Sutra of Forty-Two Sections: EBT?

I looked through the archives and didn’t come across any discussion related to this early Chinese sutra. Are people here aware of it? Do we know what its content is? consider it EBT?

Just in case not, I’ll say what little I know. (And I’m sure we have others who can speak with more authority than I can–please, fell free to add on or correct whatever I get wrong.)

Basically, it’s alleged to be the first “sutra” in Chinese Buddhist history. At the very least, it’s the oldest one on record. I think it’s dated to mid-first century CE. It’s a compilation of bits and pieces of old Buddhist sayings, not a “discourse” in the EBT sense of the word. There are many versions, with alot of Mahayana and Zen stuff added over the centuries, but the “original” is (almost) completely EBT-based in its doctrine.

I am not too clear on protocol, so I don’t want to upload the wrong thing, but here’s a link to where anyone interested could find a copy:
This is a pdf with a bunch of Chinese sutras in it, but the 42 Chapters is in there, too: specifically, that “original” version. (Sorry, I don’t have the software here to extract a pdf from a pdf; if anyone else does, please feel free.)

I just wanted to see if we could spark some discussion on this.



It was interesting to read about ten virtuous and non-virtuous actions. It felt unfamiliar. Then I looked for it and found it in … DN33. :see_no_evil:

dn33:3.3.46: Ten ways of doing unskillful deeds: 
dn33:3.3.47: killing living creatures, stealing, and sexual misconduct; speech that’s false, divisive, harsh, or nonsensical; covetousness, ill will, and wrong view. 
dn33:3.3.48: Ten ways of doing skillful deeds: 
dn33:3.3.49: refraining from killing living creatures, stealing, and sexual misconduct; refraining from speech that’s false, divisive, harsh, or nonsensical; contentment, good will, and right view. 

Clearly I’m not a good student of DN33. I keep glossing over that section. :laughing:

That is one of the odd things about repeated study. Repeated blindness.

Thanks for prodding me out of complacent study!


Thanks for the link and the upload. I am not familiar with the text, but from your description, it sounds like we should examine it more closely for parallels.


Those were my thoughts exactly, Venerable. We just finished studying this sutra in class and, the whole time, I’m thinking, “I’ve heard that. I’ve heard that.” So I was planning to run through the suttas and look for parallels. Then I thought maybe there might be people here, too, that would also find it fun.

For what it’s worth, my professor–who is not personally familiar with EBTs–mentioned Dhammapada several times as being commonly regarded as a source.


I read the first Sūtra it’s nice also. It’s like made as Buddha last lesson. It was nice.

The Bequeathed Teaching Sutra

But the one you mentioned was super nice also. But I found it short but teaching if the first translated work is amazing. I see some parallels. But actually the whole work is 100% early teaching. Makes me wonder if that’s how the sayings of Buddha was in the beginning. Thanks

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