Is "jhana precedes satipatthana in chronology" a parsimonious stratification hypothesis?

I have recently come back to attempt to finish off the research that is presented in:

and, thinking jhana was clearly the earliest meditation in the EBTs, I was also thinking about what might constitute the earliest discernible philosophy in Buddhism, based on the thread:

The basic picture that emerges for me is that the EBT’s take for granted the jhana formula and the undeclared points, but do not take for granted anatta, or really, most of what we would now call recognizably Therevadan Buddhism as in: the 5 aggregates, anatta, 4NT, 8fold path, 12 links DO, anapana, corpses, brahmaviharas type of Buddhism, best exemplified in S.

This is preceded chronologically by a sekkha jhana kamma sati (as paying attention)/ Undeclared points and Equinamity Buddhism that makes up the bulk of the early suttas of D and M, and is more or less taken for granted in S which even contains stories, especially in the agama sources, of S era monks having lost the “jhana” tradition.

347(Three forty-seven) Xu Shen parallel

SaṁyuktāgamaMiscellaneous Agama Sutra

IN 347(Three forty-seven) Xu Shen

If so I smell:

For a time, the Buddha lived in the Kalanda Bamboo Garden in Rajagha City. If the king, ministers, Brahmins, elders, laymen and the rest of the world respect, respect and make offerings to the Buddha and all the voice-hearers, the Buddha and the sound-hearers will benefit greatly. Clothes, quilts, food, bedding, and decoctions will not be respected, respected and made offerings the people. Clothes and quilts, diet, bedding, soup and medicine.

At that time, many heterodoxy gatherings did not give lectures, and they commented like this: “We used to serve the king, ministers, elders, laymen, and all others. We respectfully offered clothes, food, bedding, and soups. Now we have all cut off , but respectfully make offerings to the recluse Gotama, the people of the Shravakas, clothing, quilts, food, bedding, soup and medicine. Among these people, who has the wisdom and strength to be able to secretly go to the recluse Gotama to become a monk, and after hearing the Dharma, come and speak widely , I shall use the Dharma that I have heard to transform the kings, ministers, elders, and laymen, and make them believe and be happy, so that I can make offerings as before?”

At that time, someone said: “There was a young man named Xu Shen, who was clever and shrewd. He was able to become a monk among the recluses Gautan. He listened to the Dharma and came and preached it.”

At that time, all heretics had profound attainments, and they said this: "Today, I have assembled a large group of people without giving lectures, and I made the following remarks: “We first came to respect and serve and make offerings to the kings, ministers, elders, laymen, and people of the world. Clothes, quilts, food, bedding , soups and medicines are all cut off now. The king, ministers, elders, householders , and all the people in the world all serve the recluse Gotama and the voice-hearers. Who among us is wise and wise enough to secretly go to the recluse Gotama Among the people, they became monks and learned the Tao. After hearing the Dharma, they came and proclaimed it, so that all the kings, ministers, elders, and lay people should respect, respect , and make offerings?” There is a saying in it: “Only one must be deeply intelligent. Shrewd Wisdom, can Nengmi go to Gotan’s Dharma to become a monk and learn the way, hear his teachings, accept and uphold them, and come and preach.’ That’s why I have come to invite you for the same reason, and the benevolent should do it.”

At that time, Bi Xushen accepted the invitation silently, and visited the Kalanda .

At that time, many monks walked out of the house to practice . At that time, he had to ask many bhikkhus deeply, and said: “Masters! Now I can become a monk in the Dharma and be fully equipped, can I practice the holy life?”

At that time, many monks took him to the World-Honored One’s place, bowed their homage, then stood aside and said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One! Now, in this way, one must deeply desire to become a monk in the Dharma, to be fully equipped, and to practice the holy life.”

At that time, the World-Honored One knew what laymen must deeply think, and told the bhikkhus: “You should enlighten those heretics deeply, so that they can leave home.” At that time, all the monks wished to enlighten deeply.

It has been half a month since I became a monk, and a monk said deeply: “You should know deeply, our life and death are over, the holy life has been established, what we have done has been done, and we know that there will be no future.”

At that time, Hexu spoke deeply to the bhikkhu, “My lord! What do you mean? Learn the dharma of abandoning desire, evil and unwholesomeness , have awareness and insight, be joyful in leaving birth, have the first dhyana, be free from all taints, and be liberated with a good heart?”

The monk replied, “No, Xu Shen!”

Re- question: “What is this? There is awareness and insight, inner purity and one mind, no awareness and no insight, samadhi and joy, full of the second dhyana, no leaks, good liberation of ?”

The monk replied, “No, Xu Shen!”

Re-question: “What is it? Your lord is away from joy, equanimous, dwelling in righteous thoughts and right wisdom, enjoying happiness in body and mind, the holy teachings and equanimity, possessing the third dhyana, free from all taints, and liberated with a good heart?”

Reply: “Fuya, Subuka!”

Ask again: “What is it? My lord is free from suffering, resting in happiness, giving up sorrow and joy first, giving up neither suffering nor happiness, having pure thoughts and one mind, possessing the fourth jhana, not having any taints, and having a good mind to be liberated?”

Reply: “Fuya, Subuka!”

Re- question: “If you return to tranquility, liberate color, colorlessness, body evidence , full abidance, no leaks, mind good liberation?”

Reply: “Fuya, Subuka !”

Xu Shen asked again: “Why? The Venerable Master’s words are different and contradictory. Why can’t you memorize the words again without meditating?”

The bhikkhu replied, “I am wisdom and liberation.”

Having said that, many monks got up from their seats and left.

At that time, you must be well aware that many monks have gone and thought about it: “These venerables said differently and contradicted each other. What they said was not correct, and they wrote it down and said that they knew it and proved it.” After thinking about it , they went to the Buddha’s place. After bowing his head and paying respects, he stepped back and said to the Buddha , “World Honored One! Many bhikkhus wrote in front of me: “My life is over, the holy life has been established, what I have done has been done, and I know that there will be no future .” I asked the venerable: “Is it liberated from desires, evil and unwholesome dharmas, and even the body to testify, without leaks, and with a good heart?” He answered me, " No, it must be deep!” I immediately asked, “So what The words were different, contradictory, and the words did not enter into the right experience, but I wrote it down again, and I knew it as a witness.” He answered me, " I have been liberated by wisdom ." "Yunhe, what he said was different and contradicted, so he couldn’t accept it properly, so he said again: “I know myself as a witness.”? 』」

The Buddha told Xushen: “The prophet lived in the Dharma, and later he knew Nirvana. Those good men are alone in a quiet place, concentrating on contemplation, not letting go of the dharma, leaving my view, free from all taints, and liberating their hearts.”

Xu Shenbai Buddha: "Now I don’t know the Dharma of the Prophet, and I will know Nirvana later. Those good men are alone in a quiet place, concentrating on contemplation, not letting go of the dharma, leaving my view, free all taints, and liberating their hearts. "

The Buddha told Xu Shen: "Don’t ask whether you know or not , and you will live in the Dharma from the prophet, and then you will know Nirvana. Those good men are alone in a quiet place, concentrating on contemplation, not letting go, staying away from self -view, and liberating their hearts. "

Xu Shenbai Buddha: “I only hope that the World Honored One will teach , so that I can know the wisdom of the Dharma and see the wisdom of the Dharma.”

The Buddha told Xu Shen: “I am asking you now, and you can answer me as you please. Xu Shen! What do birth, there is aging and death. If you are not separated from birth, there is old age and death?”

Xu Shen replied, “Yes, World Honored One!”

"Because of birth, there is old age and death. If there is no separation from birth, there is old age and death. Like birth, existence, grasping, love, feeling, touch, six bases of entry, name and form, consciousness, formation, and ignorance. Because there is ignorance, there is formation. Without ignorance, there is formation ?”

Xu Shenbai Buddha: “That’s right, World Honored One! There is ignorance, so there is practice, and there is ignorance, but there is practice.”

The Buddha told Xu Shen: “There is no birth , so there is no old age and death. Is it not separated from birth and death, but old age and death?”

Xu Shenbai Buddha said: “So, World Honored One! There is no birth, so there is no old age and death. Old age and death are not separated from birth and death.”

“If so, even if there is no ignorance, there will be no action, and the extinction of ignorance will not be separated from the cessation of ignorance?”

Xu Shenbai Buddha: “So it is, World Honored One! There is no ignorance, so there is no action, and the cessation of action is not separated from the cessation of ignorance .”

The Buddha told Xu Shen: “Those who know and see in this way, do they have abandonment of desires, evil and unwholesome dharmas, and even the body to prove that they are adequate?”

Xu Shenbai Buddha: “No, World Honored One!”

The Buddha told Xu Shen: “It is called the Dharma Dharma Dharma Dwelling, and Nirvana later. Those good men are alone in a quiet place, concentrating on contemplation, not letting go and dwelling, away from my view, free from all taints, and liberating their minds.”

The Buddha said this sutra, the venerable one must go far away from dust and dirt, and obtain the purity of the Dharma eye.

At that time, you must deeply see the Dharma and obtain the Dharma, feel that the Dharma can overcome your doubts, you can’t help others to believe in it, you can’t help others to save you, and you should gain fearlessness stand on the head of the Buddha’s feet, and say to the Buddha: " World Honored One! I regret it now. That’s why I’m sorry.”

The Buddha told Xu Shen: “Why did you steal secrets and become a monk in the Dharma?”

Xu Shenbai Buddha said: "World Honored One ! There are many heretics who came to visit me and said to me: "You should know that we first paid respects to the king, ministers, elders, lay people and the rest of the world. Make offerings to the recluse Gottan and the Shravakas together. Now you secretly go to the recluse Gottan and the Shravakas to become a monk and receive the Dharma. After you have obtained the Dharma, you come to preach to us. You should teach the world with the Dharma you heard, so that they will respect and make offerings as before. ’ That’s why , World-Honored One! I became a renunciate in stealing secrets from the Dharma and the Vinaya, and today I repent. I only hope that the World-Honored One will hear my repentance, and I will mourn the cause.”

The Buddha told Xu Shen: "Accepting your repentance, you should say concretely: 'I used to be foolish, unkind, and ignorant. I became a monk in the Dharma, law and robbery. Today, I repent. I see and know my sins. Merit increases and will never decrease.’ So what is it? All people who have sinned, see and know themselves and repent, will fulfill the law in the next life, and their merit will increase and never decrease.”

The Buddha told Xu Shen: “Now let’s give an example. The wise ones can understand it with an example. For example, the king has a guard who catches a thief and sends him to the king’s house. Punishment .” The king said: “Go away the sinner, bind his hands behind his back, and proclaim the order with evil voices , and go all over the country, and then he will go out of the city to punish the sinner, spread all over his body, and use a hundred spears.” , sent the sinner with his hands tied behind his back, and chanted viciously, all over the city. He would go out of the city to punish the sinner, covering his body with a hundred spears. In the middle of the day, the king asked, “Is the sinner alive?” Chen Bai He said, “Live.” The king ordered his ministers to say, “Cut off the hundred spears again.” At sunset, if you cut off the hundred spears again, he still won’t die.”

The Buddha told Xu Shen: “The king punishes the crime with three hundred spears. Would n’t the sinner’s body be as complete as the palm of his hand?”

Xu Shenbai Buddha: “No, World Honored One!”

Ask Xu Shen again : “At that time, because of the three hundred spears of karma, did the sinner suffer extremely hard?”

Xu Shenbai Buddha: “Extremely painful. World Honored One! If you take one spear, the pain is unbearable, how about three hundred spears, how can it be tolerable?”

The Buddha told Xu Shen: “This is good enough, but if you become a monk in secret in the true Dharma and the law, steal and uphold the Dharma, and preach it to others, you should suffer twice as much pain as that.”

When the Buddha taught the Dharma, heretics must explain it deeply. After the Buddha taught this sutra, the Venerable One must deeply hear what the Buddha said, and practice it with joy.

(this is the agama parallel to SN12.70, which nevertheless tells the same story, i.e that the jhana - pyschic powers - past life recollection is already a dissapearing tradtion in the order, perhaps known only theoretically by most)

As to the evidence for this proposition: that the earliest Buddhism we can discern is a metaphysical quietism based on a meditation practice that that moves from sati as recollecteedness in behavior to the elimination of the 5 mental hindrances to the attainment of the four jhana to the mastery of psychic powers including a mind made body to the recollection of past lives and so on, and that the mindfulness of aggregates demonstrating anatta is palpably a later more scholastic and institutional curiculum and that S is therefore a later and more city based literary production, well…

some hours of cutting and pasting awaits me so stay tuned, but a few of the leads include, S’s quotations of D, S’s references to 10DO (in D), the relative frequency of jhana and satipathanna in D, M S, EA and later texts such as V, AB, etc, and, fundamentally, what can be said about the “common core” of the content shared between DN and DA, MN and MA, SN and SA, and AN and EA.

Most Importantly, this is a claim about the evolution of a canon of literature after the lifetime of the Buddha. It is not a claim about what the Buddha did or did not teach, just that there are layers in the 4 principle collections, and that those layers essentially divide into 2 periods, the period of the jhana kamma presentation and the period of the satipathana aggregates presentation.

I would say that both of these presentations differ markedly from the later “anatta” style Theravada position and precede it in chronology, and I would say both jhana Buddhism and aggregates Buddhism are clearly pre-sectarian. However my claim is that aggregates Buddhism is late enough that different sects pasted aggregates material into different suttas at different times while jhana Buddhism seems to appear consistently across all 4 collections in both major languages, and seems assumed by both Theravada and Sarvastivada and other sources and is therefore the chronologically earliest Buddhism we have access to in the 4 principle prose collections.

As for the other half of my proposition, the undeclared points appear to have been more agressively replaced throughout the Nikaya sources than the Agama ones, which is suggestive of anatta growing out of the undeclared points over time. Regardless, both N sources and A sources reveal the fundamental importance of the undeclared points and the later development of anatta in their own ways as well as in combination.

It appears to me and to many other secular academics that there is perhaps an even earlier Buddhism of the atthakavagga and the parayanavagga and a few other poems in KN and SN, but I think it is near impossible to make any generalisations from that material due to the reasons already pointed out by KR Norman.

I would say that if there is any chance at all of any of the canon actually having the lifetime approval of the Buddha as we have it more or less as a literary creation now, the archaic parts of two poems above stand the best chance IMVHO (speculation your honor).

Anyway, the “philosophy” as outlined, I still think pretty well overall, here:

is really quite fascinating when we realise that these are the considered positions of people who went off into the woods and trained themselves to floridly hallucinate a mind made body that could fly around and have experiences (and memories if it is this body that experiences the past lives).


@josephzizys: Regarding your theory – some Pali scholars have suggested that the first vagga of DN appears to be earlier than the second and third vaggas. Your research has shown that the Gradual Training (anupubbasikkhā) is prominent, while the 5 aggregates are absent in the 13 suttas of the first vagga.

According to G. C. Pande in Studies in the Origins of Buddhism:

“The order of the Pali sutta-groups seems to show roughly the historical phenomenon of later writings being added to earlier ones since the third and second books of the Pali DN are on the whole recognizably later than the first one. And the reason is that the first vagga of the Pali DN corresponds strongly to the 3rd Vagga of the Chinese. All the ten sutras of the latter are found in the former, the three extra suttas of which are absent from the whole of the Chinese DA”. (pp 79-80)*

Kd 21 The Pañcasatikakkhandhaka, “the Chapter on the assembly of five hundred”, tells the story of the first communal recitation (saṅgīti) of the discourses of the Buddha at Rājagaha, otherwise known as “the First Council”.

“If it seems appropriate to the Sangha, I will ask Ānanda about the Teaching.
Venerable Ānanda informed the Sangha: Please, Venerables, I ask the Sangha to listen.
If it seems appropriate to the Sangha, I will reply when asked by Venerable Mahākassapa about the Teaching.
Mahākassapa then asked Ānanda:
Where was the (Brahmajāla Sutta) Prime Net spoken?
At the royal rest-house at Ambalaṭṭhikā, between Rājagaha and Nāḷanda.
Who is it about?
The wanderer Suppiya and the young brahmin Brahmadatta.
Mahākassapa also asked Ānanda about the origin story of the Prime Net and about the person.
Where was the (Sāmaññaphala Sutta) Fruits of the Monastic Life spoken?
In Jīvaka’s mango grove at Rājagaha.
Who is it with?
Ajātasattu Vedehiputta.
Mahākassapa also asked Ānanda about the origin story of the Fruits of the Monastic Life and about the person.
In this way he asked about the five collections. Eteneva upāyena pañcapi nikāye pucchi.
Ānanda was able to reply to each and every question.”

In A History of Pali Literature by Bimala Churn Law (1933) we find the following:

“We have pointed out that this account in the Vinaya Cullavagga clearly alludes to the Digha as the first of the five nikayas as well as that the first two suttas were the Brahmajala and Samannaphala, while as to the number and succession of the remaining suttas, we are kept completely in the dark. Straining the information supplied in the Vinaya Cullavagga we can proceed so far, no doubt, that the first volume of the Digha Nikaya was mainly in the view of its compilers. Comparing the suttas comprised in the remaining two volumes and marking the differences in theme and tone, it seems that these two volumes were later additions.” (page 54)

“With regard to the Digha Nikaya it has been directly pointed out by Buddhaghosa that the concluding verses of the Mahaparinibbana Suttanta [DN 16 in volume two] relating to the redistribution of the Buddha’s bodily remains were originally composed by the rehearsers of the Third Buddhist Council and added later on by the Buddhist teachers of Ceylon.” (page 31)

“Like the first volume of the Digha Nikaya, the whole of the Majjhima Nikaya strikes us as the most authoritative and original among the collections of the Buddha’s teachings.” (pp. 54-56)

Law’s revised version of Rhys Davids’ chronological table of Buddhist literature from the time of the Buddha to the time of Asoka (in his Buddhist India - p. 188) is as follows:

“The results arrived at concerning the chronology of the Pali Canonical literature are presented in the subjoined table:

  1. The simple statements of Buddhist doctrine now found in identical works in paragraphs or verses recurring in all the books.
  2. Episodes found in identical works in two or more of the existing books.
  3. The Silas, the Parayana group of sixteen poems without the prologue, the Atthaka group of four or sixteen poems, the Sikkhapadas.
  4. Digha, Vol. I, the Majjhima, the Samyutta, the Anguttara, and earlier Patimokkha code of 152 rules.
  5. The Digha, Vols. II and Ill, the Thera-Theri-gatha, the collection of 500 Jatakas, Suttavibhanga, Patisambhidamagga, Puggalapannatti and Vibhanga.
  6. The Mahavagga. and the Cullavagga, the Patimokkha code completing 227 rules, the Vimanavatthu and Petavatthu, the Dhammapada and the Kathavatthu.
  7. The Cullaniddesa, the Mahaniddesa, the Udana, the Itivuttaka, the Sutta Nipata, the Dhatukatha, the Yamaka, and the Patthana.
  8. The Buddhavamsa, the Cariyapitaka, and the Apadana.
  9. The Parivarapatha.
  10. The Khuddakapatha.” (page 66)

Regarding DO – within the extant structure of the Pali Canon, the first sutta in the first nikaya (DN 1) introduces Dependent Origination in the Sutta Pitaka in the short form:

“Now, when those ascetics and brahmins theorize about the past and the future on these sixty-two grounds, all of them experience this by repeated contact through the six fields of contact. Their feeling is a condition for craving. Craving is a condition for grasping. Grasping is a condition for continued existence. Continued existence is a condition for rebirth. Rebirth is a condition for old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress to come to be.”



Yes all that seems about right, I am most interested in Law’s point 1, that is, what doctrinal positions actually do occur verbatim in all 4 principle Nikayas/Agamas.

Obviously this is a somewhat more stringent criteria than Law’s, in that for a doctrine to occur in say D, it has to by this criteria occur in BOTH DN and DA.

Using this strixter criteria I beleive we can say that the aggregates (and consequently the Therevada interpretation of Anatta) do NOT occur verbatim in all 4 common collections and are therefore likely to be later than Jhana, which unambiguously DOES occur in all of DA, DN, MA, MN, SA, SN, EA and AN.

That the later (sequentially) parts of DN are later chronologically than the earlier parts I have no doubt, I think this tends to be true of MN also, however in my assesment it is difficult to see what this means doctrinally in the case of DN, whereas with MN we see the incursion of aggregates doctrine especially later in the sequence.

I am also not 100 percent sure about the implication that the “short statements” in all cases precede the longer suttas in chronology, it is an open possibility IMO that the sekkha formula (for example in DN2) is actually the source of the jhana formula as it appears repeated in the other collections.

I would also be reluctant to infer much from any particular doctrine occuring in any particular single sutta, so DO (a 7? Link version) DOES occur at DN1, but the argument made about why infernces must depend on percievables is not relient on any particular version of DO, so while something like DO (a six link version) is evident even in the atthakavagga, the orthodox 12 link DO, that would entitle us to claim it as doctrinally earlier than the collections, is not in evidence, if anything the evidence is clearly one of evolution from 6 - 7 - 10 - 12 links, and this is corroberated by examining the Agama sources, something I have not had the opportunity to do as yet in a formal manner, but which is alluded to elsewhere on this board.

Regarding DN 2:

“According to the commentaries, it was in the thirty-seventh year after the Enlightenment, when the Buddha was seventy-two years old, that Devadatta commenced his drive to gain leadership of the Sangha. Thus, if we allow at least three years for Ajatasattu to have conducted his war, married Vajira, and sired his son, this would place the Samannaphala Sutta somewhere in the last five years of the Buddha’s life.” (page 5)
The Discourse on the Fruits of Recluseship: Samannaphala Sutta and its Commentary Translated by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

“The leading emphasis of the sutta is on the practice of spiritual life, though it contains incidentally a good deal pertaining to theoretical beliefs. Man is conceived as a complex of ‘Kaya’ and ‘Vinnana’. This represents a perceptibly earlier stage of analysis than the doctrine of the Five Khandhas, of which there is no mention here. It will be incorrect to suppose that there is no occasion for mentioning that doctrine, since, according to the context just referred to, the Bhikkhu, after he has attained to mental purity and quietude, proceeds to the attainment of ‘Knowledge-vision’ (Nana-dassana) and thus realizes his own nature as kaya-cum-vinnana, and, now, if the doctrine of the five khandhas were the ruling dogma about the nature of man, this opportunity should clearly have been availed of in order to mention it.” (page 84)
“It is true that it describes the Four Jhanas in a formular and schematic form, but it has to be remembered that the doctrine of Jhana probably belonged to the original mandate itself and consequently must have engaged the attention of system-makers very early. Besides, within the four prose Nikayas, at any rate, an earlier stage of this doctrine is hardly to be found.” (page 85)
Studies in the Origins of Buddhism by G. C. Pande



Fantastic stuff. Love Pande.

A book to look at as a piece of the puzzle is Frauwallner’s The Earliest Vinaya. Like many people, I didn’t really look at Buddhist Vinaya texts in detail and instead just looked at sutras in trying to understand the whole EBT problem.

However, this is a mistake that leaves a large hole in the picture because the Vinaya was one of the earliest Buddhist scriptures by necessity - it defines how the Sangha operates. It relates to the sutras because material that built up in the early days in Vinaya texts was moved into sutras. It’s quite obvious when the extant vinayas are compared to each other, which is what Frauwallner does in the book I cited.

For example, the Parinibbana Sutta in DN must have originally been part of a Vinaya tradition, then was turned into a sutra. We can tell that because we can see where it was cut from the Vinayas that don’t include it and then there’s a couple Vinayas that still contain it.

There are numerous other cases like that. Probably most of the Avadana literature found in Pali Suttas was originally in the Vinaya. And DN/DA is full of that type of text, isn’t it? So, too, is the Ekottarika Agama and the Madhyama Agama. But there’s less of it in AN and SN/SA. This may well tell us something about the timing of these collections creation, I think. Not sure exactly what the conclusion should be yet, but it’s part of the puzzle.


sure but that just places the speach in an imaginary timeline of the buddha whos only source is the stories themselves.

the sekkha patipada as a trope appears by itself to be earlier than any particular story in DN, in a sense it IS DN, the fundemental refrain in it anyway, and if you ask me if i think the sekkha patipada was chanted in concord during the buddhas lifetime?

I would say its possible

this makes perfect sense, of course the literugical tradition of the buddhas death would have emerged from the vinaya, where else could it have?

and of course it would rise in prestige over time and require “promotion” into the most venerated of canons, D.

The core of D is the sillakhandavagga and the core of that is the sekkha including jhana, the undeclared, and conditionality.

Even S bequeathed important suttas to D and M, at least where the four foundations of mindfullness and probably the aggregates are found.