The earliest version of Tipitaka is the one which was written in Hela script in Sri Lanka in 1st century (this date most likely could be a long before) in Sri Lanka. A British Civil servant has brought that to England in about 1830 and had kept in their possession without giving access to anyone else. Fortunately, we have now found them together with Hela Atuās from England. These are most ancient Buddhist accurate text that could find in the world today. We hope to obtain a digital copy of those and republish.
When “Gothama Samana the Buddha” was preaching his Dhamma to his disciples and the public, the most important dhamma and further clarification was done by Both Buddha and his chief disciple “Sariputta Thera”, has been written down in books call Hela Atuā. These writings have been done by a group of scholastic monks led by Venerable Sariputta Arahath Thero. Those Atuā were written down in Hela language. Some of them were named as, Budukeli Atuāwa, Maha Attakatha, Seehala Attakatha, Kurudi Atuāwa, Nethipakaranaya and Petakopadesa etc. Those Hela commentaries are not found today since those originals got destroyed when the library of Mahavihara in Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka was burnt down in 5 century AD; but fortunately, the details of those commentaries were added to the Tipitaka at the time of writing down in 29-17 BCE, which was long before the burning down. It says that this burning of Hela commentaries happened according to a secret plan which was made by an Indian Pathanjali Yogi Buddhaghosa, the writer of Visuddhimagga. It says that he had purposely created conflict among monks having such a hidden agenda.
After the Parinibbāna of Buddha, Venerable Mahakassapa Arahath Thero selected five hundred monks, all Arahants, to meet and compile an authoritative version of the Buddha’s teachings. This first Buddhist council was held three months after the Parinibbāna at Rājagaha, the capital of Deva Healaya. The Cullavagga, one of the books of the Vinaya Pitaka, gives details of how the authorized texts were compiled at the First Buddhist Council. On the basis of Venerable Upali’s recitation of Vinaya, the Vinaya Pitaka, the compilation on disciplinary matters was amassed. Venerable Ananda then recited “the Dhamma” or the Sutta Pitaka, i.e., the discourses, and on the basis of this recitation the Sutta Pitaka, the Compilation of Discourses, was compiled (Venerable Ananda was supposed to have an amazing memory and had memorized most important Suttas preached by the Buddha). They also had the previously written Hela Atuā which was written at the time of the Buddha. The Abhidhamma was rehearsed by all the Arahants present at the Council. Although parts of the Abhidhamma were recited at these earlier Buddhist Councils, it was not until the Third Council that it became fixed into its present form as the third and final Pitaka of the Canon.
The proceedings of the Third Council compiled by the Moggaliputta-Tissa Thera in Kathavatthu also became part of the Tipitaka (Three Baskets). It was during the Third Council that the final version of the Tipitaka was compiled. It finalized the Abhidhamma pitaka, and added several books on the Khuddhaka Nikāya. It probably took some time to get a detailed description of dhamma from the Hela Atuā written by the scholastic Monk, who was one of the leading first disciples of the Buddha, Venerable Sariputta. It is this enlarged Canon completed at the Third Council that was committed to writing in Hela Diva (Sri Lanka) in the first century BCE (29-17 BCE) at the Alu Lena (a cave) in Mathula. Here, the material in Suddha Māghadhi sound was written down in Hela script. This huge collection was written down on palm leaves with a stylus, a pointed steel dagger-like instrument, which scratched the letters into the soft leaves. An ink made from berries was rubbed over the whole page and then gently removed, so that only the indentations retained the color. It is said that Tipitaka was also written down on gold and copper leaves as well. When these palm leaves got rotten, the Buddhist monks continuously copied those to new leaves. The last set of that copy of Tipitaka was brought by British civil servants of colonial rulers to the United Kingdom, and now our organization has locate most of them from London and no one has been able to locate them until our organization was able to locate them from the British Library in London.
The composition of the Tipitaka is as follows:
The Vinaya Pitaka is composed of five books: Major Offenses (Parajika Pāli), Minor Offenses (Pacittiya Pāli), Greater Section (Mahavagga Pāli), Smaller Section (Culavagga Pāli), and Epitome of the Vinaya (Parivara Pāli).
The Sutta Pitaka consists of five Nikāyas: Digha Nikāya (Collection of Long Discourses), Majjhima Nikāya (Collection of Middle-Length Courses), Samyutta Nikāya (Collection of Kindred (Grouped) Sayings), Anguttara Nikāya (Collection of Discourses arranged in accordance with number), and Khuddaka Nikāya (Smaller Collection).
We must understand that a sutta means a formula. It means a condensed version of a discourse. For example, the Dhamma, which was preached in about 20 days to Pancha Waggiye Bikkhu, has been condensed to a 20-minute “Dhammacakkappavattana sutta”. Imagine how many written pages that would be if written verbatim. Yet, it was summarized into a few pages. The same is true for all the suttas. Otherwise, it would have been impossible to convey all those thousands of the suttas. Therefore, it is necessary to use the Abhidhamma to understand the contents of Suttas.
There are about ten thousand Suttas in Sutta pitaka, but it seems that all the Suttas preached by the Buddha in the 45 year period were not included to this Sutta pitaka. Today, we have found many stone inscriptions which describe Sutta preaching by Buddha in different places at different times, which were not included in the sutta pitaka i.e. Panitha Sutta and Siridesuma Sutta, etc. It may be that only the important Suttas or the Suttas who were known by the Venerable Ananda Thero were included in Tipitaka. Whatever the case may be, one can easily realize the Path to Nibbāna by understanding of Dhamma explained by few important Suttas.
Anyhow the Suttas are condensed versions, it is impossible to interpret the meaning of a Sutta through a word-by-word translation into any other language. In most cases, there is a need to refer to many other Suttas and to the detailed disclosure of the Abhidhamma to understand the condensed Dhamma contained in a Sutta.
The Abhidhamma Pitaka consists of the following categories: Dhamma Sangani (Classification of Dharmas), Vibhanga (The Book of Divisions), Kathavatthu (Points of Controversy) which was actually compiled by venerable Moggaliputta Tissa at the Third Buddhist Council, Puggalapannatti (Description of Individuals), Dhatukatha (Discussion with Reference to Elements), Yamaka (The Book of the Pairs), and Patthana (The Book of Relations).
Again, all these 57 books are collectively termed the Tipitaka (Three Baskets) or the Theravāda Pāli Canon.
This tipitaka is as famous as Theravāda Pāli Canon today. The copies of this Tipitaka were given to Myanmar and Thailand in 1st century AD by the Sri Lankan kings at that time. The 5th Buddhist council was held in Mandalay in Myanmar during 1871, and they had written whole tipitaka on marble plates on Māghadhi Sounds in Burmish scripts. Also, they held the 6th Buddhist council again in Yangon in Myanmar in 1954. Different countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Lao, etc. have rewritten this tipitaka in their own scripts, but not in accordance with the original Suddha Māghadhi sound. No Buddhist country or a Buddhist monk had translated Tipitaka to their own languages until the British scholars started translating into English, because The Buddha had warned his followers not to do it. Anyhow, it looks like the 5th and 6th edition of tipitaka re-complied in Myanmar has been very much contaminated by Hindu, Pathanjali, and Jain concepts and their doctrines. The Visuddhimagga, the book led to distort early Buddha Dhamma was introduced by Pathanjali yogi Buddhagosha, has also influenced a lot in the 5th and 6th Burmish editions of Tipitaka.
Also, the early translators and European monks had not respected the advice of the Buddha, as that that the Buddha has clearly advised his disciple monks not to translate his Dhamma to any other language, and also not to teach anyone until they reached the Magga Phala at least above the stream entry stage. In our opinion, we don’t think that until any monk reaches the Anagami stage, would be able to realize the Buddha Dhamma enough to do such a translation and/or write commentaries. However, today we can clearly see that the translations done by Acharya Buddhagosha, British Scholars, and many European monks have hidden the simple pure path to Nibbāna from the world, instead they have created another mundane religion and labeled it as ‘Buddhism’.
As were explained in above, the British colonial officers have taken all of the original manuscripts from Sri Lanka to Europe. Some of them have been sold on open antique markets. Today, some of them are kept in collections in museums and libraries in England, France, and Denmark; and most of texts and documents have been lost or destroyed. Our organization has located most of those Silver, Copper, and Palms leaves manuscripts from England and Denmark. Those manuscripts contain the earliest version of Dhamma that was delivered by the Gothama Samana the Buddha (The earliest Tipitaka and Hela Atuā). We are in the process of taking digital copies of those manuscripts and in the future, we hope to republish those manuscripts and will make them available free for Nibbāna searchers.