The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby pt1 » Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:25 am

TheDhamma wrote:"Then the venerable Kassapa the Great questioned the venerable Ananda as to the provenance of the Samannaphala and he questioned him as to the individual. In this same way he questioned him about the five Nikayas. Constantly, questioned, the venerable Ananda answered."

Vinaya, Cullavagga XI

My emphasis in bold above, notice how that sentence appears to be a summarizing statement, stating all of the rest that was recited at the First Council.

At least from the Canonical account (Tipitaka), there appears to be no indication that the Abhidhamma was recited at the First Council.


Hi David,

Thanks for the quote. I agree that it looks like a summarizing statement, though we can't know whether abhidhamma (the material that's designated as abhidhamma pitaka nowadays) was included in those days in the 5th nikaya as the commentary says, or not.

That's why it might be useful to examine the different classifications of teachings and when they appeared. From my very limited reading so far, there are 3 classifications:

1. The ninefold division - mentioned many times in the suttas (the materials that are designated as sutta pitaka nowadays), so it seems to co-exist with the life of the Buddha.

2. The 5 nikayas - this classification is mentioned in your quote, so the question is if it existed prior to the first council or not.

3. The 3 pitakas - the questions is whether this classification existed prior to the third council, and if so, when did it appear.

There are other more general classifications like Dhamma and vinaya, sutta and vinaya, but these seem more like generalizations that can mean different things in different contexts.

Anyway, it seems the logical thing to do would be to figure out how all the materials that we currently have in the 3 pitakas were arranged according to different classifications. For example, I think I recall reading somewhere that both vinaya and abhidhamma (the materials we nowadays designate as vinaya and abhidhamma pitakas) were classified as parts of the 5th Nikaya, but I'm pretty sure that was a commentarial explanation. Figuring out this stuff will be pretty hard since whatever info there might be, it's mostly in the commentaries.

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby pt1 » Thu Oct 15, 2009 4:42 am

Hi all, a correction/update of one of my previous posts:

pt1 wrote:on the mind-moments sequence ... - they seem to have been mentioned in written records at the time of abhidhmmatha sangaha (I’m no expert to say whether they were implied in the seven abhidhamma books or not).


It seems all the mind-moments were already spelled out in patthana and dhammsangani, while in abhidhammattha sangaha they were simply put into a sequence-list. The references to the mind-moments were compiled by Alberto on DSG (post #100920):


Some more text references where the Abhidhamma proper spells out the names of
the paramattha dhammas (citta & cetasikas) and their arising order in a sense
door process (mind door ones last less than 17 citta moments, the duration of
rùpa), I have enclosed them in single quotes:

- at least one (no up to limit) 'bhavanga'/life continuum citta, (in
ananantara/contiguity, samanantara/proximity, anantarupanissaya, natthi/absence,
vigata/gone-by paccaya/condition, abyàkata->abyàkata, Patthàna 417, 418, 423,
436, 437),
- plus one 'avajjana'/adverting citta, 'kiriya-mano-dhatu' (same ref. as
'bhavanga' and also at Dhs. 566);
- plus one 'chakku' or ... 'kaya-viññana-dhatu', of the (10, dvi)
'vipàka-pañca-viññana' (Pth.4, 5, 22, 23; Dhs. 431...);
- plus one 'vipaka-mano-dhatu', (sampaticchana, receiving - Dhs. 455.)
- plus one 'vipaka-mano-viññana-dhatu', (santirana, investigating - Dhs. 469,
484);
- plus one votthapana/determining citta as 'kiriya-mano-viññana-dhatu' (Dhs.
568),
- plus several (up to seven) 'kusala' or 'akusala-mano-viññana-dhatu' (javana
cittas, as 'asevana'/repetition condition, Pth 426: kusala -> kusala, akusala ->
akusala, kiriyaabyàkata -> kiriyaabyàkata (i.e. the arahant cittas replacing
kusala ones),
- plus one (or none, up to two) 'vipàka tadàrammanata'/receiving citta /
'vipaka-mano-viññana dhatu' (in àrammana/object condition, Pth. 406. / and Dhs.,
same as santirana).


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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:07 am

pt1 wrote:1. The ninefold division - mentioned many times in the suttas (the materials that are designated as sutta pitaka nowadays), so it seems to co-exist with the life of the Buddha.


1. Discourses
2. Teachings in verse
3. Predictions
4. Summaries in verse
5. Dependent Origination
6. Instructions by simile
7. Quotations
8. Inspired sayings
9. Stories of previous births

None of the above appear to refer to the Abhidhamma. There are clear examples for the Suttas, Theragatha & Therigatha, even Jataka, but apparently not Abhidhamma.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:10 am

pt1 wrote:3. The 3 pitakas - the questions is whether this classification existed prior to the third council, and if so, when did it appear.


The 3 pitakas quote in the Canon comes from the Parivara, the last book of the Vinaya Pitaka and considered to be a later text. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parivara
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:16 am

pt1 wrote:2. The 5 nikayas - this classification is mentioned in your quote, so the question is if it existed prior to the first council or not.

Hi pt,

By process of elimination, the best possible argument that the Abhidhamma may have been recited at the First Council would come from your no. 2 above. If it could be shown that Abhidhamma was considered a part of the Khuddaka Nikaya at that time, then the statement that the five Nikayas were recited could include the Abhidhamma.

I think some of the early schools did consider the Abhidhamma part of the Khuddaka Nikaya, but not the Theravada. Also, I think the commentaries claim that it was not Ananda, but another monk who recited the Abhidhamma. So if that were the case (Abhidhamma part of KN) then the commentaries would be in contradiction to the Pali Canon, Vinaya account.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Paññāsikhara » Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:19 am

This discussion could benefit an enormous amount by getting out of the "Pali only" fixation and referring more Sanskrit, Chinese and even Tibetan materials. A quite check to see if a passage also appears or not in other versions of the Vinaya or Sutras, for instance, is powerful evidence as to its originality or not.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:30 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:This discussion could benefit an enormous amount by getting out of the "Pali only" fixation and referring more Sanskrit, Chinese and even Tibetan materials. A quite check to see if a passage also appears or not in other versions of the Vinaya or Sutras, for instance, is powerful evidence as to its originality or not.


Good point. I am not that familiar with the Mahayana and Vajrayana versions, but have heard that there are some similarities, but also some marked differences. I am not sure of the extent of the differences, one big one being that there is no Katthavattu in the Mahayana Abhidharma or Abhidharma-kosa.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Paññāsikhara » Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:45 am

TheDhamma wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:This discussion could benefit an enormous amount by getting out of the "Pali only" fixation and referring more Sanskrit, Chinese and even Tibetan materials. A quite check to see if a passage also appears or not in other versions of the Vinaya or Sutras, for instance, is powerful evidence as to its originality or not.


Good point. I am not that familiar with the Mahayana and Vajrayana versions, but have heard that there are some similarities, but also some marked differences. I am not sure of the extent of the differences, one big one being that there is no Katthavattu in the Mahayana Abhidharma or Abhidharma-kosa.


Who said anything about Mahayana or Vajrayana? I am referring to the Sarvastivada, Mulasarvastivada, Dharmagupta, Mahisasaka, Kasyapiya, Mahasamghika and other traditions.

Apart from Asanga's Samuccaya, and an oblique reference to a Mahayana Abhidharma Sutra Sastra (whatever the heck that possible oxymoron is!), there is really no such thing as a Mahayana Abhidharma.

As for "there is no Katthavatthua in the Mahayana Abhidharma or Abhidharma Kosa", I am confused as to what you may mean. It is a bit like saying "There is no Abhidharma Vijnanakayapada Sastra in the Abhidhammatthasangaha!". Why on earth should there be? Why would anybody want to put it there in the first place?

This very sort of confusion is exactly why I made my earlier comment in the first place.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby BudSas » Fri Oct 16, 2009 5:43 am

pt1 wrote:
Afaik, the classical position regarding abhidhamma pitaka goes like this (someone please correct me if I’m wrong):
1. Buddha preached abhidhamma in Tavatimsa.
2. Then he gave the summaries (matikas) of his Tavatimsa sermons to Sariputta.
3. Sariputta then organized and fleshed out these matikas into their current form and thought it to his disciples – what he thought to his disciples is pretty much what abhidhamma pitaka is today (except for the katthavathu).

The argument is then made that the Buddha was there to correct Sariputta, in case there was something wrong with his recension of abhidhamma pitaka. (Remember that Sariputta died before the Buddha, so if abhidhamma pitaka survived after Sariputta’s death, it seems probable that it had the stamp of approval by the Buddha, like in other cases when Sariputta gave a discourse and the Buddha approved). Nevertheless, it is said that abhidhamma is the provenance of the Buddhas – i.e. it originated with the Buddha, and we in the human realm got it through Sariputta. And then abhidhamma pitaka (as arranged by Sariputta) was sung at the first council, which lasted for 7 months I think. As I remember, Sariputta was (while alive - well before the first council) in charge of organising all of the Buddha’s teachings, not just the abhidhamma pitaka, but other pitakas as well, so he wasn’t called “The Marshal of the Dhamma” for no reason.


That explanation was taken from the Commentaries (Atthasalini). If one accepts this explanation, then 6 out of 7 volumes of the Abidhamma Pitaka should be seen as the words of Ven Sariputta, not the Buddha's words. Similarly, the Kathavatthu of the Abidhamma Pitaka should be seen as the words of Ven Moggaliputta Tissa recorded in the 3rd century BCE (King Asoka's period).

Perhaps this line was taken by the Sarvastivadins with their Abhidhamma collection, available only in Chinese translation (Taisho, volume T26, Abhidhamma Collection). Their 7 Abhidhamma volumes were attributed to the Buddha's direct disciples -- Sariputta, Moggalana, Kaccana -- and monks of later generations.

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby BudSas » Fri Oct 16, 2009 6:10 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
Apart from Asanga's Samuccaya, and an oblique reference to a Mahayana Abhidharma Sutra Sastra (whatever the heck that possible oxymoron is!), there is really no such thing as a Mahayana Abhidharma.


I agree. In the Chinese (Korean/Japanese) Tipitaka, there is a Abhidhamma Collection (Taisho, volumes T26-T29) of 28 Abhidhamma titles (no. 1536-1563) of "pre-Mahayana" schools -- such as Vibhajyavada, Sarvastivada, Vatsiputriya. See a summary at:

http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/history/s_chtripit.htm

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Individual » Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:00 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

This is a topic in which to discuss issues surrounding the Abhidhamma Pitaka, such as its:

* Origins (including issues relating to Buddhist Councils etc.)
* Timeframes
* Inclusion in the Pali Tipitaka, versus other Canons (such as the Chinese Canon where it is absent)
* Content, and variations therein with respect to the teachings of the Sutta Pitaka

... plus any other issues of scholarly, academic, practical or casual interest that cannot be pursued within the Abhidhamma Forum on account of its Terms Of Service.

In doing so, please ensure you abide by the guidelines for the Dhammic Free-For-All forum - http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=175

Metta,
Retro. :)

It would be hard for me to argue the specifics, but as I've remarked in the past, only a brief review of both is necessary to see that the two have a very different perspective on the importance of philosophy (specifically semantics and metaphysics). It really doesn't make sense for the Buddha to belittle philosophy in a few suttas, but then have a massive collection of texts devoted to it... Also, I've heard that the Abhidhamma makes factually inaccurate statements about the brain's function.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby cooran » Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:11 am

Individual said: I've heard that the Abhidhamma makes factually inaccurate statements about the brain and seems totally unaware of its actual function. With this in mind, the rest of its psychology seems totally without merit.

Please support your statements with a quotations from the Abhidhamma and quotations from respected critical sources. I don't think the Dhamma-free-for-all forum was meant for the unsubstantiated disparagement of the Tipitaka. Kammasakata.

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:17 am

Chris wrote:
Individual said: I've heard that the Abhidhamma makes factually inaccurate statements about the brain and seems totally unaware of its actual function. With this in mind, the rest of its psychology seems totally without merit.

Please support your statements with a quotations from the Abhidhamma and quotations from respected critical sources. I don't think the Dhamma-free-for-all forum was meant for the unsubstantiated disparagement of the Tipitaka. Kammasakata.

Chris


Chris,

I share your frustration with a statement such this. A willingness to dismiss something based upon no actual knowledge of it cannot be taken seriously.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Jechbi » Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:34 pm

tiltbillings wrote:A willingness to dismiss something based upon no actual knowledge of it cannot be taken seriously.

I'm sorry, but I don't agree with this statement. I feel it is appropriate to take Individual's "willingness" seriously, if by "willingness" we mean his underlying motivations and intentions. I also feel it's appropriate to take one another seriously in these discussions unless there's a clear indication that a person is joking.

I agree, though, that Chris' question is a good one (although it appears Individual edited his post for clarity just before Chris hit the "submit" button on hers).

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Oct 16, 2009 5:10 pm

Paññāsikhara wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:This discussion could benefit an enormous amount by getting out of the "Pali only" fixation and referring more Sanskrit, Chinese and even Tibetan materials. A quite check to see if a passage also appears or not in other versions of the Vinaya or Sutras, for instance, is powerful evidence as to its originality or not.


Good point. I am not that familiar with the Mahayana and Vajrayana versions, but have heard that there are some similarities, but also some marked differences. I am not sure of the extent of the differences, one big one being that there is no Katthavattu in the Mahayana Abhidharma or Abhidharma-kosa.


Who said anything about Mahayana or Vajrayana? I am referring to the Sarvastivada, Mulasarvastivada, Dharmagupta, Mahisasaka, Kasyapiya, Mahasamghika and other traditions.


Hi Paññāsikhara,

In your post you mentioned "Sanskrit, Chinese, and even Tibetan materials."

The Chinese and Tibetan texts are Mahayana and Vajrayana, correct?

The early Buddhist schools did not use those languages. But now I see you are probably referring to the fact that the Chinese and Tibetan versions used the early Buddhist school versions of the Abhidhamma, as far as we can tell.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Oct 16, 2009 5:24 pm

Jechbi wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:A willingness to dismiss something based upon no actual knowledge of it cannot be taken seriously.

I'm sorry, but I don't agree with this statement. I feel it is appropriate to take Individual's "willingness" seriously, if by "willingness" we mean his underlying motivations and intentions. I also feel it's appropriate to take one another seriously in these discussions unless there's a clear indication that a person is joking.


You and I differ on this. Dismissing something based upon ignorance cannot be taken seriously as an argument for dismissing something, and I cannot take seriously a person's willingness to dimiss something based upon ignorance of what is being dismissed as a reasonable basis for an argument against something. Does that make it any clearer to you?

Also, I do not care or know what his underlying motivations are, nor would I presume to guess. Also, read what I wrote as it is written.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Oct 16, 2009 5:30 pm

TheDhamma wrote:But now I see you are probably referring to the fact that the Chinese and Tibetan versions used the early Buddhist school versions of the Abhidhamma, as far as we can tell.


Yes, given that these text were translated into Tibetan and Chinese.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sat Oct 17, 2009 2:36 am

TheDhamma wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:
Good point. I am not that familiar with the Mahayana and Vajrayana versions, but have heard that there are some similarities, but also some marked differences. I am not sure of the extent of the differences, one big one being that there is no Katthavattu in the Mahayana Abhidharma or Abhidharma-kosa.


Who said anything about Mahayana or Vajrayana? I am referring to the Sarvastivada, Mulasarvastivada, Dharmagupta, Mahisasaka, Kasyapiya, Mahasamghika and other traditions.


Hi Paññāsikhara,

In your post you mentioned "Sanskrit, Chinese, and even Tibetan materials."

The Chinese and Tibetan texts are Mahayana and Vajrayana, correct?

The early Buddhist schools did not use those languages. But now I see you are probably referring to the fact that the Chinese and Tibetan versions used the early Buddhist school versions of the Abhidhamma, as far as we can tell.


"The Chinese and Tibetan texts are Mahayana and Vajrayana, correct?" - well, no, too vague, so incorrect in this case.

Here, we shall answer in terms of the Buddha's method of Vibhajjavada, ie. an answer which makes distinctions, (as opposed to a direct categorical answer, a counter question, or setting the question aside):

Some of the Chinese texts are Agama, Vinaya and Abhidharma belonging to various Nikayan schools, some are other material belonging to various Nikayan schools, a large amount is Mahayana, some is Vajrayana.
Some of the Tibetan texts are also Agama, Vinaya, Abhidharma and other material belonging to various Nikayan schools, a large amount is common (non-Tantric) Mahayana, a large amount is Tantric / Vajrayana.
(By "other material" I am referring to material that for the Theravadins mainly composes the KN, but for other schools is categorized differently.)

The material I am referring to is mostly the non-Mahayanic (whether common or tantric).

In particular, the various Abhidharma Sastras themselves, of the Hetuvada / Yuktivada / Sarvastivada, and also the Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra. And also the later larger Vibhasa commentaries, and small manuals such as the Hrdaya, Amrtarasa, and so forth. Considering that all of these come from Sthavira traditions, to not consider these at all when discussing the "authenticity" or otherwise of the Pali / Theravada Abhidhamma is a methodological error of simply vast and totally unreasonable proportions.

Also, the Agamas and Vinayas of these other schools is extremely important, too. In many posts above, people have been basing whole arguments on a single passage in a sutta or vinaya, but have not bothered to check to see if these statements / passages are also found in the corresponding texts of other schools. In general, where texts and passages are common across schools, we can kind of establish cut off dates for when this text / statement appeared based on the relations between the schools involved. eg. if found in both Sthavira and Mahasamghika texts, then probably dates from pre-schism period. If found in Theravada, Vatsiputriya and Sarvastivada, but not in other Sthavira schools like Dharmagupta, Kasyapiya, then we can date these accordingly.

Regards the Theravadin material by comparison, all of this material basically pre-dates Buddhaghosa, for instance. This is very important when we consider that although Buddhaghosa is largely using material from earlier texts (see Adikarama, Mizuno, et al), however, in any given citation that he uses, we very seldom can pinpoint from what period or what type of text (eg. Sri Lankan or Indian) it derives. This is very frustrating, and means that we have the Canonical and para-canonical material, which is fairly easy to date, but then have a span of several centuries over which Buddhaghosa's Atthakatha material may derive.

In addition, there is some material that is also classified as "Mahayana" which is relevant here. (Classic examples being the Yogacarabhumi Sastra and Mahaprajnaparamita Upadesa.)

The use of languages is largely irrelevant, as the translations are accurate enough for the material viz the "authenticity" or not of the Abhidhamma / Abhidharma. Where the Mahaprajnaparamita Upadesa makes comments about Katyayana and other Abhidharmikas, for instance, the fact that the source we have is in a Chinese translation and not in its original Sanskrit, makes little difference. It too obviously predates Buddhaghosa, and provides insights from other perspectives.

Personally, I take questions like the "authenticity" or otherwise of a body of literature like the Abhidhamma extremely seriously. As such, it is absolutely vital to take all the possible relevant material into account. Otherwise, with extreme source bias of only examining on body of literature, or only taking information from one Nikayan school, rather than taking all the literature and information from all the schools, of course major errors in our conclusions will result. That would indeed be a shame, don't you think?
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Oct 17, 2009 2:56 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:Personally, I take questions like the "authenticity" or otherwise of a body of literature like the Abhidhamma extremely seriously.


Me too!

Paññāsikhara wrote:As such, it is absolutely vital to take all the possible relevant material into account. Otherwise, with extreme source bias of only examining on body of literature, or only taking information from one Nikayan school, rather than taking all the literature and information from all the schools, of course major errors in our conclusions will result. That would indeed be a shame, don't you think?


Yes, I agree, however the classical Theravada position might be to take those other accounts with a grain of salt. Reason -- the Kathavatthu book in the Abhidhamma was compiled primarily to clarify the "wrong views" in the other early Buddhist schools and thus, their accounts may not be seen with as much importance as you or I might place on them.

Certainly similarities, those areas where there are no differences provide some evidence to authenticity, but by themselves, probably not enough, since the Theravadins at the Third Council rejected those other accounts.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sat Oct 17, 2009 3:06 am

TheDhamma wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:Personally, I take questions like the "authenticity" or otherwise of a body of literature like the Abhidhamma extremely seriously.


Me too!

Paññāsikhara wrote:As such, it is absolutely vital to take all the possible relevant material into account. Otherwise, with extreme source bias of only examining on body of literature, or only taking information from one Nikayan school, rather than taking all the literature and information from all the schools, of course major errors in our conclusions will result. That would indeed be a shame, don't you think?


Yes, I agree, however the classical Theravada position might be to take those other accounts with a grain of salt. Reason -- the Kathavatthu book in the Abhidhamma was compiled primarily to clarify the "wrong views" in the other early Buddhist schools and thus, their accounts may not be seen with as much importance as you or I might place on them.


Yes, that would be the classical Theravada position. However, considering that this is in the "Dhammic free for all" which is supposedly a place to debate things, simply saying "Well, the Classic Theravada says X, therefore it is X, case closed" seems to defy the very point of such a Forum.

Otherwise, we can just go to the Classic Mahavihara Theravada Forum, and quote Pali all day and pretend that nothing else exists.

Certainly similarities, those areas where there are no differences provide some evidence to authenticity, but by themselves, probably not enough, since the Theravadins at the Third Council rejected those other accounts.


Again, if we are just taking the Classic Theravada position, then there is absolutely no need to debate.
Why? Because the Abhidhamma is the word of the Buddha. The texts say so, therefore it must be true.

Okay, case closed. Glad to have solved that problem. We can close the thread now, huh? What's next?
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.
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