Justifications for why there are no mentions of Nirodha Samapatti in the earliest stratum of the Pali canon?

As the title states, there are no explicit references to Nirodha Samapatti in what is widely considered to be the earliest stratum of the Pali canon (which includes texts such as the Sutta Nipata, Atthakavagga, Parayanavagga, Itivuttaka, Udana). I’m interested to hear from those who consider Nirodha Samapatti to be a canonical teaching of the Buddha - why do you think there are no references to this attainment in the aforementioned texts?

Hello @pingalakoccha and welcome to Discourse & Discover! We’re happy that you joined us and hope that this site is a helpful resource on your path. If you need any help, feel free to check the FAQ or reach out to the moderators at @moderators.

With metta,

On behalf of the moderators


I think you have slightly confused some different opinions/ideas about the early strata of the canon.

The Udāna is actually one of the most questionable parts of “early buddhist texts.” It is basically just a series of Dhammapada verses which have been supplemented with commentarial stories made canonical. This is not unique to all traditions, and it is done quite differently, so the Udāna is definitely not in the earliest stratum or even in a very comparatively solid section across traditions.

The Itivuttaka is somewhat similar. While we do have a partial translation of the Itivuttaka in Chinese, and some parallels etc., it has clearly undergone certain textual editing and is based around the Aṅguttara principle of number-based organization, so nothing about it is special. If anything it is less well grounded than the principle nikāya/āgama groups, not more so or “earlier.”

The Aṭṭhakavagga and Pārāyana, on the other hand, are widely considered to be rather early. But these are verse collections — poetry meant to inspire people to practice or reflect deeply. They do not claim to be full doctrinal summaries of what the Buddha was teaching, and in fact, to understand the Aṭṭhakavagga and Pārāyana it is necessary to have some background information from other suttas (such as when they discuss papañca, formless attainments, dependent origination, etc.)

Moreover, scholars who studied the verse forms in these collections put them on the same chronology as certain verses in the Saṁyutta Nikāya (the Sagāthāvagga verses). While this is questionable, there are definitely lots of similarities, and these comparisons were made by people well versed in Indian verse (pun intended), so they are not groundless. What this means, though, is that — again — these verse collections do not stand in isolation from the other texts, even by the people who considered them especially early.

The real “earliest” parts of the Pāḷi canon are the four principle nikāyas (Dīgha, Majjhima, Saṁyutta, and Aṅguttara) which have parallels in the Chinese, Gandhāran, Sanskrit, BHS, etc. Āgama parallels and which show less evidence of clear doctrinal evolution. This would be things like the bulk of the Saṁyutta Nikāya, the Sīlakkhandhavagga of the Dīgha Nikāya, and large portions of the Majjhima/Aṅguttara Nikāya. We can add to this early verse collections, like the Aṭṭhakavagga, Pārāyana, some Dhammapada literature, etc.

The Sīlakkhandhavagga of the DN mentions the nirodhasamāpatti, better known canonically as saññāvedayitanirodha. It comes up in DN 9 (+ parallels) and is central to the entire discourse. It is also present in core parts of the MN, SN, and AN. The Pārāyana mentions the cessation of consciousnss several times, akin to the cessation of perception and feeling which are simply core components of conscious experience; the cessation of consciousness is more finite and generally refers to the permanent cessation of it. The Aṭṭhakavagga also discusses the formless attainments, and the refinement and cessation of perception.

So this idea/concept is not missing from the early strata of EBTs by any standard, really. Even if someone were to take only the first chapter of the Pāḷi Dīgha Nikāya as authoritative, it is present. If one takes the core material of the SN/SA as authoritative, it is present. If one turns to early verse literature (Aṭṭhaka/Pārāyana[/Sagāthāvagga]), it is present.

Much mettā :slight_smile: