Rare Books Online Showcase

This page is dedicated to showcasing some of the interesting works that the University Library's Special Collections has to offer. Past features can be found in the Rare Books Online Showcase Archive. To explore our Archival collections, please visit our Archives Online Showcase.

January 2014: Sacred Texts of Hinduism and Buddhism - The Bhagavad Gita and Tripitaka

Gita  Tripitaka

The University Library has recently added two devotional texts to its special collections. The first is the Bhagavad Gita, which is a summary of the core beliefs of Hinduism. IGitat is told as a dialogue between Lord Sri Krishna and the archer Arjuna, who is loathe to fight a war in which his family and friends are on the opposing side. The battle is a symbol of the struggle between good and evil. Krishna counsels Arjuna to surrender to Him in devotional service. The Bhagavad Gita has had a significant influence far beyond Hinduism.

Bhagavad Gita

The copy pictured here was donated by former University of Saskatchewan employee Sarv Lakhanpal whose grandfather transcribed the Gita in Sanskrit in a small devotional copy.Although this copy has seen some damage over the years,  the quality of its craftmanship is seen in its clearly preserved and carefully transcribed text.

The second devotional text the University's Special Collections has received is the Tripitaka, the sacred book of the Buddha's teachings. The library's copy is transcribed in Pali language on long thin leaves of plant fibre laced to two red boards of thick wood. The approximate date is 1868.


For a few hundred years after Buddha's death in the mid-fifth century BCE, his teachings were transmitted orally. In the 2nd century BCE the teachings began to be written down and were eventually codified into the Tripitaka canon in Pali language which was then more widely understood. The Tripitaka has since been translated into many other languages.text

Tripitaka means "three baskets" because the text was written on long narrow leaves which were sewn together and stored in baskets.

The Vinaya Pitaka (Discipline Basket) was recalled by a monk named Upali. It deals with rules and regulations for the monastic community (the Sangha ) of monks and nuns. Most of these rules derive from the Buddha's suggestions for harmony in the community and with the laity.

The Sutra Pitaka (Discourse Basket) was recited by Ananda, Buddha's cousin and closest companion. It contains the central teachings of Theravada Buddhism, including Buddha's teachings and sermons on doctrine and behaviour, focusing especially on meditation techniques.

The Abhidhamma Pitaka (Higher Knowledge or Special Teachings Basket) was recited by Mahakashyapa, the Buddha's successor. It is essentially a collection of miscellaneous writings, including songs, poetry and stories of the Buddha and his past lives. Its primary subjects are Buddhist philosophy and psychology.

The University of Saskatchewan's Archives and Special Collections is excited to receive these highly significant and beautifully crafted texts as part of our collection. Other such texts within our holdings include:

  • The Book of common prayer and administration of the sacraments : and other rites and ceremonies of the church, according to the use of the Church of England : together with the Psalter or Psalms of David, pointed as they are to be sung or said in churches : and the form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of bishops, priests, and deacons. Cambridge : Printed by John Field, 1662. (Call Number:  BX5145 .A4 1662).
  • Millar, Eric George. The Luttrell psalter : two plates in colour and one hundred and eighty-three in monochrome from the Additional manuscript 42130 in the British museum.. London : Printed for the Trustees, 1932. (Call Number: ND3357 .L97C3).
  • Bloomfield, Leonard. Sacred stories of the Sweet Grass Cree.  Saskatoon : Fifth House, 1993. (Call Number: PM989 .B65S 1993).
  • Dooling, D. M. The Sons of the wind : the sacred stories of the Lakota. [San Francisco] : HarperSanFrancisco, 1992. (Call Number:  E99 .O.3S6613 1992)
  • The Holy Qur'an / translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Durban : Islamic Propagation Centre International, 1946. (Call Number:  BP109 .A42 1946)
  • The Holy Bible , containing the Old Testament and the Nevv : vevvly translated out of the original tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and reuised : by His Maiesties special commandement : appointed to bee read in churches. London : R. Barker and assignes J. Bill, 1633 (Call Number: BS 170 1633)
  • Lacombe, Albert. Cree Catechism. (Call Number: BX1958 .C9L14 1880 )

Comments to: University Archives & Special Collections (ua.sc@usask.ca)