This work is ascribed to Acariya Anuruddha, a Buddhist savant about whom so little is known that even his country of origin and the exact century in which he lived remain in question. Nevertheless, despite the personal obscurity that surrounds the author, his little manual has become one of the most important and influential textbooks of Theravada Buddhism. In nine short chapters occupying about fifty pages in print, the author provides a masterly summary of that abstruse body of Buddhist doctrine called the Abhidhamma. Such is his skill in capturing the essentials of that system, and in arranging them in a format suitable for easy comprehension, that his work has become the standard primer for Abhidhamma studies throughout the Theravada Buddhist countries of South and Southeast Asia. In these countries, particularly in Burma where the study of Abhidhamma is pursued most assiduously, the Abhidhammattha Sangaha is regarded as the indispensable key to unlock this great treasure-store of Buddhist wisdom.

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This work is ascribed to Acariya Anuruddha, a Buddhist savant about whom so little is known that even his country of origin and the exact century in which he lived remain in question.

Nevertheless, despite the personal obscurity that surrounds the author, his little manual has become one of the most important and influential textbooks of Theravada Buddhism. In nine short chapters occupying about fifty pages in print, the author provides a masterly summary of that abstruse body of Buddhist doctrine called the Abhidhamma. Such is his skill in capturing the essentials of that system, and in arranging them in a format suitable for easy comprehension, that his work has become the standard primer for Abhidhamma studies throughout the Theravada Buddhist countries of South and Southeast Asia.

In these countries, particularly in Burma where the study of Abhidhamma is pursued most assiduously, the Abhidhammattha Sangaha is regarded as the indispensable key to unlock this great treasure-store of Buddhist wisdom.

The canon that emerged from these councils, preserved in the Middle Indian language now called Pali, is known as the Tipitaka, the three "baskets" or collections of the teachings. The first collection, the Vinaya Pitaka, is the book of discipline, containing the rules of conduct for the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis — the monks and nuns — and the regulations governing the Sangha, the monastic order.

This third great division of the Pali canon bears a distinctly different character from the other two divisions. Whereas the Suttas and Vinaya serve an obvious practical purpose, namely, to proclaim a clear-cut message of deliverance and to lay down a method of personal training, the Abhidhamma Pitaka presents the appearance of an abstract and highly technical systemization of the doctrine.

Unlike the Suttas, these are not records of discourses and discussions occurring in real-life settings; they are, rather, full-blown treatises in which the principles of the doctrine have been methodically organized, minutely defined, and meticulously tabulated and classified.

Though they were no doubt originally composed and transmitted orally and only written down later, with the rest of the canon in the first century B. In the Theravada tradition the Abhidhamma Pitaka is held in the highest esteem, revered as the crown jewel of the Buddhist scriptures.

On a cursory reading, however, this veneration given to the Abhidhamma seems difficult to understand. The texts appear to be merely a scholastic exercise in manipulating sets of doctrinal terms, ponderous and tediously repetitive. The reason the Abhidhamma Pitaka is so deeply revered only becomes clear as a result of thorough study and profound reflection, undertaken in the conviction that these ancient books have something significant to communicate.

When one approaches the Abhidhamma treatises in such a spirit and gains some insight into their wide implications and organic unity, one will find that they are attempting nothing less than to articulate a comprehensive vision of the totality of experienced reality, a vision marked by extensiveness of range, systematic completeness, and analytical precision.

From the standpoint of Theravada orthodoxy the system that they expound is not a figment of speculative thought, not a mosaic put together out of metaphysical hypotheses, but a disclosure of the true nature of existence as apprehended by a mind that has penetrated the totality of things both in depth and in the finest detail.

It is his statement of the way things appear to the mind of a Fully Enlightened One, ordered in accordance with the two poles of his teaching: suffering and the cessation of suffering.

The system that the Abhidhamma Pitaka articulates is simultaneously a philosophy, a psychology, and an ethics, all integrated into the framework of a program for liberation. The Abhidhamma may be described as a philosophy because it proposes an ontology, a perspective on the nature of the real.

This perspective has been designated the "dhamma theory" dhammavada. Briefly, the dhamma theory maintains that ultimate reality consists of a multiplicity of elementary constituents called dhammas. The dhammas are not noumena hidden behind phenomena, not "things in themselves" as opposed to "mere appearances," but the fundamental components of actuality.

The dhammas fall into two broad classes: the unconditioned dhamma, which is solely Nibbana, and the conditioned dhammas, which are the momentary mental and material phenomena that constitute the process of experience. The familiar world of substantial objects and enduring persons is, according to the dhamma theory, a conceptual construct fashioned by the mind out of the raw data provided by the dhammas. The entities of our everyday frame of reference possess merely a consensual reality derivative upon the foundational stratum of the dhammas.

Even in the Abhidhamma Pitaka itself the dhamma theory is not yet expressed as an explicit philosophical tenet; this comes only later, in the Commentaries. This project starts from the premise that to attain the wisdom that knows things "as they really are," a sharp wedge must be driven between those types of entities that possess ontological ultimacy, that is, the dhammas, and those types of entities that exist only as conceptual constructs but are mistakenly grasped as ultimately real.

Proceeding from this distinction, the Abhidhamma posits a fixed number of dhammas as the building blocks of actuality, most of which are drawn from the Suttas. It then sets out to define all the doctrinal terms used in the Suttas in ways that reveal their identity with the ontological ultimates recognized by the system.

And since the system is held to be a true reflection of actuality, this means that the classification pinpoints the place of each dhamma within the overall structure of actuality. The primary concern of the Abhidhamma is to understand the nature of experience, and thus the reality on which it focuses is conscious reality, the world as given in experience, comprising both knowledge and the known in the widest sense. For this reason the philosophical enterprise of the Abhidhamma shades off into a phenomenological psychology.

To facilitate the understanding of experienced reality, the Abhidhamma embarks upon an elaborate analysis of the mind as it presents itself to introspective meditation. It classifies consciousness into a variety of types, specifies the factors and functions of each type, correlates them with their objects and physiological bases, and shows how the different types of consciousness link up with each other and with material phenomena to constitute the ongoing process of experience.

Accordingly we find that the Abhidhamma distinguishes states of mind principally on the basis of ethical criteria: the wholesome and the unwholesome, the beautiful factors and the defilements. This plan traces the refinement of the mind through the progression of meditative absorptions, the fine-material-sphere and immaterial-sphere jhanas, then through the stages of insight and the wisdom of the supramundane paths and fruits.

The prominence of mental defilements and requisites of enlightenment in its schemes of categories, indicative of its psychological and ethical concerns, connects the Abhidhamma to the second and fourth noble truths, the origin of suffering and the way leading to its end. And the entire taxonomy of dhammas elaborated by the system reaches its consummation in the "unconditioned element" asankhata dhatu , which is Nibbana, the third noble truth, that of the cessation of suffering.

The Twofold Method The great Buddhist commentator, Acariya Buddhaghosa, explains the word "Abhidhamma" as meaning "that which exceeds and is distinguished from the Dhamma" dhammatireka-dhammavisesa , the prefix abhi having the sense of preponderance and distinction, and dhamma here signifying the teaching of the Sutta Pitaka. The difference between the two in no way concerns fundamentals but is, rather, partly a matter of scope and partly a matter of method.

As to scope, the Abhidhamma offers a thoroughness and completeness of treatment that cannot be found in the Sutta Pitaka. Acariya Buddhaghosa explains that in the Suttas such doctrinal categories as the five aggregates, the twelve sense bases, the eighteen elements, and so forth, are classified only partly, while in the Abhidhamma Pitaka they are classified fully according to different schemes of classification, some common to the Suttas, others unique to the Abhidhamma.

The other major area of difference concerns method. The discourses contained in the Sutta Pitaka were expounded by the Buddha under diverse circumstances to listeners with very different capacities for comprehension. They are primarily pedagogical in intent, set forth in the way that will be most effective in guiding the listener in the practice of the teaching and in arriving at a penetration of its truth. To achieve this end the Buddha freely employs the didactic means required to make the doctrine intelligible to his listeners.

He uses simile and metaphor; he exhorts, advises, and inspires; he sizes up the inclinations and aptitudes of his audience and adjusts the presentation of the teaching so that it will awaken a positive response. For this reason the Suttanta method of teaching is described as pariyaya-dhammadesana, the figurative or embellished discourse on the Dhamma. In contrast to the Suttas, the Abhidhamma Pitaka is intended to divulge as starkly and directly as possible the totalistic system that underlies the Suttanta expositions and upon which the individual discourses draw.

The Abhidhamma takes no account of the personal inclinations and cognitive capacities of the listeners; it makes no concessions to particular pragmatic requirements.

It reveals the architectonics of actuality in an abstract, formalistic manner utterly devoid of literary embellishments and pedagogical expedients. Thus the Abhidhamma method is described as the nippariyaya-dhammadesana, the literal or unembellished discourse on the Dhamma. This difference in technique between the two methods also influences their respective terminologies. In the Suttas the Buddha regularly makes use of conventional language voharavacana and accepts conventional truth sammutisacca , truth expressed in terms of entities that do not possess ontological ultimacy but can still be legitimately referred to them.

Thus in the Suttas the Buddha speaks of "I" and "you," of "man" and "woman," of living beings, persons, and even self as though they were concrete realities. The Abhidhamma method of exposition, however, rigorously restricts itself to terms that are valid from the standpoint of ultimate truth paramatthasacca : dhammas, their characteristics, their functions, and their relations.

Thus in the Abhidhamma all such conceptual entities provisionally accepted in the Suttas for purposes of meaningful communication are resolved into their ontological ultimates, into bare mental and material phenomena that are impermanent, conditioned, and dependently arisen, empty of any abiding self or substance.

But a qualification is necessary. When a distinction is drawn between the two methods, this should be understood to be based on what is most characteristic of each Pitaka and should not be interpreted as an absolute dichotomy. To some degree the two methods overlap and interpenetrate. Thus in the Sutta Pitaka we find discourses that employ the strictly philosophical terminology of aggregates, sense bases, elements, etc. Distinctive Features of the Abhidhamma Apart from its strict adherence to the philosophical method of exposition, the Abhidhamma makes a number of other noteworthy contributions integral to its task of systemization.

One is the employment, in the main books of the Abhidhamma Pitaka, of a matika — a matrix or schedule of categories — as the blueprint for the entire edifice. This matrix, which comes at the very beginning of the Dhammasangani as a preface to the Abhidhamma Pitaka proper, consists of modes of classification special to the Abhidhamma method.

Of these, twenty-two are triads tika , sets of three terms into which the fundamental dhammas are to be distributed; the remaining hundred are dyads duka , sets of two terms used as a basis for classification. For example, the triads include such sets as states that are wholesome, unwholesome, indeterminate; states associated with pleasant feeling, painful feeling, neutral feeling; states that are kamma results, productive of kamma results, neither; and so forth.

The dyads include such sets as states that are roots, not roots; states concomitant with roots, not so concomitant; states that are conditioned, unconditioned; states that are mundane, supramundane; and so forth.

By means of its selection of categories, the matrix embraces the totality of phenomena, illuminating it from a variety of angles philosophical, psychological, and ethical in nature.

A second distinguishing feature of the Abhidhamma is the dissection of the apparently continuous stream of consciousness into a succession of discrete evanescent cognitive events called cittas, each a complex unity involving consciousness itself, as the basic awareness of an object, and a constellation of mental factors cetasika exercising more specialized tasks in the act of cognition.

In the Abhidhamma Pitaka the suggestion is not simply picked up, but is expanded into an extraordinarily detailed and coherent picture of the functioning of consciousness both in its microscopic immediacy and in its extended continuity from life to life. A third contribution arises from the urge to establish order among the welter of technical terms making up the currency of Buddhist discourse. In defining each of the dhammas, the Abhidhamma texts collate long lists of synonyms drawn mostly from the Suttas.

This method of definition shows how a single dhamma may enter under different names into different sets of categories. For example, among the defilements, the mental factor of greed lobha may be found as the taint of sensual desire, the taint of attachment to existence, the bodily knot of covetousness, clinging to sensual pleasures, the hindrance of sensual desire, etc.

In establishing these correspondences, the Abhidhamma helps to exhibit the interconnections between doctrinal terms that might not be apparent from the Suttas themselves.

The Abhidhamma conception of consciousness further results in a new primary scheme for classifying the ultimate constituents of existence, a scheme which eventually, in the later Abhidhamma literature, takes precedence over the schemes inherited from the Suttas such as the aggregates, sense bases, and elements.

In the Abhidhamma Pitaka the latter categories still loom large, but the view of mind as consisting of momentary concurrences of consciousness and its concomitants leads to a fourfold method of classification more congenial to the system. This is the division of actuality into the four ultimate realities paramattha : consciousness, mental factors, material phenomena, and Nibbana citta, cetasika, rupa, nibbana , the first three comprising conditioned reality and the last the unconditioned element.

The last novel feature of the Abhidhamma method to be noted here — contributed by the final book of the Pitaka, the Patthana — is a set of twenty-four conditional relations laid down for the purpose of showing how the ultimate realities are welded into orderly processes. This scheme of conditions supplies the necessary complement to the analytical approach that dominates the earlier books of the Abhidhamma.

The method of analysis proceeds by dissecting apparent wholes into their component parts, thereby exposing their voidness of any indivisible core that might qualify as self or substance. The synthetic method plots the conditional relations of the bare phenomena obtained by analysis to show that they are not isolated self-contained units but nodes in a vast multi-layered web of inter-related, inter-dependent events.

Taken in conjunction, the analytical method of the earlier treatises of the Abhidhamma Pitaka and the synthetic method of the Patthana establish the essential unity of the twin philosophical principles of Buddhism, non-self or egolessness anatta and dependent arising or conditionality paticca samuppada.

Thus the foundation of the Abhidhamma methodology remains in perfect harmony with the insights that lie at the heart of the entire Dhamma. The Origins of the Abhidhamma Although modern critical scholarship attempts to explain the formation of the Abhidhamma by a gradual evolutionary process, [4] Theravada orthodoxy assigns its genesis to the Buddha himself. According to the Great Commentary maha-atthakatha quoted by Acariya Buddhaghosa, "What is known as Abhidhamma is not the province nor the sphere of a disciple; it is the province, the sphere of the Buddhas.

The Atthasalini relates that in the fourth week after the Enlightenment, while the Blessed One was still dwelling in the vicinity of the Bodhi Tree, he sat in a jewel house ratanaghara in the northwest direction. This jewel house was not literally a house made of precious stones, but was the place where he contemplated the seven books of the Abhidhamma Pitaka.

He contemplated their contents in turn, beginning with the Dhammasangani, but while investigating the first six books his body did not emit rays. However, upon coming to the Patthana, when "he began to contemplate the twenty-four universal conditional relations of root, object, and so on, his omniscience certainly found its opportunity therein. For as the great fish Timiratipingala finds room only in the great ocean 84, yojanas in depth, so his omniscience truly finds room only in the Great Book.

This school also had an Abhidhamma Pitaka consisting of seven books, considerably different in detail from the Theravada treatises. According to the Sarvastivadins, the books of the Abhidhamma Pitaka were composed by Buddhist disciples, several being attributed to authors who appeared generations after the Buddha. The Theravada school, however, holds that the Blessed One himself expounded the books of the Abhidhamma, except for the detailed refutation of deviant views in the Kathavatthu, which was the work of the Elder Moggaliputta Tissa during the reign of Emperor Asoka.

The Pali Commentaries, apparently drawing upon an old oral tradition, maintain that the Buddha expounded the Abhidhamma, not in the human world to his human disciples, but to the assembly of devas or gods in the Tavatimsa heaven. According to this tradition, just prior to his seventh annual rains retreat the Blessed One ascended to the Tavatimsa heaven and there, seated on the Pandukambala stone at the foot of the Paricchattaka tree, for the three months of the rains he taught the Abhidhamma to the devas who had assembled from the ten thousand world-systems.

He made the chief recipient of the teaching his mother, Mahamaya-devi, who had been reborn as a deva. The reason the Buddha taught the Abhidhamma in the deva world rather than in the human realm, it is said, is because in order to give a complete picture of the Abhidhamma it has to be expounded from the beginning to the end to the same audience in a single session.



This volume is NOT for the beginner in Buddhist studies. This clear knowing allows one to develop wholesome qualities and destroy unwholesome qualities. Withoutabox Submit to Film Festivals. Ananda Maitreya, the leading Sri Lankan scholar-monk of recent times. Want to Read saving…. There was a problem sagnaha reviews right now.


Bhikkhu Bodhi

Defines and classifies the 89 and cittas or types of consciousness. Chapter II - Compendium of mental factors cetasika or concomitants of consciousness. This chapter enumerates fifty-two mental factors Pali: cetasikas or concomitants of consciousness, divided into four classes: universals, occasionals, unwholesome factors, and beautiful factors. This arranges the dhammas outlined in the previous chapters into four broad headings: a compendium of defilements; a compendium of mixed categories; a compendium of the requisites for enlightenment; a compendium of the whole. It analyzes the relationships between dhammas in terms of dependent origination as well as the 24 conditional relations outlined in the Patthana.

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