Last Updated 07 Dec 2022

Separate components

Category Buddhism
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One of the main religious books of Buddhism is “Tripitaka” (Pali language and Sanskrit – ‘tri’ = three and ‘pitaka’ = basket), which means “three baskets (of texts)” and also is know as “Tipitaka”, canonic texts of classical Buddhism schools, consisting of the Vinaya, the Sutta or Suttanata and the Abhidhamma.

This three-part structure of canonic texts can be considered as line of demarcation between classical Buddhism (which some people call hinayana – narrow way or narrow chariot) and those reformative directions, which having desire to show its supremacy, gained an honorable title of mayanaya (wide way or wide chariot) and created another collections of holy texts, imitating to some extent works of “Tripitaka” (first of all these are dialogues of Sutta Pitaka), but didn’t follow principles of three-part canon.

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Separate components of “Tripitaka” were kept in memories of many schools of early Buddhism indifferent Indian languages, such as Sanskrit and hybrid Sanskrit and also in middle Indian languages.

Some schools considered as holy all parts of Tripitaka, - except of theravaddine, vatsipuri or machishchasaka. The others focused accent at importance of separate parts in comparison with others: sthaviravadines respected the Sutta first of all; sarvastivadines respected the Abhidhamma and aparashayles and purvashayles recognized only the Vinaya. Some of the followers completed three-part canon with new ‘baskets’.

So, machasanghiki added to three parts Samiukta-pitaka and Dharma-pitaka, and bachusrutii (who already recognized “transcendency” of some Buddhist studies) added also Bodhisattva-pitaka, whereas dharmaguptaki took from traditional three parts only the Vinaya and added together with three new ‘pitakas’ also Tsharani-pitaka (which was probably text of magical spells) (Thomas W. Rhys-Davids, p.103).

Complete canonic text of “Tripitaka” belongs to ‘orthodox’ school of theravadines. Canonic texts were collected, were reproduced and passed orally, modified by the teachers, preachers and missioners of Buddhist communities during many ages, so material of Pali “Tripitaka” belongs to wide time continuum from the Buddha époque (according to modern date – 5 century BC), some speeches of whom, probably, were memorized immediately by followers of his communities, specialized on memorizing of holy texts (bhanaki) till time of their partial writing in Pali language in the 1 century BC.

Process of canonization wasn’t finished yet. Texts of “Tripitaka” continued to be created, edited, wrote and re-wrote till the 5th century – time of creation of “complete” commentary to “Tripitaka”, which can be considered the Pali re-working of Singal commentaries by egzeget collegiums, managed by Buddaghossa. So, historical origin of “Tripitaka” texts needs special examining in each separate case.

Written form of “Tripitaka” was first written on palm leaves – alu - during the times of King Vatthugamini Abhay (101-77 BC) in Alu-Vihara, Matala near Kandi, Sri-Lanka.

These works were collected one year after Buddha’s death by his three followers at the first Buddhist’s meeting in Radzhigire. During the next meetings those groups of studies were re-worked and written.

First ‘basket’ consists of 3 parts and is dedicated to principles of organization of Buddhist monk community, principles of creation and demands to monks.

The Vinaya regulates all monk life and their communications with civil people in details. The word “Vinaya” means “that, who dispels evil”. The first part, Suttavibhanga, is commentary to patimokkha – 227 discipline rules for monks in connection with definite actions of members of early-Buddhist monk community-sangha and corresponding punishments – starting of admonitions and finished by expulsion from sangha. These rules reflect real practice of regular readings of patimokkha during fasting-days (uposatha) of new moon and full moon.

The second part consists of Khandhakas – in two versions (Mahavagga in 10 chapters and Culavagga in 12 chapters), where detailed discipline rules (prescribing how to live during rain periods, which clothes they should wear, how they should prepare medicines, etc), are ‘diluted’ with didactic and historical legends (Frauwallner, E.,, p.53).

The first contains stories which explain how separate people came to Buddhist community, the second contains information about partial stories of Buddha’s life (gaining “clarifying”, first travels and first followers) and stories about first two Buddhist meetings in Radzhagrych (soon after Buddha’s death) and in Vayshali. The third part, Parivaranapatha, consists of 19 text of catechism type, including questions and answers for discipline problems.

The Sutta, the eldest and the main part of Tripitaka’s texts is collection of five big texts (nikaya), first four of which are thematically similar to some extent (statement by Buddha, sometimes by his followers, of separate topics in Dharma (Buddhist science), and the last part is collection of different materials, united a bit later.

The first four collections of the Sutta are started with unchangeable words “So I heard”, which is given from the narrator (in order to show origin of text), which is followed by plotline of lesson and then after the lesson itself, which Buddha pronounces in dialogue with somebody or in monologue (

The words are “Tripitaka” words are charming, they open your eyes and bewilder with their wisdom; they sound like music which you want to hear again and over again, reading and re-reading its simple but wise words: “He walks without fear, stands without fear, sits without fear, lies down without fear. Why is that? Because he is out of the Evil One ' s range. ”

Thai is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One ' s words”. (“Tripitaka”) These four collections of texts differ not only in content, but in quantity and structure – by length of the Suttas and way of organization of their consequences. All five big collections of the Sutta’s texts include in different proportions prosaic and poem components.

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