There are ancient commentaries to almost all of the Buddha's discourses.
Some of these have been translated into English and are readily available.
Additionally, there are modern commentaries to some of the most important
suttas. On this page, I will list as many of these commentaries as I know of.
However, first a few words of caution about working with commentaries to the Buddha's
discourses: The quality of the information in the commentaries, both ancient
and modern, varies enormously. Some of it is very helpful, some is mythological,
some is just plain wrong. There are several schools of thought about the commentaries:
The Buddha's discourses are clear enough to stand on their own; commentaries
should be ignored since they are not really needed and contain so much misinformation.
Although the Buddha's discourses should be viewed as the ultimate authority,
there is valuable information in the commentaries for the reader with a critical eye.
The commentaries represent many years of practical research into what the
Buddha taught and are often clearer than the suttas themselves.
Surprisingly, view #3 predominates in Asia. The vast body of Mahayana literature
is commentarial. The suttas found in the Pali canon are not nearly so highly
esteemed as the later works, which of course are more in line with the basic
Mahayana emphasis. But even in the Theravadan countries, the views of the
Visuddhimagga (the "Mother of All Commentaries") predominate over the suttas
So how should a Western reader of the suttas approach the commentaries?
My own view is more closely aligned with #2. I suggest carefully reading a sutta
before reading any introduction or commentary. Even read the the sutta several
times; form your own opinion; then approach the commentarial material
with an open mind and a very critical eye. If you find a seeming contradiction,
go with the sutta until your practice experience tells you otherwise.
Also be very wary when reading commentaries from other traditions.
This compilation will be an on going project - your help will be much appreciated:
If you know of other ancient or modern sutta commentaries that are readily
available, please email me the info at
- please include the sutta number, both Pali name and English name
(if available), the name of the commentary and if possible, a link
to the commentary if it is on-line, otherwise a link to a place where
it can be purchased (at Wisdom, Pariyatti, Shambala, or even Amazon if you
can't find a publisher link). Feel free to add a review of the work if you wish
(although I will probably only put negative reviews on this page - to serve as a warning).
Many thanks to Lynn Kelly for starting this project and for suggesting that
I host it on this website.
Buddhist Publication Society
Wheel booklet series
Bodhi Leaves booklet series
Mahasi Sayadaw has written a number of commentaries on various suttas.
As I get time, I will add the individual references, but for now be sure
to check http://www.mahasi.com/
for over a dozen of these works (scroll to near the bottom of the page).
DN#1 - Brahmajala Sutta: The All-Embracing Net of Views
Satipatthana ~ Analayo, Windhorse Books, 2003, ISBN: 1899579540
A thorough and insightful guide to the deceptively simple yet profound teaching found in the Satipatthana Sutta.
The Heart of Buddhist Meditation ~ Nyanaponika Thera, Samuel Weiser, Inc, 1974.
In addition to the commentary, there is translation of the sutta plus a nice selection of other suttas.
Thich Nhat Hanh - who usually writes wonderful books - has a commentary on the Satipatthana Sutta that is terrible.
Avoid wasting your time with the confusing mishmash of misinformation in Transformation and Healing.
MN#11 - Cula-sihanada Sutta: The Shorter Discourse on the Lion's Roar
MN#12 - Maha-sihanada Sutta: The Great Discourse on the Lion's Roar
The Lion's Roar: Two Discourses of Buddha, by Bhikkhu Ñanamoli, trans.; Bhikkhu Bodhi, ed., BPS - WH 390, 1993;
Contains the 2 suttas and valuable introductions for each.
[This entire book is available on-line.]
MN#20 - Vitakka-Santhana Sutta: The Removal of Distracting Thoughts