The Long Discourses of the Buddha (Dīgha Nikāya) is the first of the five Nikāyas (Collections) in the Sutta Pitaka and has its own particular character. Unlike the others which contain thousands of shorter discourses (suttas), it comprises just 34 but of much longer length - as the name indicates! This makes it in some ways a more focused collection of teachings of the Buddha and especially accessible in audio. Among them are some important texts distinctive in character and crucial to the early Buddhist tradition. The Long Discourses is divided into three chapters or Vaggas: Chapter on Ethics (Sīlakkhanda Vagga), The Great Chapter (Mahā Vagga) and finally Chapter on Pātikaputta (Pātikaputta Vagga).
Throughout The Long Discourses many different expositions of and approaches to the Dhamma are presented. The Chapter on Ethics (teachings on morality, meditation and wisdom) opens with The Prime Net. It is an absorbing discussion of the many (62!) philosophical speculations which the Buddha declares are not conducive to the main purpose of his teaching to attain ‘extinguishment’ or nibbana - and are thus just distractions. The Great Chapter has The Great Discourse on the Buddha’s Extinguishment (the Mahāparanibbāna Sutta), which tells of the events surrounding the Buddha’s death. It is the longest of all the 34 Discourses and in many ways is the centrepiece of the Collection. Also here can be found The Longer Discourse on Mindfulness Meditation, the most extensive elucidation of mindfulness in the Pāli Canon. The whole Collection draws to a close with two discourses featuring Sāriputta - who gives clear and unequivocal listings of Buddhist doctrines arranged in numerical sequence.
This new and modern English version of The Long Discourses is by the Australian-born Theravadin monk Bhikkhu Sujato, who has undertaken a translation of the four main Nikāyas expressly to present the works in an accessible manner for the 21st century. He has dealt flexibly with the numerous repetitions embedded in the original texts - eliding sentences where necessary to keep the content and the message fresh and alive. He has further given his translations a new character by boldly taking the primary Pāli words central to our reception of the Dhamma to date and given them a new expression in English: ‘extinguishment’ for nibbana’, ‘absorption’ for jhana, immersion’ for samādhi and ‘the Realised One’ for Tathāgata. In this manner, Bhikkhu Sujato has made a particularly welcome contribution to the 21st dissemination of the Dhamma, and it is nowhere more evident than in The Long Discourses. He has also offered brief but meaningful introductions to each of the 34 Discourses which helpfully set the topic or the scene. The Long Discourses is read in an engaged and clear manner by Taradasa.