deafening silence that the Buddha experienced during the moonlit moment
beneath the Bodhi tree, flowed the teaching of the Dharma.
2,500 years has since passed, and the accumulations of the
Teachings into various versions of the Tripitaka have swelled into
monstrous proportions. Numerous schools, countless interpretations and
explanations of the teachings have been done. Buddhism and its
literature have come a long way, and maybe some of its original luster
has been lost among the clusters of information. Therefore, it ignites
sparkles when one read suttas that are flowered with ancient
simplicity and waltzed with the thunder of non-duality. The
earliest chapters of the Sutta
Nipāta do have
such quality and, according to the erudite Professor Luis o. Gomez,
"The significance of these passages cannot be exaggerated."
will mainly concentrate on the Atthakavagga and the Parayanavagga
of the Sutta-Nipāta (Sn) or
"Discourse-collection," which is generally agreed among scholars to be
some of the most ancient Buddhist teaching that is available to us. The
first part of the essay will discuss the messages that are being
conveyed by these vaggas; and secondly, stanzas from these vaggas
that was quoted by the Holy Nagarjuna in the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra
(MPPS) (大智度論), translated by Kumārajīva (402–405 A.D.)
will be examined. But we will begin with a brief discussion of several
works that dealt with the Sutta-Nipāta in order to get a
general picture of its important aspects.
Several works on the sutta-nipāta
early as the 1880's, the Honourable V. Fausboll had commented on the
antiquity of the Sutta-Nipāta. He said,
"I considered the greater part of the Mahavagga and
nearly the whole of the Atthakavagga as very old. I ought to have
added the Parayanavagga. That my then expressed opinion holds
good about the two last mentioned at least, seems to be evident from
there being a commentary on them called Niddesa, which has been
incorporated in the Buddhist canon and from there being quoted in the
Nikayas and in the Vinaya-pitaka."
many scholars have worked on the Sn and the latest important publication
is "The Group of Discourses" Vol. II by Prof. K.R. Norman.
Most of these publications have dealt with the translating and/or
analyzing the antiquity of the Sn by means of linguistic evidences.
been only a few works done on the teaching and the philosophy of the Sn. However,
interesting among them, is the article "Proto-Madhyamika in the Pali
Canon" by Prof. L. Gomez. In the article, Gomez
has explored "the possible parallels between the Pali text (Atthakavagga
of the Sn) and the Madhyamaka of Nagarjuna," but he said, "There
is no way of ascertaining whether the Atthakavagga was in anyway
pivotal to his [Nagarjuna] exegesis of the Canonical texts." As
has already been mentioned above, the second part of this essay will
discuss the quotations of the Sn used by Nagarjuna, and I hope, to the
satisfaction of the good Professor.
Compilation of suttas and vaggas
delivered a sermon, it was usually targeted towards an individual or a
specific group of followers. From these
individual sermons, discourses were strung together and became sutta. According to the Yogācārabhūmi-śāstra (YBS):
compiling of the treasures of the Tathagata’s True Dharma is [the
process that] collect and edit together various different sacred sayings
[taught by the Buddha during different times and places] so that these
holy Teachings will remain in the world for a long time.
Using these wonderful words, phases and sentences as content
appropriately and sequentially compile them together. That is, to
connect and string together various teachings that can bring forth
benefit, lead to celibacy – the truly wondrous teaching, this is call a sutta."
Buddha taught, it would be logical to assume that the content of his
teachings would be divided into various levels of understanding and
different propensities so that the teaching would best fit the
individual problems and abilities of the different followers. The vaggas,
which represent collections of suttas, were also
assembled in a similar manner by ancient masters. Therefore, the
specific layout and arrangement of the suttas incorporated into a
vagga very often carry with them concerted messages. If
one is not aware of the general layout of a vagga, then there is
the danger of missing the concerted messages, and end up debating the
"uniformity and diversity" of the suttas, as in the
article "Older parts of the Sutta Nipata" by
when he wanted to "add some historical refinement" to Prof. Gomez’s
interpretation of the Sn as presented in the "Prota-Madhyamika"
article. We shall now proceed to explore the teachings of the Atthakavagga by analyzing the message of the individual sutta first and then from the individual messages deduce
the concerted messages of the Vagga.
altogether sixteen suttas in the Atthakavagga,
the Chapter of the Eights and they are:
No of stanzas
The Octad of the Cave
The Octad of the Evil
The Octad of Purity
The Octad of Perfection
Qualities of a Muni
Disputes and Contention
Minor causes of Contention
Major causes of Contention
The way of Bliss
at the above table, it is interesting to note that the number of
stanzas of the suttas has been arranged in an ascending
order; i.e. from the first sutta of six stanzas
increasing until the last sutta of twenty one stanzas. However, the importance of this point, I believe, is
no more than just an indication that the suttas and the vagga may have been deliberately arranged.
that the name of the vagga is "The Chapter of
Eights" suggests that originally the individual suttas
in the Chapter may have only consisted of eight stanzas, or that those suttas with eight stanzas are the heart of the chapter.
Therefore, either way indicates that suttas no. 2-5 is
the core of this Chapter. Under more careful examination, one can even
propose that these four suttas hold the key to the
ultimate liberation, because together, their teaching becomes a gradual
path to nibbana. The following is an
examination of the teachings of these four suttas.
Sutta Two, The Octad of the Caves dealt with the danger of
clinging to our physical body. Such clinging and
attachment is the first road block on the path to attaining liberation
as it is pointed out in the following quotation:
772 The man (who) remains attached to the cave (the
body)', is covered with many defilements and plunged into confusion;
being of such a kind he is indeed far from detachment. For sensual
pleasures are indeed not easy to abandon in the world."
being used here as both a metaphor for the body and also to project the
imaginary of darkness and defilement that come with the attachment of
pointing out the danger of clinging to the physical body, sutta
number Three, Four and Five dealt with the problem of mental
attachment. Only when a person is completely detached both physically
and mentally would he then be truly liberated - nibbana. The first stanza (780) of sutta Three:
The Octad of the Evil is the introduction to these three suttas
which sequentially discussed: “evil-mind”, “mind set on truth” and
“mind of the sages” just as it is the correspondence main themes of the suttas.
780 Some evil-minded
ones do indeed dispute; and those whose minds are set on truth
do indeed dispute also. But the sages do not get involved in any dispute
which has arisen. Therefore the sages have no barrenness of mind
in any respect.
So Sutta Three, the Octad of the Evil, dealt with the danger
of clinging to mental activities that are driven by desire and self
interest which from the Buddhist point of view would be classified as
could anyone overcome his own view, (when he is) led on by desire,
entrenched in his own inclination, fulfilling those (wrong views)
himself? For as he know, so would he speaks."
Sutta Four, the Octad of Purity, dealt with the danger of
clinging on to what may be regarded as 'righteous' or minds that are set
on truth; i.e.
788 I see a
pure, noble and healthy man; a person’s purification emerges from what
he sees' - thus, holding this opinion and having seen this view to be
the best, he considers knowledge to consist in the seeing of a pure
man's purity comes from what is seen, or if by this knowledge he can be
freed of sorrow, then something other than the Noble Path makes the
person grasping after things a pure one. This view itself reveals the
nature of this person.
In sutta five, the Octad of Perfection, dealt with the mindset
of the sages and the concept of non-duality and indifferentiation were
presented as the final step toward nibbana; i.e.
802 To the
sage there is not the slightest prejudiced view with regard to things
seen, heard or felt. How can anyone in the world
characterize by thought such a pure one who does not dogmatically grasp
neither form any particular dogma nor prefer anything. Dogmatic views
are not esteemed by them. The brahmin is not led by rule and rite. Thus,
the steadfast one has gone to the further shore, never more to return.
these four vaggas function together and thereby becoming
a very plain and concise discourse on the Path to Nibbana.
It is possible that the rest of the Suttas in the
Chapter were added on in a later time.
cohesiveness of the remaining suttas in the Chapter is
not as apparent as the above mentioned suttas, they too
clearly indicate a definite plan and deliver messages in their
Sutta Six, Decay and Seven, Tissametteyya both delivered the
same message, which is the necessity and beauty of Liberation. For
example, in sutta Six the clear message is the
impermanent nature of all beings and the cold blooded reality of death;
therefore, the only save haven is when one let go of all attachment to
anything or anyone. For example:
people are seen and heard of, whose name is ‘so and so’.
When he has departed, only a person’s name will remain to be
who are greedy for cherished things do not abandon grief, lamentation,
and avarice. Therefore, the sages, seeing
security, have wandered forth, abandoning possession(s).
In sutta Seven the message is the fault of lustrous desire -
the all powerful whip of Mara, and the beauty of celibacy - the nobility
of freedom and solitary; i.e.
816. He who
formerly fared alone, but is now given to sexual intercourse, they call
that uncontrolled one a low and ordinary being who is like a lurching
Realizing this danger in the world from beginning to the end the sage
keeps strictly to his solitary life. He does not give himself up to
The next sutta, Disputation, mainly dealt with the futility of
disputation which is caused by grasping on to 'view'. The term
'disputation' is best to understand here in relationship to
'differentiation'. When we differentiate, we are in dispute; i.e. mine
vs. yours, good vs. bad, observer vs. observed. Therefore, we sometime
dispute with others and most of the time we are in dispute with
ourselves, separating the observer (the self) and the observed (color,
sound, thought etc.) For example, in Sutta Eight,
Disputation, there are the following stanzas:
say that purity is theirs alone; they do not say that there is purity in
the teachings of others. Whatever teaching they have devoted themselves
to; they claim that as the most excellent and; thus separately hold
in disputations in the midst of a gathering, one becomes frustrated in
one's quest for praise. In defeat he becomes
downcast and, seeking for flaws in others, becomes enraged by their
Speculating in your mind on different philosophical views you have come
reflecting on them. But then you cannot go along yoked together with the
one who is purified.
holding on to one's views will lead to dispute and from dispute comes
quest for praise and becomes enraged by criticism. From these quests and
enrages, one will forever be engaged in the search for argument and
dispute, thus leading further into the swamp of disputation.
Sutta Nine, Magandiya, investigates deeper into the source of
dispute, which is 'perception' and also expounded on the suchness of
nonduality. For example:
says that purity is not by view, by learning, by knowledge, or even by
virtuous conduct and vows, Magandiya’, said the Blessed One. ‘Not by
absence of view, of learning, of knowledge, of virtuous conduct, or
vows, not by that either. And discarding these, without grasping,
calmed, not dependent, one would not long for existence.
are no ties for one who is devoid of perceptions. There are no illusions
for one who is released through wisdom. But those who have grasped
perception and view wander in the world, causing offence.
emphasizing the need and advantages of attaining liberation in suttas six and seven, sutta eight, nine and
ten pointed out the danger and downfall of adhering to views and
perceptions. When a person has attained these
qualities, he would then be regard as the 'Perfect Man', one that has
the qualities of a muni.
851 He has
no longing for the future and no grief for the past; there are no views
or opinions that lead him. He can see detachment from the entangled
world of sense-impression.
he understands the Way Things Are, he is free from dependency and there
is nothing he relies on. For him there is no more craving to exist or
not to exist.
860 It is a
man without greed and without possessiveness; it is a man who, as a man
of wisdom, does not consider himself "superior”, “inferior" or "equal".
It is a man who does not enter speculation, a man who is free from
last five suttas seem to function as a unit, starting
with developing the need to search for liberation, which can be attained
by breaking the grasp on perceptions and views with wisdom, and ending
with the description of the ‘Perfect Man’ in the last sutta.
remaining suttas in the Chapter get longer, they
appeared to be more self-contained instead of functioning as a set. For
example sutta eleven is a logical quest of the source of
arguments, tears and anguish, and ending with the description of a muni,
one who does not enter into arguments and does not enter the round of
endless becoming. The development of the quest is so logical that it can
be listed out in the form of a flow chart:
quarrels, tears and anguish”
things precious and dear”
contact, of mental impression, that lead to the feeling of pleasant and
unpleasant and other form of duality and differentiation”
interdependent existence of mind and matter (name and form) “
were no wanting, there would be no more possessiveness……without the
element of form, of matter, there would be no contact”
lead to the attainment of
ordinary perception and without disordered perception, without no
perception and without any annihilation of perception”
achieving the quality of
the wise man.” 
This is a
logical description of the source of suffering and the path to become a muni.
If someone is interested in eliminating suffer and anguish, this Sutta alone would be enough as a guide to achieve the
Suttas twelve and thirteen dealt in depth with the causes and
the futility of contention. As pointed out above,
disputation and contention are caused by grasping on to 'view',
therefore in order to avoid contention one must abandon the attachment
As is true
to most of the suttas in the Atthakavagga
and the Parayanavagga, their teachings are so profound
and unabating that they would shock the unprepared with dismay. The most interesting and challenging among them is
their rejection toward holding any kind of view including the attachment
toward the perfection of moral practices. The
following are some of the uncomprising teachings delivered in the suttas twelve and thirteen:
895 Those who, adhering to their view, dispute ‘this
only is the truth’, either bring blame upon themselves or obtain praise
896 The result of the praise is trifling and not
enough to bring about tranquility. I say there
are two results of dispute [victory or defeat]; having seen this, let no
one dispute, realizing nibbana where there is no dispute.
898 Those who consider moral practices to be the
highest and believe that purity can comes through restraint will find
themselves still immersed in samsara.
900 Having abandoned formal religious practises
altogether and actions both 'good' and 'bad', neither longing for
'purity' nor 'impurity', he wanders aloof abstaining from both without
adhering to either extreme.
913 Having abandoned former defilements, not inducing
new ones, not becoming partisan, he is free from dogmatic view. Being wise, he neither clings to the world nor blames
important message in these two suttas is that although
the noble one will not grasp on to any view, it is not the same as he
does not know and/or understand those views. In fact, he understands all
views and theories of others through direct knowledge but he will not
speculate and will remain indifferent to them whilst others labour to
remaining four suttas in the Chapter that have not been
discussed, however, have a different tone as compared with the above
discussed suttas. For example, sutta
One, Sensual Pleasure, sutta Fourteen, The Way to Bliss
and sutta Sixteen, Sariputta have a much higher
moralistic appeal in comparison to the pragmatic business like approach
presented by the above discussed suttas. Maybe the
existence of these latter said suttas were to
counter-balance the possible harmful side affect to unprepared readers
caused by the shrewdness of the former discussed suttas;
i.e. abandoning all religious practices, the attack on adhering to
moral and views, etc. Of course, nobody will argue that righteous
behaviour is basic to any attempt to higher attainment. Therefore, it
was sensible to incorporate these more moralistic suttas
into the Chapter for the purpose to both counter balance and also act
as a stepping stone to the higher level suttas.
Sutta One, Sensual Pleasure, was a very popular sutta
and it has been quoted in both the Abhidharmamahavibhasa śāstra 
and the Yogācārabhūmi-śāstra. Actually, placing this sutta first,
the compiler of the vagga is emphasizing the point that
conquering the desire to sensual pleasure is the prerequisite to any
higher form of liberation.
Sutta Fourteen, the Way to Bliss, see Buddha delivering an
early form of the patimokkha. However, because the sutta
used the term 'bhikkhu' and 'patimokkha', and the fact
that many of its stanzas seem to be drawn from the earlier suttas,
suggest that this may be a comparatively late sutta
compiled into the Chapter for the purpose of counter balancing as just
Sutta Fifteen, Violent Conduct, appears to have collected and
summarized the important points from all the preceding suttas.
One can say that this is the concluding sutta. The last
two stanzas summarized the teaching nicely:
953 A man of discernment, without a flutter of desire, does not
accumulate – he has no conditioning – he has stopped all effort of every
kind; so everywhere he sees peace and happiness.
wise man does not rate himself with the distinguished, the lowest, nor
with ordinary people; clam and unselfish, he is free from
possessiveness: he holds on to nothing and he rejects nothing.
summarizing the teaching in the previous suttas, the
last sutta, sutta Sixteen Sariputta,
deals with the more mundane matters of being a bhikkhu. Sariputta
questioned the Buddha, "I have come with a question, on behalf of the
many who are fettered here … For a bhikkhu (who is) disgusted,
resorting to a lonely seat, the foot of a tree or a cemetery, or in
caves in the mountains, (or) on various sorts of beds, how many are the
fearful things there, on account of which a bhikkhu should not
tremble in his noiseless lodgings?"
Actually, the answer to the question is meant to be a guideline and
hints to the more immediate problems for those searching for liberation.
For those that have been converted by the teachings in the previous Suttas, these more mundane matters such as, lodgings,
speech, spheres of activity [begging] etc, become pressing. Therefore
having the last sutta to deal with these matters is most
Now that we
have discussed the meaning of the individual suttas, the
intended messages hiddened in the arrangement of the suttas
become more apparent. We can see that the layout was carefully planned
“to connect and string together various teachings that can bring forth
benefit, lead to celibacy” as explained by YBS. If we divide the suttas into sections and rename the suttas
then the intention of the compiler of the vagga is even
clearer. The following is a suggestion:
I. The Path to Liberation (Sutta 1-5)
a. Overcoming the desire
of Sensual Pleasure.
b. Overcoming the
defilement cause by attaching to the body.
c. Overcoming evil desire
caused by adhering to 'mine view'.
d. Overcoming attachment
caused by adhering to 'righteous view. '
e. The Perfection -
indifferentiation and Non-duality
II. Further discussion on the Path to Liberation
a. The necessity and
beauty of Liberation
i. The transitory of
life and the haven of non-attachment. (Sutta 6)
ii. The danger of
lustrous desire. (Sutta 7)
b. The futility of
disputation. (Sutta 8)
c. Indifferentiation and
'inner peace'. (Sutta 9)
d. The Perfect Man -
qualities of a muni. (Sutta 10)
III. A step by step guide to become a muni
IV. Further discussion on disputation
a. View and disputation (Sutta 12)
b. Wisdom and disputation (Sutta 13)
V. Fundamental training – the patimokkha (Sutta 14)
a. A summary of the Teaching (Sutta 15)
b. Survival tips for samanas (Sutta
As we can
see, the content of the Atthakavagga is rather
comprehensive and well structured. It has also included all the
necessary teachings for those searching for the ultimate liberation. If
we are to give it a modern name that would sell, 'A Complete No Nonsense
Guide to Liberation' would fit nicely.
The Parayanavagga, the Chapter on the Way to the Beyond, unlike
the Atthakavagga which is a collection of suttas,
is comprised of questions (pucchas) to the Buddha from sixteen
learned Brahmins, all "versed in Vedic mantras." Interestingly, the
subjects of these questions shows a kind of uniformity i.e. wisdom and
attaining liberation through the cultivation of wisdom. This uniformity
would not be surprising if we are to believe the prologue of the vagga which describes the sixteen Brahmins to be students
of the same master, and it was during the same occasion that they asked
these questions. On the other hand, the Suttas in the Atthakavagga were probably assembled from various sources
over a period time before it settled into the layout that we have it
teachings of the Parayanavagga, like those of the Atthakavagga, are very profound, and also teachings that
are usually associated with prajnaparamita are already apparent
in the Vagga. Therefore, it seems that the teaching
being transmitted in Buddha’s answers to the Brahmins were targeted
toward the intelligent and knowledgeable. In the following, some of the
more important teachings of the Vagga will be discussed.
Emphasis on Wisdom
1032 "What shrouds the world? What stops its being seen?"
asked Ajita, "'Tis Ignorance which shroud the world; 'tis wants and
sloth which stop its being clearly seen." answered the Lord.
question to the Buddha set the tone of the Vagga.
Instead of the more common emphasis on suffering, duhhka, the
emphasis here is placed on seeing, understanding and wisdom. Although the cessation of suffering is very much
related to the development of wisdom but in this vagga,
not only is wisdom presented as a mean to end suffering, but the value
and importance of wisdom is also very much emphasized. In the following
are quotes from the Vagga that demonstrated this point:
1035 "Any river can be stopped with the dam of mindfulness
... and with wisdom you can close the flood-gates."
1051 "Truly, whatever fool, unknowing, makes
acquisition(s), he comes to misery again and again."
1059 "When you are aware that a man is a brahmin, a master
of knowledge ... a voyager who has reached the other shore."
1105 "Tell me of the release by knowledge, the
breaking of ignorance."
1120 "May I not perish meanwhile, (still)
ignorant. Teach me the doctrine so that I may
know the abandonment of birth and old age here”
question raised by the Venerable Posala to the Buddha, a very important
point was brought up. He said, "I ask, Sakyan, about the knowledge of
one whose perception of forms has disappeared, who has abandoned all
corporeality, who sees that nothing exists either internally or
externally. How is such a person to be led (further)?"
The description of the person that Posala had in mind when he asked the
above question, could very well imply the attainment of an Arahart or
the state of nirodhasamapatti. The Venerable wanted to know is
there a higher state of attainment and how to get there. The Buddha,
after stating he knows all the stages of consciousness, gave the
the origin of the state of nothingness, (he thinks) 'Enjoyment is a
fetter.' Knowing this thus, then he has insight therein. This is
the true knowledge of that brahman who has lived the (perfect)
person that perception of forms has disappeared, abandoned all
corporeality and seeing nothing exist, there is still a stage where he
would have both insight and knowledge - a condition that would include
both Liberation and Wisdom. This certainly looks like an early from of
between the Parayanavagga and the Diamond Sutra
the above stated point, there are several more striking similarities
between the Parayanavagga and the Prajñāpāramitā Sutras. Actually
the first similarity that one can notice is in their names which both
carried the similar root of 'para', meaning the other shore. If
we add panna, wisdom, which is very much being emphasized in the vagga, on to parayana then we would get 'pannaparayana'.
'Yana’ means 'vehicle', and the meanings of 'pāramitā'
are arriving on the other shore and/or the perfection (of an act).
Surely the similarities between the two names are close enough to worth
some kind of speculation on their possible relationship.
subject of how to perform religious acts, the messages that Buddha is
getting across in the two scriptures are on the same note. The following
is a passage from the Parayanavagga dealing with the
prayers', said the Buddha, "their praises, their offerings and
aspirations were all made on a basis of possession, of reward: they
longed for sensual pleasure. These men, these experts in offering, were
delighting in the passion for becoming. These men could not go beyond
getting old and being born." 
Diamond Sutra, the Buddha too have instructed the bodhisattva how
to gives alms. In the following is the instruction from the Sutra:
Subhuti, a bodhissattva who gives a gift should not be supported
by a thing, nor should he be supported anywhere. When he gives gifts he
should not be supported by sight-objects, nor by sounds, smells, tastes,
touchables, or mind-objects. For, Subhuti, the bodhisattva, the
great being should give gifts in such a way that he is not supported by
the notion of a sign. And why? Because the heap of merit of that
bodhi-being, who unsupported gives a gift, is not easy to measure." 
messages from the two passages are similar. In the Parayana passage,
the message is that if one performs any religious act on "a basis of
possession and reward" then the merit is limited to within this mundane
world. In the Diamond Sutra's passage, the message is on a higher
plateau, requiring the bodhisattva to gives gifts unsupportedly
which is to hold "a completely free thought that depend on no object or
following, comparable passages from the two scriptures, which share the
same theme, are listed together to illustrate their similarities.
I. On perception and thought of Nothingness:
Master told Upasiva: "use these two things to help you cross the ocean:
the perception of Nothingness and the awareness that "there is nothing."
being, should produce an unsupported thought, i.e. a thought which is
nowhere supported, a thought unsupported by sights, sounds, smells,
tastes, touchables or mind-objects."
II. On the Dharmakaya:
1076 " When
a person has gone out, then there is nothing by which you can measure
him. That by which he can be talked about is no longer there for him;
you cannot say that he does not exist. When all ways of being, all
phenomena are removed, then all ways of description have also been
by my form did see me,
who followed me by voice
efforts they engaged in,
people will not see.
Dharma should one see the Buddhas,
Dharmabodies comes their guidance.
Dharma's true nature cannot be discerned,
And no one
can be conscious of it as an object.
III. On past, present and future:
up the remains of your past and have nothing for your future. If you do
not cling to the present then you can go from place to place in peace."
thought, trends -of thought", Subhuti, as no-trends have they been
taught by the Tathagata. Therefore are they called "trends of thought".
And why? Past thought is not got at; future thought is not got at;
present thought is not got at.
the similarities are there and there are enough of them to rule out the
possibility of mere coincidence. Does it mean that what we now classify
as Mahayana Teaching, i.e. the concept of emptiness as explained in Prajñāpāramitā Sutras, was no
more than a repackaging of ancient suttas?
The second half of this essay will briefly discuss some of the
stanzas of the two Vaggas that were quoted in MPPS.
Vaggas of Sutta
Nipata that were quoted in the Dai zhi-duo lun, Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra
together, six references of the Atthakavagga and two
references of the Parayanavagga were quoted in the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra
(MPPS). In the six references of the Atthakavagga, the Chinese translation of the name 'Atthakavagga' all differed.
Some were translated according to the meaning and some were translated
according to pronunciation. However, the translations of the two
references of ‘Paranayavagga’ were identical. The
references will be discussed in the following:
I. In Volume One of the MPPS, during the discussion of
the four siddhantas (四悉檀)(principals) Nargajuna
referred to three stanzas (796, 880 and 881) from the Atthakavagga《眾義經》to illustrate the meaning of the paramartha-siddhanta,
the Ultimate Principal(第一義悉檀). In the following is the translation of Nagarjuna's
comments on the stanzas:
three stanzas, the Buddha is describing the state of paramartha-siddhanta
(the ultimate principal). That is to say, sentient beings in the
world, because of adhering to their own views, their own theories, and
their own reasoning will develop contention. Superficial presumption is
the origin of contention, and superficial presumption will arise as a
result of holding various views".
II. In explaining the meaning of “Thus”, the first word of
.the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Sutra, Nagarjuna made reference to
Stanzas 838-841 from the Atthakavagga. The name of the vagga was translated as《阿他婆耆經》being the
Chinese phonetic translation of the Atthakavagga. According to Nagarjuna, one of
the reasons of placing “Thus” as the first word is to illustrate that
"Buddha's disciples are without attachment to views, without adherence
to views and will not associate with cliques. They are only interested
in the liberation of suffering and will not theorize on the aspects of
things.” To further expound on this point, Nagarjuna quoted the
above mentioned four stanzas from the Magandiya Sutta in
III. During the discussion of dharma-sunyata, Nagarjuna
also quoted the Pasura Sutta from the Atthakavagga
to prove his point. A
prologue similar to the one available only in the Chinese translation
of the Atthakavagga
was included. In the prologue, while answering a
question from Pasura the Buddha pointed out the futility of disputation. The
first two stanzas, 824, 825 of the Pali translation were identically
but the rest of the stanzas (826-834) were synthesized into only three
stanzas in the MPPS.
IV. In the next quotation of the Atthakavagga,
Nagarjuna was using it to explain the meaning of sarvadharma (一切法, i.e. things, laws or beings). However, an exact corresponding stanza in the Pali
versionn cannot be identified but there are close similes. Here is the
English translation of the two MPPS stanzas:
wishes to attain the ultimate wisdom, (he should know that) there are
only mind and matter. If one wishes to truly
explore and find out, he should also understand mind and matter.
one can delusively contemplate and differentiately consider various
things, however, all are none other than mind and matter.
looks close enough to be the equivalent in the Pali version; however, I
suspect that Nagarjuna rephrased stanzas 872-874 into the above
translated stanzas. The following are the three stanzas from the Pali
version of the Atthakavagga:
872 "Contact exists because the compound of mind and
matter exists. The habit of grasping is based on wanting things. If
there were no wanting, there would be no possessiveness. Similarly
without the element of form, of matter, there would be no contact."
873 " "What pursuit leads a person to get rid of form?
And how can suffering and pleasure cease to exist? This is what I want
to know about.
874 "There is a state where form ceases to exist", said
the Buddha. "It is a state without ordinary perception and without
disordered perception and without not perception and without any
annihilation of perception. It is perception, consciousness, that is the
source of all the basic obstacles."
V. In the fifth reference, Nargarjuna, during his
explaining of the sarvadharama sunyata of the eighteen sunyatas,
made reference to both Atthakavagga and Parayanavagga
together. In expounding on the topic, Nagarjuna
said that there are three ways to attain the field of supra-mundane
differentiated by the foundation and vows of the practitioners. For those that vow to be a Buddha and have good
foundation, the Buddha taught them the six-paramitas and dhrama-sunyata.
For those that vow to become Pratyecka-buddhas and have mediocre
foundation, the Buddha taught them the twelve nidanas and
solitary. For those that vow to become Araharts and have low foundation,
the Buddha taught them the sattva-sunyata and the four Noble
demonstrate there are already teachings of dharma-sunyata in the
Tripitaka, he drew examples from several sutras. Among them is a
reference to the Atthakavagga and Parayanavagga.
In the following is the translation of Nagarjuna's summary on the
teaching of the two vaggas:
Paranaya Sutta and the Arthaka Sutta said that the
wise one will not attach or grasp on to sarvadharma. If one is
to attach or grasp on to dharma then superficial notions will
arise. If there is no attachment then there would be no notion. Those
accomplished Sages will neither grasp nor forsake any dharma. If
one neither grasps nor forsake, then he is detached from all views.
Thus, dharma-sunyata is taught in various places in the
interesting to note that Nagarjuna made reference to the two Vaggas
together, and he regards the teaching of the two to be identical. Also,
according to Nagarjuna, the two vaggas are propelling
the teaching of dharma-sunyata, a quality of the Mahayana bodhisattvas.
VI. During the discussion of the wisdom of the
Bodhisattva mahasattva's vow in the Mahayana tradition, Nagarjuna quoted
a stanza from the Atthakavagga to answer the following
question, "the practitioner uphold the precepts, cultivate dhyana and
practise the various vipasyana meditation, why did you say 'not
However, an equivalent stanza in the Pali version could not be
identified, but stanza 803 is close enough. They are both listed in the
MPPS: When a practitioner can forsake all dharma, do not
attach to wisdom and makes no differentiation than that is definite
803 They do not form (views), they do not prefer. Nor
do they adhere to doctrines. A Brahman is not to be inferred by virtuous
conduct or vows. Gone to the far shore, such a one does not fall back
(on anything). 
the explanation of the characteristics of an araharts, Nagarjuna
answered a question raised in the MPPS. In his answer, Nagarjuna pointed
out that the Buddha posed a question to Sariputta about the content of a
stanza from the Parayanavagga. The following is the
translation of the related passage from the MPPS:
Araharts have done what had to be done, laid done the burden and need
not listen to dharma, why then during the sermons of the Prajñāpāramitā Sutra there were
five thousands Araharts?" [Nagarjuna] answered, "Although the Araharts
have done what had to be done but the Buddha wishes to test their
knowledge on the 'very profound teaching of wisdom'. For
example, when the Buddha asked Sariputta about the stanza from the
Ajita Sutta in the Parayanavagga which
All the various types of
And those that have considered
The ways that these people
Would you please clearly
What is the meaning of 'those
that are still learners?' and what is the meaning of 'those that have
considered the dharma?' Three times the Buddha have asked and Sariputta
remained muted. Then the Buddha proceeded to explain and held the
following dialogue with Sariputta: ' Is there becoming?' 'Yes, there is
becoming, World Honoured One,” answered Sariputta. If
there is becoming, those who wish to bring conditioned phenomena to
cessation is called the “learner”. Those who have
attained the unconditioned phenomena with wisdom are called “those that
have considered the dharma” 
raised several very interesting points. Firstly,
Buddha was testing Sariputta on a sutta that had
already exist when Buddha was still alive, which mean that the Parayanavagga existed before the First council. Secondly,
both the Buddha and Nagarjuna regard the Parayanavagga
as 'very profound teaching of wisdom’. Thirdly,
if we assume that Ajita, the questioner of the stanza, understood the
meanings of 'the learners' and 'those that have considered the dharma'
then his wisdom and/or attainment can be said to be higher than that of
In the seven
references of the Atthakavagga and Parayanavagga
by Nagarjuna, all but one of them dealt with either the ultimate
teaching and/or the Mahayana teaching on Sunyata (i.e. dharma
sunyata). Clearly Nagarjuna regarded these vaggas to
be part of the core and/or foundation of the Mahayana teaching,
especially for teaching related to Prajñāpāramitā
The Atthakavagga and the Parayanavagga are very
important not only because of their antiquity but also because of their
profound teachings. However, why are they not included in the Original
Canon; i.e. the four Nikayas? This question was raised by both the
Venerable Yin shun
and Prof. K. R. Norman. Obviously, these vaggas existed
before the First Council and they were well known enough not to be 'just
missed'. We will probably never find out why but there is no harm
speculating. One probable reason is the possibility of the harmful side
affect of these vaggas to the unprepared readers, and
this may have deterred the more orthodox elders not to include them into
the four Nikayas. Maybe this was one of the reasons that Bhikkhu
Purana, who missed the gathering of the First Council, decided to
"remember them (the Dharma) as I myself heard and received them from the
In the two vaggas that we have discussed, Tissametteyya is the only
one that had the honour to hold a sub-chapter in both. Tissametteyya,
commonly known as Maitreya the future Buddha, was not a usual popular
figure in the Pali Canon. However, being pronounced to be the future
Buddha, Tissametteyya is the only other ‘recognized’ Bodhisattva in the
Pali Canon beside Prince Siddhatta. In the Lotus Sutta, there is also a
rather unorthodox description of our future Buddha, the Seeker of Fame
who shall become Maitreya Buddha. Here is the passsage from The Lotus
teacher Wonderful Bright
At that time
had a disciple,
constantly harbored indolence and sloth,
fame and advantage,
for fame and advantage was insatiable,
frequented the houses of the great clans,
what he had repeated and committed to memory,
it to oblivion and deriving no profit from it.
called Seeker of Fame.
performing a multitude of good deeds,
Was able to
see numberless Buddhas,
offerings to the Buddhas,
them in treading the Great Path,
fully the six paramitas,
And, now, to
see the Lion Son of the Sakyas.
shall become a Buddha
shall be called Maitreya.
Why is there
such a description of the future Buddha? It does not seem to be very
polite. Obvious, one of the possible reasons is
to give comfort and confidence to those that hold such ordinary
characters - "Ah, I still have a chance." But there should be more than
that. Maybe, such an image of the practitioners and/or followers
(including our future Buddha) mentioned in the two vaggas
was really held by the more orthodox Samgha members of the time,
considering the practitioners undemanding attitude toward religious
practices and righteous behaviour.
analyzing the meaning of the individual suttas in the Atthakavagga, the concerted messages of the whole vagga becomes apparent. Because the compiler(s) of the Vagga synthesized suttas that emphasized
both wisdom and moralistic teaching together, the vagga
can be seen as a complete guide to Liberation. On the other hand, the
messages in the Panayanavagga, which is mainly comprised with
questions from the sixteen Brahmin students, are much more uniform.
However, what made these two Vaggas stand out is their
antiquity coupled with the profound teaching. Of course, their influence
and relationship with Mayayana teaching can let loose all kind of
imaginations. Therefore, it is fair to say that
these vaggas are the pearl of the Tripitaka, as
would be agreed by Nagarjuna.
(1959) The Buddhist's Philosophy. London.
Grace (1983) The Ideal goal according to the Atthakavagga and its
major Pali Commentaries,Ph.d diss. Northwestern Univ.,
Lord (1932) (tr.)The Sutta-Nipāta, , Harvard Univ.
(1988) (tr.) Buddhist Wisdom Books. London
(1881) (tr.) The Sutta Nipāta (Vol. X of The Sacred Books of the
East), Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Gomez, Luis O
(1976) Proto-Mādhyamika in the Pāli canon in Philosophy East
and West 26:2 Hawaii:137-165
Yun郭良鋆(1990) (tr.)《經集》(The Sutta Nipāta)，Beijing:
China Social Science Press.
Hurvity, Leon (1976) (tr.) Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine
Dharma, New York
N .A. (1947)A critical analysis of the Pali Sutta Nipāta
illustrating gradual growth, phd. diss ., London Univ..
Published in serial form Ceylon Univ.
Review (1948-51) and Pali Buddhist review, London:
(Treatise on the Stages of Yoga Practice), T. 1579.
Kumarajiva (tr.) T25.
(1992) The Group of Discourses II, (tr.) Pali Text Society, Oxford,
(1974) Studies in The origins of Buddhism. Delhi.
P.O. (1972) The philosophy of the Atthakavagga. Kandy
E.(1918) Early Buddhist Scriptures. London.
H. (1985) The Sutta-Nipāta, (tr.), London.
(1990): Some Remarks on Older Parts of the Sutta Nipāta, in:
Panels of the VIIth World Sankrit Conference 1987. II. Leiden, 44. D. S. Ruegg & L. Schmithausen (eds.).
Leiden: E. J. Brill, pp. 36–56.
玄奘, (tr.), (659)《大毘婆沙論》）Abhidharma-mahavibhasa-sastra: T27
Yin Shun 印順
之集成》(Yuan shi fo jiao sheng dian zhi ji
cheng) 2nd. Rev. ed..
Yin Shun 印順
ed. 昭慧 Zhao Hui (1993) (《大智度論》之作者及其翻譯) Dai
Zhi-duo Lun zhi zuo zhe ji qi fan yi, Taiwan,.
 Gomez, Luis O (1976) Proto-Mādhyamika
in the Pāli canon in Philosophy East and West 26:2 Hawaii:137-165
 Nagarjuna, (406)《大智度論》Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra Kumarajiva (tr.) T25
 Fausböll, V. (1881) (tr.) The
Sutta Nipāta (Vol. X of The Sacred Books of the East),. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
 Norman, KṚ. (1992) The Group of
Discourses II, (tr.) Pali Text Society, Oxford
 Maitreya 《瑜伽師地論》Yogacarabhumi-Sastra (Treatise on the Stages of Yoga
Practice), T. 1579:418b. “結集如來正法藏者。攝聚如是種種聖語。為令聖教久住世故。以諸美妙名句文
 Veter, T. (1990): Some Remarks
on Older Parts of the Sutta Nipāta, in: Panels of the VIIth World
Sankrit Conference 1987. II. Leiden, 44. D. S. Ruegg & L.
Schmithausen (eds.). Leiden: E. J. Brill, pp. 36–56.
 The correct name of this Vagga is not ascertained, varying between Atthakavagga, meaning the Chapter of the Eights (Asta. P, attha-
'eight') and Arthavargiya, the Chapter of Meaningful Statements (Artha,
P. attha – ‘meaning’). Different Schools used different names; i.e.
Sthavirah- Arthavargiya and the Pali version-Atthakavagga.
Vererable Yin Shun proposed “attha” as being the original name (see
footnote 9), however, Jayawickrama, in his Doctoral thesis proposed
‘Artha’ (see footnote 10).
 Yin Shun 印順 (1991) 《原始佛教聖典之集成》(Yuan shi fo jiao sheng dian
zhi ji cheng) 2nd. Rev. ed.:818-820.
 Jayawickrama, N .A. (1947)A
critical analysis of the Pali Sutta Nipāta illustrating gradual growth,
phd. diss ., London Univ.. Published in serial form Ceylon
Univ. Review (1948-51) and Pali Buddhist review, London: 1976-8.
 Saddhatissa, H. (1985) The
Sutta-Nipāta, (tr.), London.:94.
 Saddhatissa 1985: 95.
 Saddhatissa 1985: 96
 Saddhatissa 1985: 97
 Saddhatissa 1985: 97-98
 Saddhatissa 1985: 100
 Saddhatissa 1985: 101-103
 Saddhatissa 1985: 103-106
 Saddhatissa 1985: 106
 Xuanzang 玄奘, (tr.), (659)《大毘婆沙論》）Abhidharma-mahavibhasa-sastra: T27: 176.
 Allen, G.F., (1959) The
Buddhist's Philosophy. London.: 74-75
 Chalmers, Lord (1932) (tr.)The
Sutta-Nipāta, , Harvard Univ. Press, London:243.
 Saddhatissa 1985: 118.
 Saddhatissa 1985: 121.
 Saddhatissa 1985: 120.
 Conze, E (1988) (tr.) Buddhist
Wisdom Books. London: 26.
 Saddhatissa 1985: 123.
 Saddhatissa 1985: 127.
 Yin Shun 印順 ed. 昭慧 Zhao Hui (1993) (《大智度論》之作者及其翻
譯) Dai Zhi-duo Lun
zhi zuo zhe ji qi fan yi, Taiwan.
The Author of the MPPS has been
questioned by both Lamotte and several Japanese Scholars. However, a
through work on this subject has been published by the Venerable Yin
Shun, edited by Ven. Zhao Hui. In the book, Ven. Yin Shun convincingly
and systematically disputed all the questions raised by the Scholars,
and concluded that Nagarjuna is the author of the MPPS.
 1.『義品』, 2.『眾義經』3., 『阿他婆耆經』4.『利眾經』,5. 『佛說利眾經』6. 『佛利眾生經』. See
Venerable Yin Shun’s explanation in 《大智度論》之作者及其翻譯; 釋印順法師. 東方宗教研究第２期(1990.10出版):26
 MPPS, T. 25: 60c.「各各自依見，戲論起諍競，若能知彼非，是為知正見」「不肯受他
MPPS, T. 25: 60c. 「此三偈中，佛說第一義悉檀相。所謂世間眾生自依見，自依法，自
 MPPS, T. 25: 193b. 『是時佛說〈義品〉偈』
 The Chinese version of the
Atthakavagga, Pasura was translated as「勇辭」 and in the MPPS it was translated
MPPS, T. 25: 193b.『各各謂究竟，而各自愛
MPPS, T. 25: 193b.『勝者墮憍坑，負者墮憂
 The name of the Attahavagga
was translated as《利眾經》at this point.
 MPPS, T. 25: 259b.『若欲求真觀，但有名與
 Saddhatissa 1985: 102.
 MPPS, T. 25: 295b. 『求出世間，有上、中、
 MPPS, T. 25: 295c. 『《波羅延經》、《利眾經》中說：「智者於一切法不受不著，若受
MPPS, T. 25: 389a. 『行者，持戒、修禪定、習諸觀，雲何言「非智」？』
MPPS, T. 25: 389a. 『如《佛利眾生經》中說：「行者捨諸法，亦不依止慧，亦無所分
 Pali version equivalent is stanza
no. 1038: ‘Those who have considered the doctrine, and the many under
training here; (being) zealous, tell me when asked, sir, their way of
life.’ Norman 1992: 116.
MPPS, T. 25: 82c>問曰： 若諸阿羅漢所作已辦，逮得己利，不須聽法，何以故說般
若波羅蜜時，共五千阿羅漢？ 答曰： 諸阿羅漢雖所作已辦，佛欲以甚深智慧法試。如佛問舍利弗，如《波羅延經》阿耆陀難中偈說：「種種諸學人，及諸數法
 Norman 1992: Intro xxxi.
 Hurvity, Leon (1976) (tr.) Scripture of the
Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma, New York