The Apadāna is a collection of biographical stories found in the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Pāli Canon, the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism. It is thought by most scholars to be a late addition to the canon, composed during the 1st and 2nd century BCE. The title Apadāna perhaps means 'life history' or 'legend' in Pāli; it has the additional, older meaning of advice or moral instruction; Dr Sally Cutler has suggested the word originally meant 'reapings', i.e. of the results of karma. The title is sometimes translated as the Biographical Stories, or simply as The Stories.
The Apadāna consists of about 600 poems (between 589 and 603 in different editions), mostly biographical stories of monks and nuns. Many of the stories of monks and nuns are expansions of, or otherwise related to, verses presented in the Theragatha and Therigatha as having been spoken by senior members of the early Sangha. Most Apadāna stories follow a fairly predictable outline, in which the speaker recounts their meritorious deeds in previous births as ethical individuals in a variety of different circumstances in different parts of India, before finally recounting the story of their present birth and how they came to be disciples of the Buddha. These stories of the previous lives of famous and not so famous monks and nuns may have been meant to provide moral examples to lay followers who wished to live as Buddhists but were unable or unwilling to undertake ordination as an ascetic.
A complete translation of the Apadāna into English is yet to be completed. The following have been translated into English.
- Buddhapadana (the 1st), tr Dwijendralal Barua, in B.C. Law Volume, Part II, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, 1946, pages 186-9
- Paccekabuddhapadana (the 2nd), tr Ria Kloppenborg, in The Paccekabuddha, E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1974
- Ratthapalapadana, tr Mabel Bode, in Mélanges d'Indianisme offerts par ses élèves à S. Lévi, Paris, 1911
- Pubbakammapilotikabuddhapadana, in The Udana Commentary, tr Peter Masefield, Pali Text Society, Bristol, volume II
- 25 of the last 40 apadanas (the nuns) are included in Commentary on Verses of Theris, tr William Pruitt, 1998, Pali Text Society, Bristol.