The Factors of the Gradual Training As Found in Various Suttas

X = Factor occurs in the sutta(s)     I = Insight practice, but not usual stock passage     L = Liberation indicated, but not usual stock passage
30     
Factors  
     32
  Suttas
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DN 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 X X X X X X     X X X   X   X X X           X X X X X X X X *
DN 6, 7, 12 X X     X X     X X X   X   X X X           X             X  
DN 9 X X X X X X     X X X   X   X X X X X X   X                
DN 10 X X     X X     X X X   X   X X X           X X           X
DN 11 X X X X X X     X X X   X   X X X           X             X
DN 13 X X X X X X     X X X   X X                                
MN 27,51,60,76,79,94,101 X X     X X     X X X   X   X X X                     X X X
MN 38 X X       X     X X X   X   X X X           I             L  
MN 39, 53         X X X X X   X   X   X X X                     X X X
MN 77                         X   X X X           X X X X X X X X
MN 107         X X X X X   X   X   X X X                          
MN 112 X X     X X     X X X   X   X X X                         X
MN 125 X       X X X X X   X X     X X X                     X X X  
SN 16.9                         X   X X X               X X X X X X  
AN 3.58                         X   X X X                     X X X  
AN 4.198 X X     X X     X X X   X   X X X                     X X X
AN 5.75         X           X   X   X X X                         X
AN 5.76           X         X   X   X X X                         X
AN 10.99 X X     X X     X X X   X   X X X X X X X X               X
(Place your cursor on the
letters in a column heading
to see what they stand for,
or scroll down)
G
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32 Total Suttas 24 23 8 8 27 28 4 4 27 23 29 1 31 1 31 31 31 2 2 2 1 2 12 8 7 7 7 19 19 29
4 Fac in 31 Su (97%)                         X   X X X                          
6 Fac in 29 Su (91%)                     X   X   X X X                         X
9 Fac in 27 Su (84%)         X X     X   X   X   X X X                         X
12 Fac in 23 Su (72%) X X     X X     X X X   X   X X X                         X
14 Fac in 19 Su (59%) X X     X X     X X X   X   X X X                     X X X
15 Fac in 12 Su (38%) X X     X X     X X X   X   X X X           X         X X X  
17 Fac in 8 Su (25%) X X X X X X     X X X   X   X X X           X         X X X  
21 Fac in 7 Su (22%) X X X X X X     X X X   X   X X X           X X X X X X X X *
9 Fac in < 5 Su (<16%)             X X       X   X       X X X X X                  
* = Same 21 factors as in DN 2, etc.       † = Same 14 factors as in MN 27, etc.       ‡ = Same 12 factors as in MN 112
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The height of the bar
for each factor is
proportional to the
number of the 32 suttas
that factor appears in.

Grouping Color Key:
Going Forth
Precepts   More Sīla
Hindrances   Jhanas
Insight Practice
Psychic Powers
Awakening
Other












































































































































































































32 Total Suttas 24 23 8 8 27 28 4 4 27 23 29 1 31 1 31 31 31 2 2 2 1 2 12 8 7 7 7 19 19 29
Group Totals 24 66 86 29   131 2 12 66 29
Sīla  Samādhi  Pañña   152 163 107

Notes:

There is no "first page" in the Pali canon that outlines the Buddha's teachings in a logical order. However, in several places there is a teaching called "The Gradual Path" (anupubba paṭipadā) or "Training Path" (sekha paṭipadā) which fulfills this function. It appears in detail in three different Nikāyas (books of teachings): the Dīgha, the Majjhima, and the Anguttara. Subsets of this collection of practices appear in other suttas as well, including one sutta in the Saṃyutta Nikāya. Studying how it appears in the suttas reveals some interesting trends.

Many students of Dharma in the West are familiar with the two Satipaṭṭhāna suttas, which describe more than a dozen practices, or the several suttas on Mindfulness of Breathing, which describes the 16 steps known as Ānāpānasati. This Gradual Training (anupubbasikkhā), however, is probably the most comprehensive list of spiritual practices. It is found, for example and perhaps most famously, in Dīgha Nikāya 2: The Discourse on the Fruits of the Spiritual Life.

The top chart above list where the individual "factors" of the Gradual Training appear in various suttas. The chart with the vertical colored lines shows how often each factor is mentioned. Below are some notes and abbreviations for those not as familiar with sutta study.

The Gradual Training, as noted, is found in three of the Nikāyas, but unlike the Satipaṭṭhāna and Ānāpānasati practice lists, there is no single list that universally appears. Thirty "factors" of the Gradual Training are described with no more than 21 factors or fewer than seven factors appearing in any one sutta. This variation sparked my curiosity and I set out to try to understand what factors appear where and what I could learn from studying that information. That is the origin of what you seen on this page.

Some things jump right out at you: Abandoning the Hindrances and practicing the Four Jhānas are extremely important, as are Ethics (Sīla), Guarding the Senses, and Mindfulness & Clear Comprehension.

Other things become obvious only with a little study. For example, the Supernormal Powers (walking on water, flying thru the air, etc.) appear only half as frequently as Insight Practice. Yet Insight Practice appears less than half as many times as Jhāna Practice. The numbers for Remembering Past Lives and Seeing Beings Passing Away and Rearising are boosted by their frequent occurrence in the Majjhima Nikāya where they appear without the other Psychic Powers, unlike in the Dīgha Nikāya where they appear less frequently but are always preceded by the other Psychic Powers when they do appear.

It would seem that the Buddha (or at least the compilers of the canon) developed this Gradual Training and then used various parts of it dependent on the audience to whom the suttas was addressed.

  1. DN factors are taken from T. W. Rhys Davids's translations. Thanissaro Bhikkhu and Maurice Walshe frequently include all the DN 2 factors, even where that makes no sense, e.g., DN 11 (tho Walshe does correct that via a footnote). There are versions of the Pali Canon that do include all the DN 2 factors in all except DN 9 & DN 13 but there are also versions that match Rhys Davids's translations. It seems more likely that DN 2's factors crept into suttas where they had not been (e.g. DN 11) than that factors got lost yet resulted a coherent (or even more coherent) set. The one exception might be the Mind Made Body appearing in DN 10.

  2. Altho DN 10 specifically includes Guarding the Senses, Mindfulness & Clear Comprehension, and Being Content with Little under Samādhi, that really does not make sense. Until one "resorts to a secluded dwelling, ... sits down crosslegged, ... and sets up mindfulness," there is no Samādhi in the sense used throughout the bulk of the suttas. It is only with the abandoning of the 5 Hindrances that one attains any degree of indistractibility. Thus I have included all the factors prior to the abandoning of the 5 Hindrances in Sīla since they all apply to lifestyle rather than meditation.

  3. There may be missing suttas on the Gradual Training and the chart of which factors appear in which sutta may have mistakes. If you find some other sutta that you think should be included or find any mistakes, please email me!

Abrv#Factor Description
GF24a tathāgata arises in this world, one hears the dhamma, Gains Faith, Goes Forth into homelessness
SmlM23Small section on Morality
MedM8Medium section on Morality
LrgM8Large section on Morality
V27Virtue summarized
GS28Guarding the Senses
ME4Moderation in Eating
DtW4Devotion to Wakefulness
M&CC27Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension (sati & sampajañña)
CwL23Contentment with Little - food, clothing, shelter, medicine when ill
5H29abandoning the 5 Hindrances - sensual desire, hatred & ill-will, restless & remorse, sloth & torpor, doubt
4EM14 Establishments of Mindfulness (4 satipaṭṭhāna)
J1311st Jhana
BV1practicing the 4 Brahama Viharas (mettā, karunā, muditā, upekkhā)
J2312nd Jhana
J3313rd Jhana
J4314th Jhana
J525th Jhana - infinite space
J626th Jhana - infinite consciousness
J727th Jhana - nothingness
J818th Jhana - neither perception nor non-perception
N2Nirodha - the cessation of feeling and perception
I12Insight practice
MMB8Mind Made Body
SNP7SuperNormal Powers
DEar7Divine Ear
KMO7Knowing the Minds of Others
RPL19Remembering Past Lives
SRAK19Seeing beings passing away and Rearising According to their Karma
EndA29the Ending of the Āsavas - Liberation


View this Chart as a JPG
Sekha Paṭipadā Chart another similar chart, tho apparently using a different version of the Pali
The Similes from the Gradual Training
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Leigh Brasington / EmailAddr / Revised 10 Dec 15