Interesting observations about the Chapter of Eights

I heard somewhere that most chapters in the Pali Canon have ten suttas in them. The Chapter of Eights has sixteen. This led me to compare the first ten suttas in the Chapter of Eights to the last six. I noticed some interesting differences between the two groupings. The first ten suttas in the Chapter of Eights seem to employ a simpler terminology and breakdown of ideas.

  1. The first ten sutta’s speak of a “world” that is seen and heard. Thought is something subsequent to what is seen and heard, that is, perceived. Nowhere is name and form mentioned in the first ten suttas. It makes its first appearance in the eleventh sutta when we are told name and form cause contact. In the thirteenth sutta we are told that when a person sees they see name and form.

  2. There are no links of dependent arising of any length in the first ten suttas. This changes in the eleventh sutta.

  3. Attainments in samadhi in the first ten suttas are limited to understanding contact to free from greed/clinging to what is seen and heard and understanding perception that frees us from longing for the world. In the eleventh sutta we are introduced to a time when nothing remains. Is this this nibbana after death or a meditative state? Attainments in the first ten chapters appear to be in this life.

  4. Note: Feelings and consciousness are not explicitly mentioned in any of the sixteen suttas.

The argument could be made that the suttas were arranged by length so you would expect to find more complexity in the later suttas, but it could also be argued that developments in thought add complexity and would increase length so they would appear later in the chapter whether arranged by length or by chronological appearance.

I do not claim to be proving anything with certainty, but I think the observations are interesting and suggestive and worthy of consideration.

1 Like

Norman (1992) points out that only 4 of the chapters are 8 verses long, snp4.2, snp4.3, snp4.4 and snp4.5. These are the aṭṭhakasutta chapters and are the only ones in the vagga with the ancient triṣṭubh metre. So “we might reasonably suppose that these four suttas are the core of the Atthakavagga, to which other suttas have been added.” (Norman 1992 p.323)

What does K.R. Norman say about the Parayanavagga’s relative age or evidence of?

In Snp 5.2 we see the introduction of consciousness and cessation into the terminology. The cessation of consciousness appears as a meditative attainment though it may have been alluded to in Snp 4.11. In Snp 5.5, origin of suffering appears appears.

It seems like the milestone suttas are Snp 4.2, Snp 4.11, and Snp 5.2 with each adding to the terminology of the those prior. The latter two seem to add a meditative attainment.

haha! Im sorry @Raftafarian but KR Norman wrote about 8 volumes worth of papers in his career, so it is quite a task to definitively say what he said about any given topic! All I have to hand is this, from Pali Literature:

The sixteen questions (pucchds) are of a more metaphysical nature than the
suttas of the Atthakavagga, and areconcerned with thecrossing of the stream,
and theescape from birth anddeath, which accounts for thetitle ofthevagga.256
It isnotsurprising, considering thenature ofthe vagga,that individual portions
of it do not occur elsewhere in the canon. Its antiquity is shown by the fact
that five verses are quoted from the Parayanavagga in the Pali canon, each
time being specifically attributed to a particular question (panha) in the
vagga.2bl Despite its age,there areindications that it hasbeen made up from
earlier sections. If it had been composed as a single entity, one might have
expected the metre to be standard throughout, but this is not so. Some sec-
tions are in the Tristubh/Jagati metre, and some are written entirely in the
Anustubh metre. Some arein a mixture ofthe two, andinthecase ofthe Punna-
kamanavapuccha (5.4) interpolations have crept in to such an extent that itis
not easy to decide what the original readings might have been.258 The “reciter’s
remarks” which have been inserted in each pucchd tomake theidentity ofthe
speakers clear are commented upon bythe Niddesa, which means that they
must have been added at an early date.
Even in the vaggas and suttas which are not commented upon in the Niddesa
there are metrical and linguistic features which are generally reckoned to be
old.259 Although it is not easy to date such phenomena, there seems little doubt
that the Suttanipata contains some ofthe oldest Pali verse which we possess.

(Norman 1983 pp69-70)