Study Guide to the Majjhima Nikaya
Majjhima Nikaya, translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli & Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom Publications
The Majjhima Nikaya is a collection of 152 suttas of a "middle length" covering
a wide range of topics. It has been suggested that the suttas in this collection
were intended as a set of study texts for newly ordained monks as they
pursued spiritual development.
The best way to really get a deep understanding of what the Buddha taught is
to simply read a LOT of suttas. There is a huge variety of topics and a
bewildering array of teaching. But the important points do emerge by
themselves with repeated encounters. The following list is organized into
groups that reflect the order of importance according to my subjective and unenlightened opinion
as to the suttas that stress the important points:
- MN 9 - Right View
Sariputta teaches the wholesome and the unwholesome, nutriment, 4 Noble Truths, 12 factors of Dependent Origination, and the taints.
- MN 10 - The 4 Foundations of Mindfulness
This is one of the most important suttas; it outlines the path of practice in wonderful detail. See also DN 22.
- MN 22 - The Simile of the Snake
Contains not only the simile of the snake, but the simile of the raft, a deep teaching on non-self, a description of the arahant, the teaching of only "dukkha and its ending", abandoning the aggregates, stages of enlightenment. See also MN 109.
- MN 24 - The Relay Chariots
This sutta lays out the path of Insight. It forms the outline of the Visuddhimagga.
- MN 38 - The Greater Discourse on the Destruction of Craving
Dependent Origination in detail, the Training in brief.
- MN 39 - The Greater Discourse at Assapura
The Training (the development of the spiritual path) in detail; attitude towards eating. See also MN 27 & 53.
- MN 63 - The Shorter Discourse to Malunkyaputta
What the teaching is and is not; the simile of the poisoned arrow.
- MN 86 - On Angulimala
A mass murderer becomes enlightened
- MN 109 - The Greater Discourse on the Full Moon Night
Aggregates, clinging, personality view, realization of non-self; see also MN 22.
- MN 118 - Mindfulness of Breathing
The 16 parts of meditation on the breath, the 7 factors of enlightenment. [Bilingual excerpt here.]
- MN 141 - The Exposition of the Truths
Sariputta explains the 4 Noble Truths in detail.
- MN 26 - The Noble Search
The story of the Buddha's quest for Enlightenment.
- MN 36 - The Greater Discourse to Saccaka
Another telling of the story of the Buddha's quest for Enlightenment.
- MN 2 - All the Taints
7 methods for restraining and abandoning the fundamental defilements.
- MN 7 - The Simile of the Cloth
The Buddha illustrates the difference between a deluded mind and a pure mind.
- MN 18 - The Honeyball
Contact => Feeling => Perceptions =>
Thoughts => Mental Proliferations (papa˝ca)
- MN 20 - Removal of Distracting Thoughts
5 methods for dealing with distracting thoughts that may arise during meditation.
- MN 27 - The Shorter Discourse on the Simile of the Elephant's Footprint
The Training in detail.
- MN 53 - The Disciple in Higher Training
Ananda teaches the Training in detail.
- MN 60 - The Incontrovertible Teaching
The original formulation of what became known in the West as "Pascal's Wager".
- MN 61 - Advice to Rahula at Ambalatthika
The Buddha admonishes his son Rahula on the dangers of lying; the importance of motives.
- MN 62 - The Greater Discourse of Advice to Rahula
The Buddha teaches Rahula the 4 elements, mindfulness of breathing, and other topics.
- MN 71,72,73 - Discourses to Vacchagotta
The 3 fold knowledges; the simile of the fire gone out; Vacchagotta's conversion, training, and full enlightenment.
- MN 121 - The Shorter Discourse on Voidness,
An early teaching on how a deep perception of emptiness leads to enlightenment.
- MN 143 - Advice to Anathapindika
On his deathbed, Anathapindika hears a deep sermon on non-attachment from Sariputta.
- MN 146 - Advice from Nandaka
Nandaka teaches the nuns about the 6 senses, dependent arising, 7 factors of enlightenment.
- MN 148 & 149 - 6 Sets of 6 and The Great 6-fold Base
2 suttas on the 6 sense bases and how fully understanding what is happening with them leads to liberation.
- MN 8 - Effacement
The Jhanas are no big deal; moral behavior.
- MN 13 - Mass of Suffering
Sensual Pleasures and the Danger therein.
- MN 19 - Two Kinds of Thought
Unwholesome thoughts should be replaced with wholesome thoughts.
- MN 28 - The Greater Discourse on the Simile of the Elephant's Footprint
Sariputta explains the 4 Noble Truths, the 4 Elements, 5 Aggregates which are dependently arisen.
- MN 29 - The Greater Discourse on the Simile of the Heartwood
The goal - the heartwood - of the practice is the unshakeable deliverance of mind.
- MN 33 - The Greater Discourse on the Cowherd
11 factors of spiritual growth.
- MN 35 - The Shorter Discourse to Saccaka
A Debate; the 5 aggregates.
- MN 37 - The Greater Discourse on the Destruction of Craving
- MN 43 & 44 - Questions and Answers
Q & A
- MN 48 - At Kosambi
6 qualities that create love and respect, 7 knowledges from the fruit of stream entry.
- MN 52 - The man from Atthakanagara
Any Jhana can lead to enlightenment; the Jhanas 1-4, the 4 highest emotions, the Jhanas 5-7.
- MN 58 - To Prince Abhaya
- MN 64 - The Greater Discourse to Malunkyaputta
Abandoning the 5 lower fetters; using the factors of the 1st 7 Jhanas for insight work.
- MN 87 - Born from those Who are Dear
How those who are dear to us bring us pain.
- MN 95 - With Canki
How to seek the Truth.
- MN 107 - To Ganaka Moggallana
The Training taught by "The Shower of the Way".
- MN 112 - The Sixfold Purity
Description of the mind of an enlightened one. This sutta uses "consciousness" (vi˝˝ana) in 4 different ways: as one of the 5 aggregates, as one of the 6 elements, as sense consciousness, and as mind (as the counterpart to body). [It is probably a late, composite sutta.]
- MN 114 - To Be and To Not Be Cultivated
How to behave.
- MN 117 - The great Forty
Right View explained in detail via its relationship to the other factors of the 8-fold Path.
- MN 119 - Mindfulness of the Body
Mindfulness of the Body and its relationship to the Jhanas.
- MN 125 - The Grade of the Tamed
The training of a disciple is like the training of an elephant.
- MN 138 - The Exposition of a Summary
Don't get stuck on the senses; Jhanas; non-self leads to non-agitation - cf. MN 22.
- MN 145 - Advice to Punna
Guarding the senses; "What if someone abuses you?"
- MN 147 - Advice to Rahula
The Buddha's discourse on non-self that leads to his son's enlightenment.
- MN 152 - The Development of the Faculties
Guarding the senses.
- MN 108 - With Gopaka Moggallana
After the Buddha's passing, Ananda teaches 10 qualities that inspire confidence in one who has them; right meditation.
- MN 15 - Check up on yourself
- MN 31 - Congenial communal living
- MN 40 - Morality
- MN 47 - Qualities of a true teacher
- MN 51 - Training path
- MN 79 - "Let be the past, let be the future; I shall teach you Dhamma..."
- MN 85 - Biographical information; 5 factors of striving
- MN 106 - Jhanas 7 & 8 lead to Nibbana
- MN 123 - The Buddha's birth myth
- MN 131-134 - One fortunate attachment
- MN 139 - The Middle Way, Right Speech, pleasures of the senses vs pleasure of the Jhanas
- MN 142 - Giving, including the 4 kinds of giving
- MN 21 - The Simile of the Saw - Patience
- MN 30 - Another heartwood sutta; contradicts MN 27, MN 29, DN 2, etc.
- MN 55 - Eating meat
- MN 56 - Debate with a Jain
- MN 74 - How Sariputta became enlightened - version #1, Biographical information
- MN 75 - Biographical information, Sense Pleasures
- MN 77 - 37 Factors of Enlightenment; Jhanas plus Insight
- MN 111 - One by One as They Occurred - How Sariputta became enlightened - version #2.
- MN 113 - Thinking that the Jhanas are a big deal is "untrue"
- MN 115 - The elements, sense bases, dependent origination, possible and impossible situations
- MN 127 - Instruction for the 5th Jhana
- MN 128 - Living together, Biographical information; hindering mind states. A source (along with Dhp 1.5) of
"In this world hatred is never appeased by hatred;
hatred is only appeased by love. This is an eternal law."
- MN 140 - (Late sutta) 6 elements, 6 sense bases, 18 kinds of mental exploration, 4 foundations of enlightenment
- MN 144 - A monk commits suicide and becomes enlightened as he dies.
- MN 151 - Various aspects of the path.
- MN 1 - The Root of All Things - A very difficult to understand non-dual teaching.
- MN 4 - Dealing with fear, Biographical information
- MN 12 - Biographical information
- MN 68 - The Buddha says that he doesn't declare the destination of one who has died to deceive or flatter people, but because it gladdens and inspires the faithful
- MN 97 - Sariputta guides the brahmin Dhananjani to rebirth in the Bhrama-world via brahma vihara practice, but is reprimanded by the Buddha for not having taught him teachings that would lead to stream entry
- MN 102 - Like DN 1, corrupted(?)
- MN 129-130 - Heaven and Hell; 129 includes the simile of the blind sea turtle
- MN 135 - How Karma fruits
- MN 136 - Karma is complex
- MN 84-101 - Various teaching about other religious beliefs.
Suttas that mention the Jhanas in a significant way
- MN 4, 6, 8, 13, 19, 35, 30, 31, 36, 38, 43, 45, 53, 53, 59, 64, 65, 66,
76, 77, 78, 79, 85, 106, 107, 108, 111, 112, 113, 119, 121, 128, 137, 138,
Suttas with biographical information
- MN 26, 36; 4, 12, 74, 75, 85, 87, 100, 123, 128
Back to the Study Guide to the Suttas
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