The thirteenth section of the Khuddaka Nikāya of the Sutta
Pitaka. It is a narrative work entirely in Pali stanzas and, as the title of the
book indicates, is a collection of tales of the pious works of the saints or
The book consists of four main sections, namely,
(i) the Buddhāpadāna,
(ii) the Paccekabuddhāpadāna,
(iii) the Therāpadāna and lastly,
(iv) the Therī Apadāna.
These four sections are again subdivided into fifty-nine
groups or vaggas. Of them, the first fifty-five vaggas consist of 550 tales
about Theras, each vagga consisting of ten tales, and named after the title of
the first tale narrated in the vagga. In the first vagga are also included the
Buddhāpadāna and the Paccekabuddhāpadāna which are but minor sections of the
book. The last four vaggas of the book consist of forty tales of Therīs, each
vagga consisting of ten tales.
The Buddhāpadāna is a glorification of the Buddha, the
'King of the Dhamma endowed with the thirty perfections (pārami)'. Here the
Buddha himself is made to pronounce this glorification in reply to a question
raised by the elder Vedeha. In this glorification the Buddha is made to describe
the various meritorious deeds he had done in his previous births and their good
results. The Budhāpadāna ends in 81 stanzas with a brief admonition to the monks
to be united, heedful and to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Paccekabuddhāpadāna is a glorification of Pacceka
Buddhas who 'go their solitary way, like the rhinoceros'. The entire sutta of
the rhinoceros (Khaggavisāna Sutta: Sn.i.3) is inserted here. To the 41 stanzas
of that sutta another 17 stanzas have been added, 8 at the beginning and 9 at
the end, thus making the Paccekabuddhāpadāna a composition of 58 stanzas. This
section of the book is written in a metre different from the rest of the book.
(The first three stanzas of the book are also in the same metre.)
It is worth noting that the Buddhāpadāna contains no account of the Buddha's
life, either as Gotama or earlier, as Bodhisatta (see, however, Pubbakammapiloti).
Nor does the Paccekabuddhāpadāna contain any life-histories. The stanzas are
what might be more appropriately described as Udāna, and appear in the
Khaggavisāna Sutta of the Sutta Nipāta. Cp. the Mahāpadāna Sutta (D.ii.1ff),
where the word Apadāna is used as meaning the legend or life-story of a Buddha
or a Great One - in this case the seven Buddhas. Or does Mahāpadāna mean the
Great Story, i.e. the story of the Dhamma and its bearers and promulgation: cp.
the title of the Mahāvastu (Dial.ii.3).
The Therāpadāna describes the glorious deeds of 550
arahants, beginning with the story of Sāriputta, the chief disciple of the
Buddha. This story alone is longer than both the Buddhapadāna and the
Paccekabuddhāpadana (234 stanzas). The story of Sāriputta is followed by those
of other famous monks such as Mahā-Moggallāna, Mahā-Kassapa, Anuruddha, Upāli,
Aññā-Kondañña, Pindola-Bhāradvaja, Ananda, Rāhula, Rajjhapāla and Sopāka.
These biographies of the Theras are of the same pattern
though their length differs considerably from one another. Every tale describes
some meritorious deed done by the Thera concerned during the time of a former
Buddha and then the pleasures obtained during his subsequent existences in
accordance with the prophecy uttered by that Buddha and, ultimately, the
attainment of the perfection of an arahant. Another characteristic feature of
these Apadānas is that, like the Jātakas, almost all of them have a story of the
past and a story of the present. Whereas the Jātakas relate a previous existence
of the Buddha, the Apadānas relate that of an arahant. Only a few Apadānas
deviate from this stereotype.
The Cy. gives details of eleven more Theras not found in the text: Yasa,
Nadīkassapa, Gayākassapa, Kimbila, Vajjiputta, Uttara, Apara-Uttara, Bhaddaji,
Sivika, Upavāna and Ralthapāla.
The Therī Apadāna is also comparatively short. It consists
of biographies of forty renowned nuns, divided into four vaggas or groups, each
vagga consisting of ten biographies. Here appear biographies of some of the
famous nuns in Buddhist literature, such as Mahā Pajāpatī Gotamī, Khemā,
Uppalavannā. Patācarā, Kundalakesī, Kisāgotamī, Nandā Janapadakalyānī, Yasodharā,
Rūpanandā and Ambapālī. These biographies of nuns follow the same pattern as
those of monks.
In addition to these, there are a large number of names
which are only descriptive titles, e.g., the Theras, "Dispenser of fans",
"Dispenser of clothes", "Dispenser of mangoes", "Worshipper of footprints", and
the Therīs, "Dispenser of water", "Dispenser of five seats", "Dispenser of rice
gruel" and the like.
Most of the stories are found in the Paramatthadīpanī, the Commentary to the
Thera- and Therīgāthā, extracted from the Apadāna with the introductory words, "tena
vuttam Apadāne." But in numerous instances the names under which the verses
appear in the Paramatthadīpanī differ from those subjoined to the verses in the
Apadāna. In several cases it is a matter of the Commentary giving a name while
the Apadāna gives only a title. E.g., Usabha Thera (ThagA.ii.320), called
Kosumbaphaliya (Ap.ii.449); and Isidinna (ThagA.ii.312), called (Ap.ii.415)
Sometimes the stories are duplicated in the Apadāna itself, the same story
occurring in two places with a very slight alteration in words, even the name of
the person spoken of being the same. Most often no reason can be assigned for
this, except, perhaps, careless editing. E.g., Annasamsāvaka i Ap.i.78 and again
i.261; see also the Introduction to the P.T.S. Edition.
The Apadāna is regarded as one of the very latest books in the Canon, one
reason for this view being that while later books like the Buddhavamsa mention
only twenty-four Buddhas previous to Gotama, the Apadāna contains the names of
thirty-five. It is very probable that the different legends in the collection
are of different dates. On these and other matters connected with the Apadāna,
see Rhys Davids article in ERE. and Muller's Les Apadānas du Sud (Congress of
Orientalists, Leyden, 1895).
The Apadāna is certainly one of the latest works of the
Khuddaka Nikāya and of the canon. As B. C. Law has pointed out in his History of
Pali Literature (p. 7), the Apadāna is not included as a text of the Khuddaka
Nikāya in the Dīghabhānaka list, but it finds mention as the thirteenth book of
the Khuddaka Nikāya in the Majjhimabhānaka list. This would lead to the
inference that at the time the Dīghabhānaka list was completed the Apadāna was
not considered as a text of the Khuddaka Nikāya, and probably also of the canon.
Moreover, the reference in the Apadāna to numerous Buddhas presupposes the
legend of twenty-four previous Buddhas which is only a later development of the
older legend of six Buddhas contained in other parts of the canon such as the
Digha Nikāya. B. C. Law also says that one of the Apadānas seems to allude to
the Kathāvatthu as an Abhidhamma composition (Ap. I, 37) and Rhys Davids argues
that, if it is so, the Apadāna must be one of the very latest books of the
The Apadāna makes no attempt to teach the higher doctrines
in Buddhism. Its stories deal with the merits done by the good people, laying
much stress on the formal aspects of religion, e.g., pūjā, vandanā, dāna, etc.
Very often the good deed is the erection of a cetiya, cleaning round a cetiya,
white-washing a cetiya, sweeping the compound of a cetiya or a bodhi-tree or
some such commonplace action. Thus, the Apadāna has aimed to emphasis the
charitable and humanitarian aspects of Buddhist life.
The Apadāna is as copious a composition as the Jātaka,
though of less literary value. Its narratives bear much in common with those of
the Theragāthā, the Therīgāthā and the Vimāna Vatthu in their contents and also
in their style. Some narratives of the Apadāna give more details of the
personages described in the Thera, Therīgāthā, e.g., Kisāgotamī and Patācarā.
The legends of the Apadāna have been the subject matter for
many other later compositions, like the two Pali works, the Sādhucarita and the
Rasavāhinī and the two Sinhalese prose works, the Pūjāvaliya and the
According to the Sumangala Vilāsinī (i.15. See also Przyluski: La Legende de
l'Empereur Acoka, pp. viii f., 214), the Dīghabhānakas, who included the
Khuddaka Nikāya in the Abhidhammapitaka, did not recognise the Apadāna. The
Majjhimabhānakas included it in the Khuddaka Nikāya, which they regarded as
belonging to the Suttapitaka. There is a Commentary to the Apadāna called the
The Apadāna has its counterpart in the Avadāna in Buddhist
According to Gv. (p.69) the Commentary on the Apadāna was written by
Buddhaghosa at the request of five monks.