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Sri Lanka's Contribution to the Development of the Pali Canon

I’ve rescued the following article from my archives. It was prefaced by the following notice. It was updated in 2001. I probably got it originally from Binh Anson’s site (thanks Binh!)


Professor Oliver Abeynayake obtained his B.A. degree with First Class Honours from the Vidyalankara University of Sri Lanka and his Ph.D. degree from the University of Lancaster, England. He was formerly the Head of the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies at the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka. Presently, he is the Director of Research at the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka

This research article had been published in Buddhism For The New Millennium (London: World Buddhist Foundation, 2000), pp.163-183. Copyright 2000 World Buddhist Foundation ISBN 0-9518957-1-0


It is reported in the Pali Commentaries that the Pali Tipitaka which was rehearsed in the First Council as well as in the subsequent Councils was brought to Sri Lanka by the Arahant Mahinda. [1] The Vinaya, Sutta and Abhidhamma are the three Pitakas. The Vinaya Pitaka consists of the Parajikapali, Pacittiyapali, Mahavaggapali, Culavaggapali and Parivarapali. The Sutta Pitaka contains the following five Nikayas: Digha, Majjhima, Samyutta, Anguttara and Khuddaka while the Khuddaka Nikaya includes the following texts as its contents: Khuddakapatha, Dhammapada, Udana, Itivuttaka, Sutta Nipata, Vimanavatthu, Petavatthu, Theragatha, Therigatha. Jataka, Niddesa, Patisambhidamagga, Apadana, Buddhavamsa and Cariyapitaka. The Abhidhammapitaka comprises seven texts such as Dhammasangani, Vibhanga, Dhatukatha, Puggalapannatti, Kathavatthu, Yamaka and Patthana. It is believed that these thirty one texts which are considered the Tripitaka, exist even today, as they were brought to Sri Lanka by the Arahant Mahinda in the third century B.C.. However, the reality goes against this general belief. The Pali Tripitaka seems to have undergone various changes in Sri Lanka due to interpolations and editions. The aim of this paper is to pay attention to such changes which occurred in Sri Lanka

According to the Sri Lankan tradition, the Vibhanga section of the Vinaya Pitaka consists of the Parajikapali and the Pacittiyapali. However, two Vibhangas are not reckoned anywhere as the Parajikapali and the Pacittiyapali in the Pali Commentarial literature. When the Samantapasadika, Sumangalavilasini and the Atthasalini are examined, it can be observed that the terms Mahavibhanga - Bhikkhunivibhanga, Bhikkhu - Bhikkhunivibhanga or dvevibhanga are used for the purpose of indicating the Vibhanga section of the Vinaya Pitaka. [2] The structural change the took place in Sri Lanka with regard to the Vinaya Pitaka on accepting the Parajikapali and the Pacittiyapali as the Vibhangas is not as minor as it seems. What the Arahant Mahinda brought to Sri Lanka is the Maha/ Bhikkhuvibhanga and Bhikkhunivibhanga. Their nature is explicitly given in the Nidanakatha of the Sumangalavilasini. [3] The Maha/ Bhikkhuvibhanga was compiled by collecting together the precepts in their entirety with seven adhikaranasamathas enacted for the monks. Subsequently, the Bhikkhunivibhanga was rehearsed as a collection of all precepts with the adhikaranasamathas prescribed for the nuns. The accounts of the First Council found in the Samantapasadika, Sumangalavilasini and the Atthasalini make it very clear that two separate texts by the names of Bhikkhuvibhanga and Bhikkhunivibhanga were prepared in the First Council. These two texts were rehearsed in the subsequent Councils too. Contrary to the truth, these two texts are considered identical with the Parajikapali and the Pacittiyapali. The following observation shows that this popular belief is quite far from the truth.

The Parajikapali as it exists today, contains the Bhikkhu-precepts belonging to the categories of Parajika, Aniyata, Sanghadisesa and Nissaggiyapacittiya and their expositions. The Pacittiyapali comprises not only the remaining Bhikkhu-precepts belonging to the categories of Pacittiya, Patidesaniya, Sekhiya and Adhikaranasamatha and their expositions but also the Bhikkuni-precepts in toto and their expositions too. The Parajikapali and the Pacittiyapali which are substantially different from the Bhikkhuvibhanga and Bhikkhunivibhanga compiled in the First Council as two collections of precepts pertaining to monks and nuns respectively came into existence in Sri Lanka. The causes that led to this change and the exact period when it took place cannot be ascertained. However, some problems that had arisen due to this should be mentioned here.

The decision arrived at in the First Council to name the text that contained the Bhikkhu-precepts as the Bhikkhuvibhanga and the text that contained the Bhikkhuni-precepts as the Bhikkhunivibhanga is quite justifiable. However, the designations of Parajikapali and Pacittiyapali which came into existence in Sri Lanka in place of Bhikkhuvibhanga and Bhikkhunivibhanga do not seem to be either suitable or meaningful. The Parajikapali and the Pacittiyapali would have been named thus since the Parajikas are treated first in the Parajikapali and the Pacittiyas are treated first in the Pacittiyapali. It should however be mentioned here that the Parajikas promulgated for Bhikkhunis are found in the Pacittiyapali and certain Pacittiyas promulgated for Bhikkhus are found in the Parajikapali. This shows that a categorical division of precepts arranged according to a set pattern is not found in the Parajikapali and Pacittiyapali. It is quite obvious that the precepts for Bhikkhunis are absolutely ignored in proposing the designations of Parajikapali and Pacittiyapali. On the other hand, the balance maintained in the Bhikkhuvibhanga and Bhikkhunivibhanga is pathetically lost in the Parajikapali and the Pacittiyapali. Only the meagre number of forty-nine precepts are treated in the Parajikapali, while the rest, four hundred and eighty nine in number, are treated in the Pacittiyapali. Another salient point pertaining to the Pacittiyapali is that does not treat the Bhikkhuni-precepts with same enthusiasm shown towards the Bhikkhu-precepts. The redactors of the Pacittiyapali have sometimes ignored certain Bhikkhuni-precepts by not providing relevant details. In addition, various portions of the Bhikkhunivibhanga are deliberately omitted in the process of inserting the contents of it into the Pacittiyapali. The conclusion that can be arrived at accordingly, is that Bhikkhu-vibhanga in its entirety and the Bhikkhunivibhanga partially have remained in the Parajikapali and Pacittiyapali. [4]

The Sarvastivadi, Dharmagupta, Mahisasaka and Mahasanghika schools of Indian Buddhism have designated their Vibhanga sections of the Vinaya Pitaka by the names of Bhiksuvibhanga and Bhikksunivibhanga. The Mulasarvastivada and Kasyapiya schools have utilized the terms Bhiksupratimoksa and Bhiksunipratimoksa instead. [5] This shows that the terms Parajikapali and Pacittiyapali were first introduced by the Sri Lankans, even though they were commonly used later in the Theravada tradition. The maltreatment of Bhikkhuvibhanga in the Pacittiyapali shows that the terms Parajikapali and Pacittiyapali gain sway in an era in which the Bhikkhuni Order was disappearing.

If the Parajikapali and the Pacittiyapali are accepted as the Vibhanga section of the Pali Vinaya Pitaka, the inevitable conclusion that should be arrived at is that the Pali Vinaya Pitaka is not a collection of all Bhikkhuni-precepts. The reason for this conclusion is the non-inclusion of the Bhikkhunivibhanga in its entirety into the Pacittiyapali. Only one hundred and twenty eight Bhikkhuni precepts are treated in the Pacittiyapali with their relevant details such as vatthu and nidana out of three hundred and eleven rules counted with the Adhikaranasamathas. If the Sri Lankan tradition that the Vibhanga section of the Vinaya Pitaka is nothing but the Parajikapali and the Pacittiyapali is accepted, one hundred and eighty three Bhikkhuni-precepts lose their Canonical authority. The commentators rightly understood this problem. To solve it meaningfully, they came forward with a new definition of the Vinaya Pitaka, which states that the Vinaya Pitaka comprises not only two Vibhangas but also the two Pratimoksas. [6] The attempt to introduce two Pratimoksas in addition to two Vibhangas can be seen in this definition. Such an attempt was quite necessary to confer the Canonical authority on the Bhikkhuni-precepts that were excluded by accepting the Parajikapali and the Pacittiyapali in place of the Bhikkhuvibhanga and the Bhikkhunivibhanga. The compilation of the Kankhavitarani, in addition to the Samantapasadika written on the entire Vinaya Pitaka, was also an attempt to establish the authority and authenticity of the two Pratimoksas without which the Pali Vinaya Pitaka is not complete.

Accordingly, a situation which compelled the compulsory inclusion of the two Pratimoksas into the Vinaya Pitaka arose in Sri Lanka. Such a necessity was not there when the Bhikkuvibhanga and the Bhikkhunivibhanga were included in the Vinaya Pitaka. The acceptance of the Parajikapali and the Pacittiyapali instead of the Bhikkhuvibhanga and the Bhikkhunivibhanga gave rise to the Sri Lankan tendency that the Vinaya Pitaka comprises seven texts. This goes against the generally accepted number of the texts of the Vinaya Pitaka as decided by the Indian schools of Buddhism.

The Parivara is another text of the Vinaya Pitaka which underwent a drastic change in Sri Lanka. There is no doubt that the Vinaya Pitaka which was brought to Sri Lanka by the Arahant Mahinda had a Parivara, an addendum, in it. Various studies have already been done on the Vinaya Pitaka belonging to several Indian schools of Buddhism. These studies have shown that almost all Indian schools of Buddhism, except Mahasanghikas and Mahisasakas, had a Parivara in their Canonical Vinaya. The Sarvastivadins had several Parivaras in their Vinaya Pitaka while the Dharmaguptilas had two. [7] The Dipavamsa reports that the Mahasanghikas rejected the traditional Parivara and substituted it with another. [8] It shows that the Parivara was known at the time of the emergence of the Mahasanghika school. The Apadana has recognized the sub-sections of the Vinaya Pitaka by the names of Vinaya, Khandhaka, Tikaccheda and Pancama. [9] The term Pancama in this context indicates nothing but the Parivara according to the Apadanatthakatha. [10] Even though the Apadana developed through centuries, the Canonical dignity was conferred on it before Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka. All these point to the fact that there was a text called Parivara in the Tripitaka which was brought to Sri Lanka in the third century B.C.. The Sumangalavilasini informs us that the Parivara in the size of twenty five bhanavaras was rehearsed in the First Council. [11]

However, there is evidence to prove that present Parivara and the Parivara which was brought to Sri Lanka by the Arahant Mahinda are not identical. A definite criterion to identify the original Parivara is suggested in the definition of the Vinaya Pitaka found in the Samantapasadika. Accordingly, the original Parivara is reckoned as so asaparivara. The so asaparivara does not embrace the entire Parivara now existing, but is confined to a segment of it. There are two sixteenfold Parivaras as So asaparivara in the Bhikkhuvibhanga and So asaparivara in the Bhikkhunivibhanga in the present Parivara. The redactors of the Councils were careful enough to insert the statements "mahavibhange so asaparivara nitthita" "bhikkhunivibhange so asaparivara nitthita" at the end of the first and the second Vibhangas in the Parivara. [12] It is legitimate, therefore, to think that the original Parivara comprised only the first two chapters of the present Parivara. The remaining portions of the present Parivara can be considered as being interpolated into it at a later stage. The nature of the first two chapters of the Parivara is quite different from that of the rest. Since the first two chapters discuss the matters pertaining to the Vibhangas of the Vinaya Pitaka, it is legitimate to think that the remaining chapters are on the problems arising form the Khandbakas. However, the remaining chapters have gone beyond the subject matter of the Khandhakas. What can be found in a careful scrutiny is that the present Parivara is an amalgamation of two distinctive parts. The first part, which is the original Parivara, comprises only the first two chapters of the text and the second part the rest. The two salient characteristics of the second part are the abundance of small chapters and the stanzas. The second part is not a precise and methodical essay as the first part is. It is therefore obvious that the first two chapters of the present Parivara and the rest were composed at two different times. The Indian origin of the first part which covers only the first two chapters is quite obvious. It is what was brought to Sri Lanka by the Arahant Mahinda. The second part which covers the remaining chapters, seems to have been added in Sri Lanka as an appendix to the original Parivara.

The supplementary evidence that can be adduced to prove the fact that the Parivara underwent a tremendous change in Sri Lanka, should be briefly mentioned here. At the end of the text, it is observed that the Parivara was caused to be compiled by a Bhikkhu named Dipa for the benefit of the learners. [13] The colophon further states that the methodology of the ancient teachers was inserted freely and the text was abridged in doing so. It is therefore legitimate to think that the role played by the Venerable Dipa was not confined to wanting down of the Parivara which was orally transmitted till then. The opportunity that the Venerable Dipa had to abridge the text, would have been enjoyed by another to expand the text. The Parivara mentions the names of the participants of the Third Council held in the reign of king Dharmasoka. [14]   The Parivara reveals the succession of teachers who orally handed down the Vinaya Pitaka. [15] It is important to note here that some of those teachers flourished during the reign of king Vattagamaniabhaya. [16] The Parivara informs us of Sri Lankan Bhikkhu named Puppha who reestablished the Buddhasasana in India after Buddhism disappeared from its soil. [17] Vamsatthappakasini, the sub-commentary on the Mahavamsa, records that the controversies with regard to the Parivara paved the way for schism in Sri Lankan Buddhism. [18] The Parivara is the only Canonical work where Sri Lanka is mentioned by the name of Tambapanni. [19] According to the available evidence, Sri Lanka was not known among those who formulated the Pali Canon. On the other hand, the Parivara is the only Canonical work where the Arahant Mahinda's arrival in Sri Lanka is mentioned. The Parivara specifically states that the Arahant Mahinda came "here" from India. [20] The word "here" in the relevant statement indicates Sri Lanka without any doubt. Such an information can be available only in a text which underwent a marked change in Sri Lanka. On the data scattered throughout, the Parivara can be identified as a text where the stanzas, sermons and dialogues, composed, preached and compiled by the Sri Lankan monks are heavily collected.

As mentioned before, the Venerable Dipa was instrumental in preserving the Parivara for the benefit of learners. As the statement "likhapesi sissakanam sukhavaham" points out, the Parivara was meant to be a text book to he studied by those who had an interest in the matters concerning discipline. It is the therefore justifiable to conclude that the present Parivara is a revision and expansion of the original Parivara which was brought to Sri Lanka by the Arahant Mahinda. In this revision and expansion where the interests of the learners were looked into, the Parivara was transformed into a text book prepared on the curriculum of the Mahavihara at Anuradhapura. [21]

The first four Nikayas of the Sutta Pitaka in the Pali Canon too underwent certain changes in Sri Lanka. The first glimpse of this kind can be seen in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Digha Nikaya. It is well known that the Mahaparinibbana Sutta grew for centuries collecting material from various sources. Its Indian development culminated with the interpolations added in the Third Council held in the reign of king Dharmasoka. Sumangalavilasini, the commentary on the Digha Nikaya, explicitly states that the sections on the distribution of relics and erection of ten stupas were added to the Sutta in the Third Council. [22] The Digha Nikaya with the Mahaparinibbana Sutta thus developed in India was brought to Sri Lanka by the Arahant Mahinda. When the Sumangalavilasini is carefully examined, it is evident that the Mahaparinibbana Sutta further developed in Sri Lanka.

The Mahaparinibbana Sutta, with six bhanavaras, is supposed to be the longest discourse found in the entire Pali Canon. The sexth bhanavara of the Sutta comprises the last statement of the Buddha, Buddha's great demise, arrival of the Arahant Kasyapa, distribution of relics and the worship of the relic stupas. The discourse ends with five stanzas appended to the sixth bhanavara. [23] With regard to these stanzas, the Sumangalavilasini points out that they were added to the discourse by the Sri Lankan monks. [24] It should be remembered here that the stanzas identical with these five are found in the Buddhavamsa of the Khuddaka Nikaya too. [25] It is therefore reasonable to think that the Buddhavamsa was also enriched with these stanzas by the Sri Lankan monks.

This is an explicit example of Sri Lankan interpretations in the Pali Canon. What is important here is that the commentators themselves attribute the authorship of these stanzas to the Sri Lankan monks. It further implies that, though they are not definitely identified, there may be more Sri Lankan interpolations of this nature in the Pali Canon.

It should be emphasized here that the five stanzas added to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta by the Sri Lankan monks laid the foundation for various tendencies which emerged latter in the Sri Lankan culture. The stories of relics found in the Pali commentaries, Sinhala classics on Buddhism and legends were influenced by these stanzas. There is no evidence to prove the worship of Tooth Relics was known in India before Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka. The present day dominance of the worship of Tooth Relic seems to have been a Sri Lankan innovation. The five stanzas added to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta and the Buddhavamsa seem to have inspired the Sri Lankan writers who filled the gaps of the history of the tooth Relic which was brought here in the reign of king Kittisirimegha.

The fact that there are four stanzas authored by the Sri Lankan monks in the Sammaditthi Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya is extremely important to the subject matter of this paper. The undivided honour of this discovery should go to the Venerable Yakkaduwe Sri Pragnarama, the late principal of the Vidyalankara Pirivena in Sri Lanka. [26]   As observed by the Venerable Pragnarama, the four stanzas were added to highlight topics discussed in the discourse. Since three of the four stanzas are cryptic, some editors of the Majjhima Nikaya were anxious enough to expunge them from the Sammaditthi Sutta. These four stanzas seem to be ambiguous and meaningless only if they are considered as Pali compositions. As pointed out by the Venerable Pragnarama, they are composed in Sinhala Prakrit. He was led to this remarkable discovery by the word "vadanake" found in each of the four stanzas. The Venerable Pragnarama has made it clear that these four stanzas can be easily comprehended with help of Asokan Prakrit, language employed in the early Sinhala inscriptions and the quotations taken to the Dhampiya Atuwa Gatapadaya from Sinhala Commentaries. As observed further by the Venerable Pragnarama, it cannot be concluded that the additions were not made to the Pali Tripitaka in Sri Lanka. It is well known that there are additions done in Sri Lanka in the Pali Commentaries, since they are full of events and information of Sri Lankan origin. In the same way, the Canonical works have evidence to prove that the Sri Lankan monks prepared the lists of contents to the discourses of extreme importance and inserted them at the proper places. The purpose of this endeavour was not only refreshing their memories but also helping the learners. [27] The Venerable Pragnarama has adduced the four stanzas found in the Sammaditthi Sutta to substantiate this assumption.

As pointed out by the Venerable Pragnarama further, there are eight Sinhala sentences in the Mulapariyaya Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya. The services rendered by the Venerable Pragnarama to the Sinhala language by editing and interpreting these sentences, which were deleted and wrongly quoted by some editors of the Majjhima Nikaya should be greatly appreciated. According to the Venerable Pragnarama, one finds it easy to understand how the Arahant Mahinda preached the Dhamma and communicated with the Sinhala people as soon as he arrived in Sri Lanka, when one examines these Sinhala sentences. It is also easy to solve the problems pertaining to the nature of early Sri Lankan language and its affinities to the other languages. Venerable Pragnarama emphasizes the fact that the Aryan origin of Sinhala language can be proved beyond doubt on the basis of the eight sentences enshrined in the Mulapariyaya Sutta. [28]

There is no direct evidence of Sri Lankan interpolations either in the Samyutta Nikaya or in the Anguttara Nikaya. However, our attention should be paid here to two commentarial remarks regarding their extent. According to these remarks, the Samyutta Nikaya comprises seven thousand seven hundred and sixty two discourses while the Anguttara Nikaya is a collection of nine thousand nine hundred fifty seven discourses. [29] The numbers of the discourses in the present Samyutta Nikaya and the Anguttara Nikaya differ from the above numbers. As pointed out by the Venerable Polwatte Buddhadatta, the number of the discourses in the present Samyutta Nikaya, counted with repetitions, is nine thousand seven hundred and twenty six. This exceeds the commentarial number by one thousand nine hundred and sixty four. The Venerable Buddhadatta is of the opinion that the number of the discourses of the present Samyutta Nikaya can be reduced to six thousand one hundred and forty six if the repetitions are not counted separately. This shows a reduction of one thousand six hundred and ten discourses from the commentarial number. According to the Venerable Buddhadatta's computation, the present Anguttara Nikaya consists of seven thousand seven hundred and ninety one discourses. [30] The reduction of the number of discourses in the present Anguttara Nikaya is then one thousand seven hundred and sixty six when compared to the commentarial number. According to the PTS editions, the numbers of the discourses of these two Nikayas are lesser than the numbers given by the Venerable Buddhadatta. Compared with the commentarial numbers of the discourses, it is obvious that the present Samyutta and Anguttara Nikayas are quite abridged.

As we know, the Venerable Buddhaghosa wrote two commentaries on the Samyutta and Anguttara Nikayas under the names of Saratthappakasini and Manorathapurani respectively. When these two commentaries are examined, the obvious conclusion that can be arrived at, is that the present Samyutta and Anguttara Nikayas are identical with those that the Venerable Buddhaghosa had before him. What can then be said about the Samyutta with 7762 discourses and the Anguttara with 9957 discourses? Did the Venerable Mahinda bring to Sri Lanka the extended versions or the abridged versions of the Samyutta and Anguttara? Or else, are the present Samyutta and Anguttara Nikayas the revised editions of the extended versions brought to Sri Lanka by the Arahant Mahinda? There is yet another point that should be considered here: the similarity that exists between the first two Nikayas and the corresponding gamas whethers away among the remaining Nikayas and the gamas. In other words, Samyutta and Anguttara Nikayas are quite different from the corresponding gamas of Samyutta and Ekottara. This dissimilarity points to the fact that these Nikayas and gamas underwent drastic changes in their own traditions. What was preserved and established in the Theravada School of Buddhism in Sri Lanka was the Pali Canon which was brought here by the Arahant Mahinda. It is therefore resonable to ask the question whether the Samyutta and Anguttara Nikayas were revised and edited in Sri Lanka to minimize the repetitions the originals had.

It is the Khuddaka Nikaya that undergone a qualitative and a quantitative difference in Sri Lanka. The Khuddaka Nikaya developed in India for centuries before Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka. The developments that took place in Sri Lanka in the Khuddaka Nikaya should not therefore be considered unnatural and alien.

Even though it is well known that the Khuddaka Nikaya is fifteenfold, [31] it is unknown that this is a Sri Lankan concept. There is no evidence to prove that none of the Indian Schools of Buddhism which emerged before or after Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka accepted that the Khuddaka Nikaya is fifteenfold. In fact, there was no definite decision of the number of the Ksudrakagama in any of the Indian Schools of Buddhism. Even the Bhanaka traditions which emerged and developed in India and later came to Sri Lanka had not taken a decision in this regard. The idea that the Khuddaka Nikaya is fifteenfold was first expressed in the commentaries attributed to the Venerable Buddhaghosa. It can safely be concluded that the Khuddaka Nikaya comprises fifteen texts is a concept well established in the Mahavihara tradition.

With the establishment of the concept that the Khuddaka Nikaya is fifteenfold in the Mahavihara tradition, a new text not known to the Indian Buddhists was introduced to the Khuddaka Nikaya in Sri Lanka. That is the Khuddakapatha. What was expected by the statement that the Khuddaka Nikaya is fifteenfold is to justify the inclusion of the Khuddakapatha in the Khuddaka Nikaya and to put an end to its future developments. Whether these expectations were fulfilled in the history should be separately examined. What is to be noted here is that the Mahavihara tradition of Sri Lanka seems to have had the opinion that the non-commitment of the Indian Schools of Buddhism as to the definite number of the texts of the Khuddaka Nikaya had paved the way for the contamination of the Buddha's word.

When the sources in which the list of the Khuddaka texts is found are examined, it is quite obvious that it is only the Venerable Buddhaghosa who translated the Sinhala commentaries, following the Mahavihara tradition that includes the Khuddakapatha in the Khuddaka Nikaya. The Khuddakapatha is not mentioned either in the list of the Digha-bhanakas or in the list of the Majjhima-bhanakas as revealed in the Sumangalavilasini. The Indian Buddhists did not have any knowledge of a text called Khuddakapatha, according to the information available with regard to the Khuddaka texts accepted by the Indian Schools of Buddhism. The Samantapasadika of Buddhaghosa was translated into Chinese within the first century of its compilation. This Chinese translation had taken all precautionary measures not to mention the name of the Khuddakapatha. This shows that only the Sri Lankan tradition had accepted the Khuddakapatha as a canonical text. The authority of the Khuddakapatha has been questioned even by the ancient Sri Lankan teachers. The Palimahabodhivamsa, written five centuries after Buddhaghosa, the Saddharmaratnakaraya and the Sinhala translation of the Milindapanha, written ten centuries after Buddhaghosa, have deliberately dropped the Khuddakapatha from the list of the Khuddaka texts. No other Khuddaka text has undergone this treatment.

The request extended to the Venerable Buddhaghosa to write a commentary on the Khuddakapatha was yet another Sri Lankan attempt to insert the Khuddakapatha into the Khuddaka Nikaya. The selection of the Khuddakapatha by Buddhaghosa over various other authentic texts was justified by placing the Khuddakapatha as the first among the Khuddaka texts. The Paramatthajotika is the commentary written by Buddhaghosa on the Khuddakapatha. Buddhaghosa wrote a commentary on the Sutta Nipata too by the same name. According to the commentarial order of the Khuddaka texts, which runs as Khuddakapatha, Dhammapada, Udana, Itivuttaka, Sutta Nipata, etc., Buddhaghosa should have selected the Udana after the Khuddakapatha, since he has written the commentary on the Dhammapada. However, Buddhaghosa selected the Sutta Nipata overstepping even the Itivuttaka and wrote a commentary on it by the name of the Khuddakapatha commentary. The reason behind this attempt should be the conferment of the authority and authenticity of the Sutta Nipata on the Khuddakapatha. The introductory remarks of the Khuddakapatha imply this further. According to Buddhaghosa, the Khuddakapatha is absolutely complete. Buddhaghosa expresses how difficulty it is for a person such as himself, not understanding the doctrine, to write a commentary on the Khuddakapatha. However, Buddhaghosa states that he summons up courage to attempt the task as the decisions of the ancient teachers exist up to his day. When the nature of the Khuddakapatha is considered, the above statements of Buddhaghosa would be meaningful only when they are taken as an attempt to confer canonical dignity on the Khuddakapatha. The contents of the Khuddakapatha, with the only exception of the Nidhikhanda Sutta, are found elsewhere in the Pali Canon. Therefore, the Indian Schools of Buddhism did not confront with the problem of conferring Canonical authority on the Khuddakapatha.

The position assigned to the Khuddakapatha in the Mahavihara curriculum would have prompted Buddhaghosa to insert it in the Khuddaka Nikaya. The Nidhikhanda Sutta, whose canonical authority would have otherwise been lost, would have greatly contributed towards this attempt. Its suitability as a text book meant for the novices, its conciseness and popularity as a prescribed text would have been conducive to the inclusion of the Khuddakapatha in the Pali Cannon in Sri Lanka. [32]

The Kokaliya Sutta of the Sutta Nipata is an ideal example of the Sri Lankan interpolations in the Pali Canon. [33] The Kokaliya Sutta, which is an exposition of both prose and verse, is the tenth discourse of the Mahavagga of the Sutta Nipata. The prose passages which constitute the first part of the discourse comprises a dialogue between the Buddha and the monk Kokaliya, the destiny of Kokaliya who did not pay heed to the Buddha's admonitions, the message of Sahampati, the Brahma, conveyed to the Buddha and the Buddha's account of hells given in connection with Kokaliya's sorrowful birth. The actual discourse preached after these preliminary remarks is given in verse. Therefore, the stanzas of this sutta are more important than the prose passages. The present Kokaliya Sutta consists of twenty two stanzas, however, the commentary on the Sutta Nipata observes clearly that this is a discourse of twenty stanzas. [34] To justify his statement that the Kokaliya Sutta, which in fact has twenty two stanzas, consists only of twenty stanzas, the author of the Commentary, the Venerable Buddhaghosa in this case, observes that the last two stanzas are not available in the concluding expositions of the Mahatthakatha. In other words, the Mahatthakatha, which was brought to Sri Lanka and translated into Sinhala by the Arahant Mahinda, did not contain the comments on the last two stanzas of the present Kokaliya Sutta. The author of the Sutta Nipata commentary confirms the fact that these two stanzas had become the integral part of the Kokaliya Sutta by the fifth century A.D.. The meaning of all this is that the two stanzas were interpolated to the Kokaliya Sutta after the Arahant Mahinda's and the Venerable Buddhaghosa's commentarial pursuits. "The fact recorded here is significant because it points with more or less certainty to a specific instance of an addition, however small, made to the Pali Canon a considerable time after it was brought to Ceylon and probably after it was committed to writing at Matula Janapada." [35]

The Apadana of the Khuddaka Nikaya too has evidence to prove that it was edited several times. The Apadana is a poetical composition divided mainly into two parts as Therapadana and Theriapadana. The PTS edition of the text contain 547 stories of Theras categories in 55 Vaggas, However, a statement found in the text itself indicates that there are 550 stories of Theras. [36] Accordingly, the PTS editions has lost three stories. Even though there should be ten stories in the thirty-fourth Vagga, in actual fact, there are only seven stories. Non inclusion of these stories in the PTS edition seems to be a result of an inadvertence. The Sinhala edition of the Apadana prepared and published by the Venerable Polwatte Buddhadatta has 552 stories of Theras belonging to 50 Vaggas. This exceeds the number of stories given in the text itself by two. The commentary on the Apadana has made this position more confused and perplexed. According to the introductory remarks of the Apadanatthakatha, there are 510 stories of Theras divided into 51 Vaggas. [37] However, the colophon of the commentary declares that there are 561 stories of Theras in the Apadana. [38] The last ten stories, on which the comments are found in the Apadanatthakatha, are not available in any printed edition of the Apadana. The Buddhadatta edition and the commentarial expositions obviously manifest that the omission of the three stories in the PTS edition, is an editor's error. It is however not clear why the stories, ten in number, on which the expositions are found in the Commentary are missing in the printed editions. The following hypothesis can be suggested in this regard.

Though the Apadana which was brought to Sri Lanka by the Arahant Mahinda consisted only of 550 stories of Theras, certain stories were added to it in Sri Lanka. The commentary was written not on the original version but on the extended Sri Lankan version. It was, however, later decided to accept the original version uncontaminated with later interpolations. The differences that have arisen between the present Apadana and its commentary might be due to this reason. The lateness and non authenticity of the Visuddhajanavilasini, the Apadana commentary, justify this assumption.

The Apadana has forty stories of Theris, the number of which is not controversial. [39] A commentary was never written on these stories. It is therefore unreasonable to think on this ground that the stories of Theris were added to the Apadana only after the Visuddhajanavilasini was written. As the remarks given at the very outset introducing the numbers of Theras and Theris indicate, the author of the Apadana commentary was well aware of the forty stories pertaining to the Theris. However, there is no way of deciding whether the author of the commentary did not have the opportunity to write a commentary on the stories of Theris or whether he left it to another scholar. The stories of Theris have not yet been commented upon.

The changes that have taken place regard to the Buddhavamsa in Sri Lanka are so enormous that it is very difficult to restore the original Buddhavamsa. The details pertaining to this have been unearthed by Adikaram sometime back. [40] There are differences between the present Buddhavamsa and its Commentary to the extent that the Commentary seems to have been written on some other text. There is a large number of stanzas in the Buddhavamsa whose existence was unknown to the author of the Commentary, while the Commentary contains a huge number of stanza not found in the present Buddhavamsa. "These differences are so great that we may rightly infer that the Text which the Commentator had before him was different from the one we have today, and that the original Text received in Ceylon many additional verses after the Pali Commentary was written". The Jatakanidana quotes two chapters from the Buddhavamsa. They are identical not with the relevant chapters of the present Buddhavamsa but with the Commentarial versions. It also shows that the present Buddhavamsa is quite different from the Buddhavamsa which is referred to in the Pali Commentaries.

The Buddhapakinnakakhanda and the Dhatubhajaniya, the last two chapters of the Buddhavamsa, are not commented on in the Buddhavamsa Atthakatha. A statement found at the end of the Commentary indicates that the first of these two was known to the Commentator. [41] However, the statement further shows that the chapter known to the Commentator had only eighteen stanzas. Since there are twenty stanzas in the present Buddhapakinnakakhanda, it can be easily concluded that last two stanzas were added to it later. The Commentator had no knowledge whatsoever of the Dhatubhajaniya, the last chapter of the present Buddhavamsa. This shows its non existence in the pre-commentarial era. It should be remembered here that the Dhatubhajaniya consists of stanzas identical with the stanzas that were added to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta by the Sri Lankan monks.

The Abhidhammapitaka hardly underwent any change in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Buddhists were assiduous to maintain the Dhammasangani, Vibhanga, Dhatukatha, Puggalapannatti, Yamaka and Patthana as they were brought to Sri Lanka by the Arahant Mahinda. There is no concrete evidence of Sri Lankan interpolations even in the Kathavatthu. However, the inference that the Kathavatthu underwent editorial changes in Sri Lanka cannot be ruled out when the problems pertaining to the Kathavatthu at times in the history are closely scrutinized.

It is reported that Kathavatthu is a collection of thousand discourses taken five hundred from Sakavada and Paravada each. [42] It is, however, counted that the number of points discussed and discarded in the Text is two hundred and seventeen. This gives an indication of two different versions of the Kathavatthu. Atthasalini, the Commentary on the Dhammasangani, categorically states on three occasions that the Kathavatthu is equivalent to the Digha Nikaya in size. [43] Nonetheless, the present Kathavatthu and the Digha Nikaya are not identical in size. The Digha Nikaya is in fact larger than the Kathavatthu. According to the Commentary, the Digha Nikaya has sixty four bhanavaras, [44] while the Kathavatthu is a text of thirty five bhanavaras in the light of a statement given at the end of the text itself. [45] Accordingly, the Kathavatthu is only about half the size of the Digha Nikaya. A Kathavatthu version equivalent to the size of the Digha Nikaya is not available at present.

A statement of extreme significance found in the Atthasalini observes that there were various versions of the Kathavatthu. It reiterates that the Digha Nikaya and the Kathavatthu are identical in size when what was rehearsed (in the Third Council), not what is written now in books, is considered. [46] Firstly, this statement indicates the multiplicity of the Kathavatthu versions. Secondly, it indicates that some versions of the Kathavatthu were more comprehensive than the others. The criteria suggested by the Commentary to identify the original Kathavatthu were its size and the nature of its contents. The original size according to the Commentator was that of the Digha Nikaya, while the contents contained thousand discourses. The word "idani(now) found in the statement "idani potthake likhitam agahetva sangitiaropitanayena" emphasizes that the criteria suggested in the Commentary dealt with the situation prevalent in Sri Lanka when the Atthasalini was compiled. How far the extent to which this Sri Lankan effort to identify the original Kathavatthu had been successful cannot be now decided. If the present Kathavatthu was selected as the original one on the above criteria, what should be mentioned here is that it does not conform them.

According to the foregoing analysis, it is quite obvious that there had been a noteworthy Sri Lankan contribution not only to preserve but also to foster the Pali Canon. After the Venerable Mahinda's arrival, Sri Lanka became the centre of the Theravada School of Buddhism. The Sri Lankan teachers perpetuated the Pali Canon by word of mouth for three centuries. Sri Lanka undertook the responsibility of preserving it even after the writing down. The translation of the Pali Commentaries to Sinhala first and the subsequent Pali translation of the Sinhala Commentaries after eight centuries were also carried out in Sri Lanka under the supervision of the Theras at Mahavihara in Anuradhapura. In these circumstances, it was quite natural that the Pali Tripitaka underwent certain changes and editions, as an integral part of the activities carried out by the Sri Lankan teachers to preserve it. It is not surprising that a religious literature undergoes certain changes in the course of its history. What is surprising is that the Pali Canon, which is so extensive in size and subject matter, has been preserved as it exists today without much dilution and contamination. The credit of this should definitely go to Sri Lanka. [The end]


[Notes: Except otherwise mentioned, the Pali texts referred to in this paper are the editions of the Pali Text Society, London.]

  1. Sumangalavilasini (DA),¥°., p.1. The introductory stanzas of the Pali Commentaries written on the first four Nikayas declare that the Commentaries were brought to Sri Lanka by the Arahant Mahinda. The Pali Commentaries further imply that the Pali Tripitaka was also brought to Sri Lanka by Mahinda. The careful scrutiny of the Chronicles and Commentaries would reveal that it was the Arahant Mahinda who brought not only the Commentaries but also the Pali Canon to Sri Lanka.
  2. Samantapasadika (=VA),¥°., p.14; DA.¥°., p.13; Atthasalini (=AA), p.18.
  3. DA.¥°., pp.12-13.
  4. See for details: Abeynayake, Oliver., Tripitaka Sahityaya -¥°: Vinaya Pitaka (=TSVP), 1983, Boralasgamuwa, Sri Lanka.
  5. Frauwallner, E., The Earliest Vinaya and Beginnings of the Buddhist Literature, (=EVBBL), 1956, Roma, p.172 onwards.
  6. Tattha pathamasangitiyam sangitanca asangitanca sabbampi samodhanetva ubhayani patimokhani dvevibhangani dvavisatikhandhakani so asaparivarati idam Vinayapitakam nama. VA.¥°., p.18; DA.¥°. p.17; AA. p.18.
  7. EVBBL., p.172 onwards.
  8. Dipavamsa, ed. Kirielle Gnanawimala, p.25.
  9. Apadana, ¥°., p.43.
  10. Ettha vinayeti ubhato vibhange, khandhaketi mahavaggaculavagge, tikacchedeti tikasanghadisesatikapacittiyadike, pancameti parivare ca. Apadanatthakatha, p.283.
  11. Pancavisatibhanavarappamanam parivaranca sangham aropetva Ayam vinayapitakam namati thapesum. DA.¥°., p.13.
  12. Vinaya Pitaka (=Vp.) V., pp.3, 53, 85-91.
  13. Vp. V., p.226.
  14. Vp. V., p.29.
  15. Vp. V., p.223.
  16. Adikaram, E. W., Early History of Buddhism in Ceylon (=EHBC), 1953, Colombo, pp.80-87.
  17. Vp. V., p.3.
  18. Mahavamsatika, pp.115-116.
  19. Vp. V., p.3, 5, 49.
  20. Tato Mahindo ittiyo/ Uttaro Sambalo tatha/ haddanamo ca pan ito/ Ete naga mahapanna/ Jambudipa idhagata. Vp. V., p.321.
  21. See for details: TSVP.
  22. Evametam bhutapubbanti evametam atite dhatunidanampi Jambudipatale bhutapubbanti tatiyasangitikarapi imam padam thapayimsu. DA.¥°., p.615.
  23. Digha Nikaya, ¥±., pp.167-168.
  24. Atthadonam cakkhumato sariranti adi gathayo pana Tambapannitherehi vutta. DA.¥±., p.615.
  25. Buddhavamsa, p.102.
  26. Majjhima Nikaya, Vijjalankaratipitakaganthamalaya pathamo, 1946, Kelaniya, p.19 onwards.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Ibid., p.38.
  29. DA.,¥°., p.23.
  30. Buddhadatta, A.P., Tripitaka Sahityaya, 1953, Colombo, pp.67, 126.
  31. DA.,¥°., pp.17, 23.
  32. See for details: Abeynayake, Oliver., A Textual and Historical Analysis of the Khuddaka Nikaya, 1984, Colombo.
  33. Sutta Nipata, pp.123-131.
  34. Athaparanti tadatthavisesatthadipakam gathabandhanam sandhaya vuttam. Pathavasena vuttavisatigathasu hi ettha satam sahassaniti ayam eka eva gatha vuttatthadipika. Sesa visesatthadipika eva. Avasane gathadvayam eva pana Mahatthakathayam vinicchayapathe natthi. Tenacumha visatigathasuti. Paramatthajotika, ¥±., p.477.
  35. EHBC., pp.11-12.
  36. Apadana, ¥±., p.511.
  37. Therapadanesu dasadhikapancasatapadanani, vaggato ekapannasavagga. Apadanatthakatha, p.101.
  38. Ibid., p.571.
  39. Theriapadanesu catta isapadanani, vaggato caturo vagga. Ibid., p.101.
  40. EHBC., pp.34-35, 38-39.
  41. Aparimeyye ito kappe adika attharasagatha sangitikarakehi thapita nigamanagathati veditabba. Sesagathasu sabbatthapakatam evati. Buddhavamsatthakatha, p.295.
  42. AA., pp.4, 6, 8.
  43. Ibid.
  44. DA.¥°., pp.14-15.
  45. Kathavatthuppakarane pancatimsabhanavaram. Natthitam Kathavatthu.¥±., p.628.
  46. Tadanantaram Kathavatthuppakaranam nama. Tam sakavade pancasuttasatani paravade pancasuttasatani suttasahassam samodhanetva vibhattam. Tam vacana maggato idani potthake likhitam agahetva sangitiaropitanayena dighanikayappamanam. AA., p.8.
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Just to comment on these verses, the article doesn’t make it clear that these are found only in the Sinhalese recension; or at least, there is no sign of it in other editions I have consulted.

Checking the BJT edition (Sinhala-script edition of the 6th council), we find the following. This is a very rough translation, more of an initial impression, and I do not know the linguistic features in old Prakrit to do it properly. Anyway, it is clear enough that this is a summary verse added to the sutta. Such verses are routinely added to chapters, but rarely to an individual sutta. It is also very rare to specify that it was added by the reciters.

To sum up:

  • four summary verses were added to MN 9 in Sri Lanka that show signs of Sinhalese influence
  • they explicitly state that they were added by reciters
  • they don’t contain any significant content, just a list of topics from the sutta
  • they are not part of the actual text
  • they are ignored in most editions and translations
  • they are not mentioned in commentary or subcommentary (in VRI editions)

Idamavoca āyasmā sāriputto. Attamanā te bhikkhū āyasmato sāriputtassa bhāsitaṃabhinandunti,
This is what Venerable Sāriputta said. Satisfied, the mendicants were happy with what Sāriputta said.

Sammādiṭṭhisuttaṃ navamaṃ.
The Discourse on Right View, the ninth (in the chapter)

(Bhāṇakatherānaṃ uddānagāthā:)
The summary verse of the reciting elders

Dukkhaṃ jarāmaraṇaṃ upādānaṃ saḷāyatanaṃ nāmarūpaṃ
Suffering, old age and death, grasping, six senses, name and form
Viññāṇaṃ chapade ‘katamaṃ panāvuso’ vadānake.
Consciousness, six statements, “but what reverend” [is recited?]

Jāti taṇhā ca vedanā avijjāto catukkamo
Rebirth, craving, feeling, ignorance, four corners (?)
Yā cattāripade ‘katamā panāvuso’ vadānake.
the four statements “but what reverend” [is recited?]

Āhāro ca bhavo phasso saṅkhāro āsavapañcamo
Fuel, existence, contact, choice, defilement as the fifth,
Yo pañcapade ‘katamo panāvuso’ vadānake.
the five statements “but what reverend” [is recited?]

Katamanti chabbidhaṃ vuttaṃ katamāti catubbidhā
The six-divisioned “what” is said, the four-divisioned “what”
Katamo pañcavidho vutto sabbasaṅkhānaṃ pañcadasa padāni cāti.
The five divisioned “what” is said, and fifteen statements on all conditions too.

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These are just my initial thoughts about the word vadānaka…I’m doing this very quickly, so it might be rushed…

By itself, the word vadānaka actually looks like “real” late Pali to me, not Sinhalese per se? Vadānaka (=vadanaka) may be a noun or nominal modifier which refers to a verse or statement (pañcapade vadānake); or it may be a type of metre, which is referred to as vatanaka (=vadanaka) by Hemachandra.

The word vadāna meaning “speech” is actually canonical Pali…so to make vadānaka, it’s just a matter of adding a diminuitive +ka ending? Although the verses may have been added in Sri Lanka, I can’t really see how they are Sinhalese language **UNLESS it is the grammatical -e case endings to which Ven. Pragnarama was referring, which kind of look like a Sinhalese genitive to me. Maybe.

Also: catukkamo(k)kama=krama, four progressive steps (of an explanation)?

I have a hard time to find proper sources. It seems that there are numerous BCE inscriptions in Sri Lanka. Script is Brahmi, which is to be expected. But I can’t find elaborations on the language used. One ‘scientific’ article says that the languge of the 4th cBCE inscriptions is a mix of “Pali and Sanskrit” - which is not even possible.

Is it the language of the Asokan edicts in north-central India or a local variation?

Anyone with information on this?

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Ok…sorry for multiple edits…I thought about this some more, about what Venerable Pragnarama is trying to say. The Dhampiya Atuwa Gatapadaya is actually a 10th cent cmy on the Dhammapada, and probably contains a comment on an obscure Dhammapada line in reference to the -e grammatical ending in vadānake. I will add details to the sketch outline below when I track them down (may not be toay).

Dukkhaṃ jarāmaraṇaṃ upādānaṃ saḷāyatanaṃ nāmarūpaṃ
Suffering/ old age and death/ grasping/ six senses/ name and form
*Viññāṇaṃ chapade ‘katamaṃ panāvuso’ vadānake.’
Consciousness/ of six words/, “but what venerable”/ of the recitation.

The recitation katamaṃ panāvuso—“but what neuter items venerable?” has six words: suffering, old age and death, grasping, six senses, name and form, and consciousness.

Jāti taṇhā ca vedanā avijjāto catukkamo
Rebirth/ craving/ feeling/ from ignorance/ four steps in progression/
Yā cattāripade ‘katamā panāvuso’ vadānake.
which/ of four words/“but what venerable”/ of the recitation.

The recitation katamā panāvuso—“but what feminine items venerable?” has four words: the four steps in progression of rebirth, craving, feeling; from ignorance.

Āhāro ca bhavo phasso saṅkhāro āsavapañcamo
Fuel/ existence/ contact/ volition/defilement as the fifth,
Yo pañcapade ‘katamo panāvuso’ vadānake.
which/ five words/ “but what venerable”/ of the recitation.

The recitation, katamo panāvuso—“but what masculine items venerable?” has five words: fuel, existence, contact, volition, defilement as the fifth.

Katamanti chabbidhaṃ vuttaṃ katamāti catubbidhā
“What”/six divisions/are said/“what”/four divisions
Katamo pañcavidho vutto sabbasaṅkhānaṃ pañcadasa padāni cāti.
“what”/five divisions/are said/ a total calculation of/ fifteen words/also.

The six divisions with katamaṃ [what, neut] are said, the four divisions with katamā [what, fem.] are said, the five divisions with katamo [what, masc.] are said, which is a total calculation of fifteen words as well.

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