It's not one book it's a shelf!
Extracts from " Good Question Good Answer " by Venerable S Dhammika
QUESTION: Nearly all religions have some kind of holy writings or Bible. What is the Buddhist holy book?
The sacred book of Buddhism is called the Tipitaka. It is written in an ancient Indian language called Pali which is very close to the language that the Buddha himself spoke. The Tipitaka is a very large book. The English translation of it takes up nearly 40 volumes.
QUESTION: What does the name Tipitaka mean?
It is made up of two Pali words, ti means ‘three’ and pitaka means ‘basket.’ The first part of the name refers to the fact that the Buddhist scriptures consist of three sections. The first section, called the Sutta Pitaka contains all the Buddha’s discourses as well as some by his enlightened disciples. The type of material in the Sutta Pitaka is very diverse which allows it to communicate the truths that the Buddha taught to different types of people. Many of the Buddha’s discourses are in the form of sermons while others are in the form of dialogues. Other parts like the Dhammapada present the Buddha’s teachings through the medium of poetry. The Jatakas, to take another example, consist of delightful stories in which the main characters are often animals. The second section of the Tipitaka is the Vinaya Pitaka. This contains the rules and procedures for monks and nuns, advice on monastic administration and procedure and the early history of the monastic order. The last section is called the Abhidhamma Pitaka. This is a complex and sophisticated attempt to analyze and classify all the constituents that make up the individual. Although the Abhidhamma is somewhat later than the first two sections of the Tipitaka, it contains nothing that contradicts them.