According to the texts themselves, the Vinaya Piṭaka and Sutta Piṭaka are from the time of the historical Buddha (ca. For centuries afterwards, this oral tradition was systematically perpetuated by monastics.These discourses were translated into different dialects and different redactions arose.It has been reported that Buddhist monks chanted the Mettā Sutta as part of their demonstration in September and October 2007 against the military in Burma.
Thus, the inclusion of the Metta Sutta in this compendium suggests that the discourse may have originally been part of the Sutta Nipāta and then subsequently incorporated into the Khuddakapaṭha; moreover, it underlines this discourse's preceived value to ancient redactors.
In the Pali Canon, most discourses involve instruction explicitly attributed to the Buddha or one of his disciples.
While it is not necessarily apparent to English readers, this discourse is written in a poetic meter (for more information on this meter, see the "Primer on Pali versification").
This naturally gives rise to the question: Is it possible that the historical Buddha actually articulated a discourse in verse form?
Based on an analysis of the Metta Sutta's poetic meter and the current understanding of the historical development of Pali and Sanskrit meters, Pali prosody scholar A. Warder writes: All the poems quoted so far seem to belong to the earliest phase represented in the extant Buddhist literature.
The [Metta Sutta] is possibly as much as a century later, and may be dated to about 400 B. Here the ethical and social teaching of the Buddha is put into metrical form, and the poem is certainly for circulation in society, not merely for private recitation by monks....
The Pali Canon is believed to have been first written down in the first century BC.
The Metta Sutta is found in the Sutta Piṭaka's fifth and final collection, Khuddaka Nikāya.
While none of these sources can lead to an incontrovertible conclusion as to this discourse's origins, they allow one to understand analytically some of the strengths and weaknesses of various hypotheses.