Introduction to the Udāna




Canonical Parallels

More Udānas in the Tipiṭaka

Collection & Organization of the Udāna



BJT: The text of the Udāna presented here is substantially a transliteration of the Sinhala letter version of the text as printed in the Buddha Jayanti Tripitaka Series, Volume XXIV. In preparing this edition the corrigenda ( śuddhi patraya ) as printed on page xxvi of that volume have been taken into account. Other corrections, made by the present editor while preparing this edition of the text, have been noted in the appropriate place.

In the original edition there were many cases where BJT was inconsistent in its use of punctuation and layout. Here an attempt has been made to present a more standardized version of the text in this regard, but as the matter is trivial on the one hand, and extremely numerous on the other, these sort of changes have not been noted.

Italics in the text and translation presented here signify that these lines were repetitions in the text that were omitted in BJT. They have been filled in here to encourage recital of the text in full.


Other texts consulted:

SHB: Paramatthadīpanī or the Commentary to the Udāna, edited by Bihalpola Siri Dewarakkhita Thera, finally revised by Mahagoda Siri Ñāṇissara Thera (Colombo, 1920, reprinted Colombo, 1990).

The Udana Pali, edited by Belideniye Siridhamma Thero (Colombo, 1983).

ChS: The Burmese edition of the text and commentary as they appear on the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana CD-ROM Version 3 (Igatpuri, no date given, but = 1999).

Udānavarga, herausgegeben von Franz Bernhard (Göttingen 1965).


Other Works Cited:

PED: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary, edited by T. W. Rhys Davids and William Stede (1921-1925, republished, Oxford 1995).

DP: A Dictionary of Pāli, Part 1 a - kh, by Margeret Cone (Oxford 2001).

SED: A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, by Sir Monier Monier-Williams (1st published 1899; corrected edition, Delhi 2002).

DPPN: Dictionary of Pāli Proper Names, G.P. Malalasekera (reprinted New Delhi, 2002).

Geography of Early Buddhism, by Bimala Churn Law (2nd edition, New Delhi 1979).

Syntax of the Cases in the Pali Nikayas, by O.H. de A. Wijesekera (Colombo 1993).

A Pāli Grammar, by Wilhelm Geiger, revised and edited by K.R. Norman (Oxford, 1994).

Pali Grammar, by Vito Perniola S.J. (Oxford 1997).

Style and Function, by Mark Allon (Tokyo 1997).



The first book in Pāḷi that I read from cover to cover without the aid of a translation was the Udāna. It struck me then, and still strikes me now, as being the ideal book to introduce students to a study of the language of the texts. There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that the Udāna is made up of related prose and verse sections, which exposes the student to the different ways in which the language is written.

Then the prose sections are for the most part short and story-like, and therefore provide an underlying context which helps with the comprehension of the language. The stories are mainly quite straightforward, and give a contextual basis for understanding the udānas, which are generally more difficult in form and syntax.

Some of the most memorable stories in the Canon have found there way into this collection, which seems to have an overall structural plan, in that it begins with events that happened just after the Sambodhi (also recorded in the Mahāvagga of the Vinaya); and the last chapter includes many events from the last days of the Buddha as recorded in the Mahāparinibbānasutta (Dīghanikāya 16). Note that the Udāna ends, not with the Buddha's parinibbāna, following which no udāna was spoken, of course; but with the parinibbāna of one of the Buddha's leading disciples Ven. Dabba Mallaputta.

As the collection takes in some of the most important events in the Buddha's career, it naturally reflects some of his most important discoveries and teachings also. Because of this there is enough material of doctrinal importance in the collection to keep the student interested, whether it be the review of paṭiccasamuppāda following the Sambodhi; the important meditation instruction to Bāhiya ; the difficult teaching on bhava given in Lokavolokanasuttaṁ or the teachings about nibbāna in the first 4 udānas of chapter 8.

The translation is presented here together with the Pāḷi line by line, and attempts - as far as is possible - to present an exact rendering of the text so as to give the student enough help to follow the wording of the text itself. Any departure from that procedure that I am aware of, has been noted. Although my main aim has been to help the student read the text itself, hopefully the translation is in fairly lucid English, so that if all that is required is a reliable translation, it can be read alone.

In preparing the notes I have concentrated on drawing attention to the structure and syntax of the language. I have been greatly helped with this by a study of the Syntax of the Cases in the Pali Nikayas, by O.H. de A. Wijesekera (his Ph.D. Thesis, prepared in 1935 at the University of London, but unfortunately not published until 1993). The book deals in great depth with syntax mainly from the point of view of the noun. Another book that I have found very useful is Pali Grammar, by Vito Perniola S.J. (which was completed in 1965, and first published in 1997). About a third of the grammar deals with syntax, and approaches the subject from different angles: agreement, case, verb, and sentence syntax.

No attempt, however, has been made to be comprehensive in treatment here, rather I simply point out certain aspects regarding the structure of the language (normally when they first occur). It is expected that the student from there on should look for the same sort of constructions on their own.


Canonical Parallels

Some of the material found in this collection is also found in other places in the Canon. Below there are 2 concordance tables to facilitate cross-reference. The first table shows places in the Canon which correspond both in the prose and udāna with the collection presented here. From this we can see that nearly all of the corresponding material has been drawn from either the Vinaya Khandhakas or the Mahāparinibbānasutta of Dīghanikāya, which are believed to have formed a narrative unit at some time. The second table shows the parallels to the udānas alone: I have not included the parallels found in Nettipakaraṇa and Peṭakopadesa, as these are simply quotations of the relevant texts.

Note that there are parallels to all the udānas in this collection in the Sanskrit Udānavarga, see the Udāna Parallels document elsewhere on this website.


Table 1 (Prose & Udāna)



Paṭhamabodhisuttaṁ 1-1

Vinaya Mahāvagga: Bodhikathā

Dutiyabodhisuttaṁ 1-2

Vinaya Mahāvagga: Bodhikathā

Tatiyabodhisuttaṁ 1-3

Vinaya Mahāvagga: Bodhikathā The first 3 suttas in the Udāna also occur at the beginning of the Vinaya Mahāvagga. There however the Buddha is said to have reviewed paṭiccasamuppāda in both forward and reverse orders during each of the three watches of the night.

In the Udāna, on the other hand, the Buddha reviews paṭiccasamuppāda in forward order during the 1st watch, in reverse order during the 2nd watch, and in both forward and reverse orders during the 3rd watch. This is obviously more dramatic, but we cannot draw conclusions about the priority of the different versions from that alone.

When we look at the various sources, Pāḷi, Sanskrit, Tibetan, & Chinese, it is clear that there were a number of different traditions about the events immediately following the Awakening.

Nigrodhasuttaṁ 1-4

Vinaya Mahāvagga: Ajapālakathā

Mucalindasuttaṁ 2-1

Vinaya Mahāvagga: Mucalindakathā

Bhaddiyasuttaṁ 2.10

Saṅghabhedakkhandhakaṁ: ChaSakyapabbajjākathā

Nāgasuttaṁ 4.5

Kosambakakkhandhakaṁ: Pālileyyakagamanakathā

Rājasuttaṁ 5-1

Mallikāsuttaṁ, Kosalasaṁyuttaṁ, SN 3.8

Uposathasuttaṁ 5-5

Pātimokkhaṭṭhapanakkhandhakaṁ: Imasmiṁdhammavinaye-aṭṭhacchariyaṁ

Soṇasuttaṁ 5-6

Cammakkhandhakaṁ: Mahākaccānassa Pañcavaraparidassanā

Ānandasuttaṁ 5-8

Saṅghabhedakkhandhakaṁ: Pañcavatthuyācanakathā

Āyusaṅkhāravossajanasuttaṁ 6-1

Mahāparinibbānasuttaṁ, DN.16

Iddhipādasaṁyuttaṁ, SN 51.10

AN. VIII.vii.10

Cundasuttaṁ 8-5

Mahāparinibbānasuttaṁ, DN.16

Pāṭaligāmiyasuttaṁ 8-6

Mahāparinibbānasuttaṁ, DN.16

Bhesajjakkhandhakaṁ: Sunidhavassakāravatthu


Table 2 (Udāna only)



Kassapasuttaṁ 1-6

Nid II comm. on Sn 65

Jaṭilasuttaṁ 1-9 cd

Dhp 393cd

Bāhiyasuttaṁ 1-10


Mucalindasuttaṁ 2-1

Kathāvatthu: Hevatthikathā, Dutiyavaggo 1

Daṇḍasuttaṁ 2-3

Dhp 131-132

Sāriputtasuttaṁ 3-4

Th 651 (Revata), Th 999 (Sāriputta)

Pilindivacchasuttaṁ 3-6a-c

Sn 473a-c

Lokavolokanasuttaṁ 3-10

Sn 593ab;

cf. Saḷāyatanavibhaṅgasuttaṁ MN 149;

cf. Saḷāyatanasaṁyuttaṁ, SN 35.31;

cf. Khandhasaṁyuttaṁ SN 22.41;

Gopālasuttaṁ 4-3

Dhp 42

Juṇhasuttaṁ 4-4

Th 192 (Khitaka)

Piṇḍolasuttaṁ 4-6

Mahāpadānasuttaṁ (DN. 14), Cārikā-anujānanaṁ

Dhp 185

Sāriputtasuttaṁ 4-7

Th 68 (Ekuddāniya);

Pācittiyakaṇḍaṁ, Atthaṅgatasikkhāpadaṁ

Upasenasuttaṁ 4-9 vs.2

Sn 751

Kumārakasuttaṁ 5-4c-h

Dhanapālaseṭṭhipetavatthu Pv. 243cd, 244

Uposathasuttaṁ 5-5

Th 447 (Sirimaṇḍa); Pātimokkhaṭṭhapanakkhandhakaṁ: Imasmiṁdhammavinaye-aṭṭhacchariyaṁ

Parivārapāḷi: Gāthāsaṅgaṇikaṁ

Revatasuttaṁ 5-7


Kathāvatthu: Kaṅkhākathā

Saddhāyamānasuttaṁ 5-9

MN. 128;

Kosambiyajātakaṁ Ja. 428; Kosambakakkhandhakaṁ: Dīghāvuvatthu

Panthakasuttaṁ 5-10d-f

Sarabhaṅgajātakaṁ Ja. 522

Subhūtisuttaṁ 6-7ab

Sn 7ab

Dutiyasattasuttaṁ 7-4a-d

Th 297a-d (Rāhula)

Lakuṇṭakabhaddiyasuttaṁ 7-5

Cittasaṁyuttaṁ SN 41.5

Taṇhākkhayasuttaṁ 7-6d-f

Dhp 230b-d;

AN. IV.i.6d-f;

AN. IV.i.8d-f;

AN. V.v.2h-j

Papañcakkhayasuttaṁ 7-8cd

lines cd occur as prose in Āneñjasappāyasuttaṁ (MN. 106);


Tatiyanibbānasuttaṁ 8-3

Iti 43

Catutthanibbānasuttaṁ 8-4

Channovādasuttaṁ (MN. 144);

Saḷāyatanasaṁyuttaṁ SN 35.87;

Dutiyadabbasuttaṁ 8-10

Mahāpajāpatigotamītherī-apadānaṁ, vss. 286-287


More Udānas in the Tipiṭaka

In the Tipiṭaka we find an early classification of the Dhamma into 9 groups, they are: Sutta, Geyya, Veyyākaraṇa, Gāthā, Udāna, Itivuttaka, Jātaka, Abbhutadhamma, and Vedalla. It is not without significance that this classification includes 3 groups that were later to be collected and find their way into the Khuddakanikāya in eponymous books: Udāna, Itivuttaka, and Jātaka. This perhaps serves to show that although the collection of the material that eventually formed the Khuddakanikāya may be late, the material from which it was formed was, in some cases, known right from the earliest times. Of the other classes mentioned here none are found collected in books bearing the same names, but are spread throughout the Nikāyas as we now receive them, and it very much appears that the Nikāya classification has at some time or other, superceded the earlier one.

In the Udāna itself there are 80 discourses, and they comprise all but one of the exalted utterances that are attributed to the Buddha himself in the Tipiṭaka. There are also 2 other udānas mentioned in the collection, which are not by the Buddha. The first was the exclamation made by Ven. Bhaddiya, expressing his happiness with the monk's life (Ud. 2-10): Aho sukhaṁ! Aho sukhaṁ! This udāna was also uttered by the Bodhisatta on 2 different occasions, see The Bodhisatta's Udānas in the Jātaka in the Appendix.

Sakka, king of the gods, also made an udāna after giving alms to Ven. Mahākassapa (3-7): Aho dānaṁ! Paramadānaṁ ~ Kassape suppatiṭṭhitaṁ, Aho dānaṁ! Paramadānaṁ ~ Kassape suppatiṭṭhitan-ti.
There are, however, many udānas which are found in the Vinaya- and Suttapiṭakas that have not made their way into the collection. When we examine this extraneous material we find that the majority of these udānas are not exalted utterances, as in the Udāna collection, but rather are exclamations, which, for the most part, do not form a climax in themselves, in the way the exalted udānas do, but are simply exclamations in an on-going narrative.

All the udānas of this kind that I have been able to find are collected in the Appendix. In the Jātakas many of the Bodhisatta's utterances are said to have been udānas, and they have also been collected in the same Appendix.


Collection & Organization of the Udāna

John D. Ireland in the Introduction to his translation of The Udāna (Kandy, 1997, p. 10), writes: Could the udānas have once existed as a collection apart from the introductory discourses, like the verses of the Dhammapada? In the first chapter...the udāna utterances form a group united by the common word "brahmin," which is obvious when they are read apart from the introductory discourses. So this chapter could well have been called Brāhmaṇa-vagga, following on from the last chapter of the Dhammapada... Similarly, the second chapter has the unifying theme of sukha: happiness, bliss. However, in the subsequent chapters there is often no discernible theme linking the utterances.

As Ireland noted the word brahmaṇa occurs in all the verses of the opening chapter, (1-1b, 1-2b, 1-3b, 1-4a, 1-5d, 1-6d, 1-7b, 1-8d, 1-9d, 1-10h), and so there is clearly word collocation in the udānas in this chapter. Likewise sukha occurs in nearly all of the verses of the second chapter (2-1aceh, 2-2abc, 2-3acdegh, 2-4a, 2-5a, 2-6a, 2-8c, 2-9b, 2-10c); it is missing from 2-7, but there its place is taken by the word piya (2-7af), which is related in meaning, and piya also occurs in the verse that follows it (2-8b), so that it may have come in to the collection through this connection.

It is odd that having seen the collocation of the verses in the first 2 chapters, that Ireland didn't note the clear collocation in the 3rd chapter, linked by the word bhikkhu, which occurs throughout the chapter, occuring in the following verses: 3-1a, 3-2d, 3-3d, 3-4c, 3-5c, 3-6d, 3-7a, 3-8a, 3-9d, 3-10 last verse; or in the 4th chapter where it is on the word citta : 4-1d, 4-2e, 4-3c, 4-4a, 4-5c, 4-6e, 4-8d, 4-9f, 4-10a. The 7th udāna in this chapter doesn't have the word citta, but it does have the root-connected word cetasa (4-7a).

If we were to give names to the first four chapters according to their word-collocation, we would then have Brāhmaṇavagga, Sukhavagga, Bhikkhuvagga, and Cittavagga. It is interesting to note that these four vagga titles do in fact occur in the Dhammapada, and it may be that what we have in the udāna is a fossilized remnant of a collection of verses that, as Ireland suggested, may once have stood alone.

In the following chapters there seems to be no collocation on a keyword. Still, we should note that pāpa occurs in 5-3d, 5-4ce, 5-6cd, 5-7bcd; and 5-4 may be connected to 5-5, by theme, as they both deal with the covering up of bad deeds. There does not seem to be collocation running through all the verses in the 6th chapter either, but diṭṭhi occurs in 6-6j, 6-8 (in the middle), 6-9d, 6-10h. The theme of views is also implied in 6-4 & 6-5 (see the translation), which are further linked together by having the opening 2 lines in common.

Chapter 7 has many verses dealing with the one who is everywhere free (7-7a), who has cut off the cycle (7-2a), cut off the stream (7-5d), who has no roots in the earth (7-6a), who has transcended the tether and the obstacle (7-7b), and cut off the root of craving (7-9c). Chapter 8 which begins with the well known 4 nibbāna suttas continues with that theme, see 8-5d, 8-6d, 8-8 2nd verse, 8-9 whole verse, and 8-10 both verses. Only 8-7 seems to stand apart from this.

It very much looks therefore that the organising princliple in the 2nd half of the collection was by theme, perhaps influenced by the underlying thematic consistency in the first four chapters, that had, in fact, come about from the collocation of keywords.

Another indication of this may be obtained when we examine the udānas themselves. Most of the udānas in the collection are in verse, but there are a number that are in prose. All but one of the prose udānas occur in the last four chapters (6-8, 6-10, 8-1, 8-3, 8-4; the exception is 3-10, which is discussed below). Some of these are unusual not only because they are not in verse, but because they do not appear to be udānas at all.

In the Appendix I present the udānas that are named as such found scattered throughout the Tipiṭaka. We can see from this that there are basically two groups of udānas. The first and most frequent is the exalted utterance, which is mainly what we have in the eponymous collection. The second group, which is by no means insignificant, is the exclamatory group of udānas, which are in prose.

The prose udānas listed above however, fit into neither of these categories. The udāna at 8-1, for example, begins as an address: Atthi bhikkhave tad-āyatanaṁ ... which would suggest that this is a normal doctrinal teaching. 8-3 begins in a similar way: Atthi bhikkhave ajātaṁ ... ; and 8-4 is similarly very sober and doctrinal in exposition. All three deal with nibbāna, and I would suggest that they perhaps formed part of a group, together with 8-2, which is in verse, and may therefore have found their way into the collection via that connection. This may be further confirmed by the fact that all four of the nibbāna udānas have exactly the same introduction ( nidāna ) recorded for the sayings, which may have been applied originally only to 8-2.

The udāna at 6-8 is also in prose. In this case it seems to have very little to do with the prose introduction, and one cannot help feeling that there is some sort of mis-match here, and that the discourse has been patched together in an attempt to make a normal udāna out of it. It may be that it has been added in here owing to its theme being diṭṭhi, which links it to the rest of the collection in this chapter.

There are a number of complications regarding the udāna at 6-10, not the least being that the first half of the utterance is in fact metrical in structure (the metre is Vetālīya, though the 3rd and 4th lines are corrupt); while in the 2nd half no metre can be discerned. Clearly however the 2nd half is needed to complete the sense of the 1st half, and it cannot simply have been tagged on. Again the udāna has an underlying theme of views.

The udāna that occurs at 3.10 is also very difficult owing to the confused state it which it has been preserved, with parts of it having no discernible metre, while other portions are certainly metrical, but not necessarily in whole verses. It appears to me that the udāna falls into 3 distinct sections, the first and last of which were probably originally in verse, while the middle section is in prose.

The word-collocation that joins this udāna to the others in the chapter, which is on the theme of bhikkhu, occurs in the 3rd section of the udāna, and it may be that these were the original verses in the collection, and that they have attracted the other two sections into the collection through the theme of bhava that runs throughout the udāna.