佛學講座 - 佛學問答(English) - How are Twelve Divisions of the Mahayana Canon categorized?
How are Twelve Divisions of the Mahayana Canon categorized?

All the Buddhist sutras fall into twelve categories by way of content,

collectively called Shi-er bu jing (hereafter Twelve Divisions of the

Mahayana Canon) and also known as Shi-er fen jiao (Twelve

Separations of Teachings). They are:

First, chang-xing, continuous prose, using prose to directly tell

characteristics of things whilst unrestricted in syntax and extended

in textual categorization;

Second, zhong-song, repetition in verse of a prose section, already

being stated at the beginning whilst concluding in verse toward the

end—a kind of double measure;

Third, gu-qi, solitary arising, adhering not to the textual segment of

continuous prose earlier whilst assuming own initiation;

Fourth, yin-yuan, cause and condition, recounting respects paid to the

Buddha and heed taken of the Dharma, or relating cause and condition

of the Buddha speaking the Dharma whilst teaching and transforming;

Fifth, ben-shi, original deeds, recording in sutra literature the Buddha‘s

revelations of cause and condition for disciples through past lifetimes;

Sixth, ben-sheng, original lives, recording accounts of cause and

condition through past lifetimes as told by the Buddha himself;

Seventh, wei-zeng you, literally, never yet been, non-such, recording

in sutra literature the many manifestations of the Buddha‘s

supernatural powers;

Eighth, pi-yu, metaphors, recording in sutra literature the many

metaphors employed by the Buddha in enabling all living beings

to awaken;

Ninth, lun-yi, dogmatic treatises, containing in sutra literature all

questions and answers discoursed via the Dharma fundamentals;

Tenth, wu-wen zi-shuo, spoken voluntarily whilst not in response to

questions, the Buddha teaching with no one raising any queries, as

in Amitabha Sutra;

Eleventh, fang-guang, literally, correct and broad, expanded teaching,

containing in sutra literature the true principle, as told by the Buddha,

in elaboration; and

Twelfth, ji-bie or shou-ji, literally, to record and differentiate, predictions,

the Buddha‘s foretelling of titles to be conferred upon bodhisattvas or

sravakas attaining Buddhahood.

Of the Twelve Divisions, only continuous prose, repetition in verse of a

prose section, and solitary arising assume the format of sutra literature,

and the other nine are duly named in accordance with individual

concerns recorded in sutra literature. As well, there in the Hinayana

texts is sutra literature in nine categories without the other three,

namely, spoken voluntarily, expanded teaching, and predictions.