The Milindapañha (lit.'Questions of Milinda') is a Buddhist text which dates from sometime between 100 BC and 200 AD. It purports to record a dialogue between the Indian Buddhist sage Nāgasena, and the 2nd century BC Indo-Greek king Menander I (Pali: Milinda) of Bactria, in Sāgalā, present-day Sialkot.[1]

Milinda Panha
TypeParacanonical Text
Parent CollectionKhuddaka Nikaya
Composition1st Century BC - 2nd Century AD
PTS AbbreviationMil
Pāli literature

The Milindapañhā is regarded as canonical in Burmese Buddhism, included as part of the book of Khuddaka Nikāya.[2] An abridged version is included as part of Chinese Mahāyāna translations of the canon. The Milindapañha is not regarded as canonical by Thai or Sri Lankan Buddhism, however, despite the surviving Theravāda text being in Sinhalese script.

The Chinese text titled the Monk Nāgasena Sutra corresponds to the first three chapters of the Milindapañha.[3]: xi–xiv  It was translated sometime during the Eastern Jin dynasty (317–420).[4]

History edit

King Milinda asks questions.

It is generally accepted by scholars[5]: 83–86, ¶173–179  that the work is composite, with additions made over some time. In support of this, it is noted that the Chinese versions of the work are substantially shorter.[6]

The earliest part of the text is believed to have been written between 100 BC and 200 AD.[5]: 85-86, ¶179  The text may have initially been written in Sanskrit; Oskar von Hinüber suggests, based on an extant Chinese translation of Mil as well as some unique conceptualizations within the text, the text's original language might have been Gandhari.[5]: 83, ¶173  However, apart from the Sri Lankan Pali edition and its derivatives, no other copies are known.

The oldest manuscript of the Pali text was copied in 1495 AD. Based on references within the text itself, significant sections of the text are lost, making Milinda the only Pali text known to have been passed down as incomplete.[5]: 85, ¶78 

It is mentioned in the Grande Inscription d'Angkor engraved in 1701 on the walls of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.[7]

The book is included in the inscriptions of the Canon approved by the Burmese Fifth Council and the printed edition of the Sixth Council text.

Thomas Rhys Davids says it is the greatest work of classical Indian prose, saying:

"[T]he 'Questions of Milinda' is undoubtedly the masterpiece of Indian prose, and indeed is the best book of its class, from a literary point of view, that had then been produced in any country."[3]: xlvi 

Moriz Winternitz however maintains that this is true only of the earlier parts.[8]: 141 

Contents edit

The contents of the Milindapañhā are:

  1. Background History
  2. Questions on Distinguishing Characteristics: (Characteristics of Attention and Wisdom, Characteristic of Wisdom, Characteristic of Contact, Characteristic of Feeling, Characteristic of Perception, Characteristic of Volition, Characteristic of Consciousness, Characteristic of Applied Thought, Characteristic of Sustained Thought, etc.)
  3. Questions for the Cutting Off of Perplexity: (Transmigration and Rebirth, The Soul, Non-Release From Evil Deeds, Simultaneous Arising in Different Places, Doing Evil Knowingly and Unknowingly, etc.)
  4. Questions on Dilemmas : Speaks of several puzzles and these puzzles were distributed in eighty-two dilemmas.
  5. A Question Solved By Inference
  6. Discusses the Special Qualities of Asceticism
  7. Questions on Talk of Similes

According to Oskar von Hinüber, while King Menander is an actual historical figure, Bhikkhu Nagasena is otherwise unknown, the text includes anachronisms, and the dialogue lacks any sign of Greek influence but instead is traceable to the Upanisads.[5]: 83, ¶172 

The text mentions Nāgasena's father Soñuttara, his teachers Rohana, Assagutta of Vattaniya and Dhammarakkhita of Asoka Ārāma near Pātaliputta, and another teacher named Āyupāla from Sankheyya near Sāgala.

Menander I edit

According to the Milindapanha, Milinda/ Menander, identified as Menander I,[9]: 90–91  embraced the Buddhist faith. He is described as constantly accompanied by a guard of 500 Greek (Yonaka) soldiers, and two of his counselors are named Demetrius and Antiochus.

In the Milindanpanha, Menander is introduced as the "king of the city of Sāgala in India, Milinda by name, learned, eloquent, wise, and able". Buddhist tradition relates that, following his discussions with Nāgasena, Menander adopted the Buddhist faith "as long as life shall last"[3]: 374  and then handed over his kingdom to his son to retire from the world. It is described that he attained enlightenment afterwards.[3]: 374 

Translations edit

The work has been translated into English twice, once in 1890 by Thomas William Rhys Davids (reprinted by Dover Publications in 1963) and once in 1969 by Isaline Blew Horner (reprinted in 1990 by the Pali Text Society).

  • Questions of King Milinda. Sacred Books of the East. Vol. XXXV & XXXVI. Translated by Rhys Davids, T.W. Oxford: Clarendon. 1890–94.; reprinted by Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi Vol. 1, Vol. 2
  • Milinda's Questions. Translated by Horner, I.B. Bristol: Pali Text Society. 1963–64. 2 volumes.

Abridgements include:

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Pesala (Bhikkhu.) (1991). The Debate of King Milinda: An Abridgement of the Milinda Pañha. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 19. ISBN 978-81-208-0893-5.
  2. ^ Milindapañha: The Questions of King Milinda (excerpts). Translated by Kelly, John. Access to Insight. 2005.
  3. ^ a b c d Rhys Davids, Thomas (1894), The questions of King Milinda, Part 2, The Clarendon press
  4. ^ "Milindapanha [ミリンダ王問経] (Pali; Mirindaō-monkyō)". The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism.
  5. ^ a b c d e von Hinüber, Oskar (2000), A handbook of Pāli literature, Berlin [u.a.]: de Gruyter, ISBN 9783110167382
  6. ^ According to Hinüber (2000), p. 83, ¶173, the first Chinese translation is believed to date from the 3rd century and is currently lost; a second Chinese translation, known as "Nagasena-bhiksu-sutra," (那先比丘經) ["那先比丘經 Sutra". Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association. Archived from the original on 2008-12-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)] dates from the 4th century. The extant second translation is "much shorter" than that of the current Pali-language Mil.
  7. ^ Skilling, Peter (2001). "Some Literary References in the "Grande Inscription d'Angkor" (IMA 38)". Aséanie, Sciences humaines en Asie du Sud-Est. 8 (1): 58. doi:10.3406/asean.2001.1731.
  8. ^ Winternitz, Moriz (1920). "Geschichte der indischen Litteratur". Die buddhistische Litteratur und die heiligen Texte der Jainas. Vol. 2. Leipzig: C.F. Amelang.
  9. ^ Halkias, Georgios T. (2014). "When the Greeks Converted the Buddha: Asymmetrical Transfers of Knowledge in Indo-Greek Cultures". In Wick, Peter; Rabens, Volker (eds.). Religions and Trade: Religious Formation, Transformation and Cross-Cultural Exchange between East and West. Brill Publishers. ISBN 978-90-04-25528-9.

Additional Sources edit

External links edit