Buddhavamsa and it's commentary

Are Buddhavamsa and it’s commentary considered canonical in Classical Theravada ?

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The Buddhavamsa is part of the Khuddaka Nikāya and is canonical. The Commentary is not.


So the commentary, is it authoritative ? I mean is it in line with classical Theravada interpretation of the Buddha Dhamma.

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Hi Sam. Yes sure as far as I know. I must admit I haven’t looked at it for years, and didn’t study it in depth, but I think it is all fine. Maybe you could post a section that interests you and we can look ?


I am interested in the part where it mentions the Bodisatta making five great investigations. It seems to say that bodisatva made observations yet some prominent Sri Lankan buddhists believe he made choices. Like He actively chose where he is going to be born and etc…

But after reading the relevent passage on Buddhavamsa commentary I am not entirely convinced that he made choices. It simply says observations. Is there a classical Theravada basis to this belief?

From commentary.

Then the Great Being, being requested thus by the devatas, but not giving them an assurance, simply investigated the five great investigations according to the demarcations by time, continent, district, family, (length of) the mother’s life-span.
As to this, s first he investigated the time: “Is it the time or is it not the time?” For if the length of the life-span has increased to more than a hundred thousand years, it is not the time. Why? For then the birth, ageing and dying of beings are not manifest, and there is no teaching of the Dhamma of Buddhas that is freed from the three characteristic marks, so that when they are talking to these (people) about impermanence, anguish and no-self, they say “Whatever is this they are talking about?” and think it should neither be listened to nor believed.

onsequently there is no penetration. Therefore this is not the (nght) time. Nor is it the (nght) time when the duration of the life-span is less than a hundred years. Why ? Then beings are abounding in defilem~nts. Exhortation given to those who are abounding_ in defileme?ts does _not p<:rsist after the occasion of the exhortat10n but vamshes quickly hke a streak drawn on water. Therefore this too is not the (right) time.
The (right) time is when the duration of the life-span is less than a hundred thousand years and more than a hundred years. As the duration then was a hundred years, so the Great Being saw that it was the time when he should be reborn.

Then, investigating the continent, he investigated the four continents with the surrounding (islands), and thought, "There are three continents in which Buddhas are not reborn, they are reborn only in J ambudipa ", and he saw the continent.
Next, he thought, “Jambudipa is great indeed, ten thousand yojanas in extent. Now, in which district are Buddhas reborn?” And investigating the region he saw the Middle District and came to the conclusion, “It is there, in the city of Kapilavatthu, that I should be reborn.”

Next, investigating the family, he thought, “Buddhas are not reborn either in a vessa family or in a sudda family. But they are reborn either in a warrior-noble family or in a brahman family whichever is then of the higher repute in the world. At the present time the warrior-noble family is of the higher repute in the world. I will be reborn therein. The king named Suddhodana will be my father”, and he saw the family.

Next, investigating the mother, he thought, “A Buddha’s mother is not a wanton or a drunkard. On the contrary, for a hundred thousand eons she has fulfilled the perfections; never since her birth has she torn the five moral habits. And this queen named Mahamaya is such a one. She shall be my mother”. And then, thinking what would be the extent of her life-span, he saw it would be for ten months and seven days.

So that when he had investigated this fivefold great investigation in this way saying ‘’ It is the time, dear sirs, for my Buddhahood ‘’, and after giving an assurance to the devas he dismissed those devatas, saying, “You may depart”, and entered Nandana Grove in Tusita city surrounded by the devatas of Tusita (abode).

Page 390,391 Buddhavamsa commentary.

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The Great Chronicles Of The Buddha are excellent Theravāda sources that are very accessible. It was compiled by ven Mingun Sayadaw.

A modern and edited version of The Great Chronicles of The Buddha is available on ancient buddhists texts website… here


Hi Sam
I lean to the ‘observations’ side.
After so many aeons of accumulating the causes to become a Buddha it was time for him to take his final birth. How could he have ‘chosen’ not to take the birth he did when all the conditions were there.


Yes I agree. Also could you take a look at this sutta. It seems to say that any being who has developed faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom can influence his rebirth to some degree.


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Dear Sam
Choices(from the link) is an odd translation of saṅkhārā but anyway…

Bodhi note 1133 says

“MA: “The way” is the five qualities beginning with faith, together with the aspiration. One who has either the five qualities without the aspiration, or the aspiration without the qualities, does not have a fixed destination. The destination can only be fixed when both factors are present.

Thinking over what one aspires to and fulfiing the conditions to achieve it, even in base things like career and so on, will lead to that achievement. So it can be for even future existences.