Comparing AN.7.68 to Its Chinese Parallels

Tags: #<Tag:0x00007fc7aebed340>


As I promised elsewhere last week, I wanted to begin sharing analyses of the relationship between the Pali and Chinese passages that are clear parallels. It’s an interesting exercise for discerning teachings that were likely very early doctrines in the Buddhist community prior to the later schisms.

It also gives us some insight into the discontinuities that may have occurred among the sub-canons that developed. It seems likely that the actual content of lists like this one were sometimes lost and recreated given the diverges that we shall see. Or the reverse situation may have happened: The Sutra version of a teaching was lost and recreated with the teaching preserved elsewhere.

The Five Texts

Before I begin, I should list the source texts for this little study. The Pali is the Dhammaññū Sutta found in the Sevens division of the Anguttara Nikāya (AN.7.68). I’ve located four clear parallels in Chinese: Three Sutras and an Abhidharma passage. They are:

  • MA.1: The Good Dharma Sutra of the Madhyama Āgama, found at T26.421a12-422a16.
  • EA.39.1: The first sutra of Part 39 of the Ekôttara Āgama (no title), found at T125.728b26-729b10.
  • T27: The Seven Knowledges Sutra, found at T27.810a01-b29.
  • T1536: A passage in Xuanzang’s Abhidharma-saṃgīti-paryāya-pāda-śāstra at T1536.437b18-c13, which defines the seven dharmas and offers a few comments about them.

T27 is the earliest Chinese translation of this text dating to the middle 200s CE by Zhi Qian, while T1536 is the latest. It was translated in the 660s CE as part of Xuanzang’s comprehensive translation of the Sarvâstivāda Abhidharma canon. The two Āgama collections were translated between the middle 300s to the early 400s CE. The close correspondence between MA.1 and the passage in T1536 supports the case for the Madhyama Āgama being from the Sarvâstivāda’s Sutra canon, and T27 bears a close resemblance to it as well. The Ekôttara version diverges significantly, though, suggesting that it’s not a Sarvâstivāda text.

Comparing these five texts, I’ll begin with the overall structure this post, then look at the different versions of the list and finish by comparing the actual content of each list item in the next post.

Each Sutra begins with a succinct introduction stating that a bhikṣu who accomplishes seven knowledges will attain great things. The Pali expresses this as being “worthy of offerings dedicated to the gods, worthy of hospitality, worthy of a religious donation, worthy of veneration with joined palms, and is the supreme field of merit for the world.”

This disagrees with the Chinese versions, which instead state that the bhikṣu who achieves these knowledges will end the contaminants:

  • T27 states that the bhikṣu will “in the present life be well, happy, and practice often. He’ll make progress in contemplating the Dharma, and his habitual tendencies (āsrava?) will come to an end.” (現世安隱和悅多行,精進法觀令習得盡).
  • MA.1 states that he will “then attain the happiness of the noble sages (aryan), and he’ll be rightly headed for the end of the contaminants (āsrava).” (便於賢聖得歡喜樂,正趣漏盡。)
  • EA.39.1 echoes this sentiment: He will “experience unending happiness in the present, and he will be able to end the contaminants if he wishes to do so.” (於現法中受樂無窮,欲得盡漏,便能獲之。)

The Teaching
All four sutras agree that the teaching consists of a definition of seven things that a bhikṣu should know. I’ll analyze this in more in another post.

Both the Pali and EA.39.1 conclude after the seven knowledges are presented by repeating the benefits that achieving them has for a bhikṣu. T27 and MA.1, however, lacks this closer.

EA.39.1 reads: “If a bhikṣu accomplishes these seven things, then his happiness in the present will have no condition, and he’ll end the contaminants as he wishes; there is no doubt. Therefore, bhikṣus, you must seek the skillful methods to achieve these seven things. Thus, bhiksus, must you train yourselves.” (若有比丘成就七法者,於現法中快樂無為,意欲斷漏亦無有疑。是故,比丘!當求方便,成此七法。如是,比丘!當作是學).


Hi there ,

If you don’t mind , minor alteration .

If a bhikṣu accomplishes these seven knowledges , he shall attain unconditioned happiness in the present , and undoubtedly able to abandon the defilements if he wishes so .



Wow. The opening difference seems to suggest a hypothesis that Chinese laity might have been, at least initially, somethat indifferent to these “new-fangled” Buddhist monks who would have had to presumably fend for themselves much of the time, even to the point of farming vs. starving. The rewritten opening would certainly be less depressing! :thinking:

For western Buddhism, similar issues may arise in the context of weak community support.


Hi, Gene,

Thanks for the alternate rendering. I can’t say that I disagree with the basic meaning either way, which was all I was attempting to capture while sticking to the Chinese grammar fairly literally. I think if there’s an inaccuracy, it would be “there is no doubt”–I think it may be that it’s the bhiksu who is lacking the doubt, so it would become “and he’ll have no doubt (about it).”

漏 is a term I’ve never settled on a translation I liked. It’s a case of a metaphor used as a technical term, and the Chinese chose to be more literal with a term that means “leakage/seepage”. So, I usually opt for English translations like “contaminants” or “pollutants” to distinguish it from other terms that do mean “defilement” more directly.

Thanks again for reading and commenting.



It doesn’t have much to do with what the Chinese laity thought about bhiksus. These are sutras brought to China from India or Central Asia, so they are snapshots of what the Indian sutras looked like. The Chinese translations appear to preserve two different Indian versions of the text, which makes three versions when we include the Pali.

When I post the comparisons of the list of seven dharmas, we’ll see that all the sutras agreed on the list, but not the definitions of each item. There’s a mixture of similarities and difference between all three versions. My conclusion is that none of them represent the original version of the teaching (entirely)–but it is a very old teaching that predates the sectarian canons.



Ah. Thanks for the correction. I had heard that Buddhists in China had to farm or die, hence the hypothesis. But since the sources are older, my hypothesis is now just speculation.


Thanks, this is a nice little study.

May I suggest afew little points, not about the study itself:

  • Keep using the same tag you’ve made for all your studies so we can find them.
  • If you could mention whether any parallels on SC that are missing or mistaken, that would be very helpful.
  • @Vimala I guess you’re seeing this already, but anyway, keep an eye on these studies in case any new parallels are found. :pray:


Thanks for this. We already had the parallels with ma1, ea39.1 and t27 listed but not so precise. T1536 is new. I will add all this. t1536 is listed but not actually on our site. I will see if I can add it.
I’m not actually sure what the listed numbers here mean. I will look into it:


Buddhist dictionary by Ding Fu Bao
《佛学大辞典》丁福保 编




漏 Meaning is leak where it refers to greed hatred (the defilement) Leak through the six sense doors !


Hi, Vimala,

If it helps at all, I’ve used an abbreviated way of referring to the Taisho that skips the volume. T1536 is text number 1536. Then it’s page, column (a, b, c), and line number. If a passage doesn’t span to the next page or column, that information isn’t repeated (810a1-b29 = 810a1-810b29). I used CBETA’s edition that can show texts either in paragraph or line-by-line form to get the exact line numbers. The paragraph format is much easier to read, but it only gives where the paragraphs begin, and sometimes they are quite large.

You have the Chinese for the three sutras, yes. The passage in T1536 is brief, but I would think there will be other parallels found there as it defines numerical Dharma lists like this one. I happened to find it by searching for related terms.



Oh geez. Lets close them fast, eh?

When was the last time something so leaky was worth its weight?


Oh yeah , but remember thing is best before expiry date !


Thank you. But that is not exactly the numbers I was referring to.
At the moment we have 2 different systems running, or so it seems, on our parallels page for this: SuttaCentral

So you have numbers like T1536#18d and you have others like T1536#t0418a13. I would simply like to be consistent in the numbering scheme that is used. The scheme that is used most throughout is the t-numbers. So T1536#18d = T1536#t0443a26 ??? I am not sure. Bhante @Sujato, would you mind clarifying what numbering system is best?

In the mean time, I will just put this parallel in as you put it.


Yes, the t-number is used throughout, so we should use that. Checking in parallels.json, it is only in T 1536 that we find the “short” form, so it is clearly a mistake.

It seems that in the Taisho numbers, vgns indicates a verse, while the t just indicates an ordinary page/col/line number. The “t” here must be added to disambiguate.

Since the page numbers for this sutra are in the 400 range, it seems that the conversion should go:

  • t1536#18d :arrow_right: t1536#t0418d
  • t1536#19b :arrow_right: t1536#t0419d


We also do this in our reference data.

Indeed. There will surely be a study somewhere on this! Our basic parallels data focuses on the nikaya/agamas, so there will be many missing parallels in such Abhidhamma material.


Not entirely convinced here.

I decided to look it up on the Legacy site.
So on AN AN 10: Dasaka Nipāta - Aṅguttara Nikāya - SuttaCentral, at AN 10.25 it refers to T1536#19b. Clicking on that ends you up at

So that is T26n1536_019 at linehead t0447a24. How does that work out?

I found this table on the legacy site: legacy-suttacentral-data/external_text.csv at master · suttacentral/legacy-suttacentral-data · GitHub which lists all the links to these external sites.

This lists a.o.


And there are a lot more of them. I checked in the parallels and they have never been updated.

So these have never changed over to the new site. Question is: what to do? I can use this data to update the parallels table for sure and will do so.

But is there a point in providing the link to cbeta from SC like it does on the legacy site or shall we actually add these texts to SC in the future?


The List of Seven Dharmas/Knowledges

Aside from a couple differences in order, all five lists of seven dharmas agree on the items and the order. The four Chinese versions are in almost complete agreement that the order is:

  1. Knowing the Dharma
  2. Knowing the meaning
  3. Knowing the time
  4. Knowing moderation
  5. Knowing oneself
  6. Knowing the assembly
  7. Knowing people

The Ekottara Āgama disagrees slightly by switching items 4 & 5 in its list. The Pali list is also very close to this order, switching items 3 & 5.

The Definitions of Each Item

One point to make before continuing is that the style of presentation that we find in the Pali that repeats the definition three times is replicated in the Madhyama Āgama’s Good Dharma Sutra, but not in the other three Chinese parallels. T27 and EA.39.1 only state the positive and negative versions of each item.

T1536 gives a negative version of this list before the positive one is defined, but they are treated as two different dharma lists.

1. Knowing the Dharma

The Pali and Chinese sutras state that knowing the Dharma means knowing the divisions of the Sutra canon. The Pali differs from the Chinese texts by specifying the nine types of sutras recognized in the Theravada, while the Chinese versions list the twelve types that were standard in Indian Buddhism; i.e., the nine divisions plus nidāna, avadāna, and upadeśa.

The differences between the Chinese texts are related to translating the Sanskrit names of the twelve divisions of the sutras to Chinese, so I will move onto the next item without a detailed translation of each passage.

2. Knowing the Meaning

EA.39.1 is the outlier in this case, defining it as knowing the Buddha’s essential meaning, rather than the technical meaning of particular statements in the sutras.

AN.7.68: It’s when a mendicant knows the meaning of this or that statement: ‘This is what that statement means; that is what this statement means.’

T27: He clarifies such and such statements by the Sutra Dharma according to their meanings (彼彼所說經法,悉曉其義).

MA.1: A bhikṣu knows the meaning of such and such a statement to be this or that meaning (比丘知彼彼說義是彼義、是此義).

T1536: He correctly understands the meaning of such and such a statement: ‘Such and such a statement has such and such a meaning.’ (正了知彼彼語義,謂如是如是語有如是如是義).

EA.39.1: A bhikṣu knows the Tathāgata’s basic points, comprehends their profound meaning, and doesn’t have any difficulties about it (比丘知如來機趣,解了深義,無所疑難。)

3. Knowing the Time

All five texts are in basic agreement that this item refers to a bhikṣu’s judgement about when he ought to do different things. T27 and MA.1 have cryptic definitions that are a little clearer when we compare them to Xuanzang’s translation in T1536.

AN.7.68: It’s when a mendicant knows the right time: ‘This is the time for recitation; this is the time for questioning; this is the time for meditation; this is the time for retreat.’

T27: He knows: ‘This is a time I can consider quietude,’ ‘this is a time not (?) to consider undertakings,’ and ‘this is a time I can consider precautions’ (知是時可惟寂滅想,是時不惟受行想,是時可惟慎護想). [The negation of the second item seems likely to be a corruption.]

MA.1: A bhikṣu knows: ‘This is the time to cultivate lower qualities,’ ‘this is the time to cultivate higher qualities,’ and ‘this is the time to cultivate equanimity’ (比丘知是時修下相,是時修高相,是時修捨相) [see T1536 below for a clearer translation]

T1536: He correctly understands ‘this is the time’ and ‘this is not the time.’ I.e., ‘this is a time appropriate for cultivating calmness (śamatha-nimitta);’ ‘this is a time appropriate for cultivating exertion (pragraha-nimitta);’ and ‘this is a time appropriate for cultivating equanimity (upekṣā-nimitta)’ (正了知是時非時,謂此時應修止相、此時應修舉相、此時應修捨相等).

EA.39.1: A bhikṣu knows to manage his time. When he can cultivate contemplation, he cultivates contemplation. When he can cultivate calm, he cultivates calm. When he can be quiet, he’s quiet. When he can walk, he walks. When he can recite, he recites. When he can receive a visitor, he receives a visitor. When he can speak, he speaks (比丘知其時節,可修觀時便修觀,可修止時便修止,可默知默,可行知行,可誦知誦,可授前人便授前人,可語知語。)

4. Knowing Moderation

Again, this is a straightforward item about not going too far in eating, drinking, and various daily activities. The Pali text seems to focus only on gifts received, while the Chinese texts discuss general habits.

AN.7.68: It’s when a mendicant knows moderation when receiving robes, alms-food, lodgings, and medicines and supplies for the sick.

T27: He is able to eat and drink little, relieve himself, and readily digest his meals; able to be moderate in exiting and entering, sitting and getting up, and going on walks; and frugal when laying down, waking up, speaking, and staying quiet (能少飲食大小便便得消化,能節出入坐起行步,臥覺語默事從約省).

MA.1: A bhikṣu knows moderation whether he is drinking, eating, departing, standing, sitting, laying down, speaking, being silent, or relieving himself, rousing himself when drowsy and cultivating right knowledge.

T1536: He correctly understands the various ways of measuring things; i.e., portions of drink, food, tastes, and bites (of food), and he understands how much will cause hardship when he walks, stands, sits, lays down, sleeps, stays awake, speaks, and keeps quiet (正了知種種分量,謂所飲所食所嘗所噉、若行若住若坐若臥、若睡若覺若語若默、若解勞悶等所有分量).

EA.39.1: A bhikṣu is able to decide when it’s fitting to stop when sleeping, waking up, sitting, laying down, and going for long walks (比丘能自籌量睡眠、覺寤、坐臥、經行、進止之宜,).

5. Knowing Oneself

There is general agreement that it refers to a bhikṣu being honest and accurate in his assessments of his own progress and attainments. EA.39.1 is an outlier in its phrasing but not in the gist of its meaning.

AN.7.68: It’s when a mendicant has self-knowledge: ‘This is the extent of my faith, ethics, learning, generosity, wisdom, and eloquence.’

T27: He knows his own body, mind, and age is much or little, and he knows his own faith, discipline, wisdom, understanding, attainment, and entry are deep, shallow, strong, or weak (自知己身意老多少,所信所戒、所聞所施、所慧所解、所至所入,深淺厚薄事事自知).

MA.1: A bhikṣu knows ‘Such are my attainments of belief, discipline, learning, generosity, wisdom, discernment, and the Āgamas.’

T1536: He correctly understands his own virtues to be many or few; i.e., whether he possesses faith, discipline, learning, equanimity, wisdom, teachings, realizations, mindfulness, family lineage, eloquence, and so forth (正了知自德多少,謂自所有若信若戒、若聞若捨若慧、若教若證若念、若族姓若辯才等).

EA.39.1: A bhikṣu is able to know of himself, ‘Now, I see, hear, recall, and know that I have such wisdom and steps of progress, and I always follow the true Dharma’ (比丘能自知己:『我今有此見聞念知,有如是智慧,行步進止,恒隨正法。』).

6. Knowing the Assembly

All four sutras and the Abhidharma passage agree that this item refers to the bhikṣu’s social intelligence when interacting with different segments of Indian society and following their customs.

AN.7.68: It’s when a mendicant knows assemblies: ‘This is an assembly of aristocrats, of brahmins, of householders, or of ascetics. This one should be approached in this way. This is how to stand, to act, to sit, to speak, or to stay silent when there.’

T27: He is able to know whether an assembly is a princely assembly, a householder assembly, a brāhmaṇa assembly, a śramaṇa assembly, whether there is a time to go to that assembly, and the manners of sitting, standing, speaking, and being quiet that are fitting. He knows the occasions that are appropriate. (能知彼眾若君子眾、若理家眾,若梵志、若沙門眾,若或有時至彼眾,宜坐宜立、宜語宜默,知隨時宜).

MA.1: A bhikṣu knows ‘This is a kṣatriya assembly, this is a brāhmaṇa assembly, this is a householder assembly, and this is a śramaṇa assembly. In those assemblies, I should thus depart, thus stand, thus sit, thus speak, and thus be silent.’

T1536: He correctly understands an assembly to be superior or inferior; i.e., "this is a kṣatriya assembly," "this is a brāhmaṇa assembly," "this is a community leader assembly," "this is a householder assembly," "this is a śramaṇa assembly," or "this is a heretic assembly." "I should thus walk, thus stand, thus sit, thus speak, and thus be quiet among them" (正了知眾會勝劣,謂此是剎帝利眾、此是婆羅門眾、此是長者眾、此是居士眾、此是沙門眾、此是外道眾,我於此中應如是行、應如是住、應如是坐、應如是語、應如是默等).

EA.39.1: A bhikṣu discerns a large assembly: “This is a kṣatriya clan,” “this is a brāhmaṇa assembly,” “this is a community leader assembly,” or “this is a śramaṇa assembly.” “I will visit that assembly using the custom (dharma) that’s appropriate that I may speak or be quiet.” He fully knows them. (比丘分別大眾,此是剎利種,此是婆羅門眾,此是長者眾,此是沙門眾,我當以此法宜則適彼眾中,可語可默,皆悉知之。).

7. Knowing People

The last of the seven dharmas is itself a list of items in the four sutras. The passage in T1536 is the exception, giving us only a summary definition.

The list consists of an incremental comparison of lay people in terms of their acceptance and practice of the Dharma. For brevity, I’ve condensed the pairs to the characteristic being described. The basic thrust of all four sutras is the same, beginning with a desire to interact with the bhikṣus, learning about the Dharma, and becoming an exemplary practitioner who is not just interested in his own welfare. However, they all have a different number of items and wordings that overlap.

The Pali and EA.39.1 notably lack the world-encompassing language at the end, and the Pali also lacks the metaphor of ghee.


  1. People who like to see the noble ones
  2. People who like to hear the true teaching
  3. People who lend an ear to the teaching
  4. People who remember the teaching they’ve heard
  5. People who reflect on the meaning of the teachings
  6. People who understand the meaning and the teaching and practice accordingly
  7. People who practice to benefit both themselves and others


  1. People who believe in awakening
  2. People who frequent the temples and like the śramaṇas
  3. People who love and respect the śramaṇas
  4. People who befriend the śramaṇas
  5. People who like to ask questions about the sutras and Dharma
  6. People who lean to listen
  7. People who hear the Dharma and retain it
  8. People who hear and ponder its meaning
  9. People who understand the meaning of the sutras, accept the Dharma, and stand according to the Dharma
  10. People who are concerned for their own welfare, the welfare of other people, the welfare of many in the world, and who sympathize with the world and would rather benefit gods and men


  1. People having faith
  2. People who go to see the bhikṣus
  3. People who revere the bhikṣus
  4. People who ask questions about the sutras
  5. People who single-mindedly listen to the sutras
  6. People who hear and retain the Dharma
  7. People who hear the Dharma and contemplate its meaning
  8. People who know the Dharma, know its meaning, go from one Dharma to the next Dharma, conform to the Dharma, and conduct themselves according to the Dharma
  9. People who benefit themselves, benefit others, benefit many people, pity the world, seek both meaning and benefit for devas and humans, and seek peace and happiness


He correctly understands the virtues and practices of pudgalas (individuals) to be superior or inferior; i.e., such and such a pudgala has such and such virtue and practice that are superior or inferior (正了知補特伽羅德行勝劣,謂如是如是補特伽羅有如是如是德行或勝或劣).


  1. People who want to go to the monastery and befriend the bhikṣus
  2. People who go into the temple and see the bhikṣus but don’t ask questions when it’s appropriate
  3. People who ask the bhikṣus questions when it’s appropriate
  4. People who listen to the Dharma single-mindedly
  5. People who investigate the Dharma, retaining and reciting it
  6. People who hear the Dharma and understand its meaning
  7. People who accomplish the Dharma that they hear
  8. People who hear the Dharma, can endure its cultivation, and discern and protect the true Dharma

The Metaphor of Ghee

All three Chinese sutras compare the final person in this item to ghee in this fashion (with minor variations):

“It’s because of the cow that there is milk; because of milk that there is cream; because of cream that there is butter; and because of butter that there is ghee. Just as ghee is the best of these things, so is that person the best of people.”

Notes Attached to the Abhidharma Passage

In addition to the definition of these seven topics, T1536 also includes a question and answer.

“Question: What’s the reason that these seven are called ‘virtuous dharmas’? Answer: ‘Virtuous’ refers to the virtuous man (sat-puruṣa). These are his dharmas, so they are called virtuous dharmas. That is, these dharmas are only won and obtained by the virtuous man. Since they are possessed and made manifest only by that man, they are called wondrous dharmas” (問:何緣是七名為妙法?答:妙謂善士,此是彼法,故名妙法。謂此諸法唯善士邊可獲可得,此是彼士所有現有,故名妙法。).


While sifting through old files today, I realized there are a couple more parallels for this text that are found in the Chinese texts. I’m surprised they escaped me when I was putting together this study because it was the reason I became interested in the Agamas. The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, which I had studied and translated partially years ago in my spare time, has several Agamas copied into it wholesale, and one is MA.1 Good Dharma Sutra. It can be found in Dharmaksema’s translation and the edited version:

Taisho No.374, 451b13-452b26
Taisho No. 375, 693b14-694b29

This is an interesting text because it has been expanded upon, giving definitions of the 12 divisions of the sutras, for example. It was also rewritten to fit into a Mahayana context, but the basic teaching remains. It may not be suitable as a parallel to the Pali, but it’s still an interesting case.



Huh, okay well. It seems I was mistaken, the hashed numbers here must be a section number rather than a line number.

The glory of Github, saving the day once more!


I’d keep it as just the links for now. There is a reason we never put these on SC: the Chinese parallels stretch out into a long tail of increasingly obscure texts, where you end up converting huge and complex texts so get a short bit of parallel. Perhaps at some point we could just extract the relevant Chinese passages for SC. However I’d rather wait until the the CBETA Unicode has been fully updated before touching them again.

Thanks this sounds like a good candidate for addition. Vimala, if you haven’t already, could you please add these. It sounds like they should be “resembling” parallels.


Well, we don’t actually have them any more. They are only on the legacy site.
I changed the correct parallels with t-numbers last month so if anybody is interested, they have to find it on CBETA manually.