Many for One: An Exegetical Method in Mahāvihāra Buddhism

Aruna Keerthi Gamage


The Theriya/Mahāvihāra exegetes teach their audience to read a text, especially the canon , without always sticking to the literal meaning. The intended meaning of such words occurring in the Tipiṭaka is narrower than their literal meaning would suggest. If one does not clearly see these semantic shifts, one is likely to proffer many misinterpretations that were never intended by the original authors of these texts. When exegetes of the Mahāvihāra school encounter an expression in the canon whose literal meaning does not fully or partially match the relevant context, they offer specific hermeneutical strategies to teach the reader to properly understand that expression. This article provides examples of how the authors of Aṭṭhakathās interpret some words with semantic transpositions found in the Tipiṭaka as well as how the authors of Ṭīkās interpret such words found in the Aṭṭhakathās, examining the relevance of these interpretations in understanding the teachings—both in the canon and commentaries—of the Mahāvihāra school.

Full Text:

 Subscribers Only


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2023 Aruna Keerthi Gamage