Tipitaka (Tripitaka in Sanskrit) is the name given to the Buddhist sacred scriptures and is made up of two words; ti meaning ‘three’ and pitaka meaning ‘basket.’ The word basket was given to these writings because they were orally transmitted for some centuries, the way a basket of earth at a construction site might be relayed from the head of one worker to another. The three parts of the Tipitaka are the Sutta Pitaka, the Vinaya Pitaka and the Abhidhamma Pitaka. The Tipitaka was composed in the Pali language and takes up more than forty volumes in an English translation, roughly about 20,000 pages. It is the largest sacred book of any of the great world religions.
- Digha Nikaya — the "long collection"
- Majjhima Nikaya — the "middle-length collection"
- Samyutta Nikaya — the "grouped collection"
- Anguttara Nikaya — the "numerical discourses"
- Khuddaka Nikaya — the "collection of little texts":
Khuddakapatha Dhammapada Udana Itivuttaka Sutta Nipata Vimanavatthu Petavatthu Theragatha Therigatha Jataka Niddesa Patisambhidamagga Apadana Buddhavamsa Cariyapitaka Nettippakarana (Burmese edition) Petakopadesa (Burmese edition) Milindapañha (Burmese edition)
- I. Suttavibhanga — the basic rules of conduct (Patimokkha) for bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, along with the "origin story" for each one.
- II. Khandhaka
A. Mahavagga — in addition to rules of conduct and etiquette for the Sangha, this section contains several important sutta-like texts, including an account of the period immediately following the Buddha's Awakening, his first sermons to the group of five monks, and stories of how some of his great disciples joined the Sangha and themselves attained Awakening. B. Cullavagga — an elaboration of the bhikkhus' etiquette and duties, as well as the rules and procedures for addressing offences that may be committed within the Sangha.
- III. Parivara — A recapitulation of the previous sections, with summaries of the rules classified and re-classified in various ways for instructional purposes.
- Dhammasangani ("Enumeration of Phenomena"). This book enumerates all the paramattha dhamma (ultimate realities) to be found in the world.
- Vibhanga ("The Book of Treatises"). This book continues the analysis of the Dhammasangani, here in the form of a catechism.
- Dhatukatha ("Discussion with Reference to the Elements"). A reiteration of the foregoing, in the form of questions and answers.
- Puggalapaññatti ("Description of Individuals"). Somewhat out of place in the Abhidhamma Pitaka, this book contains descriptions of a number of personality-types.
- Kathavatthu ("Points of Controversy"). Another odd inclusion in the Abhidhamma, this book contains questions and answers that were compiled by Moggaliputta Tissa in the 3rd century BCE, in order to help clarify points of controversy that existed between the various "Hinayana" schools of Buddhism at the time.
- Yamaka ("The Book of Pairs"). This book is a logical analysis of many concepts presented in the earlier books. In the words of Mrs. Rhys Davids, an eminent 20th century Pali scholar, the ten chapters of the Yamaka amount to little more than "ten valleys of dry bones."
- Patthana ("The Book of Relations"). This book, by far the longest single volume in the Tipitaka (over 6,000 pages long in the Siamese edition), describes the 24 paccayas, or laws of conditionality, through which the dhammas interact. These laws, when applied in every possible permutation with the dhammas described in the Dhammasangani, give rise to all knowable experience.