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works in the Pali language. The first works of Pali literature appeared at the beginning of the Common Era in India and Sri Lanka. As Buddhism spread, other works originated in Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.
Pali literature as a whole is Buddhist, and its core is the Tipitaka, the Buddhist canon. Other versions of the canon exist, including Sanskrit, Prakrit, Tibetan, and Chinese. The Pali canon, a product of the Theravada school of Buddhism, is the most complete version, forming a vast literature with a great variety of genres and themes. The canon is divided into three sections: Vinaya Pitaka, Abhidhamma Pitaka, and Sutta Pitaka. The Vinaya Pitaka describes the Buddhist monastic discipline and the organization of the early Buddhist community. The Abhidhamma Pitaka contains an exposition of the basic Buddhist doctrine, the dhamma. The Sutta Pitaka is one of the most remarkable parts of the canon in its artistry, breadth of content, and variety of genres and styles.
The Sutta Pitaka consists of five main parts: Digha-nikaya, Majjhima-nikaya, Samyutta-nikaya, Anguttara-nikaya, and Khuddaka-nikaya. Among the most noteworthy individual works in the Sutta Pitaka are the Dhammapada, a collection of verse sayings that has great artistic merit; the Suttanipata, one of the oldest parts of the canon, which contains Buddha’s thoughts on the path to salvation; and the Jataka, some 550 legends, chiefly of folkloric origin, about the incarnations of Buddha. The Sutta Pitaka also includes the Theragatha and Therigatha, anthologies of ancient Buddhist lyric poetry; the Maha-Parinibbana Sutta, an account of the last days and death of Buddha; and the Dhamma-cakkappavattana Sutta, Buddha’s famous Benares sermon. Closely connected with the canon is the Paritta, an anthology of texts used in incantations and magic rites.
Outstanding noncanonical works include the Milindapanha, a masterpiece of philosophical literature composed no earlier than the late second century, and the Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa, and Culavamsa, historical chronicles that recount events in the history of Sri Lanka.
Pali literature flourished in Sri Lanka from the fifth century, with an enormous literature of canonical commentary being produced. Buddhaghosha is noteworthy for his famous commentary Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification), a compendium of Buddhist doctrine and philosophy. Buddhadatta was the author of five guides to the canon, and Dhammapala also wrote famous commentaries.
A new period in the history of Pali literature began in the 12th century. To this period date the Jinacarita, a narrative poem about Buddha; grammars, lexicons, and works on poetics by Kacchayana and Moggallana; and subcommentaries to commentaries on the canon. In Burma and Indochina, Pali literature developed later and with a significant dependence on the works written in Sri Lanka.
Pali literature, as one of the great literatures of the past, is studied in Europe, the USA, India, Sri Lanka, Indochina, and Japan.
REFERENCESMinaev, I. P. Ocherk fonetiki i morfologii iazyka pall St. Petersburg, 1872.
Elizarenkova, T. Ia., and V. N. Toporov. Iazyk pall Moscow, 1965. (Bibliography.)
Bode, M. H. The Pali Literature of Burma. London, 1905.
Malalasekera, G. P. Pali Literature of Ceylon. London, 1928.
Law, B. C. A History of Pali Literature, vols. 1–2. London, 1933.
Sankrityayana, R. Pali sahitya ka itihas. Lucknow, 1963.
Warder, A. K. Pali Metre. London, 1967.
T. IA. ELIZARENKOVA