Early Buddhist scriptural sources
Researchers at the Institute refer to the early Buddhist scriptures as "primary documentation" or "A documents", distinguishing them from later commentaries, which we call "secondary documentation" or "B documents". We also refer to "primary documentary sources" or "A documentary sources" when we want to signify the data recorded in these materials.
The principal early scriptures are written in Pāli and consist of the five Nikāyas, contained in the Sutta Piṭaka (Basket of Discourses), and the collection of regulations and rules that makes up the Vinaya Piṭaka. In Chinese translation, there are five Āgamas making up the collection of Sutras, and five compilations making up the Vinaya. The fifth of these Vinaya compilations, that of the Mūla-Sarvāstivādins, is divided into a number of sections, such as "Vinaya", "The Ordained", and "The Summer Retreat", and is not a discrete work. However, because it contains a large amount of tradition from later times, we basically treat it as "secondary documentation" ("B document"). Portions of these works also survive to a small extent in Sanskrit and Tibetan translation.
The essays in the monograph may use abbreviations for the names of the sources. A full list of the main divisions of the Sutta and Vinaya collections, in P li and Chinese translation follows.
|Sutta Piṭaka||Dīghanikāya (DN.)||Dīrghāgama (Long Discourses) Zhang ahan jing|
|Majjhimanikāya (MN.)||Madhyamāgama (Middle-Length Discourses) Zhong ahan jing|
|Saṃyuttanikāya (SN.)||Saṃyuktāgama (Connected Discourses) Za ahan jing|
|Saṃyuktāgama, different translation. Zengyi za ahan jing|
|Aṅguttaranikāya (AN.)||Ekottarāgama (Increased by One Discourses) Zengyi ahan jing|
|Piṭaka||Vinaya||Sifen lü (Vinaya in Four Divisions) of the Dharmaguptaka School (T 1428)|
|Wufen lü (Vinaya in Five Divisions) of the Mahīsāsaka School (T 1421)|
|Shisong lü (Vinaya in Ten Recitations) of the Sarvāstivādin School (T 1435)|
|Mohesengqi lü, the Vinaya of the Mahāsaṃghika School (T 1425)|
shuoyiqie youbu lü, the
Vinaya of the Mūlasarvāstivādin School
The Dīghanikāya and the Dīrghāgama are collections of long discourses. There are 34 suttas in the former and 30 in the latter.
Similarly, the Majjhimanikāya and the Madhyamāgama contain middle-length discourses; 152 in the former and 222 in the latter.
The Saṃyuttanikāya is a collection of short sutras grouped thematically into five sections (vagga); for example, the first three groups (samyutta) of suttas in the first section (Sagatha vagga, The Section of Verses) are the Devas (Devata Samyutta), the Sons of Devas (Devaputta Samyutta) and Kosala (Kosala Samyutta). There are two Chinese translations of the Saṃyuttanikāya. Probably at first they too were arranged according to theme, but this arrangement broke down in the course of transmission and today they do not necessarily reflect the original form. However it is possible to reconstruct that form to some extent. The Saṃyuktāgama contained in the Buddhist Canon translated into Japanese (Kokuyaku issaikyō, published by Daitō shuppansha) has been edited to be closer to the original. The translation titled Za ahan jing contains around 3000 sutras and the alternative translation, Zengyi za ahan jing, has, according to the Taishō Canon, 1362 sutras.
The Aṅguttaranikāya and the Ekottarāgama are also collections of short sutras that have been grouped according to doctrinal topics arranged by lists of things in numerical order, for example, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. According to the Samantapāsādikā, a commentary on the Aṅguttaranikāya, it contains 9,557 suttas, while the Ekottarāgama contains around 520 sutras. As is evident by the disparity in sutra numbers, the two collections hardly correspond. Whereas the former often lists only the main points, the latter contains a large number of tales, which are quite long.
The Khuddakanikāya, "Collection of Minor Works", exists only in Pāli; there is no Chinese translation. It is therefore thought to be a relatively late compilation. However it is well known that it contains some old suttas, some of which remain in Chinese translation. There are fifteen items in the collection:
Khuddakapāṭha (Khp.). "The Short Passages". It contains texts that are chanted daily by clergy and laypeople in Southern (Theravada) Buddhism and so is use for daily services.
Dhammapada (Dhp.) "The Path of the Teaching". An anthology of verses providing guiding principles for life. There are a number of Chinese translations:
(1) Fajujing (T. 210), by Vighna and others in two fascicles (224-225).
(2) Faju piyujing (T. 4), by Fali and Faju in four fascicles (290-306).
(3) Chuyaojing (T. 212), by Zhu Fonian in thirty fascicles (398-399).
(4) Faji yaosongjing (T. 213), by Tian Xizai (Devaśāntika) in four fascicles (10th century)
Faju piyujing and Chuyaojing contain commentary sections. Versions in Prakrit and Tibetan translation also exist.
Udāna (Ud.) "Inspired Utterances". A collection of verses uttered spontaneously through inspiration by the Buddha, not in answer to any question. The Sanskrit Udānavarga seems to consist of a form of the Udāna with the Dhammapada added.
Itivuttaka (It.) "Thus It Was Said". A collection of short teachings, beginning with Thus (iti) it was said (vutta) by the Buddha.
Suttanipāta (Sn.) "Collection of Suttas". Part was translated into Chinese as Yizujing.
Jātaka (J.) "Previous Lives of the Buddha". Tales in the form of sermons about the great deeds of the Buddha in former lives. The section written in verse corresponds to the early scriptures; the prose section is a later commentary.
Theragāthā (Thag.) "Verses of the Elder Monks" and Therīgāthā (Thīg.) "Verses of the Elder Nuns" are short poems by the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis of the early Saṃgha.
We include the above eight works in our designation of early Buddhist scriptures. The remaining seven works we treat as commentary literature.
Vimānavatthu (Vv.) "Stories about Heavenly Mansions" and Petavatthu (Pv.) "Stories about Hungry Ghosts" speak of the heavens and the hungry spirits, and about the karma through which people are reborn there.
Niddesa (Nd.) "Exposition" is a commentary on parts of the Suttanipāta, specifically the chapters Atthakavagga (The Octet Vagga) and the Parayanavagga (Way to the Far Shore).
Paṭisambhidāmagga (Pṭm.) "Path of Discrimination" speaks of the systematization of the way of religious training.
Apadāna (Ap.) "Biographical Stories" are verses recounting the past lives of the Buddha's disciples.
Buddhavaṃsa (Bv.) "The Lineage of the Buddhas" is a collection of verses about the biographies of Sakyamuni and the 24 buddhas who came before him.
Cariyāpiṭaka (Cp.) "Concerning Conduct" is a collection of stories about the Buddha's previous lives which illustrate the ten perfections.
The Pāli Vinaya can be broadly divided into the Suttavibhanga and the Khandaka. The Suttavibhanga is a collection of rules for the training of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis and provides source materials to study how the ordained followers of Shakyanumi lived their lives. The Khandaka consists of rules for managing the Saṃgha (community) and provides source materials to know how the communities (of four people or more) were formed by the Buddha's disciples and how they were run.
Suttavibhanga (explanation of the rules)
The Suttavibhanga can be divided into the rules for bhikkhus (monks) and the rules for bhikkhunis (nuns). The rules are grouped according to the punishments entailed for breaking them: pārājika (rules entailing expulsion), saṃghādisesa (rules entailing temporary exclusion from the Saṃgha), aniyata (indefinite rules), nissaggiya-pācittiya (rules entailing forfeiture and expiation), pācittiya (rules entailing expiation), pāṭidesanīya (rules about offences which should be expiated), sekhiya (rules about training) and adhikaraṇasamatha (rules for settling disputes). There are no aniyata rules for bhikkhunis. The descriptions which follow are based on the Pāli Vinaya; Vinayas of the various schools that have been translated into Chinese may exhibit differences.
There are four pārājika rules for bhikkhus and eight for bhikkhunis. The four for bhikkhus forbid sexual misconduct, stealing, killing and lying about spiritual attainment. Committing any of these results in the permanent expulsion of the offender from the Saṃgha. Accusations can be made by others, in which case confession is not necessary. However if the accusation differs from the testimony of the accused, the case is adjudicated by the Saṃgha.
There are thirteen saṃghādisesa rules for bhikkhus and seventeen for bhikkhunis. Offenders are excluded from the Saṃgha for six days, having to live in a room apart and forbidden to speak to other members. Thus they are virtually ostracized by other bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. The offender is readmitted if in a meeting, twenty or more members of the Saṃgha are satisfied with his penance. Accusations can be made from outside the Saṃgha.
The two aniyata rules, of undetermined gravity, relate to sexual offences, and are specific to bhikkhus. The gravity of the offence is determined according to the testimony of a female lay follower whose word is trusted. The offense may be brought forward by confession or accusation.
There are thirty nissaggiya-pācittiya rules for both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, and concern the possession of forbidden items. A person who violates the rules confesses his or her wrongdoing before the Saṃgha (a minimum of four people), before a group of two or three people, or before an elder. Accusations cannot be brought forward by others. The offender is reinstated if the confession is accepted. The forbidden items are confiscated by the Saṃgha and in principle returned to the original owner. In pernicious cases, such as habitual offenders, special procedures concerning accusation and adjudication apply. The same goes as well for the offences listed below. It should be noted that here "confession" refers to the formal notification made that one has committed an offence. It was a legal procedure whereby a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni applied for the reinstatement of his or her rights, and very different from the "confession" or "repentance" of Mahāyāna Buddhism.
There are 92 pācittiya rules for bhikkhus and 166 for bhikkhunis. They are not rules about items but about various offences to do with eating outside set times and suchlike. Similarly to the previous group, such offences can be confessed before the Saṃgha, before two or three people, or before an elder. Once the confession has been accepted, the offender can resume full rights as a member of the Saṃgha.
There are four pāṭidesanīya rules for bhikkhus and eight for bhikhunis. They concern offences like accepting food from an unrelated bhikkhuni, and they must be acknowledged before another monk. Forgiveness is given immediately. Thus it is enough to report the offence, and no kind of permission is needed. There are 75 sekhiya rules for both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis. They mainly concern manners and deportment. Violating them does not incur any loss of rights. They are not so much real offences as something that perpetrators should reflect upon.
Both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis had seven adhikaraṇasamatha rules. They were established as a means to settle any disputes that might arise in the Saṃgha. Such settlement is by majority decision. When violations occur, they are judged to be "faults", which appear the same as how sekhiya offences are judged.
In the Pāli Canon, the Khandaka is divided into the Mahāvagga and the Cullavagga, each made up of sections called vatthus, ten in the former and twelve in the latter.
1. "The Great Chapter". Admission to the Saṃgha, ritual etiquette for ordination.
2. Uposadha (monthly confession) ceremony and its rules.
3. Rules for rainy season residence.
4. Rules for the Pavarana ("invitation") ceremony held at the end of the rainy season.
5. Rules for the use of leather (e.g. footwear).
6. Rules concerning alms food and medicaments (what they are, how they should be used).
7. Rules about making and distributing monks' robes.
8. Rules regarding clothing.
9. Dispute between two groups of monks in Campā.
10. Dispute between two groups of monks in Kosambī.
11. Procedures for dealing with offenders.
12. Rules about the probation of offenders.
13. Rules for when a monk on probation commits a further offence.
14. Rules for solving disputes within the Saṃgha.
15. Miscellaneous points about life in the Saṃgha.
16. Lodgings: rules about fixed assets and equipment belonging to the Saṃgha.
17. Devadatta and schism.
18. Miscellaneous rules of conduct.
19. Preventing offenders from taking part in confession ceremonies.
20. Nuns, how monks should relate to them.
21. Council of the 500 (First Council)
22. Council of the 700 (Second Council)