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The most common dates among Buddhists are those of the Theravāda school, 623-543 B. For instance, when all Buddhas descend into their mothers’ wombs from a heaven named Tuṣita, a splendid light shines forth and the entire universe quakes; their mothers are immaculate, healthy, and without pain of any sort during their ten months of pregnancy, but they die a week after giving birth.

This similarity seems to indicate that a great part of the Sūtra Piṭaka in Pāli does not contain exclusively Theravāda texts, and belongs to a common textual tradition probably prior to the existence of Buddhist schools.

The Buddha’s teaching formed the foundation for Buddhist philosophy, initially developed in South Asia, then later in the rest of Asia. The first complete biography of the Buddha in Pāli is the Nidānakathā, which serves as an introduction to the Jātaka verses found in the fifth Pāli Nikāya.

Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy now have a global following. In Sanskrit, the most popular biographies of the Buddha are the Buddhacarita attributed to the Indian poet Aśvaghoṣa (second century C.

It might be the case that a large collection of Buddhist texts was written down for the first time in Sri Lanka during the first century B. The three parts of the Pāli canon are not as contemporary as the traditional Buddhist account seems to suggest: the Sūtra Piṭaka is older than the Vinaya Piṭaka, and the Abhidharma Piṭaka represents scholastic developments originated at least two centuries after the other two parts of the canon.

From a scholarly perspective, the former account is questionable. However, the extant Pāli canon shows clear signs of historical development in terms of both content and language.

On the contrary, the comparative study of Pāli and Chinese versions of the early sūtras can help to infer what might have been the Buddha’s position on a number of issues.

Neither the Sūtra Piṭaka nor the Vinaya Piṭaka of the Pāli canon could have been recited at once by one person and repeated by the entire Buddhist community. Even within the Sūtra Piṭaka it is possible to detect older and later texts. The Vinaya Piṭaka appears to have grown gradually as a commentary and justification of the monastic code (Prātimokṣa), which presupposes a transition from a community of wandering mendicants (the Sūtra Piṭaka period ) to a more sedentary monastic community (the Vinaya Piṭaka period). The Theravāda tradition claims that the Buddha taught the Abhidharma while visiting the heaven where his mother was residing. The third part of the Buddhist canon or Abhidharma Piṭaka, was not recited at that moment.

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Fourth, it is strikingly similar to another version of the early Sūtra Piṭaka extant in Chinese (Āgamas).

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