Commentaries for the Suttas of the Pali Cannon

There are ancient commentaries to almost all of the Buddha's discourses. Some of these have been translated into English and are readily available. Additionally, there are modern commentaries to some of the most important suttas. On this page, I will list as many of these commentaries as I know of.

However, first a few words of caution about working with commentaries to the Buddha's discourses: The quality of the information in the commentaries, both ancient and modern, varies enormously. Some of it is very helpful, some is mythological, some is just plain wrong. There are several schools of thought about the commentaries:

  1. The Buddha's discourses are clear enough to stand on their own; commentaries should be ignored since they are not really needed and contain so much misinformation.
  2. Although the Buddha's discourses should be viewed as the ultimate authority, there is valuable information in the commentaries for the reader with a critical eye.
  3. The commentaries represent many years of practical research into what the Buddha taught and are often clearer than the suttas themselves.
Surprisingly, view #3 predominates in Asia. The vast body of Mahayana literature is commentarial. The suttas found in the Pali canon are not nearly so highly esteemed as the later works, which of course are more in line with the basic Mahayana emphasis. But even in the Theravadan countries, the views of the Visuddhimagga (the "Mother of All Commentaries") predominate over the suttas themselves.

So how should a Western reader of the suttas approach the commentaries? My own view is more closely aligned with #2. I suggest carefully reading a sutta before reading any introduction or commentary. Even read the the sutta several times; form your own opinion; then approach the commentarial material with an open mind and a very critical eye. If you find a seeming contradiction, go with the sutta until your practice experience tells you otherwise. Also be very wary when reading commentaries from other traditions.


This compilation will be an on going project - your help will be much appreciated: If you know of other ancient or modern sutta commentaries that are readily available, please email me the info at - please include the sutta number, both Pali name and English name (if available), the name of the commentary and if possible, a link to the commentary if it is on-line, otherwise a link to a place where it can be purchased (at Wisdom, Pariyatti, Shambala, or even Amazon if you can't find a publisher link). Feel free to add a review of the work if you wish (although I will probably only put negative reviews on this page - to serve as a warning).

Many thanks to Lynn Kelly for starting this project and for suggesting that I host it on this website.

Abbreviations

BPSBuddhist Publication Society
WHWheel booklet series
BLBodhi Leaves booklet series


Mahasi Sayadaw has written a number of commentaries on various suttas. As I get time, I will add the individual references, but for now be sure to check http://www.mahasi.com/ for over a dozen of these works (scroll to near the bottom of the page).


Digha Nikaya

DN#1 - Brahmajala Sutta: The All-Embracing Net of Views DN#2 - Samaññaphala Sutta: The Fruits of the Spiritual Life DN#9 - Potthapada Sutta: States of Consciousness DN#15 - Mahanidana Sutta: The Great Discourse on Origination DN#22 - Mahasatipatthana Sutta: The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

Majjhima Nikaya

MN#1 - Mulapariyaya Sutta: The Root of All Things MN#7 - Vatthupama Sutta: The Simile of the Cloth
MN#8 - Sallekha Sutta: The Discourse on Effacement MN#9 - Sammaditthi Sutta: The Discourse on Right View MN#10 - Satipatthana Sutta: The Four Foundations of Mindfulness MN#11 - Cula-sihanada Sutta: The Shorter Discourse on the Lion's Roar
MN#12 - Maha-sihanada Sutta: The Great Discourse on the Lion's Roar MN#20 - Vitakka-Santhana Sutta: The Removal of Distracting Thoughts MN#24 - Ratha-vinita Sutta: The Relay Chariots MN#28 - The Greater Discourse on the Simile of the Elephant's Footprint MN#118 - Anapanasati Sutta: The Discourse on Mindfulness of Breathing MN#141 - Saccavibhanga Sutta: Discourse on The Analysis of the Truths

Samyutta Nikaya

SN#XII.23 - Upanisa Sutta: Prerequisites (or Proximate Causes) SN#XXI.10 Theranama Sutta: Discourse on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone SN#XXII.59 Anatta-lakkhana Sutta: The Discourse on the Not-self Characteristic SN#LVI.11 Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta: Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion

Anguttara Nikaya

AN#III.65 - Kalama Sutta: To the Kalamas

Sutta Nipata

Sn#I.1 - Uraga Sutta: The Serpent

Back to the Study Guide to the Suttas
Back to Leigh's Home Page Site Map                   Site Search 


Permalink http://leighb.com/commentary.htm [] Hosted by
Leigh Brasington / / Revised 02 Nov 12