The three store houses—Three Buddhist Canon Baskets—The three baskets (tripitaka) of Buddhist Teachings which contains the essence of the Buddha’s teaching (is estimated to be about eleven times the size of the Bible)—The Theravada canon written in Pali and the Mahayana canon written in Sanskrit.
The Tripitakas includes:
1. The Precepts (The Vinaya)
2. The Sutra
3. The Commentaries (The Abhidharma or sastra, Abhidhamma Pitaka)
I. The Vinaya:
According to Most Venerable Narada in The Buddha and His Teaching, the Vinaya Pitaka, which is regarded as the sheet anchor of the Holy Order, deals mainly with the rules and regulations of the Order of Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis.
For nearly twenty years after the enlightenment of the Buddha, no definite rules were laid down for the control and discipline of the Sangha. Subsequently as occasion arose, the Buddha promulgated rules for the future discipline of the Sangha.
Vinaya Pitaka mentions in details (fully describes) reasons for the promulgation of rules, their various implications, and specific Vinaya ceremonies of the Sangha.
Besides the history of the gradual development of the Sasana from its very inception, a brief account of the life and ministry of the Buddha, and details of the thee councils are some other additional relevant contents of the Vinaya Pitaka.
In summary, Vinaya Pitaka reveals useful information about ancient history, Indian customs, ancient arts and sciences.
The Vinaya Pitaka consists of five books:
1. Major offences
2. Minor offences
3. Great Section
4. Lesser Section
5. Epitome of the Vinaya
II. The Sutra
The Sutra Pitaka consists chiefly of instructive discourses delivered by the Buddha to both the Sangha and the laity on various occasions. A few discourses expounded by great disciples such as the Venerable Sariputra, Moggallana, and Ananda, are incorporated and are accorded as much veneration as the word of the Buddha himself, since they were approved by him.
Most of the sermons were intended mainly for the benefit of Bhikkhus, and they deal with the holy life and with the exposition of the doctrine.
There are several other discourses which deal with both the material and the moral progress of his lay-followers. The Sigalaka Sutra, for example, deals mainly with the duties of a layman. There are also a few interesting talks given to children.
The Sutra Pitaka may be compared to books of prescriptions, since the discourses were expounded on diverse occasions to suit the temperaments of various persons. There may be seemingly contradictory statements, but they should not be misconstrued, as they were uttered by the Buddha to suit a particular purpose; for instance, to the self-same question he would maintain silence, when the inquirer was merely foolishly inquisitive, or give a detailed reply when he knew the inquirer to be an earnest seeker after the truth.
The Sutra Pitaka consists of five volumes:
Names of the sutras called by the Theravada:
1. Digha-Nikaya : Collection of Long iscourses.
2. Majjhima Nikaya : Collection of Middle-Length Discourses.
3. Samyutta Nikaya : Collection of Kindred Sayings.
4. Anguttara Nikaya: Collction of Gradual sayings.
5. Khuddaka Nikaya: Smaller Collection
Names of the sutras called by the Mahayana:
1. Digha Nikaya
2. Majjhima Nikaya
3. Samyutta Nikaya
4. Anguttara Nikaya
5. The Khuddaka Nikaya: consists of 15 volumes:
- Khuddaka Patha
- Sutta Nipata
- Vimana Vatthu
- Peta Vatthu
- Cariya Pitaka
III. Abhidharma Pitaka
The Abhidhamma Pitaka is the most important and most interesting of the three, containing as it does the profound philosophy of the Buddha’s teaching in contrast to the simpler discourses in the Sutta Pitaka. Abhidhamma, the higher doctrine of the Buddha, expounds the quintessence of his profound teachings. According to some scholars, Abhidhamma is not a teaching of the Buddha, but is later elaboration of scholastic monks. Tradition, however, attributes the nucleus of the Abhidhamma to the Buddha himself. The Matika or Matrices of the Abhidhamma such as wholesome states (kusala dhamma), unwholesome states (akusala dhamma), and indeterminate states (abhyakata dhamma), etc., which have been elaborated in the six books, except the Kathavatthu, were expounded by the Buddha
Venerable Sariputta was assigned the honour of having explained all these topics in detail.
Whoever the great author or authors may have been, it has to be admitted that the Abhidhamma must be the product of an intellectual genius comparable only to the Buddha. This is evident from the intricate and subtle Patthana Pakarana which describes in detail the various causal relations.
To the wise truth-seekers, Abhidhamma is an indispensable gide and an intellectual treat. Here is found food for thought for original thinkers and for earnest students who wish to develop wisdom and lead an ideal Buddhist life. Abhidhamma is not a subject of fleeting interest designed for the superficial reader.
Modern psychology, limited as it is, comes within the scope of Abhidhamma inasmuch as it deals with mind, thoughts, thought-processes, and mental properties; but it does not admit of a psyche or a soul. It teaches a psychology without a psyche.
Consciousness (citta) is defined. Thoughts are analyzed and classified chiefly from an ethical standpoint. All mental properties (cetasika) are enumerated. The composition of each type of consciousness is set forth in detail. How thoughts arise is minutely described. Bhavanga and javana thought-moments.
Irrelevent problems that interest students and scholars, but have no relation to one’s deliverance, are deliberately set aside.
Abhidhamma does not attempt to give a systematized knowledge of mind and matter. It investigates these two composite factors of the so-called being, to help the understanding of things as they truly are.
Mrs. Rhys Davids wrote about Abhidhamma as follows: “Abhidhamma deals with what we find within us, around us, and of what we aspire to find.”
While the Sutta Pitaka contains the conventional teaching, the Abhidhamma Pitaka contains the ultimate teaching.
It is generally admitted by most exponents of the Dhamma that a knowledge of the Abhidhamma is essential to comprehend fully the teachings of the Buddha, as it represents the key that opens the door of reality.
Abhidharma Pitaka consists of 7 books:
1) Dhammasanghani —Classification od Dhamma.
3) Dhatukatha—Discourses of Elements.
4) Puggala Pannatti —The Book on Individuals.
5) Kathavathu —Points of Controversy.
6) Yamaka —The Bok of Pairs.
7) Patthana —The Bok of Causal Relations.
IV. Other Pitakas
4. Visuddhi Magga
5. Abhidhammattha Sanghaha
Written by NAMOYTS
1. Vietnamese – Enlish Buddhism Dictionary. Thuvienhoasen.org
2. Giới thiệu Tam tạng Kinh điển hệ Pali tạng và Hán tạng. Daitangkinhvietnam.com