Buddhist Sacred Texts: The Sutras

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Sacred Texts in World Religions

Some sacred texts form the cornerstone of a religion, instilling law, character and spirituality in its people; some are narratives of historical figures in the faith. A text might be viewed as the unchanging “Word of God;” other texts are revised and expanded by later generations. Texts can be literal, or metaphorical, or both. This guide shows you how to find online versions, commentary and historical context of scriptures for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.

Buddhist Sacred Texts: The Sutras

The Buddhist canon consists of the Sutras: the words and teachings of the Buddha. There are also a number of noncanonical Buddhist texts that provide supplementary teachings, rules of conduct and commentary on transitional states after death. The Tripitaka (Pali Canon), Mahayana Sutras and the Tibetan Book of the Dead are three major noncanonical Buddhist texts. The Pali Canon, which means “the word of Buddha,” includes some of the Buddha’s discourse, but it also incorporates the teachings of his pupils. Different sects of Buddhism follow canonical and noncanonical scriptures to varying degrees.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Unlike other Buddhists, Zen Buddhists don’t emphasize the sacred texts. The very nature of Zen Buddhism is transcending intellect, logic and language, drawing nearer to the meaning of life through meditation.

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