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A great treatise whose name means the ‘Great Book of Alternatives’ or ‘Great Book of Options’, compiled probably during the 3rd century ce in Gandhāra under the patronage of King Kaniṣka II. It is traditionally believed to have been composed at the Council of Kaniṣka, held in the reign of Kaniṣka I, but this is unlikely since the text contains a specific reference to the ‘former king Kaniṣka’. Moreover, inscriptions and recent finds in Afghanistan suggest that it is unlikely that Sanskrit was used by any Buddhists before the 2nd century ce. The treatise is a commentary on a fundamental work of Abhidharma.the Jñānaprasthāna (Basis of Knowledge) of Katyāyanaputra, a Sarvāstivādin philosopher. Also known as the Vibhāṣā, the text is an encyclopedia of the views of the Vaibhāṣika school and records the views of distinguished teachers of different schools on technical points of doctrine. The Mahāvibhāṣā survives only in three Chinese translations, and a partial translation made into Tibetan is now no longer extant. The Chinese translation contains additional material not found in the Sanskrit fragments that have been recovered. The Mahāvibhāṣā formed the basis of debate between the schools of the Hīnayāna (Small Vehicle) for many centuries, and many shorter treatises such as Vasubandhu's Abhidharma-kośa were composed to criticize and supplement it.

Subjects: Buddhism.

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