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The Life and Work of Buddhaghosa

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Item Code: IDI028
Author: B. C. Law
Publisher: Pilgrims Book Pvt. Ltd., Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 9788177695267
Pages: 189 (Black & white illustrations: 3)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 5.4"X 8.3"
Weight 240 gm
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Book Description

BUDDHAGHOSA was the most celebrated commentator of the Theravada School of Buddhism. An attempt has been made in the present treatise to build up a connected history of the life and labours of the distinguished exegete. In the first chapter, I have attempted to put together the materials for a life- history of Buddhaghosa as culled from his own works as well as from Dhammakitti's account recorded in the Mahavamsa. The second chapter deals with the legends, which grew about our commentator as mentioned in the Buddhaghosuppatti, the Sasanavamsa and similar works. Much importance cannot be attached to these legends as they are of little value from the historical point of view. The third chapter treats of the origin and development of Buddhist commentaries, and an important branch of the Buddhist literature, namely, that of the Poranas has been examined in it. I am indeed thankful Mrs. Rhys Davids for kindly drawing my attention to this point. In the fourth chapter dealing with the works of Buddhaghosa I have discussed about the ascription of the authorship of the Dhammapada commentary to our commentator. A Sanskrit poem, Padyacudamani, attributed to Buddhaghosa and lately published by the Government of Madras has also been noticed in it. I have omitted the Jataka commentary from my list of the works of Buddhaghosa although this may appear to be somewhat astounding to many. A careful comparison of the style and language of the works of Buddhaghosa shows convincingly that the Jataka commentary was not the composition of Buddhaghosa. I agree with T. W. Rhys Davids when he says that the date of this jatak commrntary is unknown. I am not prepared to accept the native tradition in Ceylon that the original Jataka book was written in Sinhalese and was translated into Pali by Buddhaghosa; and the Sinhalese original was afterwards lost as Cowell says in his preface to the first volume of the Jataka. In the opening verses of the Jataka commentary the name of the author is not mentioned. Childers goes so for as to identify the author of the Jataka commentary with Buddhaghosa. I have great doubt as to the correctness of the theory that Buddhaghosa was the author of the Jataka commrntary. But there is no satisfactory evidence to set the controversy at rest one way or the other. Chapter V treats of the successors of Buddhaghosa. An account has been given in the following chapter of the versatile intellect of Buddhaghosa and the encyclopedic characters of his works. In this chapter I have also devoted a few pages to an account of Buddhaghosa's knowledge of anatomy. The commentor never fails to say a few words about the subject whenever he has the chance.

The present treatise is, I believe, the first of its kind and about four years ago, at the request of my teacher, the late Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. Satish Chunder Vidyabhusana, M.A., Ph. D., I wrote a prolegomenon to it under the name, "A Note on Buddhaghosa's commentaries" which was published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.

I am indebted to Mrs. Rhys Davids, D. Litt., M. A., who has been kind enough to help me with many valuable suggestions and to write a foreword to the present work. I am also indebted to Mr. Haran Chunder Chakladar, M. A., and Dr. Hem Chunder Rai Chowdhury, M.A., Ph. D., P.R.S. for their suggestions. I am thankful to Dr. Narendranath Law for including this humble treatise in his Calcutta Oriental Series.

My thanks are due to the Offg. Director-General of Archeology Survey, Central Circle, Patna; Mr. Ramaprasad Chanda, B.A., F.A.S.B., Superintendent, Archeological Section, Indian museum, Calctta; and Meassrs. W. E. Bastian & Co., Colombo, Ceylon, for the photographs and for their kind permission to reproduce them in this book.

Back of the Book

In the history of Pali Buddhist Literature, the name of Buddhaghosa stands out pre-eminent as that of the greatest commentator and exegetist. Buddhaghosa did for the Pali Tripitaka what Sayana did for Vedic Literature. Many a word and expression, many point of Buddhist theology and many cruces of philosophy would not have been clearly intelligible to later generations but for the immense labour that Buddhaghosa bestowed upon the exegesis of the Pali texts. Besides mere verbal glosses and philological discussions, Buddhaghosa has introduced in his commentaries an immense mass of legends and fables, folk-tales and traditions history and biography, which has made his works a huge store-house from which the historian of ancient Indian sociology can draw without end.

Born of Northern India (Magadh), Buddhaghosa was brought up in the Brahmanic traditions and had a wide knowledge of Indian Literature, including the sacred lore of the Brahmins and works on both science and art.

Mr. Bimala Charan Law as an investigator in this unharvested field needs no introduction. The Book is all the more needed now as a very useful compendium of what we yet know of Buddhaghosa, both from his own works and from other documents. Theories about the great commentator which are cropping up rest on a more or less slender basis of evidence form lack of more historical prolegomena such as this book affords. Mr. Law has gone deeper into the works ascribed and referring to Buddhaghosa than any other English -writing author.

As long as Buddhism remains a living faith among mankind, Buddhaghosa will not cease to be remembered with reverence and gratitude by Buddhist peoples and schools.


  Foreword v
  Preface ix
  The life of Buddhaghosa 1
  Legends about Buddhaghosa 24
  Origin and Development of Buddhist Commentaries 46
  Buddhaghosa's works 66
  The Successors of Buddhaghosa 92
  The Encyclopedic character of Buddhaghosa's works 101
  The Philosophy of Buddhaghosa 130
  Buddhaghosa's Interpretation of Buddhism 153
  Conclusion 168
  Index 172

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