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Of the four Nikāyas in Pali and the four Āgamas in Chinese, the numerical collections, i.e. the Aṅguttara Nikāya and the Ekottarika Āgama, are the most adaptable and considerate of individual needs according to ancient Indian/Chinese and modern American monks. Therefore, these two collections contain a considerable proportion of suttas/sūtras that are closely connected with the notion of compassion (karuṇā/anukampā). These two collections include many suttas addressed to Buddhists dealing with the ethical and spiritual concerns of life within the world, and thus involves the issues of merit (puñña). In this study I have illustrated the significant but often underestimated position of compassion with merit in early Buddhist doctrine. The soteriological function of compassion associated with merit is expounded in the early suttas/sūtras, particularly those in the Aṅguttara Nikāya and the Ekottarika Āgama. On the other hand, many discourses in these two collections reify great compassion by extending Buddhist concern from monastics to the laity, caring for all beings’ worldly welfare based on an ethical system of merit.



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