There is a story in the Pali Canon where the Buddha compares the Dharma to leaves on a tree. If I can give a very approximate quote to what I remember

The dharma that I have taught is just a handful of leaves. The Dharma is actually all the leaves in all the trees

So the point been that there is a lot more to the Dharma then what the Buddha is teaching at that point. Can anyone give the exact reference for that story - I'm fairly certain it is from the Pali Canon.


1 Answer 1


From the Pali canon perhaps it's the Simsapa Sutta (see here and here).

The main message I get from that story is a bit the opposite of what you suggested: i.e. not that "The Dharma is actually all the leaves in all the trees", rather that the central doctrine is only the four noble truths (stress; origin of stress; cessation of stress; path of practice leading to the cessation of stress).

I think there are other suttas in which he said, "I have taught one thing and one thing only, i.e. dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.

  • Brilliant that's exactly it. I'm going to reread to check my understanding which is probably wrong. May 29, 2015 at 10:45
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    I think that sutta is also understood as evidence of the Buddha's omniscience and ability to see everything.(iddhi and abhiññā); and whether 'everything he knows' should also be called "dharmas" I don't know (maybe yes they can because dharma is a slightly multi-meaninged word); and there's also a long footnote; ...
    – ChrisW
    May 29, 2015 at 10:59
  • ... what he's asking people to know is, "Therefore, monks, your task is to learn: 'This is Suffering, this is the Arising of Suffering, this is the Cessation of Suffering, this is the Path that leads to the Cessation of Suffering.' That is your task."
    – ChrisW
    May 29, 2015 at 10:59

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