Suttas in a chronological order?

As someone coming from the not so trusting side on this particular point, is there any foundation on which to ground trust here?

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Thank you. :pray:

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Bhikkhu Nanamoli made this sort of attempt in his “The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon”.


Thanks a lot :pray:

The Life of the Buddha.pdf (2.4 MB)


The chronology of the suttāni is a tricky business, especially when one is dealing with more than one recension of Buddhavacana. As I recall, in this thread, it led to an interesting discussion around dating suttāni, as the āgama and nikāya accounts give different details as to the circumstances of the Fire Sermon.

IMO it makes the most sense to just use the Pāli tradition as-is, for dating suttāni etc, even if it is not as “provably exact” as we moderns would like our history to be. Why? Because we lack a major school of Buddhism that has flourished solely on the teachings in the āgama-recensions. There are some insights about them to be gleaned from Mahāyāna writers, but on a whole, in their "native"Mahāyāna setting, they are generally under-read, and when they are, they are “read through the lens” of later Mahāyāna sūtrāṇi. Given this, I think it is best to stick with the Pāli tradition, since more attention and focus has been spent on the Pāli suttāni, not to denigrate the work of the Chinese āgama translators and preservers.

If fact, I think it is in those small details, like where this happened, when that happened, who did this, who spoke that, that account for most of the difference between Buddhavacana recension, moreso than the Dharma content of those diverse recensions.


I don’t know whether there is or not. I suppose one would need to check whether the Pali commentaries’ list of where the Buddha spent his 45 rains retreats, what year he returned to Kapilavatthu, what year he taught Bāhiya, etc., etc., finds any corroboration in non-Theravādin sources. But I’ve never undertaken such research and I don’t know of anyone else who has.


Dear Bhante,

Would you please provide Pali wording of such statements?

Below are some of the key terms. You might find more if you check out the entry for Gotama Buddha in the Dictionary of Proper Names and chase up the references.

Three divisions of the Buddha’s post-awakening life


(Several Vinaya ṭīkās report a difference of opinion over how the years of these periods are to be counted. One opinion was that they were three periods of fifteen years each. Another was that the paṭhamabodhi was twenty years, the pacchimabodhi just the months leading up to the Parinibbāna, and everything in between was the majjhimabodhi. In ṭīkās (occasionally) and in SE Asian Buddha biographies (very frequently) one also meets with paṭhamabodhikāla, majjhimabodhikāla, and pacchimabodhikāla).

Ten divisions of the Buddha’s whole life


Where the Buddha spent his forty-five rains residences

Kadā desito ti bhagavā hi paṭhamabodhiyaṃ vīsativassāni anibaddhavāso hutvā yattha yattha phāsukaṃ hoti, tattha tattheva gantvā vasi. Kathaṃ?
Paṭhamaṃ vassaṃ isipatane dhammacakkaṃ pavattetvā aṭṭhārasa brahmakoṭiyo amatapānaṃ pāyetvā bārāṇasiṃ upanissāya isipatane migadāye vasi.
Dutiyaṃ vassaṃ rājagahaṃ upanissāya veḷuvane mahāvihāre.
Tatiyacatutthāni pi tattheva.
Pañcamaṃ vesāliṃ upanissāya mahāvane kūṭāgārasālāyaṃ.
Chaṭṭhaṃ makulapabbate.
Sattamaṃ tāvatiṃsabhavane.
Aṭṭhamaṃ bhaggesu saṃsumāragiriṃ upanissāya bhesakaḷāvane.
Navamaṃ kosambiyaṃ.
Dasamaṃ pālileyyakavanasaṇḍe.
Ekādasamaṃ nāḷāyaṃ brāhmaṇagāme.
Dvādasamaṃ verañjāyaṃ.
Terasamaṃ cāliyapabbate.
Cuddasamaṃ jetavanamahāvihāre.
Pañcadasamaṃ kapilavatthumahānagare.
Soḷasamaṃ āḷavakaṃ dametvā caturāsītipāṇasahassāni amatapānaṃ pāyetvā āḷaviyaṃ.
Sattarasamaṃ rājagaheyeva.
Aṭṭhārasamaṃ cāliyapabbateyeva.
Tathā, ekūnavīsatimaṃ vīsatimaṃ pana vassaṃ rājagaheyeva vasi.

Tena vuttaṃ: “bhagavā hi paṭhamabodhiyaṃ vīsativassāni anibaddhavāso hutvā yattha yattha phāsukaṃ hoti, tattha tattheva gantvā vasī” ti. Tato paṭṭhāya pana sāvatthiṃyeva upanissāya jetavanamahāvihāre ca pubbārāme ca dhuvaparibhogavasena vasi.
(Bv-a. 3-4)

Other terms

ordinal number in the masc. sg. loc. case + saṃvacchare
abhisambodhiṃ patvā/patto/pāpuṇitvā: “after attaining supreme awakening…”
abhisambodhito…: “from [the time of] supreme awakening…”
abhisambodhito paṭṭhāya…: “reckoning from [the time of] supreme awakening…”


I’ve heard that SN 56.11 was the first sermon given by the Buddha; SN 22.59 is said to be the second. Is there a specific canonical / commentarial source where this chronology is described? If not, why is one said to be first, and the other said to be second? Is it just based on an assessment of their content? Does “The Life of the Buddha” contain this chronology? (It’s on my list of texts to buy…)

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That chronology can be found in the Vinaya


@Khemarato.bhikkhu Great, where?


Perfect, thanks @Aminah. I’ve saved a copy.


Cool. Just to note, at some (reasonably soon-ish :crossed_fingers: ) point Ajahn Brahmali’s new translation of this text (and the rest of the Vinaya) will be updated on SuttaCentral (some may find I.B. Horner’s 1938-51 translation a bit archaic).


Nice, I was going to ask how Ajahn Brahmali relied on Horner. Both are listed on the text…

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Yes. For a precise answer you’d need to ask Ajahn Brahmali himself, but to the best of my understanding this is Horner’s translation, cleaned up a little bit by Ajahn.

OK… interesting how this is found in the Vinaya of all places…

You may or may not find this of interest:


This is I think still the best source for a chronology, so far as it can be established. Note, however, that it gives the chronology of the events rather than the texts. The Buddha’s birth story, for example, was obviously spoken some time after the event itself! It also omits some things, notably the Attadaṇḍa Sutta (Snp 4.15).