Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

‘Milinda's Questions’, being the title of an important Pāli work that records the conversations between the 1st century ce Bactrian King Milinda (or Menander), and the monk Nāgasena. Milinda is probably a Bactrian king of Śākala in the east Punjab who ruled in the 2nd to 1st centuries bce (see also India). The initial part of the text (also in Chinese translation) probably dates from the 1st century ce, although most of the work was written in Sri Lanka at a later date. The work is often quoted by Buddhaghoṣa. Nāgasena makes use of illustrations, similes, and metaphors in a lively conversational style to resolve problems and dilemmas in Buddhist doctrine pointed out by the king. The discussions concern questions such as how there can be rebirth in the absence of a self (ātman), how there can be moral responsibility without an enduring ego.why the evil prosper and the innocent suffer, and why the scriptures often seem to be in contradiction. The most famous simile is that of a chariot used to illustrate the doctrine of no-self (anātman). Just as a chariot is simply the sum of its constituent parts, namely the wheels, yoke, axles, etc., so a human being is said to be simply the sum of the five aggregates (skandha). Although individuals bear a name (e.g. Nāgasena), in the ultimate sense there is no self or essence corresponding to it. At the conclusion of the debate Milinda becomes a Buddhist lay disciple.

Subjects: Buddhism.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.