SuttaCentral

Sutta catalog


#1

Dear all,

I’m a bhikkhu living in Myanmar. I recently started to read at least 1 sutta a day as part of my practice.
I have been experiencing great benefits of learning directly from the suttas, so I am very thankful to Sutta Central and ATI for being such helpful and amazing sources to access all that wisdom.
Also I realize that what was keeping me and many others from reading suttas, is that we feel overwhelmed by the amount of suttas, our lack of understanding of the way they are classified and not knowing which are the appropriate ones for our level of understanding.

Even though, we live in an era of search technologies, I think that what is lacking to make the suttas more accessible, is an easier and effective way to classify them.

Therefore I just started a project to catalog suttas with the following aims:

• To classify the suttas in a way that facilitates learning providing: motivation, relevance, meaning, interest & promotes memorization
• Facilitates finding the right sutta at the right time for any person
• To find Awakening triggers
• Arrange the suttas to discern patterns easily
• Encourage & promotes reading suttas

The categories I’m using so far are:

The main information from the cards of Suttacentral and also:

  1. Subject: to find suttas related to our interests
  2. Topics: Index of topics explained in the sutta
  3. Key contents: to point out the main aspects and to help remind them
  4. Similes: useful for remember teachings and to find suttas
  5. Training: sila, samadhi or pañña
  6. Stage: introduction, beginning, middle, final or end
  7. Aspect: practical, doctrinal, biographical, protection or cosmological
  8. Teacher: Having some sense of the teacher’s credentials can help assess the context of the teachings
  9. Listeners and amount: knowing this can help us assess how appropriate a particular teaching is for us
  10. Result: identify Awakening triggers & the effects of the sutta
  11. Methods: lecture, story, verses, q & a, or mixed
  12. Suggestions ( from ATI) To investigate further the topic.

I chose those categories based on the article: Befriending with the suttas from ATI and on the 1st part of strategies of smart reading which is a systematic skimming, from https://fastertomaster.com/how-to-read-a-book-mortimer-j-adler/.

This classification can help:
• Narrow down the selection according to the interest of someone unfamiliar with suttas
• Quickly find specific sutta for someone who already read it
• Point out some important aspects of the suttas
• Easily recall some key aspects of the suttas

I have been working on it as a spread sheet because it is easy to imput, modify, classify and filter information, but I realize that is not so easy to read and also it has structural limitations, for example some suttas have different topics and subjects in one sutta, so it will be better to use a more flexible database.

While thinking on this improvement it also came to my mind the idea to implement this catalog as a page in Sutta Central or as an offline app similar to the catalogs attached.

So I would like to hear your opinions about this idea, recommendations about other categories and suggestions on what would be the best database formats that are compatible, based on or can enhance what you already have.

Thank you for your attention

With Metta

Bhikkhu Kusalacāra

WorldCat WorldCat


#2

Greetings @Kusalacara, and welcome to the forum :slight_smile:

Thank you for the post and the information about your project.

We look forward to seeing you around. If you have any questions etc please feel free to ask, or tag the @ moderators (no space) :slight_smile:

with metta :slightly_smiling_face::revolving_hearts::sunflower:


#3

In the first part of this video (6m- 19.43), Bikkhu Bodhi outlines the very different functions of the four nikayas, and the different audiences they were intended to address:

"The suttas of the Dıgha Nik›ya are largely aimed at a popular audience and
seem intended to attract potential converts to the teaching by demonstrating the superiority of the Buddha and his doctrine.

The suttas of the Majjhima Nik›ya are largely directed inward toward the Buddhist community and seem designed to acquaint newly ordained monks with the doctrines and practices of Buddhism.9 It remains an open question whether these pragmatic purposes are the determining criteria behind these two Nik›yas or whether the primary criterion is length, with these pragmatic purposes following as incidental consequences of their respective differences in length.

The Sa˙yutta Nik›ya is organized by way of subject matter. Each
subject is the “yoke” (sa˙yoga) that connects the discourses into a
sa˙yutta or chapter. Hence the title of the collection, the “connected
(sa˙yutta) discourses.” The first book, the Book with Verses, is unique
in being compiled on the basis of literary genre. It contains suttas in
mixed prose and verse, arranged in eleven chapters by way of subject.
The other four books each contain long chapters dealing with the principal doctrines of Early Buddhism. Books II, III, and IV each open with a long chapter devoted to a theme of major importance, respectively, dependent origination (chapter 12: Nid›nasa˙yutta); the five aggregates (chapter 22: Khandhasa˙yutta); and the six internal and external sense bases (chapter 35: Sa˘›yatanasa˙yutta). Part V deals with the principal groups of training factors that, in the post-canonical period, come to be called the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment (bodhipakkhiy› dhamm›). These include the Noble Eightfold Path (chapter 45: Maggasa˙yutta), the seven factors of enlightenment (chapter 46: Bojjhaºgasa˙yutta), and the four establishments of mindfulness (chapter 47: Satipa˛˛h›nasa˙yutta). From its contents, we might infer that the Sa˙yutta Nik›ya was intended to serve the needs of two groups within the monastic order. One consisted of the doctrinal specialists,
those monks and nuns who sought to explore the deep implications of the Dhamma and to elucidate them for their companions in the religious life. The other consisted of those devoted to the meditative development of insight.

The Aºguttara Nik›ya is arranged according to a numerical scheme
derived from a peculiar feature of the Buddha’s pedagogic method. To
facilitate easy comprehension and memorization, the Buddha often
formulated his discourses by way of numerical sets, a format that
helped to ensure that the ideas he conveyed would be easily retained
in mind. The Aºguttara Nik›ya assembles these numerical discourses
into a single massive work of eleven nip›tas or chapters, each representing the number of terms upon which the constituent suttas have been framed. Thus there is the Chapter of the Ones (ekakanip›ta), the Chapter of the Twos (dukanip›ta), the Chapter of the Threes (tikanip›ta), and so forth, up to and ending with the Chapter of the Elevens (ek›dasanip›ta). Since the various groups of path factors have been included in the Sa˙yutta, the Aºguttara can focus on those aspects of the training that have not been incorporated in the repetitive sets. The Aºguttara includes a notable proportion of suttas addressed to lay followers dealing with the ethical and spiritual concerns of life within the world,
including family relationships (husbands and wives, children and parents) and the proper ways to acquire, save, and utilize wealth. Other suttas deal with the practical training of monks. The numerical
arrangement of this collection makes it particularly convenient for formal instruction, and thus it could easily be drawn upon by elder monks when teaching their pupils and by preachers when giving sermons to the laity.

Besides the four major Nik›yas, the P›li Sutta Pi˛aka includes a fifth Nik›ya, called the Khuddaka Nik›ya. This name means the Minor Collection. Perhaps it originally consisted merely of a number of minor works that could not be included in the four major Nik›yas. But asmore and more works were composed over the centuries and added to it, its dimensions swelled until it became the most voluminous of the five Nik›yas. At the heart of the Khuddaka, however, is a small constellation of short works composed either entirely in verse (namely, the Dhammapada, the Therag›th›, and the Therıg›th›) or in mixed prose and verse (the Suttanip›ta, the Ud›na, and the Itivuttaka) whose style and contents suggest that they are of great antiquity. Other texts of the Khuddaka Nik›ya—such as the Pa˛isambhid›magga and the two Niddesas—represent the standpoint of the Therav›da school and
thus must have been composed during the period of Sectarian Buddhism, when the early schools had taken their separate paths of doctrinal development." General Introduction, “In the Buddha’s Words,” Bikkhu Bodhi


#4

Welcome Bhante!

You may find the classifications discussed in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s book In the Buddha’s Words:

and also in his thematic list from his introduction to the Anguttara Nikaya.
https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=19931


#5

Welcome to the site. Experienced western Theravadins have developed a core knowledge and practice from which they can ascertain the general meaning of any sutta like spokes from a hub. For the suttas to have meaning, first one’s own position needs to be established. To initiate a stance, it is suggested to make a study of “Satipatthana,” by Ven. Analayo (available online), and begin to follow up only suttas that are referenced there .


#6

Thank you for your suggestions about other sources of classification, you are right those are great books to start, I already read them as well.
But now that I’m reading other suttas randomly, I have found the importance of reading the hole suttas and the relevance of each one.

In this discussion I’m mainly hoping to get advices on the technical aspect of project, specially from @moderators, @Viveka @sujato and @suttacentral developers.


#7

Hi Ven,

Congratulations on your project, I hope you succeed!

First, a few technical points.

Moving forward, our primary source texts will be located here, and I recommend you pull your texts from here:

We plan to implement a “published” branch, but so far this is a work in progress.

For creating an app, the best thing to do would be to do what you think is the best, and we can provide links and supports from SC. But we are a bit reluctant to add anything to SC at this point, as it gets quite complex. We have our own long 2-do list!

For the record, we use and recommend LitElement and open-wc for creating new web projects these days.

As far as the search backend goes, we use Elasticsearch, which is obviously fine, but complex. You may find something else is better. Our database is ArangoDB, and if you are not implementing search in multiple languages, this may be a good option for you.

For a more flexible approach to searching, I have wondered whether AirTable would be useful. Maybe have a look, people seem to love it.

Anyway, the first thing is for you to figure out the exact details of what you want your app to do. My advice would be to keep it simple and focused, do one thing really well.


#8

Thank you bhante @sujato for all the useful information.

And also I appreciate the advice of @paul1 of establishing a stance, although I want to mention that I have found the gradual training to be a wider and useful standpoint. Not only because it appears in more suttas, where is presented as the way that the Buddha used to introduce his teachings. And also because the Satipatthana is just one part of the training therefore focusing mainly on that part, it’s easy to loose sight of the importance of the prior steps to it, like sila and restraint of the senses.

So again I’m to thankful to Suttacentral for making all the wisdom from the scriptures accessible.


#9

There are several cultural reasons why the satipatthana sutta forms the central discourse of western Theravada, not least its concise presentation of the teaching.

In the Satipatthana sutta (DN 22, MN10) the Buddha emphasizes both in introduction and conclusion that this is the “direct path”:

“Monks, this is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of dukkha and discontent, for acquiring the true method, for the realization of Nibbãna, namely, the four satipaììhãnas.”

Regarding sila, the repeated exhortation to “subdue greed and stress with reference to the world” presents sila in a form which has relevance to westerners because it identifies conventional reality specifically, which concurs with their life experience in an excessively material environment. Secondly it explains morality in the practical sense of developing non-attachment, rather than the blind adherence to rules.

As for sense restraint, the fourth foundation of mindfulness of the Satipatthana sutta presents five groups, the ultimate interactive plan of which is to remove greed and distress with reference to the world. The third group is the sense spheres, where one’s relationship with the outside world is contemplated.

“He knows the eye, he knows forms, and he knows the fetter that arises dependent on both, and he also knows how an unarisen fetter can arise, how an arisen fetter can be removed, and how a future arising of the removed fetter can be prevented.”

These instructions incorporate sense restraint to go beyond it to a comprehensive strategy for removing the fetters. This scheme of the sense spheres and the action regarding them in the context of the logical information presented in the Satipatthana sutta, appeals to the western mind’s need for personal understanding.

Reference: “Satipatthana,” Analayo.


#10

That’s not what ekāyano maggo means: it means “the path to convergence”. I discussed this at length in my A History of Mindfulness. You may disagree with my reading, but at the very least, it is a dubious and contested term, one that has multiple different readings in contemporary Sanskrit texts, Pali commentaries, and Chinese texts, and multiple other readings by modern commentators.

As a general rule in scriptural studies, one should never rely on a contested reading as the backbone or foundation of a study. If you wish to endorse a particular reading, fine. But there are very many things found in the suttas that are, in fact, perfectly clear, so one might ask oneself: why is it that I am drawn to this unusual brahmanical term, about which commentators have argued for centuries, and which appears very rarely in meditation context? Moreover, why emphasize the appearance in the Satipatthana Sutta, which is certainly a late compilation, rather than the original context of SN 47.18?

Western scholars following Nyanamoli, including myself, have been too quick to accept his interpretation of the relevant passage in MN 12 as requiring the sense “leads in one way only”. I accepted this reading when making my translation, but looking at it now, it seems the meaning of “convergence” is at least as plausible:

Atha puriso āgaccheyya ghammābhitatto ghammapareto kilanto tasito pipāsito ekāyanena maggena tameva gūthakūpaṃ paṇidhāya.
Then along comes a person struggling in the oppressive heat, weary, thirsty, and parched, set on a path leading to collision with that very same sewer.

There are two other occurrences of the term in the Pali canon, both in Jataka verses. Neither of these support the “direct way” reading:

  • In Ja 492 it means “unified, as one”.
  • In ja 547 it means “only way” (Aññaṃ maggaṃ na passāmi)

It is easy, but mistaken, to dismiss these as later texts. The Jataka verses are no more than a few centuries after the Buddha, and their period of composition overlaps with that of the Satipatthana Suttas. They predate by centuries the idea that satipatthana is primarily a practice of insight.


#11

Just to make clear to readers I am endorsing Analayo’s approach in his book “Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization” (as attributed), where in chapter 1.5 “The Expression Direct Path,” the matter is discussed in detail.
I have no interest in translational differences because I use the cross-referencing method of understanding suttas (MN 95), that is comparing the theme of one sutta with others on the same subject and coming to an agreement on their common content. It is clear from the concluding passage to the Satipatthana sutta that the Buddha is stressing the efficacy of it in a temporal context, fast acting or direct.
But the Satipatthana sutta in its fourth foundation includes the development of the seven factors of awakening and the four noble truths, so any concept of speed of action has to take that into account.


#12

Dear @Kusalacara - when I first read of your question, I felt not to step in, because I’m really a tiny light in this case, or one might even say, a minuscule light, given the amount of reading in the pali-canon (and even more the amount of correctly memorizing … but that’s pointwisely mentioned in another thread :roll_eyes:) but after one could see in this thread that example of dissens around the simple term “the direct path” and the best interpretation of its pali-source I feel it pleasant to remember my own take of this idea of organizing, structuring the mass of suttas which I’ve arrived at several years ago - and the final hesitation in that matter, which I now even more think: that has been wise…

That back day: from the very experience of the reading of some suttas -some of which I didn’t like/understand at all or by which I felt even alienated, some others of which I felt very familiar with or even inspired of- I thought it would be a good thing to provide some guidance for people even wetter behind the ears than me… which resulted in the creation of a small “nano-index” into the pali-canon, to the most lovely and/or inspiring (for me) suttas on my webspace. (the webpage directory the “nano-index” itself) . But in that moment, when creating that index, I became doubting about the merit (?) of this at all, making me formulating this caution in the introductory remark (german):

Hier präsentiere ich eine kleine, persönliche Auswahl aus den Sutren des buddhistischen Pali-Kanon, die ich von Zeit zu Zeit erweitern möchte.
(…)
Eine Organisierung nach Topics ist ungleich schwieriger; allein die Textmasse an überlieferten langen, mittleren, kurzen Diskursen ist groß. Aber es ist auch schwierig, die Texte in eine inhaltliche Struktur zu fassen: vor allem die längeren Sutren sprechen jeweils eine große Zahl von Aspekten an – und vor allem: die inhaltliche Bestimmung einer Rede ist ein sehr subjektives Unterfangen. Wer möchte da quasi die Autorität für die Gestaltung der gesamten Überlieferung übernehmen und ihr unweigerlich seine private Monokultur aufprägen ?

Here I present (…).
Organizating according to topics is even more difficult. (…) especially the longer suttas cover each a large number of aspects - but most important: the contents-characterization is a very subjective enterprise. Who wants then -so to say- take the authority for the shaping of the whole transmission and would be wanting to imprint (unavoidably) their own private monoculture?

What I felt, even in that then very amateurish situation, was that it is a slippery slope, a case of temptation to enter this “mine-is-the-dhamma”. Which can be understood as a subcase of the wider range of warnings of the Buddha against the tendency of appropriating (mentally) the understanding of things: “mine-is-the-earth”, “mine-is-the-water” … (I think in MN 1)


I’ve thus purposefully(!) explicitely declared in the beginning of this “nano-index” that it is a “personally pleasing collection” only and proposed (aside of the systematic search along certain topics) that the “free-willingly walking” in the whole text-corpus shall give lots of pleasure and inspiration -the proposal of a method which obviously counteracts any given fixed conceptual structure (how well intended it might be).

As I indicated above, the reading in this very thread made me rethink my introductional remarks in my own webpage… hmm…


But to make a big compliment too: I very much like the idea of improving the search facilities and your proposal looks really good. Immediately many more conceptual ideas for the methods of searching pop up! (Unfortunately my potential to add practical help for this meanwhile decreases parallel to the color of my hair as well as to the of power of my eyes and mind with my a bit early aging, so I’ll leave this as a remark only for the time being … )


#13

There’s nothing wrong with attachment to dhamma, it is the second of two stages preceeding stream entry, faith- follower then Dhamma- follower, and many readers are likely to fall into one of those two categories, Dhamma-follower being distinguished by the attainment of some insight:

"One who, after pondering with a modicum of discernment, has accepted that these phenomena are this way is called a Dhamma-follower” —-SN 25.1


#14

Well, its heartening to see that others have had a similar experience when trying to classify/ catalogue/ bookmark/ search the suttas … :rofl:

I’m using a complicated method of bookmarking various interesting suttas within the chrome browser… I’ve created various collections based on subject eg. DO, The Gradual Training, Sila, etc… Yet, ever so often there’s that sutta one has read in the past, which one knows covered the topic under discussion beautifully, but try as one might, it just eludes (re)discovery! :laughing:

I have a suggestion for Bhante @sujato and the @suttacentral developers. Why not consider a crowd sourced method of meta tagging of the suttas within SuttaCentral? The system could allow users to publicly tag the sutta they have read with keywords regarding topics, level etc. Other users could search those meta tags to quickly find relevant results. Only meta tagging functionality for each sutta would need to be provided, the work would be done by the users. :thinking::thinking::thinking:

Another thought… meta tagging is already possible on the discussion forum. Maybe we could create another Category - #SuttaSummary (:upside_down_face:) where users could write a small summary of their favourite suttas, along with meta tags?

Or, maybe something similar could be started on Wiki? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Just thoughts… I do know how hard pressed you guys are! We all really appreciate your efforts- SuttaCentral is the very best resource when it comes to reading the EBTs!
:pray::pray::pray:


#15

This is what I came up with:

Interesting to see how others approach the task.


#16

This has also been my experience.

Being restless, I rely entirely on search, specifically, the search box of voice.suttacentral.net. Voice search uses an algorithm that returns a handful of useful results that aid my study by linking together topics of interest. For example, root of suffering yields exactly 7 suttas. Approaching the suttas with search, one discovers subtle connections between suttas in different Nikayas. Because of this I heavily favor the use of search in studying the suttas. :pray:


#17

The Buddha’s method for incorporating new teachings (or readings) is to ponder them, then compare them with others on the same theme, then come to an internal agreement on the meaning. It is only when this understanding is arrived at that the confidence to implement arises (energy). This method fulfills the requirements of the second factor of awakening, analysis of qualities.

“ Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises.”—-MN 95

dhammas= teachings


#18

I just confirmed that. What an amazing difference! Search on SuttaCentral for the same term gives 7,642 largely meaningless results.:roll_eyes:
Looks like it might be better to use the search on voice.suttacentral instead!


#19

A new, friendlier search for SC itself is in the works. That said, you should be aware that Voice cheats a bit in that it only searches kn, sn, an, mn, dn segmented translations. Voice does not search all legacy translations nor does it search all Buddhist manuscripts. For thorough and exacting search, I would still turn to SC.