Home page Up (parent) Next (right) Previous (left) Abbreviations

Page last updated on 8 May, 2017

Association for Insight Meditation Home Page


The thirteenth division of the Khuddakanikāya. It is a Buddhist Vitae Sanctorum and contains 547 biographies of monks and forty biographies of nuns, all mentioned as having lived in the time of the Buddha. The Cy. gives details of eleven more elders not found in the text: Yasa, Nadīkassapa, Gayākassapa, Kimbila, Vajjiputta, Uttara, Apara-Uttara, Bhaddaji, Sivika, Upavāna, and Raṭṭhapāla.

In addition to these, there are two introductory chapters, the Buddhā-padāna and the Paccekabuddhā-padāna, dealing with the Buddha and the Pacceka Buddhas respectively. It is worth noting that the Buddhā-padāna contains no account of the Buddha’s life, either as Gotama or earlier, as Bodhisatta (see, however, Pubbakammapiloti). Nor does the Paccekabuddhā-padāna contain any life-histories. The stanzas are what might be more appropriately described as verses of exaltation (udāna), and appear in the Khaggavisāna Sutta of the Suttanipāta. Cp. the Mahāpadāna Sutta (D.ii.1 ff), 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).

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 vuttaṃ Apadāne.” However, 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.i.320), called Kosumbaphaliya (Ap.ii.449); and Isidinna (ThagA.i.312), called (Ap.ii.415) Sumanavījaniya.

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 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 Buddhavaṃsa 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).

According to the Sumaṅgalavilāsinī (i.15. See also Przyluski: La Legende de l’Empereur Acoka, pp.viii f., 214), the Dīghabhāṇakas, who included the Khuddakanikāya in the Abhidhammapiṭaka, did not recognise the Apadāna. The Majjhimabhāṇakas included it in the Khuddakanikāya, which they regarded as belonging to the Suttapiṭaka. There is a Commentary to the Apadāna called the Visuddhajanavilāsinī.

According to Gv. (p.69) the Commentary on the Apadāna was written by Buddhaghosa at the request of five monks.