The belief about the current Agamas

I didn’t find any author yet talk about this but there must be the possibility of the Chinese monks finding these Agamas from the Hinayana/Mahayana monasteries. It could be that they are not from the orthodox Hinayana schools. There is parallels. But our acceptance that the Agamas(all) comes from a Orthodox transmission might be wrong. It seems the Chinese monks always looked for the Mahayana monasteries. Although they say Agama translated by certain Hinayana school. We can not know if they was actually a Hinayana/Mahayana school. For example as we can see in the Ghandhara manuscripts proof. Hinayana/Mahayana existed in the exact place where they probably got these Agamas. So maybe certain of Agamas belief that it’s Orthodox Hinayana doctrine is probably not. So for example, the Sarvāstivāda Agamas doesn’t necessarily tell us the orthodox side. And even their Abhidharma works might be from that sort of monastery. Once I noticed that in searching for Mahayana monastery by Sramana Yijing in about the years of decline. He barely can mention Mahayana monastery. But it seems that they go to those monastery. Because for them that was the main teaching.

If they were from Mahayana then Mahayana back then was near identical to Sthavira, given how much the agamas align with the pali suttas on most things.

You are right. But that why it’s called early Buddhism. But the teachings here and there that we have in Pali could have been influenced also by new sutta tradition at the mother land of Buddhism. For example as a response to certain Sūtra that was made in India, they make a similar version, to say that’s the original. Not saying that of the whole canon of course. But certain suttas

Yes there where in certain teachings parallels.But for example a sutta was changed into a Jataka. Is a indication that it’s from the Sarvāstivāda that accepted Jatakas. Then there is the obvious change of Buddha’s last meal story. But just an example. But the main problem we have right now is believing that all the Agamas is early transmission. While it’s probably half early transmission and early Buddhahood movement.

For example also in the later chapters of THE MADHYAMA ĀGAMA you can start to read unfamiliar suttas. It actually has to have a ring. For example the Sanskrit Digha Agamas and Pali.

But my point we have to be careful to think because they had certain similar teaching that’s it early Buddhism. Maybe the one influenced the other. Because it was normal to be one community (?)

The connection of Chinese and Sarvāstivāda from Kashmir is well known. But that’s where there was a early mixed community. Compared to South Asia it stayed more Hinayana. Sometimes by force by a king. Like in Sri Lanka but still the Sri Lankan Mahayana cummunity probably just followed Buddhahood in the early stages. Not that they had many Mahayana sutras.

While in Ghandhara/Kashmir there was probably not much a lot either. Just a little more early Mahayana text. I like parallel teachings, but can we guarantee some are not on the early Mahayana side and with time was adopted in Sri Lanka also? Since in Sri Lanka had the supposed Mahāyāna community also…

Hi, Dhammasara. You bring up some important questions that aren’t discussed that much except among academics who study the history of these texts and Chinese Buddhism in general.

One thing to note, though, is that while Faxian, Xuanzang, and Yijing indeed went to other Buddhist countries and were interested in Mahayana texts, the vast majority of the Chinese Agamas were translated by Central Asian or Indian missionaries who went to China with these texts in their memories. The Chinese pilgrims only translated a few Agamas as stand alone texts.

That said, these Indian missionaries were often Mahayanists, or at least they accepted Mahayana and Agama scriptures as equally valid. As an example, Gunabhadra, who was the apparent translator of the Samyukta Agama also translated the Lankavatara sutra and the Queen Srimala’s Sutra among others. These translations were happening in the 4-6th centuries CE during the time of Asanga and Vasubandhu, after all. I think Anshigao appears to be one of the few translators who didn’t translate anything overtly Mahayana (off the top of my head), and he was an early translator (2nd century CE).

Does that make everything they translated suspect? No, but there’s clearly some Mahayana influences in some of the Agamas. It’s rare, but it exists. The Ekottarika has the most evidence of Mahayana additions, but it’s still a fraction of the entire collection. It actually reads like an older version that the Theravada canon in many cases when I’ve looked at its parallels closely. So, I think it gets an undeserved reputation because it hasn’t been translated yet.


Thank you for that reply. Nicely written. I understand. But the problem is that we do not have the Tripitaka manuscript of Pali canon of when it was written down. To accept that parallels are even of the beginning of Buddhism. On the other hand Ghandhara manuscript did have parallels but they are not a complete canon of 1 sect only. And it was written for a donation blessing. So not complete suttas sometimes.

And about the Chinese Agamas that was translated after 5 CE. There is no Agamas dated after that. That I know. So actually their content by oral tradition should be correct according to each tradition. Believing like you said that Anguttaranikaya version of Agama is later tradition is not correct. There is misunderstanding I think.

Because the dates they where written down in China. But like a study said that doesn’t say if that written down Agamas was oral transmission from more early in India. This referred in Pali sutta where a monk wish to remember a sutta as he has heard.


Thus have I heard. Is just letting the reader know it oral transmission. Not that Ānanda said it. There is many sutta in Samyutta that don’t say it. That’s gives it more assurance to be old.

And Ghandhara Sūtra also. Although maybe because the scribe was making it for a donation. But still it’s common for in the beginning not to worry so much with adding it.

And about the difference in Agamas. Must actually be accepted as Thus have I heard. From my tradition. They don’t mean from Ananda coming down.

Each tradition was from another region. Some developed different understanding of Buddhism and different message in the suttas.

So Thus have I heard. Is also the indication that the inspiration comes from someone else. In this case Buddha.

We have the wrong belief is the exact words of Buddha.

The Indian tradition is attributing to discourses to your masters who orally said to you what he himself has heard with his own ears orally. And that how it keeps getting Down until it comes to us.

So not because the Agamas have different structure or flow makes it actually not the word of Buddha.

The Indian are Masters of creating stories to teach doctrine.

So what you see in certain Agamas is using a story to tell Buddha Dhamma. The meaning has to be understood.

The message has to be understood for it be said to be Buddha Dharma. Meaning whatever extra it might have was just made to inspire. It’s the message you have to understand.

Now look for example Pali oral tradition the complete canon that we have. Was written down far away the parallels can be ones trusted for now. Until they find the complete 1 BC Tripitaka which probably not possible. Weather etc.

But again back to the Agamas. As you believe some are later tradition it might or not be true.

But if it’s true why do we accept the parallels as if trusting that is the “word of Buddha” if it has parallels

That can not be true way of finding out.

The true way of finding out is finding a Pali Tripitaka which still I agree to seem to be closer to words of Buddha or teachings from the <1 CE Pali sutta. Which again I say seems impossible.
We need someone to find proof at Sri Lanka , find scrolls etc. I don’t think they are doing. There so many places can be excavated. There is no interest in our side anymore. But it’s necessary.

Because what do we know if this is made like The last volume of Tripitaka. I want the first :joy:

Sorry for long reply. Emotional guy :joy:

Yes, it’s difficult to sort out, and I think it’s not really entirely possible to solve the problem because what we have in both Pali and Chinese and Sanskrit are somewhat later version of all these canons. I’ve compared quite a few Agamas against the Pali as I translate them. Sometimes the Pali seems older and has less additions, and sometimes the Agama seems less expanded. The Madhyama is really verbose, but the Samyukta and Ekottarika aren’t that verbose, which is one way to tell which is the later version. Buddhists just kept added more and more repetitions and clarifications as time went on. It happened to Mahayana sutras, too.

But one thing is for sure what we have is enough to practice. Thanks. For your time. :pray:t4: