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Preface to the Fourth Edition The continued interest of my readers has encouraged me to bring out this fourth edition which has been updated where necessary but the work remains substantially unaltered. Buddhist studies have been noted in several bibliographical surveys in recent years among which Prof. Nakamura's Indian Buddhism (Delhi, 1987) deserves special mention. Nevertheless, much of the ongoing research is centred on the publication, translation or interpretation of post-canon...

Preface to the Fourth Edition

The continued interest of my readers has encouraged me to bring out this fourth edition which has been updated where necessary but the work remains substantially unaltered. Buddhist studies have been noted in several bibliographical surveys in recent years among which Prof. Nakamura's Indian Buddhism (Delhi, 1987) deserves special mention. Nevertheless, much of the ongoing research is centred on the publication, translation or interpretation of post-canonical texts as understood or interpretation of post-canonical texts as understood within the several 'national' traditions of Buddhist scholarship a it obtains today. To the older national orthodoxies of Buddhist interpretation have been added new directions, provided by recent ideologies or methodologies. However, one may be permitted to state that neither orthodoxy, whether Southern or Northern, nor ideology, whether Marxist or positivist ought to be allowed to hinder the pursuit of historical truth.

The earlier historical-critical work on Buddhism extending from Oldenberg to Miss I. B. Horner was based on the recognition of the relative antiquity of the Pali canon and its unique value for the understanding of early Buddhism. The significance of this fact, however, has been sometimes disputed, overlooked or minimized in the light of the counter claims one finds in the northern traditions. These traditions depend for the most part on Chinese and Tibetan translations of Indian originals which are almost wholly lost. Some fragments of canonical texts in Sanskrit or Prakrit have undoubtedly been discovered but they are tantalizingly few. Ancient Chinese traditions too are tantalizingly few. Ancient Chinese translation too are not so literal as the much later Tibetan ones. Under the circumstances, it can-not be gainsaid that the best clue to the history of early Buddhism still continues to lie in the Pali canon.

Since the Buddha allowed his followers to remember his teachings in their own tongues, it must have facilitated the development of the canonical tradition in diverse dialects in diverse sects. That it is only the Pali cannon of the Theravadins which has been fully preserved is, thus, only a historical accident but nevertheless it does make that canon a unique window from which to glimpse the life and teachings of the Buddha.

The is not to say that Theravada is to be regarded as original Buddhism or that the Pali canon is to be identified with Buddhavacana. But this does mean that any enterprise which aims at discovering the Buddhavacana must specially turn to the intimations to be found in the Pali canon. References and quotations in later Mahayanic literature do indicate many sutras or paryayas which could be part of Buddhavacana but this only confirms the value of the Pali canon in which most of these may still be found. The few attempts which have been made to compare the canonical texts in which most of these may still be value of the Pali canon in which most of these may still be found. The few attempts which have been made to compare the canonical texts in Pali with Chinese translations or Sanskrit fragments show that ordinarily these texts existed in differently ordered collections and while they had a generic similarity of theme, intent, concepts and environmental background, occasionally some of the versions go on to make substantial additions and significant alterations. Thus the Instructions to Katyayana illustrate essential identity between different versions while the Sutra of the Great Decease shows much reworking.

A comparison of the Pali and non-Pali versions of the texts helps to exclude substantial portions of the canon such as the Abhidharma as sectarian and hence a post-Buddhic. If the sects arose in the second century A. B., the basic canonical texts which do not have any specific sectarian bias should belong to the first century A. B. They too, however, would represent the interpretative and elaborative monastic traditions of the age, not unalloyed Buddhavacana, to reach which the only way is the critical examination and stratification of the canonical texts as available in their most ancient and complete collection in Pali. Orthodoxy, whether of faith or of traditional Pali scholarship, should not be allowed to hinder this task.

The methodological approach of the present work steers clear of all orthodoxies, whether of traditional Pali scholarship or of Japanese or Tibetan scholarship. It is true that the relative antiquity of the Pali canon has been questioned by several students of Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese sources, just a the authenticity of the Mahayana sutras was questioned by Hinayanic schools in the remote past. These arguments, however, do not seem to sufficiently reckon with the non-sectarian and pre-Asokan character of the first and second pitakas except for several texts of the Khuddaka Nikaya. An important consideration in this context is the view one takes of the date of Buddha's nirvana as also of the history of the Buddhist Councils. There has been recently a revival of the older view which dated Buddha's nirvana in the fourth century B. C. on the ground that it occurred a century before the Second Buddhist Council, which is held to have taken place in the time of Asoka. This, which is held to have taken place in the time of Asoka. This tradition apparently confuses Asoka with Kalasoka Kakavarni and its adequately contradicted by the Ceylonese tradition, which places Asoka's coronation 18 years after the Parinirvana. The Attempts to determine the date of Buddha by using a chronology of material development based on considerations of archaeological evidence are far too hypothetical to decide the narrow difference of a mere century in days when changes in material life occurred over long periods in an insensible manner. The archaeological evidence is in any case too ambiguous to permit any precise social chronological inferences. The social ethos of the earlier parts of the canon does not need to be necessarily placed in the Mauryan Age which itself cannot be regarded a sudden break from the past.

Similarly there have been attempts to link the rise of Buddhism with certain social and economic changes such as the rise of agriculture, trade and towns or the break up of the older clans of ganas by the emergence of a caste society. A definite correlation between Buddha's teachings or early Buddhism and such socio-economic conditions, however, is not only without sufficient evidence but also no plausible causal connection has ever been shown between them. It is only within the context of some kind of social determinism springing from a materialistic philosophy of history or a positivistic sociology that such attempts to explain spiritual doctrines or movements can have even prima facie plausibility. Buddhism did not arise as the particular voice of a social group or interest and it would be misleading to describe it as primarily a movement of social protest or dissent. It was a new discovery of moral and spiritual truth relevant to the eradication of existential suffering and thus appealed to all mankind equally. As the proclamation of Truth it was a universal message. One could doubtless be skeptical about such claims but such skepticism would itself presuppose an alternative and inevitably speculative or dogmatic theory about religion. The present work seeks to confine itself to an objective historical-critical appraisal of evidence.

The basic idea of the Brahmana-Sramana dichotomy has been generally approved by competent scholars though their detailed explanations have naturally been diverse. There has been some more discussion about the concept of nairatmya in early Buddhism and at least some critical scholars have lent their support to the view that it would be misleading to construe Anatta as a simple denial of all spiritual or transcendental reality underlying the notion of the Self. It may be reaffirmed that would not only contradict the evidence of the earliest texts but also introduce grave contradictions within the structure of Buddhist doctrines.

Some more researches have been done on the history and doctrines of the early schools but they do not affect the conclusions of the present work. Have, however been evaluated by the author elsewhere in detail.

I must specially acknowledge my gratefulness to my friends Dr. Bhikkhu Pasadika and Rev. S. Rinpoche who have helped me to stay abreast of the fast moving current of Buddhist scholarship.

To my publishers, Messrs Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, I am beholden for their continued interest in the work.


Much has been written on early Buddhism and yet the need of a fresh study of the subject can hardly be gainsaid. Mrs. Rhys Davids has raised the all-important question: what was the original message of Buddhism? This pointed query has rudely disturbed the almost settled composure of Buddhist scholarship. As soon as it is admitted that the original mandate of Buddhism might have been something different from what it is traditionally reported to have been-and tradition is not unanimous-we are forced to adopt a more critical, a more historical outlook towards our texts; and the adoption of this New Approach, of which Mrs. Rhys Davids has been the pioneer, at once necessitates a re-study of the problems of Buddhist origins.

At the very outset we have to realize that even the earliest available collections within the Buddhist canon are of uncertain date and heterogeneous contents. Mrs. Rhys Davids has drawn attention to the fact that the Nikayas do not preach a uniform set of doctrines. It will be seen that they contain within themselves the seeds of multiform growth. From what we know about the Chinese Agamas it appears safe to draw a similar general conclusion about them. A historical approach to ancient Buddhism, therefore, most certainly entails the stratification of the Nikaya and the Agamas. The task is attempted with reference to the Nikayas in Chapters I-VII.

There is, again, an additional reason for a fresh study of the subject. The discoveries in the Indus Valley have revolutionized our perspective of the foundations of Indian religion and culture. They have shown that a civilized non-Vedic culture once existed in prehistoric India. This invalidates the common assumption that all higher thought in India existing before Buddha must necessarily have had a Vedic origin. In fact, civilization in India, as elsewhere, has been a composite creation. Numerous races and cultural communities have met and struggled and mingled in the long history of Indian culture, which has progressed through the synthesis of diverse conflicts. It seems desirable to review from this standpoint the development of Vedic religion and culture and of the social and intellectual tendencies of the Age of Buddha and Mahavira. The task is here attempted principally in Chapters VIII-IX.

Although a great deal has been written on the life of Buddha, it still remains a desideratum to correlate his life and quest, experience and mission, with his teachings. This task is attempted in Chapter X.

There has been much controversy over the "correct" interpretation of such points of Buddhist doctrine as Pratityasamutpada and Nirvana. Now the ancient canonical texts are themselves not quite agreed on these points, which is intelligible enough since the texts in question are spread over a considerable period of time. The "original gospel" assumed various forms in the course of its development and was soon grown over by them to the point of obscurity. It appears that unless the ancient Buddhist ideas are analysed clearly with reference to their historical or genetic relationship it will hardly be possible to trace firmly their original foundations. This task is attempted in Chapter XI-XIII.

The last two chapters attempt a brief analysis of certain historical problems arising out of the early development of Buddhism.

The present work is, thus, designed to consist of a group of organically connected historical studies relating to the origins of Buddhism. It is the doctrinal rather than the institutional aspect of Buddhism that is mainly considered. The subject-matter is for the greater part of a literary and religio-philosophic character, but the treatment is intended to be primarily historical.

The approach has been mainly through the Indian sources of Buddhism. Chinese and Tibetan sources have also been utilized as far a possible, though not from the original languages. The present work is substantially identical with a thesis of the same title which was approved in the University of Allahabad for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 1947. The arrangement of material has been altered, and necessary modifications have been made in the light of subsequent study and reflection.

My deepest debt is to Pt. K. Chattopadhyaya, Reader in Sanskrit, University of Allahabad, who supervised my research work and has guided me all along. I am profoundly grateful to the authorities of the University of Allahabad viz., Sri B. N. Jha, Vice-Chancellor, Dr. B. R. Saksena, D. Litt., Dean of the faculty of Arts, Sri K. L. Govil, Registrar, Dr. B. P. Saksena, Ph. D., Professor of History, and Sri G. R. Sharma, Head of the Department of Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology, who have made the publication of the present work possible.

It is regretted that owing to haste some misprints, which mostly do not affect the sense, have escaped proof-reading. Except for some obvious omissions of diacritical and punctuation marks, these have, however, been indicated in the list of errata at the end.

I am thankful to Sri Brij Nath Singh Yadav, M. A., D. Phil., for his help in the preparation of the Index. I am also thankful to Sri H. P. Ghosh, Manager, Indian Press, and Sri K. P. Dar, Press Manager, for their helpful co-operation in the printing of the present work.

About the Book:

The present work consists of a group of organically connected historical studies relating to the origins of Buddhism. It is the doctrinal rather than the institutional aspect of Buddhism that is mainly considered. The subject-matter is for the greater part of a literary and religio-philosophic character, but the treatment is intended to be primarily historical.

Buddhist canonical texts have been subjected to an extensive critical analysis which include an attempt to stratify them. The implications of new protohistoric discoveries for the history of Indian religious have been considered in the light of the psychology of saints, and crucial terms and doctrines of Buddhism have been discussed in the context of their evolution. The whole work thus attempts to trace the rise and evolution of early Buddhist literature and thought both as an inner cultural process and an external process of the actions of individuals and monastic communities.

About the Author:

GOVIND CHANDRA PANDE was born at Allahabad in 1923. After a brilliant educational career at the University of Allahabad, he worked there as Lecturer and Reader in the Department of History and Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology from 1947 to 1957. He became Professor of Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology at the University of Gorakhpur in 1957 and from there was invited by the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, as Tagore Professor of Indian Culture and Head of the Department of History in 1962.

A historian by profession, Dr. Pande is a versatile scholar and philosopher, thinker and poet by inclination. His first publication Studies in the Origins of Buddhism was widely acclaimed. Since then he has published more than half a dozen significant works. His important works include: Buddha Dharma ke Vikas ka Itihas; Apohasiddhi and Nyayabindu; The Meaning and Process of Culture and Mulya Mimamsa; History: Nature, Principles and Techniques; Life and Thought of Sankaracharya.

Experts from Reviews

"This is one of the rare works combining textual criticism, philosophical bent and historical approach and is undoubtedly one of the most valuable additions to the extensive literature on Buddhism in recent decades."

Nagpur Times, September 16th, 1984





      The Abhidharma and its Versions; The Vinaya and its versions; The Nikayas and the Agamas; The chronology of the canon, esp., of the Nikayas


      Critical resume of previous work; The criteria of stratification; The state of doctrinal evolution; Interpolation; Vocabulary and other linguistic features; Geography; Political and Social data; Prose and verse.


      Suttanipata: Chinese evidence; The Atthakavagga; The Parayana-vagga; The Mahavagga; Conclusion. Itivuttaka: Chinese version; The various Nipatas; Conclusion; Udana; Prose and verse; The various Vaggas; Conclusion.


      Early and late in Dirghagama and Dighanikaya; Analysis of the Suttas; Conclusion.


      The grouping and order of the Suttas; Classification and analysis of the Sutras; Conclusion.


      Samyutta-nikaya and Samyuktagama; Analysis; Conclusion.


  7. EARLY AND LATE IN THE ANGUTTARA-NIKAYA Anguttara-nikaya and the Ekottaragama; Form and Style; Partial stratification.


      The Significance of Pre-Vedic Civilisation; Munis and Sramanas in the Vedic Age; The development of Vedic society; Gods and men; Ritual and its development; Brahmana Eschatology and Transmigration; Moral revolution; The growth of Self-Knowledge; Yoga; The origins of Sankhya.


      Social being and social consciousness; Social change in the Age of Buddha. The Brahmanas and their religion; Popular religion; The rise of asceticism; Intellectual ferment; Early Jaina faith.


      Sources; Early life and circumstances; Renouncing the world; The Noble Quest and Enlightenment; The spread of Buddha's doctrine; Buddha's personality.


      The Noble Truths; Suffering and its place in Buddha's teachings; The origin of Suffering; The interpretations of Pratitya-samutpada; The two aspects of Pratitya-samutpada; The general principle; The Middle Way; Pratityasamutpada; The applied form; The development of formula.


      The interpretations of Nirvana-ancient and modern; The problem of Nirvana; Sambodhi and Nirvana; The meaning and significance of Dharma; Nirvana and Pratityasamutpada; The nature of Nirvana; The problem of Self; Historical analysis of the Nikayic data; Buddha's Science; Conclusion.


      The Way and the Truth: The Buddhist Way and the Upanisads; Sila - Samadhi - Prajna; Bodhipakkhiyadhammas; Moral culture; Concentration and meditation; Stages of spiritual progress.


      Jainism; Sankhya; Yoga; The Vedic tradition


      The Origin of schism; The sects; The Chief controversies and lines of development.






Sample Pages


Item Code: IDC304 Author: GOVIND CHANDRA PANDE Cover: Hardcover Edition: 2015 Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd. ISBN: 9788120810167 Language: English Size: 8.7" X 5.7" Pages: 624
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