Intentional alteration of SA-1251 ? (ref. Sujato: AN 6.42 & AN 8.86 Nagita Sutta; + typo error)

The Buddha praised mendicants who live in seclusion, far away from crowds. AN 6.42 & AN 8.86 (With Nāgita) are basically the same sutta. In AN 8.86 the Buddha added two more examples to illustrate his point.

Chinese Agamas SA-1250 & SA-1251 are the same Nagita sutta, but divided up into two parts. In SA-1251 is an example of a translator, or more likely a transcriber, who deliberately altered the texts to fit his own view as he copied the translation. The error was preserved to this day.

In AN 8.86 “With Nāgita”, the Buddha cited four examples of mendicants living among crowds and companions; he disapproved of them. In the other four examples: “Take a mendicant in the wilderness…”, the Buddha concluded: "So I’m pleased that that mendicant is living in the wilderness. "

(noted the typo error “that that” in the translation.)

However, in the Chinese Agama SA-1251 雜阿含經 - 那提迦 , in two of the examples where the medicants dwell in seclusion yet have not yet attaining Samadhi (jhana), the transcriber flipped the conclusion and changed the text to state the Buddha was displeased.

「那提迦!我見比丘住空閑處,仰臥吁咄。我見是已,而作是念:『令彼比丘覺寤睡眠,思空閑想。』那提迦!我亦不喜(displeased) 如是比丘住空閑處。

「那提迦!我復見比丘住空閑處,搖身坐睡。見已,作是念:『今此比丘於睡覺寤,不定得定,定心者得解脫。』是故,那提迦!我不喜 (displeased) 如是比丘住空閑處。

It is only by comparing the Pali version of the sutta against the Chinese transcription that the alteration is obvious, because in the Chinese Agama there is only one instance of this Nagita sutta, unlike two Nagita suttas in the Anguttara Nikaya.

Here is a case where comparative study of Pali & Chinese texts can serve to correct past errors, in either language. Sadly, since the Agamas were long neglected in the very Mahayana Chinese Buddhism, most likely there are more errors in the Chinese Agamas.

For example, Ven Yin-Shun 印順 (1906-2005) in Taiwan published an edited version of the Samyukta Agama 雜阿含經論會編 (in 3 volumes) to fix up misplaced chapters based on the discovery of an upāsaka Dhamma scholar 呂澂. Much work needs to be done.


It isn’t a typo. “I’m so pleased that that car is out of the driveway.”

Exchange the second that for “this” instead and you can see the underlying structure of the sentence:

So I’m pleased that this mendicant is living in the wilderness

However, the Buddha isn’t talking about this mendicant, he means that mendicant:

So I’m pleased that that mendicant is living in the wilderness


Thanks. Agree. Read a bit funny the first time.


The Buddha doesn’t seem to be fond of anyone in the Chinese version, save for:

那提迦!我喜 如是比丘集捨利養聚落床臥,住於空閑。那 提迦!比丘當如是學。

This is the only one that makes the cut.

The 不 is translating na. I wonder how the translator came to read many na’s, or possibly how this na might have come to be duplicated in the text.


Couldn’t it have been a manuscript error or misreading of the prakrit/sanskrit original as well instead of an intentional change?

Analayo notes that in most cases of witnesses differing, its something like this instead of doctrinally driven changes.

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That’s a really interesting point, well spotted!

It could well be. Consider the Pali phrase here:

Tenāhaṃ, nāgita, tassa bhikkhuno attamano homi araññavihārena

Which should be resolved:

Tena ahaṃ, nāgita, tassa bhikkhuno attamano homi araññavihārena
For that reason, Nagita, I am pleased with that mendcant’s wilderness dwelling.

However it could potentially be parsed:

Te na ahaṃ, nāgita, tassa bhikkhuno attamano homi araññavihārena
I am not pleased with that mendicant’s wilderness dwelling.

This reading isn’t particularly grammatical, and without knowing the underlying Indic text it’s not possible to say how much this, or some other issue, may underlie the Chinese reading. Nevertheless, it shows how easily negatives can be confused in Pali. In fact, just yesterday, someone pulled me up on a similar confusion in one of my translations!


Not quite. In this sutta SA-1251 the Buddha cited 6 cases. Out of the six, the Buddha was displeased with 4, and approved of 2.

It’s when we read closely at what displeased the Buddha and what pleased him that the lesson of this sutta appears confusing. Dwelling in seclusion is not always what pleases the Buddha. Neither is sitting in meditation.

However, that is NOT the end of the investigation. It’s when we further compare this sutta (as exists) to the Pali equivalent AN 6.42, that the reason for the confusion, hinted at someone along the line added the negation (不) in the Chinese translation to fit his own understanding. This person has a warped idea that sleeping is a bad idea for a yogi.

Not sure I understand this remark. Is “na” Pali negation?

I have no clue about the original language of the source text for the Chinese Agama. It could be Sanskrit or one of many languages along the Silk Road. It is most unlikely to be Pali.

I wonder how many of those original texts of the Chinese Agamas still exist. Probably close to nothing.

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Yes. And while the details differ, any source text (which would probably have been in Sanskrit) would have a similar form.