EBTs outside of the Pali Canon

What suttas are found outside of the Pali Canon, but still belong to early Buddhism?

The Chinese Agamas and Vinayas, as well as some hundreds of suttas in Tibetan and Sanskrit, as well as the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya in Tibetan and Sanskrit (as well as Chinese).

Not everything in there is early, but everything early is in there (more or less).

Pretty much all of them are found on SuttaCentral, together with detailed sets of parallels between them.


Thanks for the reply, venerable!

I’m aware of the other languages that the texts were written in. What I meant was what suttas are probably early but lack in the Pali Canon. In other words, what are the EBTs that the Pali Canon lost? Is there any such case?

Sorry if I was unclear.

Oh yes, well that’s interesting.

I’m not sure that there is a definitive study on this, but let me give a few examples. These are just my unreliable memory, please do not quote me!

  • The Pali tradition itself quotes from various texts that no longer seem to exist. We find this in the Nettipakarana, as well as the Visuddhimagga, probably elsewhere.
  • One such passage in the Visuddhimagga concerns a critical point in the nature of Nibbana; the Visuddhimagga quotes the suttas as saying tadāgamma, “on coming to that” to prove that Nibbana is a genuinely existing reality, but no such passage is found in Pali.
  • Individual verses quite commonly are found, eg. the Sanskrit version of the Ratanasutta in the Mahavastu has an extra verse, which from its style and content appears to be original, but is not found in Pali.
  • There are probably some hundreds of small suttas in Chinese, etc., for which there are no parallels. Most of these are probably just artefacts of abbreviation, but in some cases there seems to be distinctly different material.
  • Perhaps the most historically significant, Nagarjuna says that dependent origination is emptiness. No such passage exists in Pali, so scholars believed it was an innovation. However it is found in the Agamas, which Nagarjuna apparently relied on, so he was merely quoting the suttas.

Woah, please share more?


I’d love to see more of it too! I just changed it from Q&A to Discussion because I just noticed this won’t have a definite answer, and the more examples we have the better.


Would that be SĀ 335 “第一義空經” (*paramārtha śūnyatā sūtra), with parallels at EĀ 37.7 and 51.8?


mahāśūnyatādharmaparyāyāḥ katamāḥ | yad utāsmin satīdaṁ bhavaty asyotpādād idam utpadyate | yad utāvidyāpratyayāḥ saṁskārā yāvat samudayo bhavati

Maybe “quoting” is too strong, maybe “directly referring to”, but I can’t recall the exact details. Anyway, the main point is that dependent origination is explicitly called “emptiness” in the Sanskrit Agamas, but not in Pali. So when Nagarjuna said that dependent origination was emptiness, he was just reminding his audience of something they already knew.

The Chinese parallel is SA 297, we have a translation:



SA 293 (no SN counterpart) also states the Buddha as saying the connection between the notion of emptiness and dependent origination:

The Sanskrit parallel is Tripathi, Sutra 11 (see p. 197, note 186):
Pages 196-8 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (240.4 KB)


Oh thanks, so that is another one. Strange we don’t have the Sanskrit on SC, we shall have to improve!