Monday, July 7, 2008

The Pali Canon: Buddhism

Before "books," the Pali Canon was compiled on stacks of palm leaves or thin slivers of wood such as bamboo, held in place by string, and wrapped in cloth or boxed. This example is a small portion of the Pali Canon from Thailand.

CLICK ITEM TO VIEW: schematic representation of the Pali Canon.

The Buddha's teaching exists in numerous languages: Pali, Sanskrit, Sinhalese, Chinese, Burmese, Thai, Cambodian, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Bhutanese, Vietnamese, and Laotian to name some prominent examples.
The Buddha probably spoke Magadhi or Prakrit, Pali-like dialects. The texts, however, originally an oral tradition, was first transcribed onto palm leaves in Pali and kept in large wicker baskets, then Sinhalese (the language of Sri Lanka), then again in Pali. There were corresponding Sanskrit redactions thought to have come later.
The Canon, or accepted non-apocryphal texts together with their commentaries, were settled on during numerous Councils over the centuries. Basically speaking, the Buddha's teachings are arranged in three large divisions (Ti-Pitaka, lit. "three baskets"): the rules of self-discipline (vinaya), the discourses (sutras), and the higher-teachings (abhidharma or Buddhist psychology).
Greater details: Access to Insight or Wikipedia

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