English Translation of Chinese Agamas


Mr. Patton:

I have to apologize: after thinking things over, I wonder if perhaps, being excited at the prospect of working with someone as esteemed as you, I’ve been a bit too hasty.

I must admit, I was flattered and a bit overwhelmed by your offer to help with what, for me, would be an incredibly difficult and complex bit of translation; but the fact is I have to do this for school, and I think that there would have to be a limit to the amount of assistance–especially direct assistance with translation, rather than simply guidance–I received from anybody outside. It would probably have to be approved of by my professors; otherwise, I could face real trouble in the end: especially when the assistance is coming from a well-known translator such as yourself.

I apologize for the confusion. If you’re still interested in working on this, can I ask that we pause until I talk with my professors first and see what they suggest? At the same time, perhaps you are acquainted with standard university protocol in situations such as this; and so maybe you yourself could tell me what sorts of boundaries and parameters we would need regarding who did what. That is, of course, if you were still interested.

I apologize again, as I know you’ve already begun work on this at my request. I just beg your indulgence for a while, while I get some clarification: I am just starting school and this is all very new to me.

Thank you.


I understand. If it makes you feel better, I’m engaged in a life long project translating these texts, so it wouldn’t simply be to help you with your own studies. I would probably end up with a translation to add to my website at some point.

Let me know what you decide to do. If you still would like to collaborate, Sutta Central would be a good place for it, I think.


Great! And, yes! I would like very much to collaborate; but I just wouldn’t want to get in trouble for plagiarizing or anything like that and be told I can’t graduate at the eleventh hour.

Also, I almost forgot! that comparative list comparing the four Chinese with the Pali I told you about: I can’t find the e-copy to send you. But, if you’ve already completed the excel file you mentioned, there’s probably nothing gained in getting mine.

I’ll be in touch again after I’ve spoken with my professors.


I have the Excel file about half-ish done so far, so no worries. Mainly, it’s just a little time-consuming to break the chinese into similar segments as the pali, line them up with each other, and deal with the bits that don’t match.

Another thought that I have about a collaborative translation is that if there’s a substantial contribution by two or more people, everyone would get attribution. The result could be kept here on Sutta Central, or we could agree on some other arrangement. If there’s just a little, each person might have their own version to publish on their own. It’s something to discuss before we begin.

I was thinking of using a Sutta Central thread, maybe even a wiki thread that gives control of the page to more than one person. So, we’d have other people helping out with suggestions, too. It’d be a sort of experimental crowd-translation, depending on how much participation happens.


Mr. Patton:

Sorry for the wait. School’s just started, and there’re so many little things I’m busy with.

In any case, I’ve spoken to my teacher and he’s suggested that I wait on the An Shigao piece: there’s a certain difficulty level–as you are well aware–and he suggested I work on something else first. So, I know you’ve already put in some work on it, but would you mind if we put that discourse on pause for a while? I have something else that would probably be just as exciting to work on, and would probably be even more appropriate for the suttacentral audience: the parallels to the Sattaṭṭhāna Sutta (SN 22.57).

There’re about three or four of them, and the contents (the pañcakhandhā) are more what people on this list are into, I think. The parallels have slight variations which I expect will elicit very lively on-list discussion. Also, the text is “proto-Abhidhammic,” so we’re talking about texts consisting mainly of lists with lots of repetitions: i.e., not so difficult for people with less Chinese ability to work with. As I said, An Shigao texts are not for the faint hearted–that being said, though, there’s also a related An Shigao text (《陰持入經》), if we wanted to test our chops.

What do you think? Sound interesting?


Of course! I can save the comparison table for T 14 for another time in the future, or if I get to translating DA.13 sometime, I can use it then. I’ve been busy putting together a website at Github Pages the past couple weeks for Dharma Pearls, which will hopefully be ready to go live sometime this month.

How do you want to proceed? I think putting together a correspondence table is a good first step if the different versions line up without too much complexity. I find it helps to see how the texts parallel each other and the way each translator renders the same or similar passages.

This is the file I was working on for T 14 et al and Sutta Central’s segmented Pali. It’s a bit of a mess because I was working on lining up one Chinese text or another, slowly breaking them down into their parallels. So, each of the Chinese texts is in varying degrees of completeness.

In this case it’s pretty clear that T 14 matches the Madhyama sutra better than it does the Pali or DA.13 (and T 52 is quite different from any of the earlier versions). It’s also easier to see how An Shigao’s unfamiliar vocabulary compares to the standard translations in the later texts.


I’d really like to see what you’ve done, but I can’t open the link from China.

The correspondence table sounds good. But, again, following links is going to be difficult for me. I know you want to do this all on-list–and I think it’s a great idea–but I think you’re going to have to send some stuff directly to my e-mail inbox. (I hope that doesn’t violate suttacentral protocol.) Otherwise, we’d have to use an off-list dropbox or something–unless you know how to upload files directly to suttacentral; then (maybe) I could download them. I’m not real computer savvy, so you’d have to show me how to do the same.

On a slightly different topic, can you (or anyone else reading this) recommend some good dictionaries or other resource tools for navigating between Pāli, Sanskrit, and Chinese? I’m taking a Sanskrit class in Chinese, based on (Buddhist-hybrid) Chinese texts, while looking at the material through the lens of the (little) Pāli I know and with Pāli as my eventual target: it’s multitasking in the extreme! In any case, if anyone could recommend or (even better) provide links to some e-copies of some dictionaries and such, it’d be much appreciated. Thank you.


I’m not sure if these are all available to you in China, but Muller’s Digital Dictionary of Buddhism is a good starting place as an online tool. It’s not comprehensive, though, so you’ll run into many terms in the Agamas that are missing. A great feature of the DDB, though, is that Muller incorporates Sanskrit readings from sources like Karashima’s glossaries and also cross references Chinese terms with Hirakawa’s Chinese-Sanskrit Dictionary. You can quickly get the page number for Hirakawa and flip to it for a term.

The real strength of the DDB to me, though, is that it brings together sources on classical readings of Chinese with the sister dictionary, the CJKV-English Dictionary. I’ve stopped using physical dictionaries thanks to Muller’s dictionaries.

Beyond that, getting a PDF of Hirakawa’s Chinese-Sanskrit Dictionary is a good start. You can quickly see possible Sanskrit terms that obscure Chinese translations have been found to correspond with.

Edgerton’s Hybrid Buddhist Dictionary is great for researching names and technical terms that standard Sanskrit dictionaries don’t cover. It’s also good for figuring out the possibilities for mysterious Chinese transliterations.

(Speaking of transliterations, can be helpful, too, for the early Chinese translations. Sometimes they weren’t transliterating Sanskrit.)

Karashima’s Glossary studies of early Chinese translations are helpful to have on hand because he ties his readings to specific passages and translators. Hirakawa’s readings are collected from various sources and time periods, so his dictionary is more of a basic guide.


Thanks for the info! I’ve followed up on most of it, and also found some other interesting and helpful stuff. The only missing piece is

Anyway, as far as the task at hand…

I’m sure you’ve already looked into it but, just in case, the parallels to Sattaṭṭhāna (SN 22.57) as listed on suttacentral are SA 42《七處三觀經》, EA-2 1 and 3, and SA-3 27. However, there’s also T150 which also happens to be an early An Shigao translation; which, I believe, is not listed on suttacentral.

You want to start from a correspondence table, right? mind if I do it? I’m like an intern here: I think I need to do the leg work. Then you could make corrections and so on. Would that work for you? I’d just do it as a Doc file, if that were okay: especially since the list here doesn’t allow uploading Excel files.

If there’s anything else you can think of, let me know.


Check your email.

Sounds good. Feel free to try different ways of organizing the parallels. I was experimenting with Sujato’s segmented Pali; there’s no need to follow that concept. It was a little difficult to break the Chinese down that far when it didn’t match very closely.


Sattaṭṭhānasuttaṃ Chart 1.pdf (212.0 KB)
Sattaṭṭhānasuttaṃ Chart 2.pdf (178.2 KB)
Here’re the correspondence tables for the Sattaṭṭhāna Sutta. They’re doc instead of xl, since suttacentral doesn’t do xl’s. But, because of that, I had to split them between two files. The numbers in the margin for both pages match-up, though, section-by-section. I filled in all the peyallas myself, so, if anyone sees where the verb case endings are wrong, please feel free to point them out to me.

Overall, they match up pretty well, I would say: except for the refrain after each aggregate. The Pāli is the “odd man out” in that case, so to speak.

I do have a question, though: suttacentral has the last parallel down as being from SA2 when it’s an An Shigao translation. Any idea why?


It looks like they are calling T 150A a second Ekottarika (EA2) because it was a set of excerpts from something like EA. So, EA2 1 and EA2 3 are referencing the first and third text in T150A. EA2 3 simply lists the seven cases and three contemplations at the end.

It would probably behoove us to spend a little time looking for any other parallels that might exist because Sutta Central’s cross-referencing isn’t comprehensive yet. It’s challenging when the terminology isn’t stable since translators use different phrasing, but it looks like 七處 is used by all of them in this case.

So, searching for that term in the Agamas, Avadanas, and miscellaneous sutras, I mostly found definitions of one of the 32 signs of a great man. But, moving on:

There is an alternative sutra at EA.41.3 that presents a different set of seven cases, but it’s the same framework. I think @sujato would call it a similar or partial parallel.

There’s mention of the topic in T212 at 656b20. A gatha is dedicated to this topic in T618 at 313c10 and there’s a brief mention of the practice at 321a15. There’s a brief definition of the topic in the addendum of T 735 at 537c19, an early text by 支謙.

It’d be interesting to do similar searches of the Abhidharma section of the canon and also T1509. There might be a full or partial parallel in those texts.

(Who is the main contact at Sutta Central for reporting new parallels BTW? @viveka or @vimala?)


I would tag @sujato for this :slight_smile:


Yeah, but I don’t see it. Though I admittedly know next to nothing about the 大藏經, I have never heard that there was an EA2; I only know EA, which is at T02n0125 (T 125), no? This sutra is an individual translation way over at T 150. Hence, the confusion. That is, unless the 47 sutras of T 150 are considered An Shigao’s attempt at a (partial) translation of the EA: is that the case?

I’m sorry. I must respectfully but strongly disagree with your considering EA 41.3 as being built on “the same framework” as the Sattaṭṭhāna Sutta; and I could not support anyone calling it even a partial parallel.

Yes, indeed, the characters 七處 appear in the discourse, but, actually, they are part of a larger term, 七處之善, and not a term in and of themselves, as they are in the texts we’re considering. Also, the framework of the sutra, wherein the 七處 refer to seven meditation subjects, is very different from the Sattaṭṭhāna Sutta, where each of the aggregates (and, potentially, as implied in the discourse, each of the elements, sense bases, and/or DO links) are to be investigated in seven ways. I fail to see the connection.

Again, having next to no experience with the Chinese canon, (I am quite embarrassed to admit that) I am not familiar with that notation. I am going to have to ask you to explain it to me so I search those texts.

Still, though, investigation of the aggregates (and, again, the elements, sense bases, and DO) is certainly the type of theme that would be likely to pop up here and there down through the ages. And, the Sattaṭṭhāna Sutta is one of those kinds of texts I’ve heard called, “proto-Abhidhamma,” so, yeah,

(Though I’d be slow in doing all that searching, as I am busy with school and family.)

You know, I’m thinking that if, in looking for parallels, we included (or, even, focused primarily on) the concept of the “triple-investigator” as defined in the texts, we might find many more.


I’m not sure if it’s been confirmed that he was translating from a version of EA, but the majority of the parallels are with Anguttara and Ekottarika sutras.

It has seven cases and also a set of contemplations attached to it, but the content is completely different, yes. It’s something I’ve seen elsewhere in the Agamas: A traditional list or teaching is used to present different material. It’s not a text we would use in our analysis; just something that’s related. It’s worthwhile to note its existence, but it probably won’t be more than a curiosity, as is the case for the other references I noted. I was just giving an idea of the kind of things that you find when you search for parallels.

I think our best bet for any more solid Chinese parallels is in the Abhidharma. T1509 is a long shot, but it does quote Agamas. The Yogacara-bhumi-sastra (T1579) is also a source of later parallels because it has a large section of Agama citations in it.

[Edit: When you get access to other texts, I’ve found a lengthy discussion of this sutra in the Abhidharma Mahavibhasa, the big Sarvastivada compendium of Abhidharma. It starts at T1545.559b03 (fascicle 108) and goes to the end of fascicle by the look of it. It’ll be good to look at it at some point.]

Okay, let’s back up. I personally use CBETA’s 2016 CD, which installs a handy desktop app you can use to do quick searches of the entire canon, certain divisions, or just a single text.

Are you able to download files from or one of their mirrors? If so, you can get a disk image of the CD and install it on your PC. Or, you could use their online version of the canon.

Another tool that exists online is SAT, which is the official electronic version of the Taisho Daizokyo.

The printed Taisho has pages that are divided into three columns, which we call a, b, and c. Each column has around 29 lines (sometimes less), so textual references usually take the format

T [text number].[page number][column letter][line number]

It used to be, we would give volume numbers instead of text numbers, but with the electronic canons now, it’s not as useful.

With that information, it’s quick to find a passage. But you need a copy of the canon handy to do it.

Sutta Central only has a subset of texts with parallels they’ve found, but it’s not complete. They don’t have Xuanzang’s Itivrttaka (T 765) yet, for example, which is hidden away in the “Collected Sutras” section of the Taisho. They also have stripped away the Taisho footnotes that give you alternate readings.

Yes. I chose 七處 because it didn’t seem like a common term. It’s a good idea to try different things for text searches. What makes it difficult is that different translations will use different phrasing and terminology, or the terms are very common and you’ll spend too much time combing through unrelated hits.


Understood. That makes sense.


Wow! this is turning into a real Easter egg hunt. You’re fast! I wish I had more free-time. I’ll do my best to keep up.

Lack of free-time aside, it’s going to take me a minute to get up to a decent speed with the searches. Besides just getting familiar with the canon and the technology, at the moment, I don’t want to download anything: the web out here is so dirty, I’ve burnt out so many computers in the past just surfing the net and downloading docs. I’ve been here a week-and-a-half and my brand-new computer is already a lot slower. I’m going to get something cheap just for going on-line: I should have it this week. I’ll be getting a VPN, but that’s still a few weeks off, probably.
But thanks a lot for the tutorial in the meantime!


I’m going to try look into those parallels you’ve already found: it’ll help serve to get me well-practiced with searching and familiarity with the Taisho. And I’ll see how much they correspond with the Sattaṭṭhāna and make tables for whatever sections match up. Does that sound good?

I’m assuming you will be (if you are not already) searching T1509, T1579, etc.

You were right: I’m having fun. (Too much, in fact! I’ve got to make sure I do my school work.) Is there no one else here with us?


I think this would be a great way to get familiar with the Taisho. If you aren’t able to download the CBETA CD from their website, then you could still use their online reader, if it isn’t blocked in China. You can browse the canon and take a look at what’s in each section. They also have a search interface that you can use. I’ll take a break from this in the meantime, but feel free to ask questions.

I did another search last night of the Abhidharma and the Yogacara sections of the canon. It’s mentioned in a few Abhidharma texts, and there was the commentary on the seven cases and three contemplations I found in the Mahavibhasa. Didn’t find anything in the Yogacara-bhumi-shastra.


It’s been a while since my last update on my project(s) to translate Chinese EBTs, so I thought I’d post a note explaining what is currently taking place in my corner office these days.

My last release happened in August, which was a batch of small Samyukta Agama Sutras. I was working this summer on a section of the Samyukta that’s roughly parallel with Pali Samyutta 45, which is about 50 sutras long.

After that release, I had become disenchanted with Wordpress and what I was doing with it to publish these texts. It’s limiting and handling many small texts was proving difficult if I wanted to create any kind of linear experience for readers.

Then it was pointed out to me by Sujato that Github has a (free!) service called Github Pages that uses a kind of stripped down CMS called Jekyll for generating rich static websites without the technical mess of managing a database.

I’ve spent the past couple months working on migrating my projects to a Github Pages site. I was hoping to release something last month, but it’s been a learning (and remembering) experience to build a decent looking website from scratch. Hopefully, I’ll have something ready for prime time this month or next.

On the translation front, I’ve draft DA 29 Lohitya from Chinese, which originally was to mock up the Github Pages site design. I’m planning to finish releasing the Samyukta Sutras I’ve got drafted, the next couple Madhyama Sutras which are drafted, and editing the other Madhyama sutras that are old editions or sitting in drafts (about another 10 sutras, mostly short ones). The next major translation project planned is the introduction to the Ekottarika Agama.

At that point, I’ll have something translated from all four Agamas. That set of goals will probably take me into next spring, given the part time nature of the project.

Which reminds me: I’m also planning to create a couple ways for supporters to offer their support. Github has a Sponsors program that I’ll join, and I’ll probably also open a Patreon account for people who don’t want to join Github just to subscribe to my project. Either way, if enough people offer some support, I could spend more time translating and less time copywriting each week.


It appears you are right .

Ekottarāgama 41.3

爾時,世尊告諸比丘:「當觀七處之善,又 察四法,於此現法之中名為上人。云何,比 丘!觀七處之善?於是,比丘!以慈心遍滿一 方、二方、三方、四方,四維上下,亦復如是,盡 於世間以慈心遍滿其中。悲、喜、護心,空,無 相、願,亦復如是。諸根具足,飲食自量,恒自覺 悟。如是,比丘!觀七處。

Ekottarikāgama 2nd	
EA2 3



Hi @Gene,

Sorry for letting this topic get cold: school has just started and I’m running arround like a chicken with its head cut off. But, thank you for your interest in this topic.

Yeah, and, again, sorry! but, other than putting up the chart of parallel suttas, I haven’t had a chance to follow-up, and @cdpatton has also been busy: so could you clarify which sutta was it where you say there’s probably a missing 知?

And, oh yes, if you’d like to continue to respond regarding the Sattaṭṭhāna Sutta, the thread has moved here.

Thanks again.