Tripitaka or Three Baskets is a traditional term used for various Buddhist scriptures. It is known as pali Canon in English. The three pitakas are Sutta Pitaka, Vinaya Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka.

  • Theravāda school Tripitaka is the only complete Tripitaka preserved in Pali.
  • Sārvāstivāda is a near complete Tripitaka written in Sanskrit and preserved in Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan.
  • The 7 books of Abhidhammapitakasurvive in Chinese Translation.
  • Dhammaguptakatripitaka is written in Gandhari.
  • Other versions of Tripitaka are Mahasanghika, Mahisasaka, Mūlasārvāstivāda & Kāśyapīya

Sutta Pitaka

It contains over 10 thousand suttas or sutras related to Buddha and his close companions. This also deals with the first Buddhist council which was held shortly after Buddha’s death, dated by the majority of recent scholars around 400 BC, under the patronage of king Ajatasatru with the monk Mahakasyapa presiding, at Rajgir.

Its sections are:

  1. Digha Nikaya:Comprises the “long” discourses in 34 long sutras.
  2. Majjhima Nikaya:Comprises the “middle-length” discourses in 152 sutras.
  3. Samyutta Nikaya: Comprises the “connected” discourses in over 2800 sutras.
  4. Anguttara Nikaya: Comprises the “numerical” discourses in over 9600sutras.
  5. Khuddaka Nikaya: Comprises the “minor collection” It has 15-17 booklets. (Thai 15. Sinhali 17 & Burmese 18 booklets).

Vinaya Pitaka

The subject matter of Vinay Pitaka is the monastic rules for monks and nuns. It can also be called as Book of Discipline.

  • Suttavibhanga: The basic code of Monastic discipline is known as It contains 227 rules for fully ordained Monks called bikkhus (Maha vibhanga) and 311 rules for fully ordained nuns called Bikkhunis (Bikkhuni Vibhanga) They are contained in Suttavibhanga, one of the parts of Vinay Pitaka.
  • Khandhaka:Khandhaka is the second book of Vinay Pitaka. It has two volumes viz. Mahavagga and Cullavagga. Mahavagga deals with the awakening of Buddha and his great disciples. Cullavagga deals with the first and second Buddhist councils and establishments of community of Buddhist nuns and rules for Buddhist community.
  • Parivara: Parivara is the last book of Vinaya Pitaka. It covers the summary of analysis of rules mentioned in first two books of Vinay Pitaka. Its is latest book and seems to be later than the Fourth Buddhist Coincil in Ceylon. It also contains questions and answers.


Abhidhammapitaka deals with the philosophy and doctrine of Buddhism appearing in the suttas. However, it does not contain the systematic philosophical treatises. There are 7 works of Abhidhamma Pitaka which most scholars agree that don’t represent the words of Buddha himself. The 7 books are

  1. Dhammasangani: It contains a matrix which lists the classification of Dhammas or ideas.
  2. Vibhanga :It has 18 chapters dealing with different teachings of Buddhism. It is in 3 volumes and third volume is in question answer format.
  3. Dhatukatha:It has a matrix and various topics.
  4. Puggalapannatti: It has a matrix which deals with the list of the persons.
  5. Kathavatthu:It contains the debates and commentary on thoese debates.
  6. Yamaka :Yamaka has questions in pairs and understanding.
  7. Patthana :It also contains the questions and answers.

The following graphic shows the Tripitaka of Buddhism.