Following the launch of SuttaCentral, I’d like to do a series of blog posts to discuss various aspects of the site. I’ll be picking topics more or less at random, and posting them when I can. If there’s anything about the site you’d like to know more of, let me know.
For today, let’s look a little bit at one of the texts that is likely to be new, even to those who have some knowledge of the suttas. That is a text called the Upayika. You can access it straight from the front page of SuttaCentral: or at least you can access the bits that we have ready.
The Upayika is a collection of quotes from the early suttas that was gathered by a monk called Śamathadeva, who probably lived in India sometime after the 5th century. The full name is Abhidharmakośopāyikanāmaṭīkā, so you’ll appreciate that we use the abbreviated form! The Upayika is sort of like a reader’s assistent for the great work of Vasubandhu, the Abhidharmakośa. The Kośa frequently refers to suttas from the early Āgamas, but it assumes the reader knows them (or has access to them). So Śamathadeva took it upon himself to hunt down those references and compile them in one text.
The original was composed in Sanskrit, and includes texts from the Mūlasarvāstivādin school. The Sanskrit no longer exists, but it was translated into Tibetan by a monk called Jāyaśrī, probably around the 11th century. Even though the work as a whole is of late date, even a casual perusal of the texts reveals that it simply copies out the Āgama texts as is, and in doing so provides an invaluable source of many texts that are otherwise unknown, or known only in Chinese translations. It is one of the major sources of early Buddhist texts in the Tibetan canon.
Modern work on the text has been mainly by a Japanese scholar called Honjo. His work has been taken up and brought to the English speaking world by Samaneri Dhammadinna, formerly Giuliana Martini. She’s working at Dharma Drum mountain in Taiwan. She has published a number of articles, with excellent studies of the texts, as well as some translations. She is working on a more complete edition and translation of the text, and we look forward to continue working with her as this long-term project develops.
So far, we only have a few of the Upayika texts listed as parallels, and even fewer translations. Confident that the work is in good hands, we hope to extend our coverage of this important work in the not-too distant future. In the meantime, you can check out the translations that we have, and if you’re interested to learn more about this fascinating collection, the links to Samaneri Dhammadinna’s full essays on the texts are provided on the translation pages.