Distinctly Ascertaining the Meanings

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The sutra Distinctly Ascertaining the Meanings (Skt. Arthaviniścaya; Tib. དོན་རྣམ་པར་ངེས་པ།, Wyl. don rnam par nges pa) begins with an introductory section, offering the context of the teachings. An explanation of twenty-seven topics is then presented by the Buddha, starting with the five aggregates and ending with the eighty minor marks of a great person. The Buddha then concludes by exhorting the bhikshus to meditate in solitude and avoid negligence.

Masters of the great monasteries of ancient India such as Nalanda, Vikramashila, and Odantapuri are likely to have held this text in high regard as an authoritative outline of the Dharma.[1]

This sutra is also an example showing how the Buddha taught abhidharma topics within the sutras.[2]


The Sanskrit text still exists and has been edited.

Tibetan Translation

The Tibetan translation of this sutra can be found in the General Sutra section of the Tibetan Dergé Kangyur, Toh 317. The text was translated into Tibetan by the Indian preceptors Jinamitra and Prajña­varman, and the Tibetan translator Yeshé Dé.


  • Gathering (Skt. Nibandhana) by Viryashridatta. The Gathering reproduces much of the content of Vasubandhu’s Treasury of Abhidharma but while Vasubandhu’s text goes into much detail with the subject matter, the Gathering offers a much more accessible presentation of the same topics.


  1. 84000 Translating the Words of the Buddha.
  2. See: 84000, Introduction to Distinctly Ascertaining the Meanings, i.12, which references Skilling, Peter, “Discourse on the Twenty-Two Faculties (Translated from Śamathadeva’s Upāyikā-ṭīkā).” In Dharmapravicaya: Aspects of Buddhist Studies: Essays in Honour of N. H. Samtani, edited by Lalji “Shravak” and Charles Willemen (Delhi: Buddhist World Press, 2012).