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The History of Pali Literature

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Item Code: UAG884
Author: B. C. Law
Language: English
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 9788183900041
Pages: 568
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 740 gm
Book Description

Scholars interested in Buddhism have no doubt felt a great want of an exhaustive treatment of Pali literature. I have, therefore, attempted for the first time to supply the need of a detailed and systematic history of Pali literature in two volumes. Drs. M.H. Bode and G.P. Mahalasekera have published their respective monographs on the Pali literature of Burma and of Ceylon. Drs. Geiger and Winternitz have also given us a brief survey of Pali literature in their respective works. "Pali Literatur und sprache" and "Geschichte der Indischen Literatur die Buddhistische literatur und die Heiligen texte der Jainas (1920)". But my treatment of the subject is entirely different from those of my predecessors. The first volume deals with the chronology and general history of the Pali Pitakas. In the Introduction to this volume I have briefly discussed the origin of Pali and the importance of the study of Pali as one of the Indian languages. A systematic and critical treatment of the puzzling problem of the chronology of the Pali canon follows next, throwing a new light on this intricate and difficult subject. I have tried to discuss at some length the date and composition of each and every book included in the Pali canon. This volume contains a critical exposition of the Vinaya Pitaka. An elaborate treatment of the Sutta Pitaka consisting of the five nikâyas, the Digha, Majjhima, Samyutta, Anguttara, and Khuddaka has received the attention it deserves. I have also taken care to point out the peculiarities of the style and language in which each suttanta has been written. Under each suttanta and under each nikaya the ancient and modern literature hitherto published has been noticed. In the section on the Abhidhamma Pitaka, I have noted the significance and importance of the Abhidhamma treatises not without paying attention to the style and language of the Abhidhamma texts. The Pali counterparts of the Abhidhamma books. of the Sarvastivada Schools have been dealt with in the last chapter of the first volume. I have everywhere considered it worth while to mention the available printed editions, manuscripts, and different recensions of each sutta noting the points of textual variations wherever possible. An attempt has been made to collect the parallel passages by way of comparison from other literatures wherever found.
The second volume which treats of post-canonical Pali literature is devoted to the study of extra canonical works pre-supposed by the Pal commentaries, the Pali chronicles, the Pali manuals, the Pali, literary piece the Pali grammars, lexicographies, and works on rhetoric. In the concluding chapter, I have tried to give a general survey of the whole book and traced the development of Pali poetry. I have given two appendices dealing with the Historical and Geographical refrences in the Pali Pitakas and the Pali tracts in the inscriptions, which, I believe, will be found useful. I have appended and index at the end of the covenience of readers. I have not found it necessary to deal with some of unimportant books about which nothing much can be known, e.g. the Sarasamgaha (containing many points concerning Buddhism), the Kamanddki (a book on polity), the Akkharasammo-hacheda (word book), the Sotabbamálini (containing edifying tales), the Takkabhasa (a book on logic), Amatakaravannana, Sucittalankara, Lanka-katha, Muniguṇalankára, Sarasamgaha, Rajadhirajavilasini, Dhamma-sattapakarana, Dabbaguna (pharmacology). Saratthajamgaha, Sülacaraka, Sadhucaritodaya, Kosalabimbavannana, Sahassavatthukarana, Lokappadī-pakasara, etc.
The task which I gave performed is, not doubt, beset with difficulties but I shall consider my labour amply rewarded if this treatise is found useful by scholars interested in Buddhist literature, history, and religion.
I am grateful to Mrs. Rhys Davids and Dr. M. M. Barua for their valuable suggestions for the improvement of this work. Dr. W. Geiger has really laid me under a deep debt of gratitude by writing a foreword. I have to offer my sincere thanks to Dr. D. R. Bhandarkar, M.A.,Ph.D., and Mr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, M.A., B.L., Barrister-at Law,who have evinced a keen interest in the publication of this work.


There can be no doubt that a new and ample treatment of the Pali literature is a great scientific want felt by all the scholars who are working in that field. Many problems connected with the subject are still unsolved. Not even the question of the origin and home of what we call Pali language and of its linguistic character is definitively settled, and the chronological order of a single book is very often uncertain. Professor Winternitz in his great work on Indian literature has described also the Pali literature in an admirable manner. But the scope of his work did not allow him, of course, to enter into all the details and to discuss the many divergences of opinion. Malalasekera in his recent publication has confined himself to the Pali books composed in Ceylon. Hence the whole canonical literature was to be left aside. I was very much pleased, therefore, when I heard that Dr. Bimala Churn Law had intended to publish a comprehensive work on Pali literature. We all know his former publications on Buddhist topics and their intrinsic value, and I repeatedly congratulated him on the happy choice of his themes and on the clever manner in which he had accomplished his task. I was even more pleased when I had the opportunity to persue a good deal of the manuscript of the present work. It will prove to be extremely useful to all the Pali scholars by the sober and impartial judgement of the author and by the clear exhaustive exposition of the various problems. Above all I wish to point at the important discussion of the relative chronology of the canonical texts, which means a considerable progress beyond what Rhys Davids has said on the subject, and at the ample and very clear summaries of the Tipitaka books which will be welcome to those who are unable to read them in the original language but wish to become acquired with their general plan and contents. I frankly say that I found all I could read extremely suggestive and I am convinced that I shall learn much from the book even where my opinion may perhaps differ from that of the author.


In between the closing of the Pali canon and the writing of the Pali commentaries by Buddhadatta, Buddhaghoşa, and Dhammapala, there is a short but dark period of development of Pali literature which has not yet engaged adequate attention of scholars. Broadly speaking, this period ex tends from the beginning of the Christian era to the close of the 4th century A.D. The Nettipakarana, the Petakopadesa, and the Milinda Pañha are un doubtedly the three extra-canonical and highly useful treatises that may be safely relegated to the earlier part of this period. There are a few other work, more or less, of a commentarial nature that are closely pre-supposed by the great commentaries of Buddhadatta, Buddhaghoșa, and Dhamma pala. These comprise, among others, (1) certain earlier commentaries written in Sinhalese, such as the Müla or Maha-atthakatha, the Uttara Vihara atthakatha (the Commentary of the dwellers in the "North Minster"), Maha paccariya, the Kurundiya or Mahakurunda atthakatha quoted by Buddha ghosa in his commentaries, (2) two other earlier commentaries, the Andhaka and the Sankhepa current in South-India, particularly in Kanchipura or Conjeveram, and quoted by Buddhaghoṣa, (3) the Vinayavinicchaya by Buddhasiha, a fellow bhikkhu of Buddhadatta, pre-supposed by the Vinaya viricchaya of Buddhadatta and the Samantapasadikå of Buddhaghoṣa, (4) the Sinhalese comentary on the canonical Jataka-book referred to and quoted by Buddhaghosa under the name of Jataka-atthakatha, (5) certain views and interpretations of the schools of reciters quoted by Buddhaghoṣa in his com mentaries, (6) the Dipavamsa, the earlier Pali chronicle quoted by Buddhaghos a in his commentary on the Kathavatthu, and (7) the Atthakatha Mahavamsa pre-supposed by Mahanama's great chronicle of Ceylon.
The writings of Buddhadatta, Buddhaghoṣa, and Dhammapăla come necessarily after these earlier works in both Pali and Sinhalese and occupy chronologically a place next to them. The Mahavamsa or the great epic chronicle of Ceylon composed by Mahanama, the Anagatavamsa, a later supplement to the Buddhavamsa, and the Jatakatthavannana written by a thera at the personal request of the elder Atthadassi, Buddhamitta of the Mahimsasaka sect and Bhikkhu Buddhadeva of clear intellect, may be assigned to almost the same period of Buddhist literary activities in Ceylon which is covered by the writings of Buddhaghosa. Mahanama's Mahavamsa may be regarded as a Páli model of certain chronicles the Půjavaliya and the rest written in Sinhalese. The commentaries on the books of the Vinaya, Sutta, and Abhidhamma Pitakas were followed by certain tikas to be chrono logically discriminated as mula and anu, Ananda and Sariputta being noted as authors of some of these můla and anu tikas. From the sixth or seventh century A.D. onwards we see also the beginning of a Pali grammatical litera ture headed by Kaccayana's Pali Grammar as well as of Pali lexicons headed by the Abhidhanappadipika. The literary processes connected with the com mentaries and sub-commentaries and the compilations in the shape of hand books continued resulting in the growth of a somewhat different type of later literature. The Abhidhammatthasangaha and many other books of great authority written by the eminent Anuruddha and others are to be counted as remarkable literary output of this stage of the development of Pali. The Narasihagatha quoted in the Nidanakatha of the Jatakatthavannana, the Telakatahagatha ranking with the satakas headed by the compositions of Bhartrhari, the Jinacarita which is a kavya attempted in Pali less success fully on the model of Asvaghosa Buddhacarita, the Pajjamadhu, a Pali poe tical composition produced in Ceylon, the Pancagatidipana and the Saddha mmopayana, two similar poetical compositions of Ceylon and the Rasava hini, a book of intersting Buddhist folktales, written in simple prose, are some of the literary pieces that are included in our scheme of Post-Canoni cal Pali literature. We are generally to exclude from our scheme various Pali works on law, grammar, prosody, lexicography, and the commentaries written in Burma and Ceylon from the 15th century A.D. onwards. In deal ing with the Post-Canonical Pali literature we are first of all to take up the extra canonical works presupposed by the Pali comentaries, next the Pali commentaries, then the Pali chronicles, Pali Manuals, Pali literary pieces and lastly Pali grammars, books on prosody and lexicons the classification. being arbitrary.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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