Tripiṭaka, also referred to as Tipiṭaka, is the traditional term for the Buddhist scriptures. The version canonical to Theravada Buddhism is often referred to as Pali Canon in English. Mahayana
Buddhism also reveres the Tripitaka as authoritative but, unlike
Theravadins, it also reveres various derivative literature and
commentaries that were composed much later.
The Tripitakas were composed between about 500 BCE to about
the start of the common era, likely written down for the first time in
the 1st century BCE. The Dipavamsa states that during the reign of Valagamba of Anuradhapura
(29–17 BCE) the monks who had previously remembered the Tipitaka and
its commentary orally now wrote them down in books, because of the
threat posed by famine and war. The Mahavamsa
also refers briefly to the writing down of the canon and the
commentaries at this time. Each Buddhist sub-tradition had its own
Tripitaka for its monasteries, written by its sangha, each set consisting of 32 books, in three parts or baskets of teachings: (1) the basket of expected discipline from monks (Vinaya Piṭaka), (2) basket of discourse (Sūtra Piṭaka, Nikayas), and (3) basket of special doctrine (Abhidharma Piṭaka).
The structure, the code of conduct and moral virtues in the Vinaya
basket particularly, have similarities to some of the surviving Dharmasutra texts of Hinduism. Much of the surviving Tripitaka literature is in Pali, with some in Sanskrit as well as other local Asian languages.
Tripiṭaka, also called Tipiṭaka (Pali), means Three Baskets. and pitaka (पिटक) or pita (पिट) meaning “basket or box made from bamboo or wood” and “collection of writings”, according to Monier-Williams. These terms are also spelled without diacritics as Tripitaka and Tipitaka in scholarly literature.
The dating of the Tripitakas is unclear. Max Muller
states that the texts were likely composed in the third century BCE,
but transmitted orally from generation to generation just like the Vedas
and the early Upanishads.
The first version, suggests Muller, was very likely reduced to writing
in the 1st century BCE (nearly 500 years after the time of Buddha).
According to the Tibetan historian Bu-ston, states Warder, around or
before 1st century CE, there were eighteen schools of Buddhism and their
Tripitakas were written down by then.
However, except for one version that has survived in full, and others
of which parts have survived, all of these texts are lost to history or
yet to be found.
The tripitaka was compiled into writing for the first time during the
reign of King Walagambahu of Sri Lanka (1st century BCE). It’s written
in the Sri Lankan history that more than 1000monks who were already
Arahath state (totally awakened)represented in writing. The place where
they carried out was in Aluvihare Matale Sri Lanka.
These texts were written down in four related Indo-European languages
of South Asia: Sanskrit, Pali, Paisaci and Prakrit, sometime between 1st
century BCE and 7th century CE.
Some of these were translated in East Asian languages such as Chinese,
Tibetan and Mongolian by ancient visiting scholars, which though vast
Wu and Chia state that emerging evidence, though uncertain, suggests
that the earliest written Buddhist Tripitaka texts may have arrived in
China from India by the 1st century BCE.
Tripitaka comprises the three main categories of texts that is the
Buddhist canon. The three parts of the Pāli canon are not as
contemporary as the traditional Buddhist account seems to suggest: the
Sūtra Piṭaka is older than the Vinaya Piṭaka, and the Abhidharma Piṭaka
represents scholastic developments originated at least two centuries
after the other two parts of the canon. The Vinaya Piṭaka appears to
have grown gradually as a commentary and justification of the monastic
code (Prātimokṣa), which presupposes a transition from a community of
wandering mendicants (the Sūtra Piṭaka period ) to a more sedentary
monastic community (the Vinaya Piṭaka period). Even within the Sūtra
Piṭaka it is possible to detect older and later texts.
The Buddha delivered all his sermons in local language[clarification needed]
of northern India. These sermons were collected during 1st assembly
just after the Parinibbana of the Buddha. Later these teachings were
translated into Sanskrit.
The 6th century CE Indian monk Paramārtha wrote that 200 years after the parinirvāṇa of the Buddha, much of the Mahāsāṃghika school moved north of Rājagṛha, and were divided over whether the Mahāyāna sūtras
should be incorporated formally into their Tripiṭaka. According to this
account, they split into three groups based upon the relative manner
and degree to which they accepted the authority of these Mahāyāna texts. Paramārtha states that the Kukkuṭika sect did not accept the Mahāyāna sūtras as buddhavacana (”words of the Buddha”), while the Lokottaravāda sect and the Ekavyāvahārika sect did accept the Mahāyāna sūtras as buddhavacana.
Also in the 6th century CE, Avalokitavrata writes of the Mahāsāṃghikas
using a “Great Āgama Piṭaka,” which is then associated with Mahāyāna
sūtras such as the Prajñāparamitā and the Daśabhūmika Sūtra.
According to some sources, abhidharma was not accepted as canonical by the Mahāsāṃghika school. The Theravādin Dīpavaṃsa, for example, records that the Mahāsāṃghikas had no abhidharma. However, other sources indicate that there were such collections of abhidharma, and the Chinese pilgrims Faxian and Xuanzang both mention Mahāsāṃghika abhidharma. On the basis of textual evidence as well as inscriptions at Nāgārjunakoṇḍā,
Joseph Walser concludes that at least some Mahāsāṃghika sects probably
had an abhidharma collection, and that it likely contained five or six
included a number of sub-sects including the Pūrvaśailas, Aparaśailas,
Siddhārthikas, and Rājagirikas. In the 6th century CE, Avalokitavrata
writes that Mahāyāna sūtras such as the Prajñāparamitā and others are chanted by the Aparaśailas and the Pūrvaśailas. Also in the 6th century CE, Bhāvaviveka speaks of the Siddhārthikas using a Vidyādhāra Piṭaka, and the Pūrvaśailas and Aparaśailas both using a Bodhisattva Piṭaka, implying collections of Mahāyāna texts within these Caitika schools.
The Bahuśrutīya school is said to have included a Bodhisattva Piṭaka in their canon. The Satyasiddhi Śāstra, also called the Tattvasiddhi Śāstra,
is an extant abhidharma from the Bahuśrutīya school. This abhidharma
was translated into Chinese in sixteen fascicles (Taishō Tripiṭaka
Its authorship is attributed to Harivarman, a third-century monk from
central India. Paramārtha cites this Bahuśrutīya abhidharma as
containing a combination of Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna doctrines, and Joseph Walser agrees that this assessment is correct.
The Prajñaptivādins held that the Buddha’s teachings in the various piṭakas were nominal (Skt. prajñapti), conventional (Skt. saṃvṛti), and causal (Skt. hetuphala).
Therefore, all teachings were viewed by the Prajñaptivādins as being of
provisional importance, since they cannot contain the ultimate truth.
It has been observed that this view of the Buddha’s teachings is very
close to the fully developed position of the Mahāyāna sūtras.
Scholars at present have “a nearly complete collection of sūtras from the Sarvāstivāda school” thanks to a recent discovery in Afghanistan of roughly two-thirds of Dīrgha Āgama in Sanskrit. The Madhyama Āgama (Taishō Tripiṭaka
26) was translated by Gautama Saṃghadeva, and is available in Chinese.
The Saṃyukta Āgama (Taishō Tripiṭaka 99) was translated by Guṇabhadra,
also available in Chinese translation. The Sarvāstivāda is therefore
the only early school besides the Theravada for which we have a roughly
complete Sūtra Piṭaka. The Sārvāstivāda Vinaya Piṭaka is also extant in
Chinese translation, as are the seven books of the Sarvāstivāda
Abhidharma Piṭaka. There is also the encyclopedic Abhidharma Mahāvibhāṣa Śāstra (Taishō Tripiṭaka 1545), which was held as canonical by the Vaibhāṣika Sarvāstivādins of northwest India.
Portions of the Mūlasārvāstivāda Tripiṭaka survive in Tibetan translation and Nepalese manuscripts.
The relationship of the Mūlasārvāstivāda school to Sarvāstivāda school
is indeterminate; their vinayas certainly differed but it is not clear
that their Sūtra Piṭaka did. The Gilgit manuscripts may contain Āgamas
from the Mūlasārvāstivāda school in Sanskrit. The Mūlasārvāstivāda Vinaya Piṭaka survives in Tibetan
translation and also in Chinese translation (Taishō Tripiṭaka 1442).
The Gilgit manuscripts also contain vinaya texts from the
Mūlasārvāstivāda school in Sanskrit.
A complete version of the Dīrgha Āgama (Taishō Tripiṭaka 1) of the Dharmaguptaka school was translated into Chinese by Buddhayaśas and Zhu Fonian (竺佛念) in the Later Qin dynasty, dated to 413 CE. It contains 30 sūtras in contrast to the 34 suttas of the Theravadin Dīgha Nikāya. A. K. Warder also associates the extant Ekottara Āgama (Taishō Tripiṭaka 125) with the Dharmaguptaka school, due to the number of rules for monastics, which corresponds to the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya. The Dharmaguptaka Vinaya is also extant in Chinese translation (Taishō Tripiṭaka 1428), and Buddhist monastics in East Asia adhere to the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya.
The Dharmaguptaka Tripiṭaka is said to have contained a total of five piṭakas. These included a Bodhisattva Piṭaka and a Mantra Piṭaka (Ch. 咒藏), also sometimes called a Dhāraṇī Piṭaka.
According to the 5th century Dharmaguptaka monk Buddhayaśas, the
translator of the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya into Chinese, the Dharmaguptaka
school had assimilated the Mahāyāna Tripiṭaka (Ch. 大乘三藏).
The Mahīśāsaka Vinaya is preserved in Chinese translation (Taishō Tripiṭaka 1421), translated by Buddhajīva and Zhu Daosheng in 424 CE.
Small portions of the Tipiṭaka of the Kāśyapīya
school survive in Chinese translation. An incomplete Chinese
translation of the Saṃyukta Āgama of the Kāśyapīya school by an unknown
translator circa the Three Qin (三秦) period (352-431 CE) survives.
In the Theravada school
The complete Tripiṭaka set of the Theravāda school is written and preserved in Pali in the Pali Canon. Buddhists of the Theravāda school use the Pali variant Tipitaka to refer what is commonly known in English as the Pali Canon.
In Mahāyāna schools
The term Tripiṭaka
had tended to become synonymous with Buddhist scriptures, and thus
continued to be used for the Chinese and Tibetan collections, although
their general divisions do not match a strict division into three
piṭakas. In the Chinese tradition, the texts are classified in a variety of ways, most of which have in fact four or even more piṭakas or other divisions.
As a title
The Chinese form of Tripiṭaka,
“sānzàng” (三藏), was sometimes used as an honorary title for a Buddhist
monk who has mastered the teachings of the Tripiṭaka. In Chinese culture
this is notable in the case of the Tang Dynasty monk Xuanzang, whose pilgrimage to India to study and bring Buddhist texts back to China was portrayed in the novel Journey to the West
as “Tang Sanzang” (Tang Dynasty Tripiṭaka Master). Due to the
popularity of the novel, the term “sānzàng” is often erroneously
understood as a name of the monk Xuanzang. One such screen version of this is the popular 1979 Monkey (TV series).
1. The upper half shows a text in Sanskrit (praise of Vishnu) written in Devanagari while the lower half shows a text in Pali from a Buddhist ceremonial scripture called “Kammuwa” from Burma, probably in the Mon script.
1. A school slogan asking elementary students to speak Putonghua is annotated with pinyin, but without tonal marks. 2. In Yiling, Yichang, Hubei, text on road signs appears both in Chinese characters and in Hanyu Pinyin 4. This table may be a useful reference for IPA vowel symbols
1. Old sign from the JNR era at Toyooka Station
shows inconsistent romanization. Although in principle Hepburn is used,
Kokuhu is the kunrei-shiki form (would be Kokufu in Hepburn).
1. Map showing the three major Buddhist divisions. 2.Ashoka and Moggaliputta-Tissa at the Third Council, at the Nava Jetavana, Shravasti 3. Sanghamitta and the Bodhi Tree 4. Mihintale, the traditional location of Devanampiya Tissa’s conversion
1. Standard edition of the Thai Pali Canon 2. In pre-modern times the Pali Canon was not published in book form, but written on thin slices of wood (Palm-leaf manuscript or Bamboo). The leaves are kept on top of each other by thin sticks and the scripture is covered in cloth and kept in a box. 3. Burmese-Pali manuscript copy of the Buddhist text Mahaniddesa, showing three different types of Burmese script, (top) medium square, (centre) round and (bottom) outline round in red lacquer from the inside of one of the gilded covers
Valagamba (Sinhala: වළගම්බා), also known as Vattagamani Abhaya and Valagambahu, was a king of the Anuradhapura Kingdom of Sri Lanka. Five months after becoming king, he was overthrown by a rebellion and an invasion from South India, but regained the throne by defeating the invaders after fourteen years. He is also known for the construction of the
The Abhayagiri Stupa, built by Valagamba
Sangha (Pali: saṅgha; Sanskrit: saṃgha; Thai: พระสงฆ์; Chinese: 僧伽; pinyin: Sēngjiā; Wylie: dge ‘dun) is a word in Pali and Sanskrit meaning “association”, “assembly”, “company” or “community” and most commonly refers in Buddhism to the monastic community of bhikkhus (monks) and bhikkhunis (nuns). These communities are traditionally referred to
2. Sangha (Luang Prabang, Laos) 3. Gautama Buddha and his followers, holding begging bowls, receive offerings: from an 18th-century Burmese watercolour 4.Upāsakas and Upāsikās performing a short chanting ceremony at Three Ancestors Temple, Anhui, China
1. The Buddha preaching the Abhidharma in Trāyastriṃśa heaven. 2. The main entrance of the Aluvihare Rock Temple, where the Tipitaka was first written down 3. Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosa is a major source in Tibetan and Chinese Buddhism.
1. Copy of a royal land grant, recorded on copper plate, made by Chalukya King Tribhuvana Malla Deva in 1083 2. A facsimile of an inscription in Oriya script on a copper plate recording a land grant made by Rāja Purushottam Deb, king of Odisha,
in the fifth year of his reign (1483). Land grants made by royal
decree were protected by law, with deeds often being recorded on metal
1. Max Müller as a young man 2. Portrait of the elderly Max Müller by George Frederic Watts, 1894–1895 3. 1875 ‘’Vanity Fair'’
caricature of Müller confirming that, at the age of fifty-one, with
numerous honours, he was one of the truly notable “Men of the Day”.
1. The Tripiṭaka Koreana in storage at Haeinsa. 2. Tripiṭaka Koreana sutra page in 1371.
and numbering of Buddhist councils vary between and even within
schools. The numbering here is normal in Western writings. — First
Buddhist council (c. 400 BCE) — According to the scriptures of all
Buddhist schools, the first Buddhist Council was held soon after the
death of the Buddha, dated by the majority of recent scholars around 400 BCE,
In Buddhism, the term anattā (Pali) or anātman (Sanskrit) refers to the doctrine of “non-self”, that there is no unchanging, permanent self, soul or essence in living beings. It is one of the seven beneficial perceptions in Buddhism, and along with Dukkha (suffering) and Anicca (impermanence), it is one of three Right Understandings about the
(Sanskrit: प्रतीत्यसमुत्पाद; Pali: पटिच्चसमुप्पाद paṭiccasamuppāda),
commonly translated as dependent origination, or dependent arising,
states that all dharmas (”things”) arise in dependence upon other
dharmas: “if this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that
also ceases to exist.” The principle is applied in the
(Sanskrit; Pali: suññatā), translated into English as emptiness and
voidness, is a Buddhist concept which has multiple meanings depending on
its doctrinal context. It is either an ontological feature of reality, a
meditation state, or a phenomenological analysis of experience. — In Theravada Buddhism, suññatā often refers to the not-self
1. A simile from the Pali scriptures (SN 22.95) compares form and feelings with foam and bubbles. 2. The emptiness of phenomena is often compared to drops of dew
1. A thangka showing the bhavacakra
with the ancient five cyclic realms of saṃsāra in Buddhist cosmology.
Medieval and contemporary texts typically describe six realms of
reincarnation. 2. Hungry Ghosts realm of Buddhist samsara, a 12th-century painting from Kyoto Japan 3. In
some Buddhist traditions, rebirth is envisioned to occur in more than
six realms of existence. Above ten realms depiction in Vietnam.