A "Literary" Folk Translation of SA 197

(Amateur) translation and exploring the āgamāḥ are a bit of a hobby of mine. I am particularly interested in Buddhist Hybrid Chinese and its relations to traditional Classical Chinese.

The following is not a translation of Buddhadharma (well, it technically is). I say that because the purposes of this translation are not to expound Dhamma (there are much more qualified people able to do that!). Rather, this is a partial (to be updated), attempt, to render as literally as possible, word-for-word, the structure and rhythms of the Chinese into English, that the rhetorical force of these phrases might be grasped by someone unable to read the text.

This is an account of the miracle at Gayāsīsa, which introduces the āgama recension of the Fire Sermon. I have also included Ven Ānalayo’s professional translation for some context.

Like this I heard:
(Bhikkhu Anālayo) Thus have I heard.

One day, the Buddha dwelt on his travels with monks at the Gayāsīsa stupa,
At one time the Buddha was staying at the cetiya at Gayāsīsa

and one thousand there were, by that time on the hill gathered[,] all of them former tangled-haired Brahmīṇi.
together with a thousand monks, who were all former matted-hair brahmins.

At that time, the Bhagavān[,] for these thousand monks[,] established to happen three kinds of miraculous manifestations for their conversion.
At that time the Blessed One taught the thousand monks by way of performing the three type of miracles.

Which three? A divine-attainment-impermanence-transformation manifestation, an “other mind” [telepathy] manifestation, and a persuasion manifestation.
What are the three? They are the miracle of psychic power, the miracle of telepathy, and the miracle of instruction.

This was the manifestation of divine attainment [that the Buddha caused to happen],
For the miracle of psychic power,

The Bhagavān, right where he was in that moment, thus manifested the entering into the cessation of sensations meditation, rose into the sky toward the east, and performed the four comportments,
the Blessed One entered into an attainment of concentration appropriate for the manifestation of his ascent into the air towards the east to perform [the miracle of psychic power] in the four postures of

he walked, he was still, he sat, he lay down, and entered fire-samādhi, issued varieties of fire and light: green, yellow, red, and white, in crystalline form, water and fire appeared both together,
walking, standing, sitting, and reclining. He entered into concentration on fire and various type of flames emerged in blue, yellow, red, white, crimson, and crystal colours. He manifested fire and water concurrently.

among these miraculous occurrences, the lower body issued forth fire, the upper body issued forth water, the upper body issued forth fire, the lower body issued forth water, all-circularly, in all four directions, just like that.
The lower part of his body emitted fire and the upper part of his body emitted water, or else the upper part of his body emitted fire and the lower part of his body emitted water. In the same way he kept going around the four directions.

At that time, the [time that the] Bhagavān executed myriad numerous miraculous transformations[,] afterwards, amongst them[, the monks,] he again sat, this was the manifestation of divine attainment.
Then, having performed various miracles, the Blessed One sat among the assembly. This is called the miracle of psychic power.

[For the] other mind manifestation, in accordance with that [other] mind, in accordance with that [other?] volition, in accordance with that [other?] knowledge,
For the miracle of telepathy, [the Blessed One knew] such is the other one’s mind, such is the other one’s intention, such is the other one’s consciousness;

that [other] should do as such notions, should not do as such notions, these notions[, ] as such are abandoned,
the other one should think like this and should not think like that, the other one should give up like this,

that [other] should do as such to embody adhigama (realization) dwelling, that was called the other mind manifestation.
the other one should be established in direct realization like this. This is called the miracle of telepathy.

[The] persuasion manifestation was thus, so the Bhagavān spoke:
For the miracle of instruction, the Blessed spoke thus:

"Myriad monks! All is burning as such. To speak of what all that is burning so?
“Monks, all is on fire. What is all on fire?

To say the eye burns so, as appearances, cakṣurvijñāna, the eye['s] touching,
That is, the eye is on fire, forms, eye-consciousness, eye-contact,

the eye['s] touching['s] causal predestination[, the] development [of that,] if bitter, if pleasurable,
and feeling arisen in dependence on eye-contact, be it painful, pleasant,

with neither bitterness nor pleasure, that also burns so.
or neutral, that is also on fire.

Thus so it is definitively, the nose, tongue, body, the idea burns so, dharmāḥ, manovijñāna, the idea['s] touching, the idea['s] touching['s] causal predestination['s] development [of] feelings,
“In the same way the ear … the nose … the tongue … the body … the mind is on fire, mental objects, mind-consciousness, mind-contact, and feeling arisen in dependence on mind-contact, be it painful, pleasant, or neutral,

if bitter, if pleasurable, neither bitter nor pleasurable, that also burns so, because of what does it burn so,
that is also on fire. With what is it on fire?

greed fires burn so, rage fires burn so, delusion fires burn so,
it is on fire with the flames of delusion, and it is on fire with the flames of birth,

jāti, age, sickness, death, worry, sorrow, anger, bitterness fires burn so."
old age, disease, death, worry, sorrow, vexation, and pain.”

At that time, the thousand monks heard the Buddha say this, without constructing myriad outflows (“āsrava”), their minds attained understanding of liberation, Buddhavacana this sūtra was thereafter, many monks heard the Buddha teach it, joyfully they practiced [it].
At that time, hearing what the Buddha had said, by not clinging the minds of the thousand monks were liberated from the influxes. When the Buddha had spoken this discourse, hearing what the Buddha had said the monks were delighted and received it respectfully.


SN 35.28 (famous fire sutta) doesn’t have any super normal power display at all, just straight to the dhamma teaching. If I remember correctly in the Th. Vinaya account of SN 35.28, the super power there was subduing a giant serpent nāga? I think the shooting out fire and water simultaneously (in Theravada literature) happens in a different locale, different sutta and audience, whose purpose was to convince heretics the truth of dhamma. I could be wrong… someone know for sure?

Looking at SC’s SA 197, I see it has Ven. Anālayo’s english translation. Awesome. Very strange on the dhamma portion of SA 197 it doesn’t match SN 35.28 very completely, skipping the whole nibbandati section done to the six sense bases and jumping straight to destruction of asavas.

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Yes, I remember when I first read this ágama (before Ven Ánalayo’s translation was available here), the first impression that it made on me had me thinking: “Geez. This ágama literally seems half-remembered!” The instructional portion of it is extraordinarily shorter and less detailed.

After becoming better acquainted with the differences between ágama and nikáya literature, however, I realized that it is also possible that the nikáya-parallel is a broadened-out “scholastic” treatment of the Buddha’s description of samsara as an inferno. In general, Páli recensions of projected Buddhavacana seem, to me, to have a more encyclopedic sprawling scholasticism than the generally shorter Chinese parallels. This makes sense given that Theraváda may have once been known as the “school of analysis” (citation forthcoming).

INSERTED EDIT: I am not saying, in saying this, though, that the Vibhajjavāda (which may have been a historical name for what is now called Theravāda) is less authentic or more contrived/“Abhidhammic” by nature, I merely mean that, as I see it, the Pāli Canon is more “fleshed out” than the āgamāḥ. If an āgama presents a discourse, and then says something like “thus so too with form, feelings, etc”, the Pāli Canon is more likely to have the entire discourse repeated, substituting the words “form” “feelings” etc in. This is what I mean by scholastic and exhaustively encyclopedic.

In contrast to this, occasionally, as is the case with this āgama, the āgamāḥ sometimes read like personal quick study notes or like cue cards either for a Dhamma talk or for a general recounting of the event, the hard details of which would be remembered or memorized or would have been learnt by the intended functional audience of these texts (generally monks).

There is absolutely no proof for what I am about to suggest (actually there is some proof for the possibility of this being the case, but no actual “hard” proof), but my own suspicions when I encounter āgamāḥ like this is that they are like memory guides, to help remember the sequence of details in a given (mostly oral) discourse, that are meant to be “filled out” by the reciter or recounter of the tale in his telling of it, in the manner that the Nikāya recensions are “filled out” textually.

Often in the early stages of creating textual material out of oral material, is it not common to actually write down verbatim everything that someone says. I am thinking particularly of the Jewish Torah, which contains many mysterious passages, generally concentrated in the psalms, that give the reciter of the text instructions to recite another text, or to do some action (e.g. Selāh!), the meaning or content of which is now unknown, or, is not present in the text itself that uses such meta-textual instructions. This is because early writing of these traditional oral recitations, in the case of ancient Hebrew oral recitations at least, possibly in the case of Buddhist sutta recitations, are initially used as or conceived of as “memory aids”, not verbatim every single word that was spoken during the course of the recitation. Why would this be the case? Because generally when an oral text, like the Jewish Torah, first enters into writing, there is already a very strong oral tradition of memorization. In the case of the Torah, later sections of it are more fully written out, and earlier sections, like the psalms, have mildly “abbreviated language” so to speak.

None of that is definitive or “hard” final evidence that could possibly prove my suspicions about the occasional abbreviated language in the Chinese āgamāḥ, but I hope it contextualizes why I think this might be a possibility. This leads into idea that the Pāli Canon is actually an early attempt at “filling in all the blanks” through harmonization of various sutta-parallels (very close, in a way, to what this very site is dedicated to), to try to produce successfully, a “complete transcription” as it were, of the “proven Buddhavacana” (i.e. Buddhavacana that is present in many schools and is not internally contradictory), to replace “abbreviated textual Dhamma” in a time when reliance on the orality of Buddhist discourses was being challenged.

It is not usual for the ágamá.h to shorten a discourse to the degree this one seems shortened.

Access to the Sanskrit parallel would be interesting, but I don’t think it is uploaded yet.


It’s one thing to ellide a standard list, pattern, pericope, the pali texts do that quite often as well, but the nibbindati section for the 6 sense bases is entirely absent from the agama.

In the Theravada vinaya, SN 56.11 dhamma cakka pavattana, SN 22.59(?) anatta -lakkhana and this fire sermon happen in sequence, and are traditionally thought of as the first 3 discourses delivered by the Buddha. Do the agama vinaya(s) agree there? I have very little knowledge of the agamas, beyond that the Theravada dhamma vinaya is the only lineage that survived with its entire body of texts, and that the Agamas were pasted together fragments from at least 3 early schools.

[quote=“frankk, post:4, topic:4739, full:true”]

It’s one thing to ellide a standard list, pattern, pericope, the pali texts do that quite often as well, but the nibbindati section for the 6 sense bases is entirely absent from the agama.

In the Theravada vinaya, SN 56.11 dhamma cakka pavattana, SN 22.59(?) anatta -lakkhana and this fire sermon happen in sequence, and are traditionally thought of as the first 3 discourses delivered by the Buddha. Do the agama vinaya(s) agree there?[/quote]I am not terribly knowledgable in the textual history of vinaya-transmission. I only know that “classical” schisms in Buddhist history that resemble schisms of other religions, general schism along vinaya-transmission, not necessarily doctrinal subscription.

This is a Sarvāstivāda Saṃyuktāgama from India that made its way into Chinese translation. I do not know the status of if there is a single vinaya that has survived that can also be definitely traced specifically to the Sarvāstivāda and not to any other school. We don’t seem to have a Sarvāstivāda vinaya hosted on SuttaCentral. Perhaps this is because a manuscript of one has not survived, or perhaps this is just because there doesn’t happen to be one handily digitized.

[quote=frankk]I have very little knowledge of the agamas, beyond that the Theravada dhamma vinaya is the only lineage that survived with its entire body of texts, and that the Agamas were pasted together fragments from at least 3 early schools.
[/quote]I am not an expert in the field, so I can only share what I know. If I make mistakes hopefully someone will correct me.

I think the veracity of what you way all depends on how one conceives of the āgamāḥ, as a holistic category containing within itself all scripture called either “āgama” or “āgamasūtra”, or a diverse collection of different lines of transmission which are now occasionally be treated as a whole (while hopefully also having their differences acknowledged!).

If one refers to a “whole collection of āgamāḥ”, then what you say here:[quote]the Agamas were pasted together fragments from at least 3 early schools[/quote]is an accurate account of the situation. Compared to the nikāyā, the āgamāḥ do not consitute a coherent whole as a single line of textual transmission.

However, internally, within each of the diverse āgama collections, there is unity. The Saṃyuktāgama is a more or less complete Saṃyuktāgama, comparable in scope to the Saṃyuttanikāya, however coming to us from what is almost definitely the Sarvāstivāda, unlike the Saṃyuttanikāya. It is, more-or-less, the majority of the whole of the literature of the Sarvāstivāda that substantially corresponds, in naming at least, to the Saṃyuttanikāya

Part of the confusion is in how the word “āgama” is used. “Āgamāḥ” can refer to either individual āgamāḥ, like SA 197, SA 296, etc., or it can refer to the larger collections of these literatures, like Dīrghāgama, Madhyamāgama, Saṃyuktāgama, Ekottarikāgama. This ambiguity is negated when dealing with Pāli literature as the larger collections are called “nikāyā” (nikayas) and their individual constituents are “suttāni” (suttas). The word āgama is used for both levels of organization in Chinese literature.

Āgamasūtrāṇi (or “āgamasūtras”, from the Chinese 阿含經 (ā hán jīng)) is the traditional Mahāyāna name for referring to these individual āgamāḥ, but I have not seen academics specializing in EBTs, such as Bingenheimer, who I am currently reading, adopting this clearer terminology.

So, if we are referring to the āgamāḥ individually as collections, as the Saṃyuktāgama, or the Dīrghāgama, for instance, meaning “specific collections of āgamāḥ”, then in that case, it is not accurate to say that the āgamāḥ “were pasted together fragments from at least 3 early schools.” Even though it is accurate to say that about the āgamāḥ as a whole.

Each of the individual āgama-collection is a preserved piece of a canon of an earlier Buddhist school. They come to us through lines of textual transmission almost completely dominated by Mahāyāna literature in Mahāyāna Tripiṭakāṇi (I really hope my plural form is correct there otherwise I am going to look like a fool) alongside various Mahāyānasūtrāṇi.

This is because the Mahāyāna Buddhist canon is so sprawling it actually preserves texts that are not even Mahāyāna texts, such as the Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma summary called the Abhidharmakośakārikā. No recent Mahāyāna Buddhist sects believe this text to be substantially authoritative, yet it has been preserved and survived through the years in mostly Mahāyāna lines of textual transmission. Similarly with another Sarvāstivāda Abhidharmic summation, the name of which escapes me now, but was written in refutation of the Abhidharmakośakārikā. And, to give just one more example, the Sautrāntika Abhidharmakośabhāsya (two of these Abhidharma texts were probably preserved because the author, Vasubandhu, is said to have converted to Mahāyāna Buddhism). These are all texts that are not believe to be necessarily authoritative in the same manner as are sūtrāṇi, etc., yet they are preserved in the Mahāyāna canon anyways.

That is the context for how enthusiasts of EBTs have inherited the āgamāḥ, as far as I know it, from Mahāyāna canons like the Taishō Tripiṭaka, from their sections containing āgamasūtrāṇi.

So the SA literature here (called ZA oftentimes) is a very intact, non-“pasted together” Sarvāstivāda recension of sutta-parallels (and non-parallels) that comes to us through a specific line of transmission and is not a recently formed collection from what was once unsorted āgama-documents, “pasted together” as it were. Even though the āgamāḥ, as a complete whole, are indeed “pasted together”.

The SA-2 is also a Sarvāstivāda text, but it comes into Chinese through a line of transmission from Central Asia (Kushan, I wonder?), not India like the SA. It is also not a complete Saṃyuktāgama, being substantial shorter than SA. In contrast, the DA, according to the Bingenheimer text I am reading, is from the Dharmaguptaka.

Each of these collections is internally consistence in style and context (well, sort of), however, they are inconsistent between themselves. That is to say, the DA has some different literary grammar, some different translations choices, some different Chinese terminology, etc., than the SA. Similarly with the SA-2,3, & EA collections mutually. This is due to the extremely flexible analytic grammar of the Literary (or “Middle”) Chinese that these collections are preserved in, which was designed to be used and idiosyncratically adapted by individual scribes for use for multiple unlike languages, such as vastly divergent dialects of Chinese languages, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc.

The EA actually preserves some āgamāḥ which clearly expound Mahāyāna teachings, from EA 27.5: [quote]聞如是: 一時,佛在舍衛國祇樹給孤獨 園。
Heard thus truly: one time, Buddha dwelt [at] Śrāvastī [in] Jetavana.

爾時,彌勒菩薩至如來所,頭面禮足,在 一面坐。
At that-time, Maitreya Bodhisattva came [to the] Tathāgata’s location, head facing [downward] bowing [from the] foot [i.e. prostrating or hiding his feet], [then] beside [the Buddha] [to] one side sat.

At that-time, Maitreya Bodhisattva addressed [the] Bhagavān saying:

"[Do] Bodhisattvāḥ Mahāsattvāḥ accomplish myriad dharmāḥ, and perform dānapāramitā,

具足六 波羅蜜,疾成無上正真之道?」
possess [the] path [of] six pāramitāḥ, swiftly accomplish nothing higher correctly [and] truly[,] [the] path?

[The passage in question then goes on to explore the other five pāramitāḥ and have the Buddha agree with Maitreya Bodhisattva’s questioning of if the Buddha approves of practice of the six pāramitāḥ (dāna, śīla, kṣānti, vīrya, dhyāna, & prajñāpāramitā) as a path to awakening.][/quote]

If we take āgamāḥ like this at face value, it implies that Mahāyāna and Bodhisattvayāna are far older than believed to be. However, there is essentially unanimous consensus among those informed concerning Buddhist textual criticism that āgamāḥ like the one I just quoted above are Mahāyāna accruals, not original literature from the same layer as the rest of the āgama-material.

Because of this, there is a small deal of controversy within the EBT subcommunity of Buddhist textual criticism, as to if the āgamāḥ and nikāyā together constitute a coherent body of literature or if they are ultimately incoherent (i.e. sectarian) and cannot be used to reliably reconstruct a common Ur-tradition of “Early Buddhism”.

A proponent of the alleged (partial, I am phrasing this far stronger than he would ever) incoherence between the āgamāḥ and the nikāyā is Ven Thích Minh Châu, his text The Chinese Madhyama Āgama and the Pāli Majjhima Nikāya is a good text for exploring this presented perspective.

This perspective is disagreed with by proponent of what we could call “EBT coherency”, namely our own Ven @sujato and Ven @Brahmali, whose text I will now quote, namely, The Authenticity of Early Buddhist Texts, from page 84:[quote]4.3.5 Claiims of incoherence

Scholarship has not succeeded in finding consequential contradictions within the EBTs.

An important challenge to our contention that the EBTs are coherent comes from those who have argued that Buddhism contains fundamental teachings that are hard to reconcile. Probably the most important of these arguments is the claim that Buddhism, specifically the Buddhism of the Pali sources, gives contradictory accounts of the goal of the Buddhist practice, including contradictory accounts of the path of meditation that leads to these goals.

This is not the place to assess these claims in detail, but a few general remarks seem called for. A major problem with these claims, here exemplified by those of Griffiths, is that they often do not distinguish between EBT and non-EBT material. Griffiths says, “The canonical and commentarial literature will be treated here as a unity … because the thrust of this paper is structural and philosophical rather than historical, and for such purposes differentiation between canon and commentary is of small importance.”

This is assuming a point that needs to be proved. In the absence of such proof, it is not possible to ascertain the coherence of the EBTs, or the lack thereof, by relying on non-EBTs. The EBTs need to be considered on their own merits.

Another problem with Griffith’s proposition is his reliance on a very limited number of texts from the EBTs. His main reference is to the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. However, in establishing any point about the EBTs one needs to consider the literature as a whole.21 It is our contention that the problems identified by Griffiths and others fall away once this is done.[/quote]This addresses an academic named Griffiths, whose work I cannot access, and does not specifically address Ven Thích Minh Châu’s work.

Another proponent EBT coherency, Ven Ānalayo, has however specifically addressed Ven Thích Minh Châu’s work from a perspective informed by EBT coherency. His paper, in response to Ven Thích Minh Châu, is available freely online if one googles “The Chinese Madhyama-ågama and the Påli Majjhima-Nikåya – In the Footsteps of Thich Minh Chau Ānalayo”.

I haven’t read it in full, but in his opening thesis, Ven Anālayo does not refute the incoherencies Ven Thích Minh Châu finds between the recensions, but rather, argues that these incoherencies stem from translation issues rather than sectarian/doctrinal disagreement between the Theravāda and Sarvāstivāda Buddhavacana-recensions. That is explained in my phrasing, not his.

I hope that is informative and is not too ill-informed (I expect I will be corrected shortly if that is the case!).

In short, lacking a Sarvāstivāda vinaya that cites this exact lines of transmission of Sarvāstivāda scripture from precisely this line of transmission (SA/ZA), ideally in Chinese, we cannot really know if the corresponding vinaya-parallel gives a different historical context as to the circumstances of the delivery of the Fire Sermon.


Thanks for this explanation, and for the very helpful discussion of Chinese.

To qualify what you have said, I don’t think there is any particularly great difference in principle between the approaches of the various scholars you have mentioned above, and indeed in the tiny field which we serve, Ven Thich Minh Chau is revered as a great forefather. I believe Ven Analayo had the chance to visit him and pay respects before he passed away.

There are, it is true, a number of instances that Ven Thich Minh Chau explained as sectarian differences which, with further research, appear to be mere accidents of textual transmission. This is not because of a different theoretical approach, but because of closer examination, or because a wider range of texts was taken into consideration. In his main work, Ven Thich Minh Chau focused exclusively on the Majjhima Nikāya and Madhyamāgama.

One of his points, for example, was that the absence of the Jīvaka Sutta in the Madhyamāgama indicated a more favorable attitude towards vegetarianism among the Sarvāstivādins. However, more recently a Dīrghāgama manuscript in Sanskrit from the same or similar school has been discovered, and it turns out it contains a Jīvaka Sutta. Thus the difference was solely that in the Theravāda school the sutta was placed in the Majjhima, while in the Sarvstivādins it was in the Dīgha.

In most of these cases, I expect Ven Thich Minh Chau would have revised his conclusions if he had the chance.

There are some instances of possible sectarian influence that remain. While scholars might differ in whether they attribute a specific detail to sectarian influence, all would agree that such instances are rare and minor, and do not affect the vast bulk of the teachings in the EBTs. (The EA, as you note above, is somewhat of an exception.)

Another nuance to bear in mind is the difference between something that is characteristic of a sect, and something that is definitive of it.

As an example of sectarian characteristics, we find that, where the Pali texts have three characteristics of impermanence, suffering, and not-self, the Sarvāstivādin texts usually add emptiness to this. Of course, we find emptiness mentioned plenty of times in a similar way in Pali, but it is more frequent and more standard in the Sarvāstivāda. So this is characteristic of the Sarvāstivāda, but by no means a definitive tenet of the school. It is possible that such emphasis promoted an emphasis on emptiness in the developed sectarian philosophy, but this is an indirect relation.

On the other hand, we also find that the Sarvāstivāda and Pali texts differ on passages that specifically pertain to the definitive Sarvāstivāda doctrine that all dhammas exist in the past, future, and present. In such instances we suspect that there is not merely a shift in emphasis, or in the patterns of textual repetition, but a conscious interpolation of sectarian ideas. Such instances are extremely rare.


Wow, could that suggest that they would have used the Jivaka Sutta more often or more boldly than Theravadins to play down the issue of vegetarianism then?

The reason for my question is that I learned once that the Dīgha was more used in context of proselytism than the Majjhima Nikaya (please correct me if this is not right!).

Well, I think that would be over-interpreting it. It is certainly true that this shift can’t be read as de-emphasizing it. And it is possible, as you suggest, that it was felt to fit with other suttas addressing a non-Buddhist audience, in this case, the Jains. But it would need careful examination: the Sarvāstivāda Dīrghāgama has a number of features that set it apart from its Pali counterpart. For example, it includes many more suttas, and several of these are, by Digha standards, quite short. What this means is hard to say until the manuscript is published.

The real message of this is that we shouldn’t be in a rush to draw conclusions on incomplete evidence. :wink:

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@James2997, @Shaun, because you seem to be better at deciphering this Chinese than me, what do you make of [quote]神足變化示現、他心示現、教誡示現[/quote]? I got: [quote]A divine-attainment-impermanence-transformation manifestation, an “other mind” [telepathy] manifestation, and a persuasion manifestation. [/quote]But that was only by consulting a bunch of translators’ various renderings of the passage.

Buddhist Chinese dictionaries unfortunately have a lot of readings associated with later Mahāyāna language, and do not differentiate this from the language of early Chinese Buddhism, for instance, the NTI Buddhist dictionary lists 神足變化示現 as “teleportation”, but the description of 神足變化示現 that is given in the āgama is clearly not teleportation, meaning that 神足變化示現 meaning teleportation must have come from a later Mahāyāna usage, possibly, I do not know, which I why I ask you this question:

What do you think 神足變化示現 means?

Buddhist Chinese is its own vocabulary, just as it is in english. I’m pretty well read in Chinese Medicine and Daoist philosophy (in Chinese). I’m relatively new to Chinese Buddhism. I went to a website called Buddhspace and read its commentary:

神足 = 神足通 = “Higher powers” (iddhi-vidhā), such as walking on water and through walls.

变化 = means change

示现 = means to show, to reveal, to show

The commentary said that it has two meanings: 1. To be able to fly to heavens. 2. To be able to change the physical body into a spiritual form (I guess meaning you can walk through walls).

他心示現 = to know the mind of what others are thinking

教誡示現 = teach disciples.

I have asked a couple Mahayana Venerables to help with the translation (they are currently in Taiwan), and I’ll get back to you…sorry for the slow reply I was waiting to get an answer from them, but maybe they are in retreat.

[quote=Shaun]示现 = means to show, to reveal[/quote]NTI and a few resources gave me “manifestation” (I assume, from “revelatory apparition”, or something like that.

I don’t see a problem with in necessarily, aside from that it is far too vague, since it strikes me that anything could be a “manifestation”, in Buddhism, due to its treatment of the senses, sense-objects, consciousness, and appearance.

“Demonstrate” might actually be better for the purposes of this text.


The way I understand it , is,
which correspond to the above Sutta :

神足变化示现 - manifestation of the divine psychic power of teleportation
他心示现- manifestation of the telepathy
教诫示现- to expound the teaching

Above is the common meaning one gets
in Chinese translations.

But , for me to say
the meaning would be quite different .


[quote=“James2997, post:12, topic:4739”]
神足变化示现 - manifestation of the divine psychic power of teleportation
[/quote]Yes, a lot of dictionaries list this as teleportation, however, this reading might stem from a later time period (possibly from a Maháyána layer of Buddhist Hybrid Chinese).

Why? Well, I can’t say for certain, but there doesn’t seem to be any actual “teleportation” in the ágama.

Part of this problem might be in how modern (English?) people imagine “teleportation” (Zap! I’m here! Zip! I’m over here now!). Perhaps Ven @Sujato can contextualize us as to how “teleportation” should be read historically? How does “teleportation” appear in the Páli literature, if at all? If so, what is the historical context?

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That’s pretty much the way it’s usually described in the suttas:

From AN 7.61:

From AN 4.21:

From AN 8.30:

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There are stories of Ajahn Chah during the last 10 years of his life *he was in critical condition close to death) where he was bedridden in the hospital, being seen elsewhere miles away from the hospital by his disciples and students, not in bedridden condition.

I would guess the suttas where “teleportation” happens usually mean a mind made body, with the original host elsewhere, probably quietly meditating in seclusion.

I think there is still a significant issue in interpreting the language of this āgama that, it would seem, Ven Anālayo has navigated successfully in rendering 神足變化示現 as “the miracle of psychic power”. I don’t see any reason to doubt Ven Anālayo, but it would be very interesting to see how this decision came about and why, perhaps, “psychic power” was later understood to mean “teleportation” possibly, since,

I still don’t think the first miracle has any “teleportation” in it. “Magical moving” in general, yes, but none of this:[quote=“raivo, post:14, topic:4739”]
From AN 4.21:

Then Brahmā Sahampati, having known with his own mind the reflection in my mind, disappeared from the brahmā world and reappeared before me just as a strong man might extend his drawn-in arm or draw in his extended arm.
[/quote]Unless “teleportation” was conceived of differently at the time of writing.

I’m asking around on a few other forums that specialize in Chinese linguistics, someone might have an idea.

[quote=“frankk, post:15, topic:4739”]
I would guess the suttas where “teleportation” happens usually mean a mind made body, with the original host elsewhere, probably quietly meditating in seclusion.
[/quote]This is very interesting, but it also doesn’t seem to happen in the text itself, that is to say, it doesn’t mention a mind-made body. Now that doesn’t have any bearing on whether the Buddha would have theoretically performed this miracle via a mind-made body or not, but I don’t think that that interpretation, whether right or wrong, can be drawn from this particular text itself without inferences.

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[quote=“Shaun, post:10, topic:4739”]
神足 = 神足通 = “Higher powers” (iddhi-vidhā), such as walking on water and through walls.
[/quote]Did you find a reading where 神足 means iddhi-vidhā alone for certain? Or did this resource also list it as “teleportation”?

Hi Coemgenu,

Here is what I got:

In the Pali Canon, the higher knowledges are often enumerated in a group of six or of three types of knowledge.

The six types of higher knowledges (chalabhiññā) are:

“Higher powers” (iddhi-vidhā), such as walking on water and through walls;

“Divine ear” (dibba-sota), that is, clairaudience;

“Mind-penetrating knowledge” (ceto-pariya-ñāṇa), that is, telepathy;

“Remember one’s former abodes” (pubbe-nivāsanussati), that is, recalling one’s own past lives;

“Divine eye” (dibba-cakkhu), that is, knowing others’ karmic destinations; and,

“Extinction of mental intoxicants” (āsavakkhaya), upon which arahantship follows.

Source: Orientalia (2007); Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-5), pp. 64-65, 115-116, 121-122, 272, 288-289, 372, 432; Thanissaro (1997).

[quote=“Shaun, post:18, topic:4739”]
Hi Coemgenu,

Here is what I got:

In the Pali Canon, the higher knowledges are often enumerated in a group of six or of three types of knowledge.

The six types of higher knowledges (chalabhiññā) are:

“Higher powers” (iddhi-vidhā), such as walking on water and through walls;
[/quote]Yes, but forgive me if I be a bit obsessive in my questioning, since this interests me, as I was not able to find “physic powers” or “iddhi-vidhā” as a reading for 神足, despite looking through a bunch of resources. All I found, over and over again, was this “teleportation” reading.

I am not doubting at all that 神足 means “iddhi-vidhā”, I am just wondering what resource you used (so that I can steal it!:slight_smile:)?

Source: Orientalia (2007); Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-5), pp. 64-65, 115-116, 121-122, 272, 288-289, 372, 432; Thanissaro (1997).

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