The tipitaka. The selection of scriptures (and, in some cases, commentaries on those scriptures) regarded as cannonical by Buddhists of the Theravada tradition. Recorded in the Pali language, it was originally an oral tradition, but was commited to writing in Sri Lanka around 100 BCE. Divided into three collections (called 'pitaka', or 'baskets):

  • the Sutta Pitaka (lit. 'basket of threads'), narritives concerning the Buddha, his teachings, his disciples, supporters, and opponents
  • the Vinaya Pitaka (lit. 'basket of discipline'), rules governing the life of Buddhist monks (bhukkhu) and nuns (bhikkhuni), as well as rituals and regulations for the entire Sangha. Also includes the origins of these rules and regulations. Though dating elements within the Canon is sketchy, the Vinaya seems to contain some of the oldest scriptures.
  • the Abhidhamma Pitaka (lit. 'basket of special (or higher) dhamma), Theravada metaphysics and psychology- in depth analysis of the nature of the mind, and thus the world. The Abhidhamma is thought to be the latest part of the Canon, though the tradition holds that it was actually the first teaching created by the Buddha.

The Canon is considered to be the earliest record of the teachings of the Buddha (though not by all). It remains in use by Buddhists in Theravada countries such as Burma, Sri Lanka, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia. The basic teachings contained in the Pali form of the canon on morality, meditation, and the nature of the world form the basis for all the major Buddhist traditions- the Mahayana, Vajrayana, and other schools.

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