Dīgha Nikāya | The Long Collection

The Dīgha Nikāya, or Long Collection, is named after the length not of the collection, but of its individual suttas. There are 34 in all, many of them among the most polished literary compositions in the Pali Canon. This anthology contains complete translations of ten suttas, and partial translations of two.

  • DN 1  Brahmajāla Sutta | The Brahmā Net  —  An introductory portrait of the Buddha, dealing both with the minor reasons for which people might praise him—his virtues—and the more subtle and profound reasons for praising him: his comprehension of the difference between right and wrong view, and the release that comes from going beyond both. The Buddha uses right view about kamma and dependent co-arising to analyze 62 instances of wrong view, focusing less on the content of the views and more on the kamma of clinging to them: what actions give rise to them, and the destinations that come from acting on them. His analysis shows that right view, used in this way, is superior because it leads to the highest freedom.
  • DN 2  Sāmaññaphala Sutta | The Fruits of the Contemplative Life  —  King Ajātasattu, disappointed with the other spiritual teachers of the day, approaches the Buddha and asks, “What are the fruits of the contemplative life, visible in the here and now?” His account of why other teachers disappointed him with their answers to this question shows clearly both what the Dhamma is not and also how a teacher should not teach: In all the cases, the teachers present a canned doctrine that doesn’t address the question. The Buddha’s answer, which does address the question, gives a comprehensive account of what the Dhamma is—a path of training leading to a clear goal—illustrating each stage of the training with vivid similes.
  • DN 9  Poṭṭhapāda Sutta | About Poṭṭhapāda  —  Poṭṭhapāda the wanderer presents the Buddha with a series of questions on the topic of perception. In response, the Buddha shows his skill as a teacher—adopting, for Poṭṭhapāda’s sake, the terms in which the questions are phrased, but then giving those terms new meanings, in line with the practice of the Dhamma.
  • DN 11  Kevaṭṭa Sutta | To Kevaṭṭa  —  This discourse explores the role of miracles and conversations with heavenly beings as a possible basis for faith and belief. The Buddha does not deny the reality of such experiences, but he points out that—of all possible miracles—the only reliable one is the miracle of instruction in the proper training of the mind. As for heavenly beings, they are subject to greed, anger, and delusion, and so the information they give—especially with regard to the miracle of instruction—is not necessarily trustworthy. Thus the only valid basis for faith is the instruction that, when followed, brings about the end of one’s own mental defilements. The tale that concludes the discourse is one of the finest examples of the early Buddhist sense of humor.
  • DN 12  Lohicca Sutta | To Lohicca  —  When a person gains awakening and then teaches the path to others, doesn’t he or she necessarily get involved in fruitless entanglements? Shouldn’t such a person, to avoid criticism, remain silent? The Buddha addresses these questions, showing that they are motivated by ill will, and then sets out the standards for measuring whether a teacher can or cannot legitimately be criticized.
  • DN 15  Mahā Nidāna Sutta | The Great Causes Discourse  —  One of the most profound discourses in the Pali Canon, giving an extended treatment of the teachings of dependent co-arising (paṭicca samuppāda) and not-self (anattā) in an outlined context of how these teachings function in practice.
  • DN 16  Mahā Parinibbāna Sutta | The Great Total Unbinding Discourse  —  This vast discourse, a memorial to the Buddha, narrates the events of the last year of his life and the weeks immediately following his total unbinding. As with any memorial, the narrative seems to be shaped by two concerns: the desire (1) to show that the person memorialized was worthy of love and respect, and (2) to indicate the importance of continuing to live by the good traditions that the person established. In particular, this sutta presents both a detailed etiquette for how the Buddha should be honored, and a more summary account of how the Dhamma should be practiced in a way to keep it alive. Its account shows how a devotional attitude to the Buddha does not have to conflict with the practice of the Dhamma, and how, in fact, the practice of the Dhamma is the best way to show homage to the Buddha.
  • DN 20  Mahā Samaya Sutta | The Great Meeting  —  A large group of devas pays a visit to the Buddha one night, and the Buddha tells the monks, in a long poem, the names of the major devas who came to see him. This sutta is the closest thing in the Pali Canon to a “Who’s Who” of the deva worlds, providing useful material for anyone interested in the cosmology of early Buddhism.
  • DN 21  Sakka-pañha Sutta | Sakka’s Questions (Excerpt)  —  In this excerpt, Sakka, the deva-king, asks the Buddha about the sources of conflict, and about the path of practice that can bring it to an end. This discourse ends with a humorous account about Sakka’s frustration in trying to learn the Dhamma from other contemplatives. It's hard to find a teacher when you’re a king.
  • DN 22  Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta | The Great Establishing of Mindfulness Discourse  —  This sutta sets out the full formula for the practice of establishing mindfulness, and then gives an extensive account of one phrase in the formula: what it means to remain focused on any of the four frames of reference—body, feelings, mind, and mental qualities—in and of itself.
  • DN 26  Cakkavatti Sutta | The Wheel-turning Emperor (Excerpt)  —  In this excerpt, the Buddha tells the monks of the rewards that come from staying in their own “ancestral territory,” i.e., the four establishings of mindfulness.
  • DN 29  Pāsādika Sutta | The Inspiring Discourse  —  Toward the end of his life, the Buddha describes his accomplishment in establishing, through the Dhamma and Vinaya, a complete holy life that will endure after his passing. Listing some of the criticisms that might be leveled against him and his Dhamma-Vinaya, he shows how those criticisms should be refuted.