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An Exposition of the Mahaparinibbana Sutta

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Item Code: UBB903
Author: Bhikkhu Pesala
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publications, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2022
ISBN: 9789393214492
Pages: 138
Other Details 9.50 X 6.50 inch
Weight 190 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

This long discourse is unlike any other. It is not a single Dhamma talk at one location, but an account of the last year or so of the Buddha's life. This discourse contains the Buddha's final instructions, thus it is very important for the preservation of the Buddha's dispensation. Every Buddhist should know about the important teachings contained in this Sutta. The Sutta begins when the Blessed One was dwelling on Vultures' Peak near Rajagaha, it describes his to Pataligama, which would become the new capital city of King Ajàtasattu of Magadha. There, the Buddha crossed the Ganges with the Sangha by using his psychic powers, and proceeded towards Vesäli on the north bank of the Ganges. The Buddha entered the Rains Retreat for the last time near the village of Beluva, accompanied only by Venerable Ananda, while the other monks took up residence for the Rains in the vicinity of Vesali. At the end of the Rains, Māra approached the Buddha and asked him to pass away there and then. The Buddha refused, but announced that his demise would take place in three months. Thereupon there was a great earthquake. The remainder of the discourse describes the Buddha's journey to Kusinara, his last meal, the ordination of his last disciple, Subhadda, and his demise in the Sal grove. Finally, the discourse describes the cremation, the partition of the Buddha's relics, and the building of Ten Pagodas in different regions.

About the Author

BHIKKHU PESALA received higher ordination in 1979, at the Oakenholt Buddhist Centre, near Oxford, UK, with the late Venerable Mahāsi Sayadaw as his preceptor. Since then, he has devoted his life to studying and teaching the Dhamma-Vinaya, and the practice of insight meditation, in monasteries in Burma, Thailand, and England, UK. He has endeavoured to share his understanding of the Dhamma through writing, editing, and translating many Dhamma books, chiefly by famous meditation masters of the Burmese Insight tradition. On its website, "The Association for Insight meditation" hosts these publications and links to other useful resources on Buddhism. Bhikkhu Pesala's first publication was "The Debate of King Milinda," which was first published in 1990, and reprinted by Motilal Banarsidass in 1991, 1998, and 2022.


The translation is based on that by T.W. Rhys Davids, published on the Internet Sacred Text Archive: Buddhist Suttas. This translation dates from 1881, so the language is inevitably very dated. I have replaced archaic terms, and done my best to make it easy to read.

My own comments on the translation use a different font and indented paragraph settings to distinguish them from the translation of the actual text. I have also added footnote references and hyperlinks for further study. references to the Pali texts refer to the Roman script edition of the Pali Text Society in the translations these page numbers are given near the spine or in the body of the text like this: [72] which is where the Mahaparinibbana Sutta begins (D.ii.72). The many footnotes made by Rhys Davids, which are of a scholarly nature, have been omitted A modern translation of the Dighanikaya by Maurice Walsh is available from Wisdom Books, which I have not used for reasons of copyright. Another translation by Sister Vajira and Francis Story, published by the Buddhist Publication Society, can be found on the Access to Insight web site. I have adopted the paragraph numbering used by the Pali text edition of the CST4 Tipitaka so that those who know some Pali can easily find the relevant passage referred to in the translation or my comments. The headings are my translations of the section headings found in the CST4 edition, with the Pali section headings below as subheadings in italics. To study the Pali texts, I recommend downloading the CST4 program. The Päli text is divided into six portions for recitation (bhanavāra), which Rhys Davids has used as natural breaks for six chapters. It is over twice the length of other long discourses in the Dighanikaya. In several places I have added the Pali term in parenthesis. An index serves as a glossary of Pali terms used in the translation.

The entire Pāli text is included for the benefit of those who know Pāli, or who want to learn it. Reading famous discourses side-by-side with a translation is the most enjoyable way to learn and familiarise oneself with sentence structure. It is no substitute for studying Päli grammar, but it is a good way to start learning for those who find linguistic studies too daunting. At least, you will build up your vocabulary of common Pāli words and those stock phrases that are used frequently in the Tipitaka. For the convenience of those who want to skip the Pali, I have included a link on the paragraph numbers of the Pali passages to the corresponding translation. Links from the paragraph numbers of the translation, link to the next numbered paragraph of the translation.

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