Tibetan, Pali and Chinese canons: differences?

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Tibetan, Pali and Chinese canons: differences?

Postby Ikkyu » Mon Jun 11, 2012 8:32 pm

What are the basic differences between these three canons? Which one is the largest, and if so, how large or voluminous are these? Are there complete series' or copies of these canons?

Furthermore, does these three canons collectively contain all of the suttas, sutras and/or tantras known?

Thank you.


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Re: Tibetan, Pali and Chinese canons: differences?

Postby Jnana » Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:07 pm

Ikkyu wrote:What are the basic differences between these three canons?

There are a number of differences. Firstly, the Pāli Tipiṭaka is the only complete Śrāvaka school canon that still exists. It contains no Mahāyāna sūtras or śāstras. The Chinese canon contains vinayas and abhidharma treatises from a number of different schools. The Tibetan canon contains the most tantras.

Ikkyu wrote:Which one is the largest, and if so, how large or voluminous are these?

The Tibetan canon is the largest, primarily due to having more tantras and Indian commentaries than the Chinese canon.

Ikkyu wrote:Are there complete series' or copies of these canons?

Yes. The Pāli Tipiṭaka exists in Sinhalese, Burmese, Thai, and Roman scripts (Pāli doesn't have it's own script). Most of the Pāli Tipiṭaka has been translated into English.

I'm not sure of the number of extant editions of the Chinese canon, but the main modern standard edition is the Taishō Tripiṭaka which is based on the Tripiṭaka Koreana.

There are about 12 editions of the Tibetan Kangyur (sūtra & tantra collections), and 5 editions of the Tibetan Tengyur (Indian treatises and commentaries).

Ikkyu wrote:Furthermore, does these three canons collectively contain all of the suttas, sutras and/or tantras known?

Collectively, they contain almost everything that still exists. But there were collections of other early Indian schools which have been lost.
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Re: Tibetan, Pali and Chinese canons: differences?

Postby Astus » Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:26 pm

There are several editions of the East Asian Tripitaka. The commonly used Taisho Tripitaka was assembled in the 20th century and it has 100 volumes. Here is the structure of the Taisho Tripitaka. Additionally there is the Zokuzokyo canon that has 88 volumes and contains texts not found in the Taisho Canon. Additionally to that there is the Jiaxing Canon that contains further texts from the MIng and Qing dynasty not contained in the other two, and is somewhat larger than the Taisho Canon. These are all modern collections.

There are also older editions, like the Qianlong Canon (1733), the Hongwu Nan Canon (1372), and others before them. The oldest complete collection that still exists in woodblocks is the Tripitaka Koreana (1251).

As for which one is the biggest canon, that requires a definition of canon. If canonical works are strictly of Indian origin, then it might be the Tibetan because of the tantras - although the Chinese also have a large collection of them - as Jnana said. If a canon is not restricted to Indian origin - since it is common in East Asian canons to have all sorts of commonly accepted works being included - it is the Chinese (by which I mean a language, not a nation).
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