Eccentric Eightfold Paths

In Bhante Sujato’s “A History of Mindfulness”, he points out that, in the Ekāyana Sūtra
of the Ekottara Āgama, the eightfold path is “given in a typically eccentric form: right view, right prevention, right conduct, right livelihood, right skill in means, right speech, right recollection, right concentration.”

The translation below (EA 12.1) has: “right view, right contemplation, right action, right livelihood, right practice, right speech, right mindfulness, and right concentration”.

How these odd practices are defined? Are there other known formulations of the 8FP in sutras that diverge?


With Chinese lookup tool, I can say the path factors mentioned in EA 12.1 is the same with other EBTs:

賢聖八品道,一名正見,二名正治, 三名正業,四名正命,五名正方便,六名正 語,七名正念,八名正定

Noble eightfold path: 1. Right view; 2. Right thought; 3. Right behavior; 4. Right livelihood; 5. Right skillful means; 6. Right speech; 7. Right mindfulness; 8. Right concentration.

Just the sequence is little different, but no different meaning


But is not ‘right skillful means’ different from the Pāli? Or, is the Chinese actually translating one of the ordinary Pāli steps of the path? If so, why is it not translated into English as it normally is in English from the original Indic?

Also, ‘right prevention’? What’s that?

Bhikkhu Sujato seems to translate the 8 as:

right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion.

DBD (Digital Buddhist Dictionary) says it is the same as Pali sammā-vāyāma (right effort):


Basic Meaning: correct skillful means

Also, correct effort—same as 正精進 (Skt. samyag-upāya, upāya-viśeṣa, samyak-prayukta, samyak-prāyoga, *samyag-vyāyāma; Pāli sammā-vāyāma). 〔華嚴經 T 278.9.661b19〕 [Charles Muller; source(s): Hirakawa]

I think it’s the same as right thought (from it’s sequence on EA 12.1)

It’s only different in the wording but the same meaning, like “right thought” and “right intention”; “right effort” and “right skillful means” (in Chinese EA 12.1 rendering); etc

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When you say different but same meaning, do you mean it’s from the same Indic, but the Chinese chose different words for translation?

If so, and assuming you mean samyak-saṃkalpa / sammā sankappa, I think it would be nice for the translators to include info about that such as “…right prevention [from samyak-saṃkalpa / sammā sankappa = right resolve/thought]…”

Perhaps like that, I’m just guessing because I can’t speak Chinese or read any Chinese scripts (just knowing word to word based on DBD). And I can’t read Sanskrit or Pali too :slight_smile:

Every translator has his own preferred rendering, perhaps we must ask the translator him/herself. Maybe Bhante @sujato can explain his rendering of Eightfold Noble Path from EA?

Bhikkhu Sujato doesn’t know Chinese afaik and therefore doesn’t have any EA translations.

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Oh thanks, I’m just referring to this translation, I don’t know who translate this:


The Chinese EA is quite an eccentric text, and frequently has variations in how it presents even basic doctrines; this is what I meant by “typically eccentric”. It would be quite expected for it to have different presentations of the same teaching in different sutras; it even varies within the same sutra sometimes. But I haven’t studied these in any detail.

I haven’t looked at any of these references recently, and no, I don’t speak Chinese. But I do look up texts with dictionary tools sometimes, and that is quite adequate to see such simple details.


Interesting. And this is the only āgama to come from what is believed to be Mahāsāṃghika origins, right? Could these two things be connected? Could perhaps the Mahāsāṃghika dvipiṭaka or at least suttapiṭaka have been of this style in general? Hence we find it ‘eccentric’ because most of our other sources derive from Sthāvira branch? How clear are we on the differences in sutta teachings between these two branches?

AFAIK there is no scholarly consensus on this at the moment.


Indeed, it’s a bit of a circular argument: one of the reasons for thinking it may be Mahasanghika is that it’s eccentric.

Generally speaking, the Mahasanghika seem to have been more sloppy in their textual traditions, as evidence by the Mahavastu and the Lokuttaravada Vinaya, for example. And this is precisely the charge levelled against them by the Theravadins in the Dipavamsa. But you’d want something a bit more solid than this before ascribing a text to a school. The EA is clearly late and eccentric, but the exact source is hard to pin down.

Perhaps—and this is purely speculative—we shouldn’t even be thinking in terms of sectarian affiliations. There seems little reason why a text shouldn’t be comprised of different parts, even assembled from sections or sutras from various schools or points of origin. We find plenty of examples of this kind of thing today, why not then, too?


Perhaps @llt, who translated Chinese sutras into English, can help with this (it’s a long time he didn’t show up in the SC forum again :slight_smile: )

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Greetings ,

Just for your reference .

Ea 12.1


一時,佛在舍衛國祇樹給孤獨 園。

爾時,世尊告諸比丘:「有一入道,淨眾生 行,除去愁憂,無有諸惱,得大智慧,成泥 洹證。所謂當滅五蓋,思惟四意止。云何名 為一入?所謂專一心,是謂一入。

云何為 道?所謂賢聖八品道,一名正見,二名(正治), 三名正業,四名正命,五名正方便,六名正 語,七名正念,八名正定,是謂名道,是謂一 入道。

P/s . (正志) = right aspiration
The sequence :
right view , right aspiration , right action ,
right livelihood , right skillfull means , right speech , right mindfulness ,
right concentration .

云何當滅五蓋?所謂貪欲蓋、瞋恚蓋、 (調戲)蓋、眠睡蓋、疑蓋,是謂當滅五蓋。

P/s . (掉举) = restlessness
How to eliminate the five hindrances .
namely is desire , ill will , restlessness , drowsiness , doubt .

「云 何(思惟四意止)?於是,比丘內自觀身,除去 惡念,無有愁憂;外自觀身,除去惡念,無 有愁憂;內外觀身,除去惡念,無有愁憂。

P/s . (四念处) = four establishment of mindfulness
And what is the four establishment of mindfulness , that is , bhikku inwardly being mindful of body , abandon the unwholesome mind , free from sorrow .
Being mindful of body outwardly , abandon the unwholesome mind , free from sorrow . Inwardly outwardly mindful of body , abandon the unwholesome mind , free from sorrow .