Pali Literature

Beyond the Tipitaka
A Field Guide to Post-canonical Pali Literature
© 2002
A quick glance through the pages of the Pali Text Society’s publications catalog should be enough to convince anyone that there is much more to classical Pali literature than the Tipitaka alone. Intermingled with the familiar Nikayas, Vinaya texts, and Abhidhamma are scores of titles with long, scarcely-pronounceable Pali names. Although many western students of Buddhism may be unacquainted with these works (indeed, most have never been translated into English), these books have for centuries played a crucial role in the development of Buddhist thought and practice across Asia and, ultimately, the West. In fact, in some countries they are as deeply treasured as the suttas themselves. But what are these ancient books, and what relevance do they have to the western student of Buddhism in the 21st century? Although complete answers to these questions lie well beyond the range of my abilities, I hope that this short document will provide enough of a road map to help orient the interested student as he or she sets out to explore this vast corpus of important Buddhist literature.