The main body of the Buddhist canonical texts developed in the period between Buddha's death (483 b.c.) and Asoka's reign (273–231 b.c.), though its oral tradition was committed to writing in the Pāli language only in the reign of Vattāgamani Abhaya (29–17 b.c.), in Ceylon. The Tipiṭaka (Skt. Tripiṭaka ), The Three Baskets of Theravāda tradition, consists of three main divisions.
The first is the Vinaya Piṭaka, The Basket of Rules for the orders of monks, nuns, and lay people, subdivided into three collections: (1) Suttavibha·aga, under 15 headings grouping the rules for individual discipline and the disciplinary action required in case of infringement; (2) Khandhaka, in 22 chapters outlining the norms for the organization of the orders; (3) Parivāra, containing 19 supplementary sections on the foundation of the order of nuns and the sacred councils, which were convoked at Rājagṛha and Vaiśālī.
The second is the Sutta Piṭaka, The Basket of Discourses, attributed to Buddha, divided into five sections (nikāya ): (1) Dīgha Nikāya, a series of 34 long lectures on points of doctrine (reward of asceticism, attitude to caste, points of contact and contrast with Brahmanism), including the Mahāparinibbānasuttanta (The Great Chapter of Complete Nirvāna), an account of the last days of Buddha; (2) Majjhima Nikāya, a series of 152 medium-length sermons and dialogues on points of Buddhist religion; (3) Saṃyutta Nikāya, a series of more than 2,700 short statements on related topics, including the Dhammacakkapavattanavagga, the so-called Sermon of Benares on setting in motion the wheel of the law; (4) A·aguttara Nikāya, a progressive series of 11 sections arranged according to the number of topics expounded in each; (5) Khuddaka Nikāya, "minor series" of 15 works including the exquisite and ancient stanzas of the Dhammapada (Way of the Law), the Theragāthā, and Therīgāthā, psalms for choir recitation, and the Jātaka containing 547 stories of former lives of Buddha, along with the Nidānakathā, the oldest connected biography of Buddha in three parts.
The third is the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, The Basket of Supplementary Doctrines, treating in systematic fashion doctrinal questions evidently raised at a later epoch in debates among rival schools and comprising seven works: Puggalapaññatti; Dhātukathāpakarana; Dhammasaṃgani; Vibhanṅga; Patthānapakaraṇa; Yamaka; and Kathāvatthu.
See Also: buddhism.
Bibliography: b. c. law, A History of Pāli Literature, 2 v. (London 1933). m. winternitz, A History of Indian Literature, tr. s. katkar (London 1927–34) v. 2. g. borsani, Prospetti e Indice del Tipiṭaka (Milan 1942). a. s. rosso, "Buddhism in India, Ceylon and Burma," Worldmission 3 (1952) 62–82. a. bareau, Les Premiers conciles bouddhiques (Paris 1956). w. rahula, The History of Buddhism in Ceylon: The Anuradhapura Period, 3d Century, B.C.–l0th Century A.D. (Colombo, Ceylon 1956). w. t. de bary et al., comps., Sources of Indian Tradition (Records of Civilization 56; New York 1958). g. f. allen, ed. and tr., The Buddha's Philosophy: Selections from the Pāli Canon and an Introductory Essay (New York 1959). a. b. govinda, The Psychological Attitude of Early Buddhist Philosophy and Its Systematic Representation according to Abhidhamma Tradition (London 1961). c. h. philips, ed., Historians of India, Pakistan and Ceylon (New York 1961).
[a. s. rosso]
See also BUDDHIST SCRIPTURES; and for further detail, TRIPIṬAKA.