Index of Āgamas and Nikāyas that Lack Parallels

Below is a first post in a series presenting tables listing suttas/sutras in the Chinese Āgamas and Pali Nikāyas that lack corresponding parallels. This post will cover the Chinese Dīrgha Āgama and the Pali Dīgha Nikāya. The Chinese DĀ represents a Dharmaguptaka edition that existed ca. 400 AD.

This list is not 100% definitive for a couple of reasons:

  1. Parallels are not all equal. Sometimes an Āgama and Nikāya sutta are related but have very different contents, other times specific sections, doctrines, or parables have close parallels, but the sutras are quite different otherwise. In this index, I’m setting a fairly high bar for what qualifies as a parallel sutra for simplicity’s sake.
  2. Parallels sometimes exist elsewhere. I’m not counting parallels that are found in a Vinaya or Abhidharma passage (though I’m noting them in comments). E.g., if a given sutra in an Āgama doesn’t have a Nikāya sutta parallel but does have a parallel in the Theravāda Vinaya, I’m counting it as not having a parallel in this comparison.

When a sutra doesn’t have a full parallel or is significantly different than a related sutta in Pali, I’ve placed it in (), and vice versa. A good example of this is MĀ 72, which includes a very long avadāna story not found in the MN parallel (but which has a parallel in the Vinaya).

Dīrgha Āgama Missing Parallels

Sutra Title Comment
(DĀ 11) Increasing One by One DN 34 cut in half
DĀ 12 Three Categories Same style as DN 34, but unique content
(DĀ 19) The Great Congregation Shares verse content with DN 20 presented as transliterated dhāraṇīs
DĀ 30 Description of the World A detailed description of Buddhist cosmology

Dīgha Nikāya Missing Parallels

Sutta Title Comment
DN 6 With Mahāli Parallel with (unpublished) Skt DĀ 32
DN 7 With Jāliya Parallel with (unpublished) Skt DĀ 30
DN 10 With Subha Parallel with (unpublished) Skt DĀ 42
DN 17 King Mahāsudassana The avadāna is found in DĀ 2
(DN 22) The Longer Discourse on Mindfulness Meditation Parallel to MN10/MĀ 98, absent from DĀ
(DN 30) The Marks of a Great Man A different version than MĀ 59
DN 32 The Āṭānāṭiya Protection Parallel exists in Chinese translation and (unpublished) Skt DĀ 23

Note: The unpublished Sanskrit DĀ is from a Sarvâstivāda canon, which has been largely reconstructed from fragments recovered from Pakistan. Scholars are still preparing the reconstruction for publication. I’m therefore basing the parallels here on what’s been reported in literature thus far summarizing its contents. It’s a larger collection (47 sutras) than the Chinese DĀ (30 sutras) and Pali DN (34 suttas).


In this post, I’ll cover the Chinese Madhyama Āgama, which was from a Sarvâstivāda canon as it existed ca. 400 AD and the Pali Majjhima Nikāya.

It’s interesting to note that MĀ has fewer missing parallels in the Pali Nikāyas while MN appears to more missing parallels, even though it’s a smaller collection.

Many of MN’s missing parallels appear to be texts inspired by later avadāna literature, so the difference may be a matter of time. MĀ is a snapshot in time (ca. 400 AD), but present-day MN perhaps continued to add material. As we know from Tibetan and Chinese sources, the later Mūlasarvâstivāda tradition had collected large amounts of avadāna material by the 7th c. AD. This growth in literary stories may have exerted an influence that we see in MN today.

There also appears to have been an incorporation of SĀ sutras in the final section of MN, but these suttas have sometimes been expanded significantly compared to the Chinese (which was translated ca. 450 AD).

A final factor is also the fact that we lack a Dharmaguptaka version of the MĀ or SĀ. Given how closely DĀ and DN parallel each other, we have to wonder if that close parallel would have continued into the other collections. Thus, the missing parallels in MN when compared to the extant MĀ and SĀ may be partially by chance. The Theravāda and Sarvâstivāda canons were not so closely related.

Madhyama Āgama

Sutra Title Comment
MĀ 7 Worldly Merit
MĀ 33 Attendant
MĀ 39 The Prominent Man Ugra (2)
(MĀ 47) Precepts Similar to AN 10.3-4 and 11.3-4
(MĀ 48) Precepts(2) ditto MĀ 47
MĀ 50 Veneration (2) ditto MĀ 47
MĀ 54 Knowledge that Ends
MĀ 55 Nirvāṇa
MĀ 60 Four Continents
MĀ 62 Bimbisāra Greets the Buddha
MĀ 65 Parable of the Crow
MĀ 66 Explaining the Origin
MĀ 69 Thirty Parables
MĀ 92 Parable of Blue and White Lotuses
(MĀ 108) Forest (2) Similar to MN 17/AN 9.6
MĀ 136 A Trader’s Pursuit of Wealth
MĀ 139 The Path of Stopping
MĀ 147 Learning Virtue
MĀ 159 Akalavana (?)
MĀ 176 The Dhyāna Practitioner
MĀ 177 Teaching
MĀ 197 Upāli
MĀ 218 Aniruddha
MĀ 219 Aniruddha
MĀ 222 Examples

Majjhima Nikāya

Sutta Title Comment
MN 12 The Longer Discourse on the Lion’s Roar Portions can be found in EĀ and SĀ, parallel with Skt DĀ 12
(MN 29) The Longer Simile of the Heartwood Much expanded version of EĀ 43.4
MN 30 The Shorter Simile of the Heartwood
(MN 33) The Longer Discourse on the Cowherd Several versions exist that differ in content
MN 34 The Shorter Discourse on the Cowherd
(MN 35) The Shorter Discourse With Saccaka EĀ 37.10 is a different version
MN 36 The Longer Discourse With Saccaka Portions are found in DĀ and late avadana lit. (e.g., Mahāvastu), Skt DĀ 20
(MN 41) The People of Sālā Much expanded version of SĀ 1042
(MN 42) The People of Verañja Nearly identical to MN 41. SĀ 1043 is also a near duplicate of SĀ 1042.
MN 48 The Mendicants of Kosambi
MN 51 With Kandaraka Parallel with Skt DĀ 38
MN 53 A Trainee
MN 55 With Jīvaka Parallel with Skt DĀ 43
MN 57 The Ascetic Who Behaved Like a Dog
MN 58 With Prince Abhaya This story has references in other Chinese sources (e.g. T1509, T1522)
MN 60 Guaranteed Appears parallel with Skt DĀ 7
(MN 62) The Longer Advice to Rāhula Partial parallel to EĀ 17.1
(MN 67) At Cātumā Partial parallel with EĀ 45.2
MN 71 To Vacchagotta on the Three Knowledges
MN 76 With Sandaka
MN 85 With Prince Bodhi Similar stories exist in Chinese Vinayas and late avadāna texts, Skt DĀ 21
MN 92 With Sela Parallel exists in Dharmaguptaka Vinaya, EĀ 49.6 is a different story with same characters
MN 94 With Ghoṭamukha
MN 95 With Caṅkī Parallel with Skt DĀ 19
MN 98 With Vāseṭṭha Verse parallels appear in Chinese Dharmapādas
MN 100 With Saṅgārava Similar stories exist in late avadāna collections, Skt DĀ 22
MN 102 The Five and Three Parallel with Skt DĀ 17
MN 103 Is This What You Think Of Me?
MN 105 With Sunakkhatta Parallel with Skt DĀ 10
MN 110 The Shorter Discourse on the Full-Moon Night
MN 111 One by One
MN 114 What Should and Should Not Be Cultivated
(MN 116) At Isigili EĀ 38.7 has more in common with a passage in the Mahāvastu
(MN 118) Mindfulness of Breathing Appears to be a late (e.g., listing arhats by name) and greatly expanded version of SĀ 815
MN 131 One Fine Night
(MN 147) The Shorter Advice to Rāhula Appears to expand the final part of SĀ 200 into a larger sutta
(MN 151) The Purification of Alms Appears to be an expanded and different version of SĀ 236/EĀ 45.6 (closer to SĀ)
(MN 152) The Development of the Faculties Appears to be an expanded version of SĀ 282

That is really interesting Charles - Great work :pray:

Would I be correct in interpreting this situation, that from an EBT perspective, the Digha Nikaya is much more reliable than the MN?

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Thanks Charles!

What about DN 30 Lakkhana? My understanding is that this has no real parallel, the Chinese versions just describe the marks, but all the verses are unique to Pali?

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DN is a bit more coherent, I suppose is the way I would put it. MN has a bunch of suttas that weren’t in the Sarvâstivāda canon, so it has more missing parallels. If we had a Dharmaguptaka canon to check it against, I’d strongly suspect some or all of those missing parallels would be in it.

Thanks, yes, they are very different. I’ve added it to the list. I should take a closer look at that other MĀ parallels to DN.


Another issue really is just size. Big things are important and harder to lose. Everyone’s going to have their version of a Mahāparinibbāna Sutta or a Brahmajala Sutta or a Sāmaññaphala Sutta. But are they going to have a sutta on the four kinds of poets? Or one clarifying that not only greed (lobha) leads to suffering, but desire (rāga) as well? Maybe, maybe not!

So I think typically as Suttas get smaller, there is more variation, at least in the details of the sutta itself, not necessarily in the content as such.

Another way of saying the same thing: in long suttas, the fact that suttas are parallel can disguise a myriad of internal variations in the details of content and organization. The differences are hidden within a sutta. Our idea of a “partial parallel” addresses this to some degree.