An overview of the Tipitaka (The Three Baskets)
The Buddhist Pali Canon - in Pali Tipitaka: Ti = Three, Pitaka = Baskets - together with the commentaries and chronicles constitutes the doctrinal foundation of Theravada Buddhism. It contains the teachings of the historical Buddha Gotama that lived in India more than 2500 years ago. At that time the discourses were orally transmitted and later gathered and preserved after the Buddha’s Paranibbana, at the First Buddhist Council. The Buddha’s first cousin, disciple and personal caretaker Ānanda played a pivotal role in preserving the discourses and the Vinaya (monastic code) at the council together with 499 arahants. Ānanda was known as the Treasurer of the Dhamma due to his exceptional memory, knowledge and compassion.
Later, around 29 B.C. at the Forth Buddhist Council in Sri Lanka, the teachings were for the first committed to writing on palm leaves officially formulating the Theravada Pali Canon.
The Tipitaka is comprised of 3 sections; the Sutta Pitaka, the Vinaya Pitaka and the Abhidhamma Pitaka. These Pitakas are further divided into smaller sections containing the discourses wherein the Buddha expounds the doctrines of Buddhism such as the nature of Kamma, the Five Aggregates, the Seven Factors of Enlightenment and many other parts of the teaching. The Vinaya Pitaka contains the monastic code, all the rules and regulations pertaining to the Noble ones, ie. the monastic order of bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs (monks and nuns).
The Abhidhamma Pitaka is the most detailed and complex part of the teaching that contains and dissects the teaching on a minute, moment to moment level. An example of an Abhidhamma teaching is the conditions for the arising of eye-consciousness, which factors need to be present and how the mental process of seeing occurs. I will dive deeper into this in a later blog post.
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