A new edition of the Pāli text of a section of the Apadāna (KN 10.39.10) and its commentary, which shows why the Buddha suffered in his last life. Includes notes on variant readings, its grammar, prosody, and how the material has been collected, with an analysis of the metre of the verse texts.

Apadāna 39.10
and their commentary in

Edited by Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
(January, 2012, BE 2556)





Html Table of Contents




1. Dukkarakārikā

2. Abbhakkhānaṁ

3. Abbhakkhānaṁ

4. Abbhakkhānaṁ

5. Silāvedho

6. Sakalikāvedhor

7. Nāḷāgiri

8. Satthacchedo

9. Sīsadukkhaṁ

10. Yavakhādanaṁ

11. Piṭṭhidukkhaṁ

12. Atisāro



In preparing this text and translation for publication I have divided it into a number of versions. In the Buddhist Texts and Studies section will be found the Pāḷi Text together with the variant readings. This is a more technical work dealing with the establishment of the text, and considers the text from the point of view of its grammar and prosody, and gives a metrical analysis of the verses.

In the Texts and Translations section I present the full Text and Translation with annotations which help to explain matters that may not be clear from the text itself. I have retained variants that give a significantly different reading in this edition, together with their translation, including verses and lines found only in one edition. The translation here follows the text quite closely to allow for reading and study of the latter.

In the English section there is the Translation Only, with somewhat less notes than in the Text and Translations section, which is intended for the casual reader who wants a reliable translation but is not interested in the technical matters concerning the original text itself. Here the sentence structure, which has many sub-clauses and the like in the Pāḷi, has been simplified to present a more natural flow in English.

Although the verses have been translated before, In Peter Masefield, The Udāna Commentary (PTS, 1994-5), pp. 633-635. Masefield also gives a summary of the commentarial stories in his notes, pp. 714-721. this is the first time that the commentary has been brought over into English, and as far as I know the first time any section of the Apadāna commentary has been translated. The material presented here has been discussed by Jonathon S. Walters, 'The Buddha’s Bad Kamma: A Problem in the History of Theravāda Buddhism' Numen, 37/1 (1990); 70-95; Sally Mellick Cutler: 'Still Suffering after All These Aeons,' in Peter Connelly and Sue Hamilton (eds), Indian Insights: Buddhism, Brahmanism and Bhakti (London 1997); and more recently by Naomi Appleton, as part of her book Jātaka Stories in Theravāda Buddhism, pp. 27-28, (Farnham, 2010).

1. Texts and Variations

The texts presented have been established through a comparison of the four standard editions, for the verses from the Apadāna:

BJT: Sri Lankan Edition, from Apadānapāḷi, Buddha Jayanti Tripiṭika Granthamālā, volume XXXVI. 1961, reprinted Colombo, 2005 with corrections.

Thai: Thai edition, as found on Budsir for Windows CD-ROM (version 2.0, Bangkok, 1996).

ChS: Burmese edition, as found on the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana CD-ROM (version 3, Igatpuri, no date, but = 1999).

PTS: European edition, from The Apadāna, Part 1, edited by Mary E. Lilley, Pali Text Society, Oxford, 2000.

and for the commentary:

BJT: Sri Lankan Edition, from Visuddhajanavilāsiṇī, Part 1. Simon Hewavitarne Bequest Series, volume XXIX. date unknown.

Thai: Thai edition, as found on Budsir for Windows CD-ROM (version 2.0, Bangkok, 1996).

ChS: Burmese edition, as found on the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana CD-ROM (version 3, Igatpuri, no date, but = 1999).

PTS: European edition, from Visuddhajanavilāsiṇī nāma Apadānaṭṭhakathā, edited by C. E. Godakumbara, Pali Text Society, London, 1954.

As the notes to the edition clearly show there is a close relationship between ChS and Thai on the one hand; and SHB and PTS on the other. Indeed in each case the latter text appears to be taking the former as its model and only correcting it occasionally.

2. The Relationship between the Text and the Commentary

The Apadāna is organised into four sections: Buddhāpadāna (81 Verse numbers are as in the Sri Lankan edition. verses); Paccekabuddhāpadāna (58 verses); Therāpadāna (6311 verses, 559 Theras) and Therī-Apadāna (1336 verses, 40 Therīs). Note that the last section has no commentary on it.

The texts which are translated here describe the previous deeds of the Buddha which led in his last life to various kinds of suffering: from spending a long time in the wasteland of severe austerities; to receiving slander at various hands; to physical ailments of various kinds: being attacked and cut by rocks and scalpels; and getting headaches, backaches and dysentery.

We may have expected them to be presented therefore in the Traditions about the Buddha (Buddhāpadāna), which begins the book. Instead we find them tucked away in a very odd place: right in the middle of the verses which are otherwise concerned with the Elders, as No. 390 of that collection.

Why they are there is hard to explain, and it almost looks like someone was trying to hide them. There is a very short commentary on the opening verses at that place, Not translated here as it is basically a word-commentary (vaṇṇanā), and is seperated from the rest of the commentary. but the main commentary occurs at the end of the Traditions about the Buddha (Buddhāpadānasaṁvaṇṇanā), which suggests that either the verses were once there, or the commentator wanted to draw attention to them.

The commentary on these verses is curious as it is unlike other sections of the same work which only provide a word commentary (vaṇṇanā). Here though, we get the stories explaining the deeds the Buddha-to-be had performed in the past, As in, for instance, the Jātakaṭṭhakathā. which were finding their fulfilment, even when he was Buddha.

Also it should be mentioned that the commentary doesn't take the verses in the order they appear in the text, but has them in roughly chronological order. To give an example, although the text treats the austerities that the Buddha-to-be underwent last, in the commentary it is dealt with first. The commentary treats them in the order: 12, 2, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.

Another problem is that there is some confusion in the commentary to verse two, as the story doesn't fit in with the verse it is supposed to explain. Masefield noted this in his comments to the verses in the Udāna Commentary. The story at the beginning is about a scoundrel called Munāḷi, who slandered the Independent Buddha Surabhi. The verse, however, says that the Buddha-to-be had accused a disciple of the Buddha Sabbābhibhu called Nanda, and it was for this reason that the maiden Ciñcā slandered him. On the other hand the story of Munāḷi is told again, but in different words, to explain the next verse, where it does fit in with what he is trying to explain.

Another anomaly: the very next story tells of a time when the Bodhisatta was a teacher of five hundred students who slandered a seer. His students, following him, did the same. The verses, however, only mention that his disciples were slandered by Sundarī, and do not mention the Buddha’s suffering.

Again, story no. 6 says that the Buddha’s foot was cut as a result of throwing a splinter at an Independent Buddha; the verses, however, tell about the time the Buddha was attacked by bandits or archers sent by Devadatta, who were overcome by the Buddha’s loving-kindness, and failed though to cause him any harm. The time that his foot was cut was when Devadatta threw a rock from on high, as reported in story no. 5.

It is worthy of notice that in the preface to his work, the unnamed commentator has this to say about the text he was working with:

Purā Sīhaḷabhāsāya porāṇaṭṭhakathāya ca
Setting aside the ancient commentary in the Sinhala language

Ṭhapitaṁ taṁ na sādheti, sādhūnaṁ icchiticchitaṁ,
Which does not make things clear, longing for what is profitable,

Tasmā tam-upanissāya porāṇaṭṭhakathānayaṁ,
Having forsaken reliance on that ancient commentary, therefore,

Vivajjetvā viruddhatthaṁ, visesatthaṁ pakāsayaṁ,
Which hinders (the true) meaning, (and) explaining the true meaning,

Visesavaṇṇanaṁ seṭṭhaṁ karissāmatthavaṇṇanan-ti.
I will make a true and good explanation, which explains the meaning (well).

We know precious little about the commentator, not even his name, or who instigated his work, which is normally mentioned, but a couple of things seem to indicate that he was unfamiliar with northern India: he has the King of Magadha say that he would be present at the double-miracle, but that event took place in another Kingdom, that of Kosala, and there is no indication that foreign Kings were present at the time; See commentarial story no. 2 below; and for the next instance story no. 5. he also says that Anuruddha and the other Sakyans were near to Rājagaha when they went forth, but in fact they were at Anupiya in the Malla country when that happened about 10 days, or 250 km, walk away.

Given that he has declared his intention to put aside the Mahāvihāra commentary and write his own, which almost certainly would not have been possible if he had been resident there, this makes me believe that he was either from the Indian mainland, somewhere remote from the Middle Lands, perhaps in somewhere like Andhra; or that he was connected with another fraternity, perhaps the Abhayagiri; and there are other considerations which might help substantiate this.

3. Relationship with Other Traditions

The compound used to describe the verses, kammapilotika (or in some editions kammapiloti) doesn't occur anywhere else in the Pāḷi texts except in connection with these verses; however, it does occur in Buddhist Sanskrit works There the compounds are karmaplotika and karmaploti. like Divyāvadāna, Cf. Divyāvadāna p. 150, where one of the 10 indispensable deeds (daśāvaśyakaraṇīyāni) is listed as: Anavatapte mahāsarasi śrāvakaiḥ sārdhaṁ pūrvikā karmaplotir vyāk?tā bhavati; explaining the connection with former deeds with his disciples near the great lake Anavatapta (Anotatta in Pāḷi). Avadānaśataka and Laṅkāvatārasūtra; and there are parallels to the text in the Mūlasarvāstivāda Anavataptagāthā, See Bechert, Die Anavataptagāthā und die Sthaviragāthā, Berlin 1961. and in Gandhārī. See

What is more, one of the stories is told, in even more detail in the Mahāvastu. See Senart’s edition: pg. 34-45. I hope to translate this text at some point. In the verses here it only says that through slandering a disciple of the Buddha Sabbābhibhu called Nanda, the (unnamed) Buddha-to-be transmigrated through hell for a long time, and in his last existence was slandered in turn by the maiden Ciñcā; and as noted above the commentary doesn't provide an appropriate story here.

The Mahāvastu, however, has a long story about a monk called Abhiya who, being of a jealous nature, slandered the disciple called Nanda accusing him of sexual relations with a wife of a rich merchant. The interesting conclusion has Abhiya realising his fault, asking forgiveness from Nanda, and confessing his wrong-doing to the Buddha. He then makes an offering to the Buddha and makes an aspiration to become a Buddha himself, which is confirmed by Buddha Sarvābhibhū.

The idea of the connection of past deeds was also known to the Upāyakausalya also, But there the compound is karmasantati, and the list is not twelve items, but ten. Most of them are the same as is recorded here, however, so that it is clear we are dealing with the same tradition. where it is said the Buddha only told these stories as part of his skill-in-means, but not because he actually ever did anything wrong, which the text categorically denies he could have done, which represents another view on the subject altogether.

It is not within the scope of this introduction to examine all these continuities and discontinuities, but one thing is clear: the idea that the Buddha-to-be had done unwholesome deeds that came to fruition in the Buddha’s lifetime was clearly known to the early traditions, even when it was rejected.

4. The Bodhisatta’s Bad Deeds

That the Buddha-to-be should have done bad deeds should not surprise us, as it is recorded openly in the Jātaka stories that the Buddha-to-be many times did bad, unwholesome deeds. He is, of course, still pursuing the perfections, and has no claim to having completed them as yet, and so is bound to make misjudgements like everybody else.

For instance, in Jā 128 the Buddha-to-be is reborn as a rat and springs at a jackal’s throat and kills him; in Jā 318 he is born in a robber’s family and practices his craft; in Jā 431 he engages in sexual misconduct with a queen – interestingly in the same Jātaka, though, it denies that the Buddha-to-be can tell lies:

Bodhisattassa hi ekaccesu ṭhānesu pāṇātipāto pi adinnādānam-pi kāmesumicchācāro pi surāmerayamajjapānam-pi hoti yeva, atthabhedakavisaṁvādanaṁ This is translated by Francis and Neill (Jā trans. Vol III, pg. 296): he may not tell a lie, attended by deception that violates the reality of things; although it has a wide range of meanings I do not find anywhere where attha means the reality of things; its primary meaning is (PED, s.v.): interest, advantage, gain; (moral) good, blessing, welfare; profit, prosperity, well-being. purakkhatvā, musāvādo nāma na hoti; the Buddha-to-be on certain occasions may kill, steal, engage in sexual misconduct and drink intoxicants; but he cannot, preferring to hurt the welfare (of others) by lying, speak falsely.

and the reason for this is clearly stated:

Ujjhitasaccā hi Bodhimūle nisīditvā, Bodhiṁ pāpuṇituṁ na sakkonti; even if one who has forsaken the truth has sat at the root of the Bodhi tree he is (still) unable to attain Awakening.

This statement is questionable, though, as it appears he was lying when he slandered the Independent Buddha Surabhi, the disciple of the Buddha Sabbābhibhu named Nanda and the seer (ṣi) Bhīma; and the repercussion was that in turn he was slandered by Ciñcā and Sundarī.

At another time he told the Buddha Phussa that he should eat barley, with the result that in his final life he had to do the same for three months during one Rains Retreat; he also questioned the possibility of the Buddha Kassapa being Awakened, and had to undergo six years of austerities on the wrong path.

In previous lives as here recorded he also killed his half-brother, threw a stone at an Independent Buddha, and struck another with an elephant; for which he had to suffer his brother-in-law Devadatta throwing stones at him, hiring assassins and driving the elephant Nāḷāgiri at him.

Because he laughed at some fish being killed he later got a headache (and the people who were doing the killing, being reborn in the Sakyan clan, were wiped out by King Viḍūḍabha); when he was a King he killed people with his sword, and because of that not only did a shard of stone cut his foot, but also the surgeon had to lance an abscess that developed on it; and when he was a wrestler he broke an opponents back, Though according to the commentary he fixed it again soon after, see story no 11 below. and therefore had to suffer backache.

Each time he is said to have suffered greatly for a long time in various hells, and it is really only the residue of the deeds that came to fruition causing these problems for the Buddha in his last life.

Although the Buddha-to-be is said to have committed all these unwholesome acts, they are, of course, presented as examples of what not to do, as the repercussions are so dire, that even upon the attainment of Buddhahood they cannot be escaped, so that in the end the moral is clear. Towards the end of the commentary it is indeed stated emphatically:

Kammapilotikaṁ nāma Buddham-api na muñcati. Just before the verses in story No 11 below; the next quote appears before the verses in story No 12.
The Buddha was surely not free from the connection with that deed.

Kammapilotikaṁ evarūpaṁ Lokattayasāmim-pi na vijahati.
The Lord of the Three Worlds surely could not abandon the connection with that deed.

And the moral is, of course, that neither can we, so we had better be careful about the deeds we choose to perform.

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
January 2012