Abhidharmakosa, visudhimagga, etc

Has there been any work in tracking down EBT sutras and suttas cited in these later works?

For those of us immersed in the commentarial tradition (be it in Theravada or in Mahāyāna circles that make use of the Abhidharmakosha) it could be really useful to help us navigate which ideas expressed in these texts come from an older stratum and which ideas are potentially more sectarian. I realize it would likely be outside of the scope of this site’s project to include full translations of these texts (as much as I would love that), but I think it could be a worthy project to at least include a page or a wiki or something with a list of what EBTs are being referenced and where so that we can make use of these ancient scholars’ interpretations in a skillful manner. I think this would be useful not only for determining what is old and what is new in these texts, but also for understand the historical developments that took place in Buddhism more broadly.


Or to know which sectarian ideas might in fact be in line with older teachings in the EBTs. I am sure that both Vasubandhu and Buddhaghosa are right about some things and wrong about others as far as interpreting the EBTs are concerned.

For the Kathāvatthu of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, the PTS edition lists the source of each quotes at page 401-404 (slide 453-456 of the PDF version):

Interestingly, they also list the quotes that they did not manage to find the source:
So possibly some suttas not preserved in the Pali Canon! :star_struck: Although, that compilation was done in 1915, without the useful search function we have now at our fingertips so some of these quotes might have a source in the Pali suttas that they would have missed at the time…

Here are the untraced quotes:

PTS p.74 (sl. 126)
“Here the religious life is practised?”

PTS p.119 (l.1-3) (sl.171)
“They who ‘mong souls beset by doubts, past all doubt
Have won, and now unswayed, from bonds enfranchised
Abide, to them a great reward is given”

PTS p.169 (sl.221)
“Under the Exalted One Kassapa, Ānanda, I lived the higher life for supreme enlightenment in the future”

PTS p. 197 (sl.249)
“Yea! Verily this mind and mental states
Are void of soul for one who understands.
Whose discerns the low and high in both,
The seer, he knows that neither can endure”

PTS p.225-226 (sl.277-278) – approximately Ang. v.292
“There are, bhikkhus, three modes of volitional acts of body, four modes of volitional acts of speech, and three modes of volitional acts of mind, all of which amount to immoral deeds, bringing forth ill and entailing it as result. And there are a like number of modes of volitional acts of body, speech, and mind amounting to moral [karma], bringing forth and entailing happiness as result.”

PTS p.318
“As doth the holy flame its offering,
As doth the bounteous earth the summer rain,
So doth the Order, in rapt thought expert,
The Gift accept”

PTS p.321
“Neither in this world nor in any other is any to be found better than, equal to the Buddha who has reached the summit of them who are worthy of offerings, who are desirous of merit, who seek abundant fruit”

PTS p.325 (sl. 377) – see Dialogues, ii. 114 f, & 112 ; i.55.
“By the higher knowledge, bhikkhus, do I teach the Norm, not without the higher knowledge; a Norm with [reference to] cause do I teach, not one without; a wonder-working Norm do I teach, and none not wonder-working. And that I, bhikkhus, thus teach the Norm, a homily should be made, instruction should be given, to wit, let this, bhikkhus, suffice for your content, let this suffice for your satisfaction and for your gladness: - the Exalted One is Buddha Supreme! The Norm is well revealed! The Order is well trained! Now when this declaration was uttered, ten thousand world-systems trembled.”

PTS p.346 (sl. 398)
“Not Vessabhu nor yet the Petas’ King,
Soma, Yama, or King Vessaraṇa –
The deeds that were his own do punish him
Who ending here attains to other worlds”

PTS p.348 (sl. 400)
“For him who was hitherto been quite pure in karma of deed and of word and of livelihood, this Ariyan Eightfold Path will go to perfection of development”


Also in the English translatin of the Vimmutimagga by Rev. N. R. M. Ehara, Soma Thera and Kheminda Thera (1961), they note some untraced stanzas (on page 53, or slide 117 of the PDF version):


Right, and if they are still not to be found in the Pāli Vinaya/Nikayas, they could potentially be found in the Chinese Agamas. It is amazing how much work needs to be done yet!

I also just looked deeper into the Abhidharma Kosa and Visudhimagga… damn those are huge texts. I realize it would be a monumental task. But that is partially why I asked if scholars have already begun that task, and if so, if we could potentially collect that in one place (like here).

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Monumental is the right word. I have no idea if there are more of those indexes in the PTS books (but that should be easy to check), nor if some modern scholars started building such lists… It would indeed be interesting to have all these quotes in SC since they are EBTs, albeit quoted in later texts.

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That is basically what I was thinking. With the modern search function, as you said, finding those parallels from the Visudhimagga within the Pāli EBTs wouldn’t be so hard. I imagine trying to find them in the Chinese Agamas and Vinayas would be tougher. For the Abhidharmakosa, between the Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese editions this would get into extra difficult territory.

So I was thinking, just using my English translation (by Bhikkhu Ñáóamoli) of the Visudhimagga, can I go ahead and pull out all of the quotes found in it and track the ones he gives a citation to back to the EBTs? Didn’t work quite well.

This happened just in the first citation on the first page of the first chapter:

“When a wise man, established well in virtue, Develops consciousness and understanding,
Then as a bhikkhu ardent and sagacious
He succeeds in disentangling this tangle” (S I 13).

So I looked at the abbreviation list. Okay S stands for Samyutta. Alright, so this must be SN1.13, right? Wrong!

saṃyutta nikāya 1
connected discourses with devatas

13. None Equal to That for a Son

At Savatthi. Standing to one side, that devatā spoke this verse in the presence of the Blessed One:

“There is no affection like that for a son,
No wealth equal to cattle,
There is no light like the sun,
Among the waters the ocean is supreme.”

The Blessed One:

“There is no affection like that for oneself,
No wealth equal to grain,
There is no light like wisdom,
Among the waters the rain is supreme.”

So seriously, I have no idea what is being referenced in there! :sob::joy::sob::joy:.

S I 13 means:
S = The PTS edition of the Pali text of the Samyuatta
I = First book of the PTS edition
13 = page 13

In Bhikkhu Bodhi’s books, the start of page 13 of the Pali PTS edition would be referenced as [13], which corresponds to sutta SN 1.21 to SN 1.23. SN 1.23 being the Tangle sutta that you were looking for. In Bodhi’s book, the reference to the PTS English translation is done with <>. For SN1.23, you’ll find it starts after <28> and finishes a bit before <30>.

This is the page number referenced on SuttaCentral:

So as you see it’s a bit tedious! Maybe someone knows a quicker and cleverer way to navigate these old references…

PS: I tried to find on SC the reference to page of the Pali PTS edition but couldn’t find it… I might have missed it.

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Here is an article that might be helpful:

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(is the chronology of early commentary on what constitutes the Magga (the path))

It is also noteworthy that the entirety of the Visuddhimagga is a commentary on a single passage from the suttas:

A wise man grounded in ethics,
developing the mind and wisdom,
a keen and alert mendicant,
can untangle this tangled mass.


PS - this information is from Bhikkhu Sujato’s recent class on “The Visuddhimagga for Sutta Lovers”


Great explanation!

There is the PTS Converter: http://pts.ticao.de/ which can help. I’m ever hopeful that it could be integrated into Sutta Central. It makes reading articles that use the PTS convention much easier.


I was not aware of this tool, that’s excellent, thanks! :slight_smile: Yes it would be a nice integration in SC.

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I think this quote is a direct speech of the Buddha when he explain his past birth on Kassapa Buddha’s time, which said by Ananda in Madhyama Agama (MA) discourse 32 (which is a parallel of MN 123). In Bhikkhu Analayo’s translation, it says:

World-honored One, I have heard that at the time of Kassapa Buddha, the World-honored One made his initial vow [to follow] the path [of becoming] a buddha and practiced the holy life.

This sutta quote from Kv 1.1, which is not found in Pali canon, is taken from Samyukta Agama (SA) discourse 105 (without Pali parallel):

“There are these three teachers, Seniya, to be found in the world—who are the three? There is first, Seniya, that kind of teacher who declares that there is a real, persistent self in the life that now is, and in that which is to come; then there is the kind of teacher, Seniya, who declares that there is a real, persistent self in the life that now is, but not a self in a future life; lastly, there is a certain teacher who does not declare that there is a self either in the life that now is, nor in that which is to come. The first, Seniya, of these three is called an Eternalist, the second is called an Annihilationist; the third of these, he, Seniya, is called the teacher, who is Buddha supreme. These are the three teachers to be found in the world.”.

SA 105 in Bhikkhu Analayo’s translation says:

Seniya, you should know that there are three kinds of teacher. What are the three?

“There is a teacher who has the view that [only] in the present world there truly is a self, and he speaks according to his understanding, yet he is not able to know matters of the afterlife. This is called the first [kind of] teacher that appears in the world.

“Again, Seniya, there is a teacher who has the view that in the present world there truly is a self, and he also has the view that in the afterlife there [truly] is a self, and he speaks according to his understanding.

“Again, Seniya, there is a teacher who does not have the view that in the present world there truly is a self, and he also does not have the view that in the afterlife there truly is a self.

“Seniya, the first teacher who has the view that in the present world there truly is a self and who speaks according to his understanding, he is reckoned as having the view of annihilation.

“The second teacher who has the view that in the present world and in the future world there truly is a self, and who speaks according to his understanding, he has the view of eternalism.

“The third teacher who does not have the view that in the present world there truly is a self, and who also does not have the view that in the afterlife there [truly] is a self ― this is the Tathāgata, the arahant, the fully awakened one, who in the present has abandoned craving, become separated from desire, has made them cease, and has attained Nirvāṇa.”


Which quote are you referring to exactly? You link to the entire discussion, which is very long! and contain several quotations from the suttas, but I couldn’t find the one related to the passage of Samyukta Agama you’ve pasted.

It has a near-parallel in the Abhidhamma’s Puggalapaññatti, which differs from the Kathāvatthu’s version only in that it’s not addressed to Seniya.

Tikaniddesa (scroll down to the very last paragraph).


Oh I’m sorry, I can’t give the reference number of page of Kv quoted (because there is no reference number or line number there like one in the suttas Bhante Sujato translated), but you can use search tools on your browser to find word “seniya” in the SC page linked and jump to the passage I quoted like this:



I found it thanks.

Interesting, in the PTS book it’s located at page 62 and described there as an untraced sutta but does not show up on the untraced sutta table at the end (the first one is at page 74). It seems they missed this untraced sutta in their table right?

Good job at spotting this parallel :slight_smile: I checked the parallels of this text in SC and they don’t have it yet.
You could maybe ask them to add it…?

Would the Abhidhamma’s Puggalapaññatti be considered ‘in the suttanta’ for the debaters of the Kathāvatthu?

If not, what are the different hypotheses that can explain this situation? (i.e. some early Theravadin monastics quoting a passage from a sutta which is not found in the Pali Canon but which is found in the Canon of another school).

My impression is that the policy at the Third Council was to quote only from the Suttanta and Vinaya Piṭakas. Though the list of citations at the end of Points of Controversy does give three passages from the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, none of the three really counts. The first and third ones are not passages cited in the Third Council debates, but rather quotations from the Kathāvatthu Commentary, while the second is virtually identical to a passage in the SN, differing only in that the verb passati appears in its absolutive form disvā.

I assume that the passage quoted by Seniya was part of the Pali Suttanta Piṭaka at the time of Third Council. But whether its dropping from the Suttanta but preservation in the Abhidhamma came about by accident or design is a complete mystery to me. That is, I can’t imagine what sort of accident could have caused this, nor any reason for doing it on purpose.

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