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The Tripitaka (Sanskrit त्रिपिटक, lit. three baskets), Tipitaka ( Pāli), or 三藏 (Chinese: Sānzàng; Japanese: Sanzo; Khmer: Traipětâk ; Korean: Samjang 삼장; Thai: Traipidok ไตรปิฎก; Vietnamese: Tam tạng) is the formal term for a Buddhist canon of scriptures. Many different versions of the canon have existed throughout the Buddhist world, containing an enormous variety of texts. The oldest and most widely-known version is the Pali Canon of the Theravada school.

The Tripitaka writings of early schools of Buddhism, which were originally memorized and recited orally by disciples, fall into three general categories and are traditionally classified in three baskets (tri-pitaka). The commonest order is the following.

The first category, the Vinaya Pitaka, was the code of ethics to be obeyed by the early sangha, monks and nuns. According to the scriptural account, these were invented on a day-to-day basis as the Buddha encountered various behaviour problems with the monks.

The second category, the Sutra Pitaka (literally "basket of threads", Pali: Sutta Pitaka), consists primarily of accounts of the Buddha's teachings. The Sutra Pitaka has numerous subdivisions: it contains more than 10,000 sutras.

The third category is the Abhidharma Pitaka. This is applied to very different collections in different versions of the Tripitaka. In the Pali Canon of the Theravada there is an Abhidhamma Pitaka consisting of seven books. An Abhidharma Pitaka of the Sarvastivada school survives, also in seven books, six in Chinese and one in Tibetan. These are different books from the Pali ones though there are some common material and ideas. Another work surviving in Chinese, the Sariputrabhidharmasastra, may be all or part of another Abhidharma Pitaka. At least some other early schools of Buddhism had Abhidharma Pitakas, which are now lost.

In the Mahayana a mixed attitude to the term Tripitaka developed. On the one hand, a major Mahayana scripture, the Lotus Sutra, uses the term to refer to the above literature of the early schools, as distinct from the Mahayana's own scriptures, and this usage became quite common in the tradition. On the other hand, the term Tripitaka had tended to become synonymous with Buddhist scriptures, and thus continued to be used for the Chinese and Tibetan collections, even though their contents do not really fit the pattern of three pitakas. In the Chinese tradition, the scriptures are classified in a variety of ways, most of which have in fact four or even more pitakas or other divisions. In the few that attempt to follow a genuine threefold division the term Abhidharma Pitaka is used to refer vaguely to non-canonical literature, whether Indian or Chinese, with only the other two pitakas being regarded as strictly canonical. In the Tibetan tradition, on the other hand, when attempts are made to explain the application of the term Tripitaka to the Kanjur, the Tibetan canon of scripture, the Abhidharma Pitaka is considered as consisting of the Prajñaparamita.

The Chinese form of Tripitaka, "Sanzang", was sometimes used as an honorary title for a Buddhist monk who has mastered all the Tripitaka canons, most notably in the case of the Tang Dynasty monk Xuanzang, whose pilgrimage to India to study and bring Buddhist text back to China was portrayed in the novel Journey to the West as "Tang Sanzang". Due to the popularity of the novel, the term in "Sanzang" is often erroneously understood as a name of the monk Xuanzang. One such screen version of this is the popular 1979 Monkey (TV series).


  • Tipitaka (Pali Canon) of the Theravada school.
  • Tripitaka preserved in the East-Asian Mahayana tradition (Chinese translations):
  1. The Agamas contain the Majjhima Nikaya and Samyutta Nikaya of the Sarvastivāda.
  2. The Agamas contain the Digha Nikaya of the Dharmaguptaka.
  3. The Agamas contain the Anguttara Nikaya ( Ekottara Agama of the Mahāsaṅghika.
  4. The Vinaya Pitakas of Sarvastivāda, Mahāsaṅghika, Dharmaguptaka, Mahīśāsaka.
  5. Mahayana sutras and Buddhist tantras
  • The Mulasarvastivadin Vinaya Pitaka is preserved in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, along with Mahayana sutras and tantras.
  • The Gandharan Buddhist texts contains fragments of the Tipitaka of (probably) the Dharmaguptaka school.
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