bristol, pages 84n, 553ff, 617ff
  13. Pali oral literature, in Buddhist Studies, ed Denwood & Piatigorski, Curzon, London, 1982/3
  14. "DN34 Dasuttara Sutta: Expanding Decades". www.palicanon.org. Retrieved 2015-12-12. 
  15. A Dictionary of Buddhism, by Damien Keown, Oxford University Press: 2004

External links

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