1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nikāya

NIKĀYA (“collection”), the name of a division of the Buddhist canonical books. There are four principal Nikāyas, making together the Sutta Piṭaka (“Basket of Discourses”), the second of the three baskets into which the canon is divided. The fifth or miscellaneous Nikāya is by some authorities added to this Piṭaka, by others to the next. The first two Nikāyas, called respectively Dīgha and Majjhima (Longer and Shorter), form one book, a collection of the dialogues of the Buddha, the longer ones being included in the former, the shorter ones in the latter. The third, called the Anguttara (Progressive Addition), rearranges the doctrinal matter contained in the Dialogues in groups of ethical concepts, beginning with the units, then giving the pairs, then the groups of three, four, five, &c., up to ten. In the Dialogues the arrangement in such numbered groups is frequent. In an age when books, in our modern sense, were unknown, it was a practical necessity to invent and use aids to memory. Such were the repetition of memorial tags, of, cues (as now used for a precisely similar purpose on the stage), to suggest what is to come. Such were also these numbered lists of technical ethical terms. Religious teachers in the West had similar groups—the seven deadly sins, the ten commandments, the four cardinal virtues, the seven Sacraments, and many others. These are only now, since the gradual increase of books, falling out of use. In the 5th century B.C. in India it was found convenient by the early Buddhists to classify almost the whole of their psychology and ethics in this manner. And the Anguttara Nikāya is based on that classification. In the last Nikāya, the Saṃyutta (The Clusters), the same doctrines are arranged in a different set of groups, according to subject. All the Logia (usually of the master himself, but also of his principal disciples) on any one point, or in a few cases as addressed to one set of people, are here brought together. That was, of course, a very convenient arrangement then. It saved a teacher or scholar who wanted to find the doctrine on any one subject from the trouble of repeating over, or getting some one else to repeat over for him, the whole of the Dialogues or the Anguttara. To us, now, the Saṃyutta seems full of repetitions; and we are apt to forget that they are there for a very good reason.

During the time when the canon was being completed there was great activity in learning, repeating to oneself, rehearsing in company and discussing these three collections. But there was also considerable activity in a more literary direction. Hymns were sung, lyrics were composed, tales were told, the results of some exciting or interesting talk were preserved in summaries of exegetical exposition. A number of these have been fortunately preserved for us in twenty-two collections, mostly of very short pieces, in the fifth or miscellaneous Nikāya, the Khuddaka Nikāya.

The text of the Dialogues fills about 2000 pages 8vo in the edition prepared for the Pali Text Society, of which five vols. out of six had been published in 1909, and the first had been translated into English. The Saṃyutta, of about the same size, and the Anguttara, which is a little smaller, have both been edited. Of the twenty-two miscellaneous books twenty have been edited (see Rhys Davids, American Lectures (1896), pp. 66–79), five have been translated into English and two more into German.

See Dīgha Nikāya, ed. Rhys Davids and Carpenter (3 vols.); Saṃyutta Nikāya (5 vols.), ed. Léon Feer, vol. vi. by Mrs Rhys Davids, containing indices; Anguttara Nikāya, ed. R. Morris and E. Hardy (5 vols.); all published by the Pali Text Society. Also Rhys Davids, Dialogues of the Buddha, vol. i. (Oxford, 1899); A. J. Edmunds, “Buddhist Bibliography,” in Journal of the Pali Text Society (1903), pp. 5–12.  (T. W. R. D.) 

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