The Pāli Canon is the literary, intellectual, and spiritual foundation of Theravāda Buddhism. According to the Theravādin tradition, the teachings of the historical Buddha were transmitted in the classical Indian language of Pāli. Shortly after the Buddha’s passing his original teachings were codified into what is traditionally referred to as the Tipiṭaka (Three Baskets), or more universally as the Pāli Canon. Initially transmitted orally, the canon was later preserved in the textual form as we now have it.
The canon is divided into three sections—Sutta, Vinaya, and Abhidhamma—with each division employing a specific mode of teaching suited to particular audiences. The Sutta division is comprised of discourses that illuminate the full spectrum of the Buddhist path, and is addressed to both lay and monastic practitioners; the Vinaya section details all aspects of Buddhist monastic discipline; and the Abhidhamma (higher-Dhamma) is a systematic philosophical and psychological presentation of the teachings which provides in-depth analyses of mind, metaphysics, and the Buddhist path.
The Sutta division is further subdivided into five collections (nikāyas): The Long Discourses of the Buddha (Dīgha Nikāya), The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikāya), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Saṃyutta Nikāya), The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Aṅguttara Nikāya), and The Small Collection (Kuddaka Nikāya).
Bhikkhu Bodhi's anthology, In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pāli Canon, contains foundational teachings taken directly from the Sutta collection of the Pāli Canon. This volume, being organized in a progressive manner "from the simple to the difficult, from the elementary to the profound," makes it well-suited for those looking for an accessable introduction to the Theravādin scriptural corpus, as well as being a valuable resource for those familiar with the Pāli Canon but wanting a more structured presentation of the materials.
Click below to read unabridged suttas selected from the Pāli Canon:
- Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (The Great Passing, The Long Discourses of the Buddha, Sutta 16)
- Sāmaññaphala Sutta (The Fruits of the Homeless Life, The Long Discourses of the Buddha, Sutta 2)
- Sigālaka Sutta (To Sigālaka: Advice to Lay People, The Long Discourses of the Buddha, Sutta 31)
- Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (The Foundations of Mindfulness,The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, Sutta 10)
- Ānāpānasati Sutta (Mindfulness of Breathing, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, Sutta 118)
- Madhupiṇḍika Sutta (The Honeyball, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, Sutta 18)
- Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (Setting in Motion the Wheel of Dhamma, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, Sutta 56.11)
- Nidāhasaṃyitta Suttas 1 and 2 (Dependent Origination and Analysis of Dependent Origination, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, Suttas 12.1-2)