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The term refers to the Buddhist scriptures, written in Pali and preserved in the Hinayana ( = "lesser vehicle") or Theravada ( = way of the elders) school of Buddhism.


No written records of the Buddha's teachings were kept during his lifetime. Shortly after the Buddha's death in 543 BC the First Buddhist Council met in Rajagaha to establish the Pali Canon. It wasn't until the 83 B.C and the Fourth Buddhist Council, held in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), that the Canon was committed to writing on ola leaves. In 1871 the Canon the inscribed on 729 marble slabs at the foot of Mandalay Hill (now Mayanmar, Burma) under the direction of the Fifth Buddhist Council. Finally, in 1954 the Great Buddhist Council, held in Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon), confirmed the Pali Canon and in addition re-examined and approved the commentaries and sub-commentaries.


The word Tripitaka means literally "three baskets" and were developed over 45 years of the Buddha's ministry. They are:

  • Vinaya pitaka = "Basket of Discipline"
  • The Vinaya contains the code of rules used by monks and nuns to regulate their behavior as individuals (the Patimokkha) In addition, the Vinaya contains regulations that encourage the harmonious functioning of the community as a whole.
  • Sutta pitaka = Conventional Teachings
  • The Sutta Pitaka consists of over 10,000 suttas ( = "verses"), or discourses of the Buddha plus many additional verses by other members of the Sangha or Buddhist monks.
    The suttas are grouped into five nikayas( = "collections"):
    • Digha Nikaya - the "Long" Discourses (Pali digha = "long"), consisting of 34 suttas, including the well-known Maha-Satipatthana Sutta ( = "The Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness"), the Samaññaphala Sutta ( = "The Fruits of the Contemplative Life"), the Maha-Parinibbana Sutta (The Buddha's Last Days), and many others.

    • Majjhima Nikaya - The "Middle-length" Discourses (Pali majjhima = "middle"), which consists of 152 suttas of varying length.

    • Samyutta Nikaya - The "Grouped" Discourses (Pali samyutta = "group" or "collection"), grouped together by theme.

    • Anguttara Nikaya - The "Further-factored" Discourses (Pali anga = "factor" + uttara = "beyond," "further"), which consists of 8,777 short suttas, assembled in 11 groups.

    • Khuddaka Nikaya - The "Division of Short Books" (Pali khudda = "smaller," "lesser"), consisting of 15 books (17 in the Thai edition; 18 in the Burmese), including the Dhammapada (which eventually should be noded), Therigatha (Verses of the Elder Nuns), Theragatha (Verses of the Elder Monks), etc.
  • Abhidhamma pitaka = Higher Teachings of the Buddha
  • This deals with ultimate realities in the Universe and Nibbana (=Sanskrit nirvana). It is generally conceded that this is the most difficult and most essential of the Tipitaka. It consists of the following divisions:
    • Dhammasangani - ("Enumeration of Phenomena"), listing the ultimate realities found in the world.

    • Vibhanga ("The Book of Treatises"). - This book continues the analysis of the previous division in the form of a catechism.

    • Dhatukatha ("Discussion with Reference to the Elements"). - A repeat of the foregoing, in the form of questions and answers.

    • Puggalapaññatti ("Description of Individuals"). - This division describes personality types.

    • Kathavatthu ("Points of Controversy"). A compilation of questions and answers to clarify a 3rd century controversy that existed among the various "Hinayana" schools.

    • Yamaka ("The Book of Pairs"). - A logical analysis of many concepts presented in the earlier books.

    • Patthana ("The Book of Relations"). - The longest single volume in the Tipitaka (over 6,000 pages long in one edition), describing the laws of conditionality, through which the dhammas ( = Sanskrit dharma) interact. These laws give rise to all knowable experience.
    Reference: http://web.ukonline.co.uk/buddhism//tipitaka.htm

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