tiltbillings wrote:The question of why is the Abhidhamma so quickly dismissed by some is an interesting one. Often, it seems to me, ignorance is the answer.
Ignorance of what though, exactly?
Primarily, what the texts actually say. Often we see the dhamma notion of the Abhidhamma get portrayed as being ultimate little atom thingies. Piatigorsky, in his studies of the Theravadin Abhidhamma Pitaka texts (THE BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY OF THOUGHT 1984, 181) points out dharmas are not substances; they are not 'things' in and of themselves:We simpy cannot say that 'a dharma is... (a predicate follows)', because a dharma, in fact, 'is' no thing, yet [it is] a term denoting (not being) a certain relation or type of relation to thought, consciousness or mind. That is, dharma is not a concept in the accepted terminological sense of the latter, but a purely relational notion.
Nyanaponika ABHIDHAMMA STUDIES page 41 BPS; page 42 Wisdom wrote:By arranging the mental factors in relational groups a subordinate synthetical element has been introduced into the mainly analytical Dhammasangani. By so doing, the danger inherent in purely analytical methods is avoided. This danger consists in erroneously taking for genuine separate entities the “parts” resulting from analysis, instead of restricting their use to sound practical method with the purpose of classifying and dissolving composite events wrongly conceived as unities. Up to the present time it has been a regular occurrence in the history of physics, metaphysics, and psychology that when the “whole” has been successfully dissolved by analysis, the resultant “parts” themselves come in turn to be regarded as little “wholes.”
Prof. Dr. Y. Karunadasa THE DHAMMA THEORY, page 9 wrote:
In the Pali tradition it is only for the sake of definition and description that each dhamma is postulated as if it were a separate entity; but in reality it is by no means a solitary phenomenon having an existence of its own. . . . If this Abhidhammic view of existence, as seen from its doctrine of dhammas, cannot be interpreted as a radical pluralism, neither can it be interpreted as an out-and-out monism. For what are called dhammas -- the component factors of the universe, both within us and outside us -- are not fractions of an absolute unity but a multiplicity of co-ordinate factors. They are not reducible to, nor do they emerge from, a single reality, the fundamental postulate of monistic metaphysics. If they are to be interpreted as phenomena, this should be done with the proviso that they are phenomena with no corresponding noumena, no hidden underlying ground. For they are not manifestations of some mysterious metaphysical substratum, but processes taking place due to the interplay of a multitude of conditions. http://www.zeh-verlag.de/download/dhammatheory.pdf
Harvey in his excellent INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM, characterizes the Theravadin position, page 87 wrote:"'They are dhammas because they uphold their own nature [sabhaava]. They are dhammas because they are upheld by conditions or they are upheld according to their own nature' (Asl.39). Here 'own-nature' would mean characteristic nature, which is not something inherent in a dhamma as a separate ultimate reality, but arise due to the supporting conditions both of other dhammas and previous occurrences of that dhamma."
A.K. Warder in INDIAN BUDDHISM, page 323, discussing the Pali Abhidhamma commentarial literature, wrote:"The most significant new idea in the commentaries is the definition of a 'principle' or element (dharma): dharmas are what have (or 'hold', 'maintain', dhr. is the nearest equivalent in the language to the English 'have') their own own-nature (svabhaava). It is added that they naturally have this through conditions."
Dhammas in the Theravada Abhidhamma Pitaka are "ultimate things" only as a way of talking aspects about the relational flow of experience, not in terms of describing static realities. In other words, dhammas are empty of self.
Interesting stuff and actually useful stuff in understanding what the Buddha taught.
If it can be argued that it's not the words of the Buddha (even if possibly derived from them) what makes their dismissal any different to the dismissal of the Mahayana Sutras? Why would the teachings of "our elders" be somehow inherently better than the teachings of "their elders"?
Our elders kept, for the most part, to a particular understanding of the Dhamma; the Mahayanists, ah, well, did something else.