training, psychology and dogma. Of its seven books, the Dhammasangani
(350 BC) provides a good exposition of Buddhist philosophy, psychology and
ethics; and the Kathavatthu (or Vinnanapada), ascribed to Moggaliputta
Tissa, president of the Third Council, is valuable for the light it throws on the
evolution of Buddhist dogma.
Pali Non-Canonical Texts
The next body of Buddhist scriptures was composed some time during the
Bactrian Greek and the Kushana periods of Indian history, since these foreign
principalities favoured the Mahayana form of the religion that had been
evolving ever since the first Buddhist schism.
A work dating from this period is the Milindapanho (130 BC) which
relates how the sage Nagasena converts the Bactrian Greek king Menander
(Milinda) to Buddhism.
Another work, the Mahavastu (75 BC), ‘Great Subject’, presents some
Hinayana doctrines along with additional metaphysics of the Mahasanghika
(proto-Mahayana) sects. Buddha’s legendary life is retold in a series of his
former births, as in the latakas, showing how he acquired the spiritual
knowledge to become a Buddha.
The Lalitavistara (30 BC) is an anonymous biography of Buddha written
in the Gatha (Sanskritized Prakrit) form of language. It contains some
Hinayana material, but is largely Mahayanist.
In the early centuries of the present era the monks of the Therawada
school of Ceylon started compiling the traditions concerning the
promulgation of Buddhism in their country, and this was finally set down in
two important Pali works: the Dipavamsa (350 AD), Island Chronicle’, of
unknown authorship, which speaks of introduction of Buddhism into Ceylon
by Asoka’s son Mahinda; and Mahavamsa (550 AD) composed by the monk
Mahanama and based on a lost work, which tells the same story in greater
details giving the island’s history up to 350 AD.
The period between the second and sixth centuries AD is that of the
Mahayana classics and the age of the great translations. The scriptures are