In the Simsapa Sutta the Buddha said;

"In the same way, monks, those things that I have known with direct knowledge but have not taught are far more numerous [than what I have taught].

I would take the meaning that there were many things that the Buddha did not talk about because they were not important for leading the holy life towards Nirvana.

But then in the Maha-Parinabbana Sutta, the Buddha says;

...I have preached the truth without making any distinction between exoteric and esoteric doctrine: for in respect of the truths, Ānanda, the Tathāgata has no such thing as the closed fist of a teacher, who keeps some things back...

I would take this to mean that the Buddha says that He has not kept anything untold or unsaid...that, he has said everything that there was to tell to the monks.

Why is there a seeming contradiction in these two suttas. Did the Buddha told everything or not...or I am misunderstanding something?

6 Answers 6


The key phrase, I think, is: "those things that I have known with direct knowledge..." (emphasis mine).

Some things must be experienced as direct knowledge. Teaching or discussing them with those who have not yet had some measure of direct knowledge will merely lead them into circular reasoning and philosophical maundering. The Buddha taught the path of awakening: a system for achieving direct knowledge. He offered what insights he could that would help motivate and focus people on the path. He did not offer insights that might lead the unawakened into attachments, fantasies, fruitless rumination, or pointless confusions.

If a car is stuck in the mud, we don't want it to spin its wheels wildly; that will dig it deeper into the mud. If people are stuck in ignorance, we don't want to amplify that ignorance by encouraging them to think about things they can only understand through experience. In both cases one gains traction by being slow, deliberate, and focused.


A teacher with a closed fist is one that holds back relevant information. In this regard the Buddha is saying he does not obscure dhamma, aka anything relevant to the goal of liberation. As for the first quotation, this is akin to a math teacher saying “in my time I’ve learned a lot of stuff that isn’t related to math” but as a math teacher, talking about those other things in class is not relevant.

The Buddha only teaches the dhamma because it is the most important subject. Through meditation he has learned a lot about the mind and the universe that isn’t relevant to the practice


The Buddha is basically saying:

  • I told you everything you needed to know, without holding anything back
  • I know more than what I have told you, but what I did not tell you, is not important for you
  • Is not important for you to be told, perhaps?
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 14:41

The two amount to the same thing -- i.e. that there's nothing important which he might say but didn't say.


The Buddha did not hold back teachings pertaining to the Noble Eightfold Path,his doctrine. Not about everything. Compare it to a teacher who teaches maths, he is concerned only with teaching you maths, he is not going to teach you history or geography, even if he knows about history or geography.


The Buddha revealed the truth in the Lotus Sutra. You must understand that people's minds and capacities vary. Because of this the Buddha taught various sutras to try to develop his disciples capacities. All of these teachings were taught for the sake of the one vehicle. There are not two vehicles. There are not three vehicles. There is only one vehicle, and all of the sutras were preach to lead people to the one and only vehicle. The stages that people gained by practicing the various sutras were not uniform. You can only gain enlightenment by adhering to the Lotus Sutra. I will post sutras to support what I have said.

The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra

Because their [people’s] natures and desires are not alike, I preached the Law in various different ways. Preaching the Law in various different ways, I made use of the power of expedient means. But in these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth."

Lotus Sutra

“Among all shravakas and pratyekabuddhas, bodhisattvas are the foremost. So is the Lotus Sutra; among all sutras, it is the foremost! Just as the Buddha is the King of the Law; so is the Lotus Sutra, it is the King of all Sutras!"

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