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2734 Tue 4 Sep 2018 LESSON (77) Tue 4 Sep 2007 Do Good Be Mindful - Awakened One with Awareness (AO TIPITAKA Memorizing the Tipitaka Experimental Journey into Tipitaka Memorization and Mnemonics Chronology Of The Pali Canon Kutadanta Sutta (Digha Nikaya) by Ven. Dhammavuddho Mahathera - Part A
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2734 Tue 4 Sep 2018 LESSON (77) Tue 4 Sep 2007

Do Good Be Mindful  -  Awakened One with Awareness (AO


Memorizing the Tipitaka

Experimental Journey into Tipitaka Memorization and Mnemonics

Chronology Of The Pali Canon

Kutadanta Sutta (Digha Nikaya) by Ven. Dhammavuddho Mahathera - Part A

Streamed live on Apr 30, 2015
(30-April-2015) Dhamma Talk By Tipitakadhara Tipitakakovida, Yesagyo Sayadaw
Streamed live on Apr 30, 2015
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Memorizing the Tipitaka

Experimental Journey into Tipitaka Memorization and Mnemonics

Tipitakadhara Examination in Burma

Yesterday I found this very interesting website, explaining details about the Tipitakadhara examination in Burma:

Among a list of the curriculum for memorizing the Tipitaka by heart, it says:

An argument may arise that
nowadays, with the Buddha’s words already inscribed on palm-leaf,
folding book, stone slab, ink print, books and even in CDs, the bearing
by heart of his words is unnecessary. The physical inscription and the mental impression at heart are not the same.
The former is useful only in presence of the user for it might vanish
anytime. There is no benefit whatsoever when the physical inscriptions
cannot be obtained at will.

However, impressions retained at heart of the
Buddha’s words benefit one whenever they are recollected, being helpful
at any time. Such a person is able to walk straight on the path of
Dhamma, while being helpful to his surroundings
. Output equals the input concerning the learning process to bring up Tipitakadhara.

When learning by heart the Pâli Texts, one personally “meets” with their possessor the Buddha,
bringing into oneself the infinite Attributes of him. In oneself the
adoration for and conviction in the Buddha grow overwhelmingly, leading
to the missionary inclination by way of prolonging the Buddhist spirit
and teaching the Path. Insight grows in one while learning the Pali
Texts in conjunction with the elaborative Commentaries and
Sub-commentaries. Brimful with the adoration for and appreciation of the
Buddha’s attributes, wisdom and perfections, one is never bound to
deviate from his teachings. With the consciousness at heart about the
benefit to oneself and fellow beings the victorious earner of
“Tipitakadhara, Tipitakakovida” will always be beautifying the world,
carrying the Banner of Victory in Dhamma.

Now, this is a very very tough examination.
The attempt is done to memorize the Tipitaka by heart. As you can
imagine, there are not many who are able to succeed:

In the long (59 years) story of Tipitakadhara Examination the candidates enlisted numbered 7103, the actual participants 5474, partially passed 1662, but only 11 have been awarded the Tipitakadhara Tipiíakakovida title. Among those outstanding theras 4
have passed away. The departed might now have attained the supreme
bliss, the Deathless, or being reborn in the celestial abodes, they
might be discoursing on Buddha Dhamma there. The remaining 3 Tipitakadharas probably will pass the written, interpretative examinations in near future and obtain the Tipiíakakovida,
thus ending their long and arduous journey of sitting for these
examinations. Again, some of the remaining candidates are indeed bearers
of one main division of Pitakas… One-Pitaka-passed candidates now number up to 114, two-Pitaka-passed 13 and 2½-Piíaka-passed 5.

These numbers are still amazing.

Just last week I had an interesting discussion
with a young monk from Sri Lanka who explained the drawback in
recording Dhamma talks. He said his teacher explained that they had seen
people being less attentive and concentrated when Dhamma talks where
recorded – it seemed to be almost an excuse to postpone the training.
From there we went to books, thinking that a book is something like
that, postponing you from memorizing the instructions of the Buddha.
“Maybe that is why”, reflected the young monk, “the Buddha had his monks
memorize his teachings – so that they would practice them more
immediate and directly”.

Width vs Depth

Just came across the following passage about the Burmese Tipitakadhara examination which tests monks for their memorization

the Tipitakadhara Examination is one of the longest and toughest
examinations in the world. When the first Tipitakadhara Examination was
held, the Venerable Mingun Sayādaw was one of over one hundred
monksinvited to observe the proceedings. When the result was a
disappointment with no candidate successful, he resolved to repay the
nation’s debt in search of a hero of the Pariyatti Sāsana. He set about
the task systematically. He took up the Pāli Canon passage by passage,
book by book. He first set out to understand the passage thinking in
Myanmar and in Pāli. He broke the passage into sentences, paragraphs or
sections according to the degree of difficulty. If necessary, he noted
the number of modifications and variations in the selected pieces. He
read aloud each section five times, then closing the book, he repeated
what he had just recited. If he was hesitant or felt he had not mastered
the passage he would open the book and read aloud five more times. If
it was recalled smoothly he would recite it ten times and then pass on
to the next passage. In the evenings when reciting the day’s passages he
would not do it alone but request some other monk to check with the
open book. This ensured that he did not pass over any word, phrase or
sentence and that each declension was correct.

two or three books had been mastered he would set aside each evening
two or three periods required for their recall and recitation. The
intention was to go through the finished books simultaneously so that
the mind would be active in all the books at the same time and all
interrelationships would be discerned

I wasn’t sure whether I would continue
learning each Dhammapada chapter individually (like I did with Chapter
13), but I eventually decided against it. Simultaneously cycling through
all chapters and adding 3 verses at a time forces me to go over the
entire Dhammapada all the time and strengthen the “story” structure of
each Dhammapada chapter.

Right now I am in the second cycle of adding 3
more verses (so 6 total) for each Dhammapada chapter (except chapter 13
which I finished completely).

The only benefit I can see with taking them
one chapter at a time is that you have more “finished” blocks you can
look back on. Still, it might be disheartening to see how many chapters
are still in front of you, while with my current method I have the
“feeling” I already “have” the Dhammapada memorized – just 3 verses
deep, and all I have to do is add “the few verses missing”
(psychologically speaking).

It is very interesting how these verses grow
on you. I wonder if and what impact this memorization process had on the
Burmese masters.

26 stories in 26 days

Done. Not with the entire Dhammapada, but the first milestone: to
learn 3 verses of each chapter. That is 26 chapters times 3 = 78
Dhammapada verses (in Pali) in 26 days. Not bad, considering the last
time I memorized something of this size was over 15 years ago.

Today too I would like to share some observations about this whole
process (memorizing Pali). As outlined in my earlier posts, I created
stories (strings of associations) which formed around the meaning of the
Dhammapada verses as well as peg words which help me to identify the
exact verse number and order of verses within chapters.

The following are “my” 26 short stories which evolved through trying
to pull peg words and meaning of the verses into extra-ordinary, funny,
interesting “tales”:

1.) does not have one…(sorry, I am sooo used to the first 3
verses…this will get a story eventually, when it gets more complicated.)
2.) a cow kneeing feeding on a pasture and meditating
3.) observing little mummies walking up a mountain with a volcanic lake
4.) a rower in a river of flowers
5.) a foolish thief stuck on a skyscraper
6.) a wise FBI detective caught in an underground prison
7.) a holy cow driving a bus
8.) a poisonous ivy’s fruits being stolen by Mike Tyson
9.) a deadly bee attacking a hot dog
10.) a sprint over living logs floating on the Danube
11.) diving into the dark ocean where a sunken village crumbles
12.) a small forsaken island with survivors fighting against a flower
13.) a river dam who decides to go on a hike after having a deja vu
14.) a pool of tar with the Buddha reaching out to pull people to the shore
15.) a happy dog whose tail looks like a cigar and who was rescued from lots of angry dogs
16.) a newsboy throwing dishes into people’s (which look like little nuts) drive ways
17.) the same angry bee digging a whole which almost makes a coach, pulled by a baby, break
18.) a dove, pale and yellow, which is close to death and decides to make its PhD but dies in a desert in New Mexico
19.) a very very wise talking bath tub
20.) a money seeking dog on the right path
21.) a net of nerves on which gigantic tarantulas chase Sindbad
22.) a nun giving a massage and a monk wearing the robes like a mask
23.) an elephant in a mensa following a naga serpent and walking over giant mint leaves
24.) emperor Nero travelling through time and hugging a creeper with leaves made of jam jars
25.) a bhikkhu sitting on a board of nails (meditating) while someone tries to disturb him with a lit matches
26.) a seemingly conceited brahmin who tries to cross over a stream quickly but loses against two friends in a moving truck

This will make it hard for anyone to forget. The necessity of having
to find associations between peg words (dove = 18) and the verse number
(animal = 235) and the topic (Mala = taint) and the verse itself (in
this case being close to death) lead to some VERY funny VERY creative

After about a week I realized that Mr Lorayne was absolutely right in
his book when I emphasized again and again that you have to visually
SEE your association – even if it is just for a brief moment. More than
once I was stuck and not able to repeat a particular line because I had
not created any visual imaging for that particular line. Now I have to
clarify: I did NOT create a visual image for each verse line in every
verse. Some of the verses went into memory like butter, they stuck right
away, they were very very easy to recollect, even after long time, but
others I had a really hard time with. Those which were hard, I realized I
needed to identify the crucial words, the key words, which would help
me pull the remainder of a line or phrase into memory – and then I would
create a picture around those key concepts/words in my mind.

This really helped. One of the problems I saw was that when a line
was very abstract I tried to dismiss it and “hope” that the memory of
the visual for the line before or after would do the trick and help me
later recall that particular verse line. Sometimes that actually does
work in many cases it did not. The solution to this problem was easy: I
had to do the “word substitution” trick and find a similar sounding more
visual idea in another language I was familiar with and turn that into
the theme for the particular verse. To give you an example: In
Dhammapada verse Mummel (335) the first line has the Pali word “jammi”
which I was not used to and which was hard to recall. So I would turn
that into “jam” and imagine Nero (chapter 24 = Tanha, or Craving) as
part monkey (from the first verse in this chapter) who cuddles (German:
mummel) with a creeper on which jars of jam grow (jammi). As you can
see, this visual is LOADED with meaning. Now it is not so much a problem
of not forgetting this weird story – but rather a question of decoding
it properly!

In most cases I tried to transform or direct my association according
to the general idea behind the verse. The verse ideas therefore were
like the script into which I had to creatively force the peg words
through means of associations and substitute words.

One word regarding the amount of repetitions. Overall I maybe
repeated each of these 98 verses 5-10 times. Not at the same time but
within the last 3 weeks. The power of these visual images allows for a
much more relaxed approach to repetition cycles. In fact when learning a
verse one evening sometimes a whole day would pass before I was able to
repeat the same verse again and was always surprised with how less of
an effort it was able to recall the correct verse. At that point it adds
to your confidence and the next repetition can take place after an even
greater interval. It is clear that if you casually bring these stories
to your mind eventually the whole picture/visual gets clearer (that is
something else I found very important to work on: trying to make the
visual story more and more crisp through each repetition) and will
become part of long term memory.

It is a strangely positive feeling to see the mind WANTING to learn
yet another verse after already loading it up with 3 verses within a
short period of time and having almost no difficulty in going up and
down, word by word, over the text thus committed to memory.

Even more important and interesting are of course the results these
verses have on your Dhamma life. I found them to be like a voice of the
Buddha talking to me. For instance the other day I left a place were I
listened to two people talk – in a very unrestrained way – and sometimes
something which is meant in a funny way can hurt other people. Driving
back home the Bhikkhu Vagga verse shot into my memory, all by itself –
“kayena samvaro sadhu, sadhu vacaya samvaro” and I felt a much deeper
appreciation for the meaning and relevance of what these words had to
say. It was also interesting to note once again, as mentioned in the
last post, to see how the stream of sankharas started to change my
perception on certain things trough the re-evaluation in the light of
the Buddha’s words of wisdom. Here another one: yo ce gatha satam bhase,
anatthapadasamhita – eka gathapadam seyyo, yam sutva upasammati – the
word upasammati expresses a beautiful idea: that the ultimate purpose of
words should be the end of words – the silence of the mind! what a
contrast to the gossipy internet-faring mind 

Enough for today. If someone likes to get a detailed explanation of
how the above 26 short stories encode Dhammapada verses I am happy to
share. Don’t worry if all of this makes absolutely no sense to you

The singing roach

Today marks the end of nearly 2 weeks of memorization efforts with
the Dhammapada using mnemonic principles to speed up the process of
memorization and to make sure that I would not forget what I learned.

After I had finished learning the names of the chapters of the
Dhammapada by heart and after finishing the first verse of each chapter
last week, I had to think how to continue mapping out the Dhammapada

I decided to continue with the “top down” approach and started
learning two more verses in each chapter. This way, so my reflection, I
would be able to work on all chapters in parallel. This would give me
the feeling that I was quickly progressing on the entire Dhammapada –
rather than feeling “stuck” in the very beginning.

Right at this moment, today, I finished the 2nd and 3rd verse of
chapter 17, Kodha-vagga. That means of chapters 1-17 I now know 3 verses
by heart and of the remaining 9 chapters one verse each.

Over the past few days as this little self-study took on shape, I was
wondering quite often how this engaged activity of learning Pali verses
by heart would affect me and my meditation practice. I was sure it
would, but I was wondering how and if I’d notice it at all.

Then, one day, I suddenly saw at least one side effect: In the
morning I overheard a conversation and later that day my mind came back
to it. While thinking about it a Dhammapada verse manifested itself in
my mind – obviously pulled in through the association of what had been
the subject of my investigation and the meaning which the verse
captured. It was interesting to see, how the observation about something
very mundane turned into a deeper reflection after my mind connected
both the experience with the word of the Buddha. It became clear to me,
that if this would happen more often and quite naturally, the
interpretation of certain experience must change over time. I guess
there is nothing mysterious about this observation, in fact we do that
everyday – however in a more uncontrolled fashion impacted by greed,
hatred and delusion.

To give you a practical example: In a discussion the question came up
how to respond to a person who had gone behind the back of his team
members and broke a promise he had given before. Immediately the
following Dhammapada verse sprang to my mind and was showing a possible
way of action which seemed very enlightened:

Akodhena jine kodham, asadhum sadhuna jine

Jine kaddariyam danena, saccenalikavadinam

Dhp 223

Through non-anger defeat the angry one, through goodness defeat the bad;

Defeat the miser through giving and the liar through speaking the truth.

To show you how the linking of a story continues to work excellent in
my efforts to learn the Dhammapada by heart based on mnemonic
principles, I would like to continue my “picture story” of the Puppha or
Flower chapter (No. 4) in the Dhammapada.

You will probably NOT understand why the following makes such an
amazing difference if you never experienced linking associations
consciously or never employed a peg system to memorize number. Anyhow,
here is the puppha vagga story which helps me remember the 3 beginning
verses (so far) of the puppha vagga:

The puppha vagga is chapter number four in the Dhammapada, because four in the Major System (which unambiguously maps Phonemes against numbers) stands for “Ra”
(a peg word with just one sound in it, namely “r” and thus can only
refer to one number and that is 4) – and in my mind I imagine the
Egyptian sun god Ra to walk through a field of flowers in which only his
head his visible.

Now, out of that first picture I imagine that there is a rower  (verse no. 44) in a boat traveling on that ocean of flowers.

Ko imam pathavim vicessati, yamalokanca imam sadevakam

Ko dhammapadam sudesitam, kusalo pupphamiva pacessati.

In my mind my mental “camera” then moves to the “shore” of this “river of flowers” where I see someone standing on the rail (verse no. 45) who listened to what the guy in the boat just said and replies:

Sekho pathavim imam vicessati, yamalokanca imam sadevakam

Sekho dhammapadam sudesitam, kusalo pupphamiva pacessati.

Finally, my “mental camera” moves back to the person in the boat, but now I see a little roach 
(verse no. 46) standing in front of the boat singing the following
lines (In order to not forget any of the lines of this verse which is a
bit harder for me to remember, I mapped each line of the verse into the
story – sometimes I do that, sometimes I don’t. But so far I found that I
HAVE to do this, if I come across a verse which not readily stays in
memory. It is paramount to not losing the context and flow and having
something to connect my associations):

So the roach starts to sing:

Phenupamam kayam imam viditva

“(Having seen this body as a lump of foam” – at which point the roach points to a lump of foam in the river.

Maricidhammam abhisambudhano

“Having awoken to the fact that (it) is of the nature of a mirage” –
at which point in the song I see the roach flicker as if it itself is
just a mirage

Chetvana marassa papupphakani

“Having broken Maras poisenous arrows” – here I see the roach
fighting arrows off which are shot at him from all sides with his tiny

Adassanam maccurajassa gaccha

“May walk unseen by the king of death” – and finally the little roach walks over the water and suddenly disappears.

You can understand, that if someone would ask you, “do
you know Dhammapada verse 46” – that it would make you smile  before
you even give the answer, which I am sure, would be correct.

And if, for instance, you ask me what the verse 78 in the Dhammapada
would be I first map the number back to a work and arrive at  cave 
and thus immediately know the association of the cave with a person who
is hiding behind paper-boards (Pappe) and someone tells him not to hide
behind the small boards but rather the large ones which triggers my
memory of the following Dhammapada verse:

Na bhaje papake mitte

Na bhaje purisadhame

Bhajetha mitte kalyane

Bhajetha purisuttame

One might think that this is complicated, but in fact, it is an
amazingly simple trick to remember ad-hoc a verse deep in the middle of a
book while at the same time being able to retrieve the verse number
through an unambiguous visual/mental encoding schemata where the picture
of a cave can only stand for the number 78.

First (real) target: The Dhammapada

After the initial testing of Pali, Mnemonics and Harry Lorayne’s
tips I waited one full week to see how long those stories would stay in
my long term memory and how often I would have to recall them in order
to make them easily accessible. Mnemonic techniques were working their
magic and even though my habits from pure rote learning made me “feel”
like I had to recall the learned subject over and over again, I was
always amazed how perfectly the story sat in my memory and how easy it
was to access the lists.

During that week I did some research on my next object for
memorization. First I was undecided between the Parayana vagga of the
Sutta Nipata and the Dhammapada. Obviously the Dhammapada was quite a
big undertaking (423 verses) but of course I had my hopes up that my
teenage memorization of it would help me and make it easier to “refresh”
and then better organize it using the nearly learned tools of

The Parayana vagga is another long term friend of mine, a chapter
capturing some of the most in-depth ideas of Buddhist philosophy and
meditation and I had tried earlier, 10 years ago, to learn some of it by
heart, but never made it beyond the 4th or 5th sutta (of 16).

I finally decided to go for the Dhammapada. I was curious to see if
it was true what many memory “acrobats” said that “you never forget you
just can’t find it” and I also decided to test this whole mnemonics
meets Tipitaka idea on an actual book of the Tipitaka. It was curious to
me whether another top to bottom approach would work in first mapping
out the book structure and then filling it with life.

So the first thing I had to do was to learn the 26 books of the
Dhammapada by heart. Now this did not seem to be such a big jump
anymore, based on my previous experience with the books of the Tipitaka,
but I faced one problem, which I had to solve, because it would even
get bigger the further I came: direct access

Let’s say someone would ask me to chant the 16th chapter of the
Dhammapada…how would I know which one was the 16th? Would I want to
count the chapter names, walking through a simple associated list of
visuals? Or, let’s say I would remember a verse in a given situation,
and wanted to share it with others or just lookup translations myself,
how would I know how to locate that particular passage?

It was clear that my next endeavor needed the application of the
Major system or a similar peg system which I had just started to use
based on Harry Lorayne’s instructions.

So I started to learn the chapter names of the Dhammapada by heart
identifying each chapter (for instance toes (10) with Danda and nail(25)
with Bhikkhu) when I realized that the number pegs were going to be
needed in many other books/contexts (if I were to continue this project
of mine) and so I needed something else to make these pegs and their
names relate to the Dhammapada. For that purpose (quite naturally) I
lined up the chapter names on a hiking path which I knew very well and
added a touch of  the loci system to make these particular items belong
to the visual representation of the Dhammapada which I was about to fill
with details.

Following the top-bottom approach I started with the first verse in
each of the 26 chapters. My encoding seemed to be a challenging task:

  • At the point in the path where I would identify the chapter of the Dhammapada with a peg and an association
  • I took a sideturn and imagined the peg for the verse-number becoming
    part of the overall chapter heading and turning into the first eposide
    of the initial verse in each chapter.

Let me give you an example at this point to make it sound less theoretical:

The number 4 in the Major system is represented by the letter “r” (think: four). My peg for this letter is the word “Ra” – and I visualize the Egyptian sun god.

Now the fourth chapter in the Dhammapada is the “puppha” or flower chapter (my luck, I don’t have to look this up anymore

So in my mind I visualized the Egyptian sun god walking through a
field of flowers, where only his head sticks out of this ocean of

The verse number of the initial verse in this “Flower chapter” is 44.
A 44 is represented by the letters (rr) and the peg word according to
Lorayne’s list in his “The Memory Book” is “rower” (r-owe-r). You need
to really understand the idea behind the Major System in order to
realize why that is such a cool system and makes it extremely easy to
remember numbers.

What I had to do next was to somehow visualize a “rower” and
“flowers”. This I did, in that I “saw” the rower in his boat row on top
of the ocean of flowers as if he was on water.

Now came the final and tricky part. The four line verse itself. The verse goes like this:

“Ko imam pathavim vicessati, yamalokam imam sadevakam. Ko dhammapadam sudesitam, kusalo pupphamiva pacessati?”

As you may have guessed, this too came from memory. What was to be
done? I imagined how the rower would look left and right towards the
“banks”  of the flower-river wondering about the meaning of the verse.
Here at this point I saw how it helped that I had learned the verses 15
years ago – it was very easy to memorize them, they felt extremely
familiar. The most important fact was that I needed triggers to find the
key words to the verses encoded in my story – something which I
initially did not realize as much as later on.

Within 3 hours I was able to fill the grid of 23 beginning verses of
each chapter (out of 26 chapters) and finished that day with amazed at
how interesting it was to learn the Dhammapada this way. It seemed
almost effortlessly compared to the pains of rote memorization and I
caught myself wondering quite often that it was impossible to still
remember so many verses after just “loading them up” in such a short
time, but still, the little stories which kept the verses tight closely
to the topic of the chapter and tagged by the verse number pegs brought
back all of them. The next day I finished the full list of 26 verses –
the first one of each chapter – and I knew for the next weekend I was
ready to try something more challenging.

Dealing with the length of the Smaller Collection

Fired up by the ability to recall the list of the seven Abhidhamma
books backwards and forwards using the little mnemonic pocket trick of
creating a linked association list, I decided to devote my intention
that same evening towards the last challenge (or so I thought) –
memorizing all the books in the Khuddaka Nikaya (Smaller Collection of
the Sutta Pitaka) and memorize them in order.

For I could (with enough time) probably had listed most of the books
in the Khuddaka Nikaya (as the Sutta Pitaka was always my main area of
interest) it still was intriguing to see if I was able to build an
extended list of strange Pali names into an unforgettable association.
You might guess the answer – of course it is. Here is what I came up

It all starts out with a small (Khuddaka, for Khuddakapatha the first book) really microscopic book which I can identify as a Dhammapada using a magnifier. That Dhammapada has a mouth and can talk and it shouts (Udana, actually means proclaim): “This is what the Buddha has said (Iti vutta, for Itivuttaka)” and it points to the Sutta-Nipata. Right at that moment, flying (Vimanavatthu) on two open books arrive hungry ghosts (Petavatthu). In the distance encircling me I see a semi circle of the most noble Arahants sitting and chanting (Thera– and Therigatha) while behind them in space (and time) even less known Theras and Theris (Thera/TheriApadana) are sitting. I try to look even further back in time and see the former Buddhas (Buddhavamsa) and their examplary behavior (Cariyapitaka) and further down the timeline I see the Jatakas.
Then, the “mental camera” returns to the topic of the Sutta-Nipata
which was just “proclaimed” by the tiny Dhammapada and I see two
elephants, a large and a baby one (Mahaniddesa and Culaniddesa) carrying the meaning (niddesa) of the Suttanipata side by side towards a crossroads (Patisambhiddamagga). There they are being led (Nettipakarana) by a little walking basket (Petakopadesa) towards the goal of their journey, the Milindapanha).

You can imagine that the above story lives from the fact that Pali
words and meaning do make sense to me and so become natural part of the
story telling or settings. However, later I found that it helped
tremendously when I was able to find a substitute word (similar
sounding) to the Pali and capture the substitutes meaning making it part
of the (Pali) story I try to remember. More on that next.

Linking the Abhidhamma

So I looked at the books in the Abhidhamma and thought – wow, how
can I possibly create a story out of these names. I knew that if I was
going to use more mnemonics for a larger part of my efforts in
memorizing parts of the Tipitaka, that this would be the first real
world test: Can these mnemonic tools actually work on something like a
“foreign language” (my efforts where directed in learning the Tipitaka
in Pali) and secondly on something so different than from what the
mnemonic tools seemed to be used for.

Here is the list and it took me about 20 minutes this time to come up with a story:

  • Dhammasangani,
  • Vibhanga,
  • Dhatukatha,
  • Puggalapannyatti,
  • Kathavatthu,
  • Yamaka,
  • Patthana.

I am pretty sure you know by now that these 7 names came from my
memory. I did not have to look them up. They are burned into my head –
all just because of the silly story I connected them with and as long as
I don’t forget that story, I won’t forget those seven names. Here is
the story (and if, for whatever exciting reason, you ever want to learn
them by heart, you probably have to come up with your own story, which
might come more natural to you).

So what I imagined was several books with heads, arms and heads,
sitting around a table playing cards. Now “sangani” in Pali can mean
“count together” and I imagined that one of these venerable card-playing
Abhidhamma books was “counting the Dhamma coins” together, amassing
them in one big heap in the middle of the table. Then another talking
book, the Vibhanga started dividing (vibhanga in Pali) the heap of money
into three equal amounts. Suddenly the Dhatukatha book, one of the
players shouted “let’s do something (here I use German where “Da-tu”
reminded me of “there do” something) with the money. So the books hand
the money over to one of the players who is also a book but has dozens
of heads sticking out of it. That is the puggala-pannyatti (puggala
means person and I think of all the persons that book represents with
its multiple heads). The puggala-pannyatti takes the Dhamma chips and
starts walking towards the Kathavatthu with whom it wants to start a
conversation (katha in Pali) what to best do with the money when all of a
sudden the God of shadows (Yama) shows up hovering about him and
scolding him about playing cards. Yama (reminds me of the Yamaka) points
to the ground and the poor Puggala-Pannyatti realizes that it only
stands (Patthana) on a small remaining piece of rock while the earth
around it is crumbling and falling into Lava – it does not look good for
the gamblers…

This story fulfilled several mnemonic criteria which helped me make
it unforgettable: I use unlikely events, unlikely weird objects and
strange situations but still manage to weave them into a story. If you
think that there is too much pathos and too many cartoonish elements in
it – you are right. That is exactly what makes it work. At that point I
discovered another interesting fact: It was actually quite easy to come
up with weird associations because I was able to use multiple languages
and Western-Eastern (sometimes contradicting) symbols and tie them into a
story. That weird combination challenged my visualization and interest
and made it even more likely to remember the list.

Enter the Structure

Eventually it dawned on me that what I needed to do first was to
get a proper structure of the terrain into my mind. Something like a
map, a “mind-map” of the Tipitaka. The idea was not to start in the
first book, first sentence (like a bottom up approach) but to start out
with the structure of the Tipitaka, the sceleton. Then, from that point
onwards I would “flesh out” the different books, chapters,
verses/passages I would want to keep in memory and build a “tree of

So one weekend I decided to start very simple and just learn the book names of the Tipitaka by heart.

Now, a short glance at any content listing of the Tipitaka will tell
you that this is not a too hard thing todo, especially if you just read
“The Memory Book” and had lots  of training in linking items.

Now the linking of items works in such a way that you try to connect
the things you want to learn (in this case “names of books”) and weave
them into funny mental stories. Now these stories will be different for
each person as things which help me remember for instance the
“Parajikavagga” of the Vinaya will mean nothing to you. Still, let me
show you how I started and you will get the idea:

The books of the Vinaya are:

Parajikavagga, Pacittiyavagga, Mahavagga, Culavagga, Parivara.

One might say, this is such an easy list, I don’t need any fancy
technique to learn them. That is true. For this list, but then again,
how can you make sure that in 40 years from now your chances of
remembering this list are as high as possible? The trick that Mnemonics
teaches you let me to create a funny little story in my mind – and the
importing thing is to really really visualize each item (even if just
for a second) in such a way that they remind you of the item.

So I started with “Parajika” and turned that (after 10 minutes of
thinking what this could be pictured as) into an “Indian king who sat on
a throne always saying pa-pa-pa” (stuttering raja) – which of course
reminds me then of “Pa-raj-(ika)”. Suddenly a “pa-cheetah” (Pacittiya)
jumps from behind a curtain towards the king. The king sees the cheetah
and jumps out of a window where he lands on a huge elephant (maha,
meaning big in Pali) floating in the air next to a liliput elephant
(cula). Both of them are surrounded (encircled) by a band of golden
light (pari-vara, can mean circumference).

And that’s it. It’s a silly funny little story but captures all the 5 books for the Vinaya (for me).

Then I thought. Well, that was easy, I can sure do the same with the
Abhidhamma. Even though I had a pretty good knowledge of the makeup of
the Sutta and roughly of the Vinaya I always struggled with the
Abhidhamma books. This was going to be the first real challenge.

How the journey began

Yaññadeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhu bahulamanuvitakketi anuvicāreti, tathā tathā nati hoti cetaso

Majjhima Nikaya

satthā dhammaṃ deseti, aññataro vā garuṭṭhāniyo sabrahmacārī, api ca
kho yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ vitthārena paresaṃ deseti. Yathā
yathā, bhikkhave, bhikkhu yathāsutaṃ yathāpariyattaṃ dhammaṃ vitthārena
paresaṃ deseti tathā tathā so tasmiṃ dhamme atthapaṭisaṃvedī ca hoti
dhammapaṭisaṃvedī ca. Tassa atthapaṭisaṃvedino dhammapaṭisaṃvedino
pāmojjaṃ jāyati. Pamuditassa pīti jāyati. Pītimanassa kāyo passambhati.
Passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vedeti. Sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati. Idaṃ,
bhikkhave, dutiyaṃ vimuttāyatanaṃ yattha bhikkhuno appamattassa ātāpino
pahitattassa viharato avimuttaṃ vā cittaṃ vimuccati, aparikkhīṇā vā
āsavā parikkhayaṃ gacchanti, ananuppattaṃ vā anuttaraṃ yogakkhemaṃ

Anguttara Nikaya

You are absentminded when your mind is absent; when you perform
actions unconsciously, without thinking…we see with our eyes, but we
observe with our minds. If your mind is “absent” when performing an
action, there can be no observation; more important, there can be no
Original Awareness…The solution to the problem of absentmindedness is
both simple and obvious: All you have to do is to be sure to think of
what you are doing during the moment in which you are doing it…There’s
only one way, and that is by using association. Since association forces
Original Awareness-and since being Originally Aware is the same as
having something register in your mind in the first place, at the moment
it occurs-then forming an instant association must solve the problem of

“The Memory Book”

Chances are that if you are an ardent reader of the Sutta Pitaka the
thought of learning the word of the Buddha by heart comes  quite
natural. For centuries Buddhist lay people and monks transferred the
knowledge and word of the Awakened One and his teaching through space
and time by no other means than their memory.

The other day I was listening to a series of Dhamma talks, at a
retreat event, and this very inspiring young bhikkhu, whose modesty
prevents me from even mentioning is name, mentioned the following idea a
couple of times: “What are we, if not a collection of our memories.”
(He did not mean this in the more philosophical sense, but rather
worldly context) and he finished “how much would our lives change, if
our perceptions, triggered by memories of the words of the Awakened One
change, would be different ones…filled with more enlightened thoughts”.
This particular monk’s tradition put a lot of effort in making
contemplation on the word of the Buddha a subject for their meditation
and made me look back at my beginning years as a Buddhist.

For when I was a young teenager, first getting in touch with the
magic word of the Buddha, I was so fascinated by it (including the
stories of those Arahants who all did know the Dhamma by heart – not
just in realization but also verbatim from the lips of the Buddha) that I
undertook the strange project to memorize the Dhammapada by heart. I
was 16 when I started, with nothing more equipped than Ven.
Nyanatiloka’s translation and my simple rote memorization efforts.

In fact it was Kurt Schmidt’s Pali primer, who first got me into
learning Pali by heart. In his small booklet,which was my first
introduction to Pali, right from the start, he encourages the student to
consolidate his miniscule Pali knowledge in each chapter by memorizing a
few stanzas. From there I went on learning the 3 famous suttas, many
months later and under lots of effort, because they simply were chanted
worldwide in all Theravada circles and I thought it would be “nice” to
know at least those texts by heart – if the monk was able to chant them
by heart, why not me?

And then, a year later, it was the Dhammapada which I entered into.
It was a slow, ardous task. Every morning, I would learn a verse, repeat
it. Look it up. Repeat it, look it up, repeat it, look it up – over and
over again. Probably for half an hour before going to school. Then the
next day, I would check if I still remembered the last one, and if,
would move to the next. At the end repeating both… When I felt that a
verse was stuck in memory, I skipped repeating it.

That way, in the most ordinary and innocent school-poem-memorization
way, I proceeded over the length of 1.5 years and made it up to the 23rd
(of 26 chapters). But even then wholes had formed in my memory of the
Dhammapada and it seemed like sisyphos work to be able to keep all of it
accessible and alive.

This was years before the internet become mainstream, and so Tony
Buzan – memorization tricks and mnemonics were unknown unknowns to me.
(I think, when it came to memorizing, it did not even occur to me that
there might be better ways of doing it than, well, memorizing).

This was over 15 years ago.

When the monk’s Dhamma talk inspired me to look back into the
possible benefits of learning some of the teachings of the Buddha
verbatim I thought of it as an interesting self-experiment. It was
intriguing to find out how the exercise of learning and carrying the
Buddha’s word as an act of meditative attention would benefit me. But I
knew – this time – I was going to go about it in a more scientific

During the years I had read some of Tony Buzan’s books and at
University got familiar with the various systems of association, link
building etc. But for whatever reason, it never really hit me and became
part of my habits. Something which I regretted – very much like the
fact that of the Dhammapada memorization efforts only 2-4 verses were
left in my memory. Or so I thought.

The first thing an internet user in the year 2011 does if he wants to
venture into a new area of learning is of course to google the subject
untiringly. That’s what I did. For about a week I was skimming online
websites about Tony Buzan (that’s where I started out) and various
systems for memorization – I knew their theory, but they did not mean
anything to me at that time other than academic theories – only used by
weird people in weird public memorization appearances.

Then I came across Josh Foers book “Moonwalking with Einstein”. I
knew it was not a book on the art of mnemonics, which I was actually
looking for, as I still had no clue has how to connect mnemonics of the
21st century with the task of memorizing the Tipitaka – but that was
actually what I intended to do – or at least attempt.

Josh’s book was a great motivational source. In a very accessible way
he showcases his own personal journey into mnemonic techniques and
during the process describes the subcultur of mnemonics as a sport of
competition. Among the many interesting people and experiences he
relates there was the one I kept coming back: A Chinese Dr who had
memorized the entire Oxford English dictionary, some 50,000 words. In an
online video on youtube he explains how he did it. And that really
helped me in my pursuit of finding a way to “handle” the Tipitaka or, on
a smaller scale, at least the memorization of a page, a chapter or a
book in verbatim.

Because, the unfortunate fact remained that even while I was
devouring Josh’s book, the online google search for learning books
verbatim where very limited. In fact most resources deal with the Quran,
which is learnt just by rote repetition and a few Christian pages which
don’t do much differently – sometimes provide an additional repetition
plan a la flashcards.

But I was looking for something else.

It dawned on me, that the first thing I had to do, was to update my
knowledge on the basic memorization techniques as described by Josh and
as I had studied long time ago from Buzan, but which were long forgotten
– well, I knew them, but then again, I wanted some kind of proper
guidance in refreshing my knowledge about them.

So I went to Amazon and looked at the reviews and ordered the book
“The memory book” from Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas. Now, this book
looked very old (in fact it was from the 80s) but the cover mentioned
that over 2 Mio copies were in print (in the newest edition). I can
believe that now. There is something about it which taught me more on
memorization than all the Tony Buzan books together which I ever read –
and that might not actually be Buzan’s fault but my own inadequacy in
“getting it” in those days or from him.

After the first few chapters in which Harry Lorayne explains the
basic principles of making things memorable and linking items together I
was astonished (once again) how good this mnemonic stuff worked and
disappointed at myself not having found this the day I was born.

Still 2 weeks passed, while I was studying “The memory book” while I
was thinking and thinking how to best apply such a system to the
verbatim memorization of longer passages, especially with the intention
to recall them at will. More in my next post.

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Appendixes Masthead

Chronology Of The Pali Canon

Dr. Bimala Churn Law, Ph.D., M.A., B.L.B. C. Law.
History of Pali Literature. 2 vols.
London, Kegan Paul

[Believed to be in the Public Domain — inquiry submitted without response to several likely sources.
Please note that this copy is an edited version of what appears to have
been a scanned pre-publication release of this chapter [found at: but
apparently no longer available there]. I have corrected numerous
mis-scannings, but there remain a few places where words and even
perhaps whole sentences have been left out. Additionally there is
considerable inconsistancy in capitalization of the various texts.
This work also suffers from very long paragraphs and a highly convoluted
writing style (reminiscent of my own) but the information provided
rewards a patient reading.]

Rhys Davids in his Buddhist India (pg188) has given a chronological table of Buddhist literature from the time of the Buddha to the time of Asoka which is as follows:–

1. The simple statements of Buddhist doctrine now found, in identical words, in paragraphs or verses recurring in all the books.
2. Episodes found, in identical words, in two or more of the existing books.
3. The Silas, the Parayana, the Octades, the Patimokkha.
4. The Digha, Majjhima, Anguttara, and Samyutta Nikayas.
5. The Sutta-Nipata, the Thera-and Theri-Gathas, the Udanas, and the Khuddaka Patha.
6. The Sutta Vibhanga, and Khandhkas.
7. The Jatakas and the Dhammapadas.
8. The Niddesa, the Itivuttakas and the Patisambbhida.
9. The Peta and Vimana-Vatthus, the Apadana, the Cariya-Pitaka, and the Buddha-Vamsa.
10. The Abhidhamma books; the last of which is the Katha-Vatthu, and the earliest probably the Puggala-Pannatti.

This chronological table of early Buddhist literature is too
catechetical, too cut and dried, and too general to be accepted in spite
of its suggestiveness as a sure guide to determination of the
chronology of the Pali canonical texts. The Octades and the Patimokkha
are mentioned by Rhys Davids as literary compilations representing the
third stage in the order of chronology. The Pali title corresponding to
his Octades is Atthakavagga, the Book of Eights. The Book of Eights, as
we have it in the Mahaniddesa or in the fourth book of the Suttanipata,
is composed of sixteen poetical discourses, only four of which, namely,
(1) Guhatthaka, (2) Dutthatthaka. (3) Suddhatthaka and (4) Paramatthaka
share the common title of Atthaka and consist each of eight stanzas.
That is to say, the four only out of the sixteen poems fulfil the
definition of an Atthaka or octade, while none of the remaining poems
consists, as it ought to, of eight stanzas. The present Atthakavagga
composed of sixteen poems may be safely placed anterior to both the
Mahaniddesa and Suttanipata. But before cataloguing it as a compilation
prior to the four Nikayas and the Vinaya texts, it is necessary to
ascertain whether the Atthakavagga presupposed by the four Nikayas was a
book of four poems bearing each the title of Atthaka and consisting
each of eight stanzas or it was even in its original form an anthology
of sixteen poems. Similarly in placing the Patimokkha in the same
category with the Silas and Parayanas it would be important to enquire
whether the Patimokkha as bare code of monastic rules was then in
existence or not, and even if it were then in existence, whether it
contained in its original form 227 rules or less than this number. There
are clear passages in the Anguttara Nikaya to indicate that the earlier
code was composed of one and half hundred rules or little more
(sadhikam diyaddhasikkhapadasatam, AN., Vol. II, p.232). As Budddhaghosa
explains the pali expression, “Sadhikam diyaddhasikkhapadasatain”, it
means just 150 rules. According to a more reasonable interpertation the
number implied in the expression must be taken more than 150 and less
than 200. If the earlier code presupposed by the Anguttara passages was
composed of rules near about 150 and even not 200, it may be pertinently
asked if the Patimokkha, as we now have it, was the very code that had
existed prior to the Anguttara Nikaya. Our doubt as to the antiquity of
the Patimokkha as a bare code of rules is intensified by the tradition
recorded by Buddhaghosa in the Introduction to his Sumangalavilasini,
(pt. I.,p. 17) that the two codes of Patimokkha were to be counted among
the books that were not rehearsed in the First Buddhist Council.

The putting of the first four Nikatyas under head No.4 with the
implication that these were anterior to the Suttanipata and the
remaining books of the Pali canon are no less open to dispute. With
regard to the Digha Nikaya it has been directly pointed out by
Buddhaghosa that the concluding verses of the Mahaparinibbana Suttanta
relating to the redisribution of Buddha’s bodily remains were originally
composed by the rehearsers of the Third Buddhist Council and added
later on by the Buddhist teachers of Ceylon. A material objection to
putting the Digha and the Anguttara Nikayas in the same category is that
in the Digha Nikaya the story of Mahagovinda (Digha, II., pp.220 foll.)
has assumed the earlier forms of Jatakas characterised by the
concluding identification of Buddha, the narrator of the story, with its
hero, while in the Anguttara Nikaya the story is a simple chronicle of
seven purohitas without the identification. The four Nikayas are
interspersed with a number of legendary materials of the life of the
Buddha which appear at once to be inventions of a later age when the
Buddha came to be regarded and worshipped as a superhuman personality.[1]
Our case is that without discriminating the different strata of
literary accretion it will be dangerous to relegate all the four Nikayas
to the early stage of the Pali canon.

The Suttainpata figures promniently in the fifth order of the
chronology suggested by Rhys Davids. Without disputing that there are
numerous instances of archaism in the individual suttas or stanzas
composing this anthology, we have sufficient reasons to doubt that the
anthology as a whole was at all anterior to the Niddesa which heads the
list of the Pali Canonical texts representing the eighth order. By the
Niddesa we are to understand two separate exegetical works counted among
the books of the Khuddaka-Nikaya, (l) the Mahaniddesa being a
philological commentary on the poems of the Atthakavagga (forming the
fourth book of the Sutta-Nipata) and (2) the Cullaniddesa being a
similar commentary on the poems of the Parayanavagga (forming the fifth
or the last book of the Sutta-Nipata). The two questions calling for an
answer in this connection are (vide B. M. Barua’s Atthakavagga and
Parayanavagga as two independent Buddhist anthologies — Proceedings and
Transactions of the Fourth Oriental Conference, Allahabad, 1928, pp.
211-219) (1) was the Mahaniddesa composed, being intended as a commetary
on the Atthakavagga, the fourth book of the Sutta-Nipata or on the
Atthakavagga, then known to the Buddhist Community as a distinct
anthology? and (2) was the Cullaniddesa composed, being intended as a
commentary on the Parayanavagga, the fifth book of the Sutta Nipata or
on the Parayanavagga then known to the Buddhist community as a distinct
collection of poems? With regard to the second question it may be
pointed out that the poems of the Parayana group, as these are found in
the Sutta-Nipata, are Prologued by 56 Vattugathas, while the
Cullaniddesa is found without these introductory stanzas. The inference
as to the exclusion is based upon the fact that in the body of the
Cullaniddesa, there is nowhere any gloss on any of the introductory
stanzas. We notice, moreover, that the glosses of the Cullaniddesa are
not confined to the sixteen poems of the Parayanavagga,the scheme of the
Canonical Commentary including an additional sutta, namely, the
Khaggavisana, which now forms the second sutta of the first book of the
Sutta-Nipata. From the place assigned to this particular sutta in the
Cullaniddesa, it is evident that when the Cullaniddesa was composed, it
passed as a stray sutta, not belonging to any particular group, such as
the Uragavagga. The stray nature of the Khaggavisana Sutta may be taken
as conclusive also from its mixed Sanskrit version in the Mahavastu
(Senart’s edition, Vol. I., pp. 357-359), in which, too, it is not
relegated to any group. If any legitimate hypothesis is to be made
keeping the above facts in view it should be that the scheme of
anthology in the Cullaniddesa rather shows the anthology of the
Sutta-Nipata yet in the making than presupposing it as a fait accompli.

Even with regard to the first question concerniug the chronological
order of the Mahaniddesa and Sutta-Nipata, a similar hypothesis may be
entertained without much fear of contradiction. The Mahaniddesa,
according to its internal evidence, is an exegetical treatise which was
modelled on an earlier exegesis attempted by Mahakaccana on one of the
Suttas of the Atthakavagga, namely, the Magandiya Sutta (Mahaniddesa,
pp. 197 ff). The modern exegesis of Mahakaccana forming the cornerstone
of the Mahaniddesa can be traced as a separate sutta of the Samyutta
Nikaya, Vol. III., p.9, where the Sutta commented upon by Mahakaccana is
expressly counted as a sutta of the Atthakavsagga (Atthakavaggike
Magandiya panhe). Once it is admitted that the Atthaka group of poems
had existed as a distinct anthology even before the first redaction of
the Samyutta Nikaya and Mahakaccana’s model exegesis on one of its
suttas and, moreover, that the Mahaniddesa as an exegetical work was
entirely based upon that; earlier model, it is far safer to think that
the Mahaniddesa presupposes the Atthakavagga itself as a distinct
collection of poems rather than the Atthaka- vagga of the Sutta-Nipata.
Though the scheme of anthology in the Mahaniddesa includes only the
poems of the Atthaka group, there is a collateral evidence to prove that
in an earlier stage of Pali Canonical literature two stray poems were
associated with those of the Atthaka group just in the same way that the
stray poem, Khaggavisana suttta, has been associated in the
Cullaniddesa with the poems of the Parayana group. The Divyavadana,[2]
for instance, mentions that Purna, an associate of Sthavira
Mahakatyayana, recited the Munigatha and Sailagatha along with the poems
Munigatha of Arthavarga (Pali Atthakavagga) with the implication that
the [sic. Munigatha?] (corresponding to Pali Munisutta) and Sailagatha
(corresponding to Pali Selasutta ), included respectively in the
Uragasutta, the first book and in the Mahavagga, the third book of the
Sutta-Nipata, were associated with the poems of the Atthaka group. To
put forward another argument the Nalaka Sutta in the third book of the
Sutta-Nipata is prologued by twenty Vatthugatha or introductory stanzas
which are absent from its mixed Sanskrit version in the Mahavastu (Vol.
III pp.386, ff.). Judged by the theme and metre of the Vatthugatha, they
stand quite apart from the Sutta proper. The Sutta proper is a moral
discourse of the Buddha which is quite on a par with several suttas in
the Sutta-Nipata and other texts, while in the Vatthugatha, we come to
hit all of a sudden on a highly poetical composition serving as a
historical model to the Buddhacarita of Agvaghosa. The Moneyasute
(Moneyya Sutta) is one of the seven tracts recommended by King Asoka in
his Bhabru Edict for the constant study of the Buddhists. This Sutta has
been rightly identified by Prof. D. Kosambi (Indian Antiquary, 1912,
Vol. XLI, pp. 37-40) with the Nalaka Sutta in the Sutta-Nipata which, as
pointed out above, has a counterpart in the Mahavastu (Mahavastu Ed.
Senart, vol. II., pp.30-43 & Vol.III., pp. 382 ff.) where it does
not bear any specific title. Judged by its theme, Moneyya Sutta is more
an appropriate title than Nalaka. The importance of its naming as Nalaka
arises only when the Vatthugatha or the introductory stanzas are
prefixed to the Sutta without any logical connection between the two.
Considered in the light of Asoka’s title Moneya-sutta and the
counterpart in the Mahavastu as well as of the clear anticipation of
Asvaghosa’s Buddhacarita in the Vatthugatha, it appears that the
christening of the Moneyya sutta as Nalaka and the edition of the
introductory stanzas took place some time after Asoka’s reign and not
before. Some stanzas of the Padhana Sutta have been quoted in the
Kathavatthu which, according to the Buddhist tradition, was a
compilation of Asokan time. The stanzas are quoted without any mention
of the Sutta or of the text on which these have been drawn. The Pali
version of the Sutta is to be found only in the Sutta-Nipata, Book III.
The inference that can legitimately be drawm from the quotation is that
the Papdhana Sutta had existed in some form prior to the compilation of
the Kathavatthu, leaving the question of the Sutta-Nipata altogether

The Khuddakapatha figures as the last book in the fifth order, it
being supposed to be earlier than the Sutta Vibhanga, the Khandhakas,
the Jatakas, the Dhammapadas, the Peta and Vimanavatthus as well as the
Kathavatthu. Buddhaghosa in the introduction to his Sumangalavilasini,
informs us that the Dighabhanaka list of the Pali Canonical texts
precluded these four books, namely, the Buddhavamsa, the Cariyapitaka,
the Apadana and the Khuddakapatha while the Majjhimabhanaka list
included the first three of them. The preclusion may be explained either
as due to sectarian difference of opinion or due to the fact that when
the Dighabhanaka list was drawn up these four texts were non-existent.
If a comparison be made between the Khuddakapatha and the Khandheakas,
it will be noticed that the first short lesson (saranattayam) of the
Khuddakapatha was nothing but a ritualistic elaboration of an earlier
refuge formula that can be traced in a passage of the Khandhakas. The
second lesson may be regarded as made up of an extract from another
passage occurring in the Khandhakas. The same observation holds true
also of the fourth lesson, the Kumarapanham. The sources being not
mentioued, it is indecisive whether the Khuddakapatha has drawn upon the
Khandhakas or on some isolated passages. But if judging by the nature
of differences in the common passages we are to pronounce our opinion on
the relative chronology of the two texts, the priority must be accorded
rather to the Khandhakas than to the Khuddakapatha. The Tirokuddasutta
of the Khuddakapatha is the first and the most important sutta of the
Petavatthu. The existence of this sutta previous to the reign of king
Asoka is clearly proved by certain quotations in the Kathavatthu from
it. Here again we are to grope in the dark whether the quotations were
from the Tirokudda as an isolated Sutta or from a sutta in the
Petavatthu or in the Khuddakapatha. If any inference may be drawn from
the high prominence that it enjoys in the Petavatthu our opinion will be
rather in favour of priority of the Petavatthu. Now coming to the
Kathavatthu, we have already mentioned that it contains certain
significant quotations from two suttas, the Tirokudda and the
Nidhikanda, both of which are embodied in the Khuddakapatha, but there
is nothing to show that when the Kathavatthu was compiled with these
quotations the Khuddakapatha itself was then in actual existence, it
being quite probable that the quotations were made front the two
isolated suttas, we mean when these suttas had not come to be included
in the Khuddakapatha.

The Abhidhamma treatises figure as latest compilations in the
chronological table of Rhys Davids. Of the seven Abhidhamma books, the
Kathavatthu is traditionally known as a compilation of Asokan age. The
credibility of the tradition can be proved by a very peculiar
dialectical style of composition developed in the all-important book of
Buddhist Controversies and the traces of which can also be found to
linger in some of the inscriptions of Asoka, namely the Kalsi
Shahabazgarhi and Manserahversions of the ninth Rock Edict (Vide B. M.
Barua’s old Brahmi Inscriptions, p. 284 ). Another and more convincing
piece of evidence may be brought forward to prove the credibility of the
tradition. Prior to the despatch of missionaries by Asoka, Buddhism as a
religious movement was confined, more or less, within the territorial
limits of what is known in Buddhist literature as the Middle Country
(Majjhimadesa) and the Buddhist tradition in Pail is very definite on
this point. The Sanci stupas which go back to the date of Asoka enshrine
to the relies of the missionaries who were sent out to the Himalayan
tracts as also of the “good man” Mogaliputa, aptly identified by Dr.
Geiger with Moggaliputta Tissa, the traditional author of the
Kathavatthu. Curiously enough, the Kathavatthu contains the account of a
controversy, (I.3) in which it has been emphatically pointed out that
up till the time of this particular controversy, the Buddhist mode of
holy life remained confined to the places within the middle country and
had not gained ground in any of the outlying tracts (paccantimesu
janapadesu), the representatives of Buddhism whether the monks or the
laity having had no access to those regions (B.M. Barua, Old Brahmi
Inscriptions, p.284 ). The account clearly brings out one important
historical fact, namely, that so far as the outlying tracts are
concerned, there were undeniably at that time other modes of Indian holy
life. It is interesting to find that the 13th Rock Edict of Asoka is in
close agreement with the Kathavatthu regarding this point. For in this
important edict issued in about the 13th or 14th regnal year of King
Asoka, His Gifted Majesty definitely says that there was at the time no
other tract within his empire save versions and except the Yona region
where the different sects of Indian recluses, the Samanas and Brahmanas
were not to be found and where the inhabitants had not adhered to the
tenets of one or other of those sects (Vide Inscriptions of Asoka by
Bhandarkar and Majumdar. pp. 49-50- “Nathi cha she janapade yata nathi
ime nikaya anamta yenesha bamhmane cha shamane cha nathi cha kuva pi
janapadashi (ya) ta nathi manushanam ekatalashi pi pashadashi no nama
pashade”). Squaring up the two-fold evidence, it is easy to come to the
conclusion that the compilation of the Kathavatthu could not be remote
from the reign of Asoka.

In the Kathavatthu, there are quotations the sources of which can now
be traced in some of the passages in the Vinaya Pitaka, Digha Nikaya,
the Majjhima Nikaya, the Samyutta Nikaya, the Anguttara Nikaya and some
of the books of the Khuddaka Nikaya. A few of the quotations can be
traced in the Dhammasangani and the Vibhanga among the Abhidhamma books.
As the passages are quoted in the Kathavatthu without any mention of
the sources, rather as well known and authoritative words of the Buddha,
it cannot be definitely maintained that the quotations were cited from
the canonical texts in which the individual passages are traceable.
There were suttas in some definite collections but until other definite
evidences are forthcoming, it will be risky to identify them with the
Nikayas and the Vinaya texts as they are known to us. Even with regard
to this point our position remains materially the same if we take our
stand on the evidence of the Inscriptions of Asoka, particularly on that
of the Bhabru Edict. The Bhabru Edict clearly points back to a
well-known collection of Buddha’s words, the words which came to be
believed as at-once final and authoritative (ekemchi bhamte Bhagavata
Buddhena bhasite save se subhasite). But here again we are helpless as
to by what name this collection was then designated and what were its
divisions? If such be the state of thing, it will be difficult to regard
all the Abhidhamma books in the lump as the latest productions among
the books of the Pali Pitakas. As for the chronology of the Pali
canonical texts, the safer course will be to fix first of all the upper
and lower limits and then to ascertain how the time may be apportioned
between them in conceiving their chronological order. As regards the
upperlimit certain it is that we cannont think of any text on Buddhism
before the enlightenment of the Buddha. Whatever be the actual date of
the individual texts, it is certainly posterior to the great event of
Buddha’s enlightenment, nay, posterior even to the subsequent incident
of the first public statement or promulgation of the fundamental truth
of the new religion. The upper limit may be shifted on even to the
demise of the Buddha, the first formal collection of the teachings of
the Buddha having taken place, according to the unanimity of the
Buddhist tradition, after that memorable event. Looked at from this
point of view, the period covered by the career of 45 years of Buddha’s
active missionary work may be regarded just as the formative period
which saw the fashioning of the early materials of the Buddhist Canon.
With regard to the lower limit we need not bring it so far down as the
time of the Pali scholiasts, Buddhadatta, Buddhaghosa and Dhammapala,
that is to say, to the fifth century A. D. Going by the tradition, the
Buddhist canon became finally closed when it was committed to writing
for the first time during the reign of King Vattagamani of Ceylon (Circa
29-17 B.C.). The truth of this tradition can be substantiated by the
clear internal evidence of the text of the Milinda Panha which was a
compilation of about the first century A. D. As is well-known, in
several passages, the author of the Milinda Panha has referred to the
Pali books or to some chapters of them by name and the number of books
mentioned by name is sufficiently large to exhaust almost the
traditional list. Further, it is evident from references in this text
that when it was compiled the division of the canon into three Pitakas
and five Nikayas was well established. The Dhammasangani, the Vibhanga,
the Dhatukatha, and the rest were precisely the seven books which
composed the Abhidhamma Pitaka and the Digha, Majjhima, Samyutta,
Ekuttara (Anguttara) and Khuddaka were the five Nikayas which composed
the Sutta Pitaka. The Simhalese commentaries, the Mahaatthakatatha,
the Mahapaccariya, the Mahakurundiya, the Andhaka and the rest,
presupposed by the commentaries of Buddhadatta, Buddhaghusa and
Dhammapala point to the same fact, namely, that the canon became finally
closed sometime before the begining of the Christian era. Thus we can
safely fix the first quarter of the first century B. C. as the lower

The interval of time between these two limits covers not less than
four centuries during which there had been convened as many as six
orthodox councils, three in India and three in Ceylon, the first during
the reign of King Ajatasattu, the second in the reign of King Kalasoka
(Kakavarni of the Puranas ), the third in the reign of Asoka, the fourth
in the reign of King Devanam Piyatissa of Ceylon, the fifth in the
reign of King Dutthagamani and the sixth or the last in the reign of
King Vattagamani. The Pali accounts of these councils make it clear that
the purpose of each of them was the recital and settling of the
canonical texts. If these councils can be regarded as certain definite
landmarks in the process of the development of Pali canonical
literature, we can say that during the first four centuries after the
Buddha’s demise, Pali literature underwent as many as six successive
redactions. Going by the dates assigned to these councils, we may divide
the interval into such shorter periods of Pali literary history as
shown below:

First period —(483–383 B.C.)
Second ” —(383–265 B.C.)
Third ” —(265–230 B.C.)
Fourth ” —(230–80 B.C.)
Fifth ” —( 80-20 B.C.)

Keeping these periods in view, we can easily dispose of some of the
Pali books. We may take, for instanices, the Parivarapatha which is the
last treatise to be included in the Vinayapitaka. This treatise, as
early stateed in the Colophon (nigamana) was written in Ceylon by Dipa,
evidently a learned Buddhist scholar of Ceylon as a help to his pupils
to the study of the contents of the Vinaya (Parivarapatha, p.226,
“Pubbacariyamaggan ca pucchitva’va tahim tahim Dipanamo mahapanno
sutadharo vicakkhano imam vitthara samkhepam sajjhamaggena majjhime
cintayitva Iikhapesi sissakanam sukhavaham Parivaran ti yam vuttam
sabbam vatthum salakkhanam attham attena saddhamme dhammam dhammena
pannatte”). As such the Parivarapatha was composed as a digest of the
subject-matter of Vinaya or Buddhist discipline. We say that this
treatise was composed in Ceylon because there are references within the
text itself that it had been written after the Vinayapitaka was
promulgated by Thera Mahinda and a number of his disciples and by their
disciples in Ceylon. The succession of his disciples from the time of
Thera Mahinda as set forth in the Parivarapatha (pp. 2-3 ) may suffice
to show that the date of its composition could not be much earlier than
the reign of Vattagamani. Even we may go so far as to suggest that the
Parivarapatha was the Vinaya treatise which was canonised at the council
held during the reign of Vattagamani. For it is clearly stated in that
the author caused the treatise to be written (likhapesi), a mode of
preserving the scriptures which would be inconceivable before the reign
of Vattagamani. The reference to the island of Tambapanni or Ceylon is
not only in the verses which one might set aside as interpolation but in
the prose portions which form the integral parts of the text.

Now if we fix our attention on the traditional verses embodied in the
Parivarapatha (pp.2-3 edited by Oldenberg) we have to infer therefrom
that the five Nikayes, the seven treatises of the Abhidhammapitaka and
all the older texts of the Vinayapitaka were made known to the people of
Ceylon by the wise Mahinda who arrived in Ceylon from Jambbudipa
(India) after the third Buddhist council had been over.
(Parivarapathapp. 2-3, “Upali Dasako, c’eva Sonako Siggavo tatha,
Moggaliputtena Pancama ete Jambusirivhaye tato Mahindo Ittiyo Uttiyo
Sambalo tatha Bhaddanamo ca pandito, ete naga mahapanna
Jambudipaidhagata, Vinayam te vacayimsu pitakam Tambapan niya nikaye
panca vacesum satta c’eva pakarane”).

The Mahavagga and the Cullavagga are two among the earlier and
important texts of the Vinayapitaka. Twentytwo Khandhakas or stock
fragments are distributed into the two texts, ten into the Mahavagga and
the remaining twelve into the Cullavagga. These fragments constituting
the separate divisions are arranged in a chronological order, and they
are intended to present a connected account of the ecclesiastical
history of the Buddhists from the time of the enlightenment of the
Buddha down to that of the second Buddhist council which was convened,
according to the Cullavagga account, a century after the demise of the
Buddha (Vassasataparinibbute Bhagavati ). The growth of the two texts
may be sought to be accounted for by these two hypotheses: (1) that the
Khandhakas were being added as they came into existence from time to
time, or (2) that they were arranged all at the same time according to a
set plan. Whatever be the actual merit of these hypotheses, none of
them prevents us from maintaining that the series of the Khandhakas was
closed with the inclusion of the account of the second Buddhist council
and that nothing material was added after that, nothing, we mean to say,
except the Uddanas or mnemonics in doggerel verses appended to each of
the Khandhakas. Had the compilation of the Khandhakas remained open
after the second Buddhist council, it would have included an account of
the later councils, particularly of one held during the reign of Asoka.
This line of argument is sufficientiy strong to establish that the
compilation of the twenty two Khandhakas as we find them embodied in the
Mahavagga and Cullavagga was anterior to the reign of Asoka, as well as
that its history is primarily associated with the tradition of the
second Buddhist council. Assuming then that the closing of the
collection of the Khandhakas in the shape of the Mahavagga and the
Cullavagga could not be removed from the first century of the Buddha
era, we may briefly examine what inferences can be drawn from the
Cullavagga accounts of the first and second Buddhist councils regarding
the development of the Canonical texts. First with regard to the carlier
Vinaya texts, the Cullavagga account of the second Buddhist council
(Chap. 12) has referred to the followillg authorities by name, namely
(1) Savatthiya Suttvibhanga (2) Rajagahe ” (3) Savatthiys ” (4)
Savatthiya sutta (5) Kosambiys ” (6) Savatthiya ” (7) Rajagahe ” (8)
Rajagahe uposathasamyutte (9) Campeyyake Vinaya Vatthusmin.

The Suttavibhanga passages referred to in the Cullavagga account have
been all found out by Prof. Oldenberg in the Suttavibhanga and what is
more, the identified passages have satisfied the context supplied
(Savatthiya, Rajagahe Kosambiya). Keeping this fact in view can it be
doubted that the Suttavibhanga of the Vinayapitaka was current as an
authoritative text on Vinaya when the Cullavagga account referring to
its passages was written? Now with regard to the remaining two
references, namely, Rajagahe Uposathasamyutte and Campeyyake
Vinayavatthusmin traced respectively in the Mahavagga (II., 8. 3) and
Mahavagga (IX. 3.5), it is curious that the first reference is to a
Samyutta passage and the second to a Vinayavatthu. Although the Samyutta
passaga has found its place in the Mahavagga, so long as the fact
remains that the reference is to a passage in the Sutta collection, our
inference must be that the Mahavagga in its extant form was not yet in
existence. The second reference is important as pointing back to the
existence of certain Vinayavatthus serving as materials for a
compilation like the Mahavagga.

Turning at last to the Cullavagga account of the first Buddhist
council, it will be a mistake to suppose that the account as we have it
in the Cullavagga is as old as the time of the counci1 itself. The
account must have been posterior to the time when the scriptural
authorities of the Buddhist community comprised (1) Ubhato Vinaya — the
disciplinary code of the bhikkhunis, and (2) Panca-Nikaya — the five
Nikayas, Digha, Majjhima and the rest. Some of the Burmese manuscripts
read Ubhato Vibhanga in lieu of Ubhato Vinaya.[3]
That may be a mistake. But the contents mentioned in the Cullavagga
account are uudoubtedly the contents of the two vibhangas, the Bhikkhu
and the Bhikkhuni. The list of the Sikkhapadas codified as bare rules in
the two Patimokkhas is important as showing that the author of the
Cullavagga account kept in his mind nothing but the Suttavibhanga with
its two divisions: the Bhikkhu-Vibhanga and the Bhikkhuni-Vibhanga.
Further, when this account was written, the five Nikayas were
well-known. But the contents mentioned are found to be only those of the
first two suttas of the Digha Nikaya, Vol. I., we mean the Brahmajala and the Samannaphala-Suttantas.
In the absence of the remaining details and of the names of the
separate texts it is impossible to say that the Digha-Nikaya as
presupposed was completed in all the three volumes as we now get or the
five Nikayas as presupposed contained all the fourteen suttanta texts as
we now have them. One thing is, however, certain that there is yet no
reference to the Abhidhamma treatises. For the reference to the
Abhidhamma-Pitaka we have to look into the Uddanagathas in which there
is mention of the three pitakas (Pitakam tini). But nothing should be
built upon it with regard to the development of canonical texts in so
early a period as this on the strength of these uddana gathas which are
apparently later additions.

The line of investigation hitherto followed has compelled us to
conclude that the Suttavibhanga with its two great divisions, e.g., the
Bhikkhu and the Bhikkhuni Vibhangas were extant as authoritative texts
on the questions of Vinaya previous to the compilation of the Mahavagga
and the Cullavagga. The hisorical references that may be traced in the
Suttavibhanga appertain to earlier times and cannot, therefore, justify
us in assigning the text to a period far removed from the demise of the
Buddha. but we have still to enquire whether or not the Suttavibhanga
can be regarded us the first or the earliest landmark of the Vinaya
tracts. It may be sound to premise that the first landmark of the
Vinayapitaka is not the landmark of the Vinaya tracts. The point at
issue really is whether or not the text of the Sutta Vibhanga forming
the first landmark of the Vinayapitaka presupposes certain earlier
literary developments and if so, where can this be traced? This is to
seriously ask what was the earlier and more probable denotation of the
term ubhato-vinaya, the two-fold Vinaya. If we decline to interpret it
in the sense of two-fold Vibhanga, we must be raising this important
issue just to remove an anomaly arising from the two-fold significaion
of the Pancanikaya divisions of the Pa1i canon. Buddhaghosa, the great
Pali scholiast, says that in their narrower signification the five
Nikayas denoted the five divisions of the texts of the Suttapitaka, and
that in their wider signification the five Nikayas included also the
texts of the remaining two pitakas, namely, the Vinaya and the
Abhidhamma, the Vinaya and Abhidhamma treatises being supposed to be
included in the Khuddakanikaya [Sumangalavilasini, pt. I., p.23, cf.,
Atthasalini, p.26; Katamo Khaddakanikayo? Sakalam Vinayapitakam
Abhidhammapitakam Khuddakapathadayo ca pubbe-nidassita-pancadasa bheda
(pubbe dassitacuddasa pabheda iti pathantaram), thapetva cattaronikaye
avasesam Buddhavacanam]. Buddhaghosa also informs us that the Anumana
Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya was known to the ancients as bhikkhuvinaya
and the Singalavada sutta of the Digha Nikaya was venerated as gihi
It such terms as bhikkhuvinaya and gihivinaya had been current among
the Buddhists of olden times, it is pertinet to enquire whether the
expression “the two-fold vinaya” was originally used to denote the
Bhikkhuvinaya and bhikkhunivinaya or the bhikkhuvinaya and gihivinaya.
If we examine the contents of the Anguttara or the Ekuttara Nikaya, we
need not be surprised to find that Anguttara abounds in the Vinaya
passages. In each nipata of this Nikaya we come across passages relating
to the two-fold Vinaya namely the Bhikkhu and Gihi. Looked at from this
point of view, the Anguttara Nikaya may justly be regarded as a sutta
store-house of distinct Vinaya tracts. In this very nikaya we hit upon a
vinaya tract (A.N., I., pp 98-100) which sets forth a rough sketch
(matika) not of any particular vinaya treatise but of the whole of the
Vinaya pitaka. The list of Vinaya topics furnished in this particular
tract cannot be construed as a table of contents of any particular text
of the Vinaya pitaka. Similar Vinaya tracts are scattered also in the
suttas of other Nikayas. The consideration of all these facts cannot but
lead one to surmise that the treatises of the Vinaya pitaka point to a
sutta background in the vinaya materials traceable in the Nikayas
particularly in the Anguttara. The Sutta background of the Vinaya texts
is clearly hinted at in the concluding words of the Patimokkha.” So much
of the words of the Blessed One handed down in the Suttas, embraced in
the suttas, comes into recitation every half-month” (Vinaya texts,
S.B.E., Vol.I. p.69). As for the date of the composition of the two
Patimokkha codes, one for the bhikkhus (monks) and other for the
bhikkhunis (nuns), it is important to bear in mind that according to an
ancient Buddhist tradition cited by Buddhaghosa, the Patimokkha codes as
they are handed down to us are two among the Vinaya texts which were
not rehearsed in the first Buddhist council(Sumangalavilasin I, pt.I.,
p. 17). It may he readily granted that the codification of the
Patimokkha rules in the extant shape was not accomplished immediately
after the demise of the Buddha. It is one thing to say this and it is
quite another that the rules themselves in a classified form had not
been in existence from the earlier times. The Cullavagga account of the
first Buddhist council throws some clear light on the process of
codification. It is said that the utterance of the dying Buddha
authorising his followers to do away with the minor rules of conduct
(Khuddanu-Khuddakani sikkhapadani), if they so desired, formed a bone of
contention among the bhikkhus who took part in the proceedings of the
first Buddhist Council (See Milinda Panha, pp.142-144). They were unable
to decide which were precisely the minor rules they were authorised to
dispense with. Some suggested all but the four Parajika rules, some, all
but the four Parajika and thirteen Samghadisesa rules, some, all but
the four Parajika, 13 Samghadisesa and two Aniyata rules and thirty
Nissaggiya rules; some, all but the four Parajika, 13 Samghadisesa, two
Aniyata, thirty Nissaggiya and ninety-two Pacittiya rules and some
suggested all but 4 Parajika, 13 Samghadisesa, 2 Aniyata, 30 Nissaggiya,
92 Pacittiya and 4 Patidesaniya rules. The suggestion stopped with the 4
Patidesaniya rules and did not proceed beyond them, leaving us in the
dark as to what the bhikkhus meant by all but “all these” (counted by
names). The Patimokkas code in its final form includes two hundred and
twenty-seven rules, that is to say, the seven adhikarana samathas and
seventy-five sekhiya rules in addition to those mentioned in the
Cullavagga account. Omitting the 75 sekhiya rules the total of the
Patimokkha precepts of conduct would come up to 152, If the theras of
the first Buddhist Council had in their view a Patimokkha code in which
the 75 Sekhiya rules had no place, the total of precepts in the code
recognised by them was 152. Now we have to enquire if there is any
definite literary evidence to prove that in an earlier stage of
codification, the total of the Patimokkha precepts was fixed at 152.
Happily the evidence is not far to seek. The Anguttara Nikaysa, as we
have seen above, contains two passages to indicate that the earlier
Patimokkha code contained one and half hundred rules or little more
(Sadhikam diyaddhasikkhapadasatam).[5]
The earlier Patimokkha code with its total of 152 rules may be shown to
have been earlier than the Suttavibhanga on the ground that the
Sutta-Vibhanga scheme makes room for the 75 Sekhiya rules, thereby
rocognising the Patimokkha total to be 227 which was possible only in
the second or final stage of codification of the Patimokkha rules.

In dealing with the chronology of the seven treatises of the
Abhidhammapitaka, we can only maintain that the order in which these
treatises are enumerated can be interpreted as the order of the
chronology. Any attempt at establishing such an interpretation would be
vitiated by the fact that the order of enumeration is not in all cases
the same. The order in which these are mentioned in the Milinda Panha
(p.12) and which has since become classical is as follows:

(1) Dhammasangani (Dhammasamgaha as Buddhaghosa calls it
- vide Sumangalvilasini,p.17),
(2) Vibhanga,
(3) Dhatukatha,
(4) Puggalapannatti,
(5) Kathavatthu,
(6) Yamakra and
(7) Patthana.

A somewhat different order is evident from a gatha occurring in
Buddaghosa’s Sumangalavilasini, Pt. I., p. 15.
“Dhammasamgani-Vibhanganca Kathavatthunca Puggalam
Dhatu-Yamaka-Patthanam Abhidhammoti vuccati.”

It be noticed that in the gatha order the Kathavatthu stands third
instead of fifth and the Dhatukatha stands fifth instead of third. We
have already noted that according to general interpretsaion of the five
nikaya divisions of the Pail canon, the Ahhidhamma treatises come under
the Khuddaka Nikaya. This is apparently an anomaly which cannot be
removed save by a liberal interpretation making it signify a suttanta
background of the Abhidhammapitaka. Thus an enquiry into the suttanta
background becomes a desideratum
and we may lay down a general canon of chronology in these terms. The
closer connection with the Sutta materials, the earlier is the date of
composition. Among the seven Abhidhamma treatises, tho Puggalapannatti
and the Vibhanga stand out prominently as the two texts which bear a
clear evidence of emergence from a Sutta background. The Puggala
classifications in the Digha, Samyutta and Anguttara Nikayas are seen to
constitute at once the sutta background and the stereotyped Vibhangas
or Niddesas, mostly contained in the Majjhima Nikaya may be take to
repesent the Sutta background of the Vibhanga. The exact position of the
Puggalapannatti in relation to the Suttanta collections has been
properly examined by Dr. Morris in his edition of the Puggala Pannatti
published for the P.T.S. London, Introduction, pp X-XI.

We have just one remark to add, namely, that compared with the
Suttanta materials utilised in it, the Puggalapannatti is the least
original treatise of the Abhidhammapitaka and its inclusion in the
Abhidhamma Pitaka would have been utterly unjustifiable but for the
Pannatti classifications in the matika No.1. Whatever be the actual date
of its compilation in respect of subject matter and treatment, it
deserves to be considered as the earliest of the Abhidhamma books.

In the opinion of Mrs. Rhys Davids,
the Vibhanga is “anticipated” by the Dhammasangani, although “it is by
no means covered by the latter work either in method or in matter”
(Vibhanga, P.T.S., Preface XIV). “In other words, the present book (the
Vibhanga) seems by Buddhists to have ranked second in the seven of its
Pitaka not accidentally, but as a sequel to the Dhammasangani requiring,
in those who came to the study of it, a familiarity [with] categories
and formulas of the latter work-that is with the first book of the
Abhidhamma”, (Ibid, XIII). Thus whether the Vibbanga is anticipated by
the Dhammasangani or the latter is anticipated by the former is the
point at issue.

Examining most of the chapters of the Vibhanga we find that each of
them has a Abhidhamma superstructure (Abhidharmma-bhajaniya) built upon
and kept distinct from a Suttanta exegesis (Suttantabhajaniya) the
counterpart of which is to be found in the first four Nikayas and mostly
in the Majjhima, as it will appear from the following table:


Saccavibhanga (Suttantabhajaniya) = Saccavibhanga sutta (Majjhima, Vol.III., No.141)
Satipatthanavibhanga (Suttantabhajaniya) = Satipatthanasutta (M.N.I., No.10)
Dhatuvibhanga (Suttantabhajaniya) = Dhatuvibhanga sutta of the Majjhima, Vol. III. No.140.


It is evident from the juxtaposition of the Suttanta and the
Abhidhamma exegesis in its different chapters that the Vibhanga marks
that stage of the developmet of the Abhidhamms pitaka when the
Abhidhamma or Transcendental method of exegesis had not yet gained an
independent foothold, when, in other words, it ramained combined with
the Suttanta or earlier method. The predilection is as yet for
attempting the exegesis of the formulations in the Suttas. An
independent treatment of pure topics of Psychological ethics, such as we
find in the Dhammasangani is far beyond the scheme of the Vibhanga. In
the progressive working out of exegetical schemes, the Niddesa or
detailed specification of meanings of terms comes second to the uddesa
or matika. Now if we compare the treatment of Rupakkhandha in the
Vibhanga (pp. 12-14) with that in the Dhammasangani (pp.124 ff.), we
cannot but observe that all that the Vibhanga has to present is merely
the uddesa or matika of the Rupakkhandha section of the Dhammasangani.
The Niddesa of the rupa-matika is to be found in no other Abhidhamma
books than the Dhabmmsasangani. Mrs. Rhys Davids admits (in a way
arguing in our favour) that the contents of the Vibhanga are by no means
covered by the Dhammasangani. The Vibhanga has, for instance, a section
entited Paccayakaravibhanga, an exegesis on the causal relations. The
paccayas fall outside the scope of the Dhammasangani and they form the
subject matters of the great Abhidhamma treatise, the Patthana or the
Mahapatthana; but compared with the Patthana, the Vibhanga treatment of
the subject is crude and vague, which is to say earlier. Considered in
this light, the Vibhanga seems to stand out as a common presupposition
of both the Dhammasangani and the Patthana. It is much easier to proceed
from the contents of the Vibhanga to the two highly systematic
treatises of the Dhammasangani and the Patthana then to proceed from the
latter to the former. The Dhatukatha being nothing but a supplement to
the text of the Dhammassangani may he briefly disposed of as a
Abhidhamma treatise dependent on and necessarily later than the

It is not only with regard to the Dhammasangani (with its supplement,
the Dhatukatha and the Patthana that the Vibhanga represents the
immediate background; it appears equally to have been the background of
the Yamaka. It is easy to account for the dialectical method of the
study of the Abhidhamma matters by keeping the Panhapucchakas appended
to the different chapters of the Vibhanga. All these considerations lead
us to conclude that strictly speaking the Vibhanga making “an extended
application of (the) organun or vehicle for the cultivation of the moral
intellect” is the first and the earliest of the Abhidhamma books.

1. Puggala Pannatti

2. Vibhanga

(a) Dhammasangani Dhatukatha
(b) Yamaka
(c) Patthana

3. Kathavatthu

Although one can conceive in this manner the chronological succession
of the five Abhidhamma books (leaving out the Puggalapannatti which is
rather a suttanta text and the Kathavatthu which forms a class by
itself), it is difficult to determine the actual dates of their
composition. One thing is certain that the seven books of the
Abhidhammapitaka were well-known and very carefully read especially in
the Himalayan monastery when the Milinda panha was composed in about the
first century A.D. There is no reason for doubt that the Pali canon
when committed to writing during the reign of king Vattagamani in
Ceylon, included all these books in it. We have shown that when the
Uddanagathas of the Cullavagga (Chap. II) of the Vinayapitaka were
added, the three pitakas of the Pali canon had already come into
existence. The question, however, is how far the date of the books of
the Abhidhammapitaka can be pushed back. Here the only anchor-sheet[1]
is the Kathavatthu, the third or the fifth Abhidamma book which
according to tradition, was a compilation of the Asokan age. We have
already adduced certain proofs in suport of this tradition and have
sought to show that when certain controversies which find a place in the
Kathavatthu took place, Buddhism as a religion had not overstepped the
territorial limits of the middle country. But according to Buddhaghosa’s
commentary, the Kathavatthu contains discussion of doctrines held by
some of the Buddhist schools, e. g., the Hemavata, the Andhaka, the
Pubbaseliya and the Aparaseliya, which could not be possible if the
Kathavatthu had been closed in the time of Asoka. If it was a growing
compilation, we have necessarily to suppose that although it commenced
in Asokan time, it was not brought to a close till the rise of the later
Buddhist schools mentioned above.

Turning at last to the Suttapitaka comprising the live nikaytas, we
can definitely say that it had reached its final shape before the
composition of the Milinda Panha in which authoritative passages are
quoted from the texts of this pitaka, in certain instances by a mention
of the name of the sources. We can go further and maintain that the
Suttapitaka was closed along with the entire Pali canon and when the
canon was finally rehearsed in Ceylon and committed to writing during
the reign of King Vattagamani. The tradition says that previous to the
reign of Vattagamani the texts were handed down by an oral tradition
(mukhapathavasena) from teacher to teacher (acariyaparamparaya) the
process of transmission being compared to the carrying of earth in
baskets from head to head. Buddhaghosa says (Sumangalavilasini, pt.I,
pp.12 foll.) that immediately after the demise of the Buddha and after
the session of the first Buddhist Council, the task of transmitting and
preserving each of the five Nikayas to an individual thera and his
followers, which ultimatly gave rise to some schools of bhanakas or
chanters. The existence of the distinct schools of reciters of the five
Nikayas is clearly proved (as shown by Dr B. M. Barua, Barhut
Inscriptions, pp.9-10), by the Milinda Panha where we have mention of
the Jatakabhanakas (the repeaters of the Jatakas) in addition to the
Dighabhanake, the Majjhimabhanaka, Samyuttabhanaka, Anguttara-bhanaka
and Khuddaka- bhanaks, (Milinda Panha, pp.341 foll.). The terms
‘pancanekayika’ (one well versed in the five Nikayas) and bhanaka as
well, occur as distinctive epithets of some of the Buddhist donors in
the Sanci and Barhut inscriptions which may be dated in the lump in the
middle of the second century B.C. The inference from the evidence of
these inscriptions has already been drawn by Prof. Rhys Davids to the
effect that before the use of Pancanekayika (one well-versed in the five
Nikayas) suttantika (a man who knows the Suttanta by heart),
Suttantakini (a feminine form of Suttantika) and Petaki (one who knows
the pitaka by heart) as distinctive epithets, the pitaka and five nikaya
divisions of the Pali canon must have been well-known and
well-established. We say of the Pali canon because substitution of
nikaya for the term ‘Agama’ is peculiar to the Pali tradition. The term
“Pancanikaya” occurs as we saw also in the Vinaya Cullavagga (Chap.II)
which we have assigned to a period which immediately preceded the Asokan
age. But even presuming that the five nikaya divisions of the growing
Buddhist canon were current in the third century B.C., it does not
necessarily follow from it that all the books or Suttas or individual
passages comprising the five Nikayas were composed at that time. All
that we can make bold to say that the first four Nikayas were, to all
intents and purposes, the complete, while the Khaddakanikaya series
remained still open.

We have pointed out that this account in the Vinaya Cullavagga
clearly alludes to the Digha as the first of the five Nikayas as well as
that the first two suttas were the Brahmajala and Samannaphala while as
to the number and succession of the remaining suttas, we are kept
completely in the dark. Straining the information supplied in the Vinaya
Cullavagga we can proceed so far no doubt, that the first volume of the
Digha Nikaya was mainly in the view of its compilers. Comparing the
Suttas comprised in the remaining two volumes and marking the
differences in theme and tone, it seems that these two volumes were
later additions. The second volume contains two suttas, namely, the
Mahapadhana and MahaGovinda which have been mentioned in the
Cullaniddesa (p.80) as two among the notable illustrations of the
Suttanta Jatakas, the Jatakas as found in the earliest forms in Pali
literature. We have already drawn attention to the earlier chronicles of
the seven purohitas in the Anguttara Nikaya where it is far from being a
manipulation in a Jataka form. The casting of this chronicle in a
Jataka mould as we find it in the Maha-Govinds Suttanta could not have
taken place in the life-time of the Buddha. The second volume contains
also the Payasi Suttanta which, as shown by the previous scholars,
brings the story of Payasi to the death of Payasi and his after life in a
gloomy heaven. Thus suttanta contains several anecdotes forming the
historical basis of some of the Jataka stories. In the face of all these
facts, we cannot but agree with Prof. Rhys Davids who places the date
of this suttanta at least half a century after the demise of the Buddha.
The third volume of the Digha includes in it the Atanatiya suttanta
which is otherwise described as a rakkha or a saving chant manipulated
apparently on a certain passage in the then known Mahabharata. The
development of these elements such as the Jataka stories and the
Parittas could not have taken place when Buddhism remained in its
pristine purity. These are later accretions or interpolations, the works
of fable and fiction, we mean of imaginnative poetry that crept,
according to a warning given in certain passages of the Anguttara
Nikaya, under the influence from outside. But there is no reason for
surprise that such developments had already taken place as early as the
fourth century B.C. for the passages strike the note of alarm are
precisely one of those seven important tracts recommended by Asoka in
his Bhabru Edict under the caption ‘Anagatabhayani.’ The growth of these
foreign elements must have caused some sort of confusion otherwise it
would not have been necessary to discuss in a sutta of the Samyutta
Nikaya the reasonable way of keeping genuine the utterances of the
Buddha distinct from others that crept in under the outside influence
and were characterised by poetical fancies and embellishments
(kavikata). (Samyutta Nikaya, pt.II, p.267). We may then be justified in
assigning the whole of the Digha Nikaya to a pre-Asokan age, there
being no trace of any historical event or development which might have
happened after King Asoka. The only exception that one has to make is
only in the case of the concluding verses of the Mahaparinibbana
Suttanta which were interpolated according to Buddhaghosa in Ceylon by
the teachers of that island. Like the first volume of the Digha Nikaya,
the whole of the Majjhima Nikaya strikes us as the most authoritative
and original among the collections of the Buddha’s teachings. There is
no allusion to any political event to justify us in relegating the date
of its compilation to a time far removed from the demise of the Buddha.
If it be argued that the story of Makhadeva, as we find it embodied in
the Makhadeva sutta of this Nikaya, has already assumed the form of a
Jataka, of a Suttanta-Jataka, mentioned in the Cullaniddesa, it cannot
follow from it that the Nikaya is for that very reason a much later
compilation. For the Makhadeva story is one of those few earliest
Jatakas presupposed by the Pali Canonical collection of 500 Jatakas. The
literary developments as may be traced in the suttas of the Majjhima
Nikaya are not of such a kind as to require more than a century after
the demise of the Buddha.

Now concerning the Samyutta which is a collection of kindred sayings
and the third of the five Nikayas, we may point out that it has been
quoted by name in the Milinda Panha, as also in the Petakopadesa under
the simple title of Samyuttaka and that as such this Nikaya had existed
as anauthoritative book of the Pali both [for] the Milinda panha and the
Patakapadesa. [We can] go so far as to maintain that the Samyutta
Nikaya had reached its final shape previous to the occurrence of Panca
nekayika as a personal epithet in some of the Barhut and
Sanci-inscriptions, nay, even before the closing of the Vinaya
Cullavagga where we meet with the expression “Pancanikaya”. In dealing
with the account of the Second Buddhist Council in the Vinaya Cullavagga
(Chap.XII), we have noted that a canonical authority has been alluded
to as “Rajayahe uposatha Samyutte” at Rajagaha in the Uposatha Samyutta.
The translators of the Vinaya Texts (pt.11, p.410) observe that the
term ‘Samyutta’ “must here be used for khandhaka”, the passage referred
to being the Vinaya Mahavagga (II.8.3. the Uposatha Khandhaka). But
looking into the Mahavagga passage, we find that it does not fully tally
with the allusion, as the passage has nothing to do with Rajagaha. In
the absence of Rajagaha giving a ture clue to the tracing of the
intended passage, it is difficult to premise that the passage which the
compilers of the Cullavagga account kept in view was the khandhaka
passaga in the Vinaya Mahavagga. Although we have so far failed to trace
this passage also in the Samyutta Nikaya, the presumption ought to be
that the intended passage was included in a Samyutta collection which
was then known to the compilers of the Cullavagga. The Suttas in the
Samyutta Nikaya do not refer to any political incident justifying one to
place the date of its compilation far beyond the demise of the Buddha.
As contrasted with the Ekuttara or Anguttara Nikaya the Samyutta appears
to be the result of an attempt to put together relevant passages
throwing light on the topics of deeper doctrina1 impotance while the
former appears to be numerical groupings of relevant passage throwing
light on the topics relating to the conduct of the monks and
house-holders. Considered in this light, these two Nikayas must be
regarded as fruits of a critical study of suttas in some previous

Now coimg to deal with the Ekuttara or Anguttara Nikaya, we have
sought to show that its main bearing is on the two-fold Vinaya, the
Gahapati Vinaya and the Bhikkhu Vinaya. This Nikaya contains a section
(Mundarajavagga in the Pancaka Nipata) commemorating the name of King
Munda who reigned, as shown by Rhys Davids, in Rajagaha about half a
century after the demise of the Buddha The Nikaya made within the fifty
years from the Buddha’s demise. There is, however, no other historical
reference to carry the Mahaparinibbana compilation beyond the first
century from the Mahaparinibhana of the Buddha. The date proposed for
the Anguttara Nikaya will not, we think, appear unreasonable if it be
admitted that the suttas of this nikaya form the real historical
back-ground of the contents of the Vinaya texts.

We have at last to discuss the chronology of the fifteen books of the
Khuddaka Nikaya, which are generally mentioned in the follwiug order:–

(1) Khuddaka Patha,
(2) Dhammapada,
(3) Udana,
(4) Itivuttaka,
(5) Sutta Nipata,
(6) Vimanavatthu,
(7) Petavatthu,
(8) Thera-Theri-gatha,
(9) Jataka,
(11) Niddesa (Culla and Maha),
(12) Patisambhidamagga,
(13) Apadana,
(14) Buddha vamsa, and
(15) Cariyapitaka.

This mode of enumeration of the fifteen books of the khuddaka Nikaya
(pannarasabheda Khuddakanikaya) can be traced back to the days of
Buddhaghosa (Sumangalavilasini, pt.I.,p.17). It is obvious that in this
list the Cullaniddesa and the Mahaniddesa are counted as one book; while
counting them as two books, the total number becomes sixteen. There is
no justification for regarding the order of enumeration as being the
order of chronology. In connection with the Khuddaka Nikaya, Buddhaghosa
mentions the following facts of great historical importance. He says
that the Dighabhanakas classified the books of the Khuddaka Nikaya under
the Abhidhamma Pitaka enumerating them in the following order:–

(1) Jataka,
(2) Mahaniddesa,
(3) Cullaniddesa,
(4) Patisambhidamagga,
(5) Suttanipata,
(6) Dhammapada,
(7) Udana,
(8) Itivuttaka,
(9) Vimanavatthu,
(10) Petavatthu, and
(11) Therigatha,

and leaving out of consideration the four books, namely, the
Cariyapitaka, the Apadana, the Buddhavamsa and the Khuddakapatha.
Buddhaghosa informs us that the Majjhimabhanaka list contained the names
of 15 books counting the Cariyapitaka, the Apadana and the Buddhavamsa
as the three books in addition to those recognised by the Dighabhanakas
(Sumanangalavilasini, Pt.I., p.15). [? It is important to note that the
Majjhimabhanaka list has taken no cognisance of the Khuddakapatha
mentioned as the first book in Buddhanaka [?as this] list was drawn up,
the Khuddaka Nikaya comprised just 12 books and when the Majjhima Nikaya
list was made it came to comprise altogether 15 books, the Mahaniddesa
and the Cullaniddesa having been counted as two books instead of as
one.] It is also easy to understand that from that time onward the
traditional tota1 of the books of the Khuddaka Nikaya became known as
fifteen, and so strong was this tradition that to harmonise with it, the
sixteen books had to be somehow counted as fifteen, the Mahaniddesa and
the Cullaniddesa being treated as a single book. From this we may
proceed to show that the Khuddakapathe appearing as the first book of
the Khuddaka Nikaya in Buddhaghosa’s list, is really the last book taken
into the Khuddaka Nikaya sometime after the Majjhimabhhanaka list
recognising 15 books in all had been closed. We need not be surprised if
the Khuddakapatha was a compilation made in Ceylon and was given a
place among the books of the Khuddaka Nikaya either immediately before
the commitment of the Pali Canon to writing duriug the reign of King
Vattagramani or even after that, although before the time of
Buddhaghosa. The commentaies of Buddhabhosa are our oldest authorities
that mention the Khuddakapatha as a canonical book. It does not find
mention in the Milinda Panha nor in any other work, canonical or
ex-canonical, which was extant before the time of Buddhagosa. The text
is made up of nine lessons or short readings all culled [from] certain
earlier canonical sources, the arrangement of these lessons being such
as to make it serve as a very useful handbook for the beginners and for
the clergy ministering to the needs of the laity. The consideration of
two points may suffice to bear out our contention. The first point is
that the first lesson called the saranattaya presents a developed mode
of refuge formula of the Buddhists which is not to be found precisely in
this form anywhere in other portions of the Pali canon. As for the
second point we may note that the third lesson called the Dvattimsakara
(the thirty-two parts of the body) enumrrates mattake matthalungam[2]
which is not to be found in the list furnished in the Mahasatipatthana
Suttanta of the Digha Nikaya, the Satipatthana Sutta of the Majjhima
Nikaya and numerous other discourses.

We have seen that the Buddhavamisa, the Cariyapitaka and the Apadana
are the three books which found recognition in the list of the
Dighabhanakas, Majjhimabhanakas and were taken no notice of in the
[…text missing…] Apart from other arguments, one has to presume that
these three books were complied and received into the canon after the
list was once known to have been complete with 12 books. These three
books, as far as the subject matters go, are interconnected, the
Buddhavamsa enumerating the doctrine of pranidhana us an essential
condition of the Bodhisatta life, the Cariyapitaka enumerating the
doctrine of cariya or practices of a Bodhisatta and the Apadana the
doctrine of adhikara or competence for the attainment of the higher
life. These three books presuppose a legend of 24 previous Buddhas which
is far in excess of the legend of six Buddhas contained in other
portions of the Canon. The Buddhavamsa and the Cariyapitaka present a
systematic form of the Bodhistta idea that was shaping itself through
the earlier Jatakas and the Apadana furnishing the previous birth
stories of the theras and the theris cannot but be regarded as a later
supplement to the Thera-Theri-gatha.

Besides the Thera-Theri-gatha, the Vimanavatthu or the book of
stories of heaven is just another canonical work which is presupposed by
the Apadana. It is important to note that the Vimanavatthu contains one
story, namely, the story of Serissaka, the incident of which, according
to the story itself, took place a hundred years, calculated by human
computation from the death of the chieftain Payasi. “Manussakam
Vassasatam atitam Yadagge kayamhi idhuappanno” (Vimanavatthu, P.T.S.,
p.81). The Payasi Suttanta of the Digha Nikaya clearly shows that the
death of Payasi could not have taken place until a few years after the
Buddha’s demise. Thus going by the consideration of this point, we are
compelled to assign a date of its composition to an age ahead of a
century and a half from the demise of the Buddha. So the canonisation of
this book could not have taken place earlier than the time of the third
Buddhist Council, we mean the time of King Asoka. Our suggestion for
the date of the Vimanavatthu will gain in significance as we consider
the contents of the Petavatthu, the book of stories of hell. We have
noticed above that in all the three lists of the books of the Khuddaka
Nikaya the name of the Petavatthu stands after that of the Vimanavatthu.
From the occurrence of certain common stories, a suggestion has already
been made that it was somehow an offshoot of the Vimanavatthu. Now in
one of the stories (Petavatthu, IV.3, p.57)[6], we have allusions to the Moriya (Maurya) king, who is identified in the commentary with king Asoka[7].
If this construction of the word Moriya is correct, it leaves no room
for doubt that the Peta Vatthu, as we now have it, was a post-Moriyan or
post-Asokan compilation.

The Cullaniddesa is a canonical commentary of the Khaggavisana sutta
and the Parayana group of sixteen poems, all of which find place in the
anthology called the Sutta Nipata. We have sought to show that the
Cullaniddesa indicates a stage of development of the Pali canon when the
Khaggavisana sutta hang on the Parayanavagga as an isolated poem,
without yet being included in a distinct group such as the Uragavagga of
the Sutta Nipata. Though from this line of argument it follows that the
Cullaniddesa is earlier than the Sutta-Nipata, it cannot at the same
time be denied that it is posterior not only to such Suttanta-Jatakas as
the Mahapadaniya, Mahagovinda, Mahasudassaniya and the Maghadeva
suttanta contained in the Digha and Majjhima Nikayas but also to a
collection of 500 Jatakas (Pancajatakasatiani) (Culianiddesa, p.80). As
such the Cullaniddesa cannot be dated much earlier than the reign of

The Mahaniddesa too is a canonical commentary on the atthaka group of
sixteen poems forming the fourth book of the Sutta-Nipata. As shown
before the exegeses attempted in this book were all modelled on an
earlier exegesis of Mahakaccana in the Samyutta Nikaya. If this
canonical commentary came into existence when the Atthakavagga was yet
currrnt as an isolated group, the date of its composition cannot but be
anterior to that of the Suttanipate. A clear idea of the date of this
work can be fomed from its list of places visited by the Indian seagoing
merchants. The Mahaniddesa list clearly points to a time when the
Indian merchants carried on a sea-borne trade with such distant places
as Java in the east and Paramayona in the west and it alludes as well as
to sea route from Tamali to Java via Tambapanni or Ceylon which was
followed in the 5th century A. D. by the Chinese pilgrim, Fa-Hien. We
can expect to come across such a list only in the Milinda Panha which
may be dated in the 1st or 2nd century A. D. Such a wide expansion of
India’s maritime trade as indicated in the Mahaniddesa list would seem
impossible if the book was a composition much earlier than the second
century B.C. Now turning to the Suttanipata we have been inclined to
place it later than the two books of the Niddesa on the ground that when
it was compiled, the Atthakavagga and the Parayanavagga came to
represent two distinct books of a comprehensive anthology and the
Khaggavisana sutta ceased to be a stray poem hanging for its existence
on the Parayana group. But our main reason for dating it posterior to
the Cullaniddesa is that the Parayanavagga in the Suttanipata is
prefaced by a prologue which is absent from the Cullaniddesa scheme.
Similarly the Nalakasutta perhaps known originally as Moneyya sutta as
evidenced by the titles suggested in Asoka’s Bhabru Edict as a prologue
clearly anticipating the poetical style of Asvaghosa’s Buddhaearita. In
spite of the fact that the suttas embodied in it were gleaned from
earlier collections, the Sutta-nipate scheme of anthology does not seem
to have been carried into effect before the 2nd century B.C.

With regard to the Jatakas as a book of the Khuddaka Nikaya, we have
just seen above that the Cullaniddesa points to a canonical collection
of 500 Jatakas. That five hundred was the original total of the Jatakas
is proved on the one hand by the 500 Jataka representations witnessed by
Fa-Hien round the Abhayagiri monastery of Ceylon and on the other hand
by the mechanical multiplication of the stories in order to raise the
total from 500 to 550 from the days of Buddhaghosa. The Milinda Panha
alludes to the existence of the repeaters of the Jatakas apart from the
repeaters of the five Nikayas. We are unable to decide whether the
Milinda reference is to the canonical books of the Jataks or to a
commentary collection which was then in existence. The numerous
illustrations of the jatakas on the ancient Buddhist railings such as
those at Barhut and Bodhagaya, unmistakably presuppose the existence of
the legendary story of the Buddha’s life past and present. But the
canonical collection of 500 Jatakas referred to in the Cullaniddesa
appear to be earlier than the scriptural basis of the Buddhist
sculptures and whatever the actual data of composition might be it was
certainly later than that of the Suttanta Jatakas scattered throughout
the first four Nikayas. We may say indeed that the canonical collection
took a definite shape near about the early Maurya period.

The Thera-Theri-Gathas are two campanion anthologies of the stanzas
that are supposed to have been uttered by the theras and theris
surrounding the Buddha during the lifetime of the Master, or at least
shortly after his death.(Theragabha Oldenberg’s preface, XI).

“The separate uddanas or indices which occur regularly at the end of
each nipata and at the end also of the whole work, and give the names
and numbers of the theras (and the theris) and the number of verses in
each chapter and in the whole work respectively seem to be based on a
recension or condition of the text different from that which now lies
before us” (Ibid, p.XIV). In the opinion of Dhammapala, the commentator,
the Theragatha anthology had reached the final shape not earlier than
the time of Asoka. He points out that the Thera Tekicchakari whose
gathas are embodied in the Theragatha lived under King Bimbisara, the
father of Dhammasoka. He further adds that the verses uttered by this
thera were received into the canon by the fathers who assembled in the
third Buddhist Council. Dhammapala attributes some of the gathas to
Vitasoka, the younger brother of Dhammasoka and certain other verses to
Tissakumara, the youngest brother of King Asoka. If we can at all depend
for chronology on the information supplied by Dhammapala, the
anthologies of Thera-Theri-gatha must be taken as compilations that had
received their final shape at the Third Buddhist Council and not before.

The Pali Dhammapada is just one and undoubtedlly the earliest of the
six copies of the anthologies of the Dhammapada class. The earliest
mention of the Pali Dhammapada by name is to be found in the Milinda
Panha which is a composition of the first or secnd century A.D. From the
mere fact that there were certain quotations in the Kathavatthu and
Mahaniddesa of stanzas now traceable in the Dhammapada, no definite
conclusion can be drawn as to the actual date of its composition. The
Dhammapada hardly includes any stanzas that might be supposed to have
been drawn upon the canonical collection of Jatakas. But as shown by the
editors of the Prakrit Dhammapada there are a few gathas which were
evidently manipulated on the basis of the gathas in the Jatakas.
Similary it cannot be maintained that the Dhammapada contains any
stanzas that were diretly derived from the Suttanipata, for the suttas
which singled out as the source of some of the gathas of the Dhammapada
are to be found also in such earlier collections as the Digha or the
Majjhima or the Samyutta or the Anguttara. The Thera and Theri-gathas
are the two anthologies of the Khuddaka Nikaya which appear to have been
presupposed by the Dhammapada. As regards external evidence, there is
only one tradition, namely, that a powerful discourse based on the
Appamadavagga of the Dhammapada served to attract the attention of King
Asoka to Buddhism, clearly pointing to the existence of the Dhammapada
as a distinct anthology as early as the third century B.C.

[The] Itivuttaka, the Udana and the Patisambhidamagga are the
remaining three books of the Khuddaka Nikaya of which the date of
composition must depend upon mere conjecture till accidentally we obtain
any reliable date. The Itivuttaka is a book of questions of genuine
sayings of the Buddha, making no reference to any canonical work or to
any historical event ascertaining its date, though it seems that it was
the result of an afterthought, of a critical study of the authentic
teachings of the Buddha in a certain light and for a specific purpose.
The Udana is a curious medley of legends and historical records,
presented in a particular setting with a view to emphasising some
pronounced opinions of the Buddha on certain contrversial matters. The
Patisambhidamagga presents a systematic exposition of certain important
topics of Buddhism, and as such it deserves to be classed rather with
the books of the Abhidhammapitaka than with those of Suttanipata. It is
quite possible that before the development of the extant Abhidhamma
pitaka, it passed as one of the Abhidhamma treatises, Concering these
three books the utmost that we can say that they are mentioned even in
the list of the Dighabhanakas, being counted there as three among the
twelve books of the Khuddaka Nikaya, and that if the tradition about
this list is at all credible, these three books must have existed when
the list was drawn up, say, in the second century B. C.

The Chronology

The results arrived at concerning the chronology of the Pali canonical listerature are preseented in the subjoined table.



The simple statements of Buddhist doctrines now found, in identical words, in paragraphs or verses recurring in all the books.


Episodes found, in identical words, in two or more of the existing books.


The Silas, the Parayana group of sixteen poems without the prologue,
the atthaka group of four or sixteen poems, the sikkhapadas.


The Digha, Vol. l, the Majjhima, the Samyutta, the Anguttara, and earlier Patimokkha code of 152 rules.


The Digha, Vols. II & III, the Thera-Theri-Gatha, the collection
of 500 Jatakas, the Suttavibhanga, the Patisambhidamagga, the
Puggala-pannatti and the Vibhanga.


The Mahavagga and the Cullavagga, the Patimokkha code completing 227
rules, the Vimanavatthu and Petavatthu, the Dhammapada and the


The Cullaniddesa, the Mahaniddesa, the Udana, the Itivuttaka, the Suttanipata, the Dhatukatha, the Yamaka and the Patthana.


The Buddhavamsa, the Cariyapitaka and the Apadana.


The Parivarapatha.


The Khuddakapatha.


[1]Read the Life of Gotama, the Buddha by E.I. Brewster.

[2](Cowell and Neil Ed.)p. 35.

may be observed that in giving an account of the first Buddhist
council, Buddhaghosa makes mention of Ubhato-Vibhanga signifying
“thereby the whole text of the Sutta Vibhanga completed in 64 bhanavaras
(Snmagalavilasini, pt.1., p.13 ).

[4]B.M. Barna-A note on the Bhabru Ediet, J.R.A.S., October’ 1915, pp. 805-810

[5]Cf. Milinda Panha which refers to the some total of the Patimokkha rules in the expression “Diyaddhesa Sikkhapadasatesu.”

[6]1.”Raja Pingalako nama Suratthanam adhipapi ahu Moriyanam upatthanamgantva surattham punar againa.”

[7]“Moriyanan’ti Moriyarajunam Dhammasokam samdhaya vadati” Petavatthn. P.T.S.,p.98.

[1]A vessels largest anchor.

[2]The Brain

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Kūṭadanta Sutta

Taught at Khāṇumata. Kūṭadanta consults the Buddha on the best way of
making a sacrifice efficacious, and the Buddha tells him of a sacrifice
held in days of yore by King Mahāvijita, under the guidance of his
enlightened head priest (purohita). The sacrifice is undertaken with the
co-operation of the four divisions of the king’s subjects. The king has
eight personal qualifications, as has his chaplain. No living thing
is injured; all the labour is voluntary and the sacrifice is offered,
not only on behalf of the king, but of all the good. No regrets are felt
at any stage of the sacrifice.

The Buddha then proceeds to tell Kūṭadanta of other forms of
“sacrifice” more potent than the gift of material things, and ends the
sutta with a description of Arahantship.

At the conclusion of the discourse Kūṭadanta declares himself to be a follower of the Buddha. D.i.127 ff.

Kutadanta Sutta (Digha Nikaya) by Ven. Dhammavuddho Mahathera - Part A
Kutadanta Sutta (Digha Nikaya) by Ven. Dhammavuddho Mahathera - Part A
Published on Dec 5, 2014
Kutadanta the Brahmin asks the Buddha how to perform a sacrifice; the
Buddha replies by telling of one of his past lives, as chaplain to a
king, where they performed a sacrifice which consisted of making
offerings, with no animals killed.
People & Blogs
Kutadanta the Brahmin asks the Buddha how to perform a sacrifice; the Buddha replies by telling of…
at Khāṇumata. Kūṭadanta consults the Buddha on the best way of making a
sacrifice efficacious, and the Buddha tells him of a sacrifice held in
days of yore by King Mahāvijita, under the guidance of his enlightened
head priest (purohita). The sacrifice is undertaken with the

Kutadanta Sutta
 A Bloodless Sacrifice

For free distribution only, as a gift
of Dhamma

  Thus Have I Heard:

Once the Lord was traveling through Magadha with a large company of some five
hundred monks, and he arrived at a Brahmin village called Khanumata.  And
there he stayed at the Ambalatthika park. [1]  Now at that time the
Brahmin Kutadanta was living at Khanumata, a populous place, full of grass,
timber, water and corn, which had been given to him by King Seniya Bimbisara
of  Magadha as a royal gift and with royal powers.

And Kutadanta planned a great sacrifice : seven hundred bulls, seven hundred
bullocks, seven hundred heifers, seven hundred he-goats and seven hundred rams
were all tied up to the sacrificial posts. [2] 

And the Brahmins and householders of Khanumata heard say:  “The
ascetic Gotama…is staying at Ambalatthika.”  And concerning that
Blessed Lord Gotama a good report has been spread about:  “This
Blessed Lord is an Arahant, a fully-enlightened Buddha, perfected in knowledge
and conduct, a Well-Farer, Knower of the worlds, unequalled Trainer of men to be
tamed, Teacher of Gods and humans, a Buddha, a Blessed Lord.”  He
proclaims this world with its Gods, Maras and Brahmas, the world of ascetics and
Brahmins with its princes and people, having come  to know it by his own
knowledge.  He teaches a Dhamma that is lovely in its beginning, lovely in
its middle and lovely in its ending, in the spirit and in the letter, and he
displays the fully-perfected, thoroughly purified holy life.  And indeed it
is good to such Arahants.”  And at that the Brahmins and householders,
leaving Khanumata in great numbers, went to Ambalatthika.

Just then, Kutadanta had gone up to his verandah for his midday rest. 
Seeing all the Brahmins and householders making for Ambalatthika, he asked his
steward the reason.   The steward replied:  “Sir, it is the
ascetic Gotama, concerning whom a good report has been spread about: 
“This Blessed Lord is an Arahant…a Buddha, a Blessed Lord.” 
That is why they are going to see him.

Then Kutadanta thought:  “I have heard that the ascetic Gotama
understands how to conduct successfully the triple sacrifice with its sixteen
requisites.  Now I do not understand all this, but I want to make a big
sacrifice.  Suppose, I were to go to the ascetic Gotama and ask him about
the matter.”  So he sent his steward to the Brahmins and householders
of Khanumata to ask them to wait for him.

And at that time several hundred Brahmins were staying at Khanumata intending
to take part in Kutadanta’s sacrifice.  Hearing of his intention to visit
the ascetic Gotama, they went and asked him if this were true.  “So it
is, gentlemen, I am going to visit the ascetic Gotama.”

“Sir, do not visit the ascetic Gotama …” (exactly
the same arguments as at Digha Nikáya 4 verse 5) … it is not fitting that you
should do so!  If the Reverend Sonadanda  goes to visit the ascetic
Gotama, his reputation will decrease, and that of the ascetic Gotama will
increase.  This being so, it is not right that the Reverend Sonandanda
should visit the ascetic Gotama, but rather the ascetic Gotama should visit

“The Reverend Sonadanda is well-born on both the mother’s
and the father’s side, of pure descent to the seventh generation, unbroken, of
irreproachable birth, and therefore he should not call on the ascetic Gotama,
but rather the ascetic Gotama should call on him.  The Reverend Sonadanda
is possessed of great  wealth and resources…The Reverend Sonadanda is a
scholar, versed in the mantras, accomplished in the Three Vedas, a skilled
expounder of the rules and rituals, the lore of sounds and meanings and,
fifthly, oral tradition - an expounder, fully versed in natural philosophy and
the marks of a Great Man.  The Reverend Sonadanda is handsome,
good-looking, pleasing, of the most beautiful complexion, in form and
countenance like Brahma, of no mean appearance.  He is virtuous, of
increasing virtue, endowed with increasing virtue.  He is well-spoken, of
pleasing address, polite, of pure and clear enunciation, speaking to the
point.  He is the teacher’s teacher of many, teaching the mantras to three
hundred youths, and many young men come from different districts and regions
seeking to learn the mantras in his presence, desirous to learn them from
him.  He is aged, grown old, venerable, advanced in years, long past his
youth, whereas the ascetic Gotama is youthful and newly gone forth as a
wanderer.  The Reverend Sonadanda is esteemed, made much of, honored,
revered, worshipped by King Seniya Bimbisara and by the Brahmin Pokkharasati. 
He lives at Campa, a populous place, full of grass, timber, water and corn,
which has been given to him by King Seniya Bimbisara of Magadha as a royal gift,
and with royal powers.

This being so, it is not proper that the Reverend Kutadanta should visit the
ascetic Gotama, but rather the ascetic Gotama should visit him.”

Then Kutadanta said to the Brahmins :  “Now listen, gentlemen, as
to why it is fitting for us to visit the Reverend Gotama, and why it is not
fitting for him to visit us…” (exactly
the same as Digha Nikáya 4 verse 6)…The
ascetic Gotama is well-born on both sides of pure descent to the seventh
generation, unbroken, of  irreproachable birth …(as  Digha Nikáya 4
verse 5).    Therefore it is fitting for us to visit him. 
He went forth, leaving a great body of kinsmen.  In fact he gave up much
gold and wealth to go forth, both hidden away and openly displayed.  The
ascetic Gotama, while youthful, a black-haired youth, in the prime of his young
days, in the first stage of life went forth from the household life into
homelessness.  Leaving his grieving parents weeping with tear-stained
faces, having cut off his hair and beard and put on yellow robes, he went forth
into homelessness.  He is handsome … virtuous…well-spoken…the
teacher’s teacher of many.  He has abandoned sensuality and dispelled
vanity.  He teaches action and the results of action, honoring the
blameless Brahmin way of life.  He is a wanderer of high birth, of a
leading Khattiya family.  He is a wanderer from a wealthy family, of great
wealth and possessions.  People come to consult him from foreign kingdoms
and foreign lands.  Many thousands of Devas have taken refuge with him.

This good report has been spread about him :  “This
Blessed Lord is an Arahant, a fully-enlightened Buddha, perfected in knowledge
and conduct…”He bears the thirty-two marks of a Great Man.  He is
welcoming, kindly of speech, courteous, genial, clear and ready of speech. 
He is attended by four assemblies, revered, honored, esteemed and worshipped by
them.  Many Devas and humans are devoted to him.  Whenever he stays in
any town or village, that place is not troubled by non-human beings.  He
has a crowd, a multitude of followers, is a teacher of many, he is consulted by
the chief of the various leaders of sects.  It is not the way with the
ascetic Gotama’s reputation, as it is with that of some ascetics and Brahmins,
about whom this or that is reported - the ascetic Gotama’s fame is based on his
achievement of unsurpassed wisdom and conduct.  Indeed King Seniya
Bimbisara of Magadha has gone for refuge to him together with his son, his wife,
his followers and his ministers.  So have King Pasenadi of Kosala and the
Brahmin Pokkharasati.  He is revered, honored, esteemed and worshipped by

The ascetic Gotama has arrived in Campa and is staying by
Gaggara’s lotus-pond.  And whatever ascetics and Brahmins come to our
territory are our guests.  And we should revere, honor, esteem and worship
guests.  Having come to Gaggara’s lotus-pond, the ascetic Gotama is such a
guest, and should be treated as such.  Therefore it is not proper that he
should come to us, but rather we should go to him.  However much I might
praise the ascetic Gotama, that praise is insufficient, he is beyond all

The ascetic Gotama has arrived in Khanumata and is staying at Ambalatthika. 
And whatever ascetics or Brahmins come to our territory are our guests …He is
beyond all praise.”

On hearing this, the Brahmins said:  “Sir, since you praise the
ascetic Gotama so much, then even if he were to live a hundred yojanas from
here, it would be fitting for a believing clansman to go with a shoulder-bag to
visit him.  And, sir, we shall all go to visit the ascetic
Gotama.”  And so Kutadanta went with a large company of Brahmins to
Ambalatthika.  He approached the Lord, exchanged courtesies with him, and
sat down to one side.  Some of the Brahmins and householders of Khanumata
made obeisance to the Lord, some exchanged courtesies with him, some saluted him
with joined palms, some announced their names and clan, and some sat down to one
side in silence.

Sitting to one side, Kutadanta addressed the Lord:   “Reverend
Gotama, I have heard that you understand how to conduct successfully the triple
sacrifice with its sixteen requisites.  Now I do not understand all this,
but I want to make a big sacrifice.  It would be well if the ascetic Gotama
were to explain this to me.”   “Then listen, Brahmin, pay
proper attention, and I will explain.  “Yes, Sir,” said
Kutadanta, and the Lord said:

“Brahmin, once upon a time there was a king called Mahavijita. [3] 
He was rich, of great wealth and resources, with an abundance of gold and
silver, of possessions and requisites, of money and money’s worth, with a full
treasury and granary.  And when King Mahavijita was musing in private, the
thought came to him :  “I have acquired extensive wealth in human
terms, I occupy a wide extent of land which I have conquered.  Suppose now
I were to make a great sacrifice which would be to my benefit and happiness for
a long time?”  And calling his minister-chaplain, [4]  
he told him his thought:  “I want to make a big sacrifice. 
Instruct me, Reverend Sir, how this may be to my lasting benefit and

The chaplain replied:  “Your Majesty’s country is beset by thieves,
it is ravaged, villages and towns are being destroyed, the countryside is
infested with brigands.  If your Majesty were to tax this region, that
would be the wrong thing to do.  Suppose Your Majesty were to think: 
“I will get rid of this plague of robbers by executions and imprisonment,
or by confiscation, threats and banishment, the plague would not be properly
ended.  Those who survived would later harm Your Majesty’s realm. 
However, with this plan you can completely eliminate the plague.  To those
in the kingdom who are engaged in cultivating crops and raising cattle, let Your
Majesty distribute grain and fodder; to those in trade, give capital; to those
in government service assign proper living wages.  Then those people, being
intent on their occupations, will not harm the kingdom.  Your Majesty’s
revenues will be great, the land will be tranquil and not beset by thieves, and
the people, with joy in their hearts, will play with their children, and will
dwell in open houses.”

And saying:  “So be it!” the king accepted the chaplain’s
advice: he gave grain and fodder, capital to those in trade…proper living
wages…and the people with joy in their hearts…dwelt in open houses.

Then King Mahavijita sent for the chaplain and said:  “I have got
rid of the plague of robbers; following your plan my revenue has grown, the land
is tranquil and not beset by thieves, and the people with joy in their hearts
play with their children, and dwell in open houses.  Now I wish to make a
great sacrifice.  Instruct me as to how this may be done to my lasting
benefit and happiness.”  “For this, Sir, you should send for your
Khattiyas from town and country, your advisers and counselors, the most
influential Brahmins and the wealthy householders of your realm, and say to
them:  “I wish to make a great sacrifice.  Assist me in this,
gentlemen, that it may be to my lasting benefit and happiness.”

The King agreed, and did so.  “Sir, let the sacrifice begin, now is
the time, Your Majesty.  These four assenting groups [5] 
will be the accessories for the sacrifice.

“King Mahavijita is endowed with eight things.   He is
well-born on both sides…(as Digha Nikáya 4 verse 5) of
irreproachable birth.  He is handsome…of no mean appearance.  He
is  rich … with a full treasury and granary.  He is powerful, having
a four-branched army 6  that is loyal,
dependable, making bright his reputation among his enemies.  He is a
faithful giver and host, not shutting his door against ascetics, Brahmins and
wayfarers, beggars and the needy - a fountain of goodness.  He is very
learned in what should be learnt.  He knows the meaning of whatever is
said, saying :  “This is what that means.”  He is a scholar,
accomplished, wise, competent to perceive advantage in the past, the future or
the present. 7   King Mahavijita is
endowed with these eight things.  These constitute the accessories for the

“The Brahmin chaplain is endowed with four things.  He is well born
…  He is a scholar, versed in the mantras …  He is virtuous, of
increasing virtue, endowed with increasing virtue.  He is learned,
accomplished and wise, and is the first or second to hold the sacrificial
ladle.  He has these four qualities.  These constitute the accessories
to the sacrifice.”

Then, prior to the sacrifice, the Brahmin chaplain taught the King the three
modes.  “It might be that Your Majesty might have some regrets about
the intended sacrifice:  “I am going to lose a lot of wealth,”
or  during the sacrifice:  “I am losing a lot of wealth,” or
after the sacrifice:  “I have lost a lot of wealth.”  In
such cases, Your Majesty should not entertain such regrets.”

Then, prior to the sacrifice, the chaplain dispelled the King’s qualms with
ten conditions for the recipient:  “Sir, there will come to the
sacrifice those who take life and those who abstain from taking life.  To
those who take life, so will it be to them; but those who abstain from taking
life will have a successful sacrifice and will rejoice in it, and their hearts
may be calmed within.  There will come those who take what is not given and
those who refrain…those who indulge in sexual misconduct and those who refrain…those
who tell lies…indulge in calumny, harsh and frivolous speech…those who are
covetous and those who are not, those who harbor ill-will and those who do not,
those who have wrong views and those who have right views.  To those who
have wrong views it will turn out accordingly, but those who have right views
will have a successful sacrifice and will rejoice in it, and their hearts may be
calmed within.”  So the chaplain dispelled the King’s doubts with ten

So the chaplain instructed the King who was making the great sacrifice with
sixteen reasons, urged him, inspired him and gladdened his heart.  Someone
might say:  “King Mahavijita is making a great sacrifice, but he has
not invited his Khattiyas…his advisers and counselors, the most influential
Brahmins and wealthy householders …” But such words would not be in
accordance with the truth, since the King has invited them.  Thus the King
may know that he will have a successful sacrifice and rejoice in it, and his
heart will be calmed within.  Or someone might say:  “King
Mahavijita is making a great sacrifice, but he is not well-born on both sides…”  
But such words would not be in accordance with the truth…Or someone
might  say:  “His chaplain is not well-born…”  But
such words would not be in accordance with the truth.  Thus the chaplain
instructed the King with sixteen reasons…

“In this sacrifice, Brahmin, no bulls were slain, no goats or sheep, no
cocks and pigs, nor were various living beings subjected to slaughter, nor were
trees cut down for sacrificial posts, nor were grasses mown for the sacrificial
grass, and those who are called slaves or servants or workmen did not perform
their tasks for fear of blows or threats, weeping and in tears.  But those
who wanted to do something did it, those who did not wish to did not : they did
what they wanted to do, and not what they did not want to do.  The
sacrifice was carried out with ghee, oil, butter, curds, honey and

“Then, Brahmin, the Khattiyas…the ministers and counselors, the
influential Brahmins, the wealthy householders of town and country, having
received a sufficient income, came to King Mahavijita and said:  “We
have brought sufficient wealth, Your Majesty, please accept it.” 
“But gentlemen, I have collected together sufficient wealth.  Whatever
is left over, you take away.”

At the King’s refusal, they went away to one side and consulted
together.  “It is not right for  us to take this wealth back to
our own homes.  The King is making a great sacrifice.  Let us follow
his example.”

Then the  Khattiyas put their gifts to the east of the sacrificial pit,
the advisers and counselors set out theirs to the south, the Brahmins to the
west and the wealthy householders to the north.  And in this sacrifice no
bulls were slain… nor were living beings subjected to slaughter…Those who
wanted to do something did it, those who did not wish to did not…The sacrifice
was carried out with ghee, oil, butter, curds, honey and molasses.  Thus
there were the four assenting groups, and King Mahavijita was endowed with eight
things, and the chaplain with four things in three modes.  This, Brahmin,
is called the sixteen-fold successful sacrifice in three modes.

At this the Brahmins shouted loudly and noisily :  “What a splendid
sacrifice!  What a splendid way to perform a sacrifice!”  
But Kutadanta sat in silence.  And the Brahmins asked him why he did not
applaud the ascetic Gotama’s fine words.  He replied:  “It is not
that I do not applaud them.  My head would split open if I did not.[8]   
But it strikes me that the ascetic Gotama does not say :   “I
have heard this,” or  “It must have been like this,” but he
says:  “It was like this or like that at the time.”  And so,
gentlemen, it seems to me that the ascetic Gotama must have been at that time
either King Mahavijita, the lord of the sacrifice, or else the Brahmin chaplain
who conducted the sacrifice for him.  Does the Reverend Gotama acknowledge
that he performed, or caused to be performed, such a sacrifice, and that in
consequence at death, after the breaking-up of the body, he was reborn in a good
sphere, a heavenly state?”   “I do, Brahmin.  I was the
Brahmin chaplain who conducted that sacrifice.”

“And, Reverend Gotama, is there any other sacrifice that is simpler,
less difficult, more fruitful and profitable than this three-fold sacrifice with
its sixteen attributes?”   “There is, Brahmin.”

“What is it, Reverend Gotama?”   “Whenever regular
family gifts are given to virtuous ascetics, these constitute a sacrifice more
fruitful and profitable than that.”

“Why, Reverend Gotama, and for what reason is this better?”

“Brahmin, no Arahants or those who have attained the Arahant path will
attend such a sacrifice.  Why?  Because there they see beatings and
throttlings, so they do not attend.  But they will attend the sacrifice at
which regular family gifts are given to virtuous ascetics, because there are no
beatings or throttlings.  That is why this kind of sacrifice is more
fruitful and profitable.”

“But, Reverend Gotama, is there any other sacrifice that is more
profitable than either of these?”  “There is, Brahmin.”

“What is it, Reverend Gotama?”   “Brahmin, if anyone
provides shelter for the Sangha coming from the four quarters, that constitutes
a more profitable sacrifice.”

“But, Reverend Gotama, is there any sacrifice that is more profitable
than these three?”
“There is, Brahmin.”

“What is it, Reverend Gotama?”  “Brahmin, if anyone with
a pure heart goes for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma and  the Sangha,
that constitutes a sacrifice more profitable than any of these three.”

“But, Reverend Gotama, is there any sacrifice that is more profitable
than these four?”
“There is, Brahmin.”

“What is it, Reverend Gotama?”  “Brahmin, if anyone with
a pure heart undertakes the precepts - to refrain from taking life, from taking
what is not given, from sexual immorality, from lying speech and from taking
strong drink and sloth-producing drugs - that constitutes a sacrifice more
profitable than any of these four.”

“But, Reverend Gotama, is there any sacrifice that is more profitable
than these five?”
“There is, Brahmin.”

“What is it, Reverend Gotama?”  “Brahmin, a Tathágata
arises in this world, an Arahant, a fully-enlightened Buddha, endowed with
wisdom and conduct, Well-Farer, Knower of the worlds, incomparable Trainer of
men to be tamed, Teacher of Gods and humans, enlightened and blessed.  He,
having realized it by his own super-knowledge, proclaims this world with its
Devas, Maras and Brahmas, its princes and people.  He preaches the Dhamma
which is lovely in its beginning, lovely in its middle, lovely in its ending, in
the spirit and in the letter, and displays the fully-perfected and purified holy
life.  A disciple goes forth and practices the moralities, etc (Digha 
Nikáya 2 verses 41-74).  Thus a monk is perfected in
morality.  He attains the four jhanas (Digha  Nikáya 2
verses 75-82).  That, Brahmin, is a sacrifice… more
profitable.  He attains various insights (Digha Nikáya
verses 83-95), and the cessation of the corruptions (Digha
Nikáya 2 verse 97).    He knows:  “There is
nothing further in this world.  That Brahmin, is a sacrifice that is
simpler, less difficult, more fruitful and more profitable than all the
others.  And beyond this there is no sacrifice that is greater and more

“Excellent, Reverend Gotama, excellent!  It is as if someone were
to set up what had been knocked down, or to point out the way to one who had got
lost, or to bring an oil-lamp into a dark place, so that those with eyes could
see what was there.  Just so the Reverend Gotama has expounded the Dhamma
in various ways,  may the Reverend Gotama accept me as a lay-follower from
this day forth as long as life shall last!  And, Reverend Gotama, I set
free the seven hundred bulls, seven hundred bullocks, seven hundred heifers,
seven hundred he-goats and seven hundred rams.  I grant them life, let them
be fed with green grass and given cool water to drink, and let cool breezes play
upon them.”

Then the Lord delivered a graduated discourse to Kutadanta, on generosity, on
morality and on heaven, showing the danger, degradation and corruption of
sense-desires, and the profit of renunciation.  And when the Lord knew that
Kutadanta’s mind was ready, pliable, free from the hindrances, joyful and calm,
then he preached a sermon on Dhamma in brief : on suffering, its origin, its
cessation, and the path.  And just as a clean cloth from which all stains
have been removed receives the dye perfectly, so in the Brahmin Kutadanta, as he
sat there, there arose the pure and spotless Dhamma-eye and he knew: 
“Whatever things have an origin must come to cessation.”

Then Kutadanta, having seen, attained, experienced and penetrated the Dhamma,
having passed beyond doubt, transcended uncertainty, having gained perfect
confidence in the Teacher’s doctrine without relying on others, said: 
“May the Reverend Gotama and his order of monks accept a meal from me

The Lord assented by silence.  Then Kutadanta, seeing his consent, rose,
saluted the Lord, passed by to his right and departed.  As day was
breaking, he caused hard and soft food to be prepared at his place of sacrifice,
and when it was ready he announced:  “Reverend Gotama, it is time; the
meal is ready.”

And the Lord, having risen early, went with robe and bowl and attended by his
monks to Kutadanta’ place of sacrifice and sat down on the prepared seat. 
And Kutadanta served the Buddha and his monks with the finest foods with his own
hands until they were satisfied.  And when the Lord had eaten and taken his
hand away from the bowl, Kutadanta took a low stool and sat down to one side.

Then the Lord, having instructed Kutadanta with a talk on Dhamma, inspired
him, fired him with enthusiasm and delighted him, rose from his seat and
departed. [9]



[1]  Not the same place as that mentioned in Digha
Nikáya 1 but one similar to it [DA].

[2]   His name means “Sharp-tooth,”
and RD is almost certainly right in considering this an invented story. 
Apart from anything else, no Brahmin would have consulted the Buddha, of all
people, about how to perform a sacrifice which was supposed to be their specialty. 
But at SN 3.1.9 we have the presumably historical story of how King Pasenadi of
Kosala planned a great sacrifice [though of only 500, not 700 bulls, etc], with
the Buddha’s versified comments.  From the commentary, though not the text,
we hear that the King finally desisted from his intention.  Perhaps the
Buddha told the King this story on that occasion and the incident was later
tactfully transferred from the King of Kosala to an imaginary Brahmin “with
royal powers” living in the neighboring kingdom of Magadha.

[3]   “Lord Broadacres.”

[4]  Purohitam.  The king’s head-priest [Brahmanic],
or domestic chaplain, acting at the same time as a sort of Prime Minister.

[5]  The Khattiyas, counselors, Brahmins and

[6]  Elephants, cavalry, chariots and infantry.

[7]  By knowing the workings of kamma : good
fortune now is due to past kamma, and good deeds performed now will have similar
results in the future.

[8]  A curious threat that never comes to
anything, and is of course pre-Buddhist.

[9]  In his important book Five Stages of Greek
Religion [London, Watts and Co., 1935, p. 38] Gilbert Murray has a fine passage
in praise of the Greek spirit.  He writes :  When really frightened
the oracle generally fell back on some remedy full of pain and 
blood.  The medieval plan of burning heretics alive had not yet been
invented.  But the history of uncivilized man, if it were written, would
provide a vast list of victims, all of them innocent, who died or suffered to
expiate some portent or monstrum…with which they had nothing whatever to do…The
sins of the modern world in dealing with heretics and witches have perhaps been
more gigantic than those of primitive men, but one can hardly rise from the
record of these ancient observances without being haunted by the judgment of the
Roman poet :  “Tantum religio potuit saudere malorum” [”To
so many evils was religion able to persuade men”], and feeling with him
that the lightening  of this cloud, the taming of this blind dragon, must
rank among the very greatest services that Hellenism wrought for mankind.

Murray seems only to think of human victims, and to be totally
oblivious to the fact that Buddhism had, a century before Socrates, been much
more radical in its abolition of cruelty to humans and animals, and with more
lasting results, at least as far as India and neighboring countries were
 Maha-parinibbana Sutta — Last Days of the Buddha

The Great Discourse on the Total Unbinding

wide-ranging sutta, the longest one in the Pali canon, describes the
events leading up to, during, and immediately following the death and
final release (parinibbana) of the Buddha. This colorful narrative
contains a wealth of Dhamma teachings, including the Buddha’s final
instructions that defined how Buddhism would be lived and practiced long
after the Buddha’s death — even to this day. But this sutta also
depicts, in simple language, the poignant human drama that unfolds among
the Buddha’s many devoted followers around the time of the death of
their beloved teacher.
Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṃ (Pali) - 2 Kāyānupassanā ānāpānapabbaṃ

Audio Files


A short selection of chants

I go to the Buddha as a refuge, the Dhamma as a refuge, the Sangha as a refuge.
For the second time… For the third time…
I undertake the training rule of refraining from killing living beings.
I undertake the training rule of refraining from taking what is not given.
I undertake the training rule of refraining from sexual…
Recollection of the qualities of the Buddha

The Lord is indeed thus:
An Arahat;
Completely self-awakened;
Perfect in knowing and doing (i.e. in understanding and ‘skill in means’ (compassion); in other…


A wish for all devas, humans and other beings to take joy in this good fortune of ours and thereby
gain merit to bring them goodness and good fortune.

Let this merit be of benefit…

chant names the great eight enlightened followers of the Buddha and
places them in the eight directions around the Buddha who resides in the

… May all obstacles be dispelled.

A mural in the main hall, of Wat Palelai, Singapore painted on silk depicting the Mahasamaya Sutta.


Pali Buddhist Chanting

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