The Buddha's Sayings
translated from the Pali by
John Ireland


The present work offers a translation of the Itivuttaka, a collection of 112 short discourses of the Buddha in both prose and verse. The text belongs to the Pali canon of the Theravada school, being placed between the Udana and the Sutta Nipata. It was previously translated by F.L. Woodward and published together with his translation of the Udana in Minor Anthologies of the Pali Canon, Vol. II (London, 1935).

According to the commentarial tradition, the suttas or discourses of the Itivuttaka were collected by the woman lay-disciple Khujjuttara from sermons given by the Buddha while he was staying at Kosambi. Khujjuttara was a servant of Samavati, the consort of King Udena. She had become a stream-enterer after meeting the Buddha and subsequently converted the women of the palace headed by Samavati to the teaching. She used to go regularly to listen to the Buddha and then later repeated what she had heard to the other women. The collection of these sayings became the Itivuttaka. It is said that the emphatic statements at the beginning and end of each of the suttas, reproduced here only in the first and last, were made by Khujjuttara to stress that they were the Buddha's words and not her own.

Whether or not this story is true, the Itivuttaka is the only book in the Pali canon that introduces and concludes its suttas in this fashion, and it is from the opening statement that the title is derived: "This was said (vuttam) by the Lord... so (iti) I heard" — hence Itivuttaka, "The So-was-said" or "Sayings."

These "Sayings" are grouped into four unequal sections arranged, like the Anguttara Nikaya, according to the number of items they contain, from one to four. Besides these four sections — The Ones, The Twos, The Threes, and The Fours — the text is further subdivided into vaggas, groups of roughly ten suttas. But to simplify the presentation, in this translation these sub-groupings have been ignored. Only the four main sections have been retained and the suttas numbered from 1 to 112, as in the PTS edition. A number of the suttas and verses are also found in other parts of the Sutta Pitaka, especially the Anguttara Nikaya, but many are unique to this collection.

In translating the Itivuttaka I have attempted to follow the text as closely as possible and to produce an exact and literal rendition. With the verses, however, while remaining faithful to the meaning, I occasionally found it necessary to depart from the syntax of the Pali. Although I did not attempt to produce a metrical translation, by transposing lines and words and controlling the number of syllables in the line, I aimed at producing a readable and rhythmic English rendering of the original Pali verse.