What Is Abhidhamma?

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 19 October 2016

What Is Abhidhamma?

Q : What is Abhidhamma?
The Buddha preached “Abhidhamma” in the plane of Tavatimsa for three months especially dedicated to his mother Deva and the rest Devas and Bhahmas from the whole universe. At that time, the Buddha preached by very wide and very details way. Buddha repeated it to Ashin Sariputtaya by shortest way. Ashin Sariputtaya handed it on to five hundred of his disciples not too long and not too short. This way is what we have been learned in nowadays.

According to tipitaka, Abhidhamma is the third great division of the pitaka. It is enormous collection of systematically arranged and classified doctrines of the Buddha. The word “Abhidhamma” is combination of “Abhi” and “Dhamma”. The prefix “Abhi” means excellent, preponderant, distinct, etc.. “Dhamma” is “The teachings of the Buddha”. Therefore, “Abhidhamma” means “Excellent teaching of the Buddha”. Abhidhamma is more preponderant, more excellent than Suttanta Pitaka for the following reasons. (1) It is composed of 42000 Dhammakkhandas whereas Suttanta Pitaka and Vinaya Pitaka are only 210000 Dhammakkhandas each.

(2) In Suttanta, the Buddha takes into consideration the intellectual level of the audience and their attainments in parami. Therefore, he uses the conventional terms making references to persons and objects. But in Abhidhamma, the Buddha analyzed every phenomenon into its ultimate constituents. All conventional terms are uncovered into their owns ultimate elements which are precisely defined and systematically arranged. Thus why it also called Paramattha Desana.

(3) In Suttanta, the Buddha preaches Dos and Don’ts. In Abhidhamma, the Exalted one teaches about only nature of elements. Don’t care about human and their characteristics, emphasized in actual nature of all elements. So it can called yathadhamma desana.

There are seven treatises in Abhidhamma- namely,

(1) Dhamma Sangani
The main body of the Dhammasangani is in four parts. It contains the detailed enumeration of all phenomena with an analysis of consciousness (citta) and its concomitant mental factors(cetasikas);

(2) Vibanga
The Vibhanga consists of 18 chapters on analysis of phenomena quite distinct from that of Dhammasangani;

(3) Dhatukatha
It is a small treatise written in the formof a catechism, discussing all phenomena of existence with reference to three categories, khandha, ayatana and dhatu;

(4) Puggalapannatti
It expresses a description of various parts of individuals according to the stage of their achievement along the Path;

(5) Kathavatthu
It is a compilation by the Venerable Moggaliputta, the presiding thera of the third Great Synod in which he discusses and refutes doctrines of the other schools in order to uproot all the points of controversy on the Buddha Dhamma. This book consists of more than two hundred debates on questions of doctrine;

(6) Yamaka
It is regarded as a treatise on applied logic in which analytical procedure is arranged in pairs;

(7) Patthana.
A gigantic treatise which altogether with Dhammasangani, constitutes the quintessence of the Abhidhamma Pitaka.It is a minutely detailed study of the doctrine of conditionality, based on twenty-four pacayas, conditions or relations.

There are only two kinds of realities when we take out the essence of Abhidhamma from those seven treaties. They are – (1) Apparent Reality (Pannatti) On the other hand, we call it “Sammuti-sacca” because it is just only label and it can change according to the appearance and shape. It is disappeared when we analyze by wisdom (panna). It can be divided in “Sadda Pannati” and “Attha Pannati”. (2) Ultimate Reality (Paramattha)

Paramattha, the ultimate reality is never changed. For example, the nature of the tree is hard. We cut it into wood, and then make a table. However it changes shape and name, its nature of hard isn’t change. It remains unchanged.

By learning and understanding Abhidhamma, we can get valuable wisdom for our life. Such as- 1. Can realize the realities that really exist in nature. That means we can microscopically analyze both mind and matter which constitutes of man. Depends on these, at last we can get analytical knowledge. 2. Can clearly understand the consequences of wholesome and unwholesome deeds. 3. Can know the process of life and death and that of rebirth in various planes under the kammic force. 4. Can clearly come to light the four noble truths as goes through Abhidhamma. 5. Can remove four kinds of “Ghana”, the misunderstanding which is interference of Nibbana, etc.

Furthermore, the Abhidhamma brightly illuminates the right path to be followed by every person for the attainment of the Nibbana. Therefore, everyone should learn the Abhidhamma and use the Abhidhamma Knowledge as the guidance of his life.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 19 October 2016

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