Sutra Pitaka

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The Sutra Pitaka refers to a category of texts that record discourses between the Buddha and his disciples, or between a senior disciple (speaking on behalf of the Buddha) and other disciples. The individual texts are called sutras.

The term pitaka litterally means "basket", and it refers to the tradition among the early Buddhist schools of storing palm-leaf manuscripts of different types in different baskets. The early Buddhist schools typically identfied three "baskets" of teachings, called the three pitakas:

  • Sutra Pitaka - the discourses
  • Vinaya Pitaka - codes of conduct for monks and nuns
  • Abhidharma Pitaka - further explanation of topics covered in the sutras

Each of the early Buddhist schools developed their own versions of the sutra pitaka. Many of these early collections were subsequently incorporated into the major Buddhist Canons.

Modern scholars generally distinguish between the Pali and Sanskrit versions of the early sutras.

  • the Nikayas are the Pali language version of the early sutras, and are included in the Pali Canon
  • the Agamas are the Sanskrit language versions of the early sutras; there are multiple versions of the agamas from different early Buddhist schools. The Chinese Canon includes editions of the agamas from several different early schools. The Tibetan Canon includes translations of many agamas; but not a complete collection.

In the Chinese and Tibetan canons, the Mahayana sutras are also categorized as belonging to the sutra pitaka.

See also