Three Alternate Divisions of the Buddha’s Words

translated from the
Commentary to the Dīghanikāya, Sumaṅgalavilāsinī

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu


The Five Collections of the Buddha’s Teaching

The Nine-Fold Division of the Buddha’s Teaching

The Eighty-Four Thousand divisions of the Buddha’s Teaching





The Teachings of the Buddha are now available to us divided into Three Baskets (Tipiṭaka) and this is the arrangement we have become used to. A fairly full analysis of this arrangement can be found elsewhere on this website.

This was not the only way to to arrange the material, however, and the earliest division, found in the discourses themselves, was the nine-fold division, which is enumerated and described in the second section below.

Besides this, two others types of classification were known to the commentators, that into the five nikāyas, which forms the first of the alternatives below; and that into the 84,000 dhammas, which comes at the end.

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
August, 2014


The Five Collections of the Buddha’s Teaching

Kathaṁ nikāyavasena pañcavidhaṁ?
What is the five-fold collection?

Sabbam-eva cetaṁ:
All of this:

The Long Collection,

the Medium Collection,

the Thematic Collection,

the Increasing Factor Collection,

Khuddakanikāyo ti
the Supplementary Collection,

pañcappabhedaṁ hoti.
these are the five segments.


1. The Long Collection

Tattha, katamo Dīghanikāyo?
Herein, what is the Long Collection?

Tivaggasaṅgahāni Brahmajālādīni catuttiṁsa suttāni.
The thirty-four discourses compiled in three sections beginning with Brahmā’s Net. For more detail on the names of these discourses, and sections listed below, see my Basic Structure; and also An Analysis of the Pali Canon by Russell Webb (BPS, Kandy, 2011).1

Catuttiṁseva suttantā, tivaggo yassa saṅgaho,
Thirty-four discourses, compiled in three sections,

esa Dīghanikāyo ti, paṭhamo anulomiko. ti
this is the Long Collection, the first in order.

Kasmā panesa Dīghanikāyo ti vuccati?
Why is this called the Long Collection? The explanation that follows is not about the length, but about the word collection (nikāya). 2


Dīghappamāṇānaṁ suttānaṁ samūhato nivāsato ca,
Because of being an aggregate and abode of long length discourses,

samūhanivāsā hi Nikāyo ti vuccanti.
because an aggregate and abode is said to be a Collection.

“Nāhaṁ, bhikkhave, aññaṁ ekanikāyam-pi samanupassāmi
“I do not see, monastics, any other collection

evaṁ cittaṁ yatha-y-idaṁ, bhikkhave:
so diversified as this is, monastics:

tiracchānagatā pāṇā,”
animals and (other) breathing beings,” Quoting SN 22.100. 3

poṇikanikāyo cikkhallikanikāyo. ti
the collection that is prone, the collection on the earth. This appears to be said to explain tiracchānagatā pāṇā in the quotation.4

Evam-ādīni, cettha sādhakāni Sāsanato lokato ca.
Beginning thus, herein the collections (are made) from the Teaching and from the world. Or: from nature, as we might say.5

Evaṁ sesānam-pi nikāyabhāve vacanattho veditabbo.
Thus for the rest of the collections also the meaning of this word should be understood.


2. The Medium Collection

Katamo Majjhimanikāyo?
What is the Medium Collection?

Majjhimappamāṇāni pañcadasavaggasaṅgahāni
The one hundred and fity-two medium length (discourses) compiled in fifteen sections

Mūlapariyāyasuttādīni diyaḍḍhasataṁ dve ca suttāni.
beginning with the Discourse on the Root Instruction.

Diyaḍḍhasatasuttantā, dve ca suttāni yattha so,
One hundred and fifty discourses, and two discourses therein,

Nikāyo Majjhimo pañcadasavaggapariggaho. ti
The Medium Collection is enclosed in fifteen sections.


3. The Thematic Collection

Katamo Saṁyuttanikāyo?
What is the Thematic Collection?

Devatāsaṁyuttādivasena kathitāni Oghataraṇādīni
Regarding the Theme It is not mentioned in the definition but there are fifty-six themes that comprise the collection.6 about Deities, beginning with the Crossing the Flood (Discourse) and so on there are said to be

satta suttasahassāni satta ca suttasatāni dvāsaṭṭhi ca suttāni.
seven thousand discourses and seven hundred discourses and sixty-two discourses (7,762). Despite this number Bhikkhu Bodhi counts much less, at 2,904 discourses in the collection (p. 3).7

Sattasuttasahassāni, sattasuttasatāni ca,
Seven thousand discourses and seven hundred discourses,

dvāsaṭṭhi ceva suttantā, eso Saṁyuttasaṅgaho. ti
and sixty-two discourses, this is the Thematic Collection.


4. The Increasing Factor Collection

Katamo Aṅguttaranikāyo?
What is the Increasing Factor Collection?

Ekekāṅgātirekavasena kathitāni cittapariyādānādīni
The factors that increase one by one Up to collections of eleven factors.8 beginning with the discourses on overcoming the mind This refers to a set of ten discourses that open the collection. They do not have individual titles, but are in the Rūpādivaggo, Bodily form and so on Section. They each contain a phrase: ...cittaṁ pariyādāya tiṭṭhati..., ...overcoming the mind... 9 here are said to be

nava suttasahassāni pañca suttasatāni sattapaññāsañ-ca suttāni.
nine thousand discourses, five hundred discourses, and fifty seven discourses (9,557). Bhikkhu Bodhi counts a total of 8,122 discourses in his translation (p. 18), though he says the exact number is difficult to calculate owing to the high number of repetitons; he gives a lower figure of 3,872 for the discourses independent of the repetitions. 10

Nava suttasahassāni, pañca suttasatāni ca,
Nine thousand discourses, and five hundred discourses,

sattapaññāsa suttāni, saṅkhyā Aṅguttare ayan.-ti
fifty seven discourses, this number is reckoned in the Increasing Factor (Collection).


5. The Supplementary Collection

Katamo Khuddakanikāyo?
What is the Supplementary Collection?

Sakalaṁ Vinayapiṭakaṁ, Abhidhammapiṭakaṁ,
The whole Basket of Discipline, the Basket of the Abstract Teaching,

Khuddakapāṭhādayo ca pubbe dassitā pañcadasappabhedā,
and the fifteen segments beginning with the Supplementary Readings Khuddakapāṭha, Dhammapada, Udāna, Itivuttaka, Suttanipāta, Vimānavatthu, Petavatthu, Theragāthā, Therīgāthā, Apadāna, Buddhavaṁsa, Cariyāpiṭaka, Jātaka, Niddesa, Paṭisambhidāmagga. These fifteen books are what has historically been counted as the Khuddakanikāya, but at the Sixth Council three more were added to the list: Milindapañha, Nettippakaraṇa, Peṭakopadesa. 11 shown previously,

ṭhapetvā cattāro Nikāye, avasesaṁ Buddhavacanaṁ.
and except for the four Collections, the rest of the Buddha’s Words.

Ṭhapetvā caturo pete Nikāye Dīghā-adike,
Except for the four Collections beginning with the Long (Collection),

tad-aññaṁ Buddhavacanaṁ, Nikāyo Khuddako mato.” ti
(all) other Buddha’s Words, are understood to be the Supplementary Collection.”

Evaṁ nikāyavasena pañcavidhaṁ.
Such is the five-fold collection.


The Nine-Fold Division of the Buddha’s Teaching

Kathaṁ aṅgavasena navavidhaṁ?
What is the nine-fold division?

Sabbam-eva hidaṁ:
All of this:





Exalted Utterance,



Wonderful Thing,


navappabhedaṁ hoti.
these are the nine segments.


1. Sutta, Discourses

Tattha, ubhato-Vibhaṅga-
Herein, both Analyses, Bhikkhusuttavibhaṅga and Bhikkhunīsuttavibhaṅga of the Vinayapiṭaka. 12

(both) Expositions, Mahāniddesa and Cullaniddesa, early Canonical commentaries on the Suttanipāta.13

(both) Chapters, Also a pair, comprising the Mahākhandhaka and Cullakkhandhaka, but otherwise divided into twenty-two chapters (vagga).14

the Appendix, The last book of the Vinayapiṭaka, and therefore it is notable that all the present Vinayapiṭaka is said to be encompassed by this term. 15

Suttanipāte: Maṅgalasutta-
and in the Discourse Collection: The fifth collection in the Khuddakanikāya, which will be mentioned again below.16 the Discourse on the Great Blessings, Sn 2:8.17

The Discourse on the Treasures, Sn 2:1.18

The Discourse concerning Nālaka, Sn 3:11.19

Tuvaṭakasuttāni ca,
The Discourse on being Quick, Sn 4:13.20

aññam-pi ca suttanāmakaṁ Tathāgatavacanaṁ, Suttan-ti veditabbaṁ.
and other words of the Realised One named as discourses (sutta), so should Discourses be understood.


2. Geyya, Prosimetrum

Sabbam-pi Sagāthakaṁ suttaṁ, Geyyan-ti veditabbaṁ,
All the discourses (mixed) with verses, so should Prosimetrum be understood,

visesena Saṁyuttake sakalo pi Sagāthavaggo.
and especially almost Almost (pi) is said as parts of the first Theme on Devatā would better fit into Gāthā. 21 the entire Chapter with Verses in the Themes. Comprising now the First Major section of the Saṁyuttanikāya. 22


3. Veyyākaraṇa, Explanations

Sakalam-pi Abhidhammapiṭakaṁ,
The entire Abhidhamma Basket,

niggāthakaṁ suttaṁ,
all discourses without verses,

yañ-ca aññam-pi aṭṭhahi aṅgehi asaṅgahitaṁ Buddhavacanaṁ,
whatever Buddha words were uncollected in the other eight divisions, So we have a catch-all for anything that doesn't fit the other categories.23

taṁ Veyyākaraṇan-ti veditabbaṁ.
so should Explanations be understood.


4. Gāthā, Verses

The Dhamma Verses, Second book of the Khuddakanikāya.24

the Verses of the Elder Monks, Eighth book of the Khuddakanikāya.25

the Verses of the Elder Nuns, Ninth book of the Khuddakanikāya.26

Suttanipāte no suttanāmikā suddhikagāthā ca,
in the Discourse Collection Fifth book of the Khuddakanikāya.27 those not called Discourses, which are purely in verse,

Gāthā ti veditabbā.
so should Verses be understood.


5. Udāna, Exalted Utterance

Somanassañāṇamayikagāthā paṭisaṁyuttā dve asīti suttantā,
The eighty-two discourses There are now only eighty discourses in the Udāna, which comprises the third book of the Khuddakanikāya.28 having verses connected with the production of well-being and knowledge,

Udānan-ti veditabbaṁ.
so should Exalted Utterance be understood.


6. Itivuttaka, Thus-Saids

“Vuttaṁ hetaṁ Bhagavatā,” ti-ādinayappavattā dasuttarasatasuttantā,
The over one hundred and ten discourses There are now one hundred and twelve discourses in this collection, which comprises the fourth book of the Khuddakanikāya.29 having the introductory formula: “This was said by the Gracious One,”

Itivuttakan-ti veditabbaṁ.
so should the Thus-Saids be understood.


7. Jātaka, Birth Story

Apaṇṇakajātakādīni paññāsādhikāni pañcajātakasatāni,
The more than five hundred and fifty birth stories There are now only five hundred and forty-seven birth stories in this collection, which comprises the thirteenth book of the Khuddakanikāya.30 beginning with the Leafless Birth Story,

Jātakan-ti veditabbaṁ.
so should the Birth Story be understood.


8. Abbhutadhamma, Wonderful Things

“Cattāro me, bhikkhave, acchariyā abbhutā dhammā Ānande,” ti-ādinayappavattā,
(The discourse) having the introductory formula: “There are these four wonderful and marvellous things about Ānanda, monks,” AN 4.129, it also occurs within the Mahāparinibbānasutta, DN 16. 31

sabbe pi acchariyabbhutadhammapaṭisaṁyuttasuttantā,
and all the discourses connected with wonderful and marvellous things,

Abbhutadhamman-ti veditabbaṁ.
so should the Wonderful Things be understood.


9. Vedalla, Elaboration

The Short Elaboration, MN 44.32

the Great Elaboration, MN 43.33

the Right View, MN 9.34

Sakka’s Questions, DN 21.35

the Classification of the Processes, Mrs. Rhys Davids identifies this with MN 120, Saṅkhārupapattisuttaṁ, but doesn’t explain why. The Burmese editors fail to identify it. 36

the Great Discourse on the Full Moon MN 109. 37 and so on,

sabbe pi vedañ-ca tuṭṭhiñ-ca laddhā laddhā pucchitasuttantā,
and all the discourses having questions about the attainment of knowledge and satisfaction,

Vedallan-ti veditabbaṁ.
so should Elaboration be understood.

Evaṁ aṅgavasena navavidhaṁ.
Such is the nine-fold division.


The Eighty-Four Thousand divisions of the Buddha’s Teaching

Kathaṁ Dhammakkhandhavasena caturāsītisahassavidhaṁ?
What are the sections of the Teachings in the eighty-four thousand-fold division?

Sabbam-eva cetaṁ Buddhavacanaṁ:
This is the whole of the Buddha’s Words:

Dvāsīti Buddhato gaṇhiṁ, dve sahassāni bhikkhuto,
Eighty-two (thousand) are taken from the Buddha, and two thousand from the monastic, The Theragāthā Commentary defines this line as: Dhammasenāpati-ādīnaṁ bhikkhūnaṁ santikā adhigacchiṁ; acquired from the monastics (like) the General of the Dhamma (Ven. Sāriputta), and so on. 38

caturāsīti sahassāni, ye me Dhammā pavattino. ti
eighty-four thousand, that is the Dhamma set rolling by me.

Evaṁ paridīpita-Dhammakkhandhavasena caturāsītisahassappabhedaṁ hoti.
So this is the explanation of the sections of the Dhamma in the eighty-four thousand-fold division.


1. Discourse

Tattha, ekānusandhikaṁ suttaṁ eko Dhammakkhandho.
Herein, a discourse having one topic is one section of the Dhamma.

Yaṁ anekānusandhikaṁ tattha anusandhivasena Dhammakkhandhagaṇanā.
When there are various topics contained therein each topic is accordingly counted as one section of the Dhamma.

Gāthābandhesu pañhāpucchanaṁ eko Dhammakkhandho, vissajjanaṁ eko.
In verse composition the asking of a question is one section of the Dhamma, the answer another.


2. Abstract Teaching

Abhidhamme ekam-ekaṁ tikadukabhājanaṁ,
In the Abstract Teaching, each is divided into triplets and pairs,

ekam-ekañ-ca cittavārabhājanaṁ,
and each is divided into the chapter on mind (and so on),

ekam-eko Dhammakkhandho.
each one is a section of the Dhamma.


3. Discipline

Vinaye atthi vatthu, atthi mātikā, atthi padabhājanīyaṁ,
In the Discipline there is the basis, there is the rule, there is the word explanation,

atthi antarāpatti, atthi āpatti, atthi anāpatti, atthi tikacchedo.
there is derived offense, there is the offense, there is the non-offense, there is the triad.

Tattha, ekam-eko koṭṭhāso ekam-eko Dhammakkhandho ti veditabbo.
Herein, it should be understood that each portion is each one section of the Dhamma.

Evaṁ Dhammakkhandhavasena caturāsītisahassavidhaṁ.
Such is the the sections of the Dhamma in the eighty-four thousand-fold division.