At present we are far from the ultimate end which critical research has to reach; we are not able to assign to each part of our Sfltra its proper place in the development of Buddhist literature. We may feel that compositions from different times have been collected into a not very harmonious whole; we may even be able to prove that some passages are as decidedly ancient as others are modern, but any attempt to analyse the compound and lay bare its component parts would seem to be premature. Under these circumstances the inquiry after the date of the work resolves itself into the question at what time the book received its present shape.
There exist, as it is well known, various Chinese translations of the Saddharma-putfdarlka, or parts of it, the dates of which are well ascertained. The above-mentioned Catalogue by Mr. Bunyiu Nanjio affords some valuable information about the subject, from which I borrow the following particulars1:
The oldest Chinese translation, known by the title of Kan-fâ-hwâ-kin, is from Ku Fâ-hu (Dharmaraksha), of the Western Tsin dynasty, A.D. 365-316; in 28 chapters2.
Equally old is an incomplete translation entitled S4-th4n- fan-tho-li-^ih, of an unknown author.
Next in time comes the Miclo-tfl-lien-hw4-£in, by Kumâragiva, of the latter Tshin dynasty, A.D. 384-417. It agrees with the Tibetan version, and contains 28 chapters. Of one chapter (xxiv in the Nepalese MSS. and the English translation) Kum&ra^iva translated the prose only; the Gâthâs were rendered by GViânagupta, of the Northern Keu dynasty, A.D. 557-589.
The last translation in order of time, entitled Thien-phin-mido-fcl-lien-hwd-^ih, is from GVfenagupta and Dharmagupta, A.D. 601, of the Sui dynasty; in 37 chapters.
We see that the older translations — and, consequently, their originals — counted one chapter more than our MSS.
Sutra Pi/aka, col. 44 seqq.
In S. Beal, The Buddhist Tripi/aka, p. 14, the name of the author Ku. Fa- hu (Chu-fa-hu) is identified with Dharmagupta.
Cf. Beal, Buddhist Tripi/aka, p. 15.