Atthakatha and Sinhalatthakatha

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 Consequently the old and superseded Sinhalese commentary is called Sinhalatthakatha.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,

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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;

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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.

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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

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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?


I just found this. I was looking for the sinhala commentaries. This might be it @Mirco

The Atuwa (අටුවා) are the text written in Pali which describes the the deeper areas in Tripitaka in detail. When the Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka, the local priests stared documenting the deeper analysis of Tripitaka in local language (Hela Basa) which were collectively called Helatuwa (හෙළටුවා). Helatuwa consisit of three Attakatha (අට්ඨකථා). These are Maha Attakathawa (මහා අට්ඨකතාව), Pachchari Attakathawa (පච්චරි අට්ඨකතාව) and Kurundi Attakathawa (කුරුන්දි අට්ඨකථාව).

Now we need someone to translate :joy: @sujato maybe Bhante @sarana knows more about this? Lived in Sri lanka

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i have these quotes from kurundi many years

The Kurundī* states: ‘A father is absent. The mother gives her son permission, saying, “Let him go forth.” When asked, “Where has his father gone?” she replies, “I shall be responsible for whatever is due to you from the father.” — It is suitable for him [the son] to be given the going forth.’

But the Kurundī states: ‘if [the country] is far away and the way to it is [across] a great wilderness (or desert), it is suitable to give him the going forth, [thinking], “having gone there [later] we shall obtain leave [of the parents].”’

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The link to Sinhala Atthakatha - Suttasangaha was uploaded by me into . Glad that you read it, although I am not sure about the copyright for it.

I have brought all of the over 50 books of Sinhala Atuwa to Myanmar and with a team of Burmese gentlemen we scanned it all. (I mean, “all”.) But I am little bit afraid to upload it because, again, I don’t know how far I could have a problem with copyright law.

Anyway, the quote that you are quoting is correct, it is in the Vinaya Commentaries.

Regarding the three commentaries from Sri Lanka - helatuwa (hela = sinhala, atuwa = atthakatha) they are repeatedly quoted in the Pali Commentaries, the Pali translation of the helatuwa by ven. Buddhaghosa and several other monks. (People say that ven. Buddhaghosa is guilty of writing the commentaries, but big NO NO - not only that we know he specifically mentioned whenever he had his own opinion, but quite a number of the Commentary books were translated by entirely different persons.)

Myanmar people believe that basically everything what is in the Commentaries is the teachings of the Arahants who attended the First Buddhist Council. Well, if it makes them happy, then why not? :sun_with_face: There are of course several serious problems/contradictions/ways-to-have-fun/wisdom-exercises/faith-exercises, but that would require about 10 new posts for each of them.



Aha, so if I understand correctly, you suggest that this wish was not ven. Buddhaghosa’s wish, but the copyist’s wish… :joy:

That sheds a lot of light on the matter.
Thank you. :heart:

I didnt notice Bhante uploaded until you said. :man_facepalming:t3: but are these you uploaded the original ones Buddhagosa used?

No way. These are Sinhalese translation from the Pali translation.

So, first the Commentaries were in Pali, let’s say written in India, a few centuries after the Buddha passed away.
Then they were translated into Sinhalese and kept in Sri Lanka. The original Pali was lost.

Then ven. Buddhaghosa came to Sri Lanka to translate the Sinhalese Commentaries back to Pali language. Unfortunately the Sinhalese texts which he used were lost.

The Pali translation of ven. Buddhaghosa and some other monks is available until today. They quote the Sinhala commentaries time and again, so theoretically we could reconstruct them? :blush: (Not me, please. :sun_with_face: )

Then in the 20th century AC the Sri Lankan government supported translation of the ven. Buddhaghosa’s translation into Pali to Sinhalese.

So, what you found is the second Sinhalese translation of the Pali texts. You’d be much more accurate if you used the Pali Commentaries instead.



Well, some of them, at least.

And we still don’t have English translations.