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Majjhima Nikaya: The Middle-length Discourses

Majjhima Nikaya


Majjhima Nikaya

The Middle-length Discourses

The Majjhima Nikaya, or “Middle-length Discourses” of the Buddha, is the second of the five nikayas (collections) of the Sutta Pitaka.

This nikaya consists of 152 discourses by the Buddha and his chief disciples, which together constitute a comprehensive body of teaching concerning all aspects of the Buddha's teachings.

An excellent modern translation of the complete Majjhima Nikaya is The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, translated by Bhikkhu Ñanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995).(1) The Introduction to that book contains an extraordinary synopsis of the Buddha's teachings in general, and of their expression in the Majjhima in particular. A fine anthology of selected suttas is Handful of Leaves (Vol. 1), by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (distributed by the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies).

The translator appears in the square brackets []. The braces {} contain the volume and starting page number in the Pali Text Society's romanized Pali edition.

The sutta summaries appearing below that are marked “ [BB]” were adapted from Bhikkhu Bodhi's summaries (in The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha) and are used with permission. Those marked “ [TB]” were provided by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. The rest were written by the ATI editor.



Owners of this book will find this printable table of contents majjhima_index_en.pdf (??pages/64KB) very helpful. It is designed to be cut in half and stuck inside the cover. It was prepared by Bhikkhu Kumara & Tahn Varado.

  • MN 1: Mulapariyaya Sutta — The Root Sequence {M i 1} [ Thanissaro ].

    In this difficult but important sutta the Buddha reviews in depth one of the most fundamental principles of Buddhist thought and practice: namely, that there is no thing — not even Nibbana itself — that can rightly be regarded as the source from which all phenomena and experience emerge.

  • MN 2: Sabbasava Sutta — Discourse on All Āsavas/All the Fermentations There is more than one translation! Click on the author-link below for the specific one of your choice. {M i 6} [ Burma Piṭaka Assn. | Thanissaro ].

    The Buddha teaches seven methods for eliminating from the mind the deeply rooted defilements (sensuality, becoming, views, and ignorance) that obstruct the realization of Awakening.

  • MN 9: Sammaditthi Sutta — The Discourse on Right View/Right View There is more than one translation! Click on the author-link below for the specific one of your choice. {M i 46} [ Ñanamoli/Bodhi | Thanissaro ].

    How the four noble truths, dependent co-arising, and the knowledge that ends mental fermentation all build upon the basic dichotomy between skillful and unskillful action.

  • MN 10: Satipatthana Sutta — The Foundations of Mindfulness/The Discourse on the Arousing of Mindfulness/ MN 10: Satipatthana Sutta — The Foundations of Mindfulness/The Discourse on the Arousing of Mindfulness/Frames of Reference {M i 55} [ Ven. Nyanasatta | Soma | Ven. Thanissaro (Edition 2018) | Ven. Thanissaro (old ATI-Edition) ].

    The Buddha's comprehensive practical instructions on the development of mindfulness as the basis for insight. [The text of this sutta is identical to that of the Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22), but without its detailed (except Ven. Thanissaro's translation from the Thai edition) exposition of the Four Noble Truths (sections 5a,b,c and d in part D of that version).]

  • MN 14: Cula-dukkhakkhandha Sutta — The Lesser Mass of Stress {M i 91} [ Thanissaro ].

    What mental qualities must be abandoned in order to free oneself of greed, aversion, and delusion? Can painful austerities be used to purify oneself and burn away the karmic fruit of past misdeeds? Through question-and-answer dialogues with the lay follower Mahanama and with a group of Jain ascetics, the Buddha lays these questions to rest.

  • MN 18: Madhupindika Sutta — The Ball of Honey {M i 108} [ Thanissaro ].

    A man looking to pick a fight asks the Buddha to explain his doctrine. The Buddha's answer mystifies not only the man, but also a number of monks. Ven. Maha Kaccana finally provides an explanation, and in the course of doing so explains what is needed to bring the psychological sources of conflict to an end.

  • MN 19: Dvedhavitakka Sutta — Two Sorts of Thinking {M i 114} [ Thanissaro ].

    The Buddha recounts the events leading up to his Awakening, and describes his discovery that thoughts connected with sensuality, ill-will, and harmfulness do not lead one to Awakening, while those connected with their opposites (renunciation, non ill-will, and harmlessness) do.

  • MN 20: Vitakkasanthana Sutta — The Removal of Distracting Thoughts/The Relaxation of Thoughts There is more than one translation! Click on the author-link below for the specific one of your choice. {M i 118} [ Soma | Thanissaro ].

    The Buddha offers five practical methods of responding wisely to unskillful thoughts (thoughts connected with desire, aversion, or delusion).

  • MN 21: Kakacupama Sutta — The Parable of the Saw MN 21: Kakacupama Sutta — The Parable of the Saw/The Simile of the Saw {M i 122} [ Buddharakkhita (excerpt) | Thanissaro (excerpt old) | Thanissaro (new complete edition 2017) ].

    The Buddha tells the story of a wise slave who deliberately tests her mistress's patience. The Buddha invokes several memorable similes here to illustrate the correct way to develop patience.
    New edition: The Buddha gives serial stories an similies to encouraging his monks to develop metta and patien proper and unlimited. (The full translation of this sutta, previously just an excerpt, has been added to the collection.)

  • MN 22: Alagaddupama Sutta — The Snake Simile/The Water-Snake Simile There is more than one translation! Click on the author-link below for the specific one of your choice. {M i 130} [ Nyanaponika | Thanissaro ].

    Using two famous similes, the Buddha shows how the development of right view calls for the skillful application both of grasping and of letting-go. The sutta includes one of the Canon's most important expositions on the topic of not-self.

  • MN 35: Cula-Saccaka Sutta — The Shorter Discourse to Saccaka {M i 237} [ Thanissaro ].

    Even though the Buddha did not usually seek debates, he knew how to reply effectively when attacked. In this discourse, he gets Saccaka — who uses a variety of cheap debater's tricks — to trip over those tricks. However, the Buddha goes beyond simply defeating Saccaka in debate. He then takes the opportunity to teach him the Dhamma. [TB]

  • MN 36: Maha-Saccaka Sutta — The Longer Discourse to Saccaka {M i 237} [ Thanissaro ].

    In response to an insinuating remark — that his ability not to be overcome by pleasure and pain is due simply to the fact that he never experienced any intense pleasures or pains — the Buddha recounts the pains he endured in his austerities, and the pleasures that attended the path to and his attainment of Awakening.

  • MN 39: Maha-Assapura Sutta — The Greater Discourse at Assapura {M i 271} [ Thanissaro ].

    The Buddha outlines the full course of training by which a meditator may earn the right to call him- or herself a true contemplative. As presented here, the training begins with conscience and concern for the results of one's actions, and leads progressively through the cultivation of virtue, sense-restraint, moderation, wakefulness, mindfulness, alertness, the four jhanas, finally culminating in the realization of the insight knowledges.

  • MN 41: Saleyyaka Sutta — The Brahmans of Sala/(Brahmans) of Sala There is more than one translation! Click on the author-link below for the specific one of your choice. {M i 285; MLS ii 379} [ Ñanamoli | Thanissaro ].

    A discussion of ten types of skillful and unskillful conduct in body, speech, and mind, and of the future rewards open to those who follow the guidelines to skillful conduct. [TB]

  • MN 58: Abhaya Sutta — To Prince Abhaya {M i 392} [ Thanissaro ].

    The Buddha explains the criteria for determining whether or not something is worth saying. This discourse is a beautiful example of the Buddha's skill as teacher: not only does he talk about right speech, but he also demonstrates right speech in action.

  • MN 59: Bahuvedaniya Sutta — The Many Kinds of Feeling/Many Things to be Experienced There is more than one translation! Click on the author-link below for the specific one of your choice. {M i 396} [ Nyanaponika | Thanissaro ].

    The Buddha discusses the range of possible pleasures and joys, and concludes by advocating a pleasure that goes beyond feeling. [The text of this sutta is almost identical to that of SN 36.19.]

  • MN 70: Kitagiri Sutta — At Kitagiri {M i 473} [ Thanissaro ].

    A discourse on the importance of conviction in the Buddhist path. Not only is conviction a prerequisite for listening to the Buddha's teachings with respect, but — as is shown by the unusual discussion here categorizing the types of noble disciples — it can underlie the practice all the way to the Deathless. [TB]

  • MN 82: Ratthapala Sutta — About Ratthapala {M ii 54} [ Thanissaro ].

    A two-part story about the monk who, the Buddha said, was foremost among his disciples in ordaining on the power of pure conviction. In the first part of the story, Ratthapala deals with his parents' opposition to his ordaining, and their attempts, after ordination, to lure him back to lay life. In the second part, he recalls the four observations about the world that inspired him, as a healthy and wealthy young man, to ordain in the first place.

  • MN 90: Kannakatthala Sutta — At Kannakatthala {M ii 125} [ Thanissaro ].

    A case study in how social advantages can be a spiritual liability. The discussion focuses on the factors needed for release — attainable by all people, regardless of caste or race — while the gently satirical frame story shows how the life of a king, or any highly placed person, presents obstacles to developing those factors. [TB]

  • MN 93: Assalayana Sutta — With Assalayana {M ii 147} [ Thanissaro ].

    The Buddha enters into a debate with a brahman on whether one's worth as a person is determined by birth or by behavior. Although some of the arguments he presents here deal with the specifics of brahman caste pride, many of them are applicable to issues of racism and nationalism in general. [TB]

  • MN 95: Canki Sutta — With Canki There is more than one translation! Click on the author-link below for the specific one of your choice. {M ii 164} [ Ñanamoli (excerpt) | Thanissaro (excerpt) ].

    A pompous brahman teenager questions the Buddha about safeguarding, awakening to, and attaining the truth. In the course of his answer, the Buddha describes the criteria for choosing a reliable teacher and how best to learn from such a person. [TB]

  • MN 97: Dhanañjani Sutta — To Dhanañjani {M ii 184} [ Thanissaro ].

    A poignant story of a lay person whose welfare was of special concern to Ven. Sariputta, this discourse teaches two lessons in heedfulness. (1) If you're engaging in wrong livelihood, don't expect to escape the karmic consequences even if you're doing it to fulfil your duties to your family, parents, or friends. (2) Don't be satisfied with mundane levels of attainment in meditation when there is still more to be done. [TB]

  • MN 98: Vāseṭṭha Sutta: To the Brahmin Vasettha {M ii 196} [ Uppalavanna ].

    Two sons from well-known Brahman-housholds - the highest cast, the sublime generation - are coming into dispute weather someone is what he is by birth of by deeds. Approaching the Buddha, he then makes account of all various kinds and their attributes in the wheel of life and points out, that the kind of birth, for a human being does by fare not assign his quality.

  • MN 101: Devadaha Sutta — At Devadaha {M ii 214} [ Thanissaro ].

    The Buddha refutes a Jain theory of kamma, which claims that one's present experience is determined solely by one's actions in past lives, and that the effects of past unskillful actions can be “burned away” through austerity practices. The Buddha here outlines one of his most important teachings on kamma: that it is both the results of past deeds and present actions that shape one's experience of the present. It is precisely this interaction of present and past that opens up the very possibility of Awakening.

  • MN 105: Sunakkhatta Sutta — To Sunakkhatta {M ii 252} [ Thanissaro ].

    The Buddha addresses the problem of meditators who overestimate their progress in meditation. The sutta ends with a warning: anyone who claims enlightenment as license for unrestrained behavior is like someone who fails to follow the doctor's orders after surgery, who knowingly drinks a cup of poison, or who deliberately extends a hand toward a deadly snake. [TB]

  • MN 108: Gopaka Moggallana Sutta — Moggallana the Guardsman {M iii 7} [ Thanissaro ].

    Ven. Ananda explains how the Sangha maintains its unity and internal discipline after the passing away of the Buddha [BB]. Interestingly, this sutta also shows that early Buddhist practice had no room for many practices that developed in later Buddhist traditions, such as appointed lineage holders, elected ecclesiastical heads, or the use of mental defilements as a basis for concentration practice. [TB]

  • MN 109: Maha-punnama Sutta — The Great Full-moon Night Discourse {M iii 15} [ Thanissaro ].

    A thorough discussion of issues related to the five aggregates. Toward the end of the discussion, a monk thinks that he has found a loophole in the teaching. The way the Buddha handles this incident shows the proper use of the teachings on the aggregates: not as a metaphysical theory, but as a tool for questioning clinging and so gaining release. [TB]

  • MN 118: Anapanasati Sutta — Mindfulness of Breathing {M iii 78} [ Thanissaro ].

    One of the most important texts for beginning and veteran meditators alike, this sutta is the Buddha's roadmap to the entire course of meditation practice, using the vehicle of breath meditation. The simple practice of mindfulness of breathing leads the practitioner gradually through 16 successive phases of development, culminating in full Awakening.

  • MN 126: Bhumija Sutta — To Bhumija {M iii 138} [ Thanissaro ].

    Does the desire for Awakening get in the way of Awakening? According to this discourse, the question of desiring or not desiring is irrelevant as long as one develops the appropriate qualities that constitute the path to Awakening. The discourse is also very clear on the point that there are right and wrong paths of practice: as a geographer might say, not every river flows to the sea. [TB]

  • MN 131: Bhaddekaratta Sutta — The Discourse on the Ideal Lover of Solitude/An Auspicious Day There is more than one translation! Click on the author-link below for the specific one of your choice. {M iii 187} [ Ñanananda | Thanissaro ].

    In this stirring discourse the Buddha underscores the vital urgency of keeping one's attention firmly rooted in the present moment. After all, the past is gone, the future isn't here; this present moment is all we have.

  • MN 135: Cula-kammavibhanga Sutta — The Shorter Exposition of Kamma/The Shorter Analysis of Action There is more than one translation! Click on the author-link below for the specific one of your choice. {M iii 202} [ Ñanamoli | Thanissaro ].

    Why do some people live a long life, but others die young? Why are some people born poor, but others born rich? The Buddha explains how kamma accounts for a person's fortune or misfortune.

  • MN 136: Maha Kammavibhanga Sutta — The Great Exposition of Kamma/The Greater Analysis of Action There is more than one translation! Click on the author-link below for the specific one of your choice. {M iii 207} [ Ñanamoli | Thanissaro ].

    Two lessons in the dangers of quick generalization. In the first, the Buddha points out that the perception of all feeling as stressful is not appropriate at all stages of the practice. In the second, he shows that generalizing too quickly on the basis of what one sees in meditation can lead to serious wrong view. [TB]

  • MN 140: Dhatu-vibhanga Sutta — An Analysis of the Properties {M iii 237} [ Thanissaro ].

    A poignant story in which a wanderer, searching for the Buddha, meets the Buddha without realizing it. He recognizes his mistake only after the Buddha teaches him a profound discourse on four determinations and the six properties of experience. An excellent illustration of the Buddha's statement, “Whoever sees the Dhamma sees me.” [TB]

  • MN 141: Saccavibhanga Sutta — Discourse on The Analysis of the Truths/An Analysis of the Truths There is more than one translation! Click on the author-link below for the specific one of your choice. {M iii 248} [ Piyadassi | Thanissaro ].

    Ven. Sariputta gives a detailed elaboration on the Buddha's teaching of the Four Noble Truths.

  • MN 143: Anathapindikovada Sutta — Instructions to Anathapindika/Advice to A Dying Man There is more than one translation! Click on the author-link below for the specific one of your choice. {M iii 258} [ Thanissaro | Olendzki (excerpt) ].

    Ven. Sariputta offers a deep teaching on non-clinging to the ailing lay-follower Anathapindika.

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en/tipitaka/sut/mn/index.txt · Last modified: 2022/08/08 12:53 by Johann