The Tipitaka, or Three Baskets, is the canon of sacred scripture by which Theravadin Buddhists live their daily lives. The Tipitaka is vast in scope and size, it is said there are more than 84,000 tracts that make up the corpus of writings contained within the Tipitaka. Personally I have not tried to count them so I take that snippet of information as either an approximate truth, or a myth. Either way, if you were to see the books of the Tipitaka lined up side by side, you would know you were in for a reading marathon.
Tipitaka means ‘Three Baskets’ in Pali, the ancient language which was originally used to record the words of the Buddha. The ‘Three Baskets’ refers to the three divisions of the Tipitaka, namely:
The Vinaya Pitaka
The Vinaya Pitaka deals mainly with Monastic codes of practice, rules, regulations and ceremonies. It is of primary interest to those who have taken ordination and is of minimal interest to the lay person for daily practice. I do have a document about the Vinaya Pitaka available on this site should someone be interested in the inner workings of a monastery, but for those intently interested, I would suggest you visit a Buddhist Monastery close by and inquire within.
The Sutta Pitaka
The Sutta Pitaka (by the way, Pitaka means Basket), is the division of scripture that is of most interest to the lay disciple of the Buddha. This vast amount of recorded sayings comes either from the Buddha or one of his senior disciples. This Pitaka has the knowledge and wisdom of the Buddha that can help you escape Samsara. This Pitaka is, itself, divided into five Nikayas, or divisions, namely:
- The Digha Nikaya (The Long Discourses)
- The Majjhima Nikaya (The Middle-Length Discourses)
- The Samyutta Nikaya (The Connected Discourses)
- The Anguttara Nikaya (The Numerical Discourses)
- The Khuddaka Nikaya (The Short Discourses)
The Abhidhamma Pitaka
The Abhidhamma Pitaka is primarily concerned with in-depth philosophy and the psychology of the Buddha’s teachings. It is a somewhat dense set of texts that only the most devoted Buddhist would probably want to tackle. As far as I am aware I have not come across any freely available files for this part of the Tipitaka, but should I do so, then I will build a section for it.
Maybe, if anyone is aware of Abhidhamma translations out there, they could give me a nod via the contact form above.