The complete PDF version of Bhikkhu Nanamoli’s anthology Life of the Buddha According to the Pali Canon is now available as a free download from Pariyatti.org.
This anthology pieces together the biographical information about the Buddha into a continuous narrative from throughout the Pali canon. Several features make this book uniquely valuable:
Many books about the Buddha do not make clear where the material is coming from. In this book it gives clear references to the original texts or makes clear that material comes from the ancient commentaries.
Texts from the Vinaya: This is one of the only easily available English sources of text from the Vinaya in print form. Most of the Vinaya is rules for the monks and nuns but there are many important parts of the Buddha’s life explained
There are also texts that explain basic doctrinal information. In many cases repetitions are removed to make it easier for people new to reading suttas.
Be sure to read and understand the explanation of the “cast” of voices that the author uses to present the text, found on the page immediately before the first reading.
Scroll down and look for the free download link. Pariyatti is an official publisher of this book (along with the Buddhist Publication Society) so this is a legitimate offer. Now, if you buy the print edition you get a free copy of an epub and mobi. Or you can buy the epub and mobi alone.
This chart (as shown in the image above) lists the five main Nikayas and the first ten books of the Khuddaka Nikaya. It also includes the common translation of the title if there is one as well as the number of suttas or verses each contains. The exact numbers sometimes varies according the the original manuscript. These numbers are based on the Sri Lankan Buddha Jayanti Edition.
We need to not only be comfortable knowing what the books are and where to find them, but we should feel confident in pronouncing them as well. This is an MP3 recording of all the titles twice with a pause between each one so you can practice.
Test your knowledge by using this puzzle. See how quickly you can assemble the canon. The pieces can also be folded in half and used as small flash cards, or cut appart the Pali and English names for an extra challenge.
Have you memorized the list of the books in the Sutta Pitaka by heart? How has it helped you to feel comfortable and confident when approaching the teachings? Leave you comments below.
Because there is no single vloume that contains all of the ancient Pali scriptures, it can be a little confusing trying to complete your collection. It can also be difficult to decide which translations are best and whether or not the book is a complete translation or just an an thology.
Below is a link to a two-page PDF that gives book recommendations and sources for building a near complete library of the teachings of the Buddha found in the suttas. It is intended to be a resource for people beginning to explore the suttas as well as people who are tasked with creating an actual sutta library for an organization. It is also very useful for Buddhist families where the parents want their children to grow up in a home that has all of the Blessed One’s teaching.
Use this list to build a basic collection of the discourses of Gotama Buddha that is very accurate and written in clear English. The following is a good foundation for a sutta library; other translations may be obtained later as interest grows. For other reliable translations, visit the Canonical Collections for Practice page at ReadingFaithfully.org. Paperback editions are listed when available. See the second page for useful anthologies and book sources. Those books marked with a * can be given priority for people just starting to read the suttas.
These are books of suttas grouped in the ancient categories. Unless otherwise indicated, they are complete translations.
TheLongDiscoursesoftheBuddha:ATranslationoftheDīghaNikāya, by Maurice Walsh (Wisdom Publications, ISBN: 978-0861711031)
* TheMiddleLengthDiscoursesoftheBuddha:ATranslationoftheMajjhimaNikaya, by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli, edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi (Wisdom Publications, ISBN: 978-0861710720)
TheConnectedDiscoursesoftheBuddha:ATranslationoftheSaṁyuttaNikāya, by Bhikkhu Bodhi (Wisdom Publications, ISBN: 978-0861713318)The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Anguttara Nikaya, by Bhikkhu Bodhi (Wisdom Publications, ISBN: 978-1614290407)
* The Dhammapada: The Buddha’s Path of Wisdom, by Acharya Buddharakkhita (BPS, BP203S)
* TheUdānaandtheItivuttaka:TwoClassicsfromthePaliCanon, by John D. Ireland (BPS, BP214S)
The Suttanipāta: An Ancient Collection of the Buddha’s Discourses Together with Its Commentaries, by Bhikkhu Bodhi (Wisdom Publications, ISBN: 9781614294290)
Stories of Heavenly Mansions (Vimānavatthu) and Stories of Ghosts (Petavatthu), by Ven. Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thera. Complete translations in simple, modern language. (Mahamegha Publications, available on Amazon.com)
The Voice of Enlightened Monks(Theragāthā), by Ven. Kiribathgoda Gnanananda (Mahamegha Publications, available on Amazon.com). For a more literal translation, try Poems of Early Buddhist Monks (Theragāthā), by K. R. Norman (PTS, paperback ISBN 0 86013 339 7)
The Voice of EnlightenedNuns(Therīgāthā), by Ven. Kiribathgoda Gnanananda (Mahamegha Publications, available on Amazon.com) Poems of Early Buddhist Nuns (Therīgāthā), by Mrs. C.A.F. Rhys Davids and K. R. Norman (PTS, paperback ISBN 0 86013 289 7)
JatakaTalesoftheBuddha:AnAnthology (three volume set) by Ken and Visakha Kawasaki (BPS, BP 622S / BP 623S / BP 624S) This is a collection of the commentarial stories with the verses included in the prose narration. It is a selection of the most important stories.
*IntheBuddha’sWords:AnAnthologyofDiscoursesfromthePaliCanon, Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi (Wisdom Publications, ISBN: 978-0861714919) This is the single best starting place for beginning to read the teachings of the Buddha.
Handful of Leaves Volumes 1–4 (an anthology of the suttas), Dhammapada, Itivuttaka, Merit,IntotheStream,AMediator’sTools,BeyondCoping,ABurdenOfftheMind,MindfuloftheBody,RecognizingtheDhamma.AlltranslatedbyAjahnṬhanissaro(MettaForestMonastery,free)
EverysuttalibrarymusthaveagoodEnglishdictionaryreadilyavailableforlookingupunfamiliarwords.Itshouldbeas large as possible.
Concise Pali-English Dictionary, by A.P. Buddhadata Mahathera. Provides simple definitions for thousands of Pali words. Available from Pariyatti.org. (Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN: 978-81-208-0605-4, Paperback)