Monday, April 4, 2022

The Pali Canon

THE PALI CANON (perhaps 483 BCE)

The Pali Canon is sort of the "Bible" of Southern (Theravada) Buddhism. It was compiled from the recollections of the Buddha's closest followers at the First Buddhist council (perhaps 483 BCE) after his death; but it was preserved orally and wasn't written down until centuries afterward. Many say it contains the oldest and most authentic collection of the words of the historic Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. The entire Canon is long: one edition runs to over 2.7 million words in Pali, a language (similar to Sanskrit) which is close to the one in in which the Buddha actually taught. Printed editions run to around 40 volumes.

  • The Pali Canon is divided into three parts--Vinaya, Sutta, Abhidhamma; in Pali, it's called Tipitaka ("three baskets").
  • The Vinaya Pitaka deals with rules for monks; the Sutta Pitaka is the sayings of the Buddha (the largest "basket"); and the Abhidhamma is a later, psychologizing expansion of the teachings.


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