Does every version of the Mahāpadesā in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta urge practitioners to test spiritual teachings?

Does anyone know if every version of the Mahāpadesā in the Pali Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (DN 16, Part 4.8-11 and AN 4.180) contains a passage in which the Buddha instructs that even when the source of teachings, rules, or practices is a monastic who claims to have heard the dharmas “from the Lord Buddha’s own lips,” or directly from an elder, elders, or a community with elders and distinguished teachers, who are “learned, bearers of the tradition, who know the Dhamma, the discipline, the code of rules,” the practitioner still must not outright accept or reject their claims. She or he should “carefully note and compare [the claims] with the discourses and review [them] in light of the discipline.”

In the Pali version, the Buddha concludes: “If [the dhammas], on such comparison and review, are found not to conform to the discourses or the discipline, the conclusion must be: ‘Assuredly, this is not the word of the Buddha, it has been wrongly understood by this monk-or by that community, or by those elders, or that elder’-and [the teachings or practices] are to be rejected” (DN 16, Part IV).

I’ve read there is no Sanskrit version of this passage…Any information about any other versions of the Mahaparinibbana Sutta that contain this passage (or don’t), and also any important differences among the different versions (or suggestions as to where I could find that information) would be much appreciated.


Me again… I apologize for the typo above…It should have read: "Does anyone know if every version of the Mahāpadesā in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (DN 16, Part 4.8-11 and AN 4.180) contains a passage…etc…

(i.e. are the Mūlasārvāstivāda, Dharmaguptaka, Mahāsāṃghika versions etc. etc… different? and if so, how?)


Well, interesting question, and as with all things Mahaparinibbana, not easy to answer due to the very many parallels.

A quick check of the (Muala) Sarvastivada Sanskit text at SF 245 shows that it does indeed have a similar passage, with some differences in wording.

It uses the phrase “one should take the suttas as refuge not a person as refuge” (sūtrāntapratisaraṇair bhavitavyaṃ na pudgalapratisaraṇaiḥ), which is not found in the Pali. However on the whole it seems quite similar.

Also, there are a couple of Chinese parallels listed for AN 4.180:

A quick check of EA 28.5 (Mahasanghika?) shows it does seem similar, and DA 2 (a Mahaparinibbana of the Dharmaguptaka) is another parallel.

So it seems that the passage is well represented across the schools.

Given the many parallels to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, I suspect that there will be other parallels to this passage not recorded in our data. Indeed, sf245#24 is absent, and should be added. @vimala, can you check if this is present in the current data set?


Well, maybe first check a more updated version of the parallels on our old and forgotten staging server:


Well, if it’s forgotten, how can I remember it?

But while you spend the rest of your day with your mind blown by this incredible puzzle, you might also add sf245#24 as a parallel of an4.180, since it is not there!

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It’s an inferred parallel here because SF 245 #1.1-#33.3 is a full parallel to dn16 and DN 16 #160-#169 is a partial parallel of an4.180. So logic has it that part of the SF 245 is also partial parallel to an4.180. That should have been corrected in our new system.

But indeed sf245#24 is more precise and that does not seem to have been recorded. I remember that we struggled a lot with recording these things.


Thank you so much! I just checked the Chinese versions… The Ekottarāgama 28.5 增壹阿含經(五)廣演義 is very long so I have not found if it is similar or the same yet (it will take a long time for me to read through it to find it)… but (in case this is helpful in future) the Dīrghāgama Chapter 1 Part 2 (DA2, at TI 17b29-18a22長阿含經第一分(二)遊行經. . is similar to the Pali. (The footnote 894 on p. 1712 in Walshe’s DN translation is a pretty good translation of part the Chinese Dīrghāgama version.)


One more question… I just found the following statement on the internet… To your knowledge, is the following (see below) generally believed to be true today?

"The Sanskrit Tripitaka we have today was pieced together mostly from early Chinese translations, and for this reason, it is called the Chinese Tripitaka.

The Sanskrit/ Chinese version of the Sutra-pitaka also is called the Agamas. There are two Sanskrit versions of the Vinaya, called the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya (followed in Tibetan Buddhism) and the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya (followed in other schools of Mahayana Buddhism). These were named after the early schools of Buddhism in which they were preserved."…

No, it is very confused!

  1. There is no such thing as a Sanskrit Tripitaka. The Sanskrit texts we have today derive from multiple random sources and are not a coherent canon.
  2. The Chinese texts are regarded as a distinct canon, translated from several Indic languages including Sanskrit. But nobody refers to it as a “Sanskrit Tripitaka”.
  3. There are not two different Sanskrit Vinayas, but many. There are five full Vinayas in Chinese translation, one in Tibetan, and many other texts besides. You can check the “Vinaya” menu at SuttaCentral for a fairly complete list of extant Vinaya texts.
  4. The Dharmaguptaka Vinaya in Chinese was not translated from Sanskrit but from Gandhari.

In summary, whatever source that is is useless, ignore it.


I’ve added sf245#24.1-24.52 as a parallel to an4.40 and ea28.5 and as a resembling parallel to all the others on that list.

I created a GitHub issue on this because a lot more work will have to be done to re-evaluate and create more precise notation for these parallels.


The Indic source languages of Chinese texts is very hotly debated. It seems no two papers are in agreement frequently. Out of curiousity, what convinced you to side with the hypothesis of a Gandhari origin for this text?

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The majority of Dharmaguptaka texts were in Gandhari, and I’ve not heard any argument that the Vinaya is an exception.

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My apologies… This should read:

the Dīrghāgama Chapter 1 Part 2 (DA2, at TI 17b29-18a22長阿含經第一分(二)遊行經. . is similar to the Pali. (The footnote 894 on p. 1712 in BODHI’s ANGUTTARA NIKAYA translation is a pretty good translation of part the Chinese Dīrghāgama version (I wrote in error Walshe’s Majjhima Nikaya)

I might have been confusing controversies or highly debated points as to Indic-language-of-origin of DA with SA or another body of literature. Apologies.

If you are so inclined, do you mind if I ask if extant manuscripts themselves have been found in Gāndhārī? Obviously one recension-line of attestation of Dharmaguptaka literature comes to us through Chinese, but is the Gāndhārī Dharmaguptaka literature the same specific Dharmaguptaka vinaya as preserved in Chinese? I am thinking possibilities of difference within schools. I am thinking of SA & SA-2, for instance. Marcus Bingenheimer believes them both to be Sarvāstivāda recensions of a shared Saṃyuktāgama corpus. He believes one to come from “Southerly” Sarvāstivādins from India to China and one to have come from “Northerly” Sarvāstivādins from Central Asia to China. Such are the ins-and-outs of scholarly attempts, noble and right as they are, to secure the attestation of a text.

Is the extant Gāndhārī definitively or speculatively the “same” Dharmaguptaka recension of vinaya as preserved in Chinese? Forgive me my ignorance.