Help with sutta IDs needed

Well, it is a big topic, but in brief:

Traditionally, suttas have been referenced by describing their position within a collection. Eg. “the seventh sutta of the sixth vagga of the second pannasa of the Majjhima Nikaya.” This is useful, because it applies across manuscripts and editions. Imagine looking for a sutta among a pile of manuscripts; this descriptive approach lets you successively narrow down your search to find what you need. The disadvantage of this system is, of course, that it is verbose and complex.

Following the publication of the PTS editions, it became conventional in academic work to reference them, usually by volume and page. This is convenient for someone who has these editions, but it breaks from tradition by tying the reference to a specific printed edition. In retrospect, it was a mistake that the PTS did not introduce a more sensible system. (They did in some cases, eg. the Vinaya and Digha Nikaya, but these are rarely actually used.)

Modern digital editions, and Asian editions generally, use their own systems. Probably the most widespread digital text is the VRI edition of the Burmese Sixth Council edition. SuttaCentral uses an improved version of this, known as the Mahasangiti edition, but the numbering is the same.

Meanwhile, in EBT circles, it is more common to reference suttas by their number. that way you avoid the verbosity of the traditional system, and the edition-specific limits of the PTS system. This is the normal system used by Ven Bodhi and Access to Insight, to name two influential sources.

For our texts we adopt this semantic numbering system, standardizing to the numbers as used by ven Bodhi, in the few instances where this differs from the Mahasangiti. Thus as a general rule you will find we use the same numbers as Ven Bodhi, and also Access to Insight.

In addition, we are in the process of segmenting the Pali texts so that they may be referred to by a more granular system. This is compatible with the normal semantic system, but adds the ability to reference much more precisely. Eventually, this will result in a “chapter and verse” reference similar to that used universally for the Bible. Currently this system is working for the four nikayas, and I am preparing the Vinaya texts.

In an ideal world, i would hope that people would standardize to this system, which is vastly preferable to any other. But, as you may have noticed, we do not live in an ideal world, so I expect that people will still keep using different systems.


Not sure if it will help, but maybe check the reference table found at the website below:

I think SuttaCentral could host a similar resource as well. Any thoughts bhante @sujato?



We should, or more to the point, we should have a program that lets us switch or apply any of these at will. Working on it!


It is, perhaps, worth noting that in parts of the SN and AN the numbers on SC do diverge slightly from Access to Insight (and the updates on, so sometimes you need to go back or forward one or two to match them up…

There is also this site that takes you directly to SC:


YAY! I’ve been needing that! Most times I look up something on SC I’m slowed or stumped by the PTS reference, and many times end up looking it up in a book so I can then find it on SC. This is great!

If I find a reference to “Cv.V.33.2” or “Mv.II.18.1” in Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s BMC… how can I follow that to some Pāli on SC?


It’s really tough. This is where I usually have to resort to the physical book first to help me dig it up out of SC. Which I did in order to answer your question. Here’s what I found.

For Mv.II.18.1, here’s the precise location on SC: SuttaCentral

But how to get there?? We know it’s the Mahavagga Ch 2 Section 18 starting at line 1. Which is the Khandhaka. On SC it’s called Kd not Mv. (Who knew?!)

So once you’ve opened the Vinaya option click Kandhaka. We want Chapter 2, so go to the 2nd item listed, which is Kd.2 aka Mv.II! Then scroll down following the numbering on upper left corners of sections, mysteriously named PTS cs Kd.2.[xyz] until you get to no. 18: PTS cs Kd.2.18. It starts on the 1st line.

[Edited a typo.]


This is in fact confusing.

This part of the Vinaya is called the “Khandakas” which are traditionally grouped into two books or volumes: The Mahavagga (“great book” or “great volume”) and the Cullavagga (“small book” or “small volume”). Of the 22 Khandakas (you can say “chapters”), the first 10 form the Mahvagga and the remaining 12 the Cullavagga. That means on SC the Mahavagga is Kd 1–10 and the Cullavagga is Kd 11–22.


Ah thanks everyone! So then Cv.V would become Kd.15 on SC? Putting the Cv.V.33.2… here! Ah-hah! Magic!


I see now Sabbamitta’s answer [Edit: and now your own answer!], but will go ahead and post what I’ve written:

Now for the CV or Cullavagga cite. I found it also under Kandhaka. Mahavagga has 10 chapters, so CV picks up at Kd.11. Hence we should add 10 to any Cv chapter citation to find it on SuttaC.

Here’s the location of Cv.V.33.2: SuttaCentral

Since Mv & CV are the standard ways of citing these books, shifting to Kd for both seems strange to me. For example, using the Vinaya books I can easily find the info on bhikkhunis since I know they’re covered in the 10th chapter of the Cullavagga. So now I suppose it’s the 20th chapter of Kd.

This system on SuttaC is usable once you figure it out but doesn’t relate well to what we’re accustomed to using, so would be much improved with a paragraph or 2 of explanation when one opens the Vinaya option.

[Edited to add bracketed note, then to fix a typo]


Alas, it [edit: the automatic PTS to SC reference site] turns out to be very limited in the books it covers.

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How do we cross-reference between the English & the Pali Vinaya on SC? I’m trying to find this passage in Pali. (I looked it up in order to find the Pali for “shares his cell”). But the Pali seems to be marked only with SC notations - and the English with every other kind of notation except SC!

By the way, while going back & forth between the Pali & English to try to figure out how to find that passage in Pali, my Android phone froze on the 3rd or so time I started to open the Pali. Had to close the site. Then started over and clicked to open the Pali; phone froze again! And a 3rd time! 4th time it worked normally. Any thoughts on that?

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Oh wow! That’s a hard one… but will become better when Ajahn Brahmali’s Vinaya translation is published; so hopefully soon.

I’ve found the passage in question, it is at SC 315:

“Sharing the cell” is saddhivihārika and is a term for a novice who attends on a particular monk. Novices used to live in the same kuti with their teacher or preceptor.

BTW, could you tell me the trick how to copy a page so that the highlighted section is visible? :wink:

I am sorry, I can’t answer this question. I have even no idea if this is an issue of Android or may be a bug in SuttaCentral.


You are quite right, we should have something to explain this more clearly.

The reason we do it like this is because the distinction between Mahavagga and Cullavagga is a late one that is only found in the Pali tradition. It has no bearing on the actual content, being merely a division for the convenience of reciters and/or copyists.

All the Vinaya divide this material by “chapter”, using what in Pali are called khandaka. Sometimes other terms are found: skandhaka, vastu, etc. But the idea is the same in all Vinayas. Since it meaningfully reflects the organization of material, it must be the foundational system.

Referencing by Mv/Cv is convenient in printed editions, since each makes up a book. But in a digital world, referencing by khandhaka is the only sane choice.

Anyway, we obviously need to do a better job of converting these systems.


[Edited to add @sabbamitta, meant this to be a reply]

Thank you SO MUCH for handing me that answer. :heart_eyes:

Hi, you are asking how I linked directly to Kd.1.31.3 causing that paragraph to come up highlighted, correct? It’s amazingly easy, a nice gift from the programmers. In the text simply highlight the little rectangle with the paragraph’s citation address, which in this case is Kd.1.31.3 (it is found just before the 1st word of a paragraph), and wait for a box of options to open. (On my phone I press down on it on my screen.) One option is to copy the link. Copy, then paste that link into your text just like any other link, that is, using the little chain-like link icon above the typing box. (If formatting options are hidden, hit the upper right hand corner’s 3-line “hamburger” to reveal them - I know you know this but just in case newbies are reading.) That’s it!

But tell me, how did you bring up the quote with several sentences highlighted? Is that a screenshot?


[Edit: @sujato] Thanks for the explanation, it makes perfect sense now.

Oh no, Bhante, don’t say that! You all are doing an absolutely brilliant job!!
:pray::pray::pray: [Edited to add anjali hands]

My one and only recurring complaint is that you & the other highly gifted Dhamma devas working so hard on developing SC may tend to overestimate the intellectual abilities of ordinary users. Hence we sometimes hit dead ends in our sutta searches that wouldn’t have even slowed anyone of your level of intelligence.


Yes, that was exactly my question! And thanks for the reply, I got it!! :star_struck:

Yes, that’s a screenshot—which was just a clumsy way to help me out. I wanted the numbers to be visible, but it’s of course a bit small for reading.

But now as I know better, next time… :+1: :wink:

I think you may confuse a bit IT knowledge and intelligence. Often it’s much more a question of knowing how to do something than an actual lack of intelligence. (I am for example perfectly able to copy a link if a kind person like you tells me that this is the way to highlight a passage on a SC page, and even explains step by step how to do it.)

But I fully agree with you that some of the awesome features of SuttaCentral are not so immediately obvious to the average user, so in some places some more explanation and assistance would be helpful. And I feel that the SC developers usually are most happy to pick up our feedback and do what is possible with the resources they have. So I feel our feedback should not be considered as a complaint but rather as an information for them how things look from our end—which is essential for developing. :grin:


What I have mind may be not so much the underlying IT as the table of contents that one lands in after clicking the “hamburger” at the upper left-hand corner of the Homepage and choosing one of the 3 pitakas. Even after one has figured it out for oneself it remains nearly impossible to explain to anyone else how to find anything on SC via that route. That’s where people need some helpful instructions or section maps and translations of titles.

Or is there a tutorial offered somewhere that I missed?


Yes, I can very well relate to this, and the only reason I am able to find my way through it is that I have listened to many talks by Bhante Sujato on this matter and read much of his writings. The organization of the texts on SC nicely mirrors the way the canon is organized, and once one has understood this it becomes actually easy to find one’s way through it. At least that’s my experience.

There are a number of guiding and introductory texts that can be accessed from the SC home page which I haven’t actually all gone through. But if you scroll a little down until you find “Tipiṭaka—the three baskets” and click on “More” in the “Discourses” section you find some explanation the fourth chapter of which may be helpful in this context. :pray:


One of our aims is to translate this, but it is not so easy as one might think. How do we translate “Digha Nikaya” vs. “Dirgha Agama”. Not only that, but how do we do it in such a way that the translated title is more helpful than the original?

Just spitballing here, I wonder if we could do something like this.

Make a new page for SC, call it maxi-menu. But it is not a sidebar or dropdown, it is a full page.

The maxi-menu has everything the sidebar does. But it also has translations of titles and descriptions of each volume.

The sidebar stays exactly as it is; that’s one of the advantages of having a sidebar. But the maxi-menu is something like a set of training wheels.

(Perhaps there’s a way of linking the two: if you’re open on the maxi-menu, and you hover over an item, it opens and highlights the corresponding item in the sidebar?)