Early Buddhist Wisdom Literature: The “Book with Verses” (Sagāthāvagga) of the Saṃyutta nikāya

Eviatar Shulman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The Sagāthāvagga, the Book with Verses, and especially its third chapter, the Kosala-chapter (Kosala Saṃyutta), is presented here as a collection of early Buddhist wisdom literature. As the first book of the Pāli Saṃyutta-nikāya, the Book with Verses seems as an anomaly—the other four books contain some of the denser articulations of early Buddhist philosophy in the canon. Thus, scholars question whether the first book, which normally introduces verses with stories, is a real part of the collection. Scholars are also inclined to assume that the verses are the heart of the text and have shown less interest in the work’s compelling literary style. This article has three aims: First, it shows how the book, and most distinctly its third chapter, is a form of wisdom literature, with protagonist King Pasenadi of Kosala being comparable to wisdom-kings like King Solomon or Alexander the Great, and anticipating the classic Buddhist wisdom-king Aśoka. Second, it shows how this collection was designed for a performance by storytellers or preachers, suggesting that this is a feature of the Buddhist genre of prose that introduces verses. Third, it demonstrates the organic connection between the first book and the other books of the Saṃyutta.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1322
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the author.


  • Pāli Canon
  • Sagāthāvagga
  • Saṃyutta-nikāya
  • Tipiṭaka
  • early Buddhist literature
  • early Buddhist philosophy
  • wisdom literature


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