LinLin64 wrote:I've just starting to explore the Abhidhamma sangaha, and finding Bhikku Bodhi's Comprehensive Manual fabulous.
When I checked in Wikipedia for the Abhidhamma, I see there is a Theravada list with 52 mental formations, but that a Mahayana list has 51. The groupings and factors are a little different.
My question is, how is it that they are not one and the same list of mental factors?
Thanks in advance.
I am truly delighted to hear that you find Abhidhamma "fabulous." I also study from the Abhidhamma Sangaha. The more you learn, the more you will appreciate the power of the Lord Buddha's mind, and that no ordinary being in all the 31 universal realms can even conceive of such doctrine, let alone teach it.
In Abhidhamma, we have only one mind, which plays a different role at a time
. But it plays, i.e. come into existence and cease, so fast that we think it's all happening at the same time. My teacher said that if we were to hold our index finger up straight, then bend it 90 degrees fast. The time you took to do this, your Citta has already played its roles a million-million times. An analogy compares your mind to a movie negative. When it is played on screen , you see smooth actions. Yet in reality, they are thousands of still shots played consecutively.
There are 89 or 121 Cittas (if you include 32 Cittas from the 4 stages of jhanas for Sotappanna - Stream Enterer, Sakadagami - Once Returner, Anagami - Non Returner, and Arahanta - the Worthy One),
and 52 Cetasika (Mental factors/formation).
I value Abhidhamma Sangaha of Theravada Buddhism the most. As I understand, when Buddhism traveled from India to China, the teaching was influenced and modified by the regional cultures and traditions of the time along the way, which became Mahayan Buddhism. For me Abhidhamma Sangaha of Theravada Buddhism is the closest teaching of the Buddha. Originally the Pitaka consisted of two parts: the Vinaya and the Dhamma Pitakas. Then monks found that the Dhamma Pitaka was too large, and therefore it was split up into Suttanta and Abhidhamma Pitakas. Most people doubt Abhidhamma, but Abhidhamma Pitaka forms half (42,000 textual units) of the Tipitaka (Vinaya and Suttanta Pitakas both consist of 21,000 textual units each). I have no doubt of its importance and relevancy. In fact, if we study Abhidhamma, we will be able to understand in depth what is written in the other two Pitakas. Without Abhidhamma, the interpretations of the other two Pitakas will be subjective.
My teachers tell this story. First you have to understand that the Buddha said all the Arahants would have all reached Nibbanna in the first millemium after the Parinibbana of the Buddha . The Arahants were in fact the most knowledgeable and most accurate teachers of the Buddhas doctrine. At the end of of the first millenium, in south India, the Acariya Anuruddha was spreading the Teachings with many monks and laypeople as followers. Even then the Abhidhamma Pitaka was not easy to understand. So his followers asked him, who understood the Teachings thoroughly, to summarise the Abhidhamma Pitaka. His work is what we are now studying. In Thailand, a teacher is called "Ajarn." Ajarn Nab was the first person to translate and summarise his work from the Pali Texts in Burma. Her text books are the ones we use to study and are widely adopted for Abhidhamma teaching in many Thai cities and insight meditation centres.
In studying Abhidhamma, I recommend that you seek a teacher who teaches along the lines written in the Abhidhamma. Normally, we should study the nine chapters one by one. But if you want to study enough to perform Insight Meditation, which will lead you directly to Nibbana, you can study three Chapters first: Chapter 1 - Citta, Chapter 2 - Cetasika, and Chapter 6 - Rupa.
I'm learning Chapter 1 - Citta at present. If I can be of any help, just ask.