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Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
Chapter 5 - Basic Doctrines
Tri-Pitaka (or Tipitaka)
The Tripitaka was compiled and arranged in its present form by those Arahants who had immediate contact with the Master Himself.
The Buddha has passed away, but the sublime Dhamma which He unreservedly bequeathed to humanity still exists in its pristine purity.
Although the Master has left no written records of His Teachings, His distinguished disciples preserved them by committing to memory and transmitting them orally from generation to generation.
Immediately after the final passing away of the Buddha, 500 distinguished Arahants held a convention known as the First Buddhist Council to rehearse the Doctrine taught by the Buddha. Venerable Ananda, the faithful attendant of the Buddha who had the special privilege of hearing all the discourses the Buddha ever uttered, recited the Dhamma, whilst the Venerable Upali recited the Vinaya, the rules of conduct for the Sangha.
One hundred years after the First Buddhist Council, during King Kalasoka, some disciples saw the need to change certain minor rules. The orthodox monk said that nothing should be changed while the others insisted on modifying some disciplinary rules (Vinaya). Finally, the formation of different schools of Buddhism germinated after this council. And in the Second Council, only matters pertaining to the Vinaya were discussed and no controversy about the Dhamma was reported.
In the 3rd Century B.C. during the time of Emperor Asoka, the Third Council was held to discuss the differences of opinion held by the Sangha community. At this Council the differences were not confined to the Vinaya but were also connected with the Dhamma. At the end of this Council, the President of the Council, Ven. Moggaliputta Tissa, compiled a book called Kathavatthu refuting the heretical, false views and theories held by some disciples. The teaching approved and accepted by this Council was known as Theravada. The Abhidhamma Pitaka was held in Sri Lanka in 80 B.C. is known as the 4th Council under the patronage of the pious King Vattagamini Abbaya. It was at this time in Sri Lanka that the Tripitaka was first committed to writing.
The Tripitaka consists of three sections of the Buddha's Teachings. They are the Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), the Discourse (Sutta Pitaka), and Ultimate Doctrine (Abhidhamma Pitaka).
I. Vinaya Pitaka
The Vinaya Pitaka mainly deals with the rules and regulations of the Order of monks (Bhikkhus) and nuns (Bhikkhunis). It describes in detail the gradual development of the Sasana (Dispensation). It also gives an account of the life and ministry of the Buddha. Indirectly it reveals some useful information about ancient history, Indian customs, arts, sciences, etc.
For nearly twenty years since His Enlightenment, the Buddha did not lay down rules for the control of the Sangha. Later, as the occasion arose, the Buddha promulgated rules for the future discipline of the Sangha.
This Pitaka consists of the five following books:
The Sutta Pitaka consists chiefly of discourses delivered by the Buddha Himself on various occasions. There are also a few discourses delivered by some of His distinguished disciples, such as the Venerable Sariputta, Ananda, Moggallana, etc., included in it. It is like a book of prescriptions, as the sermons embodied therein were expounded to suit the different occasions and the temperaments of various persons. There may be seemingly contradictory statements, but they should not be misconstrued as they were opportunely uttered by the Buddha to suit a particular purpose.
This Pitaka is divided into five Nikayas or collections, viz:--
The fifth is subdivided into fifteen books:
III. Abhidhamma Pitaka
The Abhidhamma is, to a deep thinker, the most important and interesting, as it contains the profound philosophy of the Buddha's teaching in contrast to the illuminating but simpler discourses in the Sutta Pitaka.
In the Sutta Pitaka one often finds references to individual, being, etc., but in the Abhidhamma, instead of such conventional terms, we meet with ultimate terms, such as aggregates, mind, matter, etc.
In the Sutta is found the Vohara Desana (Conventional Teaching), whilst in the Abhidhamma is found the Paramattha Desana (Ultimate Doctrine).
In the Abhidhamma everything is analysed and explained in detail, and as such it is called analytical doctrine (Vibhajja Vada).
Four ultimate things (Paramattha) are enumerated in the Abhidhamma. They are Citta, (Consciousness), Cetasika (Mental concomitants), Rupa (Matter) and Nibbana.
The so-called being is microscopically analysed and its component parts are minutely described. Finally the ultimate goal and the method to achieve it is explained with all necessary details.
The Abhidhamma Pitaka is composed of the following works:--
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According to another classification, mentioned by the Buddha Himself, the whole Teachings is ninefold, namely: 1. Sutta, 2. Geyya, 3. Veyyakarama, 4. Gatha, 5. Udana, 6. Itivuttaka, 7. Jataka, 8. Abbhutadhamma, 9. Vedalla.
Source: Buddhist Study and Practice Group, http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/
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