Dating direc t
pp 3,71] so it is probably his story that is the older of the two.
However, the Mahāvaṃsa was written much later, by Mahānāma at the beginning of the 6th century A.
The Milinda Pañha is an ancient and much venerated book of the Buddhists, indeed regarded so highly as to be included by the Burmese in the Pāḷi Canon. Rhys Davids, the most able translator of the Pāḷi texts, regarded the Milinda Pañha very highly.
In the Pāḷi book it says that the conversations between King Milinda and Nāgasena took place five hundred years after the Parinibbāna of the Buddha. He said, “I venture to think that the The style of the Milinda Pañha is very much like a Platonic dialogue, Nāgasena playing the part of Socrates and winning over King Milinda to the Buddhist view point by his sound reasoning and his fitting similes.
Both translations are literary and, in many places literal, therefore they were mainly confined to scholars.
His primary aim is to clarify Buddhist doctrine and to refute the wrong views promulgated by various opponents of Buddhism.
The introductory story in the Milinda Pañha concerning Nāgasena’s upbringing is almost identical to the story of the young Moggaliputta Tissa, which is told in the Mahāvaṃsa, the Ceylon Chronicles.
Moggaliputta Tissa Thera lived about a hundred years before Menander and is mentioned twice in the text [Miln.
But Menander left a far deeper mark on the tradition of India than did Demetrius.³ Menander annexed the Indus delta, the peninsula of Surastra (Kathiavar), occupied Mathura on the Jumna, besieged Madyamika (Nagari near Chitor) and Saketam in southern Oudh, and threatened the capital, Pāṭaliputta.
But the invasion was repulsed and Menander was forced to return to his own country.⁴ Since the Bactrians later became Buddhists there can be little doubt that King Menander is indeed the King Milinda referred to in the book.
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I presume this debate was conducted in the Bactrian Greek language but was later translated into Pali and Sanskrit.