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Monday, September 15, 2008

The Pali Canon

The Pali Canon is the standard collection of scriptures in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, as preserved in the Pali language.[1] The Canon was written down, transcribed from the oral tradition, during the Fourth Buddhist Council (in the usual Theravada numbering), in the 1st century BCE, in Sri Lanka[2] on ola (palm) leaves.[3] Passed down in writing and to other Theravadin countries, this originally largely North Indian[4] Canon is the most complete surviving early Buddhist canon and one of the first to be written down.[5]
The Canon was not printed until the nineteenth century, and is now also available in electronic form.[6]
The Pali Canon falls into three general categories, called pitaka (piáš­aka, basket) in Pali. Because of this, the canon is traditionally known as the Tipitaka (Tipiáš­aka; three baskets).The three pitakas are as follows:[7]
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.

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