chapter
Chronology of Pāḷi Literature
Pages 1

Chart B displays the sections of the Pali Canon, but the order in which the books are named in it bears little relation to any chronological sequence. Certainly the pure gem of the untarnished Saddhamma of the Buddha Gotama does repose among the glosses and embellishments, among the analytic complications and pious legends and the sententious-and sometimes misleading-commentarial appendages which during the years were woven round it, to form the bulk of the literature of Pa!i Buddhism. By examining the canonical books and dissecting their contents we can, at least, learn to distinguish between that pristine philosophy of life as taught by Gotama, the Aryan Sage of Sakya, as against later development of a more general religious complexion. Thanks to the ancient oral tradition, we can today hope to distinguish between what the words of the Buddha meant to his hearers and immediate disciples, and what-on the other hand-his monkish followers represented those words as meaning when, SOO years later, they compiled the first Pali books. In order that we may do this, however, a considerable and not unlaborious study would be required which some readers, even Buddhist, might well find uninteresting, especially if they lacked a knowledge of the Pali language. We shall, therefore, deal with the findings of our enquiry as briefly as possible.