Greetings all. I have been a longtime user of SuttaCentral, particularly taking an interesting in the digitized āgamāḥ (agamas) available here, but a new poster, having only recently discovered that this site also has a discussion forum.
I have a question about the histories of the two collections of literature labelled as SA & SA-2: specifically, if they both stem from Sarvāstivāda recensions of Buddhavacana, or if only the SA literature is Sarvāstivāda and the SA-2 literature (or at least the specific piece of SA-2 literature discussed below) comes to us from a different tradition/“line” of Buddhavacana preservation and/or presentation.
I also am wondering if there is significant consensus in scholarship concerning Buddhist textual criticism as to when these two collections of āgamāḥ are believed to have been committed to writing, and where that would have been in India.
The context of my inquiry comes from a comparison I was doing on various parallel recensions of the “Questions of Vacchagotta”, namely the parallels between SN 44.10, SA 961, & SA-2 195 that deal with Vacchagotta asking the Buddha: “Is there a self?” I was comparing the differences and similarities in how the exchange is linguistically presented in the three recensions, specifically focusing on comparing the various justifications given to Ānanda by the Buddha justifying his disinclination to engage in direct “yes/no” answering to Vacchagotta’s questioning. It was during this comparison that I noticed many features that set the SA-2 recension apart from the other two recensions. I do not consider myself qualified to issue a value judgement as to if SA-2 195 definitely stems from a later period in Buddhist history than SN 44.10 or SA 961, so I decided to finally make a post here searching for more information from others who may be more critically informed as to the textual history of these parallel recensions, if for nothing else than seeing if my amateur suspicions have any merit at all.
The nikāya recension (SN 44.10) presents the justification of the Buddha’s silence by having the Buddha explain to Ānanda that a “yes” would have been tantamount to agreeing with sassatavāda (the philosophy of eternalism).
The Sarvāstivāda āgama SA 961 (I am going to look like a fool if someone tells me this recension isn’t Sarvāstivāda literature (!)) has the Buddha argue to Ānanda that affirming a self would lead to Vacchagotta going forth in 邪見 (demonic/pernicious view). It does not label a specific heresy or ideology/philosophy like the nikāya recension does (i.e. sassatavāda), instead this recension simply labels self-affirmation as a pernicious/wrong-view without a specific doctrinal name.
The SA-2 Buddhavacana is very different. First of all, Vacchagotta asks his question in the negative (「瞿曇！一 切 眾 生為有我不？」, which loosely translates to something like: “Gotama! Myriad jāti lack bhava “I”[,] no?”), also the Buddha’s responce to Ānanda is much longer than the SA recension. It also doesn’t mention pernicious/wrong-view. Instead, the Buddha makes an appeal to the notion that his teaching on “lack [of an] I” (無我) is true based on the fact that it is logical (以無我故，答彼所問，則違道理。, the operative phrase here being 則違道理, or “otherwise [I] violate [the] dào/path [of] logic/reason”). The Buddha’s responce also seems to consciously self-reference Buddhavacana in the form of written sūtrāṇi (sutras): 吾於昔時，寧可不於一切經說無我耶？
The usage of jīng/經/sūtra is very interesting here, and if anyone can elaborate on how the Pāli recensions make use of the word sutta that would be very helpful. As I understand it now, the Buddha’s responce seems to say that if he had answered “yes” to Vacchagotta, Vacchagotta would have cross-referenced his answer (perhaps with the intent to be contrarian) with extant Buddhavacana that either a) has the Buddha say, or b) is interpreted as arguing, that the Buddha prefers not to say that there is no self.
This might be way off the mark because I can’t figure out what 犢子/(Du Zi) in 於先昔，彼問一切諸法，若有我者，吾可答彼犢子所問。refers to. I think it might be talking about Vacchagotta, because it certainly looks like a name, but I cannot be sure of that, or who the name refers to. Vacchagotta is not called 犢子 at the beginning of the text, which makes this reference very confusing to me. Point is, the text seems to imply that some figure (犢子) will respond to the Buddha’s admittance that there is no self by consulting Buddhavacana and determining that the Buddha’s dharma is inconsistent, therefore he cannot answer Vacchagotta in the positive.
Please don’t take these amatuer translations/interpretations of the Chinese as definitive either. I am not a professional translator. I am just an amateur Classical Chinese enthusiast trying to work my way through the āgamāḥ while also improving my comprehension of Chinese Buddhist texts. My end goal is to be able to fluently read this literature, but I am far from it. I would have referenced and cited a more established translation if I thought one was available, but to the best of my knowledge these specific āgamāḥ are untranslated (into English). If anyone has any links to English translations of these texts that would be very helpful, as I find the Chinese of SA-2 195 much more complicated and less straightforward than the comparatively simple language of SA 961.
Thank you for your time.