The Sanskrit term Tripitaka and the Pali term Tipiotaka both denote the Buddhist Canon or the collection of the sacred Buddhist texts. In this collection, which is in the Pali language, is contained all discourses preached by the Buddha.

The Buddha spent forty-five years [reaching to the people. The Discourese he nade were well remembered by his senior Arahant disciples. They with great care and dedication learnt them by heart and preserved them in memory.

At the earliest stage the Buddha discoursed mainly on doctrinal matters or Dhamma. His instructions regarding disciplinary matters, too, were included in these discourses. Later, when the number of monks increased it became necessary to formulate numerous rules regarding discipline. These disciplinary rules, too, were separately memorized by Arahant discipes. As all these were spoken by the Buddha they came to be referred to as the “words of the Buddha” or Buddhavacana. This is the tem by which the teachings of the Buddha were known at the beginning. As these teachings contained matters relationg to both doctrine (dhamma) and discipline (vinaya), they were collectively referred to as Dhamma-Vinaya. The term buddhism is an English term used by Western writers to name the whole teaching of the buddha, its practice as well as numerous rites and rituals related to it.

During the life-time of the Buddha these teachings remained scattered. At the First Council, held three months after the passing away of the Buddha, these were rehearsed and systematically arranged by senior Arahant disciples of the Buddha.

Discipline was regarded as the life-code of the Sasana (dispensation). Therefore, all the rules of discipline (vinaya) were collected and properly arranged as if in a ‘basket’ (pitaka). hence, this was called the Vinaya Pitaka. A group of senior Arahant disciples headed by Venerable Upali was entrusted with the task of preserving the Vinaya Pitaka in memory and passing it on to the future generation.

The Buddha’s discourses on Dhamma are in descriptive, narrative style (sutta). These discourses, too, were collected and arranged under five different divisions (nikayas). This arrangement was done mainly based on their length, similarty of the subjects discussed in them, and so on. These five divisions are:

1) Digha Nikaya, 34 long discourses
2) Majjhima Nikaya, 152 middle length discourses
3) Samyutta Nikaya, 2859 short discourses
4) Anguttara Nikaya, 2308 short discourses
5) Khuddaka Nikaya, an assorted collection of a number of texts such as the Dhammapada, Jataka, Thera-theri gatha etc.

As all these discourses are in Sutta-style the whole collection was called the Sutta Pitaka .The Vinaya Pitaka and Sutta Pitaka were once again rehearsed at the Second Council . Along with these two Pitaka there grew another type of religious literature . This was the result of the attempts made by the learned monks to pick out the more philosophical teachings in the Sutta-Pitaka and present them separately .These learned monks felt that the Sutta-style was not suitable to present the philosophical teachings of the Buddha.They wanted to present them in a precise style, devoid of all unnecessary description.
By the time of the Third Council there were six such compilations.A seventh was added by Venerable Moggaliputts Tissa. These collections, along with the Vinaya and Sutta Pitakas were rehearsed at this Council.This new collection was named Abhidhamma Pitaka, collection or basket containing the “special” or “supplementary”(abhi) Dhamma. With this addition the Buddhit Canon come to be known as the Tripataka, literally meaning the “Three Baskets”.
The Tripataka was handed down orally by Arahant monks who great care to preserve it the present from. For the first time it was written down around 80 B.C. in SriLanka, at a temple called Aluvihara. This temple exists even at present.
Parallel to this Pali Tripitaka of Theravada school, other schools of Buddhism also had their Canons . These were in Sanskrit language .Unlike the Pali Canon , the Sanskrit Canon is not completely extant. The available texts show similarities as well as differences among them.