Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Tripitaka (Sanskrit, lit. three baskets), Tipitaka (Pali), or 三藏 (Chinese: Sānzàng; Japanese: Sanzo; Korean: Samjang; 삼장) is the formal term for a Buddhist canon of scriptures. Many different versions of the canon exist throughout the Buddhist world, containing an enormous variety of texts. The most widely-known version is the Pali Canon of the Theravada school.
The Tripitaka writings, which were originally memorized and recited orally by disciples, fall into three general categories and the scrolls (originally written on palm leaves) were therefore kept in three baskets (tri-pitaka).
The first category, the Vinaya Pitaka, was the code of ethics to be obeyed by the early sangha, monks and nuns. Some rules and practices were regarded by the Buddha as essential and foundational to the pursuit of his philosophical teachings. Others were invented on a day-to-day basis as the Buddha encountered various behavior problems with the monks.
The second category, the Sutra Pitaka (literally "basket of threads", Pali: Sutta Pitaka), consists primarily of accounts of the Buddha's life and teachings. The Sutra Pitaka has numerous subdivisions.
The third category contains commentaries and is known to the Theravada school as the Abhidhamma Pitaka. It is a collection of texts in which the underlying doctrinal principles presented in the Sutra Pitaka are restated and explained in more a systematic framework. In Mahayana and Vajrayana tripitakas, this pitaka often contains treatises that are referred to as shastras.
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