Condensed version of Pali Canon


The Pali Canon is voluminous with many Suttas and other types of books within it. For the purpose of memorisation we can appreciate the repetitions and the patterns in which these repetitions occur. There is also the same aspect of the Dhamma explained in different ways in different parts of the canon. However the formidable nature of the Pali Canon could be a barrier for the average lay Buddhist to access the entirety of teachings within this canon.

Has there been an attempt to extract the essence of the Pali Canon (and other texts such as Visuddhimagga) and to consolidate it into a single volume (or few volumes)? I am talking along the lines of taking out the important parts from the Suttas and Abhidhamma and then setting up those teachings in an organised manner which is less wordy as well as useful for practice. Because if such a text is made with a combined effort of monastics and scholars then it would help to bridge the gap between the average lay Buddhist and the useful content within the Pali Canon in my opinion. It could even serve as a stepping stone to make more and more people feel motivated to read the Pali Canon.

So my questions are -

  1. Has there been an attempt to extract the essence of the Pali Canon (and other texts such as Visuddhimagga) and to consolidate it into a less number volumes?

  2. If such an attempt was to be made, then what would be the best course of action to bring this about as well as giving this text an official status within the Theravada community?


There is this very nice anthology by Bhikkhu Bodhi, “In the Buddha’s words”. It has some 400 pages (just have the German translation here) and gives a very good overview.


Condensing the whole tipitaka is impossible in my opinion. Listing the core Buddhist concepts on the other hand, is very possible. One of the book that is usually recommended is The Buddha and His Teachings by Ven. Narada Maha Thera.


Tipitaka also is not like a thick medicine books where there are chapters explaining different things. It is more like a poem book, pick a single poem that you like and be happy with it. Some poem will resonate more with you and some some poem will be confusing.


I think there’s definitely something to what you say. I’m not aware of something like this existing. As regards giving something official status, there’s little chance of that (or even much of a centralized official authority to do it :slight_smile: ). However, there is probably a gap for something intermediate in size between some of the existing anthologies and just directly plunging into the whole mass of the entire canon and Nikayas. There are several good anthologies (in book form or online, free or commercial), for example:

Those are particularly nice when starting off and orienting oneself and finding one’s bearings within the mass of the suttas. There doesn’t seem to be much in the middle point of this spectrum: a half-way house between an introductory or short anthology and the full set of Nikayas (though possibly Thanissaro Bhikku might have something resembling this). It might be an interesting exercise though to try to compress the Nikayas (and perhaps some of the rest of the Pali canon) down into a book about the size of one of Wisdom’s Nikaya editions.

Perhaps take 20% of the suttas in each Nikaya (4 main ones and perhaps the early part of the KN) and gather into a single volume. Probably easiest to do with the Samyutta Nikaya (SN) given the short length of its suttas and the repetition. Picking a balanced selective representative sample would be fairly doable. I’ve read very little of the AN at this point, but guess something similar could be done with that. A bit harder with the Majjhima Nikaya (MN) but I suppose one could pick a reasonable representative sample of around 30 out of the 152 suttas. The room for choice gets a lot more limited with the Digha Nikaya (DN), being able to pick only around 7 suttas from this. There are about 4 of these that would be at the top of most people’s lists, but things get a bit more subjective after that.

Anyway, when Bhante Sujato’s free translations go up on this website this year, this’ll be as simple as people putting together a suitable sutta reading list (and then one can read them here). I think these translations won’t be copyrighted (or have some fairly open-source licence anyway, usable with attribution or as long as the resulting document is still free) so I guess there’ll be little stopping anyone gathering together a subset of the suttas and sticking them into an epub or pdf. It’d be a pretty tricky balancing act though making a good list, but I suppose there are some “greatest hits” lists out there already, e.g. Leigh Brasington had one for the DN.


ERASE all the ‘evam me suttam’ passages i.e ‘Thus have i heard on one occasion’ GONE… and DELETE! discourses that are repeated only with a variation in name, and there you have it an earlier version of the pali canon…that’s what i do when doing sutta readings so there is less repetition, it helps with people not getting bored easily and is generally a nicer read…more pith less ‘samatti’


Thank you for the replies so far.

I am thinking if such a thing was to happen then it would be important to have the entire Pali Canon in a database where parts of the texts can be tagged with important terms so that when aspects of the teachings are searched for, then all the relevant passages in different parts of the canon appear under the search. This helps to gather all the relevant passages/stanzas or even entire Suttas to do with a single topic.

If such a text was to be made then the 4NT can be used as the framework where all these teachings can be placed in. It can be seen a text with 4 sections starting from Truth of Suffering, Cause, Cessation and Path of Liberation where the last section is where all the teachings and practices are places using the N8FP as a framework within this 4th section.


I am thinking whether this will be the same as Vimuttimagga and Visuddhimagga.

I was also given a free copy of Buddhadhamma by Venerable Payutto by Ajahn Gavesiko. He told me that this was like the modern version of Visuddhimagga. He encouraged me to read this first before Vimuttimagga or Visuddhimagga.