The Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

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The Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

Postby cooran » Mon Mar 08, 2010 6:40 am

Hello all,

You may be interested in this study out of the University of Hong Kong:

The Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma by Ankur Barua
~ Introduction,
~Meaning of the term Abhidhamma,
~Origin of the Theravada Abhidhamma,
~Pre-Abhidhammika Abhidhamma,
~The Matikas and Seven Original Textbooks of the Theravada Abhidhamma,
~Post-Canonical and Pre-Commentarial Treatises related to Abhidhamma,
~Post-Cannonical commentaries and Sub-commentaries on the Abhidhamma,
~Compendiums on Abhidhamma,
~Official Inclusion of the Abhidhamma Pitaka during the Third Buddhist Council,
~The High Esteem of the Abhidhamma in Buddhist Tradition,
~Evaluation of the Authenticity of the Abhidhamma,
~Conclusion

http://www.scribd.com/doc/14798028/The- ... Abhidhamma

with metta
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Re: The Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:25 am

Greetings Cooran,

Cool, thanks for this. I've had a quick look through a couple of this author's works over the last week and he seems to have some interesting things to say. Have you read it yet? What did you think?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

Postby Paññāsikhara » Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:28 am

Thanks for the link, Cooran.

What I find interesting is that the conclusions in the article do not seem to match the conclusions that the teacher of the course for which the article was written himself hold. Of course, a student need not hold the view of the teacher. But I find the discrepancy quite apparent. A bit startling, even.

In fact, who is this Ankur Barua, after all? ;)
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Re: The Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

Postby appicchato » Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:35 am

In fact, who is this Ankur Barua, after all?


http://independent.academia.edu/ankurbarua26/Books
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Re: The Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:52 am

Greetings,

I've got a few questions for those knowledgeable in the Abhidhamma who may be able to comment further on what was in that text, should anyone be willing to oblige...

------------------
1.
It is believed that Abhidhamma is a way of life; and is meant for the chosen few, particularly for the erudite monks or scholars with specialized training.


It's a stark contrast to the view I hear in some quarters that Abhidhamma is intended for those who (on account of the dim age we are said to live in) do not understand the full depth of the suttas on account of lack of paramis etc. and need the microscopic level of detail in order to gain wisdom. No disrespect to anyone intended, but that's what they say (try Dhamma Study Group for example). Does anyone know the origin of either of those particular contrasting notions... is either view documented in the Pali scriptures or 'normative' from a Mahavihara perspective?

------------------

2. A bit of a "linking" question here...

Tradition states...

the Buddha dwelt in the celestial domain of the thirty-three divine beings (Tavatimsa-loka) to teach the doctrine of the Abhidhamma to his mother and an assembly of gods for three months. Then he descended to the lake Anottata; where he instructed the same to his disciple Sariputta in the form of numerical verses, who in turn taught it to the five hundred distinguished Arahants


and...

The Mahavamsa is considered as one of the most reliable sources of the Buddhist history and a principal source for the construction of the history of ancient India. Though many scholars believe that the Tipitaka was compiled in the third Buddhist council, but it is explicitly stated in the Mahavamsa that even before the convention of the third Buddhist council, one thousand erudite monks, who were well versed in the Tipitaka, were selected for the re-compilation of the original and purest teachings of the Buddha in order to eliminate the interpolations crept in the original corpuses. This corroborates to the fact that the Tipitaka definitely existed before the third Buddhist council. However, its form might have been different from what was compiled in the third council.


... does that imply the Abhidhamma Pitaka material was transmitted orally "as is" from Buddha to 3rd Council through some special Abhidhamma-transmission lineage, or that it was taught by the Buddha, taught to Sariptutta, taught to 500 monks, and then assimilated into the full body of Dhamma only to be re-extracted back out by these 1000 erudite monks in readiness for the 3rd council?

------------------

3. What exactly does this mean?

They also considered the profound teachings of the Abhidhamma as the ultimate doctrine which is in the exclusive domain of the omniscient Buddhas and not others.


Only Buddhas can learn this? Only Buddhas can teach this? Only Buddhas can discover this? To me, the sentence was a bit unclear.

------------------

And finally, a couple of nice little quotes from the conclusion I liked...

One must keep in mind that the Abhidhammic parts of the Sutta Pitaka, namely the teachings given there in ultimate (paramattha) terms, are certainly indispensable for the understanding and practice of the Dhamma.


The study of the Abhidhamma should therefore not be restricted to the mere collecting, counting and arranging of conceptual labels, but should be assimilated deep inside mind to understand essence of truth and see things as truly as they are.


Nice article, though it would have been nice to see the scope extended to the Abhidhamma commentaries, since (for better or worse) they seem to be more prominently available and used than the original Abhidhamma Pitaka source material which seems difficult to come by short of buying from the Pali Text Society.

Thanks again for sharing, Cooran. :thumbsup:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

Postby pt1 » Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:31 am

Hi retro, haven't read the article, just replies from memory here:
retrofuturist wrote:1.
It is believed that Abhidhamma is a way of life; and is meant for the chosen few, particularly for the erudite monks or scholars with specialized training.


It's a stark contrast to the view I hear in some quarters that Abhidhamma is intended for those who (on account of the dim age we are said to live in) do not understand the full depth of the suttas on account of lack of paramis etc. and need the microscopic level of detail in order to gain wisdom. No disrespect to anyone intended, but that's what they say (try Dhamma Study Group for example). Does anyone know the origin of either of those particular contrasting notions... is either view documented in the Pali scriptures or 'normative' from a Mahavihara perspective?

Afiak, this primarily has to do with the notion of only two types of individuals remaining in the world to today - neyya and padaparama, both of which require guidance - a lot of instruction and in detail. I believe in the thread on paramis RobertK already gave a few quotes on this from Netti and I also gave a few from AN, Puggala and Ledi sayadaw's manuals. I think Netti in particular specifies that neyya and padaparama need to be thought about insight in detail, and according to commentaries, abhidhamma should play a particular role in that as it is most suited for developing wisdom, while suttas are most suited for developing samadhi and vinaya for developing sila, though all three pitakas reflect these three aspects of development in their own way of course. I think I read this last bit in atthasalini (commentary to Dhammasangani).

retrofuturist wrote:2. A bit of a "linking" question here...

Tradition states...

the Buddha dwelt in the celestial domain of the thirty-three divine beings (Tavatimsa-loka) to teach the doctrine of the Abhidhamma to his mother and an assembly of gods for three months. Then he descended to the lake Anottata; where he instructed the same to his disciple Sariputta in the form of numerical verses, who in turn taught it to the five hundred distinguished Arahants


and...

The Mahavamsa is considered as one of the most reliable sources of the Buddhist history and a principal source for the construction of the history of ancient India. Though many scholars believe that the Tipitaka was compiled in the third Buddhist council, but it is explicitly stated in the Mahavamsa that even before the convention of the third Buddhist council, one thousand erudite monks, who were well versed in the Tipitaka, were selected for the re-compilation of the original and purest teachings of the Buddha in order to eliminate the interpolations crept in the original corpuses. This corroborates to the fact that the Tipitaka definitely existed before the third Buddhist council. However, its form might have been different from what was compiled in the third council.


... does that imply the Abhidhamma Pitaka material was transmitted orally "as is" from Buddha to 3rd Council through some special Abhidhamma-transmission lineage, or that it was taught by the Buddha, taught to Sariptutta, taught to 500 monks, and then assimilated into the full body of Dhamma only to be re-extracted back out by these 1000 erudite monks in readiness for the 3rd council?

Afaik, Buddhaghosa's intro to Atthasalini (commentary to Dhammasangani) and the first chapter give the details about the origin of abhidhamma (and commentaries) where the Buddha thought it to Sariputta and so on. As for whether it was re-extracted, I think Buddhaghosa basically says that there were 3 pitakas right from the first council.

retrofuturist wrote:3. What exactly does this mean?

They also considered the profound teachings of the Abhidhamma as the ultimate doctrine which is in the exclusive domain of the omniscient Buddhas and not others.


Only Buddhas can learn this? Only Buddhas can teach this? Only Buddhas can discover this? To me, the sentence was a bit unclear.

I think this is again dealt with in the beginning of atthasalini - my understanding is that "domain of the buddhas" means that only they can rediscover it, and then teach it to others.

retrofuturist wrote:And finally, a couple of nice little quotes from the conclusion I liked...

One must keep in mind that the Abhidhammic parts of the Sutta Pitaka, namely the teachings given there in ultimate (paramattha) terms, are certainly indispensable for the understanding and practice of the Dhamma.


The study of the Abhidhamma should therefore not be restricted to the mere collecting, counting and arranging of conceptual labels, but should be assimilated deep inside mind to understand essence of truth and see things as truly as they are.

Yes, I think this is a common advice to all students of abhidhamma. Anyway, I think if you can get a hold of atthasalini, the intro and the first chapter should give you the relevant info.

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Re: The Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:59 am

Greetings pt1,

Thanks for the response. I've got somewhere to rush off to shortly so this will be a quick question, and I'll give some more thought to the rest of what you've said in due course.

pt1 wrote:As for whether it was re-extracted, I think Buddhaghosa basically says that there were 3 pitakas right from the first council.


I'm currently reading through Nalinaksha Dutt's "Buddhist Sects In India" to try and get a better understanding of what happened from the Buddha's parinibbana through the early councils. From what I've read so far, it seems as if the real split in the Sangha that took place was around the 2nd Council or just afterwards. Hence, the implications of ven. Buddhaghosa's claim are that each sect had the Abhidhamma Pitaka (is this assumed to be identical to the current Pali one?) as part of their shared heritage, and they must have either lost it, rejected it, or modified it... such that after the separation of the Buddhasasana into discrete sects/schools, only the Theravadins retained it. Do you think that's a fair conclusion to draw from the collective works presented in this topic?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Mar 10, 2010 2:30 am

dont most early schools have an abhidhamma/abhidharma?
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Re: The Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 10, 2010 3:12 am

Greetings JC,

jcsuperstar wrote:dont most early schools have an abhidhamma/abhidharma?


As far as I know (which isn't much in this space)... some did, some didn't... and those who did were far from identical, one of those going on to be the Abhidharma.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: The Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

Postby pt1 » Wed Mar 10, 2010 4:45 am

Hi retro (and JC),
retrofuturist wrote:I'm currently reading through Nalinaksha Dutt's "Buddhist Sects In India" to try and get a better understanding of what happened from the Buddha's parinibbana through the early councils. From what I've read so far, it seems as if the real split in the Sangha that took place was around the 2nd Council or just afterwards. Hence, the implications of ven. Buddhaghosa's claim are that each sect had the Abhidhamma Pitaka (is this assumed to be identical to the current Pali one?) as part of their shared heritage, and they must have either lost it, rejected it, or modified it... such that after the separation of the Buddhasasana into discrete sects/schools, only the Theravadins retained it. Do you think that's a fair conclusion to draw from the collective works presented in this topic?

I don't really know, not very familiar with historic buddhist studies. Afaik, there are still several abhidhamma pitakas preserved - the only two complete ones are therevada and sarastivada, and there are a lot of parts and snippets of other's schools' abhidhamma pitakas. Most (if not all) of these, excluding the theravadin one, are preserved in the Chinese canon, and most of these are untranslated at the moment.

Re the differences between different abhidhammas, as far as I read here and there, there are difference between theravadin and sarvastivadin abhidhammas and Some of the 7 books are entirely different. At the moment, I think the only way to approach the Sarvastivadin version (if you don't know classical Chinese) is through Abhidharma kosha (commentary on it) and its commentary, which have been translated. There was recently a thread on the differences, can't find it, but here's a copy of listed sources from it that I saved:
Are there any contradictions between the Pali Canon and Abhidharma-kosa?

The Kosha presents the doctrines of the Sarvasivadin school and the Abhidharma-kosa-bhasya, its commentary, critiques the Kosha from the standpoint of the Sautrantika school. Both are attributed to Vasubandu.

Where one finds significant differences between the Pali Canon of the Theravadins and the canon of the Sarvastivadins as reflected in the Kosha, is going to be in the Abhidhamma/Abhidharma Pitakas. Rupert Gethin's THE FOUNDATIONS OF BUDDHISM, an inexpensive book well worth getting, will give you a very good idea of the differences.

A more detailed comparison is found in Herbert V. Guenther, "Philosophy and Psychology in the Abhidharma", which compares the Theravada abhidhamma, the Abhidharmakosha and the Abhidharmasamuccaya.

Or Frauwallner:
Studies in Abhidharma Literature and the Origins of Buddhist Philosophical Systems


I remember one of the most siginificant differences is that mindfulness in theravada can be only kusala cetasika, while in sarvastivada it can be both kusala and akusala depending of the citta.

Re your hypothesis about splitting. Of course, I know very little here, and Vens. Dhammanando and Pannasikhara should probably be able to help. From memory, some of the other sects' vinayas mention that abhidhamma was recited at the first council. If we count the first split happened at or after the second council between Mahasamgikas and the remaining sangha who are Sthaviravada from then on, then you can check if any of the later mahasamgika sects actually had an abhidhamma pitaka, and if they did, that might mean that abhidhamma pitaka existed prior to the split. "Might" because I think some later sects adopted Sarvastivadin abhidharma. I'm not sure whether the split between Vibhajjavada (later Theravada) and Sarvastivada (both counted as Sthaviravada I think) happened after or at the time of the split between Sthaviravada and Mahasamgika. Sorry I'm not really able to help much here.

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Re: The Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 10, 2010 4:49 am

Greetings pt1,

Thanks for your explanation.

If I find anything in this current text which provides some information, I'll be sure to present it here.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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