Resources for understanding strata of EBT's

According to traditional accounts, the agamas / nikayas were more or less compiled at the same time and everything is thus early. But from research done on the agamas, nikayas, and various commentaries and treatises, Yin Shun and other scholars have convincingly demonstrated some order of development.

My general understanding of the theory is that the progression was roughly: (1) Sutra Anga of the SA / SN, (2) Geya Anga of the SA / SN, (3) Vyakarana Anga of the SA / SN, (4) MA / MN, (5) DA / DN, and (6) EA / AN. And for the Vinaya, the earliest materials go back to the same time as the SA / SN. And the other “angas” developed in parallel with the agamas / nikayas.

Aside from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism, and A History of Mindfulness, does anyone know of good resources that meaningfully address / advance an understanding of these strata?

One reason I ask about this is that it seems interesting to me that the EA / AN in terms of format seems more similar to the SA / SN, despite being chronologically the last in this order. Has anyone determined what the criteria was for gathering texts into the EA / AN, and what strata(s) these original materials might have come from?

It seems to me that there are clearly some developments from SA / SN, to EA / AN, such as the role of laypeople in the Buddhist community, the expansion to 10 forms of mindfulness, and more materials about pratyekabuddhas. But many of the texts also seem to be quite close to what we could see in the SA / SN, and more or less like elaborations on original formulae.


These works may be relevant to your question:

  • Yinshun 1971: The Formation of Early Buddhist Texts: 755–787
  • Kuan Tse-fu and Roderick S. Bucknell 2019: “The Structure and Formation of the Aṅguttara Nikāya and the Ekottarika Āgama”, Buddhist Studies Review, 36.2: 141–166.

See p. 910, in Choong Mun-keat “Ācāriya Buddhaghosa and Master Yinshun 印順 on the Three-aṅga Structure of Early Buddhist Texts” in Research on the Saṃyukta-āgama (Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, Research Series 8; edited by Dhammadinnā), Taiwan: Dharma Drum Corporation, August 2020, pp. 883-932.

According to Yinshun (1971: 789), the criteria, strata are mainly based on the Tathāgata-bhāṣita (Vyākaraṇa-aṅga) of SA/SN, and expanded into EA/AN collection.


The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts
Bhikkhu Sujato & Bhikkhu Brahmali

Alexander Wynne
The Historical Authenticity of
Early Buddhist Literature
A Critical Evaluation

A collection of articles, videos and links

A History of Mindfulness
How insight worsted tranquillity in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta

Contains what I take to be @sujato s currentish view about the strata?

Much interesting material by mark especially

Ācāriya Buddhaghosa and Master Yinshun

on the Three-aṅga Structure of Early Buddhist Texts

Choong Mun-keat

This is a topic I am deeply interested in, and one where I have a very different view to Yin Shun - Choong Mun-keat - @thomaslaw and @sujato in that I think it is fairly likely that SA/SN is later than much of DN/DA and MN/MA and more intermediate between those and the Abhidhamma. This position is based on a number of observations but primarily around the permutative, combinatorial, mechanical style of the Samyutta versus the narrative style of much of DN and MN.

It would be great if we can revive this topic and get some more resources collected in one place.



It’s an interesting point, and in a way, I think the truth is going to lie in-between extremes of both: overly-developed narratives are a definite indication of lateness. But one thing with SN/SA is that, even if you just del all those mechanical repetitions, it doesn’t actually affect the doctrinal content.

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