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
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.
3 The three categories
4 In Indian Buddhist schools
5 In the
7 As a title
8 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
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
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 1000 monks 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 are incomplete.
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.
The three categories
The woodblock of
Tripitaka Koreana in Haeinsa, Hapcheon, South Korea.
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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
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
Main article: Vinaya
Rules and regulations of monastic life that range from dress code and
dietary rules to prohibitions of certain personal conducts.
Part of a series on
Four Noble Truths
Buddhist Paths to liberation
Aids to Enlightenment
Buddhism by country
Mahayana sutra and Sutta Pitaka
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.
Main article: Abhidharma
Philosophical and psychological discourse and interpretation of
In Indian Buddhist schools
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Each of the
Early Buddhist Schools
Early Buddhist Schools likely had their own recensions of
the Tripiṭaka. According to some sources, there were some Indian
Buddhism that had five or seven piṭakas.
Vinaya was translated by Buddhabhadra and Faxian
in 416 CE, and is preserved in Chinese translation (Taishō
The 6th century CE Indian monk Paramārtha wrote that 200 years after
the parinirvāṇa of the Buddha, much of the
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
Mahāyāna sūtras such as the Prajñāparamitā and
the Daśabhūmika Sūtra.
According to some sources, abhidharma was not accepted as canonical by
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
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 books.
The Caitikas 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
implying collections of
Mahāyāna texts within these Caitika
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
Tripiṭaka 1646). Its authorship is attributed
to Harivarman, a third-century monk from central India. Paramārtha
cites this Bahuśrutīya abhidharma as containing a combination of
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
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
Abhidharma Piṭaka. There is also the encyclopedic
Abhidharma Mahāvibhāṣa Śāstra (Taishō
Tripiṭaka 1545), which
was held as canonical by the Vaibhāṣika Sarvāstivādins of
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
Tripiṭaka 1442). The Gilgit manuscripts also
contain vinaya texts from the Mūlasārvāstivāda school in
See also: Gandhāran Buddhist texts
A complete version of the Dīrgha Āgama (Taishō
Tripiṭaka 1) of
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
A. K. Warder also associates the extant Ekottara
Tripiṭaka 125) with the
Dharmaguptaka school, due to
the number of rules for monastics, which corresponds to the
Dharmaguptaka Vinaya. The
Vinaya is also extant in
Chinese translation (Taishō
Tripiṭaka 1428), and Buddhist monastics
East Asia adhere to the
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
Buddhayaśas, the translator of the
Vinaya into Chinese,
Dharmaguptaka school had assimilated the
Vinaya is preserved in Chinese translation (Taishō
Tripiṭaka 1421), translated by Buddhajīva and
Zhu Daosheng in 424
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.
Tripiṭaka set of the
Theravāda school is written and
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
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
Journey to the West
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
The modern Indian scholar
Rahul Sankrityayan is sometimes referred to
as Tripitakacharya in reflection of his familiarity with the
Early Buddhist Texts
Zhaocheng Jin Tripitaka
^ a b c d Tipitaka Encyclopædia Britannica (2015)
^ "Buddhist Books and Texts: Canon and Canonization." Lewis Lancaster,
Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd edition, pg 1252
^ a b c Barbara Crandall (2012). Gender and Religion, 2nd Edition: The
Dark Side of Scripture. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 56–58.
^ a b Richard F. Gombrich (2006).
Theravada Buddhism: A Social History
from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. Routledge. p. 4.
^ Oskar von Hinuber (1995), Buddhist Law according to the Theravada
Vinaya: A Survey of Theory and Practice, Journal of International
Association of Buddhist Studies, volume 18, number 1, pages 7-46
^ Sir Monier Monier-Williams; Ernst Leumann; Carl Cappeller (2002). A
Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Etymologically and Philologically
Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages.
Motilal Banarsidass. p. 625. ISBN 978-81-208-3105-6.
^ a b Friedrich Max Müller (1899). The Six Systems of Indian
Philosophy. Longmans, Green. pp. 19–29.
^ a b c d
A. K. Warder (2000). Indian Buddhism. Motilal Banarsidass.
pp. 282–283. ISBN 978-81-208-1741-8.
A. K. Warder (2000). Indian Buddhism. Motilal Banarsidass.
p. 3. ISBN 978-81-208-1741-8.
^ Jiang Wu; Lucille Chia (2015). Spreading Buddha's Word in East Asia:
The Formation and Transformation of the Chinese Buddhist Canon.
Columbia University Press. pp. 111–123.
^ Skilling, Peter (1992), The Raksa Literature of the Sravakayana,
Journal of the
Pali Text Society, volume XVI, page 114
^ Walser 2005, p. 51.
^ Sree Padma. Barber, Anthony W.
Buddhism in the Krishna River Valley
of Andhra. 2008. p. 68.
^ a b c Walser 2005, p. 53.
^ "Abhidhamma Pitaka." Encyclopædia Britannica. Ultimate Reference
Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2008.
^ Walser 2005, p. 213.
^ Walser 2005, p. 212-213.
^ The Korean Buddhist Canon: A Descriptive Catalog (K 966)
^ a b Walser 2005, p. 52.
^ a b Dutt 1998, p. 118.
^ a b Harris 1991, p. 98.
Bhikkhu Sujato: The
Pali Nikāyas and Chinese Āgamas
^ Preservation of
Sanskrit Buddhist Manuscripts In the Kathmandu
^ a b Memory Of The World Register: Gilgit manuscripts[permanent dead
^ Warder, A.K. Indian Buddhism. 2000. p. 6
^ Baruah, Bibhuti. Buddhist Sects and Sectarianism. 2008. p. 52
^ Walser 2005, p. 52-53.
^ A Dictionary of Buddhism, by Damien Keown, Oxford University Press:
^ Matthew Meghaprasara (2013). New Guide To The Tipitaka: A Complete
Guide To The
Pali Buddhist Canon. A
Sangha of Books. p. 5.
^ Mizuno, Essentials of Buddhism, 1972, English version pub Kosei,
^ Nanjio, Catalogue of the Chinese Translations of the Buddhist
Tripitaka, Clarendon, Oxford, 1883
Walser, Joseph (2005), Nāgārjuna in Context:
Early Indian Culture, Columbia Univ Pr, ISBN 978-0231131643
Dutt, Nalinaksha (1998), Buddhist Sects in India, Motilal Banarsidass,
Harris, Ian Charles (1991), The Continuity of
Madhyamaka and Yogacara
Mahayana Buddhism, Brill Academic Pub,
Access to Insight has many suttas translated into English
Sutta Central Early Buddhist texts, translations, and parallels
Pali Canon Suttas translated into English (ongoing)
Pali Tipitaka Project (texts in 7 Asian languages)
The Sri Lanka Tripitaka Project
Pali Canons has a searchable database
The Vietnamese Nikaaya (continuing, text in Vitenamese)
Search in English translations of the Tipitaka
New Guide to the Tipitaka has summaries of the entire Tipitaka in
Myanmar Version of Buddhist Canon (6th revision):
Buddhist Bible Myanmar Version (without original
Chinese Buddhist Canon:
Buddhist Text Translation Society:
BuddhaNet's eBook Library (English PDFs)
WWW Database of Chinese
Buddhist texts (English index of some East
Chinese language canon and extended canon (includes
Kangyur & Tengyur Projects (Tibetan texts)
Kangyur & Tengyur Translating Projects (Tibetan texts)
Extensive list of online tripitakas
Sri Lankan Version of Tipitaka
Buddha Jayanthi Edition of Tipitaka in Sinhala (Sri Lankan version)
Tipitaka in Sinhala (Sri Lankan version)
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