The Pali Canon

What is the pali canon / Thripitaka

The Buddha preached his own teachings ‘’ The Dhamma’’ for 45 years. Literature edition of Dhamma is consider as Pali canon or Thripitaka. Therefore, Pali canon is not just combination of Buddhs’s teaching, but also a literature edition of Buddhism. That’s why we consider is as the noble gift to the world which can be inherited to a person.

The different

There is no scientific theory above Pali canon. Other scientific theories of the world, has proven at laboratories. Pali canon is the great experiment in the dynamics of all living beings and non-living things, without laboratory. It’s true that, there is no philosophy or science parallel in Pali canon. When we look at the other religions, they are based on theistic concepts such as gods. Most of them based on teachings of god’s and massages from gods. We can’t see such messages in Thripitaka. Further, others teach people can reach to spiritual liberation from the god. Pali canon teaches that, one’s destiny depend on his own deeds or karma. Its whole thing leads to awakening.

Dr. Arthur C Clarke has mentioned in his ‘’ The Deep Range’’ book, ‘’ Buddhism is only viable religion left, since the others all founded in one way or another on the rock of science, which is a problem ‘’.


The aim was to inherant

After the passing away of the Buddha, Rev.Ananda and others decided to protect this teachings future world. Ananda thero was the Buddha’s closets disciple and, with other major disciples gathered in Rajagaha (currently call as Rajgir, Bihar in India) and ensured their survivals until today. After Buddha’s disciples survive Pali canon from oral.

With the obtained of Arhat Mahinda tero, Sri Lanka became a Buddhist country. Buddhist teachings spread all around the country. In 29 BCE, Pali canon was written down at the Matale Aluvihare Rock Temple. Until this moment, Pali canon survived as oral. And its collection remains the characteristics of mainland origin.

Pali canon classifying

With traditions of Buddhism, there are different versions of Pali canon. As, Theravada tradition, East Asian tradition and Tibetan tradition. Sri Lanka as Theravada Buddhism country, we refer to Theravada edition of Pali canon. It belongs according to followings.

  1. Vinaya Pitaka – The basket of Discipline
  2. Sutta Pitaka – The basket of Discourse (Simply ‘Sutta’ means, a record of a preaching of the Buddha)
  3. Abhidhamma Pitaka – basket of special doctrine

1. Vinaya Pitaka (The basket of Discipline)

This is the disciplinary framework upon, which the Buddhist monastic community should be built. It has several sectors.

I. Sattavibhanga  : It has complete list of disciplinary rule list for monks and nuns. Buddhist monks(bikkhu) have of rules and Buddhist nuns(bikkhuni) have 331 of rules according to vinaya pitaka.

II. Khuddhaka : This divided to several sections,

  • Mahavagga : This part describes the Buddha’s life after his enlightenment. Some stories about prominent disciples also describe here. Further, this records for ordination and some ritual procedures.
  • Chullavagga : This contains with monastic etiquette and manners. As well as accounts of the first and second Buddhist councils.
  • Parivara : this section is consider ca a summary of the rules.

2. Sutta Pitaka (The basket of Discourse)

There are more than 1000 suttas attributed to the Buddha or his close disciples. It has 5 collections. These collections consider as ‘’ nikayas’’.

I Dhiga Nikaya  : Buddha’s long discourses can be seen in this section. The discourse on the foundation of Mindfulness, Buddha’s last days and the fruits of the contemplative life are the longest suttas in here. Further, there are 34 suttas in here.

II Majjhima Nikaya  : The medium length discoursers can be seen in this section. Shorter expositions of kamma, Mindfulness of Breathing are included here. 152 of medium length suttas can be seen here.

III Samyutta Nikaya : That means the clustered discourses. It consists of 2889 of discourses and classified into 56 samyuttas.

IV Anguttara Nikaya  : This is the part of the gradual collection. It includes 9577 of very short suttas, grouped by numbers. These teachings are arranged for mnemonic purpose.

V Khuddaka Nikaya  : This means the minor collection. There are minor sermons of Buddha’s, doctrine and poetry attributed to the Buddha and his disciples. The famous advisory book of Dhammapada also in this section. Further Petavattu (stories of ghost) Jataka tales (the stories of previous births of Buddha) can be seen in here.

3. Abhidhama Pitaka (basket of special doctrine)

Abhidhamma is consider as the heart of the teachings of Buddha. It explains the essence of Buddha Dhamma. Hence, it is called the highest teachings of Buddha. The Dhamma embodied in the sutta pitaka as the conventional teachings (Abhidhamma) is the ultimate teaching.

It exceeds the teachings of the sutta pitaka and Vinaya pitaka conventional terms (man, animal, being etc.) have been used in the sutta pitaka everything is minutely analyzed and abstract terms have been used in Abhidhamma pitaka. There is a distinction concerning the method of treatment.

Both Abhidhamma and modern psychology deal with the mind, the thought processes and mental states. In the Abhidhamma, the thought processes are explained in a highly interesting way. It is said that ‘’ such clear explanation of thought processes cannot be found in any other psychological treatise. Only Abhidhamma explains Bhavana (meditation) and (gnana) thought moments, such explanations have no parallel in modern psychology.’’

‘’The consciousness (citta) flows like a stream ‘’ this is a view expressed by modern psychologists too. The view becomes extremely clear to one, who understands. Abhidhamma, kamma and rebirth are evidentially verifiable doctrines. These doctrines are fully explained in the Abhidhamma. It explains mind and matter, and helps to understand things in their true perspective. The ultimate goal of this ethical system is the realization if Nirvana. In Abhidhamma, there is ‘’ food for through to original thinkers and earnest students.’’

‘’ Abhidhamma presents a key to open the door of reality.’’ It is with the help of abhidhamma, that the profound teachings of the Buddha could be best understood. Abhidhamma is certainly very useful in developing insight (vipassana meditation – we will discuss in our next meditation article).

Abhidhamma pitaka is divided into seven books.

  1. Dhammasangani : enumeration of phenomena
  2. Vibhanga : the book of Analysis
  3. Dhatukata : designation of individuals
  4. .Puggalapannatti : Designation of Person
  5. Kathavattu : points of controversy
  6. Yamaka : the book of pairs
  7. Pattana : the book of Activation or causes

In briefly, Abhidhamma can categories as follow,

  • Consciousness
  • Mental states
  • Matter and
  • nirvana

If you want to study Buddhism, Its worth to refer The Pali Canon. In the last few minutes of the Buddha’s life, he gave an advice for his disciples as,

“Hold the Dhamma & Vinaya as your teachers”

This means his every teachings are the Dhamma & Vinaya. At present all these Dhamma & Vinaya mentioned in the Pali Canon. So it same as the Lord Buddha with us. There for, we consider as our heritage.

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Get in touch. Stay safe. May triple gems bless you..!

“you yourselves must attempt. The buddhas only point the path. Those one meditate, who steps the path are released from the bounds of Mara”

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