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.
Hi pannasikhara, it'd be great if you can share your knowledge with us on this topic, as you seem to know a lot more about it than most of us (more than me for sure). The only thing I can offer in that regard is a quote from an article
on buddhanet I stumbled upon:
On the third pitaka (Abhidhamma) which should make up the Tipitaka ('Three Pitakas') there is disagreement. The Sthaviravada and Mahasamghika versions do not mention its recitation, and since the agreement of these two schools should establish the oldest available textual tradition it appears that originally there were only two Pitakas.
I wonder what they mean by "Sthaviravada" here? Because, below, we see that some Sthavira schools did make such a claim.
However, this is the basic principle I mentioned above - where early Sthavira and Mahasamghika schools have commonalities, these can generally be regarded as pre-schism teachings. And thus, probably representative of what the Bhagavan himself taught. Of course, specific case examples will have specific circumstances, this is the basic principle, though.
I would generally aruge that "originally there were no Pitakas", because it appears that the term Pitaka may have been a slightly later usage. It seemed to come about the same time as the nine-limbs (navanga) classification system, and then the twelve-limb.
Just another note at this point, too, because a few arguments have been made about which of the nine (or twelve) limbs corresponds to the Abhidhamma. Firstly, "sutta" in the nine / twelve does NOT exactly correspond to "sutta" in "sutta-pitaka". The latter is broader in meaning. We can get back to the nine / twelve limbs in a moment, but for now, it is perhaps more useful to point out the twelve limb system is going to be more helpful than the nine limb system, because the relationship between vedalla and upadesa to the abhidhamma is much stronger.
Also, just because some Vinaya mention the recitation of the sutta [pitaka] in the First Council, best not to assume that this includes the KN (and then try to argue that the Abhidhamma was part of KN, therefore recited at the first council). This is because a comparison amongst schools quickly shows that the KN is really just a Theravada thing, and not shared by other schools. They either put its contents in other Agamas, or even in whole other Pitaka (eg. Jataka / Apadana in the Dharmagupta Bodhisatta-pitaka).
However, even the Mahasamghika account mentions the Abhidhamma as among the texts handed down after the rehearsal.
This comment from the (or rather "a") Mahasamghika is in a commentary to the Mahasamghika commentary to the Ekottara-agama (~ AN). This is an early Chinese translation, and is only partial (part of the eka-vagga, not the whole text). Possibly, this was only composed in maybe the 1st or 2nd cty CE. So, pretty late, and not that reliable a source. (Primitive translation too, not easy to read.) This group of Mahasamghika may have been lately influenced by other Sthavira schools in that area (~ Kasmir / Pamirs), such as the Dhammaguptas.
The Mahisasaka version makes no mention of a third Pitaka.
Correct. Remember, the Mahisasakas are also Sthaviravada.
The Sarvastivada and Dharmaguptaka Vinayas on the other hand have Ananda reciting the Abhidhamma as well as the Sutra.
However, to add, the Dharmagupta description of what that Abhidharma contains matches up with the text known as the Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra (and thus not a Theravadin text). The Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra structurally is very, very close to the Theravada Vibhanga (and a bit of the Dhammasangani) and also the Sarvastivada Dharmaskandhapada Sastra. But, here, the Dharmagupta is most likely pointing to the Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra.
And, the Sarvastivada vinaya description of the Abhidharma supposedly recited at the first council matches their own Dharmaskandhapada Sastra, and definitely not any Theravadin text.
Again, both the Dharmagupta and Sarvastivada are Sthaviravada.
The Kasyapiya (=Haimavata) mentions the Abhidhamma Pitaka without saying who recited it.
Again, their description seems to match the Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra, and - yes, you guessed it - not any Theravada text. The Kasyapiyas (who maybe but maybe not are the Haimavata) are also Sthaviravada.
A later text of the Sarvastivada School, the Asokavadana states that Kasyapa recited the Matrka or Matrka Pitaka (two versions of the text). The same tradition is found in the Vinaya of the Mula Sarvastivada School, a late offshoot of the Sarvastivada which thoroughly revised and enlarged its Tipitaka.
Note "later text" and the Mula-sarvastivada is also a later school. By this time, the Sarvastivada (like the Theravada) were already so convinced that the Abhidharma was taught by the Buddha and recited at the first council, that this story was already embedded deeply into their own tradition.
I'd also like to add that the Vatsiputriyas had several Abhidhammic texts, such as the Lokapannatti Sastra, and the Tikkhandhaka. They may have also used the Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra, too.
'Whether a Matrka or Abhidhamma was actually recited at the First Rehearsal or not, all the early schools were equipped with a third, Abhidhamma Pitaka.
Really? The above only indicates that (most) Sthaviravada stated this, along with a (rather dodgy) Mahasamghika commentary.
The arguments about whether or not the Mahasamghika actually had an Abhidharma Pitaka are interesting. The canonical material has the Mahasamghika state explicitly that "abhidharma is the 'nine-fold' sutras", which is the navanga-sutta. Note, this is "is" and not "part of". To them, abhidharma is just "about (abhi) the dharma", a lot like dhammakatha. They also had a text known as the Petaka or Karanda, and there may be some relation to this Petaka and the Petakopadesa. People like Walser try to argue that the Mahasamghika did have an Abhidharma Pitaka, but I think that his arguments are pretty bad. I won't go into the details here, but if you want to know, I can list them and why they are incorrect.
So, actually, what do we have?
We have a couple of Sthaviravada schools say that there was an Abhidharma early on. Namely: Vatsiputriya, Theravada, Sarvastivada, Dharmagupta and Kasyapiya. This is also kind of the order in which they split off from the original schism Sthaviras. And, the Theravada, Sarvastivada and Dharmagupta all have commonalities around the Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra, but the Theravada then has their corresponding Vibhanga (and Dhammasangani) and the Sarvastivadins their Dharmaskandhapada Sastra.
But, the remainder six Abhidhamma texts of the Theravada and the six of the Sarvastivada are quite different. The later in time, the more they differ.
One very good argument to explain all this is: Between the first schism (second council) and the time of Asoka (third council), there was a large group of Sthaviras around the area from Mathura - Avanti, east of the old heart of the dispensation, and slightly south too. While they were here, they developed possibly a couple of forms of "abhidharma", which are "about the dharma", and basically forms that were very similar to the Vedallas, and Vibhanga suttas, and also the newer Upadesas. These actual suttas were taught by people like Sariputra, Mahakatyayana, Ananda, etc.
Now, during Asoka's time, when the various groups spread out across India, these Sthavira groups took the proto-type Sariputra Abhidharma with them. Because the Theravada ended up so far away, and likewise the Sarvastivada in Kasmir, they developed rather independently, and bear less similarity over time. In central India, the groups like the Vatsiputriyas and Dharmaguptas maintained more commonality, hence their Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra was used by a couple of schools.
The Mahasamghikas never had this in the first place, and used an earlier sutta meaning for "abhidhamma", which is like "dhammakatha", "about the dhamma". Probably later, when the Sthavira schools Abhidharmas were so powerful in explaining their whole doctrinal positions, they also developed similar texts, but this is really another type of literature.
Anyway, that's my take on it.