Pitaka or Pitakattayan

Pitaka or Pitakattayan (Pali pitakan, a "basket," and tayo, "three"), the sacred books of the Buddhists. The text of the Pitaka is divided into three great classes. The instructions contained in the first class, called Winaya, were addressed to the priests; those in the second class, Sutra, to the laity; and those in the third class, Abhidarma, to the dewas and brahmas of the celestial worlds. There is a commentary called the Atthakatha, which, until recently, was regarded as of equal authority with the text. The text, as we learn from Mr. Spence Hardy, was orally preserved until the reign of the Singhalese monarch Wattagamani, who reigned from B.C. 104 to B.C. 76, when it was committed to writing in the island of Ceylon. The commentary was written by Badhagosha in A.D. 420. To establish the text of the Pitakas three several convocations were held. The first met B.C. 543, when the whole was rehearsed, every syllable being repeated with the utmost precision, and an authentic version established, though not committed to writing. The second convocation was held in B.C. 443, when the whole was again rehearsed, in consequence of certain usages having sprung up contrary to the teachings of Buddha. The third convocation took place B.C. 308, when the Pitakas were again rehearsed, without either retrenchment or addition. These sacred books are of immense size, containing, along with the commentary, nearly 2,000,000 lines. SEE BUDDHISTS.

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