Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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The Samyutta Nikaya (Saṃyutta Nikāya SN, "Connected Discourses" or "Kindred Sayings") is a Buddhist scripture, the third of the five nikayas, or collections, in the Sutta Pitaka, which is one of the "three baskets" that compose the Pali Tipitaka of Theravada Buddhism. Because of the abbreviated way parts of the text are written, the total number of suttas is unclear. The editor of the Pali Text Society edition of the text made it 2889, Bodhi in his translation has 2904, while the commentaries give 7762. A study by Rupert Gethin gives the totals for the Burmese and Sinhalese editions as 2854 and 7656, respectively, and his own calculation as 6696; he also says the total in the Thai edition is unclear.
Bhikku Sujato, a contemporary scholar monk, argues that the remarkable congruence of the various recensions suggests that the Samyutta Nikaya/Saṃyukta Āgama was the only collection to be finalized in terms of both structure and content in the pre-sectarian period.
Are there reasons that can be cited for the variance above in the number of suttas?
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Probably depends on what to count as a sutta. Here are some quotations from VBB introduction to his SN translation:
In the old ola leaf manuscripts the suttas follow one another without a clean break, and the divisions between suttas have to be determined by certain symbolic markings.
In his commentaries to the Pali Canon, Acariya Buddhaghosa states that SN contains 7,762 suttas, but the text that has come down to us contains, on the system of reckoning used here, only 2,904 suttas. Due to minor differences in the method of distinguishing suttas, this figure differs slightly from the total of 2,889 counted by Leon Feer on the basis of his roman-script edition.
Table 1 shows how these figures are arrived at, with the divisions into Vaggas, samyuttas, and vaggas; the variant figures counted by Feer are given next to my own. The fact that our totals differ so markedly from that arrived at by Buddhaghosa should not cause alarm bells to ring at the thought that some 63% of the original Samyutta has been irretrievably lost since the time of the commentaries. For the Sāratthappakāsini, the SN commentary, itself provides us with a check on the contents of the collection at our disposal, and from this it is evident that there are no suttas commented on by Buddhaghosa that are missing from the Samyutta we currently possess. The difference in totals must certainly stem merely from different ways of expanding
the vaggas treated elliptically in the text, especially in Part V. However, even when the formulaic abridgements are expanded to the full, it is difficult to see how the commentator could arrive at so large a figure.
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