views updated


The Milindapañha, or Milinda's Questions, is a Pāli text that, though normally regarded as extracanonical, is nonetheless accepted in Myanmar (Burma) as part of the Khuddakanikāya of the Pali canon. Possibly based on a Sanskrit or Prakrit original, it dates prior to the fourth century c.e., when it—or the Sanskrit original—was translated into Chinese. Some even surmise that the original text was written in Greek.

In general, the text records a series of conversations between the Buddhist monk Nāgasena and the Bactrian Indo-Greek king Milinda (also called Menander), who ruled northwestern India from Sāgalā (modern Siālkot) during the second century b.c.e. Its main thrust lies in eighty-one dilemmas, couched in Socratic dialogue, in which Milinda seeks to reconcile what appear to him to be contradictory statements by the Buddha in the Pāli canon. Most notable of these is Milinda's inability to reconcile the supposed doctrine of anattā (Sanskrit, anātman; no-self) and the Buddha's belief in rebirth, which Nāgasena skillfully resolves with his account of the chariot, in which he demonstrates that the terms self and chariot are simply concepts superimposed upon what is in fact merely a collection of parts.

Although clearly regarded as authoritative by the scholar Buddhaghosa, who quotes from it in his Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification) and other commentaries (Horner, vol. I, p. xx), the text seemingly evinces Sarvāstivādin influence in maintaining that both nibbāna (nirvĀṆa) and space are without cause, whereas for the Theravāda only nibbana is non-compounded.

See also:Pāli, Buddhist Literature in


Horner, I. B., trans. Milinda's Questions, 2 vols. London: Luzac, 1963–1964.

Peter Masefield