Reply To: Universe – Sun and the moon


Thank you, Sammasambodhi Gami and Dosakkhayo, for the reference.

  • Some of the minor suttas may have been lost. The following background could be helpful to remember.

1. As summarized in “Incorrect Theravada Interpretations – Historical Timeline“:

  • 161-137 BCE: For the first time in history, King Dutugemunu united all of Sri Lanka under one kingdom.
  • I did not mention this there, but he built a seven-story library in the Mahāvihāra monastery in Anuradhapura. His mistake was to collect all the Tipitaka copies spread out in temples around the country and deposit them in that library. 
  • That library was burned: King Mahāsena (277-304 CE) as I stated in the above post. 
  • Of course, there must have been other “partial copies” in other temples. But it is possible that some suttas were lost at that time.

2. Another factor is the following. Before the British took over Sri Lanka in the 1800s, the island had been under partial control of the Dutch and Portuguese, who discouraged the practice of Buddhism. The temples were decaying, and the bhikkhu population decreased; see #5 of “Elephant in the Room” – Direct Translation of the Tipiṭaka.”

  • If it were not for the British civil servants, more Tipitaka suttas could have been lost. They collected copies of Tipitaka texts spread throughout the country and sent them to the museum in London to be preserved; see #6 in that post.
  • The point is that the whole Tipiṭaka was written on specially prepared ōla (palm) leaves. They typically deteriorate over 100 years or so and need to be rewritten. See “Preservation of the Buddha Dhamma.” Some suttas may not have been rewritten and thus be lost. 

3. The above information, while not critical, helps to provide an understanding of the obstacles and “lucky breaks” involved in preserving the Tipitaka.

  • We may not have all the original texts, but we probably have enough essential and critical texts.
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