Metaphysics / Abhidhamma VS Life Improvement

Discussion of Abhidhamma and related Commentaries

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Re: Metaphysics / Abhidhamma VS Life Improvement

Postby pt1 » Sun Apr 11, 2010 8:56 am

tiltbillings wrote:Interesting we do not see in the suttas people referring to their Abhidhamma practice.

Maybe that's because abhidhamma is synonymous with insight, so whenever they refer to their insight practice in the suttas, they are in fact referring to... Sorry couldn't resist :toilet:

Thanks for the discussion.

Best wishes
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Re: Metaphysics / Abhidhamma VS Life Improvement

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:01 am

pt1 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Interesting we do not see in the suttas people referring to their Abhidhamma practice.

Maybe that's because abhidhamma is synonymous with insight, so whenever they refer to their insight practice in the suttas, they are in fact referring to... Sorry couldn't resist

Thanks for the discussion.

Best wishes
You are welcome.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Metaphysics / Abhidhamma VS Life Improvement

Postby meindzai » Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:15 pm

What I've found in studying Abhidhamma, and very little at that, was that the Suttas were like "Dhamma bricks"and Abhidhamma was like "dhamma cement," and it kind of made the whole thing fit together for me. I don't take the Abhidhamma as the Buddha's words, but as teachings of people that had a LOT more wisdom than me - but who sometimes may have gotten carried away in their explanations and classifications. I realize that some peope like to build houses entirely out of cement, but that doesn't quite do it for me.

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Re: Metaphysics / Abhidhamma VS Life Improvement

Postby Brizzy » Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:02 am

pt1 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Interesting we do not see in the suttas people referring to their Abhidhamma practice.

Maybe that's because abhidhamma is synonymous with insight, so whenever they refer to their insight practice in the suttas, they are in fact referring to... Sorry couldn't resist :toilet:

Thanks for the discussion.

Best wishes


Great line pt1, and on a really practical note "how does one practice Abhidhamma"?

Can it be used to calm the mind or control arising anger?

How do the writers of the Abhidhamma books advise people to "practice"?

:smile:
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Re: Metaphysics / Abhidhamma VS Life Improvement

Postby meindzai » Mon Apr 12, 2010 6:21 pm

They didn't talk about Abhidhamma practice, per say, but the Buddha did occasionally make mention of "Higher Dhamma" in the Suttas. Just to pull a search result:

"Then again, the monk is one who desires the Dhamma, endearing in his conversation, greatly rejoicing in the higher Dhamma & higher Discipline. And the fact that he is one who desires the Dhamma, endearing in his conversation, greatly rejoicing in the higher Dhamma & higher Discipline, is a quality creating a protector."
- Natha Sutta

Actually, that's the only Sutta I found online. I know it pops up a few times in the Mahjjima Nikaya, and it seems to come up in the Vinaya:

"Endowed with five further qualities, a bhikkhu may give Acceptance, may give dependence, and a novice may be made to attend to him. He is competent to get his pupil or student to train in the training of the (bhikkhus') customs. He is competent to discipline him in the training that is basic to the celibate life; to discipline him in the higher Dhamma; to discipline him in the higher Vinaya; to pry away or to get someone else to pry away, in line with the Dhamma, a (wrong) viewpoint that has arisen. Endowed with these five qualities, a bhikkhu may give Acceptance, may give dependence, and a novice may be made to attend to him."

Can you imagine the kind of conversations that would be taking place between such disciples? What would an Arahant and a Stream entrant talk about? We might have a few examples in the canon, but I've always imagined this to be the genesis of Abhidhamma - the unheard thousands of hours of long conversations between advanced practitioners in the Buddha's original Sangha. Probably stretching on until wee hours of the morning, with no idle chatter - pure Dhamma! I guess I have quite an imagination, but to think about it is inspiring and mind-blowing.

I wouldn't propose to know exactly what the conversations were like - whether they talked about cittas and cetasikas and such. But it almost makes sense that it would be a different kind of discourse than we commonly find in the Suttas - more "granular." A stream enterer already knows about sila, guarding the sense doors, the dangers of sense pleasures, jhana, and so forth. He more than "knows" but manifests it. When we look at the attainment of Stream entery as compared to Arahantship - it is a very small gap, comparatively speaking. It could be those smallest bits of view that need to be clarified for the next breakthrough. "To get someone else to pry away, in line with the Dhamma, a (wrong) viewpoint that has arisen" as mentioned above.


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Re: Metaphysics / Abhidhamma VS Life Improvement

Postby meindzai » Mon Apr 12, 2010 6:35 pm

Brizzy wrote:
How do the writers of the Abhidhamma books advise people to "practice"?

:smile:


Here are a few takes.

In Nina's works the general idea is that we need to learn all the different cittas and cetasikas and their characterists so that we can identify them and see them as not-self. The sentiment that arises frequently in ABHIDHAMMA IN DAILY LIFE is something to this effect:

Nama and rupa are absolute realities, in Pali: paramattha dhammas. We can experience their characteristics when they appear, no matter how we name them. Those who have developed 'insight' can experience them as they really are: impermanent and not self. The more we know different namas and rupas by experiencing their characteristics, the more we will see that 'self' is only a concept; it is not a paramattha dhamma. Nama and rupa are different types of realities. If we do not distinguish them from each other and learn the characteristic of each we will continue to take them for self. For example, hearing is nama; it has no form or shape. Hearing is different from ear-sense, but it has ear-sense as a necessary condition. The nama which hears experiences sound. Ear-sense and sound are rupas, which do not experience anything; they are entirely different from the nama which hears. If we do not learn that hearing, ear-sense and sound are realities which are altogether different from each other, we will continue to think that it is self which hears.


Another take from Ven Nyanaponika's The Abhidhamma Philosophy, is that it can gaurd against overblown meditative experiences, sometimes attributed to some kind of divine, mystical force, cosmic self, etc. After having an experience which is extremely blissful or rapturous, I think it could serve as a "reality check." I can't say it any better than he does in the section "Abhidhamma and Meditation:"

A fertile soil for the origin and persistence of beliefs and ideas about a self, soul, god or any other form of an absolute entity, is misinterpreted meditative experience occurring in devotional rapture or mystical trance. Such experience is generally interpreted by the mystic or theologian as revelation of, or union with, a godhead; or it is taken for a manifestation of man's true and eternal Self. Such interpretations are conceived and accepted all the more readily since such meditative experience so greatly transcends the average level of consciousness that the temptation is very great, indeed, to connect it in some way or other with a deity or some other eternal principle. The overwhelming impact of such meditative experience on the mind will produce a strong feeling of certainty of its reality and superiority; and this strong feeling of assurance will be extended to the theological or speculative interpretation, too. In that way these interpretations will obtain a strong hold on the mind, for they are imagined to correspond with actual, irrefutable experience, while, in fact, they are only superimposed on the latter.

The analytical method of the Abhidhamma gives immunity against such deceptive interpretations. In the Dhammasangani the consciousness of meditative absorption (jhana) is subjected to the same sober analysis as the ordinary states of mind. It is shown that meditative consciousness, too, is a transitory combination of impermanent, conditioned and impersonal mental factors, which differ from their counterparts accompanying ordinary consciousness, only in their greater intensity and purity. They do not, therefore, warrant at all any assumption of a divine manifestation or an eternal Self


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Re: Metaphysics / Abhidhamma VS Life Improvement

Postby pt1 » Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:46 am

Brizzy wrote:"how does one practice Abhidhamma"?

Can it be used to calm the mind or control arising anger?

How do the writers of the Abhidhamma books advise people to "practice"?

Meindzai gave you good pointers already. I think it's evident that answers to your questions will depend on who you ask, so don’t take what I say here on some sort of authority – this is just how I see it at the moment.

Abhidhamma to me is largely a description of how everything is experienced with very, very developed insight. So, in that sense I find it helps tremendously in regard of developing understanding, and that's what seems important since it's understanding that ultimately cuts through ignorance and the associated problems like anger, greed, lack of peace, etc.

As to how to practice, again it will depend on who you ask, but usually first you’d need to study/read a bit. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to contact an abhidhamma teacher and he will give you instructions. If not, then you’d just have to read what’s available online/in libraries. Hopefully, at some point, what you’ve read/learned will start to makes sense on the practical level, and then you will start to understand the ordinary things you normally do in a new light, no matter whether it’s calming the mind, developing metta, meditation, cooking, etc.

E.g. for me, since I’ve started studying abhidhamma a bit, suddenly a whole lot of things started making sense, in particular samatha, developing sila (precepts, metta, etc), understanding suttas, etc. It kind of adds a whole new dimension to everything. In fact, I find it hard to separate sutta and abhidhamma pitakas now – they kind of work the best together (hopefully I'll find time at some point to explore vinaya too).

Anyway, I guess this was more a chronological explanation of sorts than answering directly to your question of “how to practice”. I think “how” will basically depend on the approach you have the inclination for. Some people only study and discuss abhidhamma and they find that’s sufficient to develop insight. Others apply what they learn in abhidhmma to the practice they already had before and hopefully enhance it in that way. Yet others use both approaches at different times, etc. I guess you’d be able to decide what suits you when you become a little more familiar with it and hopefully hear from an experienced teacher as well.

If you’re in the mood for some reading, this is a good overview:
The Abhidhamma in Practice

That was the first thing I read, and then went onto the two works Meindzai linked, and then to the first one in the list in the abhidhamma resources thread:
viewtopic.php?f=18&t=826

Best wishes
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