At last, after a very long time, you can read the Chinese Agama texts on SuttaCentral. In the past we linked to the texts on the CBETA site, but now you can stay within SuttaCentral, and especially, use our amazing Chinese>English lookup tool, which is available in the sidebar.
Given the vast number of texts involved there are bound to be some errors, so please help out by letting me know if you spot any.
If you have some knowledge of the suttas, and would like to start plunging into the Agama world, I suggest you begin with the Samyuktagama. This, like the Pali Samyutta, has mostly simple doctrinal suttas, which use mostly familiar phrases and expressions.
Start with the first suttas in the collection. You can see that we have translations for the first 34 suttas; these are by Ven Analayo, so they are very accurate. You can read the Chinese texts using the lookup tool alongside the translation. You’d be surprised how quickly things start to make sense! Once you’ve read these 34 suttas you’ll be well on your way to exploring independently.
With the inclusion of these texts, SuttaCentral now has almost all the extant early Buddhist texts. This is, to my knowledge, the first time that the vast majority of the Buddha’s words in their earliest form have been gathered in one place, in one coherent form.
However, we still have some missing pieces:
- A few Chinese texts are still missing. These are mostly later texts which include small segments that have been identified as parallels with the early texts. In most cases, it wouldn’t be worth it to add these vast texts for the sake of a few parallels, so for the foreseeable future they will remain as external links.
- Some Sanskrit texts are missing; these are texts that are either not yet published, or not available in digital form. If and when Sanskrit texts become available, we will add them.
- Tibetan early Buddhist texts. We are looking to add these in the next year.
Given the vast corpus of literature, and the uncertain boundaries of what an early text actually is, it will never be possible to clearly say that a collection of early Buddhist texts is complete. But we are getting pretty close.
In addition to the Chinese texts, we have in recent weeks added sutta translations in Indonesian and Spanish. We hope to greatly expand our coverage of translations in the coming year.
That we could get so far is due to the very hard work and countless hours that have been given by so many workers, many of them volunteers, who have made their work available for others to use. In this way the Buddha’s words continue to be a living force, adapting to new environments.
In particular, the Chinese texts we have added were all typed, formatted, and curated by the amazing CBETA project, mainly based at Dharma Drum Mountain in Taiwan. We have incredible gratitude for the wonderful folk at CBETA, who have created an incredibly careful, detailed digital edition of the vast corpus of Chinese Buddhist texts, and have made it available freely for all.
I hope that in the future people will take the texts on SuttaCentral and do new and amazing things with them, and that they make us out of date as soon as possible!