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Other Buddhist Canons

By Devik Balami at
Tibetan Buddhist Canon

Pali Canon is the earliest sacred Buddhist Canon that was written in Pali language. Along with the Pali language, there are other Buddhist canons as well which were translated according to need and location. They are mainly Tibetan Buddhist Canon, Chinese Buddhist Canon, and Sanskrit Buddhist Literature. These are in some way the localized form of written scriptures of Buddha's teaching since it will be hard to understand Pali for all. So these kinds of localization are necessary.

Buddhist Canons other than Pali Canon

Tibetan Buddhist Canon

Tibetan Buddhist Canon is the list of sacred texts, Buddha's teachings and commentaries of Buddha's disciples, which is recognized by various sects of Tibetan Buddhism. Along with sutras and other Mahayana sources, the Tibetan Canon includes tantric texts as well. This canon was finally compiled in the 14th century by Buton Rinchen Drub. The Tibetan Buddhist Canon can be broadly divided into two categories: Kangyur and Tengyur.


This canon consists of the works or the teachings of Buddha himself. The texts were translated from Sanskrit, Pali, and also from Chinese and other languages as well. The Kangyur is also divided into sections- Vinaya, Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, Avatamsaka, Ratakuta, and other sutras and tantras. The exact numbers of texts in the Kangyur are not fixed since there are numerous authors. Basically, authors take the responsibility for the removing and adding the texts that he considers important. In the current situation, there are about 12 versions of Kangyur text in Tibet which is named after the location where it was published. These Kangyurs are- Derge, Lhasa, Narthang, Cone, Peking, Urga, Phudrak, and Stog Palace versions. Apart from these versions, some canonical text has been found in Tabo Monastery and Dunhuang. The Kangyur contains around 943 texts in 100-108 volumes


This canon consists of the works of the Buddha's disciples. This includes mainly commentaries, treatises, and Abhidharma works. The Tengyur contains 3626 texts in 224 volumes. Tengyur Canon can be categories as

Sutras consist of 1 volume of 64 texts.

Commentaries on the Tantras consists of 86 volumes with 3055 texts.

Commentaries on the Sutras consists of 137 volumes with 567 texts.

Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita consists of 16 volumes.

Madhyamika Treatises consists of 29 volumes.

Yogacara Treatises consists of 29 volumes.

Abhidharma consists of 8 volumes.

Miscellaneous texts of 4 volumes.

Vinaya Commentaries of 16 volumes.

Tales and Dramas of 4 volumes.

Technical Treatises of 43 volumes.

Chinese Buddhist canon

Chinese Buddhist Canon refers to the Buddhist literature deemed canonical in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese Buddhism. The Chinese Buddhist Canon includes Agama, Vinaya, and Abhidharma texts as well as the Mahayana Sutras and scriptures from Esoteric Buddhism.

The Chinese Buddhist Canon is developed in many versions in East Asia in different places and time. An early version is the Fangshan Stone Sutras which was developed in the 7th century and most used version is Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo which was named after Taisho era.

Sanskrit Buddhist Literature

Sanskrit Buddhist Literature refers to Buddhist texts which are composed in the classical Sanskrit or Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. Sanskrit Buddhist Literature was also translated from Pali Canon. As Johannes Bronkhorst argues that the adoption of Buddhist literature in Sanskrit is mainly due to the association with political prestige and power. In those days, the Buddhist viharas of India were sought after these things. The reputed viharas of India would only fulfill their desires only after if they develop the knowledge of Sanskrit and communicate with the more upper classes and royal courts. The use of Sanskrit still survives in the Newar Buddhism of Nepal and thus the majority of Sanskrit Buddhist manuscripts are still preserved there.