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Interpreting different Sutta citations

edited April 2011 in Arts & Writings
I was wondering if anyone had a good primer on how to decipher all of the different ways in which the Suttas are referenced and cited? I already have a list of major abbreviations, that is not an issue. But rather, how to look up specific citations.

For example the Majjhima Nikaya can be either (M) or (MN). No problem there. I also know that this Nikaya contains 152 total suttas. So (MN 108) is rather simple to handle. But then what the heck is (M.I.373). I figure that the Roman numeral "I" refers to the book number, but then what is 373? There are so many different ways that scholars and non-scholars alike abbreviate sutta notation, that it is often difficult to find a specific passage. Many people will claim that the Buddha said or taught something (followed by a reference), and I would rather look it up myself as a primary source rather than use the author's assertion as a secondary source, but half the time I cannot locate it. I have all four Nikayas from Wisdom pub. and most of the major Khuddaka works, so if I could only find a helpful way to understand and decipher PTS vs. Thai citations (etc.) it would be ever so helpful to me.

Thanks in advance to whomever might be able to help. :- )


  • I figure that the Roman numeral "I" refers to the book number, but then what is 373?
    The page number of the original PTS translation. In the Bhikkhu Bodhi and Walshe translations, these are embedded in each page in square brackets. Which makes finding the PN for the PTS a PITA. ;-)
  • Thanks Ren, that actually makes sense and it does match the Bodhi/Walshe translations. Kind of a "it was right there the whole time" moment for me. :) Yes, still a PITA because there is more than one way people cite, but how grateful to have decent published translations and online access to the suttas available today, compared with the references that previous generations of Western Buddhists had to work with. Much gratitude.
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