It’s time again for the monthly update. Since the beginning of March, I’ve added two new translations from the Dīrgha Āgama, one from the Madhyama Āgama, and 9 more sutras from the Saṃyukta Āgama. I’ve also re-edited MĀ 1-10 and all my current translations and drafts for SĀ 1 (41 sutras) for release on SuttaCentral.
The plan for April is to translate one short Dīrgha Āgama sutra per week while I edit the Ambāṣṭha Sutra (DĀ 20) and continue that pace of ~3 sutras a month. I’ll also go back and forth between the other three Āgamas, editing previously released translations and drafts for SuttaCentral.
New Dīrgha Āgama Translations
This mythological sutra picks up a scene from the Parinirvāṇa Sutra in which Ananda asks the Buddha to describe the fates of Buddhist followers of Magadha who had passed away, especially King Bimbisāra. After Ānanda asks about this, the Buddha has an encounter with a yakṣa spirit named Janavṛṣabha (P. Janavasabha) who tells the Buddha a number of stories about the goings-on in the heavens. Nestled in among the stories, he notes the rebirths of Magadha followers of the Buddha.
Comparing this version of the sutra with the Pali carefully yields a good case study of the way ancient stories varied from source to source, sharing most of the important parts but often putting them in the mouths of different characters or rearranging their order.
Despite the main character being named differently, this is a close parallel to the Kevaddha Sutta in the Dīgha Nikāya. The story follows the Pali rendition fairly closely, with most of the variations being minor details like names. One notable difference is that the monk who goes on a tour of the heavens looking for a god with knowledge of cessation is identified as the disciple Aśvajit (P. Assaji). The famous verses at the end are also a bit more straightforward.
Madhyama Āgama Translations
MĀ 8 Seven Suns (AN 7.66)
When I put my translations of MA 1-10 through a review and update, I also cleaned up a draft of MA 8 and released it, completing the first chapter of the Madhyama. Like the other sutras in the chapter, it’s parallel is found in AN 7 and centers around a parable about the impermanence of even things like oceans, mountains, and world. In it, the Buddha describes what happens when 1-7 suns arise in the world.
For science fiction fans out there, this sutra sounds very similar to the MMO game depicted in Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem, though there’s only three suns in that story.
Saṃyukta Āgama Translations
These two sutras present the argument that the five aggregates can be pleasurable and painful. Because they are pleasurable, sentient beings become attached to them, but because they are also painful, sentient beings become disillusioned with them.
These two sutras present some difficulties in translating them, mainly because of confusion about the meaning of words that appear to be shared between the Chinese and Pali sutras. While this is usually helpful, in this case it causes confusion because modern Pali dictionaries define the terms differently that older sources like these Chinese translations and Theravada commentaries. I posted a brief article about the translation issues.
This is one of the SĀ/SN sutras that defines the five aggregates in more specific terms.
In these two sutras, the Buddha says that new renunciates should focus on becoming disillusioned with the five aggregates in order become liberated from them.
These two sutras make the point that the problem of impermanence, i.e. the arising and ceasing of things, lies with the five aggregates, and it’s escaped by completely ceasing them.