Thursday, January 24, 2013

Life and works of Buddhadatta


In Mahachulalongornrajadyalaya University the greatest university for Buddhist monks in Thailand,  as an assignment of Life and work of Buddhists scholars subject by Mr. Saddha Ratna, our Arjen, I have a responsibility  to write a topic about Buddhadatta who was a Buddhist scholar from south of India in 5th century AD.

It is very hard to get some information that concerned with Buddhadatta.
Even though I looked for some information in Central Library of MCU and Wizpark  IABU, I could not find any book or any information about him. Yet by the time searching of this on internet, I had found some pieces about that from some websites and I collected all of them to become a topic.

Exactly, I did not get enough information to write about Buddhadatta. But, I will try to complete my topic as much as I can. However, in my topic about some of the Buddhadatta may be remaining because of lack information.  When I write my topic, I will describe about Buddhadatta by how he had done better his jobs, by where he had spent usefully his life and by how he had made benefits for Buddhism.

In my confession dealing with this topic, I can not introduce what was date of his birth, who were his parents, and who were his brothers and sisters.


In the early half of the 5th century A.D, Buddhadatta, contemporary’s Buddhaghosa*, who is famous and wise scholar in Buddhism, was born in Uragpura in south of India (modern time Kaveri River region near Truchirappalli). He was a member of Tamil family living in Chola* country.

If some one wants to reconstruct and report the history of south of Indian Buddhism, he has to depend mainly on the works of Tamil poets and scholars who were great from that time to time. According to the mentioning of Ghadhavansa there are ten famous Buddhist teachers in south of India, including Buddhadatta with regard to whom I will write in detail. South of India continued to be the centre of Buddhism as lat as the 12th century A.D.

Like most venerable Buddhaghosa, Buddadatta went to Sri Lanka to study Buddhism in Mahavihara temple which is the main seat of the ancestral branch for present day Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and which was founded by King Devananpiya Tissa in the capital of Anuradhapura on the site of the Tissarama, given to visiting missionary from King Asoka* . Buddhadatta wrote many books living in Chola country by supporting of king and delivered the Buddha’s teaching to his fellowship.

Buddhaghosa: a scholar who wrote tipitaka that is the teaching of the Buddha.
Chola: it was a country living Tamil people before centuries ago, modern time south of India. 
Asoka: the king giving for sponsorship for hosting the third saghayana called rehearsal.

Buddhadatta and Buddhaghosa
On the way by boat to India, Buddhadatta met Budhaghosa, the great Buddhist scholar. When the buddhadatta having accomplished the task was en route back to India by boat which was crossing to another boat by which Budhaghosa was a trip to Linkadipa*  from Jambudipa* . Some time, boats on the way faced the heavy winds so both of them had been stopped. By the time boats being stopped by side by side very closely, buddhadatta and buddhaghosa met each other on board their own vessels. And they introduced themselves with being exchanged courtesy greetings according to being Indian tradition. Firstly, venerable Buddhaghosa said to buddhadatta thera; "Bhante*, the doctrine of the Buddha is available in the Sinhala language, I am proceeding to Lankadipa to render them to Magadhi* (early Pali)". In the end of the buddhaghosa’s the first talking, Buddhadatta replied, “Dear Bhante, I too had come to Sri Lanka for the same task, but as I shall not live very long now, I cannot finish the task". And Buddhadatta requested buddhaghosa to send each copy of his commentaries to him in India. For boats departed in the conversation in position of subside winds, the limited time did not allow them to discuss more.
As buddhadatta requested on the boat, budhaghosa sent him copies of each commentaries written by himself. Later buddhadatta summarized buddhaghosa commentaries on the abhidhamma pitaka* into abhidhammavatra and vinaya pitaka into vinaya vinicchaya. But Rohan L. Jayetilleke said; “Among Buddhadatta's works Abhidhammavatara stands supreme. Buddhadatta did not accept Buddhaghosa's commentary on Abhidhammapitaka blindly”. Even though they lived in different places, they had friendly discourse with communicating each other by charring knowledge concerned with the Buddha’ s teachings from another to another.
Lankadipa: It was the name of Sri Lanka in ancient time.
Jambudipa: it was a name of around the India
Magadhi: the language that Buddhists accept as Buddha’s speech is called now pali.
Pitaka: cannon of Buddhism
Bhante; pali word used when Buddhist monks deal from another to another like venarable

Buddhadatta in South of India

Not only most of his time that he studied at Mahavihara in Sri Lanka but also in south of India, his native, he used to learn his education living in many places there. After studying his education at Mahavihara monastery in Sri Lanka he returned to his native the banks of the Kaveri River to spend his life living there for propagation Buddha’s teaching. It is mentioned in Ditionary of Buddhism as follow:
(Buddhadatta, scholar and commentator lived in Uragapura in kâńcî after studying at the mahãvihâra.)

At the monastery of Bhutamangalagama in the Chola, Buddhadatta Mahathera lived his monastic life in south of India and taught or shared Buddhist knowledge to his disciples or fellowships. At that time, people in south of India was being eager to study about Buddhism. That is why many of Buddhist scholars were from that area and another famous missionary to Southern China whose name is Bodhidharma was also from there. 

During the century, 5th, as Buddhadatta did well his works with volitional mind to propagate the teachings of the lord Buddha, he flourished in reign of the kalabhra chief, Accutavikkanta, residing at the monastery of Bhutamangalagama in kaveriputtinam. 

At that time the people of Tamil in south of India are mainly the two groups of taking refuge in religions such as mostly Brahmanism, another Buddhism. That is why in 5th century A.D, many Buddhist scholars (of them, Bodhi Darma and Buddhadatta were famous and another is Kaccayana first author of pali grammar) were from that place and also buddhaghosa was originally from south of India..

Buddhist Scholars in South of India

South of India continued to be the centre of Buddhism as lat as the 12th century A.D. In the mentioning of Ghanthavamsa there were ten Buddhist scholars in south of India. ( from The history of Buddhism in the Tamil kingdoms of south of India by T.N.RAMACHANDRAN):
( 1 ) Buddhadatta (5th century A.D.).
(2) Ananda, the author of Mulatika on the Abhidhammattakatha.
(3) Dhammapala (5th-6th century A.D.) a native of Tambarattha (Tirumnelveli district) who became successively the head of the Buddhist monastery called Bhataraditta - Vihara at Kancipuram and the Mahavihara at Anuradhapura, wrote good commentaries on Buddhist basic texts, such as "Attakatha," "Paramartha Manjusa," "Nettipakaranatthakatha." He resided in the city of Tanjai in Tirunelveli district.
(4-5) Two unnamed former teachers (Purvacaryas) who wrote the Niruttimanjusa and Mahaniruttisankhepa.
(6) Mahavajirabuddhi, author of Vinayaganthi, a glossary of the five the Vinaya books.
(7) Cullavajirabuddhi. The name of his work is not traceable.
(8) Dipankara Thera 91100 A.D., alias Buddhapriya Thera and "Coliya Dipankara," was disciple in Sri Lanka of Ananda Vanaradana, and later on became the head at Kancipura of Baladicca- Vihara. He was the author of the Pali works, Vajjamadu and Rupa-Siddhi, the former on Buddhist art, and the latter on arithmetic. He wrote also a commentary on the Rupa-Siddhi. He wrote a tika on Sampapancasatti also.
(9) Culladhammapala who wrote the Saccasankhepa and
(10) Kassapa, who wrote the Mohaviccedani and Vimativicccedana.
From the Talaing records of Kalyani we get a list of
Buddhist acaryas of South India, some of whom
are Kaccayana, author of the first Pali grammar;
Buddhavira, author of the Sutta-sangaha; Nana or Nanagambhira,. the author of Tathagatotpatt. Anuruddha (l2th century) of the Pandya land who became popular in Sri Lanka and Burma by his works, :Abhidhammathasangaha, Paramattha-vinicchaya, and Nama-rupapariccheda."

Buddhadatta and His Works

Later as the Buddhist scholar Buddhadatta was a famous and cleaver author, contemporary’s Buddhaghosa and both of them in different places were writing about Buddhism in the time, 5th century.  He as being requested by his disciples had written many kinds of important books for Buddhism to be understood in it, during the time in which he was in native south of India.

In accordance with describing of some scholars, while Gupta king kumara Gupta was a patron of venerable Buddhaghosa, the patron of Buddhadatta was the Kalabhra Accyutavikkhanta (Acyuta Narayana) of the Colanadu. A.P.Buddhadatta had written most of his works in kaveripattinam at the instance of important books, by the supporting of Chola king. He was the most important adviser with regard to Buddhism for king. What he had done to introduce about Buddhism with his firm confidences is seen as follow:

1. Abhidhamma-avatăra, 
2. Vinaya-Vinicchaya,
3. Uttara-vinicchaya
4. Rûparûpavibhảga
5. and other etc books

Ahiddhamma-vatara, introduction to abhiddhamma’ which is mostly in verses, is introduction to study of abhidhamma and comparable to Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosa. But some scholar translates abhiddhamma vatara as ‘the coming of abhiddhamma’. He had composed it by using verses to be easily memorized by those who want to study abhiddhamma because around the last century B.C, only a number of atthakathas which is very large to be studied was found on particular texts for Buddha’s abhidhamma. Although abhidhammavatara is easy to memorize, it is too hard to understand abhiddhamma by this books in deeper. He continuously wrote another book named Ruparupavibhagha. it has three parts of meaning, Rupa+Arupa+Vibhagha. It says “explaining about nama rupa in detail or widely”.

 Rûparûpavibhảga, which is a supplement of abhidhamma-vatara is a large writing about Abhidhamma in detail.

Both Vinaya-Vinicchaya and Uttara-vinicchaya are judgments or condemnations for faults of Buddhist monks.  It is also called vinaya.  Uttara-vinicchaya is as a supplement to his own Vinaya-vinicchaya. I would like to mention the meaning of these books. Vinaya-Vinicchaya

 Because of being requested by his pupil, Buddhasiha from Sri Lanka both Uttara-vinicchaya and Rûparûpavibhảga were written by him for those who want to deeply and widely learn about the Vinaya and Abhiddhamma. All of them are written in pali.

Buddhadatta had passed away earlier than Buddhaghosa. When he passed away, Buddhaghosa spoke that he was great and wise person.


What I have written above all of them are related with Buddhadatta who was a famous Buddhist scholar from south of India. As I have talked about him above, he had tried hard to introduce Buddhism to be understood by other. However the centuries have changed, his works still gives benefit to all of us. It is clear that he was the great scholar for Buddhism. What I have written are just some parts of about him. 


1. The Life and Work of Buddhaghosa (By Bimala Churn Law)

2. The History of Buddhism in the Tamil Kingdoms of South IndiaBy

3. Venerable Buddhagosha Maha Thera - The greatest Indian Pali commentator of the 5th century A.D.( by Rohan L. Jayetilleke)
4. Dictionary of Buddhism

5.buddhadatta in open


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