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NAGASENABHIKSHU SUTRA - A COMPARATIVE STUDY
(Through Pali and Chinese sources)
BHIKKHU THICH MINH CHAU
Previous works on the subject:
The Pali Milindapañho and its Chinese counterpart, Na-hsien-pi-ch'iu-ching have enjoyed much popularity among Western and Eastern Scholars, and numerous are the translations of the two above texts into various languages, some of these translation are mentioned below:
1. Louis Finot: Les Questions de Milinda, Paris 1923 (French translation of Book I-III).
2. Rhys Davids: The questions of King Milinda (English translation 1925)
3. Nyànatiloka: Fragen des Milinda, Munchen 1919 (Complete German translation).
4. F. Otto Schrader: Die Fragen des Konigo Menandros, Berlin 1905 (German translation of the portions held to be original by the translator).
5. Specht and Levi: Deux traductions chinoises de Milindapañho: Oriental Congress IX, London, 1892, Vol.I,p.518ff.
6. Sogen Yamagami: Sùtra on Questions of King Milinda (Japanese translation from the Chinese text).
7. Sei Syu Kanamoli: Questions of King Milinda (Japanese translation from the Pàli text).
8. Paul Demieville: Les versions Chinoises du Milindapañha, BEFEO, Vol.XXIV, 1924.
Dissertations on the 2 Pali and Chinese texts, and comparative studies of them have captured the attention of many learned Pandits. Some of these dissertations and comparative studies are cited below:
1.Garbe: Beitràge zur indischen Kulturgeschichte Belin, 1903.
2.Mrs Rhys Davids: The Milinda Question, London 1930.
3.Rhys Davids: Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol.VIII,p.631ff., article on "Milindapañho"
4.Taisho edition of the C Tripitaka edited by Takakusu and Watanabe, Vol.32, No.1670 (a&b).
5. Winternitz: History of Indian Literature, Vol.II, pp.174-183.
6. Siegfried Behrsing, Beitrage zu einer, Milinda Bibliographie, Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, Vol. VII, 3. pp.516ff.
7. B. C. Law: A history of Pàli Literature Vol. II, pp. 353-72.
8. J. Takakusu: Chinese Translations of the Milindapañha JRAS, 1896.
9. Dr. Kogen Mizuno: On the Recensions of Milindapañho.
Aims and structure of the present work:
But unfortunately, most of the above work, such as those in German, French and Japanese, are not easily available to the scholars and students of Buddhist literature in India. My present work is an attempt to fill this lacuna, and present a fresh and systematic comparative study of the P and of the C texts. It gives an exhaustive and detailed study of the two texts, and places side by side all the corresponding C and P passages, at the same time taking notes of all similarities and dissimilarities between the two versions. Thus the readers have all the data before them and will be able to formulate their own conclusion, if such is their desire. In addition to this, my work is also a probe into the anteriority of the P and the C texts, by making use of the conclusions in some of my predecessors' works which (unfortunately not many) are at my disposal, and also by quoting all internal and external evidences available so as to prove my standpoint and conclusion upon this problem. Up to now, we can affirm with certainty that the original of the Chinese text is earlier than the Pàli text, as proved in the chapter: "A probe into the anteriority and fidelity of the P and the C versions." (See infra p.24-35)
I. POINTS IN COMMON IN THE P AND THE C VERSIONS
A comparative study of the P Milindapañha and the C Na-hsien-pi-ch'iu ching shows clearly that both versions derive from the same source as they have many points in common between them.
Except for the accounts of the previous lives of Milinda and Nàgasena, where divergences abound and the last four books of the P text, which are not available in the C version, the remaining passages can be said to be similar, barring some additions and omissions here and there; the trend of the dialogues is almost identical, the dialogues veer round the same theme, with unimportant divergences scattered unevenly.
Even in the widely divergent accounts of the previous lives of Nàgasena and Milinda, seven points of similarities between the two versions are listed below, thus showing unmistakably the same source from which the respective compilers drew their inspirations.
1. In the Pàli, the novice and the monk both made vows and they were later born as King Milinda and monk Nàgasena in accordance with their vows. In the Chinese, the Bràhmana who was an elephant in his previous life and the Bràhmana who was a hermit and friend of the first Bràhmana made each a vow and both were born as Na-hsien and Mi-lan, in conformity with their aspirations.
2. The P mentions Nàgasena's birth as a son in a Bràhmana family. He was taught the three Vedas and Brahmanical knowledge and did not know the Dhamma and the monks.
In the C, the elephant was reborn also as the son of Bràhmana family and when he grew up, he did not hear the Buddha-Dharma and did not see the monks. Afterwards, he left the world and studied heretical doctrines.
3. The P mentions Ven. Rohana who was taken to task by Ven. Assagutta for being absent when the whole company went to request God Mahàsena to be born in the world.
Ven. Assagutta assigned to him the duties of going to Nàgasena's parents' house to beg for alms for seven years and a half and to draw Nàgasena away from the household life and to ordain him.
In the C text Na-hsien had an uncle called Lou-han, an Arahant who ordained Na-hsien and gave the ten precepts. Lou-han can be identified with Rohana.
4. The P mentions Arahant Assagutta who dwelt at Vattaniya hermitage and under whom, Nàgasena passed three months of the rainy season. The C speaks of a Buddhist temple called Ho-ch'an in which dwelt 500 Arahant monks having for leader Ven. O-po-yueh,whose temple Na-hsien resorted to. Thus Vattaniya hermitage can be equated with Ho-ch'an Buddhist temple and Arahant Assagutta with Arahant O-po-yueh.
5. In the P, Nàgasena preached the Abhidhamma to the lady-disciple and both the preacher and the listener attained the Sotapatti stage to the great joy of Assagutta who said that Nàgasena had hit two quarries with an arrow-shot.
In the C, Na-hsien preached the Dharma to a layman devotee and both also attained the stage of stream-winner and Na-hsien was praised by Ven. O-po-yueh as having hit two targets with one arrow-shot.
6. In the P, Ven. Dhammarakkhita blamed Nàgasena on his failure to attain Arahantship. On that very night, Nàgasena strove hard and attained Arahantship. In the C, Na-hsien was expelled from the Sangha owing to his disobedience to his teacher's order, and out of repentence he strove hard and attained arahantship.
7. In the P, after his attainment of Arahantship, Nàgasena went to the city of Sàgala and stayed at Sankheyya hermitage to challenge King Milinda; in the C, Na-hsien came to the country of She-chieh and stayed at Hsieh-chih (or ti)-chia temple to challenge King Mi-lan.
From the above seven points of similarities, we might come to the conclusion that although so many details differ, both versions derive from the same source of documentation and have a common background, that is the original of the C and the P translations.
II. POINTS OF DIFFERENCE
But the points of difference are far more interesting and important as they show the trend in the mind of the compilers, the objectives they are aiming at in these accretions and omissions, thereby helping to detect the sects they belong to and serve as a probe into the question of anteriority and nearness to the original of each version.
C: Na-hsien-pi-ch'iu-ching: Na-hsienbhikshusùtra
P: Milindapañho: The Questions of Milinda.
Thus the C classifies this text as one among the sùtras, although it does not begin with the traditional "Evam me sutam". Here the C selects the name of the monk to be the title of the text, while the P prefers that of the king.
B. PLAN OF THE WORK:
The C text comprises three books, the first book from page 52a to p.57a, the second from p.57a to p.61b; the third book from p.61b to p.64b, without any headings, endings and divisions into paragraphs, except at the end and at the beginning of a book.
The P text is divided into seven parts:
Part 1: Bàhirakathà or introduction with the account of the previous lives of Nàgasena and Milinda, from p. 1 to p. 24.
Part 2: comprises Lakkhanapañha from p. 25 to p. 64.
Part 3: Vimaticchedanapañha from p.65 to p.89
Part 4: Mendakapañha from p.90 to p. 328.
Part 5: Anumànapañha from p. 329 to p. 347.
Part 6: Dhutangapañha from p.348 to p. 362
Part7: Opammakathàpañha and Milinda's Arahantship from p.362 to p.420
Thus the C version omits Parts 4 to 7 of the Pàli Version.
According to the ingenious chart drawn by Dr. Kogen Mizuno, the C has only 69 dialogues while the P adds 12 dialogues more in its own version:
1. Dial. No. 3 (P.M.P.,p.32) on Manasikàro which is considered as one of the factors leading to emancipation.
2. Dial. No. 18: (P.M.,p.48), in which conditions for not being reborn are enumerated.
3. Dial. No.23: (P.M.P.,p.50), on the impossibility of knowing the beginning in the past.
4. Dial. No. 25: (P.M.P.,p.52) on the rise of sankhàra not without conditions.
5. Dial. No. 32: (P.M.P.,p62) on the characteristic of vinnànam.
6. Dial. No. 34: (P.M.P.,p.62) on the characteristic of vicàra.
7. Dial. No. 48: (P.M.P.,p.71), on Dhammas seen by Nàgasena.
8. Dial. No. 51: (P.M.P., p.72) on the absence of any being transmigrating from one body to the other.
9. Dial. No. 62: (P.M.P.,p.77), on the dwelling place of Panna.
10. Dial. No. 63: (P.M.P., p.77), on the meaning of transmigration.
11. Dial. No. 65: (P,M.P., p.78), on the rise of Sati either by abhijànantà or by katumikà.
(b) Order of the Dialogues:
The Order of the dialogues can be said to be identical, except in two instances: 1) The C places faith before precepts, while the P puts Sìla before addha. Again, the dialogue on the omniscience of the Buddha is placed farther in the P version.
D. PREVIOUS LIVES OF NàGASENA AND MILINDA
The account of the previous lives of Nàgasena and Milinda are totally different in both versions, as testified by the following divergences:
1. The P places the story in the time of Kassapa Buddha and refers to a novice who was heedless of the order given three times by a monk, and received a blow of the broom-stick from the latter. The novice, while crying and performing his duties, made his first aspiration to become powerful and glorious like a midday sun.
Again, when he saw the mighty waves of the Ganges bellowing and rushing forth, he made a second aspiration to be able to carry away all the debates like the billows of the Ganges. Due to these aspirations, the novice was reborn as Milinda, King of Sàgala in India.
The monk, when going down to the river to take bath and on hearing the novice's aspiration, also made a wish to be able to unravel and solve any puzzles asked by this young novice. Due to this aspiration, the monk was later born as Nàgasena.
The C is totally different here. It traces the past up to the time of the present Buddha only, not up to Kassapa Buddha. It refers to the episode of the Buddha when he was tired by the affluence of his listeners and retired to a secluded place. There he was followed by an elephant-king who also wanted to flee away from the disturbances of his herd.
The Buddha, knowing the elephant's mind, preached the Dharma to him and the elephant attended upon the Buddha, sweeping, watering and trampling down the path on which the Enlightened One used to take his walk.
Later the elephant died and was born as the son of a Bràhmana family who, when grown up, left his family, studied heretical doctrines and stayed in the forest. Near by lived a hermit and both became well acquainted. One of them made a vow to become a recluse and strive after Arahantship and he was reborn as Na-hsien. The other man made a vow to become a king and make all people follow his teachings and he was reborn as King Mi-lan.
2. In the P, there is a protracted passage which refers to the innumerable company of Arahants asking God Mahàsena to be born into the world so as to defeat King Milinda and protect the Dhamma, Mahàsena's rebirth as Nàgasena in Brahmana Sonuttara's family, his study of Vedic and Brahmanical lores, Ven. Rohana's assignment to initiate Nàgasena into the religious life and into the Dhamma, Rohana's begging for alms for seven years and ten months, his meeting with Nàgasena, his ordaining Nàgasena as a novice and his teaching the Abhidhamma to Nàgasena.
In the C, it mentions simply that Na-hsien, at the age of 14 or 15, had a paternal uncle named Lou-han who was an Arahant and possessor of psychic powers. Na-hsien came to see him, told him of his delight in the Buddha doctrine and begged for ordination. Lou-han pitied Na-hsien and ordained him as a sàmanera.
Na-hsien daily recited the doctrine, pondered over the Dharma and Vinaya, attained the four dhyànas and grasped the essence of the doctrine. Here there is no mention of teaching first the Abhidharma to Nàgasena.
3. In the P, Nàgasena preached to the lady-devotee the deep Abhidhamma and the doctrine related to emptiness (sunnatà), while in the C, Na-hsien preached to a layman-disciple first about charity, morality, heaven. Then when he found that the layman was glad at heart, he preached to him the deeper Dharma, that all impermanent Dharmas were liable to suffering. Here also, there is no mention of Abhidharma.
(b) Passages missing in either version:
In either version, there are certain passages and details missing:
Not available in the C text:
1. The monk and the novice were born and reborn in countless existences as gods and men between Buddha Kassapa and Buddha Gotama and the latter had predicted about them as he had predicted about Moggaliputta Tissa, that 500 years after the Buddha's Parinibbàna, these two would appear in the would, propound the Dhamma and help disentangling knotty points of the doctrine.
2. The P refers to the six heretical teachers and the conversation of King Milinda with Pùrana Kassapa and Makkhali Gosàla, whose replies did not satisfy the king and made him proclaim that all Jambudìpa was empty of recluses and Bràhmanas capable of holding discussion with him.
3. The C text is also silent about the episode beginning with the company of Arahants begging God Mahàsena to be born in the world so as to challenge King Milinda and protect the doctrine, and also about the episode in which Ven. Rohana is described to have gone for seven years and ten months to Bràmana Sonuttara's house and to have taught the Abhidhamma.
4. Five times the P mentions the Abhidhamma, first in the introductory gàthà where Nàgasena was mentioned as an expert in Abhidhamma, secondly when Rohana taught Nàgasena the seven books on Abhidhamma from Dhammasangani up to Patthàna, thirdly when Nàgasena recited to the company of Arahants the seven Abhidhamma texts in full, to the thunderous applause of Brahmà God and the shower of Mandàrava flowers. Again Nàgasena preached the Abhidhamma to the lady-devotee and both attained the Sotapatti stage. Last of all, Nàgasena on his way to Pàtaliputta expounded the Abhidhamma to the merchant who played the host to him.
5. Nàgasena, while accompanying his teacher in his begging round, mentally blamed his teacher of being empty-headed and foolish to have taught him first the Abhidhamma and due to that, he was told by his teacher to go and challenge King Milinda so as to atone for his unholy thoughts.
6. Nàgasena went to Ven. Dhammarakkhita in Pàtaliputta to study the three Pitakas under him, and within three months he mastered the whole of it.
Not available in the P text:
There are certain passages which are missing in the P text but available in the C text:
1. Missing in the P text are the story of the present Buddha and the elephant seeking solitude (which is reminiscent of the story of the monks of Kosambi), the story of the elephant who, after the Buddha's demise, came to the temple to listen to the recital of the doctrine, his rebirth in a Bràhmana family, his growth into a youth who did not hear the Buddha-doctrine and did not see the monks, his adoption of a hermit life, his acquaintance with another hermit, their vows and their being born as Na-hsien and Mi-lan.
2. Na-hsien's expulsion from the Sangha due to his disobedience to his teacher's order,his repentance, his striving for and attainment of Arahanthood and his rehabilitation into the Order are not found in the P text.
3. After his Arahanthood, Na-hsien's preaching tour from village to village, from town to town, the spiritual attainment of his audience, the welcome he received not only from men but also from Inda, Brahmà etc.... these details are missing in the P text.
Thus the accounts of the previous lives of Nàgasena and Milinda differ widely in both versions, although points in common are not lacking. The moderation in the C version speaks highly for its originality and we have reason to believe that the original version was altered by the P compilers to suit their own doctrine and school.
(E) DIFFERENCES IN DETAILS
In the attitudes of the personages, in the quotations of the places, rivers, distances, there are some differences in the two versions, and some of them are listed below:
I. In the P, King Milinda, after having sent a messenger, came to see Elder àyupàla along with 500 Yonakas; in the C, first Ven. Ye-ho-lo was invited to come and meet King Mi-lan. The monk replied that the king should come but not he; and the king came along with 500 attendants.
2. In the P, the king, after having sent a messenger, came himself with 500 Yonakas to pay a visit to Nàgasena; in the C, King Mi-lan sent an invitation to Na-hsien to come to the place, and Na-hsien accepted the invitation and came himself with a retinue.
3. In the P, King Milinda himself detected Nàgasena sitting in the middle of the Sangha and he rejoiced to have recognised Nàgasena without any help: in the C, it was the king who asked the minister: "Who is Na-hsien?" and when the minister pointed out the monk to him, King Mi-lan said that his guess was right.
4. The C starts the conversation between the king and the monk, first with Na-hsien preaching the Dharma to King Mi-lan without the latter asking him. He preached that the Buddha doctrine proclaimed that men's safety was the highest profit; men's contentment was the greatest wealth, men's faith was the highest blessing and Nirvàna was the highest happiness. The P omits this passage and starts the conversation with King Milinda asking about Nàgasena's name.
5. On the 2nd day of the convesation, the C mentions that Na-hsien was accompanied by 80 monks including Ven. Yeh-ho-lo, while the P refers up to 80.000 monks and omits àyupàla. In the C, it was Chan-mi-li-wang-ch'un, who came alone to Na-hsien and asked Na-hsien some questions, while the P mentions the coming of Devamantiya, Anantakàya and Mankura and it was Anantakàya who asked questions.
6. The second reception of King Milinda to Nàgasena is almost the same in both versions, except that in the C, King Mi-lan paid homage to Na-hsien and after the meal, offered to each monk a robe with a pair of sandals, and to Na-hsien and Yeh-ho-lo a set of three robes and a pair of sandals. And when only ten monks remained behind with Na-hsien, Mi-lan ordered his lady-folks to sit behind a curtain and witness the conversation.
The P omits the offering of sandals, the presence of àyupàla and that of the lady-folks. It adds that King Milinda took a lower seat and sat down.
7. The C quotes five rivers: (a) Heng, (b) Hsin-t'a, (c) Ssu-t'a, (d) Po-ch'a, (e) Shih-p'i-i, while the P quotes Gangà, Yamunà, Aciravati, Sarabhù and Mahì. Dr. Kogen Mizuno identifies the five rivers quoted in the C version as Gangà, Sindhù, Sità, Vakshù and Sarasvatì. These five except the Gangà, are the great rivers which flow through N. W. India, while four of the five rivers mentioned in the P are flowing through the Eastern parts of India.
8. The C mentions that a big rock like the king's palace takes six months to reach the earth if dropped from the seventh Brahmà heaven, while the P mentions that if a rock like a Kùtàgàra falls down from the Brahmà-heaven, at a speed of 48.000 yojanas day and night, it takes four months to reach this earth.
The C mentions A-li-san as distant from She-chieh of 2000 yu-hsùn (yojana), while the P mentions that Alasanda island is distant from Sàgala about 200 yojanas.
The discrepancy in the distance between the P and the C versions makes W.W. Tarn remark that the C translation altered the locality of Menander's birth, making Alasanda as 2000 yojanas from Sàgala instead of 200. He complains as unfortunate that a number of French scholars (Pelliot, Deùmieùville, Finot, Grousset, Leùvi) should have championed this against the P version. According to him, the C translator had never heard of Alexandria of the Caucasus and knew only of Alexandria in Egypt and altered 200 yojanas to 2000 accordingly. But on the same page (Note 4), Tarn remarks that the name Alasanda occurs three times in Part II (Pàli text p.327, 321 and 269) and in the last passage, it is Alexandria in Egypt beyond question, while the other two passages mention Alexandria of the Caucasus. Whatever it might be, at least Tarn concedes that once Alexandria might have belonged to Egypt.
Again the C mentions Mi-lan being born as a prince, while the P refers to Milinda as being born at Kalasigàma (in a village). So Tarn opines that Menander was born as a commoner but the C translator turned him into a prince.
As to Nagasena, the C mentions him as being born in a village called Kajangala under the Himàlàya while the C mentions Chi-pin (Kashmir) as being his place of birth. Mr. Tarn seems to place too much trust in the fidelity of the P version. But our present study shows that alterations and interpolations are galore in the P version and it is not without reason that the French scholars favour the C version.
Anyhow, the Milindapañha, being a book "of didactic ethics and religious controversy cast into the form of historical romance" should not be referred to as historical evidence and we all are aware that we should not expect much historical data from our Milindapañha.
Again Chi-pin is mentioned as 720 li distant in the C, while the P mentions only 12 yojanas being the distance between Kashmir and Sàgala. Further the C speaks of bones of 4000 li long and a big fish called Chih of 28.000 li long, but the P mentions only 100 leagues and 500 leagues respectively.
9. When the conversation came to an end, according to the C version, Na-hsien said that it was past midnight and he wanted to go. Then the king ordered his attendants to have four rolls of cloth dipped in oil to serve as torch and see Na-hsien to his place, with all due respect to Na-hsien as if to himself, saying that with a teacher like Na-hsien and a disciple like himself, the realization of the Dharma would be quick, as all his questions were given suitable answers by Na-hsien.
Here the P first adds Nàgasena's enquiry as to the time and the king replied that, the first watch had passed, the second watch was ushered in, the torches were lit, the four banners were raised and the gift from the king would come from the treasury. Here the P adds that the Yonakas praised, Nàgasena as a pandita and the king approved of their praises saying that with such a teacher as Nàgasena, and such a disciple as himself, a scholar would realize the Dhamma before long.
10. The king was pleased and ordered clothes worthy of 10.000 (golden coins) to be offered to Na-hsien from the treasury and informed him that from now on, he together with 800 monks, would be invited to take their daily meals in the palace and provided with what they desired.
The P is almost the same, but it refers not to 800 monks but to 800 meals (atthasatabhattam). The P adds the king's saying that if he were to adopt the religious life, he would not live long because he had many enemies.
11. At the end, the C mentions Na-hsien's departure and the king paying homage to the monk. The P omits both but mentions instead that both great men praised each other.
(F) DIFFERENCES IN DOCTRINES:
Differences in doctrines are found scattered here and there in both versions, and they are interesting and important as they reveal the sect of the compilers and the age of the texts in question.
1. Abhidhamma: Throughout the three books in the C version, not even for once is Abhidharma mentioned. On the contrary, within the first three books of the P version, Abhidhamma is mentioned eight times:
(i) In the introductory gàthà, Nàgasena is mentioned as an expert in Abhidhamma
(ii) Rohana taught Nàgasena the seven books on Abhidhamma from Dhammasanganì up to Patthànà.
(iii) Nàgasena recited to the company of Arahants the seven Abhidhamma texts in full to the thunderous applause of Brahmà gods and the shower of Mandàrava flowers.
(iv) Nàgasena preached the Abhidhamma to the lady-devotee and both obtained the Sotapanna stage.
(v) On his way to Pàtaliputta, Nàgasena expounded the Abhidhamma to the merchant who played host to him.
(vi) Nàgasena referred to Abhidhamma in his answer to Anantakàya's question with such effect that the latter became a lay-disciple.
(vii) Nàgasena again refers to Abhidhamma classification of 108 kinds of feelings.
(viii) Nàgasena explained the non-existence of the soul with reference to the Abhidhamma exposition.
Again the P speaks of the seven Sabbacitasàdhàranà cetasikà, such as phasso, vedanà, sannà, cetanà, ekaggatà, jivitindriyam, manasikàro, which can be found only in the P Abhidhamma, as other sects do not accept Jivitindriyam to be classified as sabbacittasàdhàranàcetasikà.
2. The 37 Bodhipakkhiyas:
The C has given the 37 factors of enlightenment which are almost the same as the usual Pàli ones, but their definitions are not exactly the same. Thus the cattàro satipatthànà can be said to be almost similar to the P ones, but for the four sammappadhànà, the C translates as Ssu-i-tuan, the four eradications of the mind, due to the confusion between pradhàna and prahàna.
The definition is rather curious: "The Buddha said: " Having analysed the four resting places of the mind, one would not think of any further, this is called the four eradications of the mind." Thus it is far different from the usual P definitions for sammappadhàna.
The same can be said of the four psychic powers which the C defines as: "The eyes can see everything; the ears can hear everything; the mind knows others' mind; the body can fly", which differs greatly from the usual P chandiddhipàdo, cittidhipàdo, viriyiddhipàdo and vìmansiddhipàdo.
Again the five faculties and the five powers are also not the same. The five faculties, are defined as "not attachment of the mind to good and bad shapes, sounds, odours, tastes, touches; the five powers, defined as control of eyes, ears, nose, mouth, body", which are different from the P Saddhindriyam, viriyindriyam, satindriyam samàdhindritam, pannindriyam, saddhàbalam, viriyabalam, satibalam, samàdhibalam, pannàbalam.
As for the seven factors of wisdom, the C enumerates as follows: (a) i (mind) for sati. (b) kho (joy) for Piti, (c) i (serenity) for passaddhi, (d) hu (protection) for upekkhà, the remaining three are the same with the P. The Eight-fold Path is almost the same in both versions except that the C uses the term straight for the P term sammà and fang-pien (means) for the P vàyàmo.
3. Paticcasamuppàda or the Dependent Origination:
It is almost the same in both versions, but the terminology adopted in the C is not so clear-cut and somewhat unusual for some expressions. They are as follows in the C: (i) ignorance, (ii) spirit (sheùn), (iii) body, (iv) name, (v) form, (vi) the six knowledges, (vii) their touches with their respective objects, (viii) knowledge of pain and happiness. (ix) attachment, craving, (x) lust and, desire, (xi) becoming, (xii) birth, (xiii) old age, (xiv) disease, (xv) death (xvi) lamentation, (xvii) grief (xviii) inner despair.
If we put name and form together, old age, disease, death, lamentation, grief, inner despair together, it comes to the same number twelve as in the P.
The C soul for sankhàra, body for vinnànam, six knowledges for salàyatanam, lust and desire for upàdànam are rather forceful and show that the C translator was not yet acquainted with the exact rendering in C of these terms at the time of the compilation of the C text.
Again, this law is explained in the negative order as follows in the C: "The wise men, who had learned the Dharma, did not cling to the internal and external body, had no craving. Having no craving, they had no sense-desires. Without sense-desires, there was no pregnancy in the womb. Without pregnancy in the womb, there were no birth, no old age. Having no birth no old age, there were no sichness, no death, Having no sickness, (no death), they had no grief, no lamentation. Having no grief, no lamentation, they had no inner pain, they obtained Nirvàna."
Again here we remark that the C formula is still in a fluid condition, not yet solidified into an unyielding shape. This is starting somewhere in the middle and we have similar cases in the Mahànidànasutta of the Dìgha, vol.II.
Also in Visuddhimagga, Chapter XVII, we have different methods of contemplation upon this law. We may begin at the middle and go backward or forward, or we may commence with the last and go backward (patiloma), as we can go forward (anuloma).
4. Vedanà or feelings:
The P refers to the Abhidhamma classification of 108 kinds of feelings; but the C omits the Abhidhamma reference and classifies them as follows: (i) six things arousing internal joyful feelings in men; (ii) six things arousing external joyful feelings in men; (iii) six internal things arousing internal sorrowful feelings in men; (iv) six external things arousing not joyful feelings in men; (v) six things arousing neither sorrowful nor joyful feelings in men; (vi) six external things arousing sorrowful feelings in men.
5. The three characteristics:
While the P mentions the three characteristics as anicca, dukkha, anatta realized by those who possess wisdom, the C offers a slightly different reading, although the purport is the same.
6. Seven kinds of wisdom:
The P refers to seven bojjhangas, while the C mentions the following seven: (i) thinking of good and evil things; (ii) exertion; (iii) to enjoy the Dharma; (iv) to subdue the mind in doing good; (v) thinking of the Path; (vi) onemindedness; (vii) to meet things without attachment, withouth hatred.
7. Yoniso manasikaro and pannà or Right consideration and wisdom:
The P states that sheep, goats, oxen, buffaloes camels, asses have yoniso manasikàro but not pannà; but the C states that oxen, horses, the six domestic animals have wisdom but their heart is different.
C: Nieh-pan path (means that) having gone past, there would be no more becoming = P: Nibbànam nirodho ti.
9. Saddhà or faith:
In the definition of faith, the C omits its lakkhana, but says simply that faith means without doubts and adds: "Faith in the existence of the Buddhas, the Buddha-dhamma and the Order of monks; faith in the existence of arahants, in the existence of the present world, of the next world; faith in the existence of filial piety towards parents; faith in good remuneration for good actions, in bad remuneration for bad actions."
10. High ordination and wisdom:
As to the dialogue about the Buddha having no teacher, the C says that when the Buddha obtained his enlightenment, he knew by himself the Dharma, the Path, unlike his disciples who should learn and know the Buddha's teachings and practise them till old age. But the P refers to the High ordination (Upasampadà) saying that he did not receive High ordination from others in the way the Blessed One laid down the precepts for his disciples to observe till the end of their lives.
11. Sati or mindfulness:
Both versions enumerate 16 ways from which memory springs up; they are in the same order, but their explanations are not the same and the P adds another extra, the 17th anubhùta, meaning experience although it mentions only 16.
12. Vinnnam, Pannà, Jiva or conciousness, wisdom and life-principle:
While the P refers to vinnnam, pannà and jiva in a living being, the C mentions instead the spirit of a man, wisdom and the natural. The C defines these three dharmas as follows: "The spirit of a man knows, wisdom realises the Path and the natural is emptiness, without any individual". The P defines that the characteristic of consciouness is knowledge, that of wisdom is realization and there is no life principle in the living being.
(1) Similarities and dissimilarities.
Similes abound in Milindapañha and Nàgasena bhikshu sutra, and a comparative study of them shows clearly that both versions derive from the same source as they are almost the same. But we notice a deliberate attempt on the part of the compilers not to follow the original blindly, but to add more or less details so as to show their own originality.
Thus the six similes used by Nàgasena to prove the link between the present nàma-rùpa and the next one, are almost the same in both versions, with the following differences.
In the 1st simile: C: fruits of plants
=P: mango fruit.
In the 2nd simile: C: crops and ripe grains
=P: rice and sugareane.
In the 3rd simile: C: the fire burns walls, rooms, and houses
=P: the fire burns the fields of others.
In the 4th simile: C a man lights a torch, places it on the wall so that he can eat his food; the torch burns wall, bamboo, wood, house and town
=P: a man lights a lamp, ascends the pavillion, the lamp burns grass, village.
To illustrate the definition of contact (phassa), three similes are used. The 1st two similes about the two rams, the two hands clapping each other are the same. In the 3rd one, the C refers to two stones, while the P mentions two cymbals (samà).
Again the simile of a treasurer who opens a king's treasure is almost the same in both versions, except that the objects seen are different.
C: Coins, gold, silver, gem, jade, silken fabrics, cotton, mixed scents, mixed colours
=P: Treasures of the king, of blue, yellow, red, white, crimson colours.
(2) Different explanations.
Sometimes, the explanations of the similes are not the same. Thus in the simile to illustrate Vicàra, the P refers to a copper vessel which is beaten (àkotitam) and produces a humming sound (anuravati); when it is beaten, it is initial thought: when it produces sound, it is sustained thought
=C: When the copper plate is put into fire by a man, there is sound; when he raises his hand (?), there is sound; thus when there is thought, there is inner move.
Again there is a slight difference in the interpretation of the simile about the impossibility of pointing out bad and good actions, the C wants to show that those who are not yet emancipated cannot point out the position of good and bad actions, so in the simile, it shows that when the fruits are not yet formed, it is impossible for anyone to foretell that this branch has no fruits.
The P also wants to show that it is impossible to point out the position of good and bad actions, but in the simile, it shows that when the fruits are not yet formed, it is impossible to point out the position of the fruits in such and such a place.
(3) P with more details.
Instances are not rare when the P offers more details than the C. Thus the P refers to the simile of wheat-reapers, who with their left hand take hold of the wheat and with a sickle in their right hand, cut the wheat to illustrate that the recluse with right consideration (yoniso manasikàro) takes hold of the mind and by wisdom, cuts off his depravities.
But the C, while quoting the same simile, mentions simply that people endowed with wisdom eradicate craving and sense-desire just like wheat reapers.
Again both versions resort to four similes to illustrate that good qualities depend upon Sìla or morality as foundation. They are not in the same order and the P offers more details.
C1=P2; C2=P1; C3=P3; C4=P4.
Thus in C3=P3, the C mentions simply that if an architect wants to build a big town, first he should measure and lay the foundation, then he would be able to build the town. But the P mentions more details, such as clearing the place where the town is located, the removal of all stumps and thorns, the levelling of the earth, then the laying out of streets, squares, cross-roads, etc. and so he builds the city.
About volition, both versions refer to the same similes about a man drinking poison and causing others to drink, about his bad actions and inducing others to perform bad actions. But here the P adds two more similes, the case of a man who drinks ghee, butter, oil, honey, mollasses and causes others to drink, and the case of a man who performs good actions and induces others to do the same.
(4) C with more details.
Sometimes the opposite is witnessed, that the C offering more details. Thus in the first simile about exertion, the P speaks of a falling house, the C adds one more instance, that of a wall on the verge of collapsing. In the dialogue about wisdom, the C adds the simile of a man cutting down a tree with a knife to show that wisdom is like a sharp knife cutting down demeritorious dharmas.
We can see that the same source inspires the C and the P compilers as to the similes to illustrate the explanations. But the compilers seem not to content themselves with a faithful reproduction of the original. They added new similes to be more convincing, reduced some which looked rather out of the mark, and resorted to new materials to suit the local colour, thus bringing about all these differences which we find in the similies of the tow versions.
(H) GÀTHÀ AND QUOTATIONS
As far as gàthas are concerned, we can say that there is no gàthà in the C version. The P contains ten gàthàs within the first three books, six gàthas having no corresponding passages in the C version, and four gàthas having the C corresponding prose passages.
The following six gàthas are not found in the C version:
(i). A gàtha in which Milinda and Nàgasena are introduced with their outstanding qualities at the beginning of the text.
(ii). A gàthà in praise of Nàgasena's fine qualities and learning and announcing his staying at Sankheyya hermitage.
(iii). A gàthà describing Milinda's forebodings in the presence of Nàgasena.
(iv). Sister Vajirà's gàtha about the conventional name of a cart and of a living being quoted by Nàgasena in support of his explanation.
(v). Two gàthas put together, quoted by Nàgasena as spoken by the Buddha in praise of Sìla which is the foundation upon which Samàdhi, Pannà and the growth of all good qualities are built up.
(vi). One gàthà quoted by Nàgasena as spoken by the Blessed One praising the virtue of Saddhà, Appamàda, Viriya and Pannà.
The following four gàthas are put under the gàthà garb by the P text, while the C uses the prose form for them.
(vii). Sàriputta's attitude towards death and life.
(viii). The Buddha's advice not to be like a carter who engaged the cart in an uneven path and had his axle broken.
(ix). The Buddha's admonition describing the body as a place of nine apertures, ill-smelling and impure.
Thus the gàthàs which cannot be found in the C might be added later on by the P compilers and that the prose form in the C version for the corresponding gàthà in the P version might be considered to bear a stamp of more pronounced antiquity when compared with the P version.
As far as quotations are concerned, they are not exactly the same in both versions. Thus speaking about the emptiness of a cart, the C mentions that the Buddha sùtra said that with the coming together of wood, with the necessity of making a carriage, people obtained a carriage. But the P text quotes Sister Vajirà's gàthà as follows:
"Yathà hi angasambhàrà hoti saddo ratho iti"
Again speaking about sati (mindfulness), the C quotes a sùtra as saying that one should protect and check one's own mind and the six cravings in the body. With the strict check and holding fast of the mind, one can transcend the world;
But the P mentions that the Blessed One said that mindfulness was useful to all.
Again explaining the difference among the various types of people, the C quotes the Buddha as saying that in accordance with one's own bad or good actions, one would reap their result, while the P refers to the Buddha's words: "Kammassakà mànava sattà, kammadàyàdà, kammayoni, kammabandhù, kammapatisaranà, kammam satte vibhajati, yad idam hinappanìtatàyati."
Another instance of the difference in the quotations is the passage to illustrate that the body is foul, impure. The C quotes: "The Buddha sùtra said: People have nine apertures like nine wounds caused by spear. The nine apertures are ill smelling and places of impurity." The P quotation is slightly different: "Covered by living skin, with nine apertures, a big wound, from where completely ooze out impure and ill-smelling things."
From these quotations of the same purport but of different wording and details, we can surmise that the C and the P translators and compilers might have quoted from their own sources.
But another feature is witnessed here in this comparative study of the quotations in the C and the P versions. The C merely quotes: "The Buddha sùtra said", and in one passage, it refers to Sùtra and Vinaya of the Buddha or rather Dharma and Vinaya of the Buddha.
Here we observe that the C never mentions the Tripitaka or quotes any àgamas. But the P text within the first three books profusely quotes from the Tipitaka, and mentions even the name of the Sutra, the Nìkàya, the seven Abhidhamma books and last of all, the name Tipitaka. Thus the name of Mahàsamayasuttanta, Mahàmangalasuttanta, Samaci-ttapariyàyàsuttanta, Ràhulovàdasuttanta, Paràbhava are mentioned in the P text, respectively at p. 19,20.
The Samyuttanikàya is quoted at p. 36. The word Abhidhamma is mentioned in the P text at the following pages: 1, 12, 16, 17, 45 and 56. The term Abhidhamma books are enumerated at p. 12 from Dhammasangani to Patthàna.
Again the term Tipitaka is mentioned at pp. 18 and 21; and at p. 1, the three Vinaya, Suttanta and Abhidhamma are quoted. All these show that the P text was compiled at a time when the division into Suttanta, Vinaya and Abhidhamma, and the classification of the Suttas into Nikàyas were already current and more or less solidified.
The quotation of all the seven books on Abhidhamma signifies that the P version was compiled after the 3rd Council, when the Abhidhamma text were supposed to be collected, and also after the complete growth of the Abhidhamma literature.
III. THE SCHOOL OR SECT TO WHICH THE P AND THE C VERSIONS BELONG.
It is crystal clear that the P text belong to the Theravàda school, which adopts the Pàli as its language. The quotation of the seven Abhidhamma books, the reference to the seven Sabbacittasàdhà-ranacetasikas, and the stereotyped formula of the Paticcasammuppàda speak out clearly that the P Milindapañha belongs to the Theravàda school.
But it is really difficult to guess the probable sect of the C text, as there are absolutely no evidences to help us to detect what sect it is likely to belong to. All the proofs above show that the C original was compiled at a time when the growth of the Abhidhamma had not yet matured and that the classification of the Buddha-dharma into àgama or Nikàya was not yet widely adopted.
IV. A PROBE INTO THE ANTERIORITY AND FIDELITY OF THE P AND C VERSIONS
With the comparative study of the two versions done above with the main similarities and divergences pointed out and explained, now we have enough data and materials to probe into the anteriority and fidelity of each version.
Mr. Rhys Davids in his Dialogues of the Buddha, p.x, has expressed his opinion on this subject as follows: "Whether (as M. Sylvian Levy thinks) it ( the Pàli Milindapañha) is an enlarged work built up on the foundation of the Indian original of the C books, or whether (as I am inclined to think) that original is derived from our Milinda...", thus Mr. Rhy Davids is of the opinion that the P text is earlier than the original from which the C translation is made.
But he did not elaborate further and advanced no proofs to support his view, except offering a preference and a mere guess. After a close study of the two texts, I am inclined to disagree with Mr. Rhys Davids and subscribe fully to Mr. Sylvian Levy's opinion. "The P text is nothing but a later enlarged recension of the P translation of the original from which is derived our C text, this original being in Sanskrit or a kind of Prakrit prevalent in N.W. India. Thus the C text can claim to be earlier and closer to the original than its P counterpart." The following external and internal evidences amply and convincingly speak in favour of the anteriority and fidelity of the C version:
(1) Anachronism in the P text.
1. Anachronism in the P Text.
The P version, by referring to the six heretical teachers and the conversation of King Milinda with Pùrana Kassapa and Makkhali Gosàla commits a gross anachronism, which is condemned even by Rhys Davids as: " And the plagiarism is all the more inartistic as the old names are retained, and no explanation is given of their being born twice at an interval of 500 years..."
The six heretical teachers who were contempora-ry of the Buddha could not possibly live long enough to enter into philosophical conversation with our King Milinda.
Some scholars tried to explain away this glaring anachronism by saying that these persons were only the six teachers'disciples, who happened to bear the same name with their teacher's, However ingenious this argument might appear at first glance to be, it cannot stand a close scrutiny.
We can concede the possibility of one disciple bearing the same name with his teacher, but with no stretch of imagination can we picture that six disciples holding together the same with their respective six teachers assembled together a century later to propound the doctrine of their teachers to King Milinda.
Morever, it is clear that the Pàli compilers wanted to re-enact the meeting of King Ajàtasattu with the six heretical teachers in Sàmannaphalasutta with Milinda and Nàgasena playing the role of Ajàtasattu and the Buddha respectively. The omission of this obvious anachronism in the C text speaks strongly in favour of the originality of the C version.
2. Pàli references to Abhidhamma:
The absence of any reference to the Abhidhammapitaka in the C text scores another point in favour of the originality of the C version. The P within the first three books, mentions as many as eight times the Abhidhamma literature. As the growth of the Abhidhamma literature was rather late when compared with that of the Suttapitaka and the Vinayapitaka, the C version with the total absence of any reference to Abhidhamma convincingly strikes an earl note,earlier than its P counterpart.
Here we can infer that at the time of the compilation of the P.M.P., the position of the Abhidhamma was not yet strongly consolidated; so its sponsors had to strengthen its position by even relegating the Suttanta to the background.
Thus Nàgasena started first with the study of the Abhidhamma; and only after he had realized the anomaly of such a programme did he come to study the Suttanta under Ven. Dhammarakkhita. Again when he preached the Dharma to the lady-devotee and to the merchant, he bypassed the Suttanta and preached to them the Abhidhamma.
3. P References to the Tipitaka and Nikàya:
As seen above the P has quoted the term Tipitaka at p. 18 and p. 21; and at p. I, all the three Vinaya, Suttanta and Abhidhamma are mentioned. Again the term Samyuttanikàya is quoted at p.36. These quotations show that the P text was compiled at a time when the Buddhavacanas were already classified into Suttanta, Vinaya and Abhidhamma and that the Suttanta was already subdivided into Nikàyas.
But the C ignores all these references, and mentions only Buddha, Buddhasùtra, or Sùtravinaya thereby showing that it was compiled at a time, very near to the demise of the Buddha, when the above divisions and classification had not yet been in vogue. Thus the C steals another step ahead of the P text, as far as the question of anteriority and fidelity is concerned.
4. Formulas of doctrine:
The comparative study of sets of doctrine, such as the Paticcasamuppàda, the 37 Bodhipakkhiyà as seen above show that the P formulas have already assumed a codified form, strictly stereotyped, common throughout the Tipitaka. But the C ones are still liable to change and did not reach yet the solidified form of later stages. Thus the C version shows once more the stamp of antiquity and anteriority over the P text.
5. The original of C text might be prior to the formation of Buddhist schools:
This stamp of antiquity of the C text is again enhanced by the fact that the original of the C text might have been composed prior to the formation of the Buddhist schools, because we cannot detect any characteristic in the C text which helps classify it into one of the 20 Buddhist schools which sprang up after the demise of the Buddha.
But it is crystal clear to everyone that the P version belongs to the Theravàda school, with its references to the seven books on Abhidhamma, with its classification of the Cetasikas into seven Sabbcittasàdhàranas etc... Thus the original of the C text can be considered earlier than that of the P text.
6. Genuineness of the C version
Some details in the C, when compared with their P counterparts look far more convincing and genuine than those found in the P version, and this genuineness of the C text tilts further the scale of anteriority and antiquity in its favour.
(a) In the P, when Nàgasena preached to the lady devotee, he expounded first the Abhidhamma doctrine about Sunnatà , thus ignoring the Suttanta; but the corresponding C passage faithfully reflects the very teachings preached by the Buddha in his early days of setting the Dharma in motion. Na-hsien preached as follows: "People should give charity, perform meritorious acts and observe moral precepts. In the present life, they will be safe, in the next life, they will be reborn either in the heaven or in the world as men of wisdom, intelligence and wealth. They will not be reborn in the Hell, in the Kingdom of hungry ghosts, or in the animal Kingdom. People who do not observe the Dharma and moral precepts suffer in the present world and in the next life, will fall into the three evil realms for an indefinite period. Na-hsien knew that the lady- devotee was glad at heart, then he preach the deeper Dharma, that all things are passing away, inpermanent; being impermanent, they are subject to suffering". This passage is almost the same with that preached by the Buddha to Yasa in Mahàvagga: "Bhagavà anupubbim kathesi, seyyathìd-am dànakatham sìlakatham saggakatham kàmànam àdinavam okàram sankìlesam, nekkhamo ànisamsam pakàsesi; yadà Bhagavà annàsi Yasam Kulaputtam kallasittam,mucittam vinivaranacittram udaggacittam pasau nacittam; atha yà Buddhànam sàmukkamsika dhammadesanà tam pakàsesi-dukkham samudayam nirodham maggam." Thus the C version reflects the tradition of early days of Buddhism, when Lord Buddha just started His preaching, as recorded in Mahàvagga.
(b) Again when Na-hsien first met King Mi-lan, he preached at one to the king without the latter asking him. He preached thus: "The Buddha doctrine proclaims that men's good health is the highest benefit, men's contentment is the greatest wealth, men's faith is the highest blessing, and Nirvana is the highest happiness." This passage is omitted in the P version, which starts at once with the king's question about the philosophical meaning of a name. Thus the Pàli procedure cannot be said to be as natural as that of the C text.
(c) In the P, King Milinda detected Nàgasena sitting in the middle of the Sangha and rejoiced to have recognised Nàgasena without any help. In the C, it was the king who asked the Minister "Who was Na-hsien?" and when the minister pointed out the monk to him, King Mi-lan said that his guess was right.
This feat of King Milinda draws this comment from Rhys-David: "In the corresponding passage of the Sàmannaphalasutta, Jìvaka points out the Buddha to Ajàtasattu, this would be in the memory of all his readers, and our author alters the story in this case to show how superior Milinda was to the royal interlocutor in the older catalogue." The C version, which sticks to the earlier tradition, looks far more genuine and older than its P counterpart.
(d) Again another feature bears testinomy to the accuracy of the C passage against the P corresponding one. Speaking about the incomparability of the Buddha, the P quotes the simile of five great rivers: Gangà,Yamunà, Aciravatì, Sarabhù, Mahì,while the C mentions Heng, Hsin-t'a, Ssu-t'a, Po-ch'a,Shih-p'i-i
The five rivers in the C text are identified by Dr. Kogen Mizuno as Ganga,ø Sindhù, Sità, Vaksù and Saravati. These five, except the Ganges, are the great rivers which flow though N. W. India, while all the five rivers mentioned in the P are flowing through the Eastern parts of India.
As we know, the Milindapañha with its reference to King Milinda should be composed somewhere in the Western parts of India, where the memories of the Greek king were still fresh, and it was but natural that its compilers should refer to the big rivers which they were well-acquainted with, i.e. in N. W. India. Exception should be made of the Ganges which was well-known throughout India by its long course and its holiness.
So the C which mentions the four big rivers belonging to the N. W. India lends favour to the conception of its being closer to the original than its P counterpart. Dr. Kogen Mizuno is of the opinion that when the original of the C Na-hsien-pi-ch'iu-ching was adopted and changed by the Pàli Buddhists, then the four rivers in the N.W. were not familiar with the people in the Eastern part, so they were changed to Yamunà, Aciravatì, Sarabhù and Mahì, all well-known to the Eastern people of India.
Moreover, the P mentions many of places which were located in the East such as Kajangala, where Nàgasena was supposed to be born, Pàtaliputta and Asokàràma where Nàgasena went to study the Suttanta under Ven. Dhammarakkhita.
According to Dr. Kogen Mizuno, Hsuan Tsang refers to Kajangala as Chieh-chu-wen ch' i-lo which was situated in the Eastern part of Champà in Magadhà, probably in the Eastern part of Pàtaliputta, 100 yojanas distant. But the C does not refer to any place in the East. This fact shows that the original Indian text might have been revised by compilers living in Eastern India and well-acquainted with rivers and places located in the East; while the original of the C version, with the almost complete absence of any localities in the East (except the Ganges) shows that it was really composed in the N.W. part of India, therefore it is more genuine and more trust-worthy than its P counterpart.
7. Abundance of Miracles in the P version:
Another fact which proclaims the nearness to the original of the C version against the P version is the abundance of miraculous feats in the P version, while the C prefers rather a mantle of simplicity and moderation, which are the main features of early Buddhism. Thus in the birth story of Nàgasena, the P traces back the story up to Buddha Kassapa, while the C refers to our Lord Buddha only.
Miracles are not rare in the P version of the previous life of Nàgasena. Thus the whole company of Arahants led by Ven. Assagutta vanished from Yugandhara mountain and appeared in the Tàvatimsa heaven, where they were welcomed by Sakka, the king of gods, who in turn introduced God Mahàsena to the company of Arahants.
Three times Sakka on behalf of the brethren requested God Mahàsena to be born in the world of men so as to refute King Milinda of his heretical views, three times Mahàsena refused. When Mahàsena was born in the womb of Sonuttara's wife, three miracles happened. Weapons became ablaze, grains ripened in a moment and there was a heavy rain out of season.
Further, Nàgasena is depicted to have known by heart all the seven books on Abhidhamma, after hearing them only once. Again in seven months, when Nàgasena recited the whole of Abhidhamma in full, the earth quaked, the Gods applauded, the Brahmà Gods clapped their hands and from heaven showered down sweet-scented sandalwood dust and Mandàrava flowers. The same phenomenon greeted Nàgasena once again when he attained Arahantship.
To this profusion of miracles, the C counterpart strikes rather a note of admirable moderation and genuineness. There are absolutely no miracles, except that Na-hsien and his uncle were said to obtain the five Abhinnà (superknowledges), being able to fly through the air, acquiring the divine ear, the divine eye, knowing places of rebirth etc....., but no one demonstrated his miraculous powers, and when Na-hsien obtained Arahantship, there was no mention of the Gods' applause, of the shower of Mandàrava flowers and scented sandal-wood dust to celebrate the event.
Again the P mentions the name of Moggaliputta Tissathero, the famous convener of the 3rd Buddhist Council, along with the Buddha's prediction as to the future life of Milinda and Nàgasena, with the obvious reference to Moggaliputta being also predicted by the Buddha to be the future convener of the 3rd Buddhist council.
Here the Siamese edition adds the name of Ven. Assagupta, being also predicted by the Buddha. Of course, the C maintains a meaningful silence over these two names and thereby scores another point of nearness to the original against the P tradition.
8. Moderation in the C version:
While the P mentions that Nàgasena was surrounded by 80.000 monks (asìtiyà bhikkhusahasse-hi) in his first meeting with the king, the C refers only to 500 monks who accompanied Na-hsien when he met the king.
Again àyupàla mentioned that 18 kotis of Brahmà deities and an innumerable company of other gods attained the eyes of wisdom when the Buddha preached the first sermon; and when he expounded the Mahàsamayasutta, the Mahà mangalasutta, the Samacittapariyàyasutta, the Ràhulovàdasuttanta, innumerable was the multitude of gods who attained the Dhammàbhisamaya, penetration of truth. But A-yeh-ho in the corresponding C passage replied simply in the affirmative without mentioning all these details. Once more the moderation of the C truly reflects the simplicity and anteriority of the C version.
Further more, the sobriety in the C descriptions matches very fittingly with the simplicity of the early Canon, while the P seems to delight in poetical verbosity and lengthly description, as seen clearly in the description of Sàgala, Milinda and Nàgasena and in Milinda's challenge to one statement of Nàgasena.
9. Addition of the last four books in the P version:
One more factor which enhances the originality of the C is its ending with the third book, while the P adds four more books on Mendakapañha, Anumànapañha, Dhutangas and Opammakathàpañha. A'survey of these added books shows unmistakingly that they were later additions to the original one by the P compilers.
Ven. Ananda Kausalyàyana in his article on Milindapañha is of the opinion that the C translators might have dropped the last four books, but he did not elaborate any further and did not advance any conclusive proofs as to the omission of the C translators. But the following reasons induce us to believe that the original of the C text really stops with the third book.
(a) The end of the third book already constitutes a befitting conclusion to the book. After the second conversation, all questions and answers appeared to be already exhausted, the gifts were sent and both took leave of each other, without any hints as to another meeting. Moreover, the P text ends this book with the following words: "Milindapañhanam pucchavissajjanàsamattà" which conveys the impression that the conversation and thereby the book have ended.
(b) The doctrine in the last four books is not easily understandable to the simple folk in general, such as the Greeks at that time. The first three books refer generally to the doctrine about the existence of atman, Nirvàna, about rebirth and death, samsàra, the activities of citta, cetasikas and their characteristics. The explanation is enlivened with simple and easy similes. So people of no deep knowledge in Buddhism like the Greeks at the time of Menandros could follow and understand easily.
But the doctrine which is tackled in the four added books is more complicated, more subtle, and which requires a thorough understanding not only of the Suttapitaka, but also of the Atthakathà. Dr. Kogen Mizuno is of the opinion that the last four books are not historical dialogues between Nàgasena and Milinda, but they are rather works of several intelligent and learned monks well versed not only in the Suttapitaka but also in the commentaries.
Again we can accept Menandros or Milinda as a Buddhist who esteemed and favoured Buddhism. But to depict him as undertaking the eight vows, dressing in yellow robe, with all the appearance of a hermit, only after two days' discussion with Nàgasena is already too far-fetched. However, our credulity receives a severe shock, when Milinda was described as adopting the religious life and attaining Arahantship as well.
All the above descriptions, which go against historical facts and common acceptance, serve to expose the ungenuineness of the last four books of the P version and reveal the fidelity of the C version.
10. Divergences between the Roman edition and the Siamese edition:
One more proof of the volatile character of the P version is the difference between the Roman edition, which is based mostly upon the Cingalese version, and the Siamese edition. I avail myself of the data collected by Dr. Kogen Mizuno in his "On the recension of Milindapañha" confining myself to checking the accuracy of his statement, and adding the corresponding pages of the Siamese edition together with some more instances, if need be.
(a) Between the 34th and the 35th dialogues of the Roman edition, the Siamese edition adds two lines more on manasikàro
(b) Between the 70th and the 71st dialogues of the Roman edition are inserted two dialogues about colour to be seen by one who after death in one world is born into another and about the door by which a Patisandhi consciousness enters the womb.
(c) The 59th dialogue is amplified in the S edition. In the Roman edition, the dialogue has only eight lines and the C translation only five lines, but the S edition extends up to three pages.
(d) After the 7th chapter and before Mendakapan-ha, the S edition adds the Visesapañha.
(e) In the Roman edition p. 80 about Vassasata, the S edition, adds an extra gàthà.
(f) In the Roman edition p. 86, about differences between vinnànam, pannà, and jìva, the S edition adds one paragraph of four lines about "Where is Pannà?"
Thus the above quotations clearly show that even the P traditions are not homogeneous and final, but liable to additions and growth as testified to by these differences between the Roman edition and the Siamese edition.
11. Buddhaghosa's quotations from Milindapañha:
One curious fact which was revealed by Rhys Davids in his translation of the Milindapañha should be taken note of here. He pointed out that the actual words quoted by Buddhaghosa in his commentary on the "Book of the Great Dececase" and on the Ambatthasutta, are not the same as those of our author at the corresponding passages of Mr. Trenckner's text, although they are the same in substance. Two other quotqtions are cited by Dr.Morris.
Mr. Davids is of the opinion "It is premature to attempt to arrive at the reason of this difference between Buddhaghosa's citations and Mr. Trenckner's edition of the text." but at least we can say that the P Milindapañha text passed through several redactions with accretions and omissions till we have it now in the Cingalese and Siamese editions.
12. The Pàli text is but an expanded translation:
Mr. Rhys Davids also has pointed out: "It is stated in the preface (of a Cingalese translation of the Pàli Milindapañha) that the account of the celebrated discussion held between Milinda and Nàgasena about 500 years after the death of the Buddha, was translated into the Magadhi langguage by 'teachers of old' (Pùrvacarin wisin).
We do not know from what original it is translated, but what we can say is that the P version is but a translation which is open to accretions and omissions and this fact and the above one speak strongly in favour of the C version being nearer to the original than the P version.
We can say that except the dissident voice raised by Rhys Davids in favour of the P text, almost all the Western and Eastern scholars, such as Sylvian Levy and Dr. Kogen Mizuno favoured the nearness to the original of the C version and considered the P version a later amplified recension of the original work, of which the C is a more faithful translation, of course with some moderate changes.
The P compilers based their work upon this original, added profusely items and doctrines in consonance with the tenets of the Theravàda school and expanded the original into its present bulk.
Prof. Demieville in his book: Les Versions Chinoises du Milindapañha (B.E.F.O. Vol XXIV, 1924, p. 34-35) has given his findings and views on this problem as follows:
"The original text contains:
1. An introduction with the following elements: Description of localities, biographical sketch of Nàgasena tracing the various stages of his religious life (noviciate ordination, entering the stream, Arahatship), with some traditions on his monastery and his Teachers; introduction of Milinda and record of his fruitless controversy with one Buddhist monk; meeting of Milinda and Nàgasena.
2. Record of the controversy. The second portion of this book seems to be subjected to ancient additions; the first portion reaches us almost intact in the two versions.
To the introduction were added later on the Avadànas of the two heroes and the biography of Nàgasena was altered and amplified and this brought about two different recensions, one of which was translated into Chinese toward the 4th Century A.D. and the other into Pàli in the 5th Century A.D... The Chinese version was codified into two recensions complete and incomplete with not much difference from each other.
On the contrary, the Pàli version underwent many alterations. Considerable passages were interpolated in the preliminary portion in Ceylon, posterior to the 5th Century. The legend of Milinda suggests reminiscences of Ajàtasastru and Asoka. As to the four supplementary books, they were probably added in Ceylon, where the first part was already found since the fifth century."
Although it is rather difficult to prove that the four supplementary books were added in Ceylon as asserted by Prof. Demieville, his views amply support the anteriority and the fidelity of the Chinese version over the Pàli version.
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last updated: 01-06-2005