This scripture describes the first Buddhist council. It was held shortly after the Buddha's death, and collected the set of rules (Vinaya) and five sets of Dhamma. Tradition holds that little was added to the Canon after this. Scholars are more skeptical, but differ in their degrees of skepticism. Richard Gombrich thinks most of the first four nikayas (see below) go back to the Buddha, in content but not in form. The late Professor Hirakawa Akira says that the First Council collected only short prose passages or verses expressing important doctrines, and that these were expanded into full length suttas over the next century.
There are five nikayas (collections) of suttas:
This includes The Greater Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness, The Fruits of the Contemplative Life, and The Buddha's Last Days. There are 34 long suttas in this nikaya.
This includes Shorter Exposition of Kamma, Mindfulness of Breathing, and Mindfulness of the Body. There are 152 medium-length suttas in this nikaya.
There are, according to one reckoning, 2,889, but according to the commentary 7,762, shorter suttas in this Nikaya.
These teachings are arranged numerically. It includes, according to the commentary's reckoning, 9,565 short suttas grouped by number from ones to elevens. According to Keown, "there is considerable disparity between the Pāli and the Sarvāstivādin versions, with more than two-thirds of the sūtras found in one but not the other compilation, which suggests that much of this portion of the Sūtra Piṭaka was not formed until a fairly late date."