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The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Anguttara Nikaya

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Discover with the original teachings of the Buddha in this thorough translation of some of the oldest Buddhist texts in the world.

Like the River Ganges flowing down from the Himalayas, the entire Buddhist tradition flows down to us from the teachings and deeds of the historical Buddha, who lived and taught in India during the fifth century B.C.E. To ensure that his legacy would survive the ravages of time, his direct disciples compiled records of the Buddha's teachings soon after his passing.

In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, which prevails in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, these records are regarded as the definitive "word of the Buddha." Preserved in Pali, an ancient Indian language closely related to the language that the Buddha spoke, this full compilation of texts is known as the Pali Canon.

At the heart of the Buddha's teaching were the suttas (Sanskrit sutras), his discourses and dialogues. If we want to find out what the Buddha himself actually said, these are the most ancient sources available to us. The suttas were compiled into collections called "Nikayas," of which there are four, each organized according to a different principle. The Digha Nikaya consists of longer discourses; the Majjhima Nikaya of middle-length discourses; the Samyutta Nikaya of thematically connected discourses; and the Anguttara Nikaya of numerically patterned discourses.

The Numerical Discourses  contains a full translation of the Anguttara Nikaya. The Anguttara arranges the Buddha's discourses in accordance with a numerical scheme intended to promote retention and easy comprehension. In an age when writing was still in its infancy, this proved to be the most effective way to ensure that the disciples could grasp and replicate the structure of a teaching.

Here’s what makes the Numerical Discourses special:

Insightful commentary from eminent scholar-monk Bhikkhu Bodhi Its comprehensive translation of the Anguttara Nikaya, part of the Pali Canon Teachings specifically for lay people and families Themes including family life, right livelihood, friendship, and meditation techniques laid out in a carefully organized thematic guide
In 2013, Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi was awarded the 2013 Khyentse Foundation Prize for Outstanding Translation.

Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation and compilation also includes a useful thematic guide to the Anguttara Nikaya, so that readers can browse the volume by topic. Find the teachings to further your practice and bring clarity to your life today by diving into this rich treasure of the Buddhist literary tradition. With this volume, readers can learn about the life of the Buddha, instructions for maintaining a harmonious household, monastic practice and lifestyle, meditation practice, and the Sangha (Buddhist community).

1944 pages, Hardcover

Published October 16, 2012

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About the author

Bhikkhu Bodhi

74 books201 followers
Bhikkhu Bodhi is an American Buddhist monk from New York City. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1944, he obtained a BA in philosophy from Brooklyn College (1966) and a PhD in philosophy from Claremont Graduate School (1972).

Drawn to Buddhism in his early 20s, after completing his university studies he traveled to Sri Lanka, where he received novice ordination in 1972 and full ordination in 1973, both under the late Ven. Ananda Maitreya, the leading Sri Lankan scholar-monk of recent times.

He was appointed editor of the Buddhist Publication Society (in Sri Lanka) in 1984 and its president in 1988. Ven. Bodhi has many important publications to his credit, either as author, translator, or editor, including the Buddha — A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya (co-translated with Ven. Bhikkhu Nanamoli (1995), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha — a New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya (2000), and In the Buddha’s Words (2005).

In May 2000 he gave the keynote address at the United Nations on its first official celebration of Vesak (the day of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and passing away). He returned to the U.S. in 2002. He currently resides at Chuang Yen Monastery and teaches there and at Bodhi Monastery. He is currently the chairman of Yin Shun Foundation.

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Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews
Profile Image for robin friedman.
1,769 reviews204 followers
July 30, 2022
The Anguttara Nikaya

The Anguttara Niikaya -- Numerical Discourses of the Buddha - is an integral text in the Pali Canon which constitutes the Scripture of Theravada Buddhism. The work is part of a series of four Nikayas or collections of discourses or suttas. The first three volumes, known as the Long Discourses, the Middle Length Discourses, and the Connected Discourses are available in companion translations from Wisdom Publications in a series called "Teachings of the Buddha". The American scholar-monk Bhikkhu Bodhi translated and prepared this volume of the Numerical Discourses. Bhikkhu Bodhi also translated the Connected Discourses in this series and edited and revised Bhikkhu Nanamoli's translation of the Middle Length Discourses.

The Numerical Discourses consist of almost 1600 pages of text together with an extended Introduction by Bhikkhu Bodhi, nearly 300 pages of endnotes, and several glossaries and indexes. The work can be daunting by its length and by its arrangement. It includes eleven books, each of which group and present the teachings on the basis of number, one thing for the ones, up to eleven for the elevens. There appears to be no other organizing principle for the work in its entirety. For those readers unfamiliar with how the numerical presentation works, here is an example. A key concept of Buddhism is the practice of metta, or loving-kindness and it is discussed in what follows late in the collection, in a sutta from the Book of the Elevens.

"Bhikkhus, when the liberation of the mind by loving-kindness has been pursued, developed, and cultivated, made a vehicle and basis, carried out, consolidated, and properly undertaken, eleven benefits are to be expected. What eleven?"

(1) One sleeps well; (2) one awakens happily; (3) one does not have bad dreams; (4) one is pleasing to human beings; (5) one is pleasing to spirits; (6)deities protect one; (7) fire, poison, and weapons do not injure one; (8) one's mind quickly becomes concentrated; (9) one's facial complexion is serene; (10)one dies unconfused; and (11)if one does not penetrate further, one fares on to the brahma world."

In some parts of the volume, a short discussion such as the above is followed by an expansion and elucidation of the component parts. That is not the case in this particular passage from the Elevens. (The quotation omits a short concluding paragraph.)

Bhikkhu Bodhi's Introduction to the volume is a guide to the reader and helps bring a sense of order to the collection. The three companion volumes of discourses have relatively clear audiences to whom they were directed and a clearer overriding theme than does the Numerical Discourses. Bhikkhu Bodhi finds that this collection is directed primarily to practice, with many suttas directed to those who have gone forth with a lesser but still substantial number directed towards families and individuals in the lay life. The texts, again, move without any obvious pattern from one to the other. Within each book, there frequently are substantial blocks of text where a theme is developed and expanded. Some of the discourses, such as the section I quoted, are short while others are lengthy and involved. Many of the teachings are presented in the form of stories, parables, or similes and Bhikkhu Bodhi has provided a helpful index to them.

The volume includes Bhikkhu Bodhi's "Thematic Guide to the Anguttara Nikaya" to help navigate the text. He has grouped the work into 13 broad themes beginning with "The Buddha" and concluding with "Types of Persons". Each category gets an exposition in the introduction. Bhikkhu Bodhi prepared a detailed table showing the passages in the volume that primarily address one of the thirteen themes. Bhikkhu Bodhi suggests that the new reader approach the book thematically before attempting to read the volume through.

There are many ways for different readers to approach a difficult text. I am fortunate to have some prior background in the suttas and to have time to devote to reading. I read the volume through from cover to cover. There were times, of course, when the reading flagged or slowed. And I felt first-hand the apparent random presentation of the text. For all that, the Numerical Discourses almost has a sense of unity. Working through the volume, I found myself in the presence of those who had followed the Buddha in the search for the spiritual life centuries ago. I felt primarily in the presence of the monks and nuns in the Buddha's Sangha. But the text also includes laypeople and followers of other teachers. A sense of removal from the character of everyday life, when lived without spiritual purpose, comes through, as the protagonists learn from the Buddha about the nature of suffering and the manner of its removal. There is much subtlety in the volume as people with disparate backgrounds and paths of life explore the teachings. Reading the book through gave me a feel for life in ancient India. Even the apparent randomness of the book, with many chapters introduced by the simple word "then" seems to me to capture the flowing way in which people and spiritual issues may have arisen in day to day life among the Buddha's followers.

The book is mixed in including some famous, proverbial texts, such as the Kalama Sutta, together with much that most readers will find unfamiliar. Sensuality and sexuality are ever-present in the book. The tone of the work, including its sense of spiritual removal and its treatment of sensuality and sexuality is established at the outset in the first ten short suttas from the Ones. The book begins with the Buddha addressing the monks:

"Bhikkhus, I do not see even one other form that so obsesses the mind of a man as the form of a woman. The form of a woman obsesses the mind of a man."

Five short suttas discuss the obsessive impact of female sexuality on men, followed by five parallel suttas on the obsessive impact of male sexuality on women. With these ten verses, the reader is already deep in the heart of the volume.

Within the four volumes of the Nikaya's, the Long and the Middle Length Discourses are more accessible to most readers than the Numerical Discourses. I had the good fortune of studying both these texts with a study group and devoted teacher for many years. The Numerical Discourses will appeal most to readers with at least some prior background in sutta study. It is a gift to have this volume available in English with Bhikkhu Bodhi as a teacher and guide.

Robin Friedman
Profile Image for robin friedman.
1,769 reviews204 followers
November 4, 2021
The Angutarra Nikaya

The Anguttara Niikaya -- Numerical Discourses of the Buddha - is an integral text in the Pali Canon which constitutes the Scripture of Theravada Buddhism. The work is part of a series of four Nikayas or collections of discourses or suttas. The first three volumes, known as the Long Discourses, the Middle Length Discourses, and the Connected Discourses are available in companion translations from Wisdom Publications in a series called "Teachings of the Buddha". The American scholar-monk Bhikkhu Bodhi translated and prepared this volume of the Numerical Discourses. Bhikkhu Bodhi also translated the Connected Discourses in this series and edited and revised Bhikkhu Nanamoli's translation of the Middle Length Discourses.

The Numerical Discourses consist of almost 1600 pages of text together with an extended Introduction by Bhikkhu Bodhi, nearly 300 pages of endnotes, and several glossaries and indexes. The work can be daunting by its length and by its arrangement. It includes eleven books, each of which group and present the teachings on the basis of number, one thing for the ones, up to eleven for the elevens. There appears to be no other organizing principle for the work in its entirety. For those readers unfamiliar with how the numerical presentation works, here is an example. A key concept of Buddhism is the practice of metta, or loving-kindness and it is discussed in what follows late in the collection, in a sutta from the Book of the Elevens.

"Bhikkhus, when the liberation of the mind by loving-kindness has been pursued, developed, and cultivated, made a vehicle and basis, carried out, consolidated, and properly undertaken, eleven benefits are to be expected. What eleven?"

(1) One sleeps well; (2) one awakens happily; (3) one does not have bad dreams; (4) one is pleasing to human beings; (5) one is pleasing to spirits; (6)deities protect one; (7) fire, poison, and weapons do not injure one; (8) one's mind quickly becomes concentrated; (9) one's facial complexion is serene; (10)one dies unconfused; and (11)if one does not penetrate further, one fares on to the brahma world."

In some parts of the volume, a short discussion such as the above is followed by an expansion and elucidation of the component parts. That is not the case in this particular passage from the Elevens. (The quotation omits a short concluding paragraph.)

Bhikkhu Bodhi's Introduction to the volume is a guide to the reader and helps bring a sense of order to the collection. The three companion volumes of discourses have relatively clear audiences to whom they were directed and a clearer overriding theme than does the Numerical Discourses. Bhikkhu Bodhi finds that this collection is directed primarily to practice, with many suttas directed to those who have gone forth with a lesser but still substantial number directed towards families and individuals in the lay life. The texts, again, move without any obvious pattern from one to the other. Within each book, there frequently are substantial blocks of text where a theme is developed and expanded. Some of the discourses, such as the section I quoted, are short while others are lengthy and involved. Many of the teachings are presented in the form of stories, parables, or similes and Bhikkhu Bodhi has provided a helpful index to them.

The volume includes Bhikkhu Bodhi's "Thematic Guide to the Anguttara Nikaya" to help navigate the text. He has grouped the work into 13 broad themes beginning with "The Buddha" and concluding with "Types of Persons". Each category gets an exposition in the introduction. Bhikkhu Bodhi prepared a detailed table showing the passages in the volume that primarily address one of the thirteen themes. Bhikkhu Bodhi suggests that the new reader approach the book thematically before attempting to read the volume through.

There are many ways for different readers to approach a difficult text. I am fortunate to have some prior background in the suttas and to have time to devote to reading. I read the volume through from cover to cover. There were times, of course, when the reading flagged or slowed. And I felt first-hand the apparent random presentation of the text. For all that, the Numerical Discourses almost has a sense of unity. Working through the volume, I found myself in the presence of those who had followed the Buddha in the search for the spiritual life centuries ago. I felt primarily in the presence of the monks and nuns in the Buddha's Sangha. But the text also includes laypeople and followers of other teachers. A sense of removal from the character of everyday life, when lived without spiritual purpose, comes through, as the protagonists learn from the Buddha about the nature of suffering and the manner of its removal. There is much subtlety in the volume as people with disparate backgrounds and paths of life explore the teachings. Reading the book through gave me a feel for life in ancient India. Even the apparent randomness of the book, with many chapters introduced by the simple word "then" seems to me to capture the flowing way in which people and spiritual issues may have arisen in day to day life among the Buddha's followers.

The book is mixed in including some famous, proverbial texts, such as the Kalama Sutta, together with much that most readers will find unfamiliar. Sensuality and sexuality are ever-present in the book. The tone of the work, including its sense of spiritual removal and its treatment of sensuality and sexuality is established at the outset in the first ten short suttas from the Ones. The book begins with the Buddha addressing the monks:

"Bhikkhus, I do not see even one other form that so obsesses the mind of a man as the form of a woman. The form of a woman obsesses the mind of a man."

Five short suttas discuss the obsessive impact of female sexuality on men, followed by five parallel suttas on the obsessive impact of male sexuality on women. With these ten verses, the reader is already deep in the heart of the volume.

Within the four volumes of the Nikaya's, the Long and the Middle Length Discourses are more accessible to most readers than the Numerical Discourses. I had the good fortune of studying both these texts with a study group and devoted teacher for many years. The Numerical Discourses will appeal most to readers with at least some prior background in sutta study. It is a gift to have this volume available in English with Bhikkhu Bodhi as a teacher and guide.

Robin Friedman
Profile Image for Andrew Cook.
7 reviews5 followers
May 22, 2017
At last, my copy is on it's way. It has been a long wait to complete my collection, but it will be worth it..

May you all find peace.
Profile Image for Steve.
651 reviews
October 9, 2017
I took 4 years to read this book. I like to read the Pali cannon, the remembered teachings of the Buddha, written much later, and now translated into modern English. To me these words are sacred.

There is now a complete translation of the Numerical Discourses, so I would get that book. This one came out in 1999, and when I got it, I think it was the only translation.

The life of a monk is very strict and dedicated, with many obstacles. And yet somehow I think there were fewer obstacles in the Buddha's time. That doesn't mean I believe in mappo.
Profile Image for Bilgehan.
31 reviews18 followers
Currently reading
January 14, 2023
(1) "Just as a man who has found satisfaction in the best of
tastes will no longer desire tastes of an inferior kind; so too,
sir, whatever one hears of Master Gotama's Dhamma—be it
discourses, mixed prose and verse, expositions, or amazing
accounts—one will no longer yearn for the doctrines of ordinary
ascetics and brahmins.

(2) "Just as a man oppressed by hunger and weakness who
receives a honey cake will enjoy a sweet, delicious taste wherever
he eats of it; so too, sir, whatever one hears of Master
Gotama's Dhamma— discourses, mixed prose and verse, expositions,
or amazing accounts— one will obtain satisfaction and
placidity of mind.

(3) "Just as a man who comes upon a piece of sandalwood,
whether yellow sandalwood or red sandalwood, will enjoy a
pure, fragrant scent wherever he smells it, be it at the bottom,
the middle, or the top; so too, sir, whatever one hears
of Master Gotama's Dhamma—discourses, mixed prose and
verse, expositions, or amazing accounts— one will derive elation
and joy.

(4) "Just as a capable physician might instantly cure one who
is afflicted,.sick, and gravely ill; so too, sir, whatever one hears
of Master Gotama's Dhamma— discourses, mixed prose and
verse, expositions, or amazing accounts—one's sorrow, Lamentation,
pain, dejection, and anguish will vanish.

(5) "Just as there might be a delightful pond with pleasant -
banks, its water clear, agreeable, cool, and limpid,, and a man
oppressed and exhausted by the heat, fatigued, parched, and
thirsty, might come by, enter the pond, and bathe and drink;
thus all his affliction, fatigue, and feverish burning would
subside. So too, sir, whatever, one hears of Master Gotama's
Dhaimna—discourses, mixed prose and verse, expositions, or
amazing accounts— all one's affliction, fatigue, and feverish
burning subside."
Profile Image for Carolynn.
9 reviews1 follower
October 25, 2020
I mean what can you say B.Bodhi has dedicated his life so that we may read this wisdom in our native languages. Many many and numerous bows.
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