And as a follow up, what institutions are charged with expanding the list of canonical works, if any?

  • This is a pretty broad question. Maybe you should narrow it down, out at least separate it into two questions. Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 2:06
  • I self answered, although someone else probably could answer better. I could have asked, what is the Buddhist Bible? This makes 2 assumptions, someone made a canonical list of texts and someone is/or isn't charged with making the list longer. Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 12:09
  • The question has the potential to be a goldmine of useful information. I think it should be reformulated and expanded to add more context? Perhaps, the question could address one particular Buddhist tradition's canon? Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 15:21
  • I think we'd better change this into a community-wiki question. This way we can compile one complete answer (or alternatively one answer per tradition) in which every tradition can list it's canonical texts and institutions.
    – THelper
    Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 6:41

4 Answers 4


For Theravada there is the Tipitaka: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/index.html

This consists of the "three baskets" of the vinaya pitaka, the rules for monastics, the sutta pitaka aka the sutta teachings, and the abidhamma.

It is generally accepted that the oldest and most core part of the Tipitaka that is closest to what the buddha said, are the four Nikayas

Digha Nikaya (long discourses)

Majjhima Nikaya ( middle length)

Samyutta Nikaya (grouped discourses)

Anguttara Nikaya ( numbered discourses)

There is also the Khuddaka Nikaya which is a collection of "little texts". This is where the famous dhammapada and Sutta Nipāta reside.


I'll add the other part of the answer:

Tibetans take the Kanjur to be canonical. It's is a huge list of documents. New documents are added as new terma are discovered. Terma are roughly teaching left long ago to be discovered today.

The Chinese Buddhist canon was compile a long time ago. It also is a hug list of documents. As far as I know, there isn't an institution to expand it. I would guess the natural role would be the Chinese Imperial Government, which doesn't exist at the moment, or at least is hostile to Buddhism.

The Pali canon, as mentioned by Jayantha is a huge set of documents and as far as I can tell, there isn't any institution that is attempting to add more text to it.


Just bear in mind: Different traditions will give you different answers, theravada and mahayana traditions have different suttas, the same thing goes for the commentaries and the importance of later works... Nevetheless most of the suttas and the Vinaya are the same.

I always use tipitaka as a reference and I like to read the 4 nikayas (Im a lay person)


  • Actually, there are five nikayas, I assume you chose to omit the Khuddaka.
    – Chozang
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 19:50

Nothing can be added to the list of canonical works of the Buddha. They were recited three months after the Buddha's parinibbana and cannot be added to or subtracted from.

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