Detailed Commentaries on Majjhima Nikaya

I am trying to find detailed commentaries on the Majjhima Nikaya. I am consulting the Middle Discourses translations on this site (which include the Horner PTS version), and have in hand the translations by Thanissaro Bikkhu, Nanamoli/Bodhi, but some things remain unclear to me. For example, in the Brahma Invitation (49), I wonder about the range of meanings of the word Brahma, the attainment of “Brahma Bodies” by achieving the jhanas, and the range of knowledges, which includes such exotic terms as “the beautiful black” and “the sky fruit.”

Is there a really thorough commentary in any modern European language? A Pali dictionary or concordance that would go into detail? Do I have to wait until my Pali is good enough to read traditional commentaries?

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Hi @Jake, Bhikkhu Bodhi’s Systematic Study of the Majjhima Nikāya should do the trick. He goes into great detail in his talks.

I hope that helps.



When we read the MN as a group at my former monastery, I would often use oral recordings from Ven. Bodhi’s Systematic Study of the Majjhima Nikaya (as @666tomanderson has linked), Bhante Sujato, Ajahn Brahm etc as prereading, in addition to Ven. Analayo’s comparative study (linked below). The latter is very helpful due to the level of corruption in the MN, which is still an ancient text which can get a little gnarly, especially by Book 3. I would recommend reading Ven. Analayo’s book at the same time, sutta by sutta.

If you are very keen, there is also an English translation of the MA available.

I also personally also refer to Piya Tan’s website a lot (many suttas covered). Piya Tan | The Dharmafarers As well as KR Norman’s collected papers (which aren’t arranged per sutta).

If you post your questions here, that might be a good option, too.

There are a number of individual suttas where the Pali commentary has been published in English, like the Mulapariyaya Sutta.

If there is something specific you need from the Pali commentary or sub-commentary, please feel free to ask, I’m happy to look things up (I like an excuse to read commentarial Pali). But yes, for now, you do need to be able to read commentarial Pali to engage the (mostly untranslated) Pali commentaries. Which is unfortunately not so straight-forward as there is not a dictionary of commentarial Pali available in English. And also the cmy is concerned with using Abhidhamma categories to present the sutta material.

I have read the MN through once with a group. Within the three books, there was honestly just one simile that baffled me even after reading everything. That was when I just asked a senior monastic (they are living treasures). Having access to one also helps!


Thanks to all who have responded. These are indeed excellent suggestions!

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Do you know where this can be found? Thank you.

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I’m happy to assist, from English Tripiṭaka - BUKKYO DENDO KYOKAI TAIWAN 台灣佛教傳道協會

dBET_T0026_MadhyamaAgama1_2013_0.pdf (3.2 MB)
dBET_T0026_MadhyamaAgama2_2020.pdf (992.8 KB)

Thank you :slight_smile: much appreciated bhante

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P.S. I’m female :thinking:

Oh sorry, I thought it was gender neutral. My apologies.

Should I have said Ayya?

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There seem to have been several discussions on this site on translations of Pali commentaries.

This thread attempts to record a comprehensive list:

[Please, help - "Live" List of Pali Commentaries' English Translations]

Sometimes I think I would love to read something similar to Steven Collins’ The Discourse On What Is Primary (Aggañña-sutta): An Annotated Translation [jstor link]. But then it also seems overlong and dense at times…