Pāli Canon

Pāli Canon

The Pāli Canon is the standard collection of scriptures in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, as preserved in the Pali language. [Gombrich, "Theravada Buddhism", 2nd edn, Routledge, London, 2006, page 3] It is the only completely surviving early Buddhist canon, and one of the first to be written down. [Harvey, "Introduction to Buddhism", Cambridge University Press, 1990, page 3.] It was transcribed from the more ancient North Indian ["If the language of the Pāli canon is north Indian in origin, and without substantial Sinhalese additions, it is likely that the canon was composed somewhere in north India before its introduction to Sri Lanka" How old is the Sutta Pitaka?, Alexander Wynne, St. Johns' College, 2003] oral tradition, during the Fourth Buddhist Council in Sri Lanka in the 1st century BC ["Encyclopedia of Religion", Macmillan, New York, sv Councils, Buddhist] [A.K. Warder, "Indian Buddhism", 3rd edn, page 307. American Asiatic Association, Asia Society, "Asia: Journal of the American Asiatic Association", p724.] . The Pali Canon was first printed in the nineteenth century [Bechert & Gombrich, The World of Buddhism, Thames & Hudson, 1984, page 293] , and is now also available in electronic form and on the internet.

The Pāli Canon falls into three general categories, called "pitaka" (IAST|piṭaka, basket) in Pali. Because of this, the canon is traditionally known as the Tipitaka (IAST|Tipiṭaka; "three baskets"). The three pitakas are as follows: [Gombrich, page 4]
# Vinaya Pitaka, dealing with rules for monks and nuns
# Sutta Pitaka, discourses, mostly ascribed to the Buddha, but some to disciples
# Abhidhamma Pitaka, variously described as philosophy, psychology, metaphysics etc.The Vinaya Pitaka and the Sutta Pitaka are remarkably similar to the works of other early Buddhist schools. The Abhidhamma Pitaka however is a strictly Theravada collection, and has little in common with the Abhidhamma works recognized by other Buddhist schools ["Buddhism." Encyclopædia Britannica. Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2008.] .

The Canon in the tradition

The Canon is traditionally described by the Theravada as the Word of the Buddha (Buddhavacana), though this is obviously not intended in a literal sense, since it includes teachings by disciples. [Gombrich, page 20]

The traditional Theravadin (Mahaviharin) interpretation of the Pali Canon is given in a series of commentaries covering nearly the whole Canon, compiled by Buddhaghosa (fl. 4th–5th century CE) and later monks, mainly on the basis of earlier materials now lost. Subcommentaries have been written afterwards, commenting further on the Canon and its commentaries. The traditional Theravadin interpretation is summarized in Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga. [Gombrich, pages 153-4]

An official view is given by a spokesman for the Buddha Sasana Council of Burma: [Morgan, "Path of the Buddha", Ronald Press, New York, 1956, pages v, 71] the Canon contains everything needed to show the path to nirvana; the commentaries and subcommentaries sometimes include much speculative matter, but are faithful to its teachings and often give very illuminating illustrations. In Sri Lanka and Thailand, "official" Buddhism has in large part adopted the interpretations of Western scholars. ["Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies", volume 28 (part 2), page 302]

Although the Canon has existed in written form for two millennia, its earlier oral nature has not been forgotten in actual Buddhist practice within the tradition: memorization and recitation remain common. Among frequently recited texts are the Paritta. Even lay people usually know at least a few short texts by heart and recite them regularly; this is considered a form of meditation, at least if one understands the meaning. Monks are of course expected to know quite a bit more (see Dhammapada below for an example). A Burmese monk named Vicittasara even learnt the entire Canon by heart for the Sixth Council (again according to the usual Theravada numbering). [Mendelson, "Sangha and State in Burma", Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 1975, page 266] Recitation is in Pali as the ritual language. ["Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics", 2nd edn, volume 9, Elsevier, Amsterdam/Oxford, 2006]

The relation of the scriptures to Buddhism as it actually exists among ordinary monks and lay people is, as with other major religious traditions, problematical: the evidence suggests that only parts of the Canon ever enjoyed wide currency, and that non-canonical works were sometimes very much more widely used; the details varied from place to place. ["Journal of the Pali Text Society", volume XV, pages 103f] Dr Rupert Gethin says that the whole of Buddhist history may be regarded as a working out of the implications of the early scriptures. [Gethin, "Foundations of Buddhism", Oxford University Press, 1998, page 43]


According to a late part of the Pali Canon, the Buddha taught the three pitakas. ["Book of the Discipline", volume VI, page 123] It is traditionally believed by Theravadins that most of the Pali Canon originated from the Buddha and his immediate disciples. According to the scriptures, a council was held shortly after the Buddha's passing to collect and preserve his teachings. It was recited orally from the 5th century BC to the first century BC, when it was written down. The tradition holds that only a few later additions were made.

Attribution according to scholars

The views of scholars concerning the attribution of the Pali Canon can be grouped into three categories:
#Attribution to the Buddha himself.
#Attribution to the period of pre-sectarian Buddhism.
#Agnosticism.Scholars have both supported and opposed the various existing views.

=1. Views concerning attribution to the Buddha himself=

Various scholars have voiced that some of the contents of the Pali Canon (and its main teachings) can be attributed to Gautama Buddha. Dr Richard Gombrich thinks that the main preachings of the Buddha (as in the Vinaya and Sutta Pitaka) probably go back to the Buddha individually. ["I am saying that there was a person called the Buddha, that the preachings probably go back to him individually... that we can learn more about what he meant, and that he was saying some very precise things." source: http://www.ordinarymind.net/Interviews/interview_jan2003.htm] Some scholars argue that the teachings are coherent and cogent, and must be the work of a single genius: the Buddha himself, not a committee of followers after his death. [Gombrich, "Theravada Buddhism", 2nd edn, Routledge, London, 2006, pages 20f] ["While parts of the Pali Canon clearly originated after the time of the Buddha, much must derive from his teaching." —An introduction to Buddhism, Peter Harvey, 1990, p.3]

J.W. de Jong has stated that parts of the Pali Canon could very well have been proclaimed by the Buddha, and subsequently transmitted and developed by his disciples and, finally, codified in fixed formulas. ["the basic ideas of Buddhism found in the canonical writings could very well have been proclaimed by him [the Buddha] , transmitted and developed by his disciples and, finally, codified in fixed formulas." J.W. De Jong, 1993: "The Beginnings of Buddhism", in The Eastern Buddhist, vol. 26, no. 2, p. 25] A. Wynne has said that the Pali Canon includes texts which go back to the very beginning of Buddhism, which perhaps include the substance of the Buddha’s teaching, and in some cases, maybe even his words. ["If some of the material is so old, it might be possible to establish what texts go back to the very beginning of Buddhism, texts which perhaps include the substance of the Buddha’s teaching, and in some cases, maybe even his words", How old is the Suttapitaka? Alexander Wynne, St John’s College, 2003. [www.ocbs.org/research/Wynne.pdf] ]

A.K. Warder has stated that there is no evidence to suggest that the shared teaching of the early schools was formulated by anyone else than the Buddha and his immediate followers. [there is no evidence to suggest that it was formulated by anyone else than the Buddha and his immediate followers. AK Warder, Indian Buddhism, 1999, 3rd edition, inside flap.]

Some scholars say that little or nothing goes back to the Buddha [Skorupski, "Buddhist Forum", volume I, Heritage, Delhi/SOAS, London,1990, page 5] Some of these scholars argue that [see "Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies", vol 21, part 1, page 11 for some of this] some passages contradict the main teachings, and that the Buddha must have been consistent. Some believe only one of the variant teachings can have been the teaching of the Buddha, and that if the Buddha had taught the main teachings, contradictory teachings would never have got in. Some believe that because of this, the Buddha must have taught the divergent teachings, and that the main teachings were elaborated by his followers after his death.

2. Views concerning attribution to the period of pre-sectarian Buddhism

Much of the Pali Canon is found also in the scriptures of other early schools of Buddhism, parts of whose versions are preserved, mainly in Chinese. Many scholars have argued that this shared material can be attributed to the period of Pre-sectarian Buddhism. This is the period before the early schools separated in about the fourth or third century BCE.

3. Views concerning agnosticism

Some scholars see the Pali Canon as expanding and changing from an unknown nucleus. [an article in the Macmillan "Encyclopedia of Buddhism" (2004), page 10] Arguments given for an agnostic attitude include that the evidence for the Buddha's teachings dates from (long) after his death.

Some scholars have said that the application of text-critical methods derived from Biblical criticism is invalidated by the fact that the Bible was a written text while the Pali Canon was oral. ["Buddhist Studies in Honour of Hammalawa Saddhatissa" ed Dhammapala, Gombrich & Norman, University of Jayawardenepura, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka, 1984, pages 56, 67]

Some scholars have stated that it would be hypocritical to assert that nothing can be said about the doctrine of earliest Buddhism ["It would be hypocritical to assert that nothing can be said about the doctrine of earliest Buddhism ... the basic ideas of Buddhism found in the canonical writings could very well have been proclaimed by him [the Buddha] , transmitted and developed by his disciples and, finally, codified in fixed formulas." J.W. De Jong, 1993: "The Beginnings of Buddhism", in The Eastern Buddhist, vol. 26, no. 2, p. 25] .

Dr Gregory Schopen, [ Professor of Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Buddhist Studies at the University of Texas at Austin] argues ["Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks", University of Hawai'i Press, 1997, page 24 (reprinted from "Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik", volume 10 (1985))] that it is not until the fifth to sixth centuries CE that we can know anything definite about the contents of the Canon. This position did not attract much support, and was criticized by A. Wynne. ["How old is the Sutta Pitaka?" - Alexander Wynne, St John’s College, 2003. [www.ocbs.org/research/Wynne.pdf] ]

The Earliest books of the Pali Canon

Different positions have been taken on what are the earliest books of the Canon. The majority of Western scholars consider the earliest identifiable stratum to be mainly prose works, [A. K. Warder, "Introduction to Pali", 1963, Pali Text Society, page viii] the Vinaya (excluding the Parivara [L. S. Cousins in "Buddhist Studies in Honour of Hammalava Saddhatissa", ed Dhammapala, Gombrich and Norman, University of Jayewardenepura, 1984, page 56] ) and the first four nikayas of the Sutta Pitaka, ["The World of Buddhism", ed Bechert and Gombrich, Thames and Hudson, London, 1984, page 78; Gethin, pages 42f ] and perhaps also some short verse works [Gethin, "The Buddha's Path to Awakening", E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1992] such as the Suttanipata. [Cousins, loc. cit.] However, some scholars, paricularly in Japan, maintain that the Suttanipata is the earliest of all Buddhist scriptures, followed by the Itivuttaka and Udana. [Nakamura, "Indian Buddhism", Japan, 1980, reissued by Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1987, 1989, page 27] However, some of the developments in teachings may only reflect changes in teaching that the Buddha himself adopted, during the 45 years that the Buddha was teaching. ["as the Buddha taught for 45 years, some signs of development in teachings may only reflect changes during this period." - An introduction to Buddhism, Peter Harvey, 1990, p.3]

Most of the above scholars would probably agree that their early books include some later additions. [Bechert and Gombrich; Warder, Introduction to "Path of Discrimination", 1982, Pali Text Society, page xxix] On the other hand, some scholars have claimed [Cousins, "Pali oral literature", in "Buddhist Studies", ed Denwood and Piatigorski, Curzon Press, London, 1982/3; Harvey, page 83; Gethin, page 48; "The Guide", Pali Text Society, page xxvii] that central aspects of late works are or may be much earlier.

According to the Sinhalese chronicles, the Pali Canon was written down in the reign of King Vattagamini (IAST|Vaṭṭagāmiṇi) (1st century BCE) in Sri Lanka, at the Fourth Buddhist council. Most scholars hold that little if anything was added to the Canon after this, [Harvey, page 3; Warder, "Path of Discrimination", Pali Text Society, pages xxxixf; Gethin, "Path", page 8] though Schopen questions this.

Texts and translations

The climate of Theravada countries is not conducive to the survival of manuscripts. Apart from brief quotations in inscriptions and a two-page fragment from the eighth or ninth century found in Nepal, the oldest manuscripts known are from late in the fifteenth century, [Hinüber, "Handbook of Pali Literature", Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 1996, page 5.] and there is not very much from before the eighteenth. [ [http://www.palitext.com Pali Text Society Home Page ] ]

The first complete printed edition of the Canon was published in Burma in 1900, in 38 volumes. [Günter Grönbold, "Der buddhistische Kanon: eine Bibliographie", Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 1984, page 12; as noted there and elsewhere, the 1893 Siamese edition was incomplete] The following editions of the Pali text of the Canon are readily available in the West:

* Pali Text Society edition, 1877–1927 (a few volumes subsequently replaced by new editions), 57 volumes including indexes, individual volumes also ( [http://www.palitext.com for sale] ) separately.
* Thai edition, 1925–28, 45 volumes; more accurate than the PTS edition, but with fewer variant readings; [Warder, "Introduction to Pali", 1963, PTS, page 382]
** [http://www.budsir.org/program/ BUDSIR on Internet] , free with login; and electronic transcript by BUDSIR: [http://budsir.mahidol.ac.th/ Buddhist scriptures information retrieval] , CD-ROM and online, both requiring payment.
* Sixth Council edition, Rangoon, 1954–56, 40 volumes; more accurate than the Thai edition, but with fewer variant readings; [Hamm in "German Scholars on India", volume I, ed Cultural Department of the German Embassy in India, pub Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, Varanasi, 1973, translated from "Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft", 1962]
**electronic transcript by Vipassana Research Institute available [http://www.tipitaka.org online] in searchable database free of charge, or on CD-ROM (p&p only) from [http://www.vri.dhamma.org the Institute]
** Another transcript of this edition, produced under the patronage of the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, World Tipitaka Edition, 2005, 40 volumes, published by the [http://www.dhammasociety.org Dhamma Society Fund] , claims to include the full extent of changes made at the Sixth Council, and therefore reflect the results of the council more accurately than some existing Sixth Council editions. Available for viewing online (registration required) at [http://tipitakastudies.net e-Tipiṭaka Quotation WebService] .
* Sinhalese (Buddha Jayanti) edition, 1957–?1993, 58 volumes including parallel Sinhalese translations, searchable, free of charge (not yet fully proofread.) Available at [http://jbe.gold.ac.uk/palicanon.html Journal of Buddhist Ethics]
**Transcript in [http://www.bodhgayanews.net/pali.htm BudhgayaNews Pali Canon] . In this version it is easy to search for individual words across all 16,000+ pages at once and view the contexts in which they appear.No one edition has all the best readings, and scholars must compare different editions. [Cone, "Dictionary of Pali", volume I, PTS, 2001]

Translation: "Pali Canon in English Translation", 1895- , in progress, 43 volumes so far, Pali Text Society, Bristol; for details of these and other translations of individual books see the separate articles. In 1994, the then President of the Pali Text Society stated that most of these translations were unsatisfactory. ["Memoirs of the Chuo Academic Research Institute", No. 23, Dec. 1994, page 12, reprinted in Norman, "Collected Papers", volume VI, 1996, Pali Text Society, Bristol, page 80] Another former President said in 2003 that most of the translations were done very badly. [ [http://www.ordinarymind.net/Interviews/interview_jan2003.htm Interview with professor Richard Gombrich for Ordinary Mind - An Australian Buddhist Review issue No 21 ] ] The style of many translations from the Canon has been criticized ["Journal of the Pali Text Society", Volume XXIX, page 102] as "Buddhist Hybrid English", a term invented by Paul Griffiths for translations from Sanskrit. He describes it as "deplorable", "comprehensible only to the initiate, written by and for Buddhologists". ["Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies", 4.2 (1981)]

Selections: see List of Pali Canon anthologies.

Contents of the Canon

As noted above, the Canon consists of three pitakas.

* Vinaya Pitaka (IAST|vinayapiṭaka)
* Sutta Pitaka or Suttanta Pitaka
* Abhidhamma Pitaka

Details are given below. For fuller information, see standard references on Pali literature. [Norman, "Pali Literature", Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 1983; Hinüber,op. cit.]

Vinaya Pitaka

The first category, the Vinaya Pitaka, is mostly concerned with the rules of the "sangha", both monks and nuns. The rules are preceded by stories telling how the Buddha came to lay them down, and followed by explanations and analysis. According to the stories, the rules were devised on an ad hoc basis as the Buddha encountered various behavioral problems or disputes among his followers. This pitaka can be divided into three parts.

* Suttavibhanga (IAST|-vibhaṅga) Commentary on the Patimokkha, a basic code of rules for monks and nuns that is not as such included in the Canon. The monks' rules are dealt with first, followed by those of the nuns' rules not already covered.
* Khandhaka Other rules grouped by topic in 22 chapters.
* Parivara (parivāra) Analysis of the rules from various points of view.

Sutta Pitaka

The second category is the "Sutta Pitaka" (literally "basket of threads", or of "the well spoken"; Sanskrit: "Sutra Pitaka", following the former meaning) which consists primarily of accounts of the Buddha's teachings. The Sutta Pitaka has five subdivisions or nikayas.

* Digha Nikaya (dīghanikāya) 34 long discourses. [Harvey, "Introduction to Buddhism", appendix] Joy Manné argues ["Journal of the Pali Text Society", volume XV] that this book was particularly intended to make converts, with its high proportion of debates and devotional material.
* Majjhima Nikaya 152 medium-length discourses. [Harvey, appendix] Manné argues [loc. cit.] that this book was particularly intended to give a solid grounding in the teaching to converts, with a high proportion of sermons and consultations.
* Samyutta Nikaya (IAST|saṃyutta-) Thousands of short discourses in fifty-odd groups by subject, person etc. Bhikkhu Bodhi, in his translation, says this nikaya has the most detailed explanations of doctrine.
* Anguttara Nikaya (IAST|aṅguttara-) Thousands of short discourses arranged numerically from ones to elevens. It contains more elementary teaching for ordinary people than the preceding three.
* Khuddaka Nikaya A miscellaneous collection of works in prose or verse. See below.

Khuddaka Nikaya

The contents of this nikaya vary somewhat between different editions of the Canon. The "standard" list, given in most western sources, [ [http://www.palitext.com Pali Text Society] ; Norman; Hinüber; Harvey, Appendix; Lamotte, "History of Indian Buddhism", 1958, English tr, Oriental Institute, Catholic University of Louvain, 1988] contains the following.

* Khuddakapatha (IAST|-pāṭha) Nine short texts in prose or verse. This seems to have been intended as an introductory handbook for novices. [Norman, page 58] Most of its contents are found elsewhere in the Canon.
* Dhammapada 423 verses ascribed by tradition to the Buddha in 26 chapters by topic. About half the Pali verses are found elsewhere in the canon. In the Sinhalese tradition, monks have been required to know this book by heart before they can be ordained. [Dhammapada, ed Sumangala, pub Humphrey Milford for the Pali Text Society, London, 1914, page v] In the Burmese examination system, this is one of the texts to be studied in the first stage of the syllabus. [Mendelson, appendix]
* Udana (udāna) 80 short passages, mostly verse, ascribed to the Buddha, with introductory stories.
* Itivuttaka 112 short prose teachings ascribed to the Buddha followed by verse paraphrases or complements. These are arranged numerically, from ones to fours.
* Suttanipata(-nipāta) Poems, some in prose frameworks. In five parts, of which the first four contain 54 poems. The fifth part is a single poem in 16 sections, plus an introduction and a conclusion, which last includes a little prose.
* Vimanavatthu (vimāna-) 85 poems telling of celestial mansions resulting from good karma.
* Petavatthu 51 poems telling of the suffering of ghosts resulting from bad karma. It gives prominence to the idea that gifts to monks can benefit one's deceased relatives' ghosts.
* Theragatha(-gāthā) 264 poems ascribed to early monks, arranged roughly by increasing number of verses.
* Therigatha (therī-) 73 poems ascribed to early nuns, arranged by increasing number of verses.
* Jataka (jātaka) 547 poems said to relate to the Buddha's previous lives, [Harvey, appendix] arranged roughly by increasing number of verses. Professor Oskar von Hinüber [op. cit.] says only the last 50 were intended to be intelligible on their own without the Commentary. As a result of the arrangement, these make up the greater part of the book. [This can be verified by inspecting the table of contents of the VRI transcription.] according to A. K. Warder, ["Introduction to Pali", 1963,PaliText Society, Bristol, page 383] this is the most popular book of the Canon.
* Niddesa Commentary on parts of Suttanipata: [Harvey, appendix] the last two parts and one other sutta. Traditionally ascribed to the Buddha's disciple Sariputta.
* Patisambhidamagga (IAST|paṭisambhidā-) 30 treatises on various topics. Traditionally ascribed to Sariputta. Gethin ["Path", pages 311f] says this book presents the awakening experience as having many different dimensions and aspects, related to the whole of the teaching, and yet as a simple, coherent whole.
* Apadana (apadāna) About 600 poems, most telling how their authors performed a meritorious act in a distant past life, resulting in favourable rebirths and eventual nirvana. There are 589 in the Pali Text Society's edition, 603 in the Sixth Council edition and 592 in a number of others. ["JPTS", volume XX, pages 1-42]
* Buddhavamsa (IAST|-vaṃsa) Short verse book, mainly telling of the previous 24 Buddhas and the current Buddha's meritorious acts towards them in his previous lives.
* Cariyapitaka (cariyā-) 35 poems telling of Gotama Buddha's practice of 7 of the perfections in his previous lives.

However, some editions contain in addition some works that have been described by western scholars as paracanonical or semicanonical.

Paracanonical or semicanonical works

The following works are included in the Sixth Council edition of the Canon, ["The Guide", Pali Text Society, 1962, page xii; Hinüber] including the new transcript from Thailand. [( [http://www.dhammasociety.org/mds/content/view/86/123/] ). ]

* Nettipakarana (IAST|nettipakaraṇa, IAST|nettippakaraṇa or just netti) This book presents methods of interpretation. The colophon ascribes it to the Buddha's disciple Kaccana.
* Petakopadesa (IAST|peṭakopadesa) Presents the same methods as the preceding book. They have a large amount of overlap. The text of this book is very corrupt. The colophon ascribes it to the Buddha's disciple Kaccana.
* Milindapanha (-pañha or -pañhā) A dialogue between King Menander of Bactria (second century B.C.E.) and the monk Nagasena. Rhys Davids describes this as the greatest work of classical Indian prose literature.

The first two of these, but not the third, are included in the Sinhalese (printed) edition. All are omitted from the Thai edition.Inclusion in printed editions is not the same as canonicity (cf. Apocrypha). Professor George Bond of Northwestern University says of the first of these books that some Theravadins regard it as quasi-canonical, others as canonical, especially in Burma. ["Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies", ed Potter, volume VII, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1996] About 1800, the head of the Burmese sangha regarded at least the first two of these books as canonical. ["JPTS", volume XXVIII, pages 61f] On the other hand, at least one recent Burmese teacher has not. [Rewata Dhamma, "The Buddha and His Disciples", Dhamma-Talaka Pubns, Birmingham, 2001, page 89]

Abhidhamma Pitaka

The third category, the "Abhidhamma Pitaka " (literally "beyond the dhamma", "higher dhamma" or "special dhamma", Sanskrit: "Abhidharma Pitaka"), is a collection of texts which give a systematic philosophical description of the nature of mind, matter and time. There are seven books in the Abhidhamma Pitaka.

* Dhammasangani (IAST|-saṅgaṇi or IAST|-saṅgaṇī) Enumeration, definition and classification of dhammas
* Vibhanga (IAST|vibhaṅga) Analysis of 18 topics by various methods, including those of the Dhammasangani
* Dhatukatha (dhātukathā) Deals with interrelations between ideas from the previous two books
* Puggalapannatti (-paññatti) Explanations of types of person, arranged numerically in lists from ones to tens
* Kathavatthu (kathā-) Over 200 debates on points of doctrine
* Yamaka Applies to 10 topics a procedure involving converse questions (e.g. Is X Y? Is Y X?)
* Patthana (IAST|paṭṭhāna) Analysis of 24 types of condition [Harvey, page 83]

The traditional position is that the Abhidhamma is the absolute teaching, while the suttas are adapted to the hearer. Most scholars describe the abhidhamma as an attempt to systematize the teachings of the suttas: Harvey, [loc. cit.] Gethin. ["Foundations", page 44 ] Cousins says that where the suttas think in terms of sequences or processes the abhidhamma thinks in terms of specific events or occasions. ["Pali oral literature", page 7]

Comparison with other Buddhist canons

The other two main canons in use at the present day are the Tibetan Kangyur and the Chinese Buddhist Canon. The former is in about a hundred volumes and includes versions of the Vinaya Pitaka and the Dhammapada (the latter confusingly called Udanavarga) and of parts of some other books. The standard modern edition of the latter is the Taisho published in Japan, which is in a hundred much larger volumes. It includes both canonical and non-canonical (including Chinese and Japanese) literature and its arrangement does not clearly distinguish the two. It includes versions of the Vinaya Pitaka, the first four nikayas, the Dhammapada, the Itivuttaka and the Milindapanha and of parts of some other books. These Chinese and Tibetan versions are not usually translations of the Pali and differ from it to varying extents, but are recognizably the "same" works. On the other hand, the Chinese abhidharma books are different works from the Pali Abhidhamma Pitaka, though they follow a common methodology.

Looking at things from the other side, the bulk of the Chinese and Tibetan canons consists of Mahayana sutras and tantras, which, apart from a few tantras, [Most notably, a version of the Atanatiya Sutta (from the Digha Nikaya) is included in the tantra (Mikkyo, rgyud) divisions of the Taisho and of the Cone, Derge, Lhasa, Lithang, Narthang and Peking (Qianlong) editions of the Kangyur: Skilling, "Mahasutras", volume I, Parts I & II, 1997, Pali Text Society, Bristol, pages 84n, 553ff, 617ff.] have no equivalent in the Pali Canon.


See also

* Buddhist texts
* Chinese Buddhist canon
* Tripitaka
* Pali Literature
* Tripitaka Koreana

External links

* [http://web.ukonline.co.uk/buddhism/tipintro.htm Guide to Tipitaka] by Professor U Ko Lay
* [http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Suttas/Paritta/BioMingun/biomingun.html Sayadaw U Vicittasara Mingun Sayadaw: A Fabulous Memory]

English translations

* [http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/index.html Access to Insight] has many suttas translated into English
* [http://www.buddhistinformation.com/ida_b_wells_memorial_sutra_library/ Ida B. Wells Memorial Sutra Library]
* [http://mettanet.net/tipitaka/ Most of the Pali Canon in Pali and English]
* [http://www.nibbana.com/tipitaka/tipilist.htm Tipitaka Online] of Nibbana.com (Myanmar)
* [http://search.nibbanam.com Search in English translations of the Tipitaka]

Pali Canon Online

* [http://www.tipitakastudies.net/ World Tipitaka] (Burmese version)
* [http://www.tipitaka.org/ Vipassana Research Institute] (Based on 6th Council - Burmese version)This site also offers a down loadable program which installs the entire Pali Tipitaka on your desktop for offline viewing.
* [http://www.bodhgayanews.net/pali.htm Tipitaka] (Sri Lankan version)

Pali Dictionary

* [http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/pali/ Online Pali-English Dictionary]

Further reading

In addition to Ko Lay's book above, two other books are devoted to detailed accounts of the Canon:

* "History of Pali Literature", B. C. Law, volume I
* "Analysis of the Pali Canon", Russell Webb, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka

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  • Pali (disambiguation) — Pali may refer to: *Pali Canon, an important work relating to Buddhism *Pāli, a Middle Indo Aryan dialect *Nuokinauanu Pali, a region on the Hawaiian island of Ookinaahu *Pali District, in India *Pali, Rajasthan, a town in Pali District… …   Wikipedia

  • Canon — may refer to: * Canon (fiction), a body of works considered genuine or official within a fictional universe * Canon (company), a Japanese imaging and optical products corporation * Canon (music), a contrapuntal composition which employs a melody… …   Wikipedia

  • Pali — For other uses, see Pali (disambiguation). Pali Pronunciation [paːli] Spoken in …   Wikipedia

  • Canon pali — Tipitaka Edition standard du Tipitaka thaïlandais Le Tipitaka (en sanskrit Tripitaka : tri = trois, pitaka = corbeille) ou Trois corbeilles est le canon bouddhique pāli[1]. Il s agit d un très vaste recueil de t …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Canon Pali — Tipitaka en láminas de madera, Tailandia. El Tipitaka o Tripitaka (del pali ti, tres + pitaka, cestos o canastas ), conocido también como el Canon Pali, es la colección de los antiguos textos budistas escritos en el idioma Pali, que constituyen… …   Wikipedia Español

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