ON being asked to contribute a volume of translations from the Pâli Suttas to the important series of which this work forms a part, the contributor has to face the difficulty of choosing from the stores of a nearly unknown literature--a difficulty arising from the embarrassment, not of poverty, but of wealth. I have endeavoured to make such a choice as would enable me to bring together into one volume a collection of texts which should be as complete a sample as one volume could afford of what the Buddhist scriptures, on the whole, contain. With this object in view I have refrained from confining myself to the most interesting books--those, namely, which deal with the Noble Eightfold Path, the most essential, the most original, and the most attractive part of Gotama's teaching; and I have chosen accordingly, besides the Sutta of the Foundation of the Kingdom of Righteousness (the Dhamma-kakka-ppavattana Sutta), which treats of the Noble Path, six others which treat of other sides of the Buddhist system; less interesting perhaps in their subject matter, but of no less historical value.
1. The Book of the Great Decease (the Mahâ-parinibbâna-Suttanta), which is the Buddhist representative of what, among the Christians, is called a Gospel.
2. The Foundation of the Kingdom of Righteousness (the Dhamma-kakka-ppavattana-Sutta), containing the Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path which ends in Arahatship.
3. The Discussion on Knowledge of the Three Vedas (the Tevigga-Suttanta), which is a controversial dialogue on the right method of attaining to a state of union with Brahmâ.
4. The Sutta entitled 'If he should desire--' (Âkankheyya-Sutta), which shows in the course of a very beautiful argument some curious sides of early Buddhist mysticism and of curiously unjustified belief.
5. The Treatise on Barrenness and Bondage (the Ketokhila-Sutta), which treats of the Buddhist Order of Mendicants, from the moral, as distinguished from the disciplinary, point of view.
6. The Legend of the Great King of Glory (the Mahâ-sudassana-Suttanta), which is an example of the way in which previously existing legends were dealt with by the early Buddhists.
7. The Sutta entitled 'All the Âsavas' (the Sabbâsava-Sutta), which explains the signification of a constantly recurring technical term, and lays down the essential principles of Buddhist Agnosticism.
The Discipline of the Buddhist Mendicants, the Rules of their Order--probably the most influential, as it is the oldest, in the world--will be fully described, down to its minutest details, in the translation of the Vinaya Pitaka, which will appropriately form a subsequent part of this Series of Translations of the Sacred Books of the East. There was therefore no need to include any Sutta on this subject in the present volume: but of the rest of the matters discussed in the Buddhist Sacred Books--of Buddhist legend, gospel, controversial theology, and ethics--the works selected will I trust give a correct and adequate, if necessarily a somewhat fragmentary, idea.
The age of these writings can be fixed, without much uncertainty, at about the latter end of the fourth or the beginning of the third century before the commencement of the Christian era. This is the only hypothesis which seems, at present, to account for the facts known about them. It should not however be looked upon as anything
more than a good working hypothesis to be accepted until all the texts of the Buddhist Pâli Suttas shall have been properly edited. For it depends only on the fact that one of the texts now translated contains several statements, and one very significant silence, which afford ground for chronological argument. That argument amounts only to probability, not to certainty; and it might scarcely be worth while to put it forward were it not that the course of the enquiry will be found to raise several questions of very considerable interest.
The significant silence to which I refer occurs in the account of the death of Gotama at the end of the Mahâ-parinibbâna-Sutta; and I cannot do better than quote Dr. Oldenberg's remarks upon it at p. xxvi of the able Introduction to his edition of the text of the Mahâ-vagga.
'The Tradition regarding the Councils takes up the thread of the story where the accounts of the life and work of Buddha, given in the Sutta Pitaka, end. After the death of the Master--so it is related in the Kulla-vagga--Subhadda, the last disciple converted by Buddha shortly before his death, proclaimed views which threatened the dissolution of the community.
'"Do not grieve, do not lament," he is said to have said to the believers. "It is well that we have been relieved of the Great Master's presence. We were oppressed by him when he said, 'This is permitted to you, this is not permitted.' In future we can do as we like, and not do as we do not like."
'In opposition to Subhadda,--the tradition goes on to relate,--there came forward one of the most distinguished and oldest of Buddha's disciples, the great Kassapa, who proposed that five hundred of the most eminent members of the community should assemble at Râgagaha, the royal residence of the ruler of Magadha, in order to collect the Master's precepts in an authentic form. It has already been said above, how, during the seven months' sitting of
[1. Translated below, pp. 112-135.
2. This is a mistake. The Subhadda referred to is quite a different person from the last convert. See my note below, p. 127.]
the assembly, Kassapa as president fixed the Vinaya with the assistance of Upâli, and the Dhamma with the assistance of Ânanda.
'This is the story as it has come down to us. What we have here before us is not history, but pure invention; and, moreover, an invention of no very recent date. Apart from internal reasons that might be adduced to support this, we are able to prove it by comparing another text which is older than this story, and the author of which cannot yet have known it. I allude to the highly important Sutta, which gives an account of the death of Buddha, and the Pâli text of which has recently been printed by Professor Childers. This Sutta gives the story--in long passages word for word the same as in the Kulla-vagga--of the irreverent conduct of Subhadda, which Kassapa opposes by briefly pointing to the true consolation that should support the disciples in their separation from the Master. Then follows the account of the burning of Buddha's corpse, of the distribution of his relics among the various princes and cities, and of the festivals which were instituted in honour of these relics. Everything that the legend of the First Council alleges as a motive for, and as the background to, the story about Kassapa's proposal for holding the Council, is found here altogether, except that there is no allusion to the proposal itself, or to the Council. We hear of those speeches of Subhadda, which, according to the later tradition, led Kassapa to make his proposal, but we do not hear anything of the proposal itself. We hear of the great assembly that meets for the distribution of Buddha's relics, in which--according to the later tradition--Kassapa's proposal was agreed to, but we do not hear anything of these transactions. It may be added that we hear in this same Sutta of the precepts which Buddha delivered to his followers shortly before his death, concerning doubts and differences of opinion that might arise, among the members of the community, with regard to the Dhamma and the Vinaya, and with regard to
[1. Pages 67, 68 in the edition of Childers.
2. Pages 39, 60, 61, ibid.]
the treatment of such cases when he should no longer be with them. If anywhere, we should certainly have expected to find here some allusion to the great authentic depositions of Dhamma and Vinaya after Buddha's death, which, according to the general belief of Buddhists, established a firm standard according to which differences could be judged and have been judged through many centuries. There is not the slightest trace of any such allusion to the Council. This silence is as valuable as the most direct testimony. It shows that the author of the Mahâ-parinibbâna-Sutta did not know anything of the First Council.'
The only objection which it seems to me possible to raise against this argument is that the conclusion is worded somewhat too absolutely; and that it is rather a begging of the question to state, in the very first words referring to the Mahâ-parinibbâna-Sutta, that it is older than the story in the Kulla-vagga, and that its author could not have known that work. But no one will venture to dispute the accuracy of Dr. Oldenberg's representation of the facts on which he bases his conclusion; and the conclusion that he draws is, at least, the easiest and readiest way of explaining the very real discrepancy that he has pointed out. We shall be quite safe if we only say that we have certain facts which lend strong probability to the hypothesis that the author of the Mahâ-parinibbâna-Sutta did not know that account of the First Council which we find in the Kulla-vagga.
We do not know for certain the time at which that part of the Kulla-vagga, in which that account occurs, was composed. I think it quite possible that it was as late as the Council of Patna (B.C. 250), though Dr. Oldenberg places it somewhat earlier. But even if we put the conclusion of the Kulla-vagga as late as the year I have mentioned, it is still in the highest degree improbable that the Mahâ-parinibbâna-Sutta, supposing it to be an older work, can have been composed very much later than the fourth century B.C.--a provisional date sufficient at present for practical purposes.
[1. Mahâ-vagga, p. xxxviii.]
This conclusion, however, is only almost, and not quite certain. It is just possible that the author of the Book of the Great Decease omitted all mention of the First Council at Râgagaha, not because he did not know of it, but because he considered it unnecessary to mention an event which had no bearing on the subject of his work. He was describing the death of the Buddha, and not the history of the Canon or of the Order.
I must confess however that I only mention this as a possibility from a desire rather to understate than to overstate my case. For, firstly, it should be remembered that the writer does not merely omit to mention an occurrence subsequent to and unconnected with the Great Decease. He does more--he gives an account of the Subhadda incident which is inconsistent and irreconcilable with the legend or narrative of the Râgagaha Council as related in the Kulla-vagga. Had that narrative, as we now have it, been received in his time among the Brethren, he would scarcely have done this.
And, secondly, he does not, after all, close his book, as he might well have done, with the Great Decease itself. It will be seen from the translation below I that there was a point in his narrative, the exclamations of sorrow at the death of the Buddha, which would have formed, had he desired to omit all unnecessary details, a very fitting conclusion to his narrative. The Book of the Great King of Glory, the Mahâ-sudassana-Sutta, closes with the very exclamation our author puts, at this point, into the mouth of Sakka. The Mahâ-parinibbâna was then over, and the Mahâ-parinibbâna-Sutta might have then been closed. But be goes on and describes in detail the cremation, the distribution of the relics, and the feasts celebrated in their honour. It is not necessary for my point to show that it was in the least degree unnatural to do so. It is sufficient to be able to point out that the author having done so,--having gone on to the arrival of Kassapa, who was afterwards (in the Kulla-vagga) said to have held the Council; having mentioned the very incident which, according to the
[1. See below, Chap. VI, § 21.]
other narrative, gave rise to the holding of the Council; and having referred to events which took place after the Council,--it is scarcely a tenable argument to say that he, knowing of it, did not refer, even incidentally and in half a sentence, to so important an event, simply because it did not come, necessarily, within the subject of his work. And when we find that in other works on the death of the Buddha, referred to below, the account of the Council of Râgagaha has, in fact, been included in the story, it is difficult to withhold our assent to the very great probability of the hypothesis, that it would have been included also in the Pâli Book of the Great Decease had the belief in the tradition of the Council been commonly held at the time when that book was put into its present shape. At the same time we must hold ourselves quite prepared to learn that some other explanation may turn out to be possible. The argument, if it applied to writers of the nineteenth century, would be conclusive. But we know too little about the mode in which the Pâli Pitakas were composed to presume at present to be quite certain.
The Mahâ-parinibbâna-Sutta was then probably composed before the account of the First Council of Râgagaha in the concluding part of the Kulla-vagga. It was also almost certainly composed after Pâtaliputta, the modern Patna, had become the capital city of the kingdom of Magadha; after the worship of relics had become common in the Buddhist church; and after the rise of a general belief in the Kakkavatti theory, in the ideal of a sacred king, a supreme overlord in India.
The first of these last three arguments depends on the prophecy placed in Gotama's mouth as to the future greatness of Pâtaliputta--a prophecy found in the Mahâ-vagga as well as in the Mahâ-parinibbâna-Sutta. It is true that the guess may actually have been made, and that it required no great boldness to hazard a conjecture so vaguely expressed. The words simply are--
'And among famous places of residence and haunts of
[1. See p. xxxviii.]
busy men, this will become the chief, the city of Pâtaliputta, a centre for interchange of all kinds of wares. But there will happen three disasters to Pâtaliputta, one of fire, and one of water, and one of dissension.'
But it is, to say the least, improbable that the conjecture would have been recorded until after the event had proved it to be accurate: and it would scarcely be too hazardous to maintain that the tradition of the guess having been made would not have arisen at all until after the event had occurred.
What was the event referred to may also be questioned, as the words quoted do not, in terms, declare that the city would become the actual capital. But we know, not only from Buddhist, but from Greek historians, that it did, and this is most probably the origin of the prophecy.
Now the Mâlâlankâravatthu, a Pâli work of modern date, but following very closely the more ancient books, has been translated, through the Burmese, by Bishop Bigandet; and it says,
'That monarch [Susunâga], not unmindful of his mother's origin, re-established the city of Vesâli, and fixed in it the royal residence. From that time Râgagaha lost her rank of royal city, which she never afterwards recovered. He died in 81' [that is, of the Buddhist era reckoned from the Great Decease]. . . .
Relying on similar authority Bishop Bigandet afterwards himself says:
'King Kâlâsoka left Râgagaha, and removed the seat of his empire to Palibothra [the Greek name for Pâtaliputta], near the place where the modem city of Patna stands.'
[1. See below, Chap. I, § 28. I have translated Putabhedanam, 'a centre for the interchange of all kinds of wares,' in accordance with the commentary, which is clearly based on a derivation from puta, 'a bag or bundle.' But I see that Trenckner in his Pâli Miscellany renders nânâputabhedanam by 'surrounded by a number of dependent towns.'
At the end the text has 'from fire or from water or from dissension;' on, which Buddhaghosa says that or stands here for and; and the comment is correct enough, not of course philologically, but exegetically. But in either case the last clause is of very little importance for the present argument.
2. Bigandet's 'Legend of the Burmese Budha,' third edition, vol. ii. pp. 115, 183. I have altered the spelling only of the proper names.]
It would seem therefore that, according to the tradition followed by this writer, Susunâga first removed the capital to Vesâli, and his successor Kâlâsoka, who died, in the opinion of the writer in question, in 118 after the Great Decease, finally fixed it at Pâtaliputta.
If we therefore apply this date to the prophecy we must come to the conclusion that the Book of the Great Decease was put into its present form at least 100 years after the Buddha's death, and probably a little more. But the authority followed by Bishop Bigandet is very late; and no mention of these occurrences is found either in the Dîpavamsa or in the Mahâvamsa. I think indeed that the whole account of these two kings, as at present accepted in Ceylon and Birma, is open to grave doubt (in which connection it should be noticed that the oldest account of the Council of Vesâli, in the Kulla-vagga, Book XII, makes no mention of Kâlâsoka).
We have next to consider the reference to the relics in the concluding sections of Chapter VI as a possible basis for chronological argument. These sections are almost certainly older than the time when especial sanctity was claimed for Buddhist dâgabas on the ground that they contained particular relics of the Blessed One (such as a tooth, or the bowl, or the neck bone); for if such special relics were accepted as objects of worship when the Book of the Great Decease was put together, they would naturally have been mentioned in the course of Chapter VI.
It is even almost certain that when the sections were put into their present form no Buddhist dâgaba was in existence except at the eight places mentioned in them; and the words are quite consistent with the belief that those eight had themselves then ceased to have any very widespread and acknowledged sanctity. So in Chapter V, § 13, where four places are spoken of 'which the believing man should visit with feelings of reverence and of awe,' there is no mention of dâgabas at all; and in Chapter V, § 16, it is
[1. See my 'Ancient Coins and Measures of Ceylon,' p. 50.]
clearly implied that only one dâgaba, or memorial burial mound, should be erected in honour of a Tathâgata, just as one memorial mound should be erected in honour of a king of kings.
When we recollect that in the first and second, and perhaps in the third century before Christ, dâgabas had already been erected in honour of the Buddha in distant parts of the continent of India, and had rapidly become famous as places of pilgrimage, the reasonable conclusion to be drawn from these passages is that the Book of the Great Decease is older than them all; or, at the least, that it was written before any of them had become famous.
On the other hand, there is evidently an exaggerated belief as to the respect in which the Buddha was held by his contemporaries underlying the concluding and other sections of the book. It is probable enough that Gotama was held in deep respect by the simple people among whom he lived and moved about as a religious teacher and reformer. It may well be that the inhabitants of the village where he died gave him a sort of public funeral. But that the neighbouring clans should have vied one with the other for the possession of his remains is quite inconsistent with the position that he can reasonably be supposed to have held among them. It must have taken some time for this belief to spring up, and be received without question.
In a similar way a considerable interval must have elapsed before the beautiful parable in the last section of Chapter I could have given rise to the belief in the miracle (the solitary miracle ascribed to the Buddha, so far as I know, in the Sutta Pitaka) recorded in the previous section.
So also the comparison drawn between the Buddha and a Kakkavatti Râga or King of Kings in Chapter V, § 37, and Chapter VI, § 33, can scarcely have arisen till the rise of a lord paramount in the valley of the Ganges had familiarised the people with the idea of a Universal Monarch. Now it was either just before or just after the well-known Councils at Vesâli, of which mention has been made above, that that important revolution took place which raised a
low-caste adventurer to be the first Kakkavatti Râga. To the people of that time Kandragupta seemed to be lord of the world, for to them India was the world--just as European writers even now talk complacently of 'the world' while ignoring three-fourths of the human race.
'Is it surprising,' as I have asked elsewhere, 'that this unity of power in one man made a deep impression upon them? Is it surprising that, like Romans worshipping Augustus, or like Greeks adding the glow of the sun-myth to the glory of Alexander, the Indians should have formed an ideal of their Kakkavatti, and have transferred to this new ideal many of the dimly sacred and half-understood traits of the Vedic heroes? Is it surprising that the Buddhists should have found it edifying to recognise in their hero "the Kakkavatti of Righteousness;" and that the story of the Buddha should have become tinged with the colouring of these Kakkavatti myths?'
In point of fact we know that in later works the attraction of this poetic ideal led to the almost complete disregard of the simpler narrative which seemed so poor and meagre in comparison; and M. Senart has shown how large a proportion of the later poem called the Lalita Vistara is inspired by it. When, in isolated passages of the Book of the Great Decease, we find the earliest germs of this fruitful train of thought, we are I think safe in concluding that it assumed its present form after the notorious career of Kandragupta had made him supreme in the valley of the Ganges.
All the above arguments tend in one direction; namely, that the final redaction of the Book of the Great Decease must be assigned to the latter part of the fourth century before Christ, or to the earlier part of the following century. And so much alike are it and all the other Suttas translated in this volume in their form, in their views of life, and in
[1. I have ventured in my 'Ancient Coins and Measures of Ceylon,' p. 51, to point out that the Councils of Vesâli were very possibly held just at the time when Nanda was defeated by Kandragupta. Târanâtha, the Tibetan historian, while placing the Councils, like all the later authorities, under an Asoka (probably Kandragupta), says (p. 41 of Wassilief's German translation) that the assembled brethren were fed by Nanda.]
the religious doctrines they lay down, that, though it may be possible hereafter to show that some are a little older or a little younger than the others, every one will I think admit that they must all be assigned to about the same period of time. There is not the least reason to believe that either of them is older than the Book of the Great Decease; and the argument has only been confined to it because it alone deals with the kind of subject which can give foundation to chronological conclusions. When the whole of the literature of the Pâli Pitakas has been fully explored, we may perhaps be able to reach a more definite conclusion.
We are in absolute ignorance as to the actual author of any of the texts I have translated. It is quite evident that they are not the work of Gotama himself; and it is difficult to believe that even his immediate disciples could have spoken of him in the exaggerated terms in which occasionally he is here described. On the other hand, the history of similar religious movements teaches us how quickly such notions spring up concerning the omniscience and sinlessness of the founder of the movement; and it would be better to reserve our judgment as to the impossibility, on this account alone, of those Suttas having been composed even by the very earliest disciples.
It would be of less importance who composed the Suttas if we could be sure that they gave an accurate account of the teachings of the great thinker and reformer whose words they purport to preserve. But though, like all other writings of a similar character, they are doubtless based upon traditions older than the time of their authors or final redactors, they cannot unfortunately be depended upon as entirely authentic. And it will be always difficult, even when the whole of the Suttas have been published, to attempt to discriminate between the original doctrine of Gotama, and the later accretions to, or modifications of it.
But we can already make some steps towards such a discrimination, without much fear of being contradicted. p. xxi There can be little doubt but that the doctrines of the Four Noble Truths and of the Noble Eightfold Path, the 'Foundation of the Kingdom of Righteousness,' were not only the teaching of Gotama himself, but were the central and most essential part of it. I am aware that no method can be more misleading, or more uncritical, than first to form a theory regarding the personal character of the author of a new religious movement--as some later critics of the Gospel History have done--and then to adopt those passages in the sacred books which fit in with that character, and to reject those which oppose it. We cannot begin by postulating that Gotama was a man of high moral earnestness, and of great intellectual acuteness; and then disregard all the passages in which erroneous, and even puerile, opinions or sayings are placed in his mouth. But it does not follow that we are obliged either altogether to reject the evidence of the Buddhist Scriptures as to what Gotama did actually teach, or altogether to accept it.
It will be acknowledged that the Suttas have preserved for us at least the belief of the earliest Buddhists--the Buddhists in India--as to what the original doctrines, taught by the Buddha himself, had been. We have in the Vinaya Pitaka an invaluable and indisputable record of the mental characteristics and capabilities of these earliest followers of the Buddhist faith. Sanskrit scholars are engaged in elucidating the history of the beliefs in which Gotama was brought up, and which though often modified and frequently denied, still underlie, throughout, all that he is represented to have taught. We have therefore reliable evidence of the system out of which, and we know the system into which, Gotama's teaching was developed. This being so, it will be impossible to refrain, in despair, from the attempt to solve one of the most interesting problems which the history of the Aryan race presents to us. Scholars will never be unanimously agreed on all points; but they will agree in ascribing some parts of the early Buddhist Dharma or doctrine only to the early disciples; and after allowing for all reasonable doubts, they will agree in ascribing other parts to the great Teacher himself. I venture to think
that not only the Four Noble Truths, but the whole of the Seven jewels of the Law, may already be placed, with certainty, in the latter category.
The form, in which these Suttas have been preserved, deserves careful attention. Every reader will be struck at once with the constant repetitions. These repetitions are not essential, and are merely designed to facilitate the learning of the Suttas by heart. Writing was unknown in the age of the Buddha, and probably for long after his time. In all probability indeed, just as the Indians learnt from the Greeks, not the art of coinage, but the custom of issuing a legally authorised coinage; so it was from the Greeks that they acquired, if not their earliest alphabet, at least the knowledge of the utility of writing. But even for some time after writing was generally known, it was considered a desecration to make use of it for the preservation of the sacred books. This feeling naturally passed away much sooner among the adherents of the popular religious faith of Buddhism, than it did among their conservative opponents. With the latter it is by no means extinct even now, and the first record we have of the Buddhist Scriptures being reduced into writing is the well-known passage in the Dîpavamsa, which speaks of their being recorded in books in Ceylon towards the beginning of the first century before the commencement of our era. And as all our copies of the Buddhist Pitakas are, at present, derived from those then in use in Ceylon, we are practically concerned only with those thus referred to in the Dîpavamsa.
The date of the Dîpavamsa may be placed approximately in the fourth century of our era; but its author reproduces the continued tradition of the monasteries in
[1. They will be found enumerated, and shortly described, in a note below (pp. 62, 63). I am glad to learn that my friend Dr. Morris is preparing a full account of them, drawn from various parts of the Sutta Pitaka, for his forthcoming work to be accordingly entitled 'The Seven jewels of the Law.'
2. See my 'Ancient Coins and Measures of Ceylon' (Part VI of Numismata Orientalia), p. 13.
3. Dîpavamsa XX, VV. 20, 21, quoted in the Mahâvamsa, p. 207.]
which he dwelt, and he is more probably correct, than not, in the assertion I have quoted. It would follow that the Buddhist Scriptures were, till then, banded down by word of mouth only; and no one who is acquainted with the wonderful powers of memory possessed by Indian priests, who can devote their whole lives to the task of acquiring and repeating their sacred books by heart, will doubt for a moment the possibility of this having been the case.
Two methods were adopted in India to aid this power of memory. One, adopted chiefly by the grammarians, was to clothe the rules to be remembered in very short enigmatical phrases (called sûtras or threads), which taxed the memory but little, while they required elaborate commentaries to render them intelligible. The other, the method adopted in the Buddhist writings (both Sutta and Vinaya), was, firstly, the use of stock phrases, of which the commencement once given, the remainder followed as a matter of course; and secondly, the habit of repeating whole sentences, or even paragraphs, which in our modern books would be understood or inferred, instead of being expressed.
The stock phrases, which must be distinguished from the repetitions, belong certainly to a very early period of Buddhism, and many of them recur in Sanskrit as well as in Pâli texts. One result of these numerous repetitions of phrases and paragraphs is that the preservation of the text, when once established, was rendered very easy; and that mistakes in the MSS. can now be easily rectified when they occur in such repeated passages. To edit the text of such portions of a Pâli Sutta is therefore a comparatively easy task; and it may be said of all the Suttas here translated, that they have thus acquired a valuable protection against that danger of corruption from various readings which often renders uncertain the text of important passages of works written on the very different and simpler system
[1. Several examples of such passages occur in the present volume in the Âkankheyya- and Mahâ-sudassana-Suttas, where they are pointed out in the notes.]
to which we are accustomed. On the other hand, however, the catchwords may sometimes have given rise to serious interpolations.
It is open to much doubt whether, in the numerous passages where such stock phrases and repetitions occur, the best mode of translation is to follow word for word the expressions found in the original (but only inserted there to perform a service no longer necessary), or to make use of contractions, the fact of their being so being duly pointed out, either in notes, or by some typographical expedient. Where, for instance, a long paragraph is devoted to what an elder of the Buddhist Order of Mendicants should do, or be, under certain given circumstances, and the whole paragraph is then repeated word for word, of an ordinary member, and of a nun, and of a lay-disciple (upâsaka), or of a religious woman (upasîkâ), it would be possible to convey the whole sense intended, by translating that an elder of the Order, and an ordinary member, and a nun, and a lay-disciple of either sex, should do, or be, such and such things.
But every case of repetition is not so simple as this; such curtailing destroys at least the form and the emphasis of the originals; and it seemed more in accordance with the rules laid down in the prospectus to the Series of Translations from the Sacred Books of the East, of which this volume forms a part, to adhere in all cases strictly to the text. With the exception of the earlier chapters in the Book of the Great Decease, in which a few such contractions will be found mentioned in the notes, I have therefore reproduced almost all the repetitions. The result will not, I trust, be embarrassing to the reader who keeps constantly in mind the aim and origin of these stock phrases and repetitions, and does not allow the wearisome form in which they are presented to shut out from his view the logical sequence of the sometimes very striking ideas which these Suttas contain. I venture to go further and to maintain that it is not necessary or
[1. See below, Book of the Great Decease, Chap. III, §§ 7, 8.]
even correct to read through the whole of passages which were never intended to be read. We shall do wisely when coming to a phrase which we already know, to make use of a little judicious skipping, and, noting the course of the argument, to pass on, with even mind, to the next paragraph.
I send forth the following translations with very great diffidence. It is not too much to say that the discovery of early Buddhism has placed all previous knowledge of the subject in an entirely new light; and has turned the flank, so to speak, of most of the existing literature on Buddhism. I use the term 'discovery' advisedly, for though the Pâli texts have existed for many years in our public libraries, they are only now beginning to be understood; and the Buddhism of the Pâli Pitakas is not only a quite different thing from Buddhism as hitherto commonly received, but is antagonistic to it. I cannot hope that the renderings of the many technical terms, now for the first time submitted to the judgment of students of early Buddhism, will all stand the test of time. So perfectly dovetailed is the old Buddhist system, so utterly different from European Christianity are the ideas involved, so pregnant are the expressions used with deep and earnest religious feelings resting on a foundation completely apart from our own, that the translation of each term becomes a problem of great difficulty and delicacy. Where Gogerly or Burnouf has dealt with any word, the process has been easier: but there are many words they have not touched, and while Gogerly had no sympathy with these ancient beliefs, Burnouf has confined himself chiefly to later phases of Buddhism. There are several paragraphs such as the one at Chapter 1, § 12 of the Book of the Great Decease--which have cost me more time and trouble than the reader of the few words they contain will easily believe; and it would be impossible to add a note to every word justifying the rendering which was finally adopted to convey the Buddhist idea, without involving at the same time some misleading implication.
In order to call attention to the fact, when a word in the original Pâli is one of these technical terms of the Buddhist system of self-training, and when therefore the English expression must be taken in that technical sense, I have throughout written the technical terms with capital letters; and I would invite the special notice of the reader to the words thus distinguished.
Apart, too, from the necessity of great care in the rendering of single words, I have felt bound to make some attempt, however inadequate, to reproduce the style and tone of the Buddhist author, or authors. A mere word-for-word translation, though much easier to make, and perhaps more useful to those engaged in the study of the language would not only fail to do justice to the original, but would even convey a wrong impression to those who are interested in these works from the point of view of the comparative history of religious belief. There is a very real, though peculiar, eloquence in a considerable number of the prose passages, and more especially in the closing sections of each chapter; not the mere rhetorical eloquence of a clever word-painter, but the unconscious eloquence which springs from deep religious emotion. So also in the verses scattered through the Book of the Great Decease, while there is occasional doggrel, there are also one or two passages (such as I, 34; IV, 56; VI, 15-18, and 63) where the rhythm of the Pâli verses is exceedingly beautiful, and the thoughts expressed not devoid of fancy. The translation of such passages has been beset with difficulty; and I am only too conscious how small has been the success attained. But I must ask the reader constantly to bear in mind that words, dull and bare to us, are full of meaning to the Buddhist. 'The Blessed Master came to the Mango-grove' is a very plain statement of supposed fact: but to the earnest Buddhist the mention of 'the Master' calls up to his mind
[1. I regret to say that the printer has very frequently omitted to reproduce these capitals; but they still remain in some places, and the paragraph which explains them is therefore retained.]
his highest ideal of what is wise and great and kind; and the Mango-grove is surrounded to him with all the poetry, and is associated with all the tender memories which to the devout and earnest Christian are wrapped up in such names as Bethany or the Mount of Olives. While impressed therefore with the knowledge of having come far short of my ideal, I feel there is for these reasons some justification in asking a kindly consideration for this first volume of English translations from the prose portions of the Pâli Pitakas.
T. W. RHYS DAVIDS.
BRICK COURT, TEMPLE,