Introduction to Khuddakapāṭha
with an Analysis of its Metre


Khuddakapāṭha, as its name may suggest, is the smallest book in the Pāli Tipiṭaka. It stands as the first book in the 5th collection of the Suttapiṭaka, the Khuddakanikāya. The title would seem to mean that it is a Small (collection of) Texts, which would at least accurately describe it’s contents, as it consists of only 9 short pieces. It would perhaps be what we would designate in English as a handbook. A handbook, of course, is usually designed to meet a particular need, and there seems to be good ground to believe that this book has been collected with just such a need in mind.

It has been suggested elsewhere Abeynayake: A Textual and Historical Analysis of the Khuddaka Nikāya, (Colombo 1984), p. 115. See also Rhys Davids, Buddhism, Its History and Literature, pgs 678; and Winternitz, A History of Indian Literature, ii. p. 78. (References from Abeyenayake).01 that the book may be a kind of handbook for novices, though it seems to the present writer that it would be more correctly described as a handbook for candidates who are waiting to become novices. As can be seen, it begins with the Saraṇagamanaṁ and the Dasasikkhāpadaṁ, which are undertaken at the time of ordination. This is followed by the reflection on the 32 parts of the body, which is a meditation traditionally given to those who ordain as their first ‘place of work’ (kammaṭṭhāna) at the time they are having their heads shaved just prior to ordination. The Kumārapañhaṁ, is represented in the commentary as being one particular boy’s ordination, and it may have been used as a kind of basic questionnaire, to make sure that candidates had at least some idea of the central tenets of the doctrine. This is followed by a group of 5 popular (mainly) verse suttas that are commonly used in recital, that would have to be memorized by novices.

It seems likely then that the texts gathered here would possibly, at the time of making the collection, have been learnt by heart by everyone who aspired to be ordained into the order. We may mention here that a similar requirement was at one time laid down by the Sinhalese king Kassapa V See Malalasekera, The Pāli Literature of Ceylon, (Republished Kandy 1994).02 when he ordered that all those who take upasampadā, or higher ordination, must first have memorized the Catubhāṇavārapāli, a collection of texts used in recital at Parittaṁ ceremonies to this day. It will be noted that that collection reproduces most of the texts in Khp, and indeed the latter looks very much like a smaller version of the larger collection.


The Text

A new edition of the text is not hard to justify. Childer’s first edition of the text in Roman script was originally published in 1869 J.R.A.S., N.S. vol iv., 309324 (reference from Ee, as the original is not available to me).03, when the scholarly study of the language and the metre in the West was still in its infancy. This was reproduced verbatim by Helmer Smith in his 1915 edition of the text & commentary (PTS), to which he adds as an appendix the readings found in the King of Siam’s edition. Since that time we have had the Burmese Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana edition of 1955, and the Sinhalese Buddha Jayanti edition of 1960, which give us many new readings to compare. Here is a list of the authorities consulted in preparing this new edition along with the abbreviations that are used in the variant readings:

BJT: Khuddakapāṭhapāḷi. Buddha Jayanti Tripitika Series, volume XXIV. Colombo 1960.

PTS: The Khuddaka-Pāṭha. together with its commentary Paramatthajotikā I. Edited by Helmer Smith, (PTS Text Series No 52) originally published London, 1915. Reprinted London, 1978.

Thai: Khuddakapāṭho. The Royal Thai Edition, volume 25. Originally published 2469 (i.e 1915). Reprinted Bangkok, 2500 (i.e 1956).

ChS: Khuddakapāṭhapāḷi. Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana Edition, 1956, reprinted Rangoon 1972.

Nearly all of the texts occur elsewhere in the canon, though not always exactly as they are found here. Here is a list of their occurence with notes on the variations:

1 Saraṇagamanaṁ (Vinaya Mahāvagga 1)
Mahāvagga: no title

2 Dasasikkhāpadaṁ (Vinaya Mahāvagga 1)
Mahāvagga: no title, omits the word samādiyāmi at the end of each precept

3 Dvāttiṁsākāraṁ (D.22 and elsewhere)
In the suttas matthake matthaluṅgaṁ is omitted from the end of the reflection.

4 Kumārapañhaṁ
Not found in this form in the suttas, but cf. the Mahāpañhāsuttas of Aṅguttaranikāya (PTS vol v. 50 ff)

5 Maṅgalasuttaṁ (Sn 2:4)
In Sn the title is Mahāmaṅgalasuttaṁ

6 Ratanasuttaṁ (Sn 2:1)

7 Tirokuḍḍasuttaṁ (Pv 1.5)
Title as Tirokuḍḍapetavatthu

8 Nidhikaṇḍasuttaṁ (not found elsewhere)

9 Mettasuttaṁ (Sn 1:8)