Pali canon

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Thai Pali Canon

The Pali Canon is the oldest coherent collection of discourses of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama , written in the Pali language . The collection is a Buddhist canon and is distinguished by the name Pali from other collections such as the " Sanskrit canon " or the " Chinese canon ".

The other common term “ three basket ” is a literal translation of Tipiṭaka (Pali) and Tripitaka ( Sanskrit ). It indicates that the text collection is divided into three large parts (“baskets”).

Origin and name

The Pali canon of the Theravadins is best developed and is the only Buddhist canon to be completely preserved in an Indian language. The Pali tradition is one of the oldest documents in Buddhism. It goes back to the Vibhajyvāda sect of the Theravada direction that was widespread in rear India and Ceylon . The canon was written down under King Vaṭṭagāmaṇī Abhaya (ruled from 89 to 77 BC) at Matale , Sri Lanka and forms the basis of Theravada.

The Middle Indian Pāli language is used within today's Theravada traditions, but recorded in local scripts.

Palm leaf manuscript with parts of the Pali canon in Thai .

Until the 6th Buddhist Council (1954–56 in Rangoon ) the canon was only distributed in handwritten form in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Usually it was held on palm leaves (rarely wood). In particular, the new copying suggested by the respective Burmese king was common. Editions on other materials, such as the one probably made in the 6th and 7th centuries and found in Hmawanza (Burma) in 1897 (on gold leaves), are rare.

This canon was first printed in the late 19th century, stimulated by the interest of European researchers. This Pali canon was and is still incorrectly described as the original or only correct one - an error that goes back to the Indologists of this time. The editions of the Pali Text Society and the philologically controversial but poetic German translations by Karl Eugen Neumann and Anton Gueth , written between 1896 and 1917, have made it accessible in Western languages.

The content of the Agama Sutras of the Chinese Mahāyāna essentially corresponds to the Pali canon.


The Pali Canon is divided into three parts ( piṭaka , 'basket'), which in turn consist of several collections ( nikāya ), sections ( vagga ) and sections ( nipāta ). The abbreviations given in brackets are used to indicate text passages.

  1. (Vin) Vinayapitaka - Order rules
    1. Maha Vibhanga - monk rules cf. Patimokkha
    2. Bikkhuni Vibhanga - nuns' rules
    3. (Mhv) Mahavagga - Greater Subdivision
    4. (Cv) Culla Vagga - Minor Subdivision
    5. Parivara - summary
  2. Suttapitaka - Discourses of the Buddha
    1. (D, DN) Digha-Nikaya - Longer lectures
    2. (M, MN) Majjhima-Nikaya - Intermediate Discourses
    3. (S, SN) Samyutta-Nikaya - Grouped Discourses
    4. (A) Anguttara-Nikaya - Lined up discourses
    5. Khuddaka-Nikaya - Short texts
      1. (Khp) Khuddaka-Patha
      2. (Dhp) Dhammapada
      3. (Ud) Udana
      4. (It, Itv) Itivuttaka - aphorisms
      5. (Sn, Snp) Sutta-Nipata - fragments
      6. Vimana-Vathu - Stories of the Palace of the Gods
      7. Peta-Vathu - ghost stories
      8. (Thag) Theragatha - sayings of the monks
      9. (Thig) Therígatha - sayings of the nuns
      10. Jataka - rebirth stories
      11. (MNid) Maha-Nidesa - Commentaries
      12. (Pts) Pathisambhida-Magga - powers of the saints
      13. Apadana - Declarations on Holiness
      14. Buddhavamsa - Legends of the 24 Buddhas before Gautama
      15. Cariya Pitaka - Changes
      16. Nettipakarana
      17. Petakopadesa
      18. (Mil) Milindapanha
  3. (Abh) Abhidhammapitaka - Treatises, Higher Discourses
    1. (Dhs) Dhammasangani
    2. (Vibh) Vibhanga
    3. Dhatukatha
    4. (Pug) Puggalapannatti - study of the human being
    5. Kathavatthu - points of contention
    6. (Yam) Yamaka - opposites
    7. (Patth) Patthana - Dependent Origination

Post-canonical works of Pali literature

After the canonical writings were drawn up, other important and often cited works of Pali literature were created. For example:

Other important comments were made by Buddhadatta and Dhammapala . For some books, the assignment to the canon is controversial. The Thai version of the Palikanon does not contain the three sections Nettipakarana , Petakopadesa , and Milindapanha .

See also


Modern editions of the Pali Canon
  • "Text Series" (Pali in Latin script) since 1882 and "Translation Series" (English) since 1909 of the Pali Text Soc.
  • Nālandā-Devanāgarī-Pāli-ganthamālā; Patna 1956-61 (Devanagari)
  • Thai script: five editions in the first half of the 20th century, partly printed on palm leaves udT : พระ ไตรปิฎก , pronunciation: [ pʰrá tʰrai-pʰì-dòk ]; BUDSIR (CD-ROM edition, Bangkok 1988); further electronic versions available on the Internet.
  • Mŭl script (Khmer): Braḥ Traipiṭ, 1931–69, 110 vols.
  • North Thai script: Bangkok 1996, 45 vols.
  • Shan : Vinepitakat Pārācikan; Rankun 1959-89; 35 vols.
  • Mon : Vinayapiṭ ka Mahavibhanga. s. l. 1973-
  • Jin Tripitaka. (1115–1234) discovered in 1933 in Guangsheng Monastery ( Hongdong County )
  • Japanese: Nanden daizōkyō. Tōkyō 1935-41 (Daizō Shuppan)
German translations
  • Vinaya pitaka. The compilation of precepts for the Buddhist ordained. Complete translation from the Pali based on the text of Chatta Sangayana Tipitaka 4.0 - Vipassana Research Institute 1995 - translated and annotated by Santuttho Bhikku (complete edition in six volumes), Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-00-056266-2
  • In the words of the Buddha. An anthology of discourses from the Pāli Canon . Beyerlein & Steinschulte, Stammbach 2008, ISBN 978-3-931095-78-9 .
  • Karl Eugen Neumann ( transl. ): The speeches of Gotamo Buddha. from the middle Majjhimanikayo collection of the Pali Canon. 3 volumes, R. Piper, Munich 1922. (Vol. 1 , Vol . 2 , Vol. 3)
  • Karl Eugen Neumann ( transl. ): The speeches of Gotamo Budho. from the collection of the fragments of the Suttanipato of the Pali Canon. R. Piper, Munich 1911. (digitized version)
  • Talk. Buddha . Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-596-90053-4 .
Secondary literature on the Pali canon
  • Ludwig Alsdorf : The Āryā stanzas of the Pali canon, produced metrically and examined for textual history (= treatises of the humanities and social science class of the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz. Born 1967, No. 4).
  • U Ko Lay: Guide to Tipitaka (2007) ; Guide to the Palikanon translated by Agganyani and Kurt Jungbehrens. Theravadanetz, 2007.
  • Hellmuth Hecker: The Pali Canon. A guide through the structure and German translations of the holy scriptures of Buddhism. Self-published, Hamburg 1965.
  • Nyanatiloka : Guide through Abhidhamma-Pitaka . Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy 1983
  • Nyanaponika : Abhidhamma Studies. The Buddhist exploration of consciousness and time. ISBN 3-937972-03-X .
  • Nina van Gorkom: Abhidhamma in Daily Life. Triple Gem Press, 1997, ISBN 1-897633-17-3 . (First edition: Dhamma Study Group, Bangkok 1975)
  • Nina van Gorkom: Abhidhamma in everyday life. German by Ursula Rottländer-Tavi.
  • Oskar von Hinüber: Buddhist Commentaries from Ancient India - The Explanation of the Theravada Canon. In: Michael Quisinsky (ed.): Commentary cultures : the interpretation of central texts of the world religions; a comparative overview. Böhlau, Cologne 2007, pp. 99–114 (digitized version ) (PDF; 1.8 MB)
  • Oskar v. Over: A Handbook of Pali Literature. Munshiram Manoharal Publishers, New Delhi 1996, ISBN 81-215-0778-2 .
  • BC Law, History of Pali Literature , volume I, Trubner, London 1931
  • Russell Webb (ed.), Analysis of the Pali Canon , The Wheel Publication No 217, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 3rd ed. 2008. ISBN 955-24-0048-1 . PDF ( Memento from November 26, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  • Moriz Winternitz : History of Indian Literature . Leipzig 1920, Vol. 2: The Buddhist literature and the sacred texts of the Jainas. (Digitized version)

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