L. A. Waddell


To students of Buddhism and Comparative Religion desirous of knowing Buddha's own views and teaching from his own words, it is extremely disconcerting to find that the Pali Canon can no longer be regarded as the actual "Word" and Doctrine of Buddha himself. It has been conclusively established by the researches of Kern, Minayef, Senart, Feer, Poussin, Lefmann, Winternitz, R. O. Franke, and others (including the writer(1) ) that the Pali Canon is a mosaic of material belonging to different ages and stages in the development of Buddhism; and that the words and theories put into the mouth of Buddha therein are largely the composition of monks who lived several centuries after Buddha's death, and considerably later than was estimated by Professor H. Oldenberg.(2) Embedded thus in this mass of heterogeneous material, with no outstanding distinctive marks, it seems almost hopeless to confidently detect and dig out therefrom the pieces containing unequivocally the true Buddha-Word.

Hitherto no very systematic attempts at recovering these relics of Buddha's own teaching have been made, or on a sufficient scale. Yet such a searching exploration and sifting cannot be delayed if we would know Buddha's own Buddhism, or try to trace the origin of that faith bearing his name, and the factors in its early developments.

1. My "Evolution of the Buddhist Cult": Asiat. Quart. Rev., 1912, 140, 158 f. " Buddha's Diadem ": Ostasiatischen Zeitschrift, ii, 1914.
2. Mahavagga, Introd., xv ff.

Brahmanical Sanskrit literature also depends upon this question to some extent in respect to its early chronology. The dates of "c. 600 B.C." and "before 500 B.C.", provisionally assigned respectively to the Atharva Veda(1) and the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics, depend upon the assumption that these works are presupposed by certain references in the Pali Canon,(2) which is also assumed, with the Jatakas as well,(3) to date bodily back to practically Buddha's own day (i.e. died +/- 482 B.C.). As this conjecture for the date of that Canon is no longer justified, the provisional dates for these Brahmanical works will now demand reduction by several centuries, with an equivalent lowering of the "Vedic Period".

For this analytical research, as Professor Winternitz lately wrote in this Journal,(4) " in the whole collection [of the Tripitaka] and in every one collection (for all books of the canon are collections) we shall have to distinguish several strata of Buddhist thought and literary activity, separated from each other probably by several centuries." By subjecting the well-known Maha Parinibbana account of the death of Buddha to certain arbitrary tests, Dr. Winternitz distinguishes in a rough way at least five strata of literary development, the lowest of which presumably contains Buddha's own contributions.

But the great difficulty in separating out with confidence the elements on this chronological basis is the want usually of distinctly evident lines of cleavage or separation in matter, when it is wholly or in the main purely metaphysical. More promising of trustworthy results is material of a quasi-historical character. I venture, therefore, to offer here, as a contribution to this subject, some results of my examination of, what is for this critical purpose, the most important of all the Pall canonical texts.

1. Macdonell, Hist. Sanskrit Lit.,1905, 306-7; Imp. Gaz. India, 1908, ii, 292.
2. Cf. also Bloomfield, Atharva Veda, Strassburg, 1899, 27.
3. Macdonell, op. cit., 306.
4. 1911, 1151.


The only books in the Pali Canon which profess to be historical in character, and thus present some tangible basis for testing the authenticity of their contents, appear to be the two contained in the first division of Buddha's "Discourses" (Suttanta), namely, those entitled "Mahapadana" and Maha-Parinibbana. These form books Nos. 14 and 16 of the " Long Collection" (Digha-Nikaya) . The former discourse purports to be a systematic account of the life of Buddha by himself, and it is believed with apparent reason to be the earliest biography of Buddha extant.

The prime importance which was attached to this text by the primitive Buddhists is seen by the place which they accorded it in the Pali Canon. It forms the first book in "The Great Class" (Maha-vaggo) of the first "Collection" (Nikaya) Of Buddha's Doctrinal Discourses, or "Word " (Sutta Pitaka). This highest position for it, in the primitive system, is confirmed also by its similar location in the Sanskrit Canon--a body of the Buddhist scriptures now admitted by the best authorities to be independent of the version in Pali (itself a dialect of Southern India, remote from the scene of Buddha's life), though derived from a common traditional source, in the dialect in which Buddha spoke, presumably the ancient dialect of Mid-Gangetic India, which was the home of Sanskrit. In the Sanskrit Canon, as preserved in its Tibetan translation, the text corresponding to the discourse in question forms the first volume of Buddha's "Discourses" (Sutranta, in Tibetan mDo-sde),(1) and it is continued into the second volume,(2) thus preceding all the other doctrinal "Discourses " (Sutras), as in the Pali version.

1. Cf. Csoma, "Analysis," Asiatic Researches, xx, 413 f.; also Feer's translation, 250 f.
2. For details see after.

This foremost position for it, suggests to me that it was probably (in its original form) the first book of Buddha's discourses compiled by the primitive Buddhist monks during the lifetime of Buddha or soon after his death. In favour of this view, is its compact form and the fact that its contents comprise an epitome of the central features of Buddha's doctrine, including a detailed account of the Causal Nexus (the "Wheel of Life or Becoming") upon which Buddha specifically based all his teaching.

Yet, notwithstanding its great intrinsic, historical, and doctrinal importance, this book does not appear to have attracted any detailed critical study, although translated into more than one European language. In venturing to contribute towards its analysis I have dealt with the topics mainly from the standpoint gained by long study of the associated Sanskritic texts and of the Indian mythology with which the Pali Canon is deeply saturated.


The name adopted for this canonical book by the Pali Text Society's editors,(l) and generally accepted by leading Pali scholars in Europe, (2) namely Mahapadana (i.e. Maha-apadana) Suttanta, is, I find, not really justified. It is not even positively warranted by the evidence of the MSS. upon which it is based. Nor is expert Pali knowledge (which I disclaim) necessary to perceive the obvious fact that it is neither justified by the sense (which would merely mean in effect "Tale of the Great Tale ", but see after) nor by the form of any other known title of a Suttanta or Apadana.

The proper title I shall show, I hope conclusively, is Maha-Padhana Suttanta, corresponding to the Sanskrit Maha-Pradhana, or " The Supreme One ", a title of the supreme Brahmanical god, and actually applied elsewhere to Buddha, as I shall prove. It, moreover, aptly denotes the contents of this book, in which Buddha is invested with the supernatural attributes of the supreme Brahmanical deity Purusa, who, in the godless, dualistic Sankhya philosophy in which Buddha is supposed to have been reared, required as its complement Pradhana or Material Nature. Both title and contents, we shall see, throw important light upon the early theistic developments within primitive Buddhism before the compilation of the Pali Canon.

"Padhana" v. ''Apadana"

Apadana, the second element in the compound "Mahapadana", is the Pall dialectical form of the Sanskrit Avadana, (3) meaning "a legend ", "an achievement, a great or glorious act, heroic action"(4);but it is not specially applied to Buddha. On the other hand, Padhana (Sanskrit Pradhana) or "the supreme one" is the recognized title of the Supreme God of Brahmanism, and, as will presently be seen, it is specially applied to Buddha.

1. Digha Nikaya, 2nd ed., Rhys Davids & J. E. Carpenter, London, 1903, 1 f.
2. Fausboll, Jataka Index, 1897, 126; K.E. Neumann, Reden Gotamo Bulddho Langern Sammlung, 1905; Encyc. Relig. and Ethics, i, 603, 1908; H. C. Warren, Buddhism in Transls., 1909, 56; Winternitz, JRAS. 1911, 1146; R. O. Franke, Digha Nikaya, Gottingen, 1913, 179.
3. Childers' pali Diet., 47; Winternitz, Gesch. des Indischer Lit., ii, 128.
4. Cf. Sanskrit lexicons; also Childers' Dict., 47.

As a title "Apadana" is best known as the designation of one of the books (No. 13) in the supplementary and somewhat apocryphal section of the canonical Nikaya, namely the "Minor Collection" (Khuddaka Nikaya). It comprises "heroic" tales in the form of legendary biographies and imaginary " former incarnations" of the Buddhist saints (Arhats), after the manner of the Jatakatales of Buddha. It is indeed the analogue of the latter, applied to saints of lower rank than Buddha, and is obviously modelled upon it, and its tales are made up to the same number, namely 550, with some additional tales devoted to nuns. Its date cannot be before the middle of the third century B.C., as it refers to the Katha-Vatthu (a work ascribed to Tissa, i.e. Upagupta, Asoka's highpriest(1)), and it extends the previous mythical Buddhas to thirty-five in number.(2)

Similarly, under its Sanskrit equivalent of "Avadana", the chief collections of tales bearing that title are the Mahavastu-avadana a Hinayana work of about the second century B.C.,(3) the Divyavadana, The Hundred Avadanas (A.-Sataka).(4) The Nepalese and Tibetan translations of the Sanskrit canon also contain many such tales under this appellation."

Thus, although the name "Apadana" manifestly belongs to the later Buddhist period, and is not usually applied to tales of Buddha himself, it is sometimes so applied, and therefore it might possibly be employed to designate this Digha-Nikaya book describing the life of Sakya Muni, leading up to his most "glorious achievement", the attainment of Buddhahood.

Against this view, which is now generally accepted by Indianists, (6) I venture to adduce, however, the following evidence:

1. The Apadana, along with the rest of the Khuddaka-Nikaya, was not included in the Suttanta division at all, but belonged to the Abhidhamma, according to the Commentary of Buddhaghosa (Childers' Dict., 282),(7)and thus such a title as "Mahapadana Suttanta" is improbable, if not a misnomer.

2. The class of books termed "Avadana" (i.e. the pali "Apadana") is technically distinct from the "Suttanta" class, and forms a different category(8); and, although they are interspersed throughout the Suttanta section of the Tibetan canon, I am not aware of any instance of an individual Avadana (i.e. Apadana) Bearing also the title of Suttanta or Sutranta. The work is either an Avadana or a Sutra; it is never both; the two terms being in practice mutually exclusive.

3. A tautological vague title like Maha-apadana Suttanta, which is practically "Tale of the Great Tale", is not in keeping with the usual method of naming the books in the Digha-Nikaya. This title is translated in the " Sacred Books of the Buddhists" as "The Sublime Story", (9) though it would more precisely read "Discourse on the Great Legend " But the titles in the D.N. are descriptive, expressly specifying the subject-contents, as seen in the next three following books, namely: Maha-Nidana S. = "Discourse on the great Nidana (Causal Nexus)"; Maha-parinibbana S. ="D. on the great Pari-nirvana (Passing Away)"; Maha-Sudassana S.= "D. on the great Sudarsana (Beautiful Vision, a fairy scene) ". Hence presumably the Maha-padhana S. means "Discourse on the great Padhana (Supreme One) "--the exact application of which will be discussed below.

4. The word "Avadana" is invariably the last element in the title of the tales, e.g. Divyavadana, Asoka-avadana, etc.(10); but in the one question it is not so.

5. The compound in question, Maha-apadana, does not appear to be known elsewhere in Buddhist literature; nor is "apadana" itself specially associated with Buddha. Whereas both Maha-padhana and pradhana we shall see are expressly and intimately so.

1. Cf. my article, JASB., pt. i, 1897, 76 ff., and Proceedings, 1899, June.
2. E. Muller, Proc. Or. Congress, 1894, 167 f.
3. Macdonell, Imp. Gaz. Ind., ii, 60, 1908.
4. Many of these tales have been translated or summarized by Burnouf, Introd. Bud. Ind., 64 f.; Mitra, Nepalese Buddhist Lit., 318 f.; Schiefner's Tibet Tales, trs. Ralston, 1893.
5. Mitra,op. cit.,318-98; Feer,Analyse du Kandjour, Mus. Guimet, 557.
6. See former note, p. 664.
7. In the Nepalese Sanskrit version they are stated by Burnouf to represent the Vinaya. Introd. B.I., 2nd ed., 207.
8. Feer, op. cit., 557-8.
9. Vol. iii, pp. 4 f.
10. See numerous examples in Mitra, op. cit., 318-19; also Csoma, Asiatic Researches, xx, 481 f. Burnouf, Introd., 2nd ed., 424f. The "Avadana Kalpalata" is not really an exception.

Moreover, the texts used for the preparation of the Pail Text Society's edition of this book do not warrant the use of "apadana" decidedly, as adopted by the editors. In the preparation of that edition five MSS. were used,(1) all of them presumably modern copies of other more or less modern MSS., and exhibiting misspellings by the blundering of the copyists on every page, as indicated in the footnotes. Of these MSS., one (a Singhalese document, Sd) is noted to have wrongly given to the book the title of the next following discourse, and thus is excluded. Of the remaining four, two (St and K., i.e. Singhalese and Kambojan) read "Mahapadana", but an equal number read "Mahapadhana", namely MSS. Sed and Bm, i.e. Singhalese and Burmese, and the Burmese, other things being equal, may be accepted as better authority than Kambojan. For the definite settlement of this point on a statistical basis the collation of additional MSS., as ancient documents as possible, is therefore required. I have been unable to find any further texts in England.(2) On a critical point of this kind the printed vernacular editions are of course of little value,(3) and even a few additional modern MSS., carelessly copied as they are, cannot upset the solid argument which I adduce from other sources.

1. Op. cit., 54.
2. The British Museum unfortunately does not possess a single manuscript copy.
3. The Burmese printed edition of 1900-8 spells the word padana, Dr. Barnett kindly informs me, but this may have been influenced by the Pali Text Society's edition, which was previously published.

"Maha-padhana" as the proper title of the Suttanta

In favour of the form Maha-padhana as the title of this Suttanta, in addition to the evidence of the pali MSS. themselves, and the above presumptions against apadana, I would point to the use of the style Maha-padhana by Max Muller and Professor H. Oldenberg. The former scholar employs it at p.53 of his conjoint edition of the Dharma Samgraha in 1885, and the latter in his Buddha (English translation of 1882, p. 418), and these scholars presumably found it so written in manuscript. Respecting the latter citation, the pali Text Society's edition notes that it is "referring to Jataka I, 59, which has Mahapadana". This, however, is somewhat ambiguous, as it is not in the Jataka book itself, but in the prefixed commentary booklet, the "Nidana-Katha" of Fausboll's text, which it is now desirable should be collated with other MSS. in respect to this word; though, as that commentary is a relatively late composition and merely incidentally refers once to this zcttccnta, it is less likely to preserve intact the proper spelling than the actual book in question itself.

Besides, Maha-padhana, unlike Maha-apadana, is a recognized pali term of the first rank in early Buddhism, where it is also specially applied in the canonical Dhammapada(1) to Buddha himself in connexion with his attainment of Arhatship, the ideal of Primitive Buddhism.

"Pradhana " and "Maha-Pradhana" in Buddhism

Of such evident prominence in early Buddhism, though now mostly dropped out of use, these terms are historically interesting in themselves and of critical importance in our present inquiry.

Pradhana, the Sanskrit equivalent of the pali padhana, is given in the lexicons the primary meaning of " chief or prominent one", literally " the foremost or supreme one ", from pra, " before or preceding " + dha, " to hold or have." Hence, , secondarily, it is in Brahmanic and Sankhya terminology respectively an ordinary epithet for "the Supreme God " or " the First Great Cause ", and " Nature" or the Material World.(2)

----------------------------- 1. Cf. Childers' Dict., 314. For details see later,
2. Wilson, Sansk. Dict., 562; Apte, do., 563; St. Petersb. Lexicon (Greater), 4, 1026.

In Buddhism it has retained this original sense of chief, foremost, or supreme, even in Pali literature to some extent admittedly, (l) if not really invariably, as I shall indicate later. As a technical term also it is enumerated in this sense in the Sanskrit Buddhist list, the Mahavyutpatti in the category of "the chief series" (Anuttaraparyaya).(2) In later Buddhism, when it fell out of orthodox use, Pradhana was discussed as a Sankhya term by the mystic monk Vasubandhu (fifth century A.D.) a the Brahmanical designation of Primordial Matter in association with Purusa as Spirit(3)--a collocation of the terms which we will find in the title and contents of the ancient book now in question, In this heterodox sense it is also discussed at great length in the Yoga work the Bodhicaryavatara.(4)

On the other hand, Ceylon Buddhists ascribe to the term Padhana (i.e. Pradhana) the special meaning of "exertion" and "striving''--Childers stating that "Padhana in pali as a technical term means only Exertion"(5); and they interpret in this sense all its numerous applications to Buddha in the Dhammapada and elsewhere, both in its simple form and as Maha-pradhana.(6) Thus padhanam anuyunja khippam hohisi anasavo is rendered by Childers (rather freely) "strive earnestly and thou shalt quickly attain Arhatship"; and Gotama, spending six years in achieving Buddhahood, referred to in the Dhammapada 118 as chabbassani maha-padhanam padahitva, is rendered as " haring spent six years in strenuous efforts".(7)

1. Childers, Dict., 314, first part of definition of Padhanam; also Padhano and Samma-Padhanam.
2. St. Petersb. ed., 1911, 39; also 63.
3. Abhidharma-kosa, cf. Burnouf, Introd., 2nd ed, 510.
4. Tibetan transl. in Tan-gyur, Mdo-Val S (27), India Off. ed., ff. 214, etc. Translated from the Sanskrit by Atisa (eleventh century A.D. ) and others. Cf. also Poussin, Etudes, 1898, 127 f., for commentary on same; also Raj, L. Mitra, Nepal. Buddhist Lit., 47 f., for abstract.
5. Childers, Dict., 314.
6. Id., 314.
7. Id., 314.

So also the attainment of Arhatship, which is divided into four padhanas, namely samvara-padhanam, etc.; and the four stages (padas) for the acquirement of the supernatual magic power of Iddhi(SKT. .rdhi) of Arhatship, each of which is based upon a samadhipadhana or the "padhana meditative trance"; in each of these padhana is translated as "effort, exertion, or striving".(1)

But with every deference to this traditional opinion of Pali scholars in assuming padhana to mean " striving or exertion", we venture, in view of the evidence, to ask whether that opinion is really justified.

Pradhana is known to the lexicons in only one sense exclusively, that of "chief, foremost, supreme", and different forms of these conceptions, as above noted. It never means "striving, exertion, or contest". The word for the latter is pradhana (=padhana), spelt with short a. and the pali and Sanskrit words in question are never spelt with the short a. When the Buddhists adopted Brahmanical words they usually employed them in the Brahmanical sense, and if they desired to alter that sense they almost invariably coined new terms. These considerations lead me to conclude that the words in the pali texts in question were probably still used by the primitive Buddhists in their true original values, and that the word padhana in these pali texts does not mean "striving", but designates Buddha himself as "The Supreme One", or Arhatship as "The Supreme Thing".

--------------------------------- 1. Childers, Dict., 157;, 312, 314; Hardy's Man. Buddhism.

This conclusion gains support also from the fact that all the Pali phrases in which padhana occurs in its orthodox Buddhist usage appear to lend themselves to this direct rendering of "The Supreme One", Arhat or Arhatship. Indeed, Childers in most of his translations of these sentences is, in fact, forced to introduce the words "Arhat" and "Arhatship" in order to make his rendering intelligible!(1) So also, for the acquirement of the supernatural power or Iddhi of an Arhat or Buddha, in each of its four stages is specified (see Childers, 157), samadhipadhana sankhara-samana-gatam, the first part of which, it seems to me, might be literally rendered "the meditationtrance of the Supreme One".(2) Another category, also of this kind, is " The Four Great Objects" to be striven for to attain Arhatship, Catur-vidha samyak-pradhana. Here the juxtaposition of the last two words recalls the familiar form of later Buddhism, samyak-sam-Buddha, the Supreme Buddha.

The minor technical uses also of the word in the Pali certainly admit of interpretation in this direct literal manner. Thus padhana-bhumi, which is described by Childers as "cloister for monks to walk when striving for Arhatship", I would render thus simply: "the ground of the Supreme Ones (i.e. the Arhats-elect) ." So also in the Mahavamsa (ed. Wijesinha, 402), padhana-ghara-- described as "a house for ascetic exercises"--this would be "a house for the Superior Ones (engaged in Iddhi or Arhat exercises) ". Similarly Padhaniyangam, defined by Childers as "Qualities to be striven for " would read directly " The Means of [attaining] the Supreme One (or Thing)"; and it appears to have its analogue in Brahmanism.(3)

The alteration by the Ceylonese of the original meaning of the word from "The Supreme One" to "striving" was probably, I suggest, introduced at a later period, in an attempt to extract sense from the word after it had been abandoned as a heterodox term, and the reasons for its original application in India had become forgotten. But even under the new meaning of "striving" the whole phrase suffered little alteration in sense, as the magical potency inherent in Arhatship and Iddhi preserved the original signification of supernatural power.

1. See above, also Dict., 157, 314.
2. It is remarkable that Mahayanists (as noted by Burnouf, Introd. Bud. Ind., 625; Lotus, 310 f.) have replaced the padhana here by prahana (= abandonment). Cf. also Mahavyutpatti, St. Pet. ed., 1911, 16.

3. Cf. Anga-pradhana-Bheda, Katyayana, Srauta-sutrani, 1,2,18 ; 417; also Manu, 9, 121; Panini,1,2,56, quoted by St. Petersb. Lexicon. Cf. also Pradhana gunabhuta in Rig Veda, v. 96

"Pradhana" and "Maha-Pradhana" as a title of Buddha

This recognized epithet for the Supreme Brahmanical god, namely, Pradhana, "The Foremost or Supreme One," is, I find, positively employed by the Buddhists to denote Buddha in both his human and deified aspects.

In the Sanskrit Canon, in its Tibetan translation, this term occurs as his title several times. In the twenty-eighth volume of the Sutranta division, in a book of moral tales entitled Damamuko,(1) Buddha is termed "The Pradhana of men (literally the two-footed)".(2) In the same work it is evidently applied in the sense of "Arhat" to Sariputra, the right-hand disciple of Buddha, who is frequently called "a great Arhat "--here he is termed "The great Pradhana of the Law", Dharma Maha-Pradhana.(3) Again, in the twenty-first volume of the Tantra division, in a book which, it seems to me, is manifestly an echo of the first book of the Digha-Nikaya, namely, the Brahma-jala, entitled Vajra-satwa maya-jala, the Supreme God is conceived as a primordial Buddha-god of the general character of Brahma, but the form of Buddha,(4) under the title of Vajra-satwa, or "The Thunderbolt Being ", and he is styled at the same time both Pradhana and Maha-Purusa.(5)

1. In Tibetan `Dsans-blun, i.e. "The Wise Man and the Foolish" Cf. Csoma, Asiatic Researches, xx, 480, translated by Schmidt, 1843. The Sanskrit for this Prakrit title is evidently Dharmat-muka.
2. Jaeschke, Tibetan Dict., 434.
3. Id., 434.
4. For his form in Indian Buddhism see my Buddhism of Tibet, 15, 35--2.
5. Csoma, Asiatic Researches, xx, 549.

Now this direct identification of the deified Buddha with the supreme god under his Brahmanic titles of "Maha-Purusa" and "Pradhana" exactly preserves the traditional view held by the compilers of the Maha-Padhana Suttanta; and it fully explains the relation of the title to the contents of this Pali canonical book. The contents represent Buddha's birth indisputably as the incarnation of a god. He is born in a supernatural manner with marvellous signs and portents, and performs as a new-born infant miraculous deeds, and he displays on his body the supernatural marks of Maha-Purusa. This latter title never bears in the ancient literature the mere etymological meaning of "a great man ", as rendered by some Western writers(1); but, on the contrary, it is invariably the title of the supreme Brahmanical creator conceived anthropomorphically as a cosmic giant, and a recognized title of Visnu-Narayana, and latterly Brahma, as the Creator.(2) The context also altogether testifies unquestionably that the compilers of this pali canonical book did not regard Buddha as a mere man.

This conclusion indeed is admitted by the pali scholar, Sir R. Chalmers, who writes (3) that it "destroys certain views generally entertained by scholars. The accepted view is that it is only in the later commentaries, and not in the very earliest canonical texts, that the miraculous incidents attending the conception and birth of Gotama the Buddha are narrated in the imaginative detail familiar to readers of the Sanskrit Lalita Vistara... and that if the Sutta be genuine, fiction was embroidering historic truth within (perhaps) a century of his death "

1. Notably in the translation of this text in the "Sacred Books of Buddhists", vol. iii, 13 f.
2.For full evidence see my "Buddha's Diadem", loc. cit. Maha-Purusa is the title of Visnu both in the Mahabharata (12, 12864) and Ramayana (6, 102).
3. JRAS. 1894, 386, with reference to paragraphs 17-30 of this first part of this Suttanta, which recur in the Acchariyabhuta Sutta, No. 123 of the Majjhima Nikaya.

This supreme divinity Purusa, belonging to the quasimonotheistic phase of the later Vedic Brahmanism, and of whom Buddha in this discourse is made to declare himself the human manifestation, became in the dualistic conception of the Sankhya system (on which Buddhism is believed more especially to be based) merely one of two primordial factors in Creation. It was identified with "Spirit " and required for its complement Material Nature or Pradhana. It is in the form of Pradhana-Purusa that it is used in the Mahabharata as a title of Siva.(1) This obviously, it seems to me, is the explanation of the introduction of that title here, in the Suttanta in question. It was introduced for schematic completeness.

Thus, the term " the great Pradhana"(2) appears to me to be a vestige of the very earliest period of Buddhism, dating to a time before the wholesale invention of newly coined special Buddhistic terms had begun. That it eventually dropped out of use, and came to be considered heterodox was doubtless due to its inveterately Brahmanical character, coupled with the invention of new terms better adapted to the Buddhist point of view, and to the new developments that had arisen in Buddhist theory since Buddha's day. Its survival in this title, and especially in the basic formula of Buddhism in the Dhammapada, etc., above noted, suggests, therefore, that it is a vestige of the earliest period, when Sankhya terms were still current within Buddhism.

1. Mahabharata, 13, 939.
2. Maha-Pradhana is probably the Buddhist form, as it is not found in the greater St. Petersburg Lexicon.


Ostensibly forming only one book, the Maha-Padhana S. consists, I find, really of two distinct discourses, ascribed to different occasions, and affording a useful chronological test. The first discourse extends from paragraphs 1 to 12 inclusive, and treats of the mythical forerunners of Buddha. It thus corresponds to the first book of the Sanskrit Canon entitled "The auspicious AEon or Cosmic Age", the Bhadra-Kalpa Sutra.(1) The rest of the book, forming an independent story of the legendary birth and life of Gotama, to which the title "Maha-Pradhana" more properly attaches, is, I find, the counterpart of the discourse which in Sanskrit is known as the Lalita Vistara; and is manifestly derived from a common source, a relationship which has not hitherto been remarked.

1. Abstracted by Csoma, As. Res., xx, 413-16. It has nothing to do with the Bhadra-Kalpa Avadana of the Nepalese, which seems mostly a re-arrangement of tales from the Asokavadana. Cf. k. L. Mitra, Nep. Budd. Lit., 42.

The theory that former human Buddhas preceded Gotama, although generally accepted as an integral part of Buddha's Buddhism, seems to me to have been invented after the Buddha's death. For it is not essential to that system, but is indeed opposed to the principle that Sakya Muni achieved Buddhahood solely on his own initiative, and that his Arhatship was immeasurably beyond and practically different in degree from that attainable by his followers, so as to leave no room for the possibility that two Buddhas could coexist as contemporaries. Moreover, the number of these Buddhas continued steadily to expand in later periods. But strongest of all evidence is the fact that all these former Buddhas as described in the text are mere reduplications of the historical Buddha in every single respect, except in the trivial points of names for themselves, parents, etc. This theory therefore, in my opinion, manifestly belongs to the later period when the monks were systematizing everything and extending the basis of Buddhism on cosmic lines, so as to make the advent of a Buddha a part of the great fixed laws of Nature. This is the constant refrain by which descriptive paragraphs are introduced in this pali text, "It is the rule [that]" (dhammata esa). Thus a series of imaginary Buddhas were extended back along the fabulous past of the world, according to Brahmanic notions of cosmic ages or Kalpas, where the duration of single human lives extended to thousands of years (even to 80,000!). To this period also must belong the epithet Tathagata or "Gone like [his predecessors] " which presupposes this theory. If this be so, the occurrence of the word Tathagata will be a valuable criterion of age--it does not occur in the very numerous inscriptions at Bharaut (c. 250 B.C.).

The date of introduction of this theory must have been before about the third century B.C., as the theory is already found in the developed form of six Former "Buddhas" in the Bharaut sculptures of about 250 B.C., "Vipasin" heading the series, and all being named(1) on separate votive slabs (excepting one, the second, accidentally missing, see table). This is the stage also specified in our Pali text in question.(2)

But on comparing this Pali version with the Bhadra-Kalpa Sutra there is revealed the striking fact that the Sanskrit text records the theory of the Former Buddhas in a more primitive and less developed form than the pali version. The Bhadra-Kalpa Sutra, although greatly expanded by the inclusion of long dissertations on the practice of the " Perfect Virtues " (Paramita) by which Gotama attained Buddhahood, and forming the basis of the Jataka tales,(3) knows only three Buddhas anterior to Sakya Muni, and these are identical with the lowest three on the Pali list (see table). -------------------------
1. Cunningham, Stupa Bharhut, pl. 29, 1, 2, 3; 30, 1-3; Inscriptions, liv, 67, liii, 3, c, etc. Hultzsch, Ind. Ant., 1892, p. 234, Nos. 24, 64, 81, 84, 88.
2. These "seven" Buddhas (i.e. by including the historical Buddha with the six) are invoked by Buddha in the Culla Vagga (v. 6) in connexion with a snake-charm, Buddha being made to say "I revere' the Blessed One and the Seven Supreme Buddhas" (Warren, Buddh. in Transls., 1909, 303). It is incredible that Sakya Muni would invoke himself, yet Oldenberg places the Culla Vagga to near Buddha's own day.
3. Its bulk is also increased by a list of one thousand fanciful successors of Maitreya, the future Buddha.

"FORMER" BUDDHAS IN MAHA-PADHANA (Pali text) (N.B. The serial numbers are introduced for reference only.)

          Name of   ¦ Kappa  ¦ Caste or ¦Length  ¦
          "Former"  ¦ (cosmic¦  tribe   ¦of human¦ Birthpalce
          Buddhas.  ¦   age).¦          ¦Life in ¦
                    ¦        ¦          ¦years.  ¦
            (1)     ¦   (2)  ¦   (3)    ¦ (4)    ¦  (5)
        1. Vipassi  ¦  91st. ¦ Khattiya ¦80,000  ¦ Bandhumati
        2. Sikhi    ¦  31st  ¦ Khattiya ¦70,000  ¦ Arunavati(1)
        3. Vessabhu ¦  31st  ¦ Khattiya ¦60,000  ¦ Anopama
        4. Kakusandh¦  Bhadda¦ Brahman  ¦40,000  ¦ Khematvati
        5. Konagaman¦  Bhadda¦ Brahman  ¦30,000  ¦ Sabhavati
        6. Kassapa  ¦  Bhadda¦ Brahman  ¦20,000  ¦ Baranasi
        7. Gotama   ¦  Bhadda¦ Khattiya ¦   100  ¦ Kapilavatthu


4. Kakutsanda? Bhadra ?Sakya ?40,000 ?Ksemavati 5. Kanaka Muni Bhadra ?Brahman ?30,000 ?Pancala 6. Kasyapa ? Bhadra ?Brahman ?20,000 ?Chetana 7. Sakya Muni? Bhadra ?Ksatriya? 100 ?Kapilavastu ---------------------------

That the Bhadra-Kalpa Sutra here appears to preserve an earlier tradition than the Pali is suggested by the following facts: [1] Its descriptions of the place of delivery and in the details of the attributes of these personages differs in many circumstantial ways from the Pali version.(2) [2] The lesser number of kalpas and all of them comprised within the Bhadra-Kalpa, i.e. the cosmic age of the present world, seems more likely to have been the original stage of the theory than the extravagantly "incalculable" remote period of 91 of those ?ons(!) as given in the Pali Canon. [3]

1. Not Pabhavati, in error in " Sacred Books of the Buddhists", iii, 7. Cf. text, p. 7.
2. Cf. Csoma, xx, 413 f., with "Sacred Books of the Buddhists", iii, 5-7.

The idea of the Kalpa was borrowed by the Buddhists from Brahmanism, and I would point to the fact that the number of divisions in the lower four coincides in both series; and corresponds exactly with the orthodox Brahmanic tetrad division, and also (except to one decimal place) with the duration of life in the present Kalpa, as found in the Mahabharata (c. 500 B.C.) .(l) It represents, therefore, presumably an early stage, complete in itself, thus:--

             Brahmanic present kalpa.   ¦Buddhist present Kalpa.
           Periods.   ¦   Duration     ¦Buddhist duration of
                      ¦ of human life. ¦life in Bhadra-Kalpa.
        1.Krta Yuga   ¦  4,000 years   ¦  40,000 years
        2.Treta Yuga  ¦  3,000 years   ¦  30,000 years
        3.Dvapara Yuga¦  2,000 years   ¦  20,000 years
        4.Kali Yuga   ¦   Ordinary,    ¦     100 years
         (present age)¦   "not fixed"  ¦
           age)       ¦                ¦

On the other hand, the extension far beyond these four divisions and the orthodox round numbers so as to embrace three more, as found in the Pali canonical text, with the still more extravagant extension of the duration of a single human life to 80,000 years.(!), is in keeping with the well-known absurd puerile elaborations of the later scholastic stage of Buddhism.

The gradual growth of this myth of "previous" human Buddhas by direct arithmetical progression appears thus to be traceable to some extent on a chronological basis:--

                            ¦Number of ¦                    ¦Buddha
        Approximate date    ¦ "Fomner" ¦     Texts          ¦headed
                            ¦ Buddhas  ¦                    ¦  by.
        4th century B.C.(?) ¦    3     ¦Bhadra-Kalpa Sutra  ¦Kakutsanda
                            ¦          ¦(primary version)   ¦
        250 B.C. circa      ¦     6    ¦Bhadraut Sculptures ¦Vipasi
                            ¦          ¦and Pali Mahapadhana¦
                            ¦          ¦ S.                 ¦
        1st century B.C.    ¦    24    ¦Buddha-vamsa        ¦Dipankara
        1st-4th century     ¦  35 to   ¦Various(3)          ¦
               A.D.         ¦          ¦                    ¦

1. Dowson, Hind. Mythology, 382-3; Hastings, Encycl. Religion Ethics, i, 188, 202.
2. Later Pali texts extend number to 125,000(!), Hardy, Man. Buddhism, 95.
3. Cf. Muller, "Apadana of South," Proc. Orient. Cong., 1894, 167.

From this it seems evident that the Sanskritic Sutra, the Bhadra-Kalpa, displays an earlier stage in the evolution of the theory of Former Buddhas than is found in this Pali canonical text (also the Culla Vagga), and presupposes for the original Prakrit source of the framework of that Sanskritic book a date earlier than 250 B.C. (circa), whilst the Pali text is clearly several centuries subsequent to that date.

In another number I shall hope to compare the Maha-Pradhana Suttanta with the Lalita Vistara.

Source: The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 1914.07.15

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