THE NUMBERED DISCOURSES OF THE BUDDHA
Translated by Bhikkhu Sujato
Read by Taradasa
56 hours 50 minutes
The Numbered Discourses (Aṅguttara Nikāya) is the last and longest of the four primary divisions of the Sutta Piṭaka, (Baskets of Discourses) that make up the main original teachings of the Buddha . The word aṅguttara literally means “up by one factor”, i.e. “incremental”. It refers to the fact that the discourses are arranged by numbered sets, with the numbers increasing by one. It is divided into 11 Books (nipāta), each arranged in varying number of Chapters (vaggas ) which themselves contain numerous suttas (often grouped in thematic clusters). There are some 8,122 discourses in all. The underlying organising principle is, thus, quite straightforward: each Book presents a particular number or set of items providing a route to easy assimilation and memorization. The Book of the Twos, for example, is used for pairs, which may be partners, hands, eyes, man and wife, opponents; good versus evil, light versus dark, pain versus pleasure; even skill in entering meditation and skill in leaving it. It represents the dualities of the world. It must be said, however, that the apparent simplicity of the overall structure is not always reflected in a straightforward presentation of the content. This can, at times, seem arbitrary, and is certainly repetitious. But The Numbered Discourses is one of the most accessible of the Nikāyas for its focus is often on practical matters of everyday relevance. Guidelines of ethics and character predominate. If the Saṁyutta Nikāya gathers the chief teachings on doctrines, the Aṅguttara Nikāya gathers the teachings on persons: the concerns of the lay community are a major concern. For this reason the Aṅguttara provides an excellent entry point to the Pāli Canon, especially for those with a limited amount of time. It only takes a few minutes to read a sutta which will contain within itself a complete and useful teaching. The Saṁyutta is like a school curriculum: everything you need to know on a topic, all in one place. But the Aṅguttara is like a school day. Though The Numbered Discourses covers a vast ground, social and practical matters predominate: issues of family, friendship, and harmony within secular and spiritual communities. The Buddha advises on common practicalities and higher progress across the range of human activities. In doing so, he encounters individuals from all walks of life, from kings, courtesans and artisans to numerous spiritual seekers, both from the Buddhist Sangha and other ‘wanderers’ following different paths. He also has many encounters with Brahmins and other high caste individuals who sometimes set out specifically to challenge his wisdom and authority while others come to learn. The manner in which he deals with these approaches – with clarity, irrefutable logic, confidence, humour and sometimes uncompromising refutation – reveals the character of the Buddha himself. This new and modern English version of The Numbered Discourses is by the Australian-born Theravadin monk Bhikkhu Sujato, who has undertaken a translation of the four main Nikāyas expressly to present the works in an accessible manner for the 21st century. He has dealt flexibly with the numerous repetitions embedded in the original texts – eliding sentences where necessary to keep the content and the message fresh and alive. He has further given his Dhamma translations a new character by boldly giving new English expressions for primary Pāli words. Among them are ‘extinguishment’ for nibbana’, ‘absorption’ for jhana, immersion’ for samādhi, mendicant for bhikkhu and ‘the Realised One’ for Tathāgata. In this manner, Bhikkhu Sujato has made a particularly welcome contribution to the 21st dissemination of the Dhamma. The Numbered Discourses is read in an engaged and clear manner by Taradasa.
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