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Vinayapitaka. This pitaka contains rules and regulations governing the details of monastic life. Examples of what you will find here include rules governing entrance into the order, the use of medicine, the consumption of food, the wearing of clothes, the utilization of furniture, the daily operation of a community dwelling, and so on.

2. Suttapitaka. This is the section preserving the suttas. It is composed of five collections containing the “ocean of dhamma,” the doctrines and practices that constitute the idiom or word of the Buddha (buddhavacana). Texts taken from these five sections constitute the heart of the present book. The five collections are:

i. Dighanikaya. The “collection of long” discourses. This section contains 34 lengthy suttas that, in many ways, serve as a broad introduction to the teachings. I say this because in the suttas themselves, the Buddha is often discussing his teachings with outsiders, those who are unfamiliar with them.

ii. Majjhimanikaya. The “collection of middle-length” discourses. This section contains 152 suttas. The Buddha is engaged here with numerous types of people from throughout Indian society. Since these people range from accomplished teachers from other orders to unlearned villagers, from his own followers to those who are opposed to him, the teachings in this section take numerous tacks. Nonetheless, while some of the suttas here are general and broad in scope, as might be expected, most are extremely detailed, pointing to the Buddhist community as the main recipient.

iii. Samyuttanikaya. The “collection of connected” discourses of the Buddha. The 2,889 suttas of this section are among the most thorough and penetrating of all of Buddhist literature. The insights revealed here are those that are central to the Buddha’s teachings on the nature of the person, the phenomenal world, and the relationship between the two. As such, these texts presuppose on the side of the interlocutor extensive experience in the study and practice of the teachings. The final section of this collection, the mahavagga, “Great Book,” contains what the Buddha himself referred to as his core teachings.

iv. Anguttaranikaya. The “collection of numerical” discourses. The 2,308 suttas in this section are more or less summative. They thus appear to recapitulate points made in suttas throughout the Suttapitaka as a way to facilitate quick recall of vital aspects of the teachings. The tactic of numerical sequencing, perhaps, is indicative of this function: “There are two kinds of happiness, namely…,” “There are four types of people, namely…,” et cetera.

v. Khuddaka. The “collection of small” books. This is a group of fifteen individual works that are held to have been added to the piimageaka later than the other collections. All of these works are of anonymous authorship. The most well known of these are the Dhammapada, the Jataka (stories, largely ethical in nature, of the Buddha’s previous lives), and the Theragatha and Therigatha (poetic expressions of realization by early male and female followers).

3. Abhidhammapitaka. The “basket of works elaborating on the teachings.” This collection consists of seven works that examine specific aspects of the sutta material in minute detail. Themes of the various texts include enumeration of the elements (called dhamma) of existence, investigation of the unfolding of mental moments or factors; the nature of causation, and a description of personality types. One of the better-known texts in this collection is the Kathavatthu, which contains an account of numerous contested points and views among the earliest schools of Buddhism (of which, at the time, the Theravimageda was but one).