Pali Canon

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Template:Qual 3 Template:PaliCanon The Pāli Canon refers to the standard collection of scriptures in the Theravadan tradition, as preserved in the Pāli language.Template:Sfn

This canon is traditionally referred to as the Template:IAST (literally "three baskets"), refering to the three major sections of the canon.[lower-alpha 1] These three sections are:

  1. Vinaya Pitaka, the disciplinary codes for monastics and lay people
  2. Sutta Pitaka, discourses of the Buddha
  3. Abhidhamma Pitaka, defines and categorizes many of the topics in the suttas

This canon is one of the three major Buddhist Canons, the other two being the Chinese Buddhist Canon, and the Tibetan Buddhist Canon.


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Standard edition of the Thai Pali Canon

The first complete printed edition of the Canon was published in Burma in 1900, in 38 volumes.Template:Sfn The following editions of the Pali text of the Canon are readily available in the West:

  • Pali Text Society edition, 1877–1927 (a few volumes subsequently replaced by new editions), 57 volumes including indexes
  • Thai edition, 1925–28, 45 volumes
    • Electronic transcript: BUDSIR on Internet[1]
  • Sixth Council edition, Rangoon, 1954–56, 40 volumes
    • Electronic transcript by Vipāssana Research Institute available online[2] in searchable database free of charge, or on CD-ROM (p&p only).[3]
    • Another transcript of this edition, produced under the patronage of the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, World Tipitaka Edition, 2005, 40 volumes, was published by the Dhamma Society Fund,[4]
  • Sinhalese (Buddha Jayanti) edition, 1957–?1993, 58 volumes including parallel Sinhalese translations, searchable, free of charge (not yet fully proofread.) Available at Journal of Buddhist Ethics.[5]
  • Sinhalese (Buddha Jayanti). Image files in Sinhala script. The only accurate version of the Sri Lankan text available, in individual page images. Cannot be searched though.[6]
    • Transcript in BudhgayaNews Pali Canon.[7] In this version it is easy to search for individual words across all 16,000+ pages at once and view the contexts in which they appear.


The climate of Theravāda countries is not conducive to the survival of manuscripts. Apart from brief quotations in inscriptions and a two-page fragment from the eighth or ninth century found in Nepal, the oldest manuscripts known are from late in the fifteenth century,Template:Sfn and there is not very much from before the eighteenth.[8]


For English translations of texts of the Pali Canon, see:


The Pali Canon (Tipitaka) contains the following categories of texts:

The traditional position is that abhidhamma refers to the absolute teaching, while the suttas are adapted to the hearer. Most scholars describe the abhidhamma as an attempt to systematize the teachings of the suttas:Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn Cousins says that where the suttas think in terms of sequences or processes the abhidhamma thinks in terms of specific events or occasions.Template:Sfn

Comparison with other canons

Template:See also

Within the Theravada tradition, the Pali Canon is traditionally referred to as the Tipitaka (literally the "three baskets").

When compared to the other Buddhist Canons:

  • The Chinese Canon includes a section of sutras (called the Agamas) that is equivalent to the Sutta Pitaka (called Nikayas in Pali) of the Pali Canon.
  • The Tibetan Canon includes some texts that are equivalent to both the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon and the Agamas of the Chinese Canon.
  • Both the Chinese and Tibetan canons include complete sections of Vinaya and Abhidharma texts that are derived from early Buddhist traditions. These texts are derived from different traditions than that of the Pali Canon; thus these sections of the other canons are similar to these sections in the Pali Canon, but the differ in the details.
  • Both the Chinese and Tibetan canons include sections on Mahayana sutras, as well as commentaries, that are not found in the Pali Canon
  • The Tibetan Canon includes sections of Vajrayana texts that are not found in the Pali Canon.

See also


  1. See also Three pitakas for a description on how this term is used in different traditions.




Further reading

  • Hinüber, Oskar von (2000). A Handbook of Pāli Literature. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016738-7.
  • B. C. Law, History of Pali Literature, volume I, Trubner, London 1931

External links

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English translations

Pali Canon online

  • SuttaCentral (Mahāsaṅgīti (World Tipiṭaka) edition (A corrected version of the VRI 6th Council Pali text. Also includes translations in multiple languages.)
  • Vipassana Research Institute (Based on 6th Council - Burmese version) (this site also offers a downloadable program which installs the entire Pali Tipitaka on your desktop for offline viewing)
  • Tipitaka (Sri Lankan version)
  • Tipiṭakapāḷi (Sri Lankan version) image files of Buddha Jayanti edition
  • Thai Tripitaka (Thai version)

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Page is sourced from Pali Canon