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

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.


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.


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:


“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.


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.


This is awesome, Charles.

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


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:


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.


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.


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?


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)


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!


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


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


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

Yes. Strictly speaking, the Sagatha Vagga has only 11 samyuttas, with SN 1-2 = SA 25. But, then, when we examine SN 21, we see it’s full of geya sutras, but it seems that it must have been moved sometime early on in SN and accumulated other sutras.

Yes, I think the eight assembles (aṭṭha parisā) are matched very well in the SA section accompanied by the SN Sagatha Vagga (if including SN 21. Bhikkhu):

  1. An assembly of nobles (khattiya): SA 20. Kṣatriya = SN 3. Kosala

  2. An assembly of Brahmins (brāhmaṇa): SA 21. Brāhmaṇa = SN 7. Brāhmaṇa

  3. An assembly of householders (gahapati): SA 24. Vaṇgīsa = SN 8. Vaṇgīsa

  4. An assembly of recluses (samaṇa): SA 17. Bhikṣu = SN 21. Bhikkhu; SA 23. Bhikṣuṇī = SN 5. Bhikkhuṇī

  5. An assembly of gods of the heaven of the Four Great Kings (Cātummahārājika): SA 25. Devatā = SN 1. Devatā, SN 2. Devaputta; SA 26. Yakṣa = SN 10. Yakkha; SA 27. Vāna = SN 9. Vana

  6. An assembly of gods of the heaven of the Thirty-three (Tāvatiṁsa): SA 19. Śakra = SN 11. Sakka

  7. An assembly of Mara’s retinue (Māra): SA 18. Māra = SN 4. Māra

  8. An assembly of Brahmas (Brahma): SA 22. Brahma = SN 6. Brahma

The first four assembles are humans; the other four are non-humans.

Dear Dhamma friends,

I have noticed that Analayo in the same volume presents a section (pp. 983-997) in response to Choong Mun-keat’s “Ācāriya Buddhaghosa and Master Yinshun 印順 on the Three-aṅga Structure of Early Buddhist Texts” in Research on the Saṃyukta-āgama (pp. 883-932).

The section by Analayo is the last part of a paper, written by Stefania Travagnin, entitled “Assessing the Field of Āgama Studies in Twentieth-century China: With a Focus on Master Yinshun’s 印順 Three-aṅga Theory” (pp. 933-997).

Have you read it? I would appreciate hearing from your thoughts, viewpoints.

My remarks on that particular last part of the paper (also responded and posted on Dhammawheel site: Which Theravada school is the closest to early Buddhism? - Page 3 - Dhamma Wheel Buddhist Forum) are:

“The response to Choong Mun-keat by Analayo in the paper is just like a restatement of similar style or opinion of him. It is in fact just to present another evidence to support what Choong’s criticism has provided: “obviously ignores the relevant findings of Master Yinshun and the Ceylonese/Burmese version’s reading in MN 122” (see note 24, p. 903).

I think it is possible Analayo cannot read the Chinese writings by Yinshun. Secondly, it is just his face-saving response, which Analayo does not realise his response in fact provides another evidence to support what Choong has presented in his paper. ”

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I haven’t, and I’m not terribly interested in getting involved in criticizing this or that scholar on public forums. That said, it is a little disappointing that Analayo doesn’t take up much of what Yinshun wrote. It may well be the language barrier between the two wings of Buddhist studies.