Atthakatha and Sinhalatthakatha

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Dhamma Greetings,

I stumbled upon this (below) and wondered, if there are translations of the Atthakatha before it was translated to Singhalese or of the Sinhalatthakatha before it was retranslated to Pali.

II. The history and development of Pali commentary (Atthakatha)
The commentaries as we know that the result of a long development based on two kinds of older sources. According to chronicle books Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa mentioned that, commentaries are assumed to have been recited already on the occasion of the 1 st , 2 nd and 3 rd Council. After the 3 rd Buddhist Councils, when the king Asoka sent out his son Mahinda. Then Mahinda is thought to have brought them to Ceylon in the third century BC, where they were translated into Sinhalese , to be retranslated into Pali by Boddhaghosa. Consequently the old and superseded Sinhalese commentary is called Sinhalatthakatha.

from: Introduction of Pali commentaries by Amkhar Bounzouay,

Much Metta,


The old commentaries in Sinhalese no longer exist. They seem to have gradually fallen into disuse after Buddhaghosa. There might be some traces of them; I believe the Vinaya commentary in Chinese known as Sudassanavinayavibhasa may have been translated into Chinese from old Sinhala. But in general it seems that Buddhaghosa did as he said: he translated the Sinhala faithfully into Pali—bearing in mind that ancient Sinhala and Pali were closely related anyway—and when that was done the Sangha generally had no need to retain the Sinhalese texts.


Thank you.


Bhanthe @sujato, does any texts connect earlier texts with the later ‘seven purifications’ (visuddhi) way of explanation, of the Path?


The seven purifications are derived from MN 24;


There’s a lot of details in the Abhidhamma pitaka . Such as

  1. Knowledge of Contemplation of Arising and Passing Away (mature stage)
  2. Knowledge of Contemplation of Dissolution
  3. Knowledge of Contemplation of Appearance as Terror
  4. Knowledge of Contemplation of Danger
  5. Knowledge of Contemplation of Disenchantment
  6. Knowledge of Desire for Deliverance
  7. Knowledge of Contemplation of Reflection
  8. Knowledge of Equanimity about Formations
  9. Knowledge in Conformity with Truth

This seems replicated in the Visuddhimagga. I wonder about the origin of the insight knowledge.


Whereabouts are these sourced from? I can’t really say anything sensible without knowing exactly what we’re referring to.


I’m trying to identify if ideas re: insight developed conceptually until it ended with Buddhagosa.


I don’t think the list of 16 stages of insight are found in EBTs.

Also, I think it is important to note that:

“Even Buddhaghosa did not really believe that Theravada practice could lead to Nirvana.
His Visuddhimagga is supposed to be a detailed, step by step guide to enlightenment.
And yet in the postscript […] he says he hopes that the merit he has earned by writing the Vishuddhimagga will allow him to be reborn in heaven, abide there until Metteyya (Maitreya) appears, hear his teaching and then attain enlightenment.”
Source: The Broken Buddha, by Ven. S. Dhammika

Note To The Reader [I could add these off the top of my head…]
The Sixteen Stages of Insight
1 - Namarupa Pariccheda Nana [differentiating mind and matter…]
2 - Paccaya Pariggaha Nana [realising cause and effect…]
3 - Sammasana Nana [inference of anicca, dukkha and anatta…]
4 - Udayabbaya Nana [arising and cessation. the so called 'corruptions of insight are possibly the ‘7 factors of enlightenment’…]
5 - Bhanga Nana [five aggregates seen in dissolution…]
6 - Bhaya Nana [five aggregates as fearful…]
7 - Adinava Nana [drawbacks…]
8 - Nibbida Nana [revulsion…]
9 - Muncitukamayata Nana [yearning for release…]
10 - Patisankha Nana [reviewing insight thus far…]
11 - Sankharupekha Nana [equanimity from anicca…]
12 - Anuloma Nana
13 - Gotrabhu Nana
14 - Magga Nana [Vimutti or Nibbana… third noble truth]
15 - Phala Nana [stream entry phalasamawatha]
16 - Paccavekkhana Nana [reviewing- knowledge and vision of release…]

Its safe to say there are parallel concepts and the order is also consistent with the EBTs. I wonder if there’s any scholarly work comparing this with EBTs?


Ven. Dhammika is making the common mistake of confusing Buddhaghosa’s colophon with that of the scribal copyist. The former dedicates the the merit of composing the Visuddhimagga to the happiness of all beings. It’s the scribe, not Buddhaghosa, who wants to go to heaven and later meet Metteyya.


Why not both? There’s nothing logically contradictory about believing that the path as laid out in the Visuddhimagga leads to nibbana in this very life, and at the same time, to want to be reborn in the time of Maitreya, to see him for oneself before becoming enlightened.

In any case, the passage that expresses a wish to be reborn with Metteyya has multiple indications that it is a later addition, probably a scribal remark by a copyist.

  • It is only found in Sinhalese manuscripts
  • It doesn’t identify Buddhaghosa at all, merely saying “through the merit I have gained by this”.
  • It appears after the rather elaborate praise of Buddhaghosa, which itself appears to be a later addition (it’s not good form to praise oneself in this way).
  • It is right at the end, exactly where a copyist’s scribal mark would be added
  • This belief is implicitly rejected in the text itself (Vism 1.135)


Thanks for the correction!

Maybe we could share it with Ven. S.Dhammika as well?