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Sūtra (Sanskrit, Devanagari सूत्र) or Sutta (Pāli), literally means a rope or thread that holds things together, and more metaphorically refers to an aphorism (or line, rule, formula), or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. It is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew (these words, including Latin suere and English to sew, all derive from PIE *syū-). In Hinduism the 'sutras' form a school of Vedic study, related to and somewhat later than the Upanishads. They served and continue to act as grand treatises on various schools of Hindu Philosophy. They elaborate in succinct verse, sometimes esoteric, Hindu views of metaphysics, cosmogony, the human condition, moksha (liberation), and how to maintain a blissful, dharmic life, in a cosmic spin of karma, reincarnation and desire.

In Buddhism, the term "sutra" refers generally to canonical scriptures that are regarded as records of the oral teachings of Gautama Buddha. In Chinese, these are known as 經 (pinyin: jīng). These teachings are assembled in the second part of the Tripitaka which is called Sutra Pitaka. There are also some Buddhist texts, such as the Platform Sutra, that are called sutras despite being attributed to much later authors.

The Pali form of the word, sutta is used exclusively to refer to Buddhist scriptures, particularly those of the Pali Canon.


Below are some sutras listed under the broad categories of Hinduism, Buddhism and Other.

Sutras primarily associated with Hinduism[]


  • Shiksha (phonetics)
  • Chandas (metrics)
  • Vyakarana (grammar)
    • Ashtadhyayi (Panini), discussing grammar
  • Nirukta (etymology)
  • Jyotisha (astrology)
  • Kalpa (ritual)
    • Srauta Sutras, performance of sacrifices
    • Smarta Sutras
      • Grhya Sutras, covering domestic life
      • Samayacarika or Dharma Sutras
        • Sulba Sutras, architecture of sacrificial area


Hindu philosophy[]

  • Yoga Sutras
  • Nyaya Sutras
  • Vaisheshika Sutras
  • Purva Mimamsa Sutras


  • Kama Sutra, written by Vatsyayana, the sutra of kama (sensual gratification), explains sexuality and sexual practices.


  • Sacred thread worn by Indian Women after Marriage.

Sutras primarily associated with Buddhism[]

See: Buddhist texts

Other Sutras[]

  • Wichita Vortex Sutra written by American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg discussing the empty language of war, the contradictions between distant Asia and the Middle American conservatism, numbing impact of global telecommunications and the media preoccupation with statistics. Fragments of the poem first appeared in the May 27, 1966, issue of LIFE, and the full text later debuted in a City Lights “Pocket Poets” collection entitled Planet News.
  • Smokey the Bear Sutra, Written by American poet Gary Snyder (b. 1930) in 1969, which presents 20th century environmental concerns and convictions in the form of a Buddhist sutra. It is widely available on the internet due to the author's grant of free reproduction of the text. See Wikisource - Smokey the Bear Sutra.

See also[]

  • Smriti
  • Chinese Buddhist canon
  • Tibetan Buddhist canon


  • Monier-Williams, Monier. (1899) A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Delhi:Motilal Banarsidass. p. 1241

External links[]

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