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The Tripitaka or Pali Canon, the First Buddhist Scriptures


The Tripitaka: Written, at Last

The various histories of Buddhism record two Fourth Buddhist Councils, and at one of these, convened in Sri Lanka in the 1st century BCE, the Tripitaka was written out on palm leaves. After centuries of being memorized and chanted, the Pali Canon finally existed as written text.

And Then Came Historians

Today, it may be safe to say that no two historians agree on how much, if any, of the story of how the Tripitaka originated is true. However, the truth of the teachings has been confirmed and re-confirmed by the many generations of Buddhists who have studied and practiced them.

Buddhism is not a "revealed" religion. Our About.com Guide to Agnosticism / Atheism, Austin Cline, defines revealed religion this way:

"Revealed Religions are those which find their symbolic center in some set of revelations handed down by a god or gods. These revelations are normally contained in the religion's holy scriptures which, in turn, have been transmitted to the rest of us by specially revered prophets of the god or gods."

The historical Buddha was a man who challenged his followers to discover the truth for themselves. The sacred writings of Buddhism provide valuable guidance to seekers of truth, but merely believing in what the sutras say is not the point of Buddhism. As long as the teachings in the Pali Canon are useful, in a way it's not so important how it came to be written.

I believe all of the English translations of the Tripitaka currently available in book form or on the Web are "condensed" and incomplete versions. The most complete and authoritative version I have found on the Web is hosted at Access to Insight.

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