them—precisely as a word for word commentary follows, in the passage above cited in the Mahâvagga, upon the quoted words of the Introductory Formular of the Pâtimokkha service. Here then lies the explanation. This Introductory Formular is the only passage contained in the Pâtimokkha which is not found also in the Sutta-vibhaṅga. And with the explanation of the curiously isolated passage in the Mahâvagga we have also a new fact of very great importance. Not only does the Vinaya Pitaka contain, word for word, the whole of the Pâtimokkha, but it contains also, and again word for word, the whole of an ancient Commentary on the Pâtimokkha.
This commentary no longer exists as a separate work, and it would indeed be strange if it did. It was not required in the simple liturgical services of Ordination and Confession in use in the Order: and if any one wished to refer to it, in order to refresh his memory as to the explanation of any passage in the Pâtimokkha, he had only to repeat, or to get repeated over to him, the corresponding passage from the Sutta-vibhaṅga. There he would find the Old Commentary (as we shall hereafter call it) word for word, together with the additional commentary by which it had been supplemented in later times.
A question may then possibly occur to the reader whether we can be really sure that the Old Commentary has been preserved complete, or whether what we have is a fragment only. We think there can be but little doubt as to
the right answer. The Pâtimokkha, which the Old Commentary deals with word by word, has been separately preserved to us, and we know that no one phrase of it remains uncommented upon. And further it is clear from several passages that the words of the old commentator were considered so sacred or authoritative that they have been kept intact even in cases where they are in contradiction to the later parts of the Vinaya Pitaka. It should however be noted that this Old Commentary is philological
- See, for instance, the comparison made by Oldenberg in the Introduction to his edition of the text, vol. i. p. xviii. The Old Commentary follows of course the passage there referred to in the Pâtimokkha.