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.
Hi Mike, Tilt, & all,
To be sure, ignorance of the content and context of the Abidhamma Piṭaka is often the case. But not always. And it isn’t always quickly dismissed. Some people have spent years studying and contemplating the Abidhamma Piṭaka before arriving at any conclusions regarding its shortcomings.
mikenz66 wrote: tiltbillings wrote:
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.
No doubt, the abbhidhamma project was well-intentioned, but I would suggest that the entire enterprise was also ill-conceived. The very notion that all of the corners of samsaric cognition can be “squared” is to miss the point that samsaric consciousness is deluded from the get-go, and therefore can’t be unequivocally validated in terms of the individuation of empirical particulars (whether as things or event-processes). This very process is itself part of the problem, not the solution.
Moreover, attempts to account for liberated cognition in terms of the fabricated aggregates misses the point stated in many sutta-s that such cannot be done. For example, the mind liberated through discernment is designated as “measureless mind” (appamāṇacetasa) in a number of discourses (S iv 119, S iv 186, S iv 189, S iv 199, MN 38). Elsewhere it is designated as unestablished (appatiṭṭha), and featureless (anidassana), and one thus liberated is said to be independent (anissita), etc.
One of the most elegant and subtle aspects of the dhamma of the sutta portion of the Nikāya-s is that it doesn’t impose any sort of fabricated view regarding the nature of the liberated mind. This is clear in the sense of measureless mind → appamāṇacetasa, being free from any sort of measurement → pamāṇa.
Once all mental designations (pannatti; also saṅkhā, samannā, etc.) are done away with, there is no way (and no need) for defining liberation in any way at all. This is a “freedom of absence.” It is also non-proliferation (nippapanca: “Dhammo nippapancaratino, nāyaṃ dhammo papancārāmassa papancaratino.”), etc.
This is what distinguishes the exquisite dhamma of the sutta-s from everything that came before the Buddha or after the sutta corpus. It’s unfortunate that virtually all commentators – early abhidhamma, classical, and modern commentators – and all Buddhist doctrinal schools haven’t seen fit to follow the Buddha’s wisdom on these points.
All the best,