This thesis addresses a substantial issue regarding the sub-commentaries (tìkás) to the four main Páli nikáyas: Do there exist two complete sets of sub-commentaries to the four nikáyas, namely an ‘old’ set of four (puráóaþìká) and a ‘new’ set of four (navaþìká), as claimed by some present-day Páli scholars; or is there just a single set, as previously accepted by traditional Páli scholarship? I address this question by examining two sample sutta sub-commentaries – those to the Kakacúpamasutta (MN 21) and the Alagaddúpamasutta (MN 22) of the Majjhimanikáya Aþþhakathá Þìká (MAÞ) – as preserved in nine Sinhala-script palm-leaf manuscripts, and comparing them with the corresponding text in the Burmese Chaþþhasaògáyana edition published in 1997 (CD-ROM).
According to Laòkáve Puskoÿa Pot Námávaliya, Somadasa’s 1959 catalogue of manuscripts held in Sri Lankan monastery libraries and similar locations, my nine sample manuscripts of Majjhimanikáya Aþþhakathá Tìká include both ‘old’ and ‘new’ tìkás. My analysis of the nine is intended not only to confirm or disconfirm that report but also to assess the validity of the wider claim that the distinction between ‘old’ and ‘new’ tìkás applies for all four nikáyas. Each of the nine mss is compared, word by word, with the Chaþþhasaògáyana edition as base-text, and all cases of disagreement are recorded. The two sample sutta sub-commentaries are initially examined separately; then the two sets of results are brought together in the subsequent analysis.
In the examination particular attention is paid to any conspicuous departures from the base-text, for example, any missing sections of text. Seeming discrepancies are critically analysed and discussed in the light of the corresponding sutta and commentary (aþþhakathá). Broad patterns of agreement and disagreement are identified by tracking recurring groups of mss that possess shared features, particularly shared errors. This leads to recognition that, in each of the two sutta-tìkás, the nine mss fall into the same three clearly recognizable groups. On this basis the nine are located within a stemma or ‘family tree’. This text-critical part of the analysis is carried out with due regard for the text’s historical and social background.
The findings thus arrived at are then considered in the light of the claimed distinction between ‘old’ and ‘new’ sub-commentaries. It is shown, first, that the relationships among the nine mss, as depicted in the stemma, do not correlate at all with the classification into ‘old’ and ‘new’ presented in Somadasa’s catalogue. It is also shown that the disagreements among the three identified ms. groups are not so marked or so extensive as to indicate two distinct tìkás by two different authors; nor do the disagreements provide any grounds for characterizing one group as ‘old’ and another as ‘new’.
The principal research question having been addressed, I turn to the associated question of authorship. Since at least the 12th century the authorship of nikáyaþìkás, particularly MAÞ, has been confusedly ascribed to two different individuals, Ácariya Dhammapála and Sáriputta of Poÿonnaruva. I address this issue by considering the statements made in Páli bibliographical sources in the light of the findings of my research into the two sample sutta-tìkás.