Buddhism A–Z
What is a Sutra in Buddhism?
The Illustrated Sutra of Past and Present Karma (Kako genzai inga kyō emaki); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Chairman’s Council Gifts, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation and Mary and James G. Wallach Foundation Gifts

Sutras (Pali: sutta) are the most important foundational texts of Buddhism. The earliest were the original written records of the Buddha’s life and his teachings; others were written in later centuries.

The first sutras, collected together, are considered one of the three “baskets” or divisions of the Pali Canon (Tripitaka). These are Buddhist scriptures attributed to the Buddha and his direct disciples and the best record we have of the teachings of the historical Buddha.

Later sutras were developed within the Mahayana school of Buddhism. These include famed texts such as the Heart Sutra, Lotus Sutra, and Diamond Sutra. Additional sutras were developed in the tantric Buddhist tradition of Tibet.

Sutras are often recited, studied, and commented upon by scholars and teachers. The content and significance of sutras can vary among different Buddhist traditions and schools.

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Buddhism A–Z

Explore essential Buddhist terms, concepts, and traditions.