On what is found and what is not found

upalabbhati : is found; is existed.

words containing the string upalab occur :
V 0
D 1
M 2
S 6
A 3
K 71
B 218

times in the canon. Here for context are all the occurrences in the 4 principle nikayas:

“Subhadda, in whatever teaching and training the noble eightfold path is not found, there is no ascetic found, no second ascetic, no third ascetic, and no fourth ascetic.
“Yasmiṁ kho, subhadda, dhammavinaye ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo na upalabbhati, samaṇopi tattha na upalabbhati. Dutiyopi tattha samaṇo na upalabbhati. Tatiyopi tattha samaṇo na upalabbhati. Catutthopi tattha samaṇo na upalabbhati.
In whatever teaching and training the noble eightfold path is found, there is an ascetic found, a second ascetic, a third ascetic, and a fourth ascetic.
Yasmiñca kho, subhadda, dhammavinaye ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo upalabbhati, samaṇopi tattha upalabbhati, dutiyopi tattha samaṇo upalabbhati, tatiyopi tattha samaṇo upalabbhati, catutthopi tattha samaṇo upalabbhati.
In this teaching and training the noble eightfold path is found. Only here is there an ascetic, here a second ascetic, here a third ascetic, and here a fourth ascetic. Other sects are empty of ascetics.
Imasmiṁ kho, subhadda, dhammavinaye ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo upalabbhati, idheva, subhadda, samaṇo, idha dutiyo samaṇo, idha tatiyo samaṇo, idha catuttho samaṇo, suññā parappavādā samaṇebhi aññehi.


須跋受教,佛告之曰:「若 諸法中,無八聖道者,則無第一沙門果,第二、 第三、第四沙門果。須跋!以諸法中有八聖 道故,便有第一沙門果,第二、第三、第四沙門 果。須跋!今我法中有八聖道,有第一沙門 果,第二、第三、第四沙門果,外道異眾無沙門 果。」爾時,世尊為須跋而說頌曰:

Subhadra accepted his teaching. The Buddha told him, “If the noble eightfold path is absent from a teaching, then the first fruit of the ascetic won’t exist, nor the second … third … fourth fruit of the ascetic. Subhadra, when the noble eightfold path is present in a teaching, the first fruit of the ascetic will exist, as will the second … third … fourth fruit of the ascetic. Subhadra, the noble eightfold path is present in my teaching, and it has the first fruit of the ascetic and the second … third … fourth fruit of the ascetic. These other religious groups don’t have these fruits of the ascetic.”


“But since a self and what belongs to a self are not actually found, is not the following a totally foolish teaching:
“Attani ca, bhikkhave, attaniye ca saccato thetato anupalabbhamāne, yampi taṁ diṭṭhiṭṭhānaṁ:
‘The cosmos and the self are one and the same. After death I will be permanent, everlasting, eternal, imperishable, and will last forever and ever’?”
‘so loko so attā, so pecca bhavissāmi nicco dhuvo sassato avipariṇāmadhammo, sassatisamaṁ tatheva ṭhassāmī’ti—
nanāyaṁ, bhikkhave, kevalo paripūro bāladhammo”ti?


The Realized One describes pleasure as included in happiness wherever it is found, and in whatever context.’”
api ca, āvuso, yattha yattha sukhaṁ upalabbhati yahiṁ yahiṁ taṁ taṁ tathāgato sukhasmiṁ paññapetī’”ti.

MN59 SN36.19 SN36.20

“Why do you believe there’s such a thing as a ‘sentient being’?
“Kiṁ nu sattoti paccesi,
Māra, is this your theory?
māra diṭṭhigataṁ nu te;
This is just a pile of conditions,
you won’t find a sentient being here.
nayidha sattupalabbhati.


“In that case, Anurādha, since you don’t actually find the Realized One in the present life, is it appropriate to declare:
“Ettha ca te, anurādha, diṭṭheva dhamme saccato thetato tathāgate anupalabbhiyamāne kallaṁ nu te taṁ veyyākaraṇaṁ:
‘Reverends, when a Realized One is describing a Realized One—a supreme person, highest of people, who has reached the highest point—they describe them other than these four ways:
‘yo so, āvuso, tathāgato uttamapuriso paramapuriso paramapattipatto taṁ tathāgato aññatra imehi catūhi ṭhānehi paññāpayamāno paññāpeti—
After death, a Realized One still exists, or no longer exists, or both still exists and no longer exists, or neither still exists nor no longer exists’?”
hoti tathāgato paraṁ maraṇāti vā … na hoti … hoti ca na ca hoti … neva hoti na na hoti tathāgato paraṁ maraṇāti vā’”ti?

“No, sir.”
“No hetaṁ, bhante”.

SN22.85 SN28.6 SN44.2

Since they don’t actually find that there are things that should and should not be done, they’re unmindful and careless, and can’t rightly be called ascetics.
Iti karaṇīyākaraṇīye kho pana saccato thetato anupalabbhiyamāne muṭṭhassatīnaṁ anārakkhānaṁ viharataṁ na hoti paccattaṁ sahadhammiko samaṇavādo.


I still have to complete the cut and paste of all the parallels, but to summarize:

upalabbhati is rare in the nikayas, becomes much more common in the late pali books like the Nidessa, and is absent from the parallels in the Chinese.

In conclusion the argument in the Yamaka is a Therevadin sectarian one.


Why do you say that it’s “absent” when in fact it’s present in the very example that you yourself have supplied?

“If the noble eightfold path is absent from a teaching, then the first fruit of the ascetic won’t exist

  • This is a non-sequitur. The conclusion simply does not follow. First, you would need to do a comparative statistical search for other words of the same frequency. Second, you’d need to also conclude the same of any other sutta which contained a word of similar statistical properties. Third, based on your premise it would not only be this particular sutta, but all that have/use this word and any other word of similar frequency. Fourth, you’d have to have a well motivated reason for picking this particular frequency as a cut off point and not just because it got rid of a particular sutta you didn’t like.
  • It should be noted that the above non-sequitur did not pop out of thin air, but is rather based on motivated reasoning. You do not like this sutta and the vajira one as you deem them problematic for your current understanding. This is a dangerous game.
  • Your yourself advised another on the forum from discounting specific sutta because it does not meet a preferred understanding. It would be good in my estimation to heed your own advice.
  • I simply do not grok why you think these suttas are problematic. Rather, my hypothesis is that you have a particular aversion to them. This might be a good indicator that they would be good for you to study in more depth to integrate into your understanding.
  • Also there exist parallels for all the suttas you wish to deem ‘Theravadin sectarian’ in all the other schools including the chinese agamas and other non-pali sources.
  • For my own side, I’m particularly interested in why you dislike the teaching about ‘conventional’ truth. I think there quite possibly be a misunderstanding of what is meant and not meant by this word. Tell me, have you ever heard of the hungry ghost, human and god who walked into a bar and ordered 'puss and blood, ‘water’, and ‘ambrosia’ respectively?


1 Like

Ah but i do!

for example I use the same idea to doubt the whole aggregates teaching:

rūpaṃ niccaṃ vā aniccaṃ (is form constant or inconstant) occurs

VN: 1
DN: 0
MN: 3
SN: 45
AN: 0
KN: 0
AB: 0
VM: 0

to conclude that the whole aggregates teaching is late (there’s more evidence see here for details).

and the same again here;

"What I am ““up to”” is taking a string of letters, in this case paccuppan and finding the most common words with that string;

paccuppannaṃ (137)
paccuppanno (69)
paccuppannārammaṇo (67)
paccuppannā (65)
atītānāgatapaccuppannaṃ (61)
paccuppanne (43)
paccuppannārammaṇā (37)
paccuppannārammaṇassa (31)

and examining their distribution across the pali Tripitaka plus the Visuddhimagga.

paccuppannamaddhānaṁ for example occurs 4 times across the Tripitaka plus the Visuddhimagga, at MN2, MN38, and twice in the Peta.

I therefore come to the conclusion that this compound is rare in the 4 Nikayas.

paccuppanno (69) occurs in DN9 and DN33, nowhere in MN, nowhere in AN, nowhere in VN, 6 times in SN (all in SN35) once in the Iti, then 54 times in the Abhiudhamma.

Here I come to the conclusion that the variant is rare in the suttas but common in the Abhidhamma.

paccuppannārammaṇo (67) Does not occur in DN, MN, AN, SN, VN, KN, then occurs 67 times in the Abbhidhamma.

Here I come to the conclusion that the variant is absent from the suttas but common in the Abhidhamma.

etc etc.

My conclusion so far is that the sequence of MN131 MN132 MN133 and MN134 reveal the introduction of a new poem to the canon, one that is almost certainly later than the time of the Buddha, one that almost certainly was controversial when introduced, and which uses many terms in inflections of case that are not seen anywhere else, except where they are seen in late KN books and the Abhidhamma. I therefore conclude that we likely have good reason to believe that this sequence of suttas is late, but due to the presence of parallels in the Agamas, that it is pre-sectarian, although the version that most obscures the controversy, MN131, lacking a parallel, is most likely a product of the Theravada* sect.

Your claim that paccuppan is common is not really relevant to my argument, however when I examine the root I find that by far the majority of compounds and inflections have the late material as thier centre of gravity frequency wise.

I therefore am wary of ascribing it to the earliest strata of material.

And then the same idea again to doubt the 12DO using namarupa as the search string;

I used to be of a school of thought that took paticcasamuppada to be an early phenomena and pañcaupādānakkhandhā to be a late corruption of it.

I am now coming round to the view that paticcasamuppada itself, at least in it’s ten and twelve link versions is a later elaboration and exemplar of the more general principle of conditionality.

I was of the view that namarupa was probably an earlier near synonym for upādānakkhandhā.

Now I suspect that it too is a somewhat later term.

Once again there is a pattern discernible in the way the term is distributed through the canon.

VN: 3
DN: 15
MN: 16
SN: 94
AN: 6
KN: 112
AB: 76
VM: 90

The occurrences in the Vinaya are all in the opening of the Mahākhandhaka.
The occurrences in DN are all in DN14 and DN15.
The occurrences in MN are all in MN9 MN11 MN38 MN109 MN115.
The occurrences in AN are all at AN3.62 AN9.14 AN10.92.

The word then occurs 94 times in SN, 86 of those occurrences being in SN12.
97 of the 112 occurrences in KN are from the late books.
55 of the 76 occurrences in the abbhidhamma are in the Vibhanga.

So the basic pattern is that it’s rarely attested outside SN12, Vibhanga and Netti etc.

Basically it seems very tightly associated with the paticcasamuppada formula, where it seems to mean something like the object of consciousness. (““phenomena”” might be a good translation)

I would be inclined to ““read it down”” as a technical term, and argue that the links in the formula are really just given as examples, using more or less accepted folk psychology at the time, and that it would be a mistake to try and make much deep metaphysics, or even much deep psychology, out of them.

It’s just a word. It means whatever people using it mean by it.

I would not be at all surprised if the first people to use it where monastics living some time after the death of the Buddha, developing a scholastic psychology, that bears on the actual practice of the path the same way a race callers commentary bears on the race.

I use it to doubt MN22;

yampi taṃ diṭṭhiṭṭhānaṃ occurs:

VN: 0
DN: 0
MN: 1 (MN22)
SN: 0
AN: 0
KN: 0 (including the late books)
AB: 0
VM: 0 (Visuddhimagga)

paripūro bāladhammo occurs:

VN: 0
DN: 0
MN: 1 (MN22)
SN: 0
AN: 0
KN: 0
AB: 1 (qouting MN22)
VM: 0

attaniyaṃ me occurs:

VN: 0
DN: 0
MN: 1 (MN22)
SN: 0
AN: 0
KN: 0
AB: 1 (qouting MN22)
VM: 0

na uppajjeyyuṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā occurs:

VN: 0
DN: 0
MN: 1 (MN22)
SN: 0
AN: 0
KN: 0
AB: 0
VM: 0

diṭṭhinissayaṃ nissayetha yaṃsa diṭṭhinissayaṃ nissayato na uppajjeyyuṃ occurs

VN: 0
DN: 0
MN: 1 (MN22)
SN: 0
AN: 0
KN: 0
AB: 0
VM: 0

ttavādupādānaṃ na samanupassāmi yaṃsa attavādupādānaṃ occurs:

VN: 0
DN: 0
MN: 1 (MN22)
SN: 0
AN: 0
KN: 0
AB: 0
VM: 0

pariggahaṃ pariggaṇheyyātha occurs:

VN: 0
DN: 0
MN: 1 (MN22)
SN: 0
AN: 0
KN: 0
AB: 0
VM: 0

ajjhattaṃ asati aparitassanā hoti occurs:

VN: 0
DN: 0
MN: 1 (MN22)
SN: 0
AN: 0
KN: 0
AB: 0
VM: 0

to express skepticism of the scholarship of the great Bhikku Bodhi;

accutapada occurs in

VN: 0
DN: 0
MN: 0
SN: 0
AN: 0
KN: 2 (both times in the Niddessa, which no one regards as an early work)
AB: 0

amataṃ dhātuṃ occurs in

VN: 0
DN: 0
MN: 0
SN: 0
AN: 1
KN: 2
AB: 0

So again, this is a very rare term.


VN: 0
DN: 0
MN: 0
SN: 0
AN: 0
KN: 7 (once in the dhammapda, the other 6 times in latebooks)
AB: 0

to make the same point i am making here in another context;

DN: 0
MN: 0
SN: 3
AN: 3
KN: 1
AB: 1

so this term is very rare in the early Buddhist texts.

DN: 118
MN: 194
SN: 178
AN: 159
KN: 930
AB: 1990

this term is very common.

DN: 1 (in the known to be open late DN16)
MN: 1
SN: 3
AN: 0
KN: 29
AB: 164

This term, related to the first term, is very rare in early texts like DN, MN, SN and AN, but much more common in later collections like KN and AB (abhidhamma).

atthi occurs as a separate word 2613 times in the Vinaya, Nikayas and Abhidhamma.
in compounds it is of course much more common than that.

again here;

One other one that’s not in the above list is saḷāyatan which in DPR gives:

DN: 6 (ALL in DN14)
MN: 26 (in MN9 MN11 nine times in MN38 then MN115 MN121 MN137 MN142 MN149 MN152)
SN: 80 times (all bar 9 occurrences in SN12)
AN: 4 times (all bar one occurrence in AN3.62 the other occurrence being in AN10.92)

it occurs once in the VInaya, 4 times in the Udana, and not at all in any of the other early books.

using the Digital Pali Dictionary gives:

Vinaya Pārājika 0
Vinaya Pācittiya 0
Vinaya Mahāvagga 1
Vinaya Cūḷavagga 0
Vinaya Parivāra 0
Sutta Dīgha Nikāya 7
Sutta Majjhima Nikāya 11
Sutta Saṃyutta Nikāya 66
Sutta Aṅguttara Nikāya 3
Sutta Khuddaka Nikāya 1 2
Sutta Khuddaka Nikāya 2 0
Sutta Khuddaka Nikāya 3 36
Abhidhamma Dhammasaṅgaṇī 1
Abhidhamma Vibhaṅga 23
Abhidhamma Dhātukathā 6
Abhidhamma Puggalapaññatti 0
Abhidhamma Kathāvatthu 7
Abhidhamma Yamaka 0
Abhidhamma Paṭṭhāna 0

this pattern, of SN having a lot of mentions and then Sutta Khuddaka Nikāya 3 having a lot, and Abhidhamma Vibhaṅga having a lot is quite characteristic.

So to summerise, saḷāyatan appears to cluster in later suttas (numerically speaking) in MN and in SN12 and to basically be absent from DN, the VInaya and the early KN books, except where it occasionally occurs in the context of the idappaccayatāpaṭiccasamuppādo

All this seems to me to allow one to make an argument that several of the more ““analytic”” and ““philosophical”” doctrines (the aggregates, the sense bases) have their center of gravity in the final third of MN and in SN, and that SN shows an affinity with the later books of KN and with the abbhidhamma Vibhanga.

This as least makes it not unthinkable that SN reflects a period of Buddhism that moved from a more… passionate framing of kamma and jhana to a dryer and more analytic presentation centering around aggregates and not-self.

here from this thread is some more;

the Nikayas are approximately

DN: 173,906
MN: 294,643
SN: 357,384
AN: 388,889

words long.

comparing the Nikayas for doctrinal terms in the Digital Pali Dictionary’s frequency tool gives:

arahant vs ariya:

DN: 367
MN: 336
SN: 255
AN: 340

DN: 109
MN: 282
SN: 589
AN: 265

So as a taster we have DN mentioning arahant more than 3 times as frequently as it mentions ariya, and mentioning arahant more often than the almost twice as long SN, while SN mentions ariya twice as often as it does arahant, mentioning ariya almost six times as often as the half as long DN.
In fact SN is the only Nikaya to mention arahants less than 300 times.
SN mentions ariya well over 200 times more often than the similarly long AN.
SN is the only Nikaya to mention ariya more often than arahant.

kamma/jhāna vs satipaṭṭhāna/upādānakkhandha/anatta:

DN: 142
MN 279
SN 73
AN 442

Here we see a stark absense of kamma from SN compared to any of the other nikayas, with it mentioning kamma half as often as the half as long DN, and one sixth as often as AN.

DN: 119
MN: 235
SN: 180
AN: 307

Here we see SN mentioning jhāna with significantly less frequency than the other 3 Nikayas.

DN: 22
MN: 34
SN: 185
AN: 45

Here we see SN mentioning satipaṭṭhāna much more frequently than the other nikayas, 4 times as much as the similarly long AN for example, and if we control for the nearly identical foundations of mindfulness suttas in MN and DN, and the 37 aides list which merely enumerates topics, then the contrast is even higher.
SN is the only Nikaya that mentions satipaṭṭhāna more often than jhāna.

DN: 7
MN: 23
SN: 61
AN: 10

As Pande points out the occurances of upādānakkhandha in DN are all pretty palpably late, so the difference here is again even more stark than the raw numbers indicate.

DN: 17
MN: 66
SN: 215
AN: 24

Here again, SN mentions anatta almost ten times as often as the similarly long AN.

āsava vs avijjā

DN: 49
MN: 202
SN: 138
AN: 432

DN: 4
MN: 42
SN: 157
AN: 44

Here again we see a remarkable and striking inverse, with DN mentioning āsava ten times more often than it mentions avijjā, and all the other 3 Nikayas mentioning āsava more often than avijjā, but SN the reverse, mentioning avijjā more often than āsava.

Finally for an example of the converse case, where the doctrinal term is distributed uniformly through the 4 principle nikayas in a way that grows with the length of the volume, here is a excerpt form the draft of the book I have been working on re my “numbers” argument:


“yaṃ kiñci samudayadhammaṃ, sabbaṃ taṃ nirodhadhamman”

DN3 DN5 DN14 DN21 MN56 MN74 MN91 MN147 SN35.74 SN56.11 AN8.12 AN8.21 etc

“people keep telling me that word counts are meaningless, I have yet to hear one single reason why they are meaningless, with your efforts probably coming closest to actually articulating a position around the “leveling” and “audience” arguments. I do not in the end find even your picture of this convincing, and I am growing somewhat tired of people repeating the phrase, so I will try to be as clear and succinct here as possible: if a string of text occurs 10 times as often as another string, it is never, ever, ever, ever, ever meaningless. It is always meaningful. THe only question is what does it mean? Numbers matter. It matters if the first jhana is mentioned in DN more than twice as often as the four foundations, because it begs the question why is the culmination of the eightfold path mentioned twice as often as the preceding step in DN, but the preceding step mentioned more than twice as often as the final one in SN? btw if you control for the wings it is more like 4 times as often that DN mentions the first jhana than the four foundations, again, if the numbers are meaningless why is there this difference between the occurrences in DN MN and AN with the occurrences in SN, why is SN the odd one out? ALL the other Nikayas mention first jhana more than twice as often as the four foundations, ONLY SN reverses this pattern, what is the “leveling” argument that makes sense of that?

When you decide to look deeper because these numbers strike you as being definitely not meaningless and actually very hard to explain you look deeper and find that the four foundations in the other three Nikayas practically evaporate before your eyes with just about any constraint you care to put on them: insist on parallels, you lose instances, insist on parallels form the same collection (the debate is about this after all), you lose more, insist on the Buddha as the speaker, more still, it just goes on and on. (exclude the 37 wings for example, as being most likely an insertion of the earliest matika, and you lose well over half of them in a single stroke, including their entire presence in the Vinaya, you don’t, strangely enough, lose a single instance from SN, I wonder why that would be? Because this is the table of contents for that exact collection of course.)

As I showed above, this simply does not occur with the jhanas, which you can easily find in all 4 principle collections, spoken by the Buddha, with parallels that sit in the same collection in both traditions.” - Are khandhas early or late EBT? - #173 by josephzizys

In what follows V is the Vinaya, D the Digha, so on through to B for Abhidhamma.

A word search will return results for all the compounds (strings with the search string as a substring) for example, “anattā” will return:

agahanattā (1)

aroganattā (1)

anattā (78)

tadanattā (16)

anattākāraṃ (3)

dukkhamanattā (1)

anattākārena (1)

dukkhamanattāti (1)

anattāti (79)

dhanattā (1)

anattādhīno (3)

pekhuṇiyanattā (1)

anattānaṃ (2)

bahuputtanattā (1)

anattānupassanaṃ (2)

bhavanattā (1)

anattānupassanā (36)

manattārahena (1)

anattānupassanāñāṇaṃ (9)

migāranattā (4)

anattānupassanāya (17)

migāranattāraṃ (3)

anattānupassanāvase (1)

meṇḍakanattā (3)

anattānupassanāvasena (1)

yadanattā (21)

anattānupassanatthāya (1)

vedanattāya (1)

anattānupassino (1)

vedanattāyaṃ (1)

anattānupassī (8)

sekhuniyanattā (1)

A word search will not return all the words used for the idea, due to the constraints of Pali grammar and text string searches.

This fact makes no material difference to the evidence in any case, which is broadly statistical in nature, so we will press on.

The lengths of the 4 core collections:

D: 173,906 M: 294,643 S: 357,384 A: 388,889

We will start with 2 strings samuday and nirodh and observe the results in the Pali canon:


V 26

D 69

M 122

S 269

A 82

K 342

B 712 nirodh:

V 43

D 101

M 205

S 587

A 257

K 624

B 505

So here we have two terms, arising and ceasing, they both occur frequently in all the ebt and all the later material, there seems to be more talk of ceasing than of arising.

Pretty straightforward and nothing controversial here. we will conclude by assuming that these terms are uncontroversial and that Arising and Ceasing are important concepts in Early Buddhism.

We will also note a pattern for later; that the frequency of these words both increase in the order they are listed, from V to B, with the exception of the “odd duck” A.

This pattern is unsurprising, especially if we restrict out attention to DMS since D is shorter, M is longer, and S is longer still, therefore we should expect, if each volume is teaching the same things, that the terms would grow as the length of the books grow.

Ok, some more ground rules regarding the meaning of the concepts that these strings are indicative evidence for:

We will take the absence of a term from a volume as a weakening of it’s claim to universality.

We will take the diminishment of a term when chinese parallels are sought as a weakening.

We will take the significant diminishment of a term when speakers other than the buddha are removed from the sample as a weakening.

Finally and most importantly, where we are faced with having to explain a buddhist concept (as opposed to a text string), we will take it that we should explain more weakly evidenced concepts by recourse to more strongly evidenced concepts and not the other way round. This is not to confuse text strings with concepts, merely to present evidence of and a statistical argument for the idea that a certain arrangement (S is the earliest) of the carts and horses being mistaken.

So first, I want to point out that kamma is not like samudaya nirodha in the ebt:

kamma: (keep in mind we are taking about hundreds of different words here)

V 1110

D 195

M 365

S 185

A 555

K 1386

B 1586

The string is well evidenced in all volumes, but one volume stands out as having vastly fewer kamma strings in it than all the rest. (Point 1.) Karma words are strikingly less frequent in SN than in any other book including the much shorter D and M.

Note that this pattern is definitely a different pattern to the samudayanirodha pattern. In that pattern, if we ignore A, the mentions run basically VDMSKA in order, with the numbers getting larger and larger as the books get longer and longer.

Along with nirodha we have the sequence:


V 89

D 123

M 455

S 919

A 463

K 1209

B 1617 anicca:

V 2

D 9

M 43

S 247

A 69

K 208

B 400 anattā

V 8

D 2

M 18

S 73

A 15

K 114

B 19

Note here that dukkha etc again follows our “original” pattern, where the term gets more frequent with each volume DMS. so samudaya, nirodha, and dukkha are all well evidenced in all collections, and kamma is weakened in S.

We are then left with a question. Should we take it that kamma is weakened by S, or do we need to accept kamma and thereby accept a weakening of S as a text.

Note finally that each term occurs less frequently in all books than the last, so dukkha is more frequent than anicca and anicca is more frequent than anatta, and this is true of all books except V.

Lets look at another word, this time combining aspects of both our patterns (weak kamma in S and concept growth in dukkha):


V 26

D 72

M 117

S 94

A 262

K 306

B 287 avijjā

V 13
D 40
M 85
S 173
A 77
K 379
B 1027

Like kamma, another universal buddhist theme is suppressed in SN, asavas are clearly evidenced in all the collections, they grow in the direction of subsequent volumes like before, but they have many fewer mentions in S.

Contrast this to avijja, which grows exactly the same way as samudya, nirodha, dukkha, getting bigger as the books progress (excepting A). Note also that every book mentions asavas more than avijja except for S, K and B.

What is going on here? One more example, this time to do with the two great meditation styles of contemporary buddhism;

catutthaṃ jhānaṃ:

V 19

D 27

M 45

S 19

A 61

K 43

B 135 satipaṭṭhānā:

V 3

D 10

M 17

S 95

A 23

K 85

B 39

So the jhana are well evidenced in all collections, but.

Every volume except S and K mentions Jhana much more often than satipatthana.

Once again we have a puzzle, all of the Vinaya, long, middle, numbered discourses, and the abhidhamma, mention Jhana far more often than satipathanna, why is SN different?

So to qoute you again;

this is precicely what I do, I infer from these distributions that SN is later and more scholastic than the core of DN and that abayakata/jhana/kamma buddhism is earlier than anatta/aggregates/satipathanna buddhism, and I think the difference is so stark and deep that the one must emanate from a rural environment and the other from an urban one and that the two are almost certainly seperated by generations.

So the above covers your 3rd and 4th points.

I hope I have cleared this up for you, my antipathy is not to these 2 particular suttas, but to the entirety of SN/SA and AN/EA as collections, and even the significant parts of MN, with MN148 being a glaring example of what I take to be late, mechanical, scholastic, and more or less certainly the product of a time and culture radically different to the buddhas.

I think they are problematic because in my opinion they obscure a deep and profound philosophy with a shallow and nonsensical one. I should probably add at this point since I am using strong language and hyperbole that in fact I don’t think the problem is with these suttas themselves per se, it is rather with how they are interpreted by contemporary Therevadins in a way that is incompatible with the abayakata which they downplay and ignore where it suits them, and I think that the statistical evidence is overwhelming that the abayakata was the earlier version of the teaching and that therefore the interpretation of these suttas has to be in line with that and not the other way reound.

yes but when you actually look at them they lack the specific argumentation that makes the particular sutta problematic, and while I do think that the Pali has plenty of evidence where this sectarianism emerges, i think the broader and deeper point is that before there was sectarianism there was scholasticism, and this scholasticism downplays jhana, kamma, abayakata and seeks to paritally replace them with a new set of ideas in the anatta/aggregates/satipathana and that these are subsequently misunderstood by those who fail to see thier dependence on the earlier ideas.

I have not, but my main issue with “conventional truth” is that I see no evidence of the idea in the ebt, and especially no evidence of it in the part of the ebt i consider to be the earliest (athakkavagga, parayanavagga, DN1, DN2).

I hope all this helps to show that my position is not quite as simple as just “disliking” one or two particular suttas, and that I have done more research than you perhaps give me credit for.


1 Like

You have done a lot more research than I have credited you it would seem and so I apologize for that, but I still consider it most likely this line of research is a motivated non-sequitur.

To really convince me it was not motivated I would want to see a detailed statistical breakdown of every single word in all suttas which could be accomplished with a suitably developed algorithm. Then I would want to see convincing evidence that no sutta from baskets or suttas you consider early have no words with the frequencies you find anomalous. While it still wouldn’t disprove that your reasoning is motivated, if you were prepared to throw out those sutta you currently deem early if they have used such a word I’d find that worthy of praise for consistency.

To really convince me it was a non-sequitur would be much harder, but would involve a detailed reasoning showing a precise and pronounced statistical line-in-the-sand of a “rare” word versus a “common” one and the glaring omission of any such rare ones from the suttas you hold authoritative.

Those would be big projects and would necessarily involve automated programs processing the ebts. I suspect if you did it you’d fail to find such a precise and pronounced line-in-the-sand. I also suspect that any proposed line in the sand would also involve taking out suttas you now find authoritative.

In general, I find the whole game of trying to disregard any sutta as non-authentic on idealogical grounds very dangerous and not worth playing. Good luck and sorry for discounting your extensive research before.

PS I still cannot claim to fathom your understanding either. What do you mean by abayakata btw? Is this the tetralemma you mean? Maybe a private correspondence would be useful as I’d be interested to try and understand you better.


1 Like

I mean to be fair, two can play this game, my impression is that an enormous amount of research by monastic scholars like @sujato and Yin Shun and others is strongly motivated by a pre-existing desire to see most of the canon as emanating from the buddha themselves, and this is clearly just as “motivated” as research the other way, just by the opposite inclination.

I would further make the point that your theory that my research is flawed because I have an ideological motivation is also just that, a theory, and one for which there seems to be no possibility of even a theoretical research program that could make a determination as to weather your theory is correct, short of mind reading ai’s or brain scans or some such currently beyond the reach of contemporary science.

The “solution” you propose, a sort of statistical analysis of every term in the suttas is a project that would take years, require researchers, programmers, assistants and loads of time and money, and frankly, I am not sure that convincing a stranger on the internet that another stranger on the internet is not as biased as the first stranger thinks they are seems like a lot of trouble and effort for not much result.

In general you are in very good company on this issue here on this board, I have lost track of the number of times people here have told me that my work is “meaningless” and that “numbers don’t mean anything” and so on and so forth, but honestly I think that perhaps this has a lot more to do with the ideological commitments of my audience rather than with me. Most of the posters here are very much emanating from the Therevadin tradition, at least in terms of reception of the texts if not in terms of thier personal practice, and when you de-privilege SN/AN a lot of thier points get a lot harder to make.

In terms of “lines in the sand” I have my own, again, not set up to convince people on this board which I have well and truly realised is literally impossible, but just for me, and my line is simply an updated version of what Rhy Davids said, to qoute DR. BIMALA CHURN LAW, Ph. D., M. A., B. L.;

        Rhys Davids in his Buddhist  India (p.  188 ) has
    given a chronological  table  of Buddhist  literature
    from  the  time  of the Buddha  to the time  of Asoka
    which is as follows:--
        1. The simple statements of Buddhist doctrine now
    found, in  identical  words, in paragraphs  or verses
    recurring in all the books.

My update to this idea is to take it that the simple statement should also occur in the Agama parallels, in the same collection.

I also apply a hermenutic that takes suttas assigned to disciples as less authoratative than ones put in the mouth of the buddha.

applying this formula we see for a start, as was already observed by GOVIND CHANDRA PANDE in STUDIES IN THE ORIGINS OF BUDDHISM in 1957 that the Aggregates teaching is absent from the long collection.

Discovering this for myself, which I did on this board not so long ago, was so mind shattering to me that I have been down the rabbit hole ever since.

Basically if you think the aggregates teaching is not later than the sekkha patipada then i don’t think there is any evidence statistical or otherwise that will convince you of any of my positions, and as i say, the ideology at play is almost certainly yours and not mine.

The simple fact is that in the 4 principle nikayas the sekkha patipada is early and the aggregates are late. (both are pre-sectarian, I mean early and late relative to the opening and closing of the collections )

Again, the standard that others may require before they are willing to let go of the contrary position seem to me to be directly proportional to the ideological commitment to the aggregates as part of “original buddhism” and have very little to do with my motivations at all.

This is because I have absolutely nothing against the aggregates, because as i read them they are a simple extension of the vedana specific argument given at DN15 to cover other possible styles of grounding, ala MN43 these things are “mixed together” and not sparable so you can’t say precisely how they are different.

So I have no problem with the suttas (although i think the “not found to begin with” doesn’t work philosophically) it’s the inference people draw form these suttas that i think is problematic.

I have just seen your ps and I agree, I will reformulate my thoughts and PM you :slight_smile:

oh and yes, yes, abyākata is my preferred term for the “tetralemma” in the ebt.

Yes, I think undertaking such a project just to convince a stranger would be a poor rationale, however if your method is sound then such a project would be more or less the next step. Pointing out your motivated reasoning does not imply that others (including myself) are not so similarly motivated nor does it follow that your method is unsound.

I do not wish to cast any such aspersion.

I simply do not understand what you mean by ‘the aggregates teaching’ in this context.

Can you please in a DM let me know what you mean by ‘sekkha patipada’ versus ‘the aggregates teaching’ and what you find in tension between them? I’m operating in ignorance of your understanding. For instance, I do not understand why you think the tetralemma is in tension with other suttas you think are late or the Yamaka sutta in particular. Please understand I am not coming at this from the perspective of a Theravada practitioner per se, but rather as a student of Buddhism in general with a perhaps unorthodox background in the Middle Way sutta school of Nagarjuna and the Mahayana with a particular emphasis on grounding understanding in the ebts so some terms like ‘the aggregates teaching’ are unfamiliar to me :pray:

I’m not convinced that the word counts implies a lot of information. A word or phrase could have been said once and the Buddha may have said it just once (or maybe many times and the canon is a fraction of his word). You can still learn some other kind of info like you’ve been doing though. I also think that single word could be inserted or a single line could be inserted many times with that word rather than the entire sutta.

If you wish to generate the kind of frequency table of each word’s usage of every single word, then this is pretty easy. Then, would you want to compare if certain words are used often with other words? Can you tell me exactly what you think you would need? There are languages that are designed to do these tasks (i.e. R). It could be done in under a minute of run time in probably a few GBs of memory.

Let’s say, along with upalab, there were another word with similar frequencies, except it’s also highly correlated with the suttas containing upalab. Wouldn’t that be significant since these particular suttas have a style and set of vocab different from others? Computing this is really not that hard. Is that what you had in mind? You may have also been imagining the ways LLM’s relate words between each other, which is of course harder but you could use an existing one

1 Like

Gosh @bran if your volunteering let me think about it and get back to you!

1 Like