Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta

The Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta (Pali for "Right View Discourse") is a Pali Canon discourse that provides an elaboration on the Buddhist notion of "right view" by the Buddha's chief disciple, Ven. Sariputta. The Chinese canon contains two corresponding translations, the Maha Kotthita Sutra (大拘絺羅經) and the Kotthita Sutra (拘絺羅經).

Right view is the first factor of the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path, the path that leads to the cessation of suffering.[1] Right view is considered the "forerunner" of all other path factors.[2] Historically, this particular discourse has been used as a primer for monks in South and Southeast Asian monasteries[3] and is read aloud monthly in some Mahayana monasteries.

In the Pali Canon, the Sammaditthi Sutta is the ninth discourse in the Majjhima Nikaya ("Middle-length Collection," abbreviated as either "MN" or "M") and is designated by either "MN 9"[4] or "M.1.1.9"[5] or "M i 46".[6] In the Chinese canon, the Maha Kotthita Sutra (大拘絺羅經) is found in the Taisho Tripitaka Vol. 1, No. 26, page 461, sutra 29 and the Kotthita Sutra (拘絺羅經) is found in the Taisho Tripitaka Vol. 2, No. 99, page 94, sutra 344.


In this discourse, Ven. Sariputta addresses a congregation of monks (bhikkhu) about how (in English and Pali):

At the monks' repeated urging, Ven. Sariputta then identifies the following sixteen cases (pariyāya)[11] through which a noble disciple could achieve right view:

Right view is achieved for the last fifteen of these cases by understanding (pajānāti) the four phases of each case:[12]

  • the constituents of the case
  • its origin
  • its cessation
  • the way leading to its cessation

Unwholesome and wholesomeEdit

Ven. Sariputta describes the "unwholesome" (akusala) as entailing ten different actions of three different types:[13]

  • physical actions: killing (pāṇātipāto), stealing (adinnādānaṃ) and sexual misconduct (kāmesumicchācāro);
  • verbal actions: lying (musāvādo), divisive speech (pisuṇāvācā), harsh speech (pharusāvācā) and idle chatter (samphappalāpo);
  • mental actions: covetousness (abhijjhā), ill will (byāpādo) and wrong view (micchādiṭṭhi).

The "root of the unwholesome" (akusalamūla) is threefold:

  • greed (lobho)
  • hatred (doso)
  • delusion (moho)

The wholesome (kusala) entails abstention (veramaṇī) from the aforementioned unwholesome physical and verbal acts as well as non-covetousness (anabhijjhā), non-ill will (abyāpādo) and right view (sammādiṭṭhi). The wholesome's root (kusalamūla) is nongreed (alobho), nonhatred (adoso) and nondelusion (amoho).

Understanding (pajānāti) these twenty actions and six roots, the noble disciple abandons greed, aversion, conceit and ignorance, arouses wisdom, ends suffering and is one of right view.


Ven. Sariputta describes the "nutriments" (āhāro) as fourfold:

  • physical food (kabaliṅkāro)
  • contact (phasso)
  • mental volition (manosañcetanā)
  • consciousness (viññāṇa)

The arising (origin) of nutriment is due to the arising of craving. The cessation of nutriment is the cessation of craving. The way leading to the cessation of nutriment is the Noble Eightfold Path. Understanding nutriment, its origin, cessation and the way leading to its cessation, the noble disciple abandons greed, aversion, conceit and ignorance, arouses wisdom, ends suffering and is one of right view.

Four noble truthsEdit

  The 12 Nidānas:  
Name & Form
Six Sense Bases
Old Age & Death

Ven. Sariputta describes the Four Noble Truths using traditional canonical phrases:[14]

  • suffering (dukkha) is birth, aging, sickness, death, ... in short, the five aggregates of clinging.
  • the origin of suffering (dukkhasamudaya) is craving (tanha) ... for sensual pleasures, being and non-being.
  • the cessation of suffering (dukkhanirodha) is ... the letting go and rejecting of craving.
  • the way leading to the cessation of suffering (dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā) is the Noble Eightfold Path (ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo).

Understanding suffering, its origin, cessation and the way leading to its cessation, the noble disciple abandons greed, aversion, conceit and ignorance, arouses wisdom, ends suffering and is one of right view.

Twelve causesEdit

Ven. Sariputta then describes individually each of the twelve causes (represented in the sidebar to the right) of Dependent Origination using traditional canonical phrases, starting with "aging and death" (jaramarana) and regressing to "ignorance" (avijjā).[15]

In this formulation, the next further back cause is the "origin" of the current cause. Thus, for instance, the origin of "aging and death" is "birth" (jati), the origin of "birth" is "becoming" (bhava), etc. Here, the origin of "ignorance" is the "taints" (āsava, see below). The cause's cessation is its temporal predecessor's cessation (for instance, old age and death cease when birth ceases). The way leading to the cessation of any of these twelve causes is the Noble Eightfold Path.

Understanding any one of these twelve causes, its origin, cessation and the way leading to its cessation, the noble disciple abandons greed, aversion, conceit and ignorance, arouses wisdom, ends suffering and is one of right view.[16]


Naturally following through on his assertion that ignorance arises from the taints, Ven. Sariputta next enumerates the three taints (tayo āsava):

The origin of the taints is in turn ignorance (avijjā).[17]

Understanding the taints, their origin (ignorance), cessation (the cessation of ignorance) and the way leading to their cessation (the Noble Eightfold Path), the noble disciple abandons greed, aversion, conceit and ignorance, arouses wisdom, ends suffering and is one of right view.

Upon hearing this last case described, the monks were satisfied.

Related canonical discoursesEdit

Throughout the Pali Canon, other discourses underline and amplify the topics discussed in this discourse. Below is a sample of such discourses regarding the definition of right view, wholesome and unwholesome actions, and the roots of greed, hate and delusion.

Magga-vibhanga Sutta (SN 45.8)Edit

In the "An Analysis of the Path" discourse (SN 45.8), the Buddha is recorded as uttering a brief formula for defining "right view":

This pithy phrase reflects the core process of the Sammaditthi Sutta insomuch that each of the discourse's cases is analyzed in terms of its existence, its origin, its cessation and the way leading to its cessation (that is, the Noble Eightfold Path).[20]

This condensed formulaic definition of "right view" is found in other canonical discourses as well as in the Abhidhamma Pitaka.[21] In addition, in the Pali literature, this same definition is provided for "wisdom" (vijjā),[22] "non-delusion" (amoho),[23] and the "four knowledges of this world" (aparāni cattāri ñāṇāni).[24]

Saleyyaka Sutta (MN 41)Edit

In "The Brahmans of Sala" discourse (MN 41), as elsewhere in the Canon, the Buddha elaborates in detail on the ten unwholesome and ten wholesome actions. For instance, regarding unwholesome mental actions, the Buddha is recorded as having stated:

"And how are there three kinds of mental conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct? Here someone is covetous: he is a coveter of another's chattels and property thus: 'Oh, that what is another's were mine!' Or he has a mind of ill-will, with the intention of a mind affected by hate thus: 'May these beings be slain and slaughtered, may they be cut off, perish, or be annihilated!' Or he has wrong view, distorted vision, thus: 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed, no fruit and ripening of good and bad kammas [action], no this world, no other world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously (born) beings, no good and virtuous monks and brahmans that have themselves realized by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world....'"[25]

Mula Sutta (AN 3.69)Edit

In the "Roots" discourse (AN 3.69), the Buddha describes the three roots of greed, hate (or aversion) and delusion in the following power-driven fashion:

"Greed itself is unskillful. Whatever a greedy person fabricates by means of body, speech, or intellect, that too is unskillful. Whatever suffering a greedy person – his mind overcome with greed, his mind consumed – wrongly inflicts on another person through beating or imprisonment or confiscation or placing blame or banishment, [with the thought,] 'I have power. I want power,' that too is unskillful. Thus it is that many evil, unskillful qualities/events – born of greed, caused by greed, originated through greed, conditioned by greed – come into play."[26]

The same exact formula is used for "aversion" and "delusion" substituting these words for "greed."

Additionally, the Buddha describes how a person overcome with these roots has on-going problems:

"And a person like this is called one who speaks at the wrong time, speaks what is unfactual, speaks what is irrelevant, speaks contrary to the Dhamma, speaks contrary to the Vinaya.... When told what is factual, he denies it and doesn't acknowledge it. When told what is unfactual, he doesn't make an ardent effort to untangle it [to see], 'This is unfactual. This is baseless.'...
"A person like this – his mind overcome with evil, unskillful qualities born of greed... born of aversion... born of delusion, his mind consumed – dwells in suffering right in the here-&-now – feeling threatened, turbulent, feverish – and at the break-up of the body, after death, can expect a bad destination."[27]

In juxtaposition, the person whose unwholesome roots are abandoned experiences present moment ease:

"In a person like this, evil, unskillful qualities born of greed... born of aversion... born of delusion have been abandoned, their root destroyed, like an uprooted palm tree, deprived of the conditions of existence, not destined for future arising. He dwells in ease right in the here-&-now – feeling unthreatened, placid, unfeverish – and is unbound right in the here-&-now."[28]

Post-canonical commentaryEdit

The traditional Pali commentary (atthakatha) to the Majjhima Nikaya is the Papañcasūdani (abbrev., Ps. or MA).[29] It includes a line-by-line analysis of this discourse.[30] Portions of this commentary can also be found in the Visuddhimagga.[31] Both of these texts are attributed to Buddhaghosa.

Supramundane right viewEdit

Persons of Right View
(According to the Pali Commentary)
type of
right view
type of person understanding
right view
Buddhists &
believes in
one's own
does not
hold to a
"view of self"
right view
disciple in higher training
(sekha): stream-enterer,
once-returner, non-returner
right view
one beyond training
(asekha): arahant
right view

The Papañcasūdani identifies different types of right view contingent on one's breadth and depth of understanding (see the adjacent table). According to this commentary, when Ven. Sariputta discusses one "who has perfect confidence in the Dhamma and has arrived at the true Dhamma," he is referring to one who has attained "supramundane right view," thus holding out this higher achievement as a milestone for his audience.[33]

Understanding unwholesome and wholesomeEdit

According to the Pali commentary, the unwholesome and the wholesome can be understood within the four-phase framework (suffering-origin-cessation-path) used to analyze this discourse's other fifteen cases. From one perspective, the unwholesome and the wholesome are a form of suffering (dukkha). Likewise, their respective roots (greed, nongreed, etc.) are thus "the origin of suffering" (dukkha-samudaya); the non-arising of the roots is the cessation of this suffering (dukkha-nirodha); and, the understanding of unwholesome and wholesome actions and their roots, abandoning the roots, and understanding their cessation is the noble path (ariya-magga).[34]

In addition, the ten courses of unwholesome action and ten courses of wholesome action can be understood in terms of the following five aspects: mental state (whether or not volition was a primary factor); category (result of prior action or roots or both); object (formation or beings); feeling (painful, pleasant or neutral); and, root (greed, hate and/or delusion).[35]

Further description of the nutrimentsEdit

In elaborating upon the nutriments, the commentary states:

  • Physical food nourishes the materiality. Understanding this nutriment leads to understanding the lust for the five sense pleasures which fetter the noble disciple to rebirth.
  • Contact nourishes the three types of feeling (pleasant, unpleasant and neutrality). Understanding this nutriment leads to understanding the three feelings.
  • Mental volition nourishes the three kinds of being (sense-sphere, fine-material and immaterial beings). Understanding this nutriment leads to understanding the three cravings.
  • Consciousness nourishes the mentality-materiality of "rebirth-linking." Understanding this nutriment leads to understanding mentality-materiality.

After understanding any of the three latter nutriments, "there is nothing further for the noble disciple to do."[36]

Beginningless samsaraEdit

The commentary notes:

"Because with the arising of the taints there is the arising of ignorance, and with the arising of ignorance there is the arising of the taints. Thus the taints are a condition for ignorance, and ignorance is a condition for the taints. Having shown this, (it follows that) no first point of ignorance is manifest, and because none is manifest the undiscoverability of any beginning of samsara is proven."[37]

Thirty-two explanations of TruthEdit

As this discourse analyzes each of the sixteen cases in terms of the Four Noble Truths (that is, in terms of each case's definition, origin, cessation and the path leading to cessation) and that it provides a twofold analysis (in terms of a brief initial statement followed by a more detailed explanation), and that understanding each of these can lead to arahantship, the commentary concludes:

"Thus in the entire Word of the Buddha comprised in the five great Nikayas, there is no sutta except for this Discourse on Right View where the Four (Noble) Truths are explained thirty-two times and where arahantship is explained thirty-two times."[37]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ See, for instance, the "Setting Rolling the Wheel of Truth" discourse (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, SN 56.11) (Ñanamoli, 1981).
  2. ^ See, for instance, the "Great Forty Discourse" (Maha-cattarisaka Sutta, MN 117) (Thanissaro, 1997a); and, Bodhi's introductory comments in Ñanamoli & Bodhi (1991).
  3. ^ Ñanamoli & Bodhi (1991); and, Bodhi (2005), p. 303.
  4. ^ "MN 9" denotes that this discourse is the ninth discourse of the 152 discourses in the Majjhima Nikaya. As an example, Thanissaro (2005b) uses this designation.
  5. ^ "M.1.1.9" denotes that this is the ninth discourse in the first chapter (Mūlapariyāyavaggo, lit. "beginning arrangement chapter") of the first volume (Mūlapaṇṇāsako, lit. "beginning group of fifty [discourses]") in the Majjhima Nikaya. As an example, La Trobe University (n.d.) uses this designation.
  6. ^ "M i 46" denotes that, in the Pali Text Society edition of the Canon, this discourse starts on page 46 of the first volume of the Majjhima Nikaya.
  7. ^ Ñanamoli & Bodhi (1991).
  8. ^ This brief formula (with minor variations) is a frequent refrain throughout this discourse. The refrain is used by Ven. Sariputta to first introduce the initial question, then as part of the monks' querying of Ven. Sariputta (transitionally between cases), and then as part of Ven. Sariputta's introduction to and closure of his discussion of each case. (See Ñaṇamoli & Bodhi, 2001, pp. 52-53, for a brief discussion regarding repetitious phrases in the Pali Canon, used as both pedagogic and mnemonic devices.)
  9. ^ In the introductory remarks of Ñanamoli & Bodhi (1991), Bodhi notes that the phrase "(one) who has perfect confidence in the Dhamma and has arrived at this true Dhamma" refers to a stream-enterer (sotapanna). In terms of the other path achievers, it is further worth noting that Ven. Sariputta closes each case's section with the following refrain:

    In Bodhi's introduction to Ñanamoli & Bodhi (1991) and in Bodhi (2005), p. 446, n. 12, Bodhi points out that (according to the commentarial Papañcasūdani) eliminating the underlying tendencies of lust (rāgānusaya) and aversion (paṭighānusaya) is the path of the non-returner (anagami) while eliminating the underlying tendency to the view of and pride (māno) in a self is the path of the arahant. See Fetter (Buddhism) for overlapping information.

  10. ^ La Trobe University (n.d.).
  11. ^ The Pali word pariyāya is uttered by the monks when questioning Ven. Sariputta for another way or method by which one could be of right view:

    In effect, these topics (the unwholesome, the nutriments, etc.) are substrata for developing right view. The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Definition states that, according to Buddhaghosa, pariyāya can be understood in three ways: (1) "turn, course"; (2) "instruction, presentation"; and, (3) "cause, reason, also case, matter." (Rhys Davids & Stede, 1921-25, p. 433, entry for "Pariyāya," imbedded URL retrieved 20 Sep 2007.) For this article, given these authoritative definitions, the term "case" has been chosen. As additional alternatives, Ñanamoli & Bodhi (1991) translate pariyāya simply as "way" and Thanissaro (2005b) translates it as "line of reasoning."

  12. ^ The phrase "four phases" is a Bodhi (2005, pp. 335, 448 n. 23) translation of catuparivaṭṭaṃ (or, according to the SLTP, catuparivattaṃ), more literally, "four turnings." In the Pali Canon, the Buddha explicitly uses these four phases to describe the manner in which he directly knows (abbhaññāsiṃ) the five aggregates of clinging (upādāna) in the Upādāna Parivaṭṭa Sutta ("Phases of Clinging Discourse," SN 22.56) (Bodhi, 2005, pp. 335-37).
  13. ^ Consistent with the Pali commentaries, Bodhi (2005), p. 446, n. 10 and Ñanamoli & Bodhi (1991), "Part Two," refer to these as the "ten courses of unwholesome action." The first four unwholesome actions are of course the same as the first four actions from which a layperson undertakes to abstain in the Five Precepts.
    Moreover, in regards to the ten courses of wholesome action, the first seven actions (here referred to as "verbal" and "physical") are identical to the traditional formulae for defining the Noble Eightfold Path's factors of Right Speech (sammā-vācā) and Right Action (sammā-kammanta). (While there is overlap between the three wholesome mental factors and Right Intention (sammā-saṅkappa), for instance, regarding non-ill will, nonetheless these are not identical.) Perhaps most significant is that, outside of this discourse's discussion of Right View, the other Noble Eightfold Path factors do not reference the roots of wholesome and unwholesome actions.
  14. ^ These formulaic phrases for the Four Noble Truths can also be found, for instance, in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN 56.11) (Ñanamoli, 1981) and in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta (DN 22) (Thanissaro, 2000).
  15. ^ These formulaic phrases for the twelve causes can also be found, for instance, in the Paticca-samuppada-vibhanga Sutta (SN 12.2) (Thanissaro, 1997b). Archived 2006-05-12 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ In his introduction to his translation, Thanissaro (2005b) underlines:
    "... Ven. Sariputta points out that understanding the relationship between any two adjacent factors in the pattern of dependent co-arising provides enough discernment to abandon unskillful obsessions and put an end to suffering. There is no need to comprehend the entire pattern, for the whole is implicit in each paired relationship. This is a point with important practical implications."
  17. ^ Thus, ignorance arises from the taints (or "mental fermentations," in Thanissaro's translation) and the taints arise from ignorance. Noting the circularity of this part of the causal chain, Thanissaro (2005b) simply notes:
    "... Ven. Sariputta here continues the pattern of dependent co-arising past ignorance – the usual endpoint – to look for its origination, which is mental fermentation. Because these fermentations in turn depend on ignorance, the discussion shows how ignorance tends to prompt more ignorance."
  18. ^ Magga-vibhanga Sutta (SN 45.8) (Thanissaro, 1996).
  19. ^ Vibhaṅga Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya, book 5, 1.1.8, BJT Page 14 (La Trobe University, n.d.).
  20. ^ Ostensibly, the first case regarding the wholesome and the unwholesome does not follow this Four-Noble-Truth pattern; nonetheless, as reflected in this article below, the Pali commentary suggests a manner in which to construe the first case in just this manner.
  21. ^ In the Sutta Pitaka, in addition to being used by the Buddha in SN 45.8, this formulaic definition for right view is also found in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta ("Great Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse", DN 22) (Thanissaro, 2000) and the Saccavibhaṅga Sutta ("Analysis of the Truth Discourse," MN 141, stated by Ven. Sariputta) (Ñaṇamoli & Bodhi, 2001, pp. 1097-1101), as well as in the para-canonical Nettipakarana, book 1, v. 3.2.14. In the Abhidhamma Pitaka, this formulation is found in the Vibhanga.
  22. ^ In the para-canonical Nettipakarana.
  23. ^ In the Abhidhamma Pitaka's Dhammasangani.
  24. ^ In the Digha Nikaya's Saṅgīti Sutta ("Chanting Together Discourse," DN 33). Here, aparā is being translated as "of this world." Perhaps similarly, in the Khuddaka Nikaya's Patisambhidamagga, these four knowledges are listed as the first four of "fourteen Buddha knowledges" (cūddasa buddhañāṇāni).
  25. ^ Saleyyaka Sutta (MN 41) (Ñanamoli & Khantipalo, 1993). (For the sake of brevity and copyright considerations, more is not excerpted here from this discourse.)
  26. ^ Mula Sutta (AN 3.69) (Thanissaro, 2005a). (Square-bracketed phrase included in the original.)
  27. ^ Ibid. (Some ellipses included in original.)
  28. ^ Ibid. (Ellipses included in original.)
  29. ^ "MA" = "Majjhima Nikaya - Atthakatha," that is, "Middle-Length Collection - Commentary."
  30. ^ A complete translation of the Papañcasūdani commentary on this discourse can be found on-line at Ñanamoli & Bhikkhu (1991), "Part Two: The Commentary to the Discourse on Right View."
  31. ^ For instance, compare the Papañcasūdani and the Visuddhimagga (Ch. XI) regarding the nutriments.
  32. ^ For example, as stated in the fifth remembrance identified in the Upajjhatthana Sutta.
  33. ^ Ñaṇamoli & Bodhi (2001), pp. 1184-85, n. 114; and, Ñanamoli & Bhikkhu (1991), "Part Two," v. 2.
  34. ^ Ñanamoli & Bhikkhu (1991), "Part Two," vv. 3 and 8.
  35. ^ Ñanamoli & Bhikkhu (1991), "Part Two," vv. 4 and 6.
  36. ^ Ñanamoli & Bhikkhu (1991), "Part Two," v. 11.
  37. ^ a b Ñanamoli & Bhikkhu (1991), "Part Two," v. 70.


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  • La Trobe University (n.d.). Sammādiṭṭhisuttaṃ (M 1.1.9; in Pali). Retrieved 16 Sep 2007 from "Pali Canon Online Database" et seq. (BJT Pages 110-132).
  • Ñanamoli Thera (tr.) (1981). Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting Rolling the Wheel of Truth (SN 56.11). Retrieved 20 Sep 2007 from "Access to Insight" (1993).
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  • Rhys Davids, T.W. & William Stede (eds.) (1921-5). The Pali Text Society’s Pali–English Dictionary. Chipstead: Pali Text Society. A general on-line search engine for the PED is available at
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  • Thanissaro Bhikkhu (tr.) (1997a). Maha-cattarisaka Sutta: The Great Forty (MN 117). Retrieved 16 Sep 2007 from "Access to Insight".
  • Thanissaro Bhikkhu (tr.) (1997b). Paticca-samuppada-vibhanga Sutta: Analysis of Dependent Co-arising (SN 12.2). Retrieved 21 Sep 2007 from "Access to Insight".
  • Thanissaro Bhikkhu (tr.) (2000). Maha-satipatthana Sutta: The Great Frames of Reference (DN 22). Retrieved 21 Sep 2007 from "Access to Insight".
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External linksEdit