Abhidhamma historical origins

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Post Reply
Nobodyisspecial
Posts: 33
Joined: Sat May 08, 2021 1:43 am

Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by Nobodyisspecial »

It has come to my attention Bhikkhu Bodhi's view of the supposed Abhidhamma origin that he calls legend of the Buddha, when he was teaching Abhidhamma in heaven and then it being condensed and taught to his disciples.

The point is do you believe it is possible that the entirety of Theravada Abhidhamma are carried for hundreds of years by oral tradition before being transcribed? I mean to suggest yes the teachings of the Buddha and the Pali Canon is massive but could it really be all from oral tradition? Is that humanly possible? You see how this adds weight to Bhikkhu Bodhi and his argument against a supposed legend of Abhidhamma having an origin in heaven with Buddha?

See abhidhamma on YouTube Bhikkhu Bodhi
User avatar
Ontheway
Posts: 431
Joined: Wed Aug 11, 2021 3:35 pm

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by Ontheway »

Nobodyisspecial wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 4:31 pm It has come to my attention Bhikkhu Bodhi's view of the supposed Abhidhamma origin that he calls legend of the Buddha, when he was teaching Abhidhamma in heaven and then it being condensed and taught to his disciples.

The point is do you believe it is possible that the entirety of Theravada Abhidhamma are carried for hundreds of years by oral tradition before being transcribed? I mean to suggest yes the teachings of the Buddha and the Pali Canon is massive but could it really be all from oral tradition? Is that humanly possible? You see how this adds weight to Bhikkhu Bodhi and his argument against a supposed legend of Abhidhamma having an origin in heaven with Buddha?

See abhidhamma on YouTube Bhikkhu Bodhi
:anjali:
IMO, Abhidhamma is truly important to understand the fundamental teachings of Buddha and it was a necessity to carry out detailed analysis of Dhamma. Buddha never said his teachings are superficial or easy to be understood, instead it is as difficult as swimming against the water current. From Suttanta we get the Dhamma, and Abhidhamma was formed in a way that necessary to know its essence.

The Abhidhamma was preserved in the form of Matika from the ancient Sanghas and becomes a Pitaka by its own due to the Third Council that organised by Ariyasangha Arahants led by Arahant Moggaliputta Tissa (were recognised as Theravada or Vibhajjavada). It is this Council that finally decided the status of Pali Tipitaka as the Ultimate Authority for scripture oral recordings. Later it was written down during the subsequent council by pious monks on leaves and preserved till today.

If Ananda Thera, while still being a Sotapanna, can memorised all the Suttanta; then I don't see any problem with Arahant disciples of Sariputta Thera that capable of memorising the Matika. So it was simple, the exposition was from the Buddha, the Matika from Arahant Sariputta Thera, the establishment from Arahant Moggaliputta Tissa Thera. In fact, there is a clear lineage from First Gen monks to Third Council monks recorded in Atthasalini that were responsible for the transmission of Matika.

I realised that Abhidhamma becomes a hot topic for debate since Buddha sasana arrived Sri Lanka. So it is really depends on the person whether accept it or not. The ancient records and history were clear, just whether if the person interested in the Dhamma or not.

Regarding the Heaven origin story, it was not difficult to believe or understand, since Buddha's lifetime is full of miraculous incidents. Personally I think the background story for Abhidhamma plays not much of importance. What more important is the content of Abhidhamma Pitaka.

Suttanta is often dealing the Sammutti and Paramattha back and forth. While Abhidhamma deals with only Paramattha analysis, and there are: Citta (89 types), Cetasika (52 types), Rupa (4 main elements & 24 derived materiality), and finally, Nibbana. But it was divided into 7 books for detailed analysis.

Some might says "Abhidhamma is so difficult, lengthy, and boring.", "Abhidhamma is fake, Buddha never said it." , "Abhidhamma is just babbles, meaningless, and just talks."

To these, either they haven't got the chance to savour the taste of Truth, lacking knowledge on both Suttanta & Vinaya, or just being prideful & lazy.

That being said, is Abhidhamma knowledge important? Yes, if you are monks and really aiming for Enlightenment. Probably yes too, if you are still a serious practicing layperson.

:anjali:
Sabbapāpassa akaraṇaṃ, kusalassa upasampadā;
Sacitta pariyodapanaṃ, etaṃ buddhāna sāsanaṃ.

(Dhammapada verse 183)
User avatar
DooDoot
Posts: 12032
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by DooDoot »

Nobodyisspecial wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 4:31 pm Abhidhamma having an origin in heaven with Buddha?
DN 16, which is about the last days of the Buddha, says the Buddha taught EVERYTHING already, as follows:
I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .vaji.html
If you read the Abhidhamma itself, the Abhidhamma itself says it has a different view to the Suttas, for example, as follows:
1. The Section Derived from the Discourses (Sutta)

2. The Section Derived from the Abstract Teaching (Abhidhamma)

https://suttacentral.net/vb6/en/anandajoti
If you understand both Sutta and Abhidhamma, you can discern the many differences, such as:

1. In Dependent Origination, the Suttas define "jati" ("birth") & "marana" ("death") as the birth & death of "beings" ("satta").

2. In Dependent Origination, the Abhidhamma define "jati" ("birth") & "marana" ("death") as the birth & death of "things" ("dhamma").

3. In Four Noble Truths, the Suttas defines Dukkha Samudaya as craving leading to new becoming.

4. In Four Noble Truths, the Abhidhamma defines Dukkha Samudaya as only craving.

Sutta and Abhidhamma are often very different. Much of what is called 'Theravada' is based in Abhidhamma. :smile:
Last edited by DooDoot on Fri Sep 03, 2021 11:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati
thomaslaw
Posts: 435
Joined: Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:55 am
Location: Australia

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by thomaslaw »

Yes, it is essential to understand and respect the differences between Abhidhamma teachings and Sutta teachings.
SarathW
Posts: 17047
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by SarathW »

I think going to two extremes that the Abhidhamma is taught by the Buddha or not taught by the Buddha should be avoided.
Both Sutta and Abhidhamma have controversial points so we should study both and make our raft to cross the river.
In Theravada, it is called Tipitaka (three baskets of Sutta, Vinaya, and Abhidhamma) if you reject any of these three you are not a Theravadin even though you still can yourself called a Buddhist.
My personal opinion is that you can attain Nibbana by reading Sutta but Abhidhamma is great support.
However, the way I understand is that you can not attain Nibbana by just mere reading of Abhidhamma.
To me, the Abhidhamma is a tabulation of Sutta in a different way.
In general, we can say Sutta is conventional teaching and Abhidhamma is the ultimate teaching.
I strongly recommend that you read Abidhamma once you are familiar with Sutta.
Bhikkhu Bodhi said that reading Abhidhamma is like eating dry grass.
I think once you get the hang of it, that could be the sweetest of all.
:D
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”
User avatar
Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta
Posts: 1929
Joined: Sun Jan 20, 2019 5:06 pm

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta »

Speaking of possibility.


I'm quite a bit secular; and here is what I think, strictly considering in the light of suttas, with the perspective of those awesomely magical & other-worldly happenings described in the suttas in many many places.
Nobodyisspecial wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 4:31 pm ... teaching Abhidhamma in heaven and then it being condensed and taught to his disciples.
...
  • Entirely possible, given the above mentioned perspective.
Nobodyisspecial wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 4:31 pm ...
The point is do you believe it is possible that the entirety of Theravada Abhidhamma are carried for hundreds of years by oral tradition before being transcribed? ...
  • Yes, Possible.
Nobodyisspecial wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 4:31 pm ...I mean to suggest yes the teachings of the Buddha and the Pali Canon is massive but could it really be all from oral tradition? Is that humanly possible? ...
  • Yes. Possible.





Seriously, given the perspective, impossibility can't be ruled out.




And, the answer is:
  • Yes, possible.

:heart:
.


🅢🅐🅑🅑🅔 🅓🅗🅐🅜🅜🅐 🅐🅝🅐🅣🅣🅐

Self ...
  • "an entirely and perfectly foolish idea" :D ~ MN22
thomaslaw
Posts: 435
Joined: Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:55 am
Location: Australia

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by thomaslaw »

Bhikkhu Bodhi presents an English translation of the book, Abhidhammattha Sangaha (which is not part of Pali Abhidhamma Pitaka), entitled A comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma (published in 2000). In the translation page 25, he indicates the core teachings of the Abhidhamma: The standpoint of paramatta ‘ultimate reality’, in contrast to paññatti ‘concept/conceptual thought’.

Ultimate reality ‘paramattha’ is of consciousness (citta), mental factors (cetasika), matter (rūpa), and Nibbāna. These are ultimate entities, or existence by reason of their own sabhāva ‘intrinsic nature’. These are dhammas. Dhammas are real.

In contrast, paññatti ‘concept’ is not dhamma, not real. This is because all concepts, such as living beings, men/women, person, are not arisen by causal conditions ‘dhammas’. They are products of mental construction ‘parikappanā’, modes of expression ‘vohāra’, not realities existing by reason of their own nature.

However, in the suttas (such as SN suttas), both the five aggregates and concepts are all conditioned dhammas ‘phenomena’. These dhammas are anicca, dukkha, anatta; and also should be seen as void (without reality, rittaka), insubstantial (tucchaka), lacking essence (asāraka), and empty (suññaka) (see SN 22.95, SN 35.197). Nibbāna in the suttas is the cessation of dukkha (dhamma 'phenomenon'). The concept of self 'atta" in the suttas is a conditioned phenomenon (cf. also the middle way teaching in SN 12.15, SN 22.90). Regarding concept ‘paññatti’ as a conditioned dhamma, one can identify its verbal form paññāpeti ‘to reveal’ indicated in SN 14.13 (see p. 138 in Choong Mun-keat's Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism).

So, dhammas (i.e. citta, cetasika, rūpa, and Nibbāna) in the Abhidhamma teachings are paramatta ‘ultimate reality’, in contrast to paññatti ‘concept/conceptual thought’, which is not dhamma. These teachings are not the same in the suttas.
User avatar
Ontheway
Posts: 431
Joined: Wed Aug 11, 2021 3:35 pm

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by Ontheway »

Found a very good introduction on Abhidhamma Pitaka by Ajahn Punnadhammo, just sharing here.

Sabbapāpassa akaraṇaṃ, kusalassa upasampadā;
Sacitta pariyodapanaṃ, etaṃ buddhāna sāsanaṃ.

(Dhammapada verse 183)
zan
Posts: 1224
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by zan »

DooDoot wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 11:01 pm
Nobodyisspecial wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 4:31 pm Abhidhamma having an origin in heaven with Buddha?
DN 16, which is about the last days of the Buddha, says the Buddha taught EVERYTHING already, as follows:
I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .vaji.html
If you read the Abhidhamma itself, the Abhidhamma itself says it has a different view to the Suttas, for example, as follows:
1. The Section Derived from the Discourses (Sutta)

2. The Section Derived from the Abstract Teaching (Abhidhamma)

https://suttacentral.net/vb6/en/anandajoti
If you understand both Sutta and Abhidhamma, you can discern the many differences, such as:

1. In Dependent Origination, the Suttas define "jati" ("birth") & "marana" ("death") as the birth & death of "beings" ("satta").

2. In Dependent Origination, the Abhidhamma define "jati" ("birth") & "marana" ("death") as the birth & death of "things" ("dhamma").

3. In Four Noble Truths, the Suttas defines Dukkha Samudaya as craving leading to new becoming.

4. In Four Noble Truths, the Abhidhamma defines Dukkha Samudaya as only craving.

Sutta and Abhidhamma are often very different. Much of what is called 'Theravada' is based in Abhidhamma. :smile:
Interesting comparisons. Just a side note, though, DN 16 mentions the matikas, which are the precursors to the abhidhamma.
Idha pana, bhikkhave, bhikkhu evaṃ vadeyya: ‘amukasmiṃ nāma āvāse sambahulā therā bhikkhū viharanti bahussutā āgatāgamā dhammadharā vinayadharā mātikādharā. Tesaṃ me therānaṃ sammukhā sutaṃ sammukhā paṭiggahitaṃ—ayaṃ dhammo ayaṃ vinayo idaṃ satthusāsanan’ti. Tassa, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno bhāsitaṃ neva abhinan­di­tab­baṃ … pe … na ca vinaye sandissanti, niṭṭhamettha gantabbaṃ: ‘addhā idaṃ na ceva tassa bhagavato vacanaṃ; tesañca therānaṃ duggahitan’ti. Itihetaṃ, bhikkhave, chaḍḍeyyātha. Tāni ce sutte osāriyamānāni … pe … vinaye ca sandissanti, niṭṭhamettha gantabbaṃ: ‘addhā idaṃ tassa bhagavato vacanaṃ; tesañca therānaṃ suggahitan’ti. Idaṃ, bhikkhave, tatiyaṃ mahāpadesaṃ dhāreyyātha. (3)

5) Here, monks, a monk might speak like this: ‘In a certain dwelling place live many elders, very learned, who have learned the traditions, who are bearers of the Teaching, bearers of the Discipline, bearers of the Tabulation, I have heard this directly from those elders, directly I learned it: “This is the Teaching, this is the Discipline, this is the Teacher’s Dispensation.”’ Those monks’ speech, monks, is not to be rejoiced over, not to be scorned at. Without having rejoiced over it, without having scorned it, after learning those words and syllables well, they should be laid alongside the Discourses, they should be compared with the Discipline.

4106) If, when these are laid alongside the Discourses, compared with the Discipline, they do not fit in with the Discourses, they do not compare well with the Discipline, you may here come to this conclusion: ‘Certainly this is not the Gracious One’s word, it is not well learned by those elders,’ and, monks, you should abandon it. If when these are laid alongside the Discourses, compared with the Discipline they do fit in with the Discourses, they do compare well with the Discipline, you may here come to this conclusion: ‘Certainly this is the Gracious One’s word, it is well-learned by those elders.’ This, monks, is the third Great Referral you should bear in mind.

-DN 16
Assume all of my words on dhamma could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.
zan
Posts: 1224
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by zan »

Nobodyisspecial wrote: Fri Sep 03, 2021 4:31 pm It has come to my attention Bhikkhu Bodhi's view of the supposed Abhidhamma origin that he calls legend of the Buddha, when he was teaching Abhidhamma in heaven and then it being condensed and taught to his disciples.

The point is do you believe it is possible that the entirety of Theravada Abhidhamma are carried for hundreds of years by oral tradition before being transcribed? I mean to suggest yes the teachings of the Buddha and the Pali Canon is massive but could it really be all from oral tradition? Is that humanly possible? You see how this adds weight to Bhikkhu Bodhi and his argument against a supposed legend of Abhidhamma having an origin in heaven with Buddha?

See abhidhamma on YouTube Bhikkhu Bodhi
The entire sutta and vinaya pitakas were passed down orally for hundreds of years, why not the abhidhamma, too?

Personally I believe, as many scholars do, that the abhidhamma has its roots in the matikas, which are mentioned in the suttas, and, along with them, passed down orally until it was written down. And, yes, it's entirely possible that the entire canon was passed down orally for hundreds of years. Considering the high efficacy of the teachings when put into practice, I believe that they were passed down correctly and with high fidelity.
Assume all of my words on dhamma could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.
User avatar
Tangent-Man
Posts: 50
Joined: Sat Feb 17, 2018 8:36 am

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by Tangent-Man »

zan wrote: Thu Sep 09, 2021 5:05 am I believe that they were passed down correctly and with high fidelity.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tipitakad ... aminations

I think you will find the early Arahant monks had incredible memories. I heard they started to write down the Tripitaka when they realized their memories were not as good as they once were.

Considering there are still monks in living memory who can achieve Tipitakadhara status https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mingun_Sayadaw and apparently the first arahant monks had even better memories I see no reason why the Tripitaka couldn't be transferred orally for many generations...
User avatar
Ceisiwr
Posts: 14220
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by Ceisiwr »

Although a proto-Abhidhamma of some kind seems to have been around during the earliest of days (possibly as just a way to organise the texts and teachings), the various Abhidhammas are mostly later elaborations on what is found in each schools suttas/sutras. Of course, being later doesn’t necessarily mean “bad” or “wrong”.
"There is no I, nor anything belonging to me, I will not be, what belongs to me will not be. What has earlier [come to] exist, will be extinguished"

MĀ 75
zan
Posts: 1224
Joined: Sun Aug 28, 2016 1:57 pm

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by zan »

Tangent-Man wrote: Thu Sep 09, 2021 5:04 pm
zan wrote: Thu Sep 09, 2021 5:05 am I believe that they were passed down correctly and with high fidelity.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tipitakad ... aminations

I think you will find the early Arahant monks had incredible memories. I heard they started to write down the Tripitaka when they realized...
I read they wrote them down during a famine because monks were dyng, thus risking losing parts of the canon. And yes, I agree, people today have memorized the entire tipitaka, so of course people could memorize sections back then, too!
Assume all of my words on dhamma could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.
User avatar
Coëmgenu
Posts: 4978
Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:55 pm
Location: Whitby, Canada

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by Coëmgenu »

zan wrote: Thu Sep 09, 2021 11:39 pmI read they wrote them down during a famine because monks were dyng, thus risking losing parts of the canon.
The only reason why there are Mandaean scriptures at all is because a severe plague threatened to subdue the entire population. Death is a good motivator, as I'm sure the Buddha would agree.
"...and so concludes the exposition of the originated," spake Thomas the Bodhi Wizard. Then, he summarized in a verse:

"I tell you as I told my darling Auntie Wanda,
'It's all a ball of wibbly-wobbly Dharma-Wharma.'"

They rejoiced and lauded.

(Dharmatā verse from the Sūtra of Dubious Import)
User avatar
sakka
Posts: 77
Joined: Sun Apr 04, 2021 11:58 am

Re: Abhidhamma historical origins

Post by sakka »

Since I've happened to listen a lot to Ven. Dhammavuddho who rejects the Abhidhamma I might have had some wrong conclusions about it.

I've now decided to start with A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma: The Abhidhammattha Sangaha of Acariya Anuruddha by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi. :) Good start? :meditate:
Image
Post Reply