Buddhist Literature

  • Pitakas means basket and it was called so, because the original texts were written on palm leaves and kept in baskets.
  • The earliest Buddhist text was written in Pali language and around 400 AD, the use of Sanskrit became predominant in India and later Mahayana Sutras were composed in Sanskrit.
  • Tripitakas are the oldest source of studying Buddhism which include:
    • Sutta Pitaka: Encyclopedia of Buddhist thought and Buddha’s religious ideas. It is divided into five groups or Nikayas. They contain popular works such as Theragatha and Therigatha and Jataka tales.
    • Vinaya Pitaka: Rules of Buddhist Sangha. It contains two main sections (i) Sutta Vibhanga (ii) Khandaka and an appendix known as Parivara. Sutta Vibhanga contains Patimokka, a set of monastic rules, 227 for monks and 311 for nuns. Patimokka was recited by congregations of monks in the fortnightly uposatha ceremony held on the full moon and new moon days.
    • Abhidhamma Pitaka: Buddhist principles and concept of dhamma
      • Vishuddhimarga written by Buddhaghosha serves as a key composition to tripitakas.

Sanskrit texts

  • Mahavastu (by Hinayana sect) and Lalit Vistara (by Mahayana sect) are biographies of Buddha.
  • The Lankavatara Sutra is a prominent Mahayana Buddhist sutra. 
  • Buddha Charita is an epic poem in the Sanskrit mahakavya style on the life of Gautama Buddha by Asvaghosa of Saketa
  • Pragyaparimita Sutra serves as the most important text for Mahayana sect. It was written by Nagarjuna who is known as the Einstein of India.
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