When was the Tipitaka Written?

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When was the Tipitaka Written?

Postby pelletboy » Mon Oct 17, 2011 5:39 am

When was the Tipitaka written? I think I read that it was written centuries after the Buddha's demise yet there was mention of scriptures at the time of the Buddha in the Tipitaka itself. It said that one accomplished in the practical application of the Dhamma like attaining arhatship was better than one versed in the scriptures, something like that. So which is which?

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Re: When was the Tipitaka Written?

Postby cooran » Mon Oct 17, 2011 6:44 am

Hello Pelletboy,

Overview of Tipitaka Scriptures - Narada Maha Thera

"This doctrine is profound, hard to see, difficult to understand, calm, sublime, not within the sphere of logic, subtle, to be understood by the wise." Majjhima Nikaya
The Buddha has passed away, but the sublime Teaching, which He expounded during His long and successful ministry and which He unreservedly bequeathed to humanity, still exists in its pristine purity. Although the Master has left no written records of His Teachings, His disciples preserved them, by committing to memory and transmitting them orally from generation to generation.

Three months after the Death of the Buddha, in the eighth year of King Ajatasattu's reign, 500 pre-eminent Arahants concerned with preserving the purity of the Doctrine held a Convocation at Rajagaha to rehearse it. The Venerable Ananda Thera, the Buddha's beloved attendant who had the special privilege and honour of
hearing the discourses from the Buddha Himself, and the Venerable Upali Thera were chosen to answer questions about the Dhamma (Doctrine) and the Vinaya (Discipline) respectively.

This First Council compiled and arranged in its present form the Pali Tipitaka, which represents the entire body of the Buddha's Teaching.

Two other Councils of Arahants were held 100 and 236 years later respectively, again to rehearse the Word of the Buddha because attempts were being made to pollute the pure Teaching.

About 83 B.C., during the reign of the pious Simhala King Vatta Gamani Abhaya, a Council of Arahants was held, and the Tipitaka was, for the first time in the history of Buddhism, committed to writing at Aluvihara in Ceylon.

Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of those noble and foresighted Arahants, there is no room either now or in the future for higher critics or progressive scholars to adulterate the pure Teaching.

The voluminous Tipitaka, which contains the essence of the Buddha's Teaching, is estimated to be about eleven times the size of the Bible.

The word Tipitaka means three Baskets. They are the Basket of Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), the Basket of Discourses (Sutta Pitaka) and the Basket of Ultimate Doctrine (Abhidhamma Pitaka).
{.continues at this link ..........................}

From a previous post of mine:
In the Buddha's day, writing was just for things like government and commerce. and there was widespread illiteracy. For really important things, where it was critical that no alteration occur ( as can happen so very easily, deliberately or accidentally when writing is used) - the Oral Tradition was used. The Buddha instituted in his lifetime the Chanting Together by large groups of specially designated Bhikkhus - the Bhanakas (Hearers). The Bhanakas had portions of the Teachings allocated to each group, and so there were The Digha Bhanakas, The Majjhima Bhanakas etc.

It was only hundreds of years later in Sri Lanka, in a time of famine and warfare, with many bhikkhus dying, and with Buddhism all but wiped out in India, that the MahaSangha decided the Buddhist Canon and its commentaries needed to be written down.
They were engraved on Ola Leaves. Many of us have been to Sri Lanka and have had the inestimable good fortune to have seen demonstrations of this being done at the ancient rock temple of Aluvihara Temple (where the Tipitaka was originally written down) in the Matale district 26 km from Kandy.

The Suttas are rather like the memory prompts - the dot points of the most important information to be transmitted - similar to those a public speaker carries on a little card in his hand. Anything that is repeated is to be seen as something important which was highlighted by the repetition.

As I understand it, the Pali Suttas are teaching vehicles whose meanings are densely packed layer on layer. They are not to be read as an ordinary page of print, but require 'unpacking' by someone learned in the Dhamma. This condensed form was necessary in order that the Teachings would not be lost in the years before they were finally put into writing. It allowed them to be memorised by the large groups of bhikkhus (bhanakas) assigned to each portion of the Tipitaka. They are not verbatim reports of chats and conversations. This memorisation is said to have commenced before the parinibbana of the Buddha.

"Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata -- deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness -- are being recited. We will lend ear, will set our hearts on knowing them, will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering.' That's how you should train yourselves." (Ari sutta).
Venerable Mahá Kassapa, the elected head of the First Council. Cúlavagga Xl,1,1 (ii,284) reiterated:
"Come, friends: let us recite the Teaching and the Discipline before what is not the Teaching shines forth and the Teaching is put aside, before what is not the Discipline shines forth and the Discipline is put aside, before those who speak what is not the Teaching become strong and those who speak what is the Teaching become weak, before those who speak what is not the Discipline become strong and those who speak what is the Discipline become weak."

with metta
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: When was the Tipitaka Written?

Postby pelletboy » Tue Oct 18, 2011 6:47 am

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Re: When was the Tipitaka Written?

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Oct 18, 2011 10:09 am

Hello, pelletboy,
The word 'scripture' literally means 'written' teachings but is also applied to oral teachings systematically memorised by the monks.
So, in the centuries between the compilation of the (oral) scriptures and the time they were first written down, "one versed in the scriptures" was one who had memorised them, and "the monk who is erroneously proud of his proficiency in the Scriptures" is one who thought he knew them by memory but was wrong.
Does that answer your question?


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