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Sutta is a Pali word meaning ‘thread’ and is the name given to the Buddha’s discourses. The Sanskrit equivalent is sutra.

The discourses are called this because they all contain a ‘thread of meaning’ that in some way is relevant to and leads towards enlightenment. There are about 5700 discourses by the Buddha, as well as approximately 2900 independent verses and numerous other sayings and pronouncements, making the corpus of his teachings by far the largest of any of the great religious teachers. Discourses are usually of four types – a collection of verses, a talk by the Buddha, a dialogue between the Buddha and another person or persons or a debate between him and another person. Discourses are usually made up of three parts; (1) the introduction giving the place and circumstances in which the Buddha delivered the discourse, (2) the talk or dialogue itself and (3) the finale where the interlocutor either thanked the Buddha or asked to become his disciple. A small number of discourses in the Tipitaka were delivered by the Buddha’s disciples.

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