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Khuddaka Nikāya - Books 1-4

Khuddaka Nikāya

Of the five Nikāyas, Khuddaka Nikāya contains the largest number of treatises (as listed below) and the most numerous categories of dhamma.

Although the word “Khuddaka” literally means "minor" or "small", the actual content of this collection can by no means be regarded as minor, including as it does the two major divisions of the Pitaka, namely, the Vinaya Pitaka and the Abhidhamma Pitaka according to one system of classification.

The miscellaneous nature of this collection, containing not only the discourses by the Buddha but compilations of brief doctrinal notes mostly in verse, accounts of personal struggles and achievements by theras and theris also in verse, the birth stories, the history of the Buddha etc., may account for its title.

The following is the list of treatises as approved by the Sixth International Buddhist Synod.

Khuddaka Nikāya:

  I.  Vinaya Pitaka
 II.  Abhidhamma Pitaka
III.  Suttas not included in the first four Nikāyas:

(1) Khuddaka Pāṭha (2) Dhammapada (3) Udāna (4) Itivuttaka (5) Suttanipāta
(6) Vimānavatthu (7) Petavatthu (8) Theragāthā (9) Therīgāthā (10) Jātaka
(11) Niddesa (Mahā, Cūḷa) (12) Paṭisaṁbhidā Magga (13) Apadāna (14) Buddhavaṁsa
(15) Cariyā Piṭaka (16) Netti (17) Peṭakopadesa (18) Milinda Pañhā

(1) Khuddakapāṭha Pāḷi

First of the treatises in this Nikāya, Khuddakapāṭha, contains “readings of mirror passages” most of which are also found in other parts of Tipiṭaka.

It is a collection of nine short formulae and suttas used as a manual for novices under training, namely:

(a) the three refuges (b) the Ten Precepts (c) the thirty-two parts of the body (d) simple Dhammas for novices in the form of a catechism (e) Mangala Sutta (f) Ratana Sutta (g) Tirokuṭṭa Sutta (h) Niḍhikaṇḍa Sutta and (i) Metta Sutta.

Taking refuge in the Three Gems, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, by reciting the formula:

"I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dhamma, I take refuge in the Sangha,"

is a conscious act of expression of complete faith in the Three Gems, not mere profession of superficial belief nor a rite of traditional piety.

It implies (1) ones humility; (2) acceptance of the Triple Gems as ones guiding principles and ideals; (3) acceptance of discipleship and (4) homage.

In the section on Kumāra pañha, questions for young boys, the dhamma is tailored to suit the young intellect of novices:

What is the One?   — The Nutriment which sustains the life of beings.

What are the Two? — Nāma and Rūpa.

What are the Three? — Pleasant, Unpleasant, Neutral Vedanās

What are the Four? — The Four Noble Truths.

What are the Five? — The five groups of grasping.

What are the Six? — The six bases of senses.

What are the Seven? — The seven factors of enlightenment.

What are the Eight? — The Noble Path of Eight Constituents.

What are the Nine? — The nine abodes or types of beings.

What are the Ten? — The ten demeritorious courses of action

Mahā Magala Sutta, the discourse on the great blessings, is a famous sutta cherished highly in all Buddhist countries. It is a comprehensive summary of Buddhist ethics for the individual as well as for society, composed in elegant verses.

The thirty-eight blessings enumerated in the sutta as unfailing guides throughout ones life start with advice on “avoidance of bad company” and provide ideals and practices basic to all moral and spiritual progress, for the welfare and happiness of the individual, the family and the community.

The final blessing is on the development of the mind which is unruffled by vagaries of fortune, affected by sorrow, cleansed of defilements and which thus gains liberation — the mind of an Arahat.

The Ratana Sutta was delivered by the Buddha when Vesālī was plagued by famine, disease etc. He had been requested by the Licchavi Princes to come from Rājagaha to Vesālī.

The sutta was delivered for the purpose of countering the plagues, by invocation of the truth of the special qualities of the Three Gems, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.

The Metta Sutta was taught to a group of bhikkhus who were troubl­ed by non-human beings while sitting in meditation at the foot of secluded forest trees.

The Buddha showed them how to develop loving-kindness towards all beings, the practice which will not only protect them from harm but also will serve as a basis for insight through attainment of jhāna.

The Khuddakapāṭha which is a collection of these nine formulae and suttas appears to be arranged in such a way as to form a continuous theme demonstrating the practice of the holy life:

how a person accepts the Buddhas Teaching by taking refuge in the Three Gems; then how he observes the Ten Precepts for moral purification.

Next he takes up a meditation subject, the contemplation of thirty-two constituents of the body, to develop non-attachment.

He is shown next the virtues and merits of giving and how one handicaps oneself by not performing acts of merit. In the meanwhile he safeguards himself by reciting the Maṅgala Sutta and provides protection to others by reciting the Ratana Sutta.

Finally, he develops loving-kindness towards all beings, thereby keeping himself safe from harm, at the same time he achieves jhānic concentration which will eventually lead him to reach the goal of spiritual life, Nibbāna, by means of knowledge of Insight and the Path.

(2) The Dhammapada Pāḷi

It is a book of the Tipiṭaka which is popular and well-known not only in Buddhist countries but also elsewhere.

The Dhammapada' is a collection of the Buddha's words or basic and essential principles of the Buddha's Teaching. It consists of 423 verses arranged according to topics in twenty-six vaggas or chapters.

Verse 183 gives the teachings of the Buddha in a nutshell: Abstain from all evil; Promote (develop) what is good and purify your mind.

Each stanza is packed with the essence of Truth which illumines the path of a wayfarer. Many are the Dhammapada verses which find their way into the writings and everyday speech of the Buddhists.

One can get much sustenance and encouragement from the Dhammapada not only for spiritual development but also for everyday living.

The Dhammapada describes the path which a wayfarer should follow:

It states (in verses 277, 278 and 279) that all conditioned things are transitory and impermanent; that all conditioned things are subject to suffering; and that all things (dhammas) are insubstantial, incapable of being called ones own.

When one sees the real nature of things with (vipassanā) insight, one becomes disillusioned with the charms and attractions of the Five Aggregates. Such disillusionment constitutes the path of purity (Nibbāna).

Verse 243 defines the highest form of impurity as ignorance (avijjā) and states that the suffering in the world can be brought to an end only by the destruction of craving or hankering after sensual pleasures.

Greed, ill will and ignorance are described as dangerous as fire and unless they are held under restraint, a happy life is impossible both now and thereafter.

Avoiding the two extremes, namely, indulgence in a life of sensuous pleasures and the practice of self-mortification, one must follow the Middle Path, the Noble Path of Eight Constituents to attain perfect Peace, Nibbāna.

Attainment to the lowest stage (Sotāpatti Magga) on this Path shown by the Buddha is to be preferred even to the possession of the whole world (V. 178).

The Dhammapada emphasizes that one makes or mars oneself, and no one else can help one to rid oneself of impurity. Even the Buddhas cannot render help; they can only show the way and guide; a man must strive for himself.

The Dhammapada recommends a life of peace and non-violence and points out the eternal law that hatred does not cease by hatred, enmity is never overcome by enmity but only by kindness and love (V.5).

It advises to conquer anger by loving-kindness, evil by good, miserliness by generosity, and falsehood by truth.

The Dhammapada contains gems of literary excellence, replete with appropriate similes and universal truths and is thus found appealing and edifying by readers all the world over.

Dhammapada serves as a digest of the essential principles and features of the Buddha Dhamma as well as of the wisdom of all the ages.

(3) Udāna Pāḷi

An udāna is an utterance mostly in metrical form inspired by a particularly intense emotion.

This treatise is a collection of eighty joyful utterances made by the Buddha on unique occasions of sheer bliss; each udāna in verse is accompanied by an account in prose of the circumstances that led to their being uttered.

For example, in the first Bodhivagga Sutta are recorded the first words spoken aloud by the newly Enlightened Buddha in three stanzas beginning with the famous opening lines: "Yadā have pātubhavanti dhammā, Ātāpino jhāyato brāhmaṇassa."

For seven days after his Enlightenment, the Buddha sat at the foot of the Bodhi tree feeling the bliss of liberation.

At the end of seven days, he emerged from this (Phala Samāpatti) sustained absorption in Fruition- Mind, to deliberate upon the principle of Dependent Origination:

When this is, that is (Imasmiṁ sati, idaṁ hoti); this having arisen, that arises (Imassuppādā, idaṁ uppajjati); when this is not, that is not (Imasmiṁ asati, idaṁ na hoti); this having ceased, that ceases (Imassa nirodhā, idaṁ nirujjhati).

In the first watch of the night, when the principle of the origin of the whole mass of suffering was thoroughly grasped in a detailed manner in the order of arising, the Buddha uttered the first stanza of joy:

"When the real nature of things becomes clear to the ardently meditating recluse, then all his doubts vanish, because he understands what that nature is as well as its cause."

In the second watch of the night, his mind was occupied with the principle of Dependent Origination in the order of ceasing.

When the manner of cessation of suffering was thoroughly understood, the Buddha was moved again to utter the second stanza of jubilation:

"When the real nature of things becomes clear to the ardently meditating recluse, then all his doubts vanish, because he perceives the cessation of causes."

In the third watch of the night, the Buddha went over the detailed formula of the principle of Dependent Origination, Paṭicca Samuppāda, in both the orders of arising and ceasing.

Then having mastered the doctrine of Dependent Origination very thoroughly, the Buddha uttered the third stanza of solemn utterance:

"When the real nature of things becomes clear to the ardently meditating recluse, then like the sun that illumines the sky, he stands repelling the dark hosts of Mara."

(4) Itivuttaka Pāḷi

The fourth treatise contains 112 suttas divided into four nipātas with verses and prose mixed, one supplementing the other.

Although the collection contains the inspired sayings of the Buddha as in Udāna, each passage is preceded by the phrase “Iti vutta Bhagavatā”, “thus was said by the Buddha,” and reads like a personal note book in which are recorded short pithy sayings of the Buddha.

The division into nipātas instead of vaggas denotes that the collection is classified in ascending numerical order of the categories of the dhamma as in the nipātas of the Aṅguttara.

Thus in Ekaka Nipāta are passages dealing with single items of the dhamma:

“Bhikkhus, abandon craving; I guarantee attainment to the stage of an Anāgāmi if you abandon craving."

In Duka Nipāta, each passage deals with units of two items of the dhamma:

There are two forms of Nibbāna dhātu, namely, Sa-upādisesa Nibbāna dhātu, with the five khandhas still remaining, and Anupādisesa Nibbāna dhātu, without any khandha remaining.