Regarding 84,000 discourses of the Buddha

As you may all know, it was mentioned by Ananda that the Buddha spoke 82,000 discourses during his 45yr ministry, and 2,000 discourses were spoken by his senior disciples. My question is was there anyone crazy enough in our community to actually try to count if in the pali tripitaka there are that many discourses?

Well, there are people crazy enough to memorise it!

http://www.myanmarnet.net/nibbana/tipitaka/tpdkdhra.htm

"The Sutta Pitaka, the second division of the Tipitaka, consists of more than 10,000 suttas (discourses) delivered by the Buddha and his close disciples during and shortly after the Buddha’s forty-five year teaching career, as well as many additional verses by other members of the Sangha."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sutta.html

The source for the 84,000 figures seems to be these verses from Thag17.3:

Dvāsīti buddhato gaṇhiṃ,
dve sahassāni bhikkhuto;
Caturā­sīti­sahas­sāni,
ye me dhammā pavattino.

I learned 82,000 from the Buddha,
And 2,000 from the monks;
These 84,000
Are the teachings I have memorized.

Mind that Ananda is above recorded to have heard 82,000 and 2,000 dhammas from Buddha and the bhikkhus, respectively.

While it makes sense to translate dhammā as “teachings” here it may not be necessarily correct to expect tha 84,000 recorded discourses (suttas / sutras) would be found in the Tipitaka / Tripitaka.

It is interesting how over the time this figure has been re-quoted to mean things like 84,000 doors to awakening, 84,000 antidotes for mental afflictions, etc… :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Counting the number of suttas is really difficult, and impossible to do with 100% confidence. The problem is that many suttas are abbreviated due to repetition, and there is no clear path to expanding them all in full. For example, for just one text, the Samyukta Agama in Chinese, we have three different sutta counts depending on edition:

  • Taishō: 1362, based on the mistaken order after the filing error.
  • Foguang: 1359, after correcting the order and removing Asoka.
  • Yin Shun: 13,412, likely the most original, based on the three aṅgas.

The Pali would show no less variation. If we are counting genuinely different, substantive texts, I’d say a couple of thousand. But if they were all spelled out in full, some tens of thousands.

However, as @Gabriel_L pointed out, this idea rests on a verse by Ānanda, and it is not really sure what he is referring to here. Probably it just means “countless teachings”.

2 Likes

Here’s a good source:

Rupert Gethin - What’s in a Repetition? On Counting the Suttas of the Samyutta-nikaya
The Journal of the Pali Text Society, Vol. XXIX (2007), pp. 365–87

Regarding your question…

“Buddhaghosa states there are 7,762 suttas [in the samyutta]… Buddhaghosa also gives figures for the number of suttas in the other Nikayas: 34 for the Digha-nikaya, 152 for the Majjhima-nikaya and 9,557 for the Anguttara-nikaya.”

He goes on to find in modern editions only about 2.300 suttas for the anguttara. And even with the maximum number of repetitions Gethin arrives for the samyutta at a maximum number of about 6.700 suttas.

Adding all up we’d arrive at a maximum (highly redundant) number of about 9.000 suttas transmitted to us.

[Edit: That is without the KN…]

I would like to also add that the reference i got was from goenkaji discourse where he quotes ananda and also offers another bit of information:
Suttas: 20,000 discourses
Vinaya: 20,000
Abhidhamma: 42,000
Although im not sure where that last piece of information comes from, i think it came from 1st gathering of the Arahants under the leadership of Mahakasyapa. Thank you all for your replies.

That’s basically been my impression of the 84,000 figure: literally a figurative number. I think the number is used elsewhere, definitely in the commentaries.

I’d bet that a lot of numbers in the Canon and commentaries are inflated, rounded off, or used in a figurative sense.

2 Likes

[quote=“Mkoll, post:8, topic:4827”]
That’s basically been my impression of the 84,000 figure: literally a figurative number.
[/quote]I wonder if this 84, 000 figure is a cultural practice or an invention of Buddhist discourse.

In Chinese, the go-to big number is 10, 000. Whenever you see 10, 000 written it usually just actually means endless (there is a bit of slippery slope runaway “big numbers standing in for functional infinity” in Mahāyāna: the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra lists the age of the Buddha at equivalent to the contained matter, obliterated into atoms, of “five hundred trillion nayuta asaṃkhyeya trisāhasramahāsāhasralokadhātavaḥ” (五百千萬億那由他阿僧祇三千大千世界) distributed over just as many lands, with one atom dropped in each land (!!!).

If anyone else here is a 90s child they might remember Dragon Ball Z, where essentially every villain was the “most powerful in the universe” and the heroes had to constantly become more powerful (despite themselves also being the most powerful people in the universe) to fight off the bad guys. It got to the point where anyone could basically destroy the whole planet whenever they wanted to in the show. They had to go into space at one point to fight as I recall.

Its a bit the same with these numbers I’d wager, schools trying to “outnumber” each other, literally.

4 Likes

I heard that Indians invent the Zero, so they have the liberty to add zero to any number as they wish. So perhaps the real figure could be 8000.
Another possibility is Buddha’s time they did not have the decimal. So the figures were written with the space for the decimal. With the time people must have dropped the decimal.
:grin:

1 Like