The Three Baskets and the Dhammapada: Description & Overview

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  • 0:01 Introduction to Baskets
  • 0:33 Vinaya Basket
  • 1:12 Sutta Basket
  • 2:09 Abhidamma Basket
  • 3:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explain the importance of Buddhism's sacred texts, known as the Tripitaka. Using the Westernized term, the Three Baskets, this lesson will also highlight the importance of the Dhammapadain to Buddhism.

Introduction to Baskets

Like most faiths, Buddhism has its own set of sacred texts. Known as the Tripitaka, these sacred Buddhist texts comprise the teachings of Buddha, known collectively as Dharma. Broken down into three sections, each part of the Tripitaka carries the name pitaka, or basket, hence the Westernized term, the Three Baskets. Today, we're going to take a look at these Three Baskets, spending some time trying to understand what role they play in the Buddhist faith.

Vinaya Basket

The first basket we'll tackle is the Vinaya Pitaka. Often called the Discipline Basket, the Vinaya Pitaka comprises the collection of rules given to the community of Buddhist believers. In its pages are found the rules and regulations by which a Buddhist congregation of believers, called a Sangha, should operate. With hundreds of rules about basic morality, and even a few on how to dress, it's sort of a Buddhist code of conduct. To help me remember it, I like to think of the Vinaya Pitaka as 'very firm rules to stay away from vices!'

Sutta Basket

The next basket we'll cover is the Sutta Pitaka. Held as the most important of the Three Baskets, it's also called the Discourse Basket and is believed to be a written collection of Buddha's teachings. Included in this basket is the uber-important Dhammapada, or Buddha's exposition on the law.

However, since nothing about Buddha's life was even written down until hundreds of years after his death, many scholars disagree on the historical dating, and even the validity of these works - feeling they aren't really, truly Buddha's words but instead a sort of postmortem summary of his teachings. Regardless of its authenticity, this basket is believed to contain over 10,000 teachings from Buddha himself. For this reason, I think it'll be okay if we sort of Westernize the Sutta Pitaka as the 'sermons of Buddha.'

Abhidhamma Basket

The last of our baskets is the Abhidhamma Pitaka, or the Philosophy Basket. As its Western name implies, this one is often referred to as a scholastic or philosophical, almost scientific, description of reality. In its pages are theories and descriptions of things like the nature of time, the workings of the human mind, and even the state of matter.

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