List of tipitaka versions' differences

Translators sporadically refer in their footnotes to differences between the Thai, Sinhalese, and Burmese versions, but I wonder if a comprehensive list of those differences has been ever made? Are they all even romanised, so that we can use “compare text” technology such as that used in Wikipedia?

Thanks :).


Well, the tl;dr is: no, there is no such list.

With the Pali editions, we inherit a complex manuscript tradition. In each country there are multiple different editions, both modern printed editions and older manuscripts. The ones we have ended up using are more or less random. The problem is that despite the many variations, the reality is that it is a huge amount of work to gather and collate them, and the end result is, “Yep, apart from these few instances, it’s pretty much the same as all the others.”

Most of the manuscripts have not been digitized. I am not sure how many independent digitizations there have been for the canon. The text we use is the Mahasangiti edition, which is a corrected version of the digital text prepared by the VRI. We use this edition, not because it is the most authentic, but because it is the best edited and most reliable digital text.

There is also the digitized version of the PTS text, which is available on GRETIL. This is, of course, a hybrid edition, and does not directly represent any manuscript. Nevertheless, on the whole the PTS texts probably lie closest to the Sinhala readings.

The Sinhala Buddha Jayanthi edition is, like the VRI/Mahasangiti text, supposedly based on the Sixth Council edition.* It has been digitized and is available on Gretil or at . I have not worked with this edition extensively, but I believe the digital text is rather poorly edited.

You can find a discussion on this at:

I am not sure if any other editions have been digitized; possibly one or more Thai editions.

The traditional academic approach to addressing this problem is to create a so-called “critical edition”. I have outlined some of my reservations about this approach here. (Don’t neglect to scroll down to Brahmali’s lengthy comment.)

In contrast, I propose an alternative method, basically to type up manuscripts and use a version control system like Git to handle the differences. Using Git, it would be trivial to compile a list such as the one you suggest. I have made a few small adjustments to my original post, and you can read it here:

  • While the Sixth Council is supposed to have produced an authoritative edition by bringing together the experts from the main Theravada countries, in fact it was run by the Burmese, and the “Sixth Council” edition is the Burmese text. The Sinhalese and Thai monks went off to their own section and compiled their own texts; the Buddha Jayanthi edition is the product of the Sinhala group.

So much more complex than I thought! My understanding is that three books of the khuddakanikaya (Nettippakaranna, Pettakopadesa, &
Milindapañha) appear only in the Burmese edition. Now I wonder if other similar significant differences are overlooked!

Thanks for all the information and resources venerable @sujato . I was not aware of most of this. :anjal: