The nucleus of the present book is a medieval compendium of Buddhist philosophy entitled the Abhidhammattha Sangaha. 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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Abhidhamma, as the term implies, is the Higher Teaching of the Buddha. It expounds the quintessence of His profound doctrine. In the Abhidhamma both mind and matter, which constitute this complex machinery of man, are microscopically analyzed. Chief events connected with the process of birth and death are explained in detail. Intricate points of the Dhamma are clarified. The Path of Emancipation is set forth in clear terms.
Modern Psychology, limited as it is comes within the scope of Abhidhamma inasmuch as it deals with the mind, with thoughts, thought-processes, and mental states but it does not admit of a psyche or a soul. Buddhism teaches a psychology without a psyche. If one were to read the Abhidhamma as a modern textbook on psychology, one would be disappointed. No attempt has here been made to solve all the problems that confront a modern psychologist.
Consciousness is defined. Thoughts are analyzed and classified chiefly from an ethical standpoint. All mental states are enumerated. The composition of each type of consciousness is set forth in detail. The description of thought-processes that arise through the five sense-doors and the mind-door is extremely interesting.
Such a clear exposition of thought-processes cannot be found in any other psychological treatise. Bhavanga and Javana thought-moments, which are explained only in the Abhidhamma, and which have no parallel in modern psychology, are of special interest to a research student in psychology.
That consciousness flows like a stream, a view propounded by some modern psychologists like William James, becomes extremely clear to one who understands the Abhidhamma. The advent of death, process of rebirth in various planes without anything to pass from one life to another, the evidently verifiable doctrine of Kamma and Rebirth are fully explained.
Fundamental units of matter, material forces, properties of matter, source of matter, relationship of mind and matter, are described. In the Abhidhammattha Sangaha there is a brief exposition of the Law of Dependent Origination, followed by a descriptive account of the Causal Relations that finds no parallel in any other philosophy.
It should be made clear that Abhidhamma does not attempt to give a systematized knowledge of mind and matter. It investigates these two composite factors of so-called being to help the understanding of things as they truly are. A philosophy has been developed on these lines. As Mrs. Rhys Davids rightly says, Abhidhamma deals with " 1 What we find a within us b around us and of 2 what we aspire to find.
In Abhidhamma all irrelevant problems that interest students and scholars, but having no relation to one's Deliverance, are deliberately set aside. It is still the most fitting introduction to Abhidhamma. By mastering this book, a general knowledge of Abhidhamma may easily be acquired.
To be a master of Abhidhamma all the seven books, together with commentaries and sub-commentaries, have to be read and re-read patiently and critically. To the wise truth-seekers, Abhidhamma is an indispensable guide and an intellectual treat. Here there is food for thought to original thinkers and to earnest students who wish to increase their wisdom and lead an ideal Buddhist life.
It deals with realities and a practical way of noble living, based on the experience of those who have understood and realized. Without a knowledge of the Abhidhamma one at times' finds it difficult to understand the real significance of some profound teachings of the Buddha. But one cannot positively assert that Abhidhamma is absolutely necessary to gain one's Deliverance. Understanding or realization is purely personal sanditthika.
The four Noble Truths that form the foundation of the Buddha's teaching are dependent on this one fathom body. The Dhamma is not apart from oneself. Look within, Seek thyself.
Lo, the truth will unfold itself. According to some scholars, Abhidhamma is not a teaching of the Buddha, but is a later elaboration of scholastic monks.
Commentators state that the Buddha, as a mark of gratitude to His mother who was born in a celestial plane, preached the Abhidhamma to His mother Deva and others continuously for three months. Whoever the great author or authors of the Abhidhamma may have been, it has to be admitted that he or they had intellectual genius comparable only to that of the Buddha.
There are many technical terms, too, in Abhidhamma which cannot be rendered into English so as to convey their exact connotation. Some English equivalents such as consciousness, will, volition, intellect, perception are used in a specific sense in Western Philosophy.
Readers should try to understand in what sense these technical terms are employed in Abhidhamma. Sometimes readers will come across unusual words such as corruption, defilement, volitional activities, functional, resultants, and so forth, which are of great significance from an Abhidhamma standpoint.
Their exact meaning should be clearly understood. In preparing this translation, Buddhist Psychology by Mrs. Shwe Zan Aung proved extremely helpful to me. Liberty has been taken to quote them wherever necessary with due acknowledgment. Bhikkhu Bodhi for his useful suggestions. Above all I have to thank Mr. Lankatilaka, a most distinguished artist of Sri Lanka, for his beautiful and symbolical dust jacket design.
Join us weekly for live Dhamma Story Time sessions. Vipassana , which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. More information about Vipassana as taught by S. Goenka is available at www. The tag Vipassana identifies products that are directly related to this tradition and differentiates them from other Theravada resources available on our site.
Abhidhamma, as the term implies, is the Higher Teaching of the Buddha. It expounds the quintessence of His profound doctrine. In the Abhidhamma both mind and matter, which constitute this complex machinery of man, are microscopically analyzed. Chief events connected with the process of birth and death are explained in detail. Intricate points of the Dhamma are clarified. The Path of Emancipation is set forth in clear terms. Modern Psychology, limited as it is comes within the scope of Abhidhamma inasmuch as it deals with the mind, with thoughts, thought-processes, and mental states but it does not admit of a psyche or a soul.