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Buddhist Literature

The Buddhist literature consists oI the three pitakas or Tripitakas or Tipitaka. The word Pitaka` means a basket
containing the teachings of the Master
The secondary meaning oI Pitaka` is traditional handing on`. The Tripitaka consists of the three pitakas the
Vinaya, the Sutta and the Abhidhamma.
Vinaya Pitaka means a basket containing manuscripts oI Vinaya or the rules oI discipline. It contains rules and
regulations Ior the management oI the Buddhist Samgha and Ior the conduct of the daily life of monks and nuns.
Rules for reception into the order, for the periodical confession of sins, for life during the rainy season for housing,
clothing, medicinal remedies and legal procedures in case of schism, are also included in it.
These rules are supposed to have been laid down by the Buddha himself as occasion necessitated as promulgation.
The Vinaya Pitaka consists of the following books :
2. Khandakas

1. The first Sutta is subdivided into jika and

k H k, k ,
provide the gist or substance of more than expressed in them in words.
The Buddhists used this word to mean a discourse or a chapter. It tells us how and when and why the
particular rule in question came to be laid down.
i) k
are the two main heads into which the offences are divided.

i) the punishment for which there was an expulsion from the order for the offences like lack of
ii) for which some expiation was laid down.
Both the Prjika and Pcittiya deal with 227 rules Ior the guidance oI the bhikkhus in determining the oIIences and
disputes of the bhikkhus and in formulating punishment. The 227 rules are divided into 8 sections viz.
1. k D kk
endeavour to achieve the end for which he enteres the order so that he could attain the supreme goal of
Arhatship.1 If a bhikkhu acquires a carnal knowledge of any one ,(2) steals and takes a thing which is not given
to him,(3) murder or encourages some one to an extent of committing suicide and (4) exaggeration of ones
power to perform miracles to gain something.
2. k
committee of at least 20 monks. It mentions 13 offences arising k
, , ,
3. (uncertain) speaks of two cases which require circumstantial evidence to ascertain the


4. Ni- deals with 26 offences that can be committed by a monk who appropriates
certain articles of use which were not permissible. The offending monks could be absolved if they parted with
the article in question and confessed their guilt. If a bhikkhu keeps aspare robe with him or asks a householder
for a robe not at a proper time (Kathina ceremony) or hints for adesired or a special robe to some lay devotee,
he is transgressing nissaggiya pacittiya dhamma. If he possess a rug or a mat made of wool or silk, if abhikkhu
keeps a spare bowl beyond the limit of ten days or gets another bowl in exchange for an old one broken in less
than 5places or stores up medicine ,ghee, butter, oil, honey and molasses beyond the limit of 7 days he
commits a nissaggiya pacittiya dhamma.
5. enumerates 92 offences relating to careless acts leading to insecticide, to lack of respect
for the Buddhist teachings and discipline code and to non-compliance with the directions given in the latter
and lastly to indiscrete acts in the use of beds, seats, robes etc, while dwelling in a monastery.
6. k 4 k k
to him. Absolution from all the offences mentio

7. Sekhiya dhamma gives 75 instructions to be observed by a monk in his daily life, for instance, how he must
enter a village or a town, take food inoffensively, enter a sickroom and so on. These are not treated as
offences and no punishment is therefore prescribed for them.
8. k
7 in number. The first is to place the two quarrelling monks face to face, the second to make one admit that
his memory has failed in regard to the point to dispute, while the third is to make a monk admit that he was
not in his normal mind when the point of dispute arose. The fourth relates to ,
k k,

The brothers and sisters used to convene meetings twice in each month (on the 14
or 15
day) to confess to the
assembly the sins and faults they had committed. The object of confession was to take upon themselves the
punishment which they believed would atone their sin. The completion of recitation is therefore the evidence that all
who have taken part in it are pure in respect oI the speciIied oIIences and this is the origin oI that second name, the
Ptimokkha, which means the acquittal or deliverance or discharge.
The Ptimokkha was composed to be used at such penitential assemblies. It contains a list of offences which require
confession and expiation.
On the 15
day oI the halI-month, the members oI the Samgha assembled aIter perIorming the Uposatha ceremony,
should recite the Ptimokkha which contains the various rules of conduct of the Bhikkhus of the order. The
procedure followed id that each and every set of rules is recited before the Bhikkhus, and immediately after the
recitation each and every one of them is asked thrice if he is guilty of any of these rules. If any bhikkhu is guilty he
should confess his fault before the assembly. If he has not incurred any such fault, he should remain silent, and his
silence will give hint to the presiding bhikkhu that he is pure.
The Khandhakas the Khandhakas are divided into 2 parts the Mahvagga and the Cullavagga.
can well be described as the history oI the development oI the Buddhist Samgha. It opens with an
account oI the Buddha`s liIe Irom the day he attained bodhi on the bank oI the Nairanjana and carries the story up to
the conversion oI Yasa and his 54 Iriends including Vimala, Subhu, Punnaji and Gavampati who were dispatched
in different directions to preach the Dharma. However, these young untrained missionaries were not capable of
deciding on the type oI persons Iit Ior admission to the Samgha. For the guidance oI such disciples, the Buddha laid
down elaborate rules as and when occasion arose, relating to the ordination of a newcomer.
The second chapter of the text is devoted to the institution oI a Iortnightly assembly, usually known as Uposatha
The third and the Iourth chapters deal with the monks` residence during the rains and the ceremony to be perIormed
at the close oI the vassvsa.
The fifth chapter narrates the story of Sonakolivisa, a son of a wealthy man looking into the problem of his feet that
bled, he was given permission to wear shoes which he denied. This led Buddha to allow the use of shoes to all
monks and prescribed certain forms of shoes that could be used by the monks.
The sixth chapter discusses the medicines permissible to sick monks and nuns.
The last two chapters oI the Mahvagga are devoted to irregularities in the activities oI the Samgha. A minimum
number of monks is fixed for the performance oI diIIerent duties regarding the Samgha.
As Cullavagga is a continuation oI the Mahvagga, it takes up, in the Iirst Iour chapters, the diIIerent punishments
prescribed in the Vinaya Pitaka and gives instructions as to how the monks should behave when undergoing
punishment. In the IiIth chapter oI the Cullavagga there are several directions relating to baths, the monks` begging
bowls, scissors, needles, shoes, cutting hair, etc.
Detailed descriptions of monasteries fitted with doors & windows and other necessary adjuncts constructed by the
laity Iort the use oI the monks are given in the sixth chapters. The seventh chapter is devoted to an account oI the
dissensions that were about to break out within the Samgha during the Buddha`s liIetime.
Tenth chapter is the narration oI the story oI the Iormation oI the order oI nuns at the instance oI Mahprajpati
Gautami and the mediation oI nanda.
The last 2 chapters contain a Iull description oI the Iirst two councils held at Rjgrha and Vaishali.
The Par is a digest of the other parts of the Vinaya and consists of 19 chapters. It is the manual of
instructions in the Vinaya Pitaka.

Buddha`s teachings are contained in the Sutta Pitaka which consists oI 5 nikyas, namely
I. The Digha
II. The Majjhima
V. The Khuddaka

I. In the ,
k k kk, ,
4 ,
, , , ,
II. is the second book of k
k k
not only on the life of Buddhist monks but also on such subjects as sacrifices per ,
, ,
, , ,
III. k k D
k k
, , ,
k -ethical and
philosophical problems.
IV. is the fourth book of the Sutta Pitaka. It is a collection characterized by numerical
groupings of dhammas arranged serially in an ascending order.
1. Ekanipata consisting of 21 chapters
2. Duka nipata consisting of 16 chapters
3. Tika nipata consisting of 16 chapters
4. Catuka nipata consisting of 26 chapters
5. k
6. Chakka nipata consisting of 12 chapters
7. Sattaka nipata consisting of 9 chapters
8. k
9. Navaka nipata consisting of 9 chapters
10. Dasaka nipata consisting of 22 chapters
11. kk
V. k

belong to the earliest period while others to the latest str
most part in verse, and contains all the most important works of Buddhist poetry. The sixteen books are
as follows:
1. k
2. Dhammapada
4. Itivuttaka
7. Petavatthu
10. k
16. k

1. consists of 9 texts. According to the comm. the book derives its name from the

Buddhist creed:
Buddham saranam gacchmi
Dhammam saranam gacchmi
Samgham saranam gacchmi
The second gives the ten commandments prescribed for the novices:
i. Avoidance of life slaughter.
ii. Avoidance of theft
iii. Avoidance of leading irreligious life
iv. Avoidance of falsehood
v. Avoidance of drinking spirituous liquor
vi. Avoidance of dancing, singing and music
vii. Avoidance of using garlands, scents, ointments, and ornamentation
viii. Avoidance of using luxurious and magnificent household furniture
ix. Taking food at improper time.
The ninth is the Karanyametta in which kindness towards all creatures is esteemed as true Buddhist cult.
2. Dhammapada k k k ,
into 26 vaggas or chapters.
Dhammapada means religious word or saying and we find it used in this sense in the book itself (44-45).
Like many other Buddhist works, this little manual also condemns all kinds of sacrifice and the ascetic practices
of self-mortification and its main stress is on good conduct (sila), stabilized by concentration (samdhi), and
strengthened by sound reasoning (pan n a).
The teaching of the Buddha in nutshell is:
Abstain from evil; accumulate what is evil; and purify your mind (183). According to teaching all copound
things are transitory, Iull oI suIIering and consequently without any intrinsic being (anatta), people are exhorted
not to look to the external attraction oI things but tot ake cognizance oI their unpleasant aspects. It recognizes
ignorance (avidy) as being the highest form of impurity (243) and holds that suffering this world can be
brought to an end only by the destruction of craving. Greed ill-will and delusion are considered as dangerous
fire and unless they are checked it is not possible to attain a happy life. To achieve a happy state of life one must
avoid the two extremes (i) indulgence in a life of pleasure and (ii) the practice of self mortification. One must
follow the middle path the noble eight-fold path of Buddha. According to Dhammapada, the attainment of the
different stages on the Buddhist path is to be preferred even to the possession of the whole world (178). It
enjoins all beings to develop those factors of enlightenment which would enable them to cultivate the mind.
It emphasizes the principle that one makes or mars oneself and that no one else can help one to rid oneself of
impurity. A man must exert himself.
It recommends a life of peace and non-violence (129-30,142) and declares that enmity can never be overcome
by enmity but by kindness (5). Its advice is to conquer anger by cool headedness, evil by good, miserliness by
generosity and falsehood by truth (223). It also enjoins men not to speak harshly to others, as they in their turn
are likely to do the same (133). A man who reads much good literature but never tries to bring into practice is
compared to a cowherd who counts the no. of cows that go to the pasture under his care but has no propriety
right in any of them (19).
Besides this there are many verses which contain universal truths
It is easier to do evil and harmIul things than to do good and salutary things,` (163)
There are only Iew people in this world who have an insight: most oI them are blind.` (174)
You are the Master oI your own selI and you are the Master oI your destiny.`
On account of such gems of literary merit and universal appeal, this book has earned recognition worldwide and
has been translated into no. oI languages in Asia and Europe. It is even called the Gita` oI Buddhism.
3. or the solemn utterances k
k ,
, , k, , , ll.
4. Itivuttaka is the fourth book. It is a book of quotations of the authoritative sayings of the Buddha. It is an
anthology of ethical teachings of the Buddha on the wide range of moral subjects as passion, anger, pride, lust
and other shortcomings of human beings. Friendliness, charity, virtue, modesty, truth and several
characteristic Buddhist doctrines are dealt with in it.
5. is the fifth book. It is one of the most important works of Sutta Pitaka. It contains information
about the social,

Buddha and with Ideals of a Buddhist Monk.
6. Vimana Vatthu is the sixth book. It gives in verse a graphic description of certain celestial abodes (Heaven)
enjoyed by the devas for having done meritorious deeds while on earth as human beings.
7. Peta Vatthu is the seventh book. It contains little poems illustrating belief in the existence of life beyond death
and sufferings after death for having done evil deeds while on earth (Hell).
8. Theragatha is the eighth book. It is a collection of poems, some of them are believed to have been sung by the
Theras during the lifetime of Buddha and others shortly after his parinirvana. These gathas portray the
religious theories and feelings prevalent in the Buddhist order.
9. Therigatha is the ninth book. Women of acknowledged culture () are represented as being teachers of men
and as expounding to the less advanced monks and nuns in the order, the deeper and the more subtle points
in the Buddhist Philosphy of life.
10. Jataka is the tenth book. They contain the birthstory and thus reveal some events in the long series of his
previous existences as a Bodhisattva. The Jatakas are highly important for the history of Buddhism as they give
us an insight into popular Buddhism. The whole system of Jataka is based on the most popular dogma of
Karma, and the ethical ideal of this relig na, but the Bodhisattva
who, in all his previous existences has shown one or more of the great virtues by which he prepared himself
for becoming the future Buddha. However high or low he may have been born, in every Jataka he is either
helpful, kind or self-sacrificing or brave, clever or even possessing supernatural wisdom.
11. The eleventh and the twelfth books are styled as Mahaniddesa and the Cullaniddesa. It is a sort of word for
comment or gloss on the Atthakavagga of the Sutta Nipata.
12. Patisambhidamagga is the thirteenth book. It deals with the impermanence and sorrowfulness of
compounded things, of the four Aryan Truths, of the chain of causation, of the four realms, etc.
13. is the fourteenth book and it contains in verse the history of the 24 Buddhas supposed to have
preceeded the historical Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
14. The Cariyapitaka is the fifteenth book. It is canonical collection of stories illustrating the modes in which the
bodhisattva practiced the Cariya or conduct.
15. Apadana is the sixteenth and last book. It is an anthology of legends in verse, which describes great deeds of
Buddhist Arhats.

Abhidhamma Pitaka
The third main division of the Tipitaka is the Abhidhamma Pitaka or the basket oI higher expositions`, or the
basket oI transcendental doctrine`. Its subject matter is the same as that oI the Sutta Pitaka, only differs from that
collection in being more scholastic. It is composed chiefly in the form of questions & answers like catechism. The
Abhidhamma treatise follow a progressive scheme of treatment, the matikas or uddessa are followed by Niddesa.
The Abhidhamma Pitaka comprises 7 works:
Dhammasangini is one of the most important books of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. Dhammasangini is so called
because therein the author after compilation and condensation enumerates and sums up the conditions of the
Kamaloka, the Rupaloka and so on. This book is divided into three main divisions. The first part deals with the
subject of consciousness in its good, bad and indeterminate states or conditions. The main 8 types of thought relating
to sensuous universe (kamavacara mahacittain) are the first things considered here.
ga is the second book of Abhidhamma Pitaka. Vibhanga generally deals with the diIIerent categories and
Iormulae treated in the Dhammasangini. But the method Iollowed in the Vibanga and the matter contained in it are
found to be almost different from that of Dhammasangini. It contains some terms and definitions which are not
found in Dhammasangini.
The book is divided into 18 chapters called Vibhanga. Each of these chapters has three portions (i) Suttanta
bhajaniya (ii) Abhidhamma bhajaniya (iii) Pan n a pucchaka.
Kathavatthu is the third book of Abhidhamma Pitaka. It is a Buddhist book of debate on matters of theology and
philosophy. This book consists of 23 chapters.
atti is the fourth book of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. It throws some light on several obscure Buddhist
terms and phrases. Puggala` means an individual or a person. According to the commentarial tradition
Puggalapan n atti means pointing out`, showing`, expositions, establishing`, and deposition oI persons or it may
also mean notion` or designation` oI types oI persons.
At the outset, the author classiIies pan n atti notion into group (khandha), locus (ayatana), element (dhatu), truth
(sacca), faculty (indriya) and person (puggala). Of these six, the last one i.e. puggala is the subject matter of this
Dhatukatha - is the fifth book of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. It means talk on elements`. It discusses the Iive
khandhas (aggregates) rupa, vedana, san n a, samkhara and vijn ana, twelve ayatanas cakkhu, sota, ghana, jihva,
kaya, rupa, sadda, gandha, rasa, photabba, mana and dhamma.
18 dhatus, four truths, four jhanas, etc.
Yamaka is the sixth book of Abhidhamma Pitaka. Matters of psychological, ethical and eschatological interest are
dealt here in.
Patthana is the seventh book of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. The book consists of three divisions: eka, duka, tika.
The twenty four paccayas or modes of relations between things (dhammas) are so many pattahanas.