The non-aggressive, moral and philosophical system expounded by the Buddha, which demands no blind faith from its adherents, expounds no dogmatic creeds, encourages no superstitious rites and ceremonies, but advocates a golden mean that guides a disciple through pure living and pure thinking to the gain of supreme wisdom and deliverance from all evil, is called the Dhamma and is popularly known as Buddhism.
The all-merciful Buddha has passed away, but the sublime Dhamma which he unreservedly bequeathed to humanity, still exists in its pristine purity.
Although the master has left no written records of his teachings, his distinguished disciples preserved them by committing to memory and transmitting them orally from generation to generation.
Immediately after his demise 500 chief arahats versed in the Dhamma[ and Vinaya, held a convocation to rehearse the Doctrine as was originally taught by the Buddha. Venerable Ananda Thera, who enjoyed the special privilege of hearing all the discourses, recited the Dhamma, while the Venerable Upali recited the Vinaya.
The Tipitaka was compiled and arranged in its present form by those arahats of old.
During the reign of the pious Sinhala king Vattagamani Abhaya, about 83 B.C., the Tipitaka was, for the first time in the history of Buddhism, committed to writing on palm leaves (ola) in Ceylon.
This voluminous Tipitaka, which contains the essence of the Buddha’s Teaching, is estimated to be about eleven times the size of the Bible. A striking contrast between the Tipitaka and the Bible is that the former is not a gradual development like the latter.
As the word itself implies, the Tipitaka consists of three baskets. They are the Basket of Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), the Basket of Discourses (Sutta Pitaka), and the Basket of Ultimate Doctrine (Abhidhamma Pitaka).
The Vinaya Pitaka which is regarded as the sheet anchor to the oldest historic celibate order — the Sangha — mainly deals with rules and regulations which the Buddha promulgated, as occasion arose, for the future discipline of the Order of monks (Bhikkhus) and nuns (Bhikkunis). It described in detail the gradual development of the Sasana (Dispensation). An account of the life and ministry of the Buddha is also given. Indirectly it reveals some important and interesting information about ancient history, Indian customs, arts, science, etc.
The Vinaya Pitaka consists of the five following books:
1. Parajika Pali — Major Offenses
2. Pacittiya Pali — Minor Offenses
3. Mahavagga Pali — Greater Section
4. Cullavagga Pali — Shorter Section
5. Parivara Pali — Epitome of the Vinaya
Continue > Next part > The Dhamma (Is it a philosophy?) part 2
Source: Buddhism in a nutshell by venerable Narada Thera