Difference between revisions of "Dates of the Pali Canon"

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*According to Professor Norman, the earliest material in the Canon may be pre-Buddhist.<ref>''Collected Papers'', volume II, Pali Text Society, page 193; reprinted from ''Indologica Taurinensia'', volume VII, page 330</ref>
 
*According to Professor Norman, the earliest material in the Canon may be pre-Buddhist.<ref>''Collected Papers'', volume II, Pali Text Society, page 193; reprinted from ''Indologica Taurinensia'', volume VII, page 330</ref>
 
*According to Professor Holder, the Canon reached its present form by about 250 BC; Professor Gombrich says only that it was much like it by then.<ref>2006, page 129</ref>
 
*According to Professor Holder, the Canon reached its present form by about 250 BC; Professor Gombrich says only that it was much like it by then.<ref>2006, page 129</ref>
*''Oxford Dictionary of Quotations'' dates "Pali Triptaka" to the 2nd century BC
+
*''Oxford Dictionary of Quotations'' dates "Pali Tripitaka" to the 2nd century BC
  
 
Most scholars give different dates for different books of the Canon, which will be summarized below.
 
Most scholars give different dates for different books of the Canon, which will be summarized below.

Latest revision as of 05:05, 17 August 2019

This article contains significant unique material and should not be replaced by an imported or updated Wikipedia article. Read more...

The Pali Canon is the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism. This article will try to summarize briefly what has been said about the dates of its composition, starting with general statements.

  • The Theravada tradition dates most of the Canon to the time of the Buddha, whom in turn it dates about 624-544 BC (historians give various later dates for him). It says the original Canon was compiled at the First Council a few months after the Buddha's death, and that only a fairly small proportion was added later.
  • At the other extreme, Professor Geoffrey Samuel says it largely derives from the work of Buddhaghosa and his colleagues in the 5th century AD.[1] From the context it would seem he means, not that they actually wrote it, but that they selected its contents from the much larger corpus in circulation at the time.
  • Professor Gregory Schopen holds that the date is highly uncertain.[2]
  • The late Professor A. K. Warder says[3] that the date distribution of the material in the Canon as a whole is the same as that in the Jataka, for which he gives an average date of 4th century BC[4] (though in a different publication, so he might have changed his view in between)
  • The late Professor Hajime Nakamura says the Canon cannot have been composed earlier than the 2nd century AD.[5] It would seem from the context that "composed" means "completed".
  • Some scholars claim that little or nothing has been added since it was written down in the last century BC.[6]
  • According to Professor Norman, the earliest material in the Canon may be pre-Buddhist.[7]
  • According to Professor Holder, the Canon reached its present form by about 250 BC; Professor Gombrich says only that it was much like it by then.[8]
  • Oxford Dictionary of Quotations dates "Pali Tripitaka" to the 2nd century BC

Most scholars give different dates for different books of the Canon, which will be summarized below.

Note that dates could have a variety of meanings:

  • (average) date of composition
  • date of compilation/completion
  • date of inclusion in the Canon

Thus it is possible there may be less disagreement than appears at first sight.

Dates for books of the Canon

Including texts included in some editions of the Canon but excluded from others: Netti((p)pakarana, Petakopadesa and Milindapanha; these are sometimes referred to as "paracanonical".

  • Vinaya Pitaka
    • general
      • Professor Gombrich seems to hold that the Vinaya was complete (essentially?) by about 350 BC[9]
      • he also cites Bareau[10] as dating to 3rd century BC
      • Professor Oskar von Hinüber says this text is markedly later than the 4 nikayas.[11] More specifically, he dates it to the middle of the 3rd century BC or later.[12]
      • Professor Rupert Gethin (current President of the Pali Text Society) tentatively supports Hinüber's former statement.[13]
      • Professor Thomas Oberlies [14] dates this later than the Suttapitaka
      • the Vinaya is usually analysed as in 3 parts, but the first 2 are generally grouped together:
    • Suttavibhanga and Khandhaka
      • According to the late L.S. Cousins (sometime President of the Pali Text Society), these belong to the earliest so far identifiable stratum of the Canon, along with the first 4 nikayas of the Sutta Pitaka and the Suttanipata.[15]
    • Parivara
      • 1st century AD: most scholars[16]
      • 1st century AD or later: Hinüber[17]
      • 2nd century BC to 1st century AD: Warder;[18] he adds elsewhere[19] that it is the only book of the Canon that may be later than the 2nd century BC (this would not include the paracanonical books)
      • by 1st century BC: Cousins[20]
  • Sutta Pitaka: in 5 nikayas, of which the first 4 are generally grouped together:
    • Digha, Majjhima, Samyutta and Anguttara Nikayas: there are three main positions held by scholars:[21]
      • Most Buddhist and some others say these texts were essentially completed shortly after the Buddha's death
      • Many hold they were similar to their present versions by about the 3rd century BC
      • Others say substantial additions continued after this, perhaps for a long time
      • Relative dates:
        • Warder says the canonical order (DMSA) is also the order of average date (Digha oldest).[22]
        • The late Professor Hajime Nakamura says he cannot necessarily agree that the Digha is oldest.[23]
        • the late Professor Akira Hirakawa seems to take almost the opposite view to Warder.[24]
    • Khuddaka Nikaya
      • general
        • Abeynayake[25] divides into two strata, the earlier comprising Suttanipata, Itivuttaka, Dhammapada, Therigatha, Theragatha, Udana and Jataka
        • Kelly,[26] followed by Bodhi,[27] says the earlier books, contemporaneous with the other nikayas, are Khuddakapatha, Dhammapada, Udana, Itivuttaka, Suttanipata, Theragatha, Therigatha
        • Alexander Wynne cites earlier scholars as believing all Khuddakanikāya books were in existence by Asoka's time, and gives the impression of agreeing with this without explicitly saying so.[28]
        • Gombrich says some may be later than mid 3rd century BC[29]
        • Cousins[30] tentatively speaks of verse works from the 3rd century BC. Elsewhere in the paper he lists Jataka, Suttanipata, Dhammapada, Udana, Itivuttaka, Vimanapetavatthu and Theratherigatha together, mentioning no distinctions of age between them. He seems to regard all of them as earlier than Parivara, Niddesa, Patisambhidamagga and maybe Abhidhammapitaka.
      • Khuddakapatha
        • Professor K.R. Norman tentatively argues this is the latest text in this nikaya (note that this would be excluding the paracanonical books).[31]
      • Dhammapada
        • "old" or "early": Hirakawa,[32] and Nakamura[33]
        • early 3rd century BC: Warder[34]
      • Udana and Itivuttaka
        • Nakamura considers these the next oldest books after the Suttanipata.[35]
      • Suttanipata
        • Nakamura considers this the oldest Buddhist text.[36]
        • According to Cousins, this belongs to the earliest so far identifiable stratum of the Canon, along with the Vinaya Pitaka, except the Parivara, and the first 4 nikayas of the Sutta Pitaka.[37] But see also his later paper,[38] which does not say this.
        • N. A. Jayawickrama says mostly 4th century BC (Critical Analysis of the Suttanipata, serialized in Pali Buddhist Review,1976-8, cited in Suttanipata, tr Bodhi, Wisdom/PTS, 2017, page 32)
      • Vimanavatthu and Petavatthu
        • Norman:[39] "late"
        • Warder:[40] all later than 200 BC, average date may be as much as a century later
      • Theragatha and Therigatha
        • Warder: the date distribution of the material in these books is the same as the Canon as a whole[41]
        • Hirakawa:[42] very old
      • Jataka
        • Warder, on the basis of metrical analysis, said that this book has roughly the same time distribution as the Canon as a whole.[43] In a later publication,[44] gives an average date of 4th century BC. Later again,[45] he says mostly 4th century.
        • Oberlies, [46] on linguistic grounds, places this book in the oldest stratum
      • Niddesa
        • 2nd century AD: Sylvain Lévi 1925,[47] Nakamura;[48] the latter implies may be even later
        • c. 250 BC: Hirakawa,[49] Norman[50]
        • Cousins: later than the earlier Abhidhamma books[51] but by 1st century BC[52]
        • one of the latest parts of the Suttanta Pitaka: Warder[53], Oberlies, [54]
        • According to Bodhi (Suttanipata, page 1523, note 1875), considered older than Patisambhidamagga
      • Patisambhidamagga
        • Hinüber, citing Frauwallner:[55] perhaps 2nd century AD
        • Hirakawa:[56] c. 250 BC
        • Norman:[57] later than much of the Canon
        • Warder 1982:[58] earliest parts before 349 BC; latest about 100 BC
        • Warder 2000:[59] from 237 to c. 100 BC
        • Cousins: by 1st century BC[60]
      • Apadana
        • generally recognized as one of the latest books of the Canon;[61] Hinüber[62] adds that it is later than the Buddhavamsa
        • Warder:[63] all later than 200 BC, average date may be as much as a century later
        • Walters ([1]) says around 2nd century BC
      • Buddhavamsa
        • Norman:[64] relatively late
        • Warder:[65] perhaps 2nd century BC, later than Apadana
      • Cariyapitaka
        • Norman:[66] late
        • Warder:[67] perhaps 2nd century BC, later than Apadana
      • Netti((p)pakarana and Petakopadesa
        • Some scholars say the latter is later than the former, or indeed a revision of it: Hardy and Alsdorf, tentatively supported by Hinüber;[68] Nakamura[69] cites some Western scholars as dating the former about the beginning of the Christian era and the latter before the 3rd century AD
        • Others say exactly the reverse: Nanamoli,[70] Norman,[71] Warder[72] and Cousins[73]
        • Professor George D. Bond says at one point[74] that they were both composed around 150 BC, but elsewhere[75] that the Nettippakarana dates from around the 2nd to 1st century BC
      • Milindapanha
        • generally 1st century AD ([2], page 205)
        • Hinüber:[76] older parts 100 BC to 200 AD; later parts by 5th century
        • Potter:[77] near the time of Menander (Milinda), 155-130 BC, perhaps within a century
  • Abhidhamma Pitaka
    • general
      • scholars generally agree this is later (on average) than the other two pitakas
      • Professor Peter Harvey:[78] 3rd century BC
      • Frauwallner:[79] 200 BC to 200 AD
      • Hirakawa:[80] C. 250 BC to start of Christian era
      • Warder:[81] mainly 4th to 2nd century BC
      • Norman:[82] after c. 250 BC, except Dhammasangani and Kathavatthu, but earlier than Buddhavamsa
      • Gombrich: late 4th to mid 3rd century BC[83]
    • by book
      • Dhammasangani
        • Cousins:[84] probably the earliest of the Abhidhamma books
        • many scholars:[85] c. 386 BC
        • Bareau:[86] 2nd century BC?
        • Norman:[87] before c. 250 BC
      • Vibhanga
        • unspecified scholars cited by Cox:[88] this and Puggalapannatti are the earliest Abhidhamma books
      • Dhatukatha
        • Saddhatissa:[89] c. 250 BC
        • Nakamura:[90] contemporaneous with Kathavatthu, later than Puggalapannatti, Dhammasangani and Vibhanga
        • Bareau:[91] 1st century BC
      • Puggalapannatti
        • Karl H. Potter:[92] about the same time as Dhammasangani and Vibhanga, perhaps a couple of decades later
        • unspecified scholars cited by Cox:[93] this and Vibhanga are the earliest Abhidhamma books
      • Kathavatthu
        • Hirakawa:[94] 150-100 BC
        • Cousins[95] says some scholars accept the traditional view dating this book to the time of Asoka, i.e. c. 250 BC; he, however, holds that, while the earliest parts date from then or not long after, the latest are from the last century BC or not long after
        • Bryan J. Cuevas of Florida State University:[96] 2nd century BC
      • Yamaka
        • Norman, citing Warder:[97] perhaps the latest Abhidhamma book
      • Patthana
        • Cousins:[98] not later than 2nd century BC
        • Bareau:[99] 1st century AD
        • Yamada:[100] last Abhidhamma book

References

  1. 2012, page 48
  2. 1991, page 1 in 1997 reprint
  3. 1967, page 6
  4. 1970, page 298; 2000, pages 286f
  5. 1980, page 48
  6. Harvey, 2013, page 3; Norman in Buddhist Heritage, ed Skorupski, 1989, page 40/Collected Papers, Pali Text Society, volume IV, page 107; Gethin 1992, page 8, says the canon is substantially as it was then, which may or may not mean the same thing
  7. Collected Papers, volume II, Pali Text Society, page 193; reprinted from Indologica Taurinensia, volume VII, page 330
  8. 2006, page 129
  9. 2006, page 93
  10. preface to Mohan Wijayaratna, Le moine bouddhique selon les textes du Theravâda, Paris, 1980, page 10
  11. 1996, page 26
  12. 1989, page 54
  13. 2006, page 83
  14. Pali Grammar, volume 1, 2019, page 8
  15. 1984b, page 56
  16. Collins 1990, page 109, note 16
  17. 1996, page 20
  18. 1967, page 4
  19. 1982, page xxxviii
  20. 2013
  21. Cousins, n.d., page 39
  22. 2000, page 196
  23. 1980, page 33
  24. pages 69f
  25. 1984, p. 113
  26. 2011
  27. 2012, page 1591, note 3
  28. 2005, pages 36f, particularly note 9
  29. 2006, page 133
  30. 2013
  31. 1983, page 58
  32. 1974, page 128
  33. 1980, page 40
  34. 1967, page 225
  35. 1980, pages 26f
  36. 1980, page 46
  37. 1984b, page 56
  38. 2013
  39. 1983, pages 70f
  40. 2000, page 286
  41. 1967, page 6
  42. 1974, page 128
  43. Pali Metre, 1967, page 6
  44. Indian Buddhism, 1st edition, 1970, pages 286f
  45. ib, 3rd edition, 2000
  46. Pali Grammar, volume 1, 2019, page 8
  47. cited in Hinüber 1996, page 59
  48. 1980, page 48
  49. 1974, page 128
  50. cited in Hinüber 1996, page 59
  51. 1984b, page 67, note 20
  52. 2013
  53. 1982, page ix
  54. Pali Grammar, volume 1, 2019, page 8
  55. Hinüber 1996, pages 60f
  56. 1974, page 128
  57. 1983, page 87
  58. page xxxix
  59. page 299
  60. 2013
  61. Cousins 2003, page 4 [? this is the page number in the offprint, which may be correct if this is the first paper in the volume]
  62. 1996, page 61
  63. 2000, page 286
  64. 1983, page 94
  65. 2000, page 286
  66. 1983, page 95
  67. 2000, page 286
  68. 1996, page 81
  69. 1980, page 114
  70. 1962
  71. 1983, page 108
  72. 2000, page 287
  73. 1984b, page 61
  74. Potter 1996, page 381
  75. Potter 1996, page 403
  76. 1996, pages 85f
  77. 1996, page 471
  78. 1990, page 83
  79. Hinüber 1996, page 64
  80. 1974, page 128
  81. 1963, page 384
  82. 1983, pages 96ff
  83. 2006, page 129
  84. 1982/3, page 8/2005, page 102
  85. cited Potter 1996, page 137
  86. cited Potter 1996, page 137
  87. 1983, pages 96ff
  88. 2004, page 3
  89. Potter 1996, page 359
  90. 1980, page 105, cited in Potter 1996, page 359
  91. Potter 1996, page 359
  92. 1996, page 189
  93. 2004, page 3
  94. 1974, pages 91, 110
  95. 1991, pages 34f
  96. 2004, page 377
  97. Norman 1983, page 106
  98. Potter 1996, page 336
  99. Potter 1996, page 336
  100. Potter 1996, page 336
  • Abeynayake, Oliver
    • 1984: A textual and Historical Analysis of the Khuddaka Nikaya, Colombo
  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu
    • 2012: The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, Wisdom Publications/Pali Text Society
  • Bronkhorst, Johannes
    • 1998: in Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol 21, part 1
  • Brough, John
    • 1962: Gandhari Dharmapada, Oxford University Press
  • Buswell, Robert M., Jr
    • 2004: ed Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism
  • Collins, Steven
    • 1990: in Journal of the Pali Text Society, vol XV
  • Cousins, L. S.
    • 1982/3: in Buddhist Studies, ed Denwood & Piatigorsky, Curzon, London & Dublin, & Barnes & Noble, Totowa, New Jersey [both dates appear on the imprints page, in different places]
    • 1984a: in Handbook of Living Religions, Penguin, 1984; revised edition 1997, reprinted 1998 as New Penguin Handbook of Living Religions
    • 1984b: in Buddhist Studies in Honour of Hammalawa Saddhatissa ed Dhammapala, Gombrich & Norman, University of Jayawardenepura, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka
    • 1991: in Buddhist Forum, volume II, ed Tadeusz Skorupski, SOAS
    • 2003: in Nagoya Studies in Indian Culture and Buddhism: Sambhasa 23
    • 2005: reprint of 1982/3 in Williams 2005, volume I
    • 2013: "The Early Development of Buddhist Literature and Language in India", Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, 2013 (5), 89-135: [3]
    • [n.d.]: [4]
  • Cox, Collett
    • 2004: in Buswell 2004 (Volume One)
  • Cuevas, Bryan J.
    • 2004: in Buswell 2004 (Volume One)
  • Cutler, Sally Mellick
    • 1994: in Journal of the Pali Text Society, vol XX
  • Gethin, Rupert M. L.
    • 1992: Buddhist Path to Awakening, Brill, Leiden
    • 1998: Foundations of Buddhism, Oxford University Press
    • 2006: in Journal of the Pali Text Society, volume XXVIII, 2006
  • Gombrich, Richard F.
    • 1984: in Bechert & Gombrich, World of Buddhism, Thames & Hudson, London
    • 1988: Theravada Buddhism, Routledge, London
    • 1990: in Skorupski, Buddhist Forum, volume 1, Heritage, Delhi/School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
    • 2003: [5]
    • 2006: 2nd ed of 1988
    • 2007: "Popperian Vinaya", in Pramanakirtih (Steinkellner Festschrift), University of Vienna
  • Gómez, Luis O.
    • 1976: in Philosophy East and West, volume Twenty-Six
    • 1987: in Encyclopedia of Religion, Macmillan, New York
  • Groner, Paul
    • 1990: translator's preface to Hirakawa 1974
  • Hartmann, Jens-Uwe
    • 2004: in Buswell 2004
  • Harvey, Peter
    • 1990: An Introduction to Buddhism, Cambridge University Press
    • 2013: 2nd edition of 1990
  • Hinüber, Oskar von
    • 1989: Der Beginn des Schrift und frühe Schriftlichkeit in Indien, Mainz
    • 1996: Handbook of Pali Literature, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin
    • 2000: in Journal of the Pali Text Society, vol XXVI
    • 2008: Presidential Address, XVth IABS conference, printed in Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol 29 (no. 2)
  • Hirakawa Akira
    • A History of Indian Buddhism, vol 1, Shunjusha, Tokyo, 1974, translated and edited by Paul Groner, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 1990, reprinted Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 1993
  • Holder, John J. (date not stated): [6]
  • Hüsken, Ute
    • 2000: in Journal of the Pali Text Society, volume XXVI
  • De Jong, J.W.
    • 1993: The Beginnings of Buddhism, in The Eastern Buddhist, vol. 26, no. 2, p. 25
    • 2000: "The Buddha and his teachings" in Wisdom, Compassion and the Search for Understanding, ed Jonathan A. Silk, University of Hawai'i Press
  • Kelly, John
    • 2011: "The Buddha's teachings to lay people", Buddhist Studies Review, volume 28, pages 3-77
  • Lang, Karen C.
    • 2007: in Routledge Encyclopedia of Buddhism
  • Lindtner, Christian
    • 1997: in Buddhist Studies Review, 14.2
  • Lopez, Donald S.
    • Buddhism in Practice, Princeton University Press, 1995
    • Story of Buddhism, Harper, San Francisco, 2001; Buddhism, Penguin, 2001, appears to be the same book, but with different pagination
  • Manné, Joy
    • 1995: in Journal of the Pali Text Society, vol XXI
  • Mus, Paul
    • 1935: Barabudur (French); English tr Macdonald, Sterling Pub, Delhi, 1998
  • Nakamura Hajime
    • Indian Buddhism, Kansai University of Foreign Studies, Hirakata, Japan, 1980, reprinted Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1987, 1989
  • Nanamoli
    • 1962: The Guide, Pali Text Society
  • Norman, K. R.
    • 1980: in Buddhist Studies in Honour of Walpola Rahula, ed Balasooriya, pub Gordon Fraser, London; reprinted in Collected Papers, volume II, 1991, Pali Text Society
    • 1983: Pali Literature, Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden
    • 2003: in Jainism and Early Buddhism (Jaini Festschrift), reprinted in Collected Papers, vol VIII, Pali Text Society
  • Potter, Karl H.
    • 1996: ed, Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi
  • Samuel, Geoffrey
    • 2012: Introducing Tibetan Buddhism, Routledge
  • Schmithausen, Lambert
    • 1981: in Studien zum Jainismus und Buddhismus: Gedenkschrift für Ludwig Alsdorf, Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden [although the publication as a whole is German, this article is in English]
    • 1990: Preface to Ruegg & Schmithausen, Early Buddhism and Madhyamaka, Brill, Leiden
  • Schopen, Gregory
    • 1985: in Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik, vol 10, reprinted as chapter II in 1997
    • 1991: in History of Religions, vol 31, reprinted as chapter I in 1997
    • 1992: in Journal of the Pali Text Society, volume XVI; reprinted in 1997 below
    • 1997: Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu
    • 2004: in Buswell 2004
  • Shaw, Sarah
    • 2008/9: Introduction to Buddhist Meditation, Routledge, London (publication date given in the book is 2009, but in fact it's been on sale for the last few months of 2008, at least in Britain)
  • Vetter, Tilman
    • 1988: Ideas and Meditative Practices in Early Buddhism, Brill, Leiden
  • Warder, A. K.
    • 1963: Introduction to Pali, Pali Text Society
    • 1967: Pali Metre, Pali Text Society
    • 1970: Indian Buddhism, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1st edition
    • 1982: Introduction to The Path of Discrimination, Pali Text Society
    • 2000: Indian Buddhism, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 3rd edition
  • Williams, Paul
    • 2000: Buddhist Thought, Routledge
    • 2005: Buddhism, 8 volumes, Routledge
  • Wynne, Alexander
    • 2003: How old is the Suttapitaka? St John’s College. [www.ocbs.org/research/Wynne.pdf]
    • 2005: "The Historical Authenticity of Early Buddhist Literature: A Critical Evaluation" Vienna Journal of South Asian Studies Vol XLIX; a pdf of this paper can be accessed from [7]
    • 2007: Origin of Buddhist Meditation, Routledge
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