Is Abhidhamma the highest wisdom?

Discussion of Abhidhamma and related Commentaries

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Is Abhidhamma the highest wisdom?

Postby bodom » Fri Feb 19, 2010 11:39 pm

I have ordered Bhikkhu Bodhi's A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma and am looking forward to starting my studies on the Abhidhamma. I have heard or read somewhere that Abhidhamma is the highest or most profound wisdom offered in the Buddhasasana, though I cant recall where. For those familiar with Abhidhamma would you agree with this? Could it be said the third training in panna consists of realisation of Abhidhamma? I understand that the training in panna includes realisation of the Noble Truths, kamma etc. but am curious where Abhidhamma fits in with right view and thinking as defined by the Buddha in the Noble Path.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Is Abhidhamma the highest wisdom?

Postby Ben » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:03 am

Hi Bodom

Abhidhamma, as far as my rudimentary understanding goes, means 'higher dhamma' and it is an exposition on the nature of paramattha dhammas (ultimate realities).
Do I agree with it? Its not something that I have an opinion about.
Have I benefited from my exploration into the Abhidhamma via Bhikkhu Bodhi's "A comprehensive manual"?
Undoubtedly. It has deepened my understanding of the Dhamma, not just on the intellectual level, but its also affected my practice.
I'm very much a practice-oriented person, so for me, the development of panna is about the development of bhavana-maya-panna that special wisdom vipassana that arises from penetrating the nature of nama and rupa by the choiceless observation of dhammas. Pariyatti is extraordinarily important, but for me, it goes hand-in-hand with patipatti (practice).
I hope that at least is another practitioner's perspective and i wish you all the very best with your exploration via CMA. I also recommend, at some stage following CMA, to have a read of Ledi Sayadaw's works published under the title of "Manuals of Dhamma". The Sayadaw was one of the greatest scholar monks of all time and an expert in the Abhidhamma.
metta

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Re: Is Abhidhamma the highest wisdom?

Postby pt1 » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:50 am

bodom wrote:I have ordered Bhikkhu Bodhi's A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma and am looking forward to starting my studies on the Abhidhamma. I have heard or read somewhere that Abhidhamma is the highest or most profound wisdom offered in the Buddhasasana, though I cant recall where. For those familiar with Abhidhamma would you agree with this? Could it be said the third training in panna consists of realisation of Abhidhamma? I understand that the training in panna includes realisation of the Noble Truths, kamma etc. but am curious where Abhidhamma fits in with right view and thinking as defined by the Buddha in the Noble Path.

I'd say that the highest wisdom in theravada would stand for insight that realises directly the four noble truths, dependent origination, anatta, etc. Abhidhamma I think is a name for the third pitaka, though there are occasions I think when the prefix abhi is used to signify a deeper understanding of a particular subject. Anyway, imo the way that the teachings are presented in the third pitaka (in particular the dhammasangani, vibhanga, dhatukatha and patthana) is as close as possible to the way that the "world" would be experienced by someone with developed insight.

In the commentaries, it's mentioned that vinaya pitaka is most useful for establishing sila, sutta pitaka for establishing samadhi, and abhidhamma pitaka for establishing the right view (wisdom), although of course all three pitakas cover all these matters in their own way. So, I think abhidhamma is all about the right view (wisdom), and thus, insight. In my case, I couldn't really understand what's meant by insight until starting with abhidhamma studies.

Anyway, ACMA is a great book to start with. If on occasions it seems too dry/technical, you can also try reading some of Nina Van Gorkom's books parallel to ACMA reading, as her books cover almost the same territory in a bit easier language. In particular:
Abhidhamma in daily life deals mostly with different types of cittas and general subjects
Cetasikas is all about individual cetasikas
Physical Phenomena is all about different types of rupas.

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Re: Is Abhidhamma the highest wisdom?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:57 am

Greetings Bodom,

I believe (though I'm happy to be corrected otherwise) it is deemed to be "abhi" (higher) because it does not approach the Dhamma from a person-based perspective, but solely in terms of the constituent aspects of experience. To that extent it is operating at a similar level to sutta teachings such as the five aggregates, six sense bases and such that do not impute a person (which of course, in a higher sense, does not actually exist per se).

Therefore, not the "highest wisdom" as in superior to the Buddha's sutta teachings, but the Dhamma viewed from this higher (non-personified) standpoint.

Metta,
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Re: Is Abhidhamma the highest wisdom?

Postby appicchato » Sat Feb 20, 2010 4:32 am

bodom wrote:Could it be said the third training in panna consists of realisation of Abhidhamma?


I have a tough time with the word 'realization' here...and although my grasp of the topic is admittedly limited, I think it's more a case of understanding rather than realization...could be context, semantics...or me...just saying... :smile:
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Re: Is Abhidhamma the highest wisdom?

Postby bodom » Sat Feb 20, 2010 9:44 pm

Thank you for the clarification and input.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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