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Atthakatha (Pali for explanation, commentary) refers
to Pali-language Theravadin
Buddhist commentaries to the canonical Theravadin Tipitaka.
These commentaries give the traditional interpretations of the
scriptures. The major commentaries were based on earlier ones, now
lost, in Old Sinhalese, which
were written down at the same time as the Canon, in the last
Some material in the commentaries is found in canonical texts of
other schools of Buddhism, suggesting an
early common source.
As with the Canon itself, the contents of collected editions of
the Theravadin commentaries, compiled from the fourth century CE
onwards, vary between editions. The minimal collection, found in
the Thai edition (1992) includes the following (Skilling 2002).
In addition, the following are included in one or both of the
other two editions: the Burmese Chatthasangayana edition (a list of
contents can be found in Thein Han 1981) and the Sinhalese Simon
Hewavitarne Bequest edition.
- Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga, a systematic presentation
of the traditional teaching; the commentaries on the first four
nikayas refer to this for the material it details. In both
Sinhalese (Mori et al. 1994) and Burmese
- The Patimokkha
(Pruitt & Norman 2001, page xxxvi) and its commentary
Kankhavitarani, ascribed to Buddhaghosa
- Commentary by Dhammapala on the Nettipakarana, a work sometimes included
in the canon
- Vinayasangaha, a selection of passages from Samantapasadika
arranged topically by Sariputta in the twelfth century (Crosby
- Saratthasamuccaya, commentary on the Paritta. In Sinhalese (Malalasekera 1938).
Below is a listing of fourth- or fifth-century CE commentator
Buddhaghosa's fourteen alleged commentaries (PńĀli:
atthakatha) on the PńĀli Tipitaka (Norman
Only the Visuddhimagga and the commentaries on the first four
nikayas are accepted by a consensus of scholars as
The commentator Dhammapala's date is uncertain. He wrote after
Buddhaghosa, and probably no later than the tenth century. His
Khuddaka Nikaya commentaries are Paramatthadipani comprising
- Udana-atthakatha regarding the Udana.
- Itivuttaka-atthakatha regarding the Itivuttaka.
- Vimanavatthu-atthakatha regarding the Vimanavatthu.
- Petavatthu-atthakatha regarding the Petavatthu.
- Theragatha-atthakatha regarding the Theragatha.
- Therigatha-atthakatha regarding the Therigatha.
- Cariyapitaka-atthakatha regarding the Cariyapitaka.
Other Khuddaka Nikaya commentaries are
- Saddhammapajotika by Upasena regarding the Niddesa.
- Saddhammappakasini by Mahanama regarding the Patisambhidamagga.
- Visuddhajanavilasini by an unknown author regarding the Apadana.
- Madhuratthavilasini attributed to Buddhadatta regarding the Buddhavamsa.
Three books are included in some editions of the Khuddaka
Nikaya: Nettipakarana, Petakopadesa and Milindapa√Īha. Of these only the
Nettipakarana has a commentary in any standard edition.
- The Path of Purity, tr Pe Maung Tin, 1923-31, 3
volumes; reprinted in 1 volume, Pali Text Society, Oxford
- The Path of Purification, tr Nanamoli, Ananda Semage,
Colombo, 1956; reprinted Buddhist Publication
Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka
- Introduction translated as "The inception of discipline" by N.
A. Jayawickrama, in 1 volume with the Pali, "Vinaya nidana", 1962,
- Chinese adaptation called Shan chien p'i p'o sha tr P.
V. Bapat & Akira Hirakawa, Bhandarkar Oriental Research
- Patimokkha tr K. R. Norman, 2001,
- Kankhavitarani: translation by K. R. Norman & William
Pruitt in preparation
- Sumangalavilasini (parts)
- Introduction translated in a learned journal in the 1830s
- Commentary on Brahmajala Sutta, abr tr
Bodhi in The All-Embracing Net of Views, BPS, Kandy,
- Commentary on Samannaphala
Sutta, abr tr Bodhi in The Discourse on the Fruits of
Recluseship, BPS, Kandy, 1989
- Commentary on Maha Nidana Sutta, abr tr Bodhi in The Great
Discourse on Causation, BPS, Kandy, 1984
- Commentary on Mahaparinibbana Sutta tr Yang-Gyu
An, 2003, PTS, Oxford
- Papancasudani (parts)
- Commentary on Mulapariyaya Sutta, abr tr Bodhi in The
Discourse on the Root of Existence, BPS, Kandy, 1980
- Commentary on Sammaditthi Sutta, tr Nanamoli in
The Discourse on Right View, BPS, Kandy, 1991
- Commentary on Satipatthana Sutta, tr Soma in
The Way of Mindfulness, Saccanubodha Samiti, Kandy, 1941;
reprinted BPS, Kandy
- Manorathapurani (parts): stories of leading nuns and laywomen,
tr Mabel Bode in Jornal of the Royal Asiatic Society, new
series, volume XXV, pages 517-66 & 763-98
- Paramatthajotika on Khuddakapatha, tr Nanamoli as "The
illustrator of ultimate meaning", in 1 volume with "The minor
readings" (Khuddakapatha), 1960, PTS, Oxford
commentary, translated in two parts
- Stories giving background to verses, tr E. W. Burlingame as
Buddhist Legends, 1921, 3 volumes, Harvard Oriental
Series; reprinted PTS, Oxford
- Explanations of verses, translated in the Dhammapada
translation by John Ross Carter & Mahinda Palihawadana, Oxford
University Press, 1987; included only in the original expensive
hardback edition, not the cheap paperback World Classics
- Udana commentary tr Peter
Masefield, 1994-5, 2 volumes, PTS, Oxford
commentary tr Peter Masefield forthcoming
commentary, tr Peter Masefield as Vimana Stories, 1989,
commentary, tr U Ba Kyaw & Peter Masefield as
Peta-Stories, 1980, PTS, Oxford
commentary: substantial extracts translated in Psalms of the
Brethren, tr C. A. F. Rhys Davids, 1913; reprinted in
Psalms of the Early Buddhists, PTS, Oxford
commentary, tr as The Commentary on the Verses of the
Theris, by William Pruitt, 1998, PTS, Oxford
- Introduction tr as The Story of Gotama Buddha by N. A.
Jayawickrama, 1990, PTS, Oxford
- Most of the rest is translated in the Jataka translation by E.
B. Cowell et al., 1895-1907, 6 volumes, Cambridge
University Press; reprinted in 3 volumes by PTS, Oxford
- Madhuratthavilasini, tr as The Clarifier of the Sweet
Meanlng by I. B. Horner, 1978, PTS, Oxford
- Atthasalini, tr as The Expositor by Pe Maung Tin,
1920-21, 2 volumes; reprinted in 1 volume, PTS, Oxford
- Sammohavinodani, tr as The Dispeller of Delusion, by
Nanamoli, 1987-91, 2 volumes, PTS, Oxford
commentary, tr as The Debates Commentary by B. C. Law,
1940, PTS, Oxford
Rhys Davids & Stede
(1921-25), pp. 24-25, entry for Attha defines
aŠĻ≠ŠĻ≠hakathńĀ as "exposition of the
sense, explanation, commentary...."
In fact this commentary did not originally have this title, but it
has become traditionally known by it. Hin√ľber (1996/2000), p. 129
sec. 255, writes:
- Neither the author nor even a title is mentioned in Pj
[Paramattha-jotika] II .... Thus, originally Pj II was anonymous,
and moreover like Dhp-a [Dhammapada-atthakatha] and Ja
[Jataka-atthavannana] was without an individual title: Pj might
have been chosen at a later date because large parts overlapped
with Pj I. [That is, because much of the Khuddakapatha is taken from the Sutta Nipata]. This
connected this commentary to Pj I....
- On the whole, however, Pj I and Pj II are so different that it
is difficult to imagine a common author.
For instance, regarding the Khuddha Nikaya commentaries, Hin√ľber
(1996/2000), pp. 130-1, sect. 259, 260, writes:
- Neither Pj [Paramattha-jotika] I nor Pj II can be
dated, not even in relation to each other, except that both
presuppose Buddhaghosa. In spite of the 'Buddhaghosa colophon'
added to both commentaries ... no immediate relation to Buddhaghosa
can be recognized.... Both Ja [Jataka-atthavannana] and Dhp-a
[Dhammapada-atthakatha] are traditionally ascribed to Buddhaghosa,
an assumption which has been rightly questioned by modern
Available on-line from "Access to Insight" (1994) at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/wheel377.html.
- Crosby, Kate (2006). In Journal of the Pali Text
Society, volume XXVIII.
- Hin√ľber, Oskar von (1996). Handbook of Pali
Literature. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN
- Malalasekera, G.P. (1938). Dictionary of Pali Proper
Names, volume II. London: John Murray for the Government of
India. ISBN 0-82-881721-9.
- Mori, Sodo, Y. Karunadasa & Toshiichi Endo (1994). Pali
Atthakatha Correspondence Table. Oxford: Pali Text
- Norman, K.R. (1983). Pali Literature, Wiesbaden: Otto
- Pruitt, William & K.R. Norman (2001). The
Patimokkha, Oxford, Pali Text Society
- Rhys Davids, T.W. & William Stede
(eds.) (1921-5). The Pali Text Society‚Äôs Pali‚ÄďEnglish
Dictionary. Chipstead: Pali Text Society. A general on-line
search engine for the PED is available at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/pali/.
- Skilling, Peter (2002). In Journal of the Pali Text
Society, volume XXVII.
- Thein Han, U (1981). In The Light of the Dhamma.
Online at .