On the numbering of items in AN 8.86

While most of the suttas in the Anguttara have a well-defined numerical set of dhammas, in a number of cases it is difficult to discern exactly what the relevant numbered group is. This may occur for several reasons. The text may corrupt, it may combine different texts, or it may simply have been put in the wrong place.

One such text in AN 8.86, which presents a number of qualities of mendicants, based on which the Buddha. This sutta is closely related to AN 5.30 and AN 6.42. However it includes some extra dhammas, and the text as it stands does not obviously represent a group of eight. Venerable Bodhi comments:

In what follows, factors §§4–7 are identical with §§1–4 of AN 6.42. In Ce and Ee, §§5–6 of AN 6.42 are excluded from this sutta, but the last sentence of AN 6.42, not a numerical factor there, here becomes §8. Be includes §§5–6 of AN 6.42, which then become §§8–9. The final sentence of the sutta would then either be unnumbered or counted as §10. If Be is followed, it is hard to account for this sutta being in the Eights rather than in the Nines or Tens. §§1–3 of the present sutta have no counterparts in the previous versions. Brahmāli suggests numbering the sentence that begins “Even some deities” as §1 and treating the final sentence of the sutta as unnumbered, which would be consistent with 6:42. However, I here follow the numbering of Ce, my primary source text.

This is not satisfactory, as the final item is quite different from the rest.

A closer look at the text reveals another solution. I am of course using the Mahasangiti text, which being Burmese usually corresponds closely with what Ven Bodhi calls Be. The Mahasangiti edition numbers the eight items, and the decisive feature of these is that they each begin with idha.

Idha, which literally means “here”, is used to introduce the vast majority of numbered items in the Anguttara.

In the current text, several of the sections are not introduced in this way; in particular, the opening section referring to the deities, and the next section on monks meeting to enjoy company. Idha begins with the section on tickling, and there are exactly eight such items.

Finally, the Buddha telling us how much he enjoys going to the toilet on the side of the road, delightful as it is, is not introduced with idha and so falls outside the set of eight.

The impression I get is that the Buddha is talking with Nāgita, and at a certain point, the actual “discourse” begins, marked with idha. Given that the same event is told in different ways in several texts, it is certain that the text has been subject to elaboration. The eight items, with their linguistic marker idha, were inserted to create a version of the text for the eights.

This means that not only should the numbering as given in Ven Bodhi’s translation be corrected, but that the Burmese edition is correct in including the extra items on receiving material possessions and homage, and these should be added to the translation.