The thirteenth division of the Khuddaka Nikáya. It is a Buddhist Vitae Sanctorum and contains 547 biographies of monks and forty biographies of nuns, all mentioned as having lived in the time of the Buddha. The Cy. gives details of eleven more theras not found in the text: Yasa, Nadíkassapa, Gayákassapa, Kimbila, Vajjiputta, Uttara, Apara-Uttara, Bhaddaji, Sivika, Upavána and Ralthapála.
In addition to these, there are two introductory chapters, the Buddhá-padána and the Paccekabuddhá-padána, dealing with the Buddha and the Pacceka Buddhas respectively. It is worth noting that the Buddhá-padána contains no account of the Buddha's life, either as Gotama or earlier, as Bodhisatta (see, however, Pubbakammapiloti). Nor does the Paccekabuddhá-padána contain any life-histories. The stanzas are what might be more appropriately described as udána, and appear in the Khaggavisána Sutta of the Sutta Nipáta. Cp. the Mahápadána Sutta (D.ii.1ff), where the word Apadána is used as meaning the legend or life-story of a Buddha or a Great One - in this case the seven Buddhas. Or does Mahápadána mean the Great Story, i.e. the story of the Dhamma and its bearers and promulgation: cp. the title of the Mahávastu (Dial.ii.3).
Most of the stories are found in the Paramatthadípaní, the Commentary to the Thera- and Therígáthá, extracted from the Apadána with the introductory words, "tena vuttam Apadáne." But in numerous instances the names under which the verses appear in the Paramatthadípaní differ from those subjoined to the verses in the Apadána. In several cases it is a matter of the Commentary giving a name while the Apadána gives only a title. E.g., Usabha Thera (ThagA.i.320), called Kosumbaphaliya (Ap.ii.449); and Isidinna (ThagA.i.312), called (Ap.ii.415) Sumanavíjaniya.
Sometimes the stories are duplicated in the Apadána itself, the same story occurring in two places with a very slight alteration in words, even the name of the person spoken of being the same. Most often no reason can be assigned for this, except, perhaps, careless editing. E.g., Annasamsávaka i Ap.i.78 and again i.261; see also the Introduction to the P.T.S. Edition.
The Apadána is regarded as one of the very latest books in the Canon, one reason for this view being that while later books like the Buddhavamsa mention only twenty-four Buddhas previous to Gotama, the Apadána contains the names of thirty-five. It is very probable that the different legends in the collection are of different dates. On these and other matters connected with the Apadána, see Rhys Davids article in ERE. and Muller's Les Apadánas du Sud (Congress of Orientalists, Leyden, 1895).
According to the Sumangala Vilásiní (i.15. See also Przyluski: La Legende de l'Empereur Acoka, pp. viii f., 214), the Díghabhánakas, who included the Khuddaka Nikáya in the Abhidhammapitaka, did not recognise the Apadána. The Majjhimabhánakas included it in the Khuddaka Nikáya, which they regarded as belonging to the Suttapitaka. There is a Commentary to the Apadána called the Visuddhajanavilásiní.
According to Gv. (p. 69) the Commentary on the Apadána was written by Buddhaghosa at the request of five monks.