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Yinshun's Reconstruction of the Chinese Saṃyukta Āgama (Taisho 99)

The Chinese Saṃyukta Āgama (SĀ) presents a unique challenge to producing an English translation. The version of the collection that was preserved in the Taisho Daizokyo is in disarray. The collection lacked any divisions or sutra numbers, so it apparently came to pass after it was translated that its fascicles were shuffled, and a couple were lost. The two lost fascicles were replaced by some helpful soul with Avadāna translations by Guṇabhadra to make 50 again. The text then fell into obscurity and didn’t receive much attention in the Chinese Buddhist community.

Japanese scholars realized the situation in the early 20th century and began the detective work of reconstructing the original order of the SĀ, and a Chinese bhikṣu scholar Yinshun finished the work with a detailed analysis of the Pali parallels. He discovered several passages in the Sarvâstivāda Vinaya and the Yogâcārabhūmi that shed light on the structure the collection likely had before it was scrambled.

Below is a table showing the basic relationship between the Pali Saṃyutta Nikāya (SN) and the Chinese SĀ. Yinshun identified 51 saṃyuktas in the text, which have clear thematic groupings. Many of them exist in the Pali but not always on a clear one-to-one relationship.

Typically, the two collections share common sutras in different orders. In many cases, the Chinese saṃyuktas do not exist in Pali as saṃyuttas, but rather they have parallels scattered in other Nikāyas, mainly the Aṅguttara. In these cases, I’ve marked the Pali parallel as “n/a”. In two cases, SA 11 and SA 48, the Pali has a saṃyutta of the same name, but the contents have no parallels. On the other hand, SN 55 appears to be a collection that was split between several saṃyuktas in SĀ.

Further reading about Yinshun’s method of reconstructing SĀ can be found in this article by Choong Mun-keat: “Problems and Prospects of the Chinese Saṃyukta Āgama”.

Chinese readers who’d like to read the Yinshun version of the SĀ can find it at Mahabodhi.org. [Edit: Here’s a much better CBETA edition.]

[Edit: The spreadsheet that I had initially created and posted has been replaced by a MediaWiki site that will be interlinked with translations found at Dharma Pearls and SuttaCentral.]

Yinshun Varga Yinshun Saṃyukta Pali Saṃyutta
I. The Five Aggregates 1. Skandha 22. Khandha
II. The Six Sense Bases 2. Āyatana 35. Saḷāyatana
III. Causation 3. Nidāna 12. Nidāna
4. Satya 56. Sacca
5. Dhātu 14. Dhātu
6. Vedanā 36. Vedanā
IV. The Path 7. Smṛtyupasthāna 47. Satipaṭṭhāna
8. Samyakprahāṇa (lost) 49. Sammappadhāna
9. Ṛddhipāda (lost) 51. Iddhipāda
10. Indriya 48. Indriya
11. Bala n/a
12. Bodhyaṅga 46. Bojjhaṅga
13. Āryamārgâṅga 45. Magga
14. Ānâpānasmṛti 54. Ānāpāna
15. Śaikṣa n/a
16. Avetyaprasāda 55. Sotāpatti
V. Eight Assemblies 17. Bhikṣu 21. Bhikkhu
18. Māra 4. Māra
19. Śakra 11. Sakka
20. Kṣatriya 3. Kosala
21. Brāhmaṇa 7. Brāhmaṇa
22. Brahma 6. Brahma
23. Bhikṣuṇī 5. Bhikkhuṇī
24. Vaṇgīsa 8. Vaṇgīsa
25. Devatā 1. Devatā
26. Yakṣa 10. Yakkha
27. Vāna 9. Vana
VI. Teachings of Disciples 28. Śāriputra 38. Jambukhādaka / 39. Sāmaṇḍaka
29. Maudgalyāyana 19. Lakkhaṇa
30. Aniruddha 52. Anuruddha
31. Mahākātyāyana n/a
32. Ānanda n/a
33. Citrā 41. Citta
VII. Teachings of the Tathāgata 34. Radha 23. Rādha
35. Dṛṣṭi 24. Diṭṭhi
36. Prahana n/a
37. Divya n/a
38. Samudāgama 13. Abhisamaya / 43. Asaṅkhata
39. Āyatana Dhātu Skandha 18. Rāhula / 25. Okkanta / 26. Uppāda / 27. Kilesa
40. Avetyaprasāda (2) 55. Sotāpatti
41. Mahākāśyapa 16. Kassapa
42. Grāmaṇī 42. Gāmani
43. Aśva n/a
44. Mahānāman 55. Sotāpatti
45. Anāditva 15. Anamatagga
46. Vatsagotra 44. Avyākata
47. Tīrthika Parivrājaka n/a
48. Saṃkleśa n/a
49. Upamā 20. Opamma
50. Gilāna n/a
51. Karmaphala n/a
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Just a small trick: if you use markdown instead of html for tables, Discourse can automagically format them better for mobile devices (tables can be scrolled horizontally on smaller viewports, check the table below :wink:).

If you wish you can use the following link to copy everything between |...| from this post

Table markdown
Yinshun Varga Yinshun Saṃyukta Pali Saṃyutta
I. The Five Aggregates 1. Skandha 22. Khandha
II. The Six Sense Bases 2. Āyatana 35. Saḷāyatana
III. Causation 3. Nidāna 12. Nidāna
4. Satya 56. Sacca
5. Dhātu 14. Dhātu
6. Vedanā 36. Vedanā
IV. The Path 7. Smṛtyupasthāna 47. Satipaṭṭhāna
8. Samyakprahāṇa (lost) 49. Sammappadhāna
9. Ṛddhipāda (lost) 51. Iddhipāda
10. Indriya 48. Indriya
11. Bala n/a
12. Bodhyaṅga 46. Bojjhaṅga
13. Āryamārgâṅga 45. Magga
14. Ānâpānasmṛti 54. Ānāpāna
15. Śaikṣa n/a
16. Avetyaprasāda 55. Sotāpatti
V. Eight Assemblies 17. Bhikṣu 21. Bhikkhu
18. Māra 4. Māra
19. Śakra 11. Sakka
20. Kṣatriya 3. Kosala
21. Brāhmaṇa 7. Brāhmaṇa
22. Brahma 6. Brahma
23. Bhikṣuṇī 5. Bhikkhuṇī
24. Vaṇgīsa 8. Vaṇgīsa
25. Devatā 1. Devatā
26. Yakṣa 10. Yakkha
27. Vāna 9. Vana
VI. Teachings of Disciples 28. Śāriputra 28. Sāriputta
29. Maudgalyāyana 40. Moggallāna
30. Aniruddha 52. Anuruddha
31. Mahākātyāyana n/a
32. Ānanda n/a
33. Citrā 41. Citta
VII. Teachings of the Tathāgata 34. Radha 23. Rādha
35. Dṛṣṭi 24. Diṭṭhi
36. Prahana n/a
37. Divya n/a
38. Samudāgama n/a
39. Āyatana Dhātu Skandha n/a
40. Avetyaprasāda (2) 55. Sotāpatti
41. Mahākāśyapa 16. Kassapa
42. Grāmaṇī 42. Gāmani
43. Aśva n/a
44. Mahānāman 55. Sotāpatti
45. Anāditva 15. Anamatagga
46. Vatsagotra 33. Vaccagotta / 44. Avyākata
47. Tīrthika Parivrājaka n/a
48. Saṃkleśa n/a
49. Upamā 20. Opamma
50. Gilāna n/a
51. Karmaphala n/a
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Ah! Thanks, Musiko. I had looked up the Markdown for tables, but botched the syntax for the headers, and it looked as though Discourse didn’t support it.

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Thanks for the information.
Some suggestions below:

corresponding to
SN 50. Bala

corresponding to
SN 32. Valaaha

corresponding to
SN 34. Jhaana
SN 43. Asa.mkhata
SN 13. Abhisamaya

corresponding to
SN 25. Okkantika
SN 18. Raahula
SN 26. Uppaada
SN 27. Kilesa

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If a samyukta doesn’t have most or all of its sutras also in a corresponding Pali samyutta, which is often the case, then I treat it as not corresponding. In those cases, the parallels are scattered over Anguttara and Samyutta locations. In the spreadsheet, I’ll be documenting the sutra-by-sutra parallels carefully as I go, looking at Yinshun’s footnotes as well as the Taisho, Akanuma, and SuttaCentral.

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Thanks so much for this Charles. In the spirit of SC, it would be awesome to host the corrected SA, especially to use it as a basis for translation.


I’ve mentioned this before, but to reiterate: Yinshun’s work is not just a helpful guide to understand how the disorganized SA stems from a better organized forebear, it is a testament to the effectiveness of text-critical method. While many sceptical Western scholars spend their time pooh-poohing the very idea of historical research and reconstruction, a devoted monk set about actually creating something useful.

During the same period he was working, a team of German scholar worked on a Sanskrit manuscript of SA recovered from Central Asia. They were able to reconstruct the structure of a substantial portion of the text. The curious thing is, they were not aware of Yinshun’s work, nor he of theirs. It was SuttaCentral’s own Rod Bucknell who noticed this, and showed that the reconstructed structure of SA was essentially identical in both cases. That is, using totally independent methods, they arrived at the same conclusions.

This is the reason why we have a good deal of confidence that the reconstructed SA (called Yinshun SA above) is in fact historically reliable. Of course, it doesn’t mean this was the original structure, just that it was the source for both the Chinese translation and the discovered manuscripts.

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Now that I’ve dug into translating the first half dozen sutras of the Samyukta with Yinshun version’s as a guide, it become clear that he also contributed a great deal of correction of a text that shows signs of corruption. It’s a fascinating example of why EBTs featured summary uddana verses listing the titles of groups of sutras. You can fix errors simply by reasoning that something is out of place according to the verse.

Here’s a couple examples. The first ten sutras (SA 1-7 in Taisho) have a verse after them that says:

無常及苦、空
非我、正思惟
無知等四種
及於色喜樂

“Impermanence, suffering, emptiness,
And not self; right consideration;
Four kinds of being without knowing;
And delighting in form.”

Thus, we should have four sutras on the four marks, one on right consideration, four on the lack of knowledge, and one on delighting in form. That makes ten.

So, immediately, we have a problem in Sutra 1 on the impermanence of the five aggregates. The Taisho places the variant sutras description inside the sutra rather than after the conclusion. Reading it literally, it appears to mean all four marks should be in one sutra.

Yinshun correctly notes that the uddana disagrees. Each of them should be a separate sutra. Another bit of evidence is that the first sutra of the Ayatana Samyukta (SA 188) treats the six senses in the same way, but it has the variant description for the next three sutras after its conclusion. So, three variant sutras are counted separately.

Sutra 2 gives us another dilemma. It has a variant description identical to Sutra 1, but this one is after the conclusion. Yinshun deletes it as spurious. Why? Same reasoning: The uddana says there’s only one right consideration sutra. Plus, if we look at Sutra 2 in the Ayatana Samyukta (SA 189), it’s a parallel sutra without any variant description.

When we reach Sutra 5 in the Taisho we are met with another strange case. It looks as though Sutra 7 on delighting in form has been copied into it. Yinshun points out that the uddana says we should have four sutras on lacking knowledge and then one on delighting in form, but this is the third sutra on that topic. So, the first half of sutra 5 is deleted.

It does look like the SA in the Taisho is corrupted quite badly, at least in the beginning. There’s smaller problems of omitted words and lines that are copied over twice, just in the first five sutras.

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I’ve begun to build a wiki that lays out Yinshun’s edition of the Saṃyukta Āgama that includes my notes on parallels in the Pali as well. It’s just a beginning, but any help and/or suggestions are welcome.

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This is awesome, Charles.

If you find any parallels that need correction, let us know, or even just do it yourself if you like.

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As mentioned in my previous posting in another topic (i.e. Are Chinese Agamas less reliable than Pali Nikayas?), the following article by the same author is relevant to this topic:

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Yes, that article is a good summary of the argument for there being an apparent grouping of sutras by aṇga in SA. The Geya aṇga is the strongest point since it exists in both SN and SA as a complete division of texts, and the theoretical sections in both collections are easily enough called sutras.

The Vyākaraṇa Aṇga is the one that’s muddier, mainly because the Sarvâstivāda and Theravada traditions define it differently.

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Yes, the two traditions define it very differently indeed. The vyākaraṇa portion in SA has two kinds, Dizi suoshuo song 弟子所說誦 (Section Spoken by Śrāvakas) and Fo /Rulai suoshuo song 佛/如來所說誦 (Section Spoken by the Tathāgata/Buddha).

In the Taishō Tripiṭaka the vyākaraṇa portion is marked off with the heading Dizi suoshuo song. So, other than the sutra and geya aṅgas, the rest of the SA texts are Fo /Rulai suoshuo song.

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Is there a way to make a post editable or convert it to a wiki post? I’d like to change the table of parallels.

Best to “at-mention” the @moderators for a request like this I think?

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To make a wiki post, click on the three dots at the bottom of the post (to the left of the Reply button). Then click on the wrench icon, select the “Make Wiki” option from the menu.


(I sure hope this option is accessible to an ordinary user. if it isn’t, let me know and I will turn the post you want into a Wiki!)

It is not available to us non-mods, or else I would have answered accordingly. Us normies have no :wrench: but merely :heart: :link: :black_flag: :bookmark: ( :wastebasket: for our own post)

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Alas! Point me to the post Venerable, and I’ll wave the magic wand! :slightly_smiling_face:

(Is it the #1 post in this thread or something else?)

Edit: Done!

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I believe that’s the one that @cdpatton had in mind, yes. The opening post of this thread. Thanks!

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Thanks! I just wanted to edit some of the parallels I had listed after looking at them more closely.

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In the section V. Eight Assembles, it has 11 Samyuktas (12 Samyuttas in SN).

But according to Digha Nikaya 16 (Mahāparinibbāna-sutta), the eight assembles (aṭṭha parisā) are: 1. An assembly of nobles, 2. An assembly of Brahmins, 3. An assembly of householders, 4. An assembly of recluses ( Khattiyaparisā brāhmaṇaparisā gahapatiparisā samaṇaparisā); 5. An assembly of gods of the heaven of the Four Great Kings, 6. An assembly of gods of the heaven of the Thirty-three, 7. An assembly of Mara’s retinue, and 8. An assembly of Brahmas (Cātummahārājikaparisā Tāvatiṁsaparisā Māraparisā Brahmaparisā).

So, SA 25. Devatā (= SN 1.Devatā, SN 2. Devaputta), SA 26. Yakṣa (= SN 10. Yakkha), and SA 27. Vāna (= SN 9. Vana) should belong to 5. an assembly of gods of the heaven of the Four Great Kings (cātummahārājikaparisā). Four Heavenly Kings - Wikipedia