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The Itivuttaka, a collection of 112 short discourses, takes its name from the statement at the beginning of each of its discourses: this (iti) was said (vuttam) by the Blessed One. The collection as a whole is attributed to a laywoman named Khujjuttara, who worked in the palace of King Udena of Kosambi as a servant to one of his queens, Samavati. Because the Queen could not leave the palace to hear the Buddha's discourses, Khujjuttara went in her place, memorized what the Buddha said, and then returned to the palace to teach the Queen and her 500 ladies-in-waiting. For her efforts, the Buddha cited Khujjuttara as the foremost of his laywomen disciples in terms of her learning. She was also an effective teacher: when the inner apartments of the palace later burned down, killing the Queen and her entourage, the Buddha commented (in Udana VII.10) that all of the women had reached at least the first stage of Awakening.
The name of the Itivuttaka is included in the standard early list of the nine divisions of the Buddha's teachings — a list that predates the organization of the Pali canon as we now know it. It's impossible to determine, though, the extent to which the extant Pali Itivuttaka corresponds to the Itivuttaka mentioned in that list. The Chinese canon contains a translation of an Itivuttaka, attributed to Hsüan-tsang, that strongly resembles the text of the Pali Itivuttaka, the major difference being that parts of the Group of Threes and all of the Group of Fours in the Pali are missing in Hsüan-tsang's translation. Either these parts were later additions to the text that found their way into the Pali but not into the Sanskrit version translated by Hsüan-tsang, or the Sanskrit text was incomplete, or Hsüan-tsang's translation was left unfinished (it dates from the last months of his life).
The early history of the Itivuttaka is made even more complex by the fact that it was originally an oral tradition first written down several centuries after the Buddha's passing away. For a discussion of this issue, see the Historical Notes appended to Dhammapada: A Translation.
Whatever the history of the text, though, it has long been one of the favorite collections in the Pali canon, for it covers a wide range of the Buddha's teachings — from the simplest to the most profound — in a form that is accessible, appealing, and to the point.
However, although the discourses in the Itivuttaka cover many topics, they all relate to a common theme: the consequences of one's actions, or kamma.
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