Buddhist Literature

During his lifetime the Buddha taught not in Vedic Sanskrit, which had become unintelligible to the people, but in his own Indian dialect; he also encouraged his monks to propagate his teachings in the vernacular. After his death, the Buddhist canon was formulated and transmitted by oral tradition, and it was written down in several versions in the 2d and 1st cent. B.C. Its main divisions, called Pitakas.
Created On: Jul 3, 2014 17:05 IST
Modified On: Jul 27, 2015 17:07 IST

During his lifetime the Buddha taught not in Vedic Sanskrit, which had become tough to the people, but in his own Indian dialect, he also encouraged his monks to propagate his teachings in the vernacular. After his death, the Buddhist canon was formulated and transmitted by oral tradition, and it was written down in several versions in the 2d and 1st cent. B.C. Its main divisions, called Pitakas.

Tripitaka, also known as Pali Canon in English, is a traditional term used for Buddhist scriptures. The three pitakas are Sutta Pitaka, Abhidhamma Pitaka and Vinaya Pitaka.

Sutta Pitaka

It has around 10 thousand sutras related to Buddha and his close associates.

It also deals with the first Buddhist council, held shortly after Buddha’s death.

Sutta Pitaka is divided under following sections:

• Anguttara Nikaya which comprises the numerical.
• Digha Nikaya, which comprises the long discourses.
• Khuddaka Nikaya which comprises the minor collection.
• Majjhima Nikaya, which comprises the middle length.
• Samyutta Nikaya which comprises the connected discourses of Buddha.

Vinaya Pitaka

Also known as book of discipline, it deals with the monastic rules for monks and nuns. It is further divided into three books namely Suttavibhanga, Khandhaka and Parivara.

Abhidhammapitaka

It comprises the philosophy and doctrine of Buddhism. It is divided into seven books namely Dhammasangani, Dhatukatha, Kathavatthu, Patthana, Puggalapannatui, Vibhanga and Yamaka.

Jatakas

It comprises the stories of previous births of Buddha in the form of poems.

Milinda Panha

It contains the dialogue between Buddhist monk Nagasena and Indo-Greek king Meander.

Dipavamsa

Dipavamsa means Chronicle of Island. In fact, it is the oldest historical record of Sri Lanka. It is considered one of the most important works in Pali Literature.

Mahavamsa

Its literal meaning is Great Chronicle. It is the most important Pali epic poem. Its tone is historical and it describes the kings of Sri Lanka. The book is one of the longest historical account.

Buddha Charita

It is written by Ashavaghosa in Sanskrit language. It depicts primarily the life of Buddha.