Neha Patil (Editor)


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Aṭṭhakathā (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 Pakrit, which were written down at the same time as the Canon, in the last century BCE. 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).

  • Twelve commentaries ascribed to Buddhaghosa: commentary on the Vinaya Pitaka; one each on the Digha Nikaya, Majjhima Nikaya, Samyutta Nikaya and Anguttara Nikaya; four on Khuddaka Nikaya books; and three on the Abhidhamma Pitaka.
  • Commentaries by Dhammapala on seven books of the Khuddaka Nikaya.
  • Four commentaries by various authors on four other books of the Khuddaka Nikaya.
  • 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 2006)
  • Saratthasamuccaya, commentary on the Paritta. In Sinhalese (Malalasekera 1938).
  • Buddhaghosa

    Below is a listing of fourth- or fifth-century CE commentator Buddhaghosa's fourteen alleged commentaries (Pāli: atthakatha) on the Pāli Tipitaka (Norman 1983).

    Only the Visuddhimagga and the commentaries on the first four nikayas are accepted by a consensus of scholars as Buddhaghosa's.


    The commentator Dhammapala's date is uncertain. He wrote after Buddhaghosa, and probably no later than the 7th 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

    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 Milindapañha. Of these only the Nettipakarana has a commentary in any standard edition.


  • Visuddhimagga
  • The Path of Purity, tr Pe Maung Tin, 1923–31, 3 volumes; reprinted in 1 volume, Pali Text Society[1], Oxford
  • The Path of Purification, tr Nanamoli, Ananda Semage, Colombo, 1956; reprinted Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka
  • Samantapasadika
  • Introduction translated as "The inception of discipline" by N. A. Jayawickrama, in 1 volume with the Pali, "Vinaya nidana", 1962, PTS, Oxford
  • Chinese adaptation called Shan chien p'i p'o sha tr P. V. Bapat & Akira Hirakawa, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona
  • Patimokkha tr K. R. Norman, 2001, PTS, Oxford
  • 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, 1978
  • 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 Journal 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
  • Dhammapada 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 edition
  • Udana commentary tr Peter Masefield, 1994-5, 2 volumes, PTS, Oxford
  • Itivuttaka commentary tr Peter Masefield forthcoming
  • Vimanavatthu commentary, tr Peter Masefield as Vimana Stories, 1989, PTS, Oxford
  • Petavatthu commentary, tr U Ba Kyaw & Peter Masefield as Peta-Stories, 1980, PTS, Oxford
  • Theragatha 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
  • Therigatha commentary, tr as The Commentary on the Verses of the Theris, by William Pruitt, 1998, PTS, Oxford
  • Jataka commentary
  • 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
  • Kathavatthu commentary, tr as The Debates Commentary by B. C. Law, 1940, PTS, Oxford
  • References

    Atthakatha Wikipedia

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