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The literature labelled SA & SA-2 here

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.

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Thanks for the detailed question. I’ll begin by bringing in @llt here, who is probably the most knowledgeable regular forum contributer on such matters. But he hasn’t been around so much recently, so if he doesn’t pop by, I’ll take a stab at answering what I can.

In the meantime, the English translations for these texts—which unfortunately are incomplete, and don’t include the one you are interested in—were taken from Marcus Bingenheimer’s project on SA-2, which he refers to as BZA, from the Chinese title Bieyi za ahan jing 別譯雜阿含經.

http://buddhistinformatics.ddbc.edu.tw/BZA/

The original CBETA text at T 100 is here:

http://cbetaonline.dila.edu.tw/zh/T0100_001

Thank you, from knowing SA-2 is also referred to as the BZA, I was able to find an article called “Studies in Ágama Literature: with special reference to the Shorter Chinese Saṃyuktágama” by a certain Marcus Bingenheimer. I don’t know if I am “allowed” to post a link to his paper here, legally, but it is available for free on a PDF via google search.

In it, he relays that the BZA is a rather mysterious collection of literature that is believed to have been part of a much larger Saṃyuktágama that is now lost. He says some place it’s translation at loosely around the same time as the ZA (SA here), but then he seems to also say that this dating is more tenuous than the dating of the ZA. I haven’t read the whole paper yet so I am unsure. The translator(s) of the BZA (SA-2) are unknown as is where they came from or what school they belonged to.

Although many believe that SA-2 dates from the same general time period as SA: [quote]It does not appear in the earliest extant catalog, the Chu sanzang jiji 出三藏記集 (dated 515) by Sengyou 僧祐 (435-518), but is first mentioned by Fajing 法經 (d.u.) in his Zhongjing mulu 眾經目錄 (dated 594).[/quote] (Bingenheimer 2)

Later on page 4 he mentions that the dating of the BZA is based on the fact that it appears to have a single character in it that references the Qin Dynasty. That isn’t much to go on (IMO but I am not a manuscript specialist so my opinion matters little) but sometimes that’s all one has with ancient texts.

On page 5 he cites some scholars who think that Qin is a misreading and refers to the Jin dynasty and dates the BZA to much earlier (in the 200s!) but the author disagrees with this theory although conceding the fact that this theory belongs to “the most erudite Chinese scholar-monk of the 20th century” (Ibid 6), Shi Yinshun, whom I am too ignorant of the field to know of.

All in all, the author of this paper describes the BZA thus: [quote]Clearly the style of the BZA is somewhat more archaic, perhaps more literary, and the terminology used is less consistent than in the ZA, but many reasons for this might be posited: lack of revision or editorial oversight, for instance.[/quote](Ibid 6).

I’ve only read the introduction so far. Well see what else interesting comes up.

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@Coemgenu

You probably know of Ven Anālayo’s work but if not here is a link to some of his writings. He has done quite a bit of research on the various Āgamas, but I don’t know which papers are available copyright-free on-line.

[quote=“Linda, post:4, topic:4473, full:true”]
@Coemgenu

You probably know of Ven Anālayo’s work but if not here is a link to some of his writings. He has done quite a bit of research on the various Āgamas, but I don’t know which papers are avaialable copyright-free on-line.
[/quote]Thank you for the link.

Incidentally, does it say somewhere on SuttaCentral that the literature marked SA & SA-2 are, in some academic discourse, referred respectively to as ZA & BZA? That might be a handy feature to add. I am not tech-savy (I was using SuttaCentral for 2 years before I knew about the function on the site that allows one to “hover over” Pali words and see dictionary entries for them), so maybe this feature/information is already available, but if it is not, I would like to suggest that it might be helpful to include it. It is most likely already there, but I have no way to confirm if it is or not on account of my poor computer skills.

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I’m probably even less tech-savvy than you are :slight_smile: so I have no idea if this feature is available. Hopeful @Sujato or someone else knowlegeable will reply.

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Yes, you’re quite right, such clarifications would be very useful. In the new version of SC, which our developers are building right now, each entity will be associated with a “description”, which can include such information.

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i’ve tried to look for the meaning of the word 犢子 using the platform not exactly fitting for lookup of classic Chinese, which is Google translate, and found that while the combination of the characters means calves, 犢 alone means calf , one of whos synonyms being, according to Google translate, 呆子 which, in turn, besides calf also has the meaning of fool, idiot, goon, gawk, simpleton, sucker, blockhead

as Google translate and some other sources have it, in modern Chinese the phrase 滚犢子! means piss off, so it appears that 犢子 indeed can bear a pejorative meaning

I’m aware that it’s quite a long stretch, but what if the Buddha says here that it’s people of little intelligence who will attempt to catch him in a word by reminding him of his earlier statements to the contrary?

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[quote=“LXNDR, post:8, topic:4473, full:true”]

[quote=“Coemgenu, post:1, topic:4473”]
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. [/quote]
i’ve tried to look for the meaning of the word 犢子 using the platform not exactly fitting for lookup of classic Chinese, which is Google translate, and found that while the combination of the characters means calves, 犢 alone means calf [/quote]Upon looking up “Vaccha-” from the name “Vacchagotta” in this Páli dictionary here: https://palidictionary.appspot.com/

It appears that “Vaccha-” actually literally means “calf”, and that “-gotta” means “clan/descent”. A more obscure reading of 子 is “child, clan, descendant”… so it seems the translator (inconsistently?) chose to translate his name literally occasionally.

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oh, that’s of course a much more plausible explanation

as an additional confirmation, SA2 191 and SA2 198, where 犢子 appears as well, are respectively parallels of MN 73 and SN 44.7 which feature the wanderer Vacchagotta

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[quote=“LXNDR, post:10, topic:4473”]
oh, that’s of course a much more plausible explanation
[/quote]That being said, “Master Calf” certainly has an interesting ring to it :grinning:

[quote=“Coemgenu, post:3, topic:4473”]
In it, he relays that the BZA is a rather mysterious collection of literature that is believed to have been part of a much larger Saṃyuktágama that is now lost. He says some place it’s translation at loosely around the same time as the ZA (SA here), but then he seems to also say that this dating is more tenuous than the dating of the ZA. I haven’t read the whole paper yet so I am unsure. The translator(s) of the BZA (SA-2) are unknown as is where they came from or what school they belonged to.
[/quote]Having read more of the article, it turns out that BZA does indeed have very late additions, despite (seemingly paradoxically!) being a generally older recension.

From page 49:[quote]The above shows that the Indian originals of BZA and ZA once had a common ancestor, which was different from the SN and later forked into two different lines of transmission that eventually led to the ZA and BZA. Various examples show that the Indian ZA, which was transmitted to China from Sri Lanka, found closure earlier, while the Indian BZA, which presumably came to China via Central Asia, had continued to absorb elements from the Abhidharma and underwent changes after it had split from the ZA branch.[/quote]The UR-text is believed to have been a Sarvāstivāda Saṃyuktāgama from Sri Lanka. The ZA is from somewhere in India and the BZA is from Central Asia.

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