A Manual of Abhidhamma

by Nārada Thera | 80,494 words | ISBN-13: 9789380336510

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. Edited in the original Pali Text with English Translation and Explanatory Notes by Narada Maha Thera....

Analysis of Matter


§ 1.

Ettāvatā vibhattā hi sappabhedappavattikā
Cittacetasikā dhammā rūpandāni pavuccati
Samuddesā vibhāgā ca samutthānā kalāpato
Pavattikkamato c'āti pañcadhā tattha sangaho.

§ 2.

Cattāri mahābhūtani, catunnañ ca mahābhūtanam upādāya rūpan'ti dvidhampetam rūpam ekādasavidhena sangaham gacchati.

Katham ?

  1. Pathavīdhātu, āpodhātu, tejodhātu, vāyodhātu bhūtarūpam nāma.
  2. Cakkhu, sotam, ghānam, jivhā, kāyo, pasādarūpam nāma.
  3. Rūpam, saddo, gandho, raso, āpodhātuvajjitam bhūtattayasankhatam photthabbañ ca gocararūpam nāma.
  4. Itthattam, purisattam bhāvarūpam nāma.
  5. Hadayavatthu hadayarūpam nāma.
  6. Jīvitindriyam jīvitarūpam nāma.
  7. Kabalīkāro āhāro āhārarūpam nāma.
    Iti ca atthārasavidhamp' etam sabhāvarūpam, salakkhanarūpam nipphannarūpam rūparūpam, sammasanarūpanti ea sangaham gacchati.
  8. ākāsadhātu paricchedarūpam nāma.
  9. Kāyaviññatti vacīviññatti viññattirūpam nāma.
  10. Rūpassa lahutā mudutā kammaññatā viññattidvayam vikārarūpam nāma.
  11. Rūpassa upacayo santati jaratā aniccatā lakkhanarūpam nāma.

Jātirūpam eva pan' ettha upacayasantatināmena pavuccatī' ti ekādasavidhamp' etam rūpam atthavīsativi dham hoti sarūpāvasena.

Katham ?

  • Bhūtappasādavisayā bhāvo-hadayam icca' pi Jīvitāhārarūpehi atthārasavidham tathā.
  • Paricchedo ca viññatti vikāro lakkhananti ca Anipphannā dasa c'āti atthavīsavidham bhave.

Ayam' ettha rūpasamuddeso.




§ 1.

Having thus far described the consciousness and mental states in accordance with their classes (1) and processes (2), matter will now be dealt with.

With respect to enumeration (3), divisions (4), arising (5), groups (6), and the mode of happening (7), the compendium of matter therein is fivefold.

Enumeration of matter (samuddesa)

§ 2.

Matter is twofold-namely, the four Great Essentials (8), and material qualities derived from them (9). These two constitute eleven species.


  1. Essential material qualities - the element of extension (10), the element of cohesion (11), the element of heat (12), and the element of motion (13).
  2. Sensitive material qualities (14) viz: eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body.
  3. Material objects (15), viz: form (16), sound, odour, taste, and tangibility (17) - found in the three Essentials excluding the element of cohesion.
  4. Material qualities of sex (18), viz: femininity and masculinity.
  5. Material quality of base, viz: the heart-base (19).
  6. Material quality of life, viz: vital principle (20),
  7. Material quality of nutrition, viz: edible food (21).

Thus these eighteen (22) kinds of material qualities are grouped:

  1. according to their innate characteristics (23),
  2. according to their respective marks (24).
  3. as conditioned (25),
  4. as changeable (26),
  5. as (fit for) contemplation (27).

(continue with previous list)

  1. Limiting material quality, viz: the element of space (28).
  2. Communicating material quality (29) - viz: - bodily intimation and vocal intimation.
  3. Mutable material qualities (30) - viz: - material lightness (31), softness (32), adaptability (33), and the two forms of intimation.
  4. Characteristics (34) of material qualities, viz: material productivity, continuity, decay and impermanence.
    Here by productivity and continuity are meant the material quality of birth.
    Thus the eleven kinds of material qualities are treated as twenty eight according to their intrinsic properties.

How (twenty-eight)?

Essentials, sensory organs, objects, sex, heart, vitality, and food thus (matter) is eighteen fold.

Limitation (space), intimation, change-ability, and characteristics - thus there are ten non-conditioned (by kamma ). In all there are twenty-eight.

Herein this is the enumeration of matter.



1. The first three chapters dealt with different types of consciousness and mental states, both concisely and descriptively.

2. The fourth chapter was confined to 7 thought-processes during lifetime, and the fifth chapter, to various planes and processes of rebirth consciousness.

3. Samuddesa - i.e., the brief exposition of rūpa.

4. Vibhāga - i.e., the analysis of rūpa.

5. Samutthāna - i.e., the arising of different constituents of rūpa such as eye-decad, etc., caused by Kamma, mind, seasonal phenomena, and food.

6. Kalāpa - the group compositions of rūpa, such as body-decad, sex-decad. etc.

7. Pavattikkama - i.e., how rūpas take place in accordance with the states of existence, time, and classes of beings.

8. Mahābhūtāni - lit ., those that have grown great. The four Great Essentials are the fundamental material elements which are inseparable. Every material substance, ranging from the minutest particle to the most massive object, consists of these four elements which possess specific characteristics.

9. Upādāya-rūpāni - Derivative or secondary material properties dependent on the Great Essentials. Like the earth are the Essentials; the Derivatives are like trees that spring therefrom. The remaining 24 rūpas are regarded as Derivatives.

10. Pathavi-dhātu - The Pāli term dhātu means that which bears its own characteristic marks. Element is the closest equivalent for dhātu. Pathavi dhātu, literally, means the earth-element. It is so called because like the earth it serves as a support or foundation for the other coexisting rūpas. Pathavi (Sanskrit: prthivi), also spelt pathavi, puthavi, puthuvi, puthuvi - is derived from Ö puth, to expand, to extend. So far, though not very satisfactory, the closest equivalent for pathavi-dhātu is 'the element of extension'. Without it objects cannot occupy space. Both hardness and softness are characteristics of this element.

11. āpo-dhātu - lit., the fluid element . āpo is derived from Ö ap, to arrive, or from ā + Ö pāy, to grow, to increase. It is 'the element of cohesion . According to Buddhism it is this element that makes different particles of matter cohere, and thus prevents them from being scattered about. Both fluidity and contraction are the properties of this element. It should be understood that cold is not a characteristic of this element.

12. Tejo-dhātu - lit., the fire-element, is explained as 'the element of heat'. Tejo is derived from Ö tij, to sharpen, to mature. Vivacity and maturity are due to the presence of this element. Both heat and cold are the properties of tejo. Intense tejo is heat, and mild tejo is cold. It should not be understood that cold is the characteristic of āpo and heat is that of tejo; for, in that case, both heat and cold should be found together, as āpo and tejo coexist.

13. Vāyo-dhātu - lit., 'the air-element', is explained as the element of motion. Vāyo is derived from Ö vay, to move, to vibrate. Motion, vibration, oscillation, and pressure are caused by this element.

14. Pasāda-rūpa - They are the sensitive parts of the five organs - eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body. They tend to clarify the coexisting material qualities. The perceptible physical eye, for instance, is the sasambhāra cakkhu or composite eye, which consists of the four bhūta-rūpas, four upādā-rūpas (colour, odour, taste, and sap), and jīvitindriya (vitality). The sensitive part which lies at the center of the retina and which enables one to see objects is, the cakkhu pasāda. This is the basis of the eye-consciousness (cakkhu-viññāna) and becomes the instrument for the eye-door thought-process (cakkhu-dvāravīthi). The desire to see tends to develop the sense of sight. The eye, therefore, consists of ten material qualities of which pasāda is one.

The other pasāda-rūpas should be similarly understood.

The pasāda-rūpas of ear, nose, and tongue are in their respective centers; the kāya-pasāda-rūpa is diffused throughout the body except on hair, on the tips of nails, and in withered skin.

15. Gocararūpa - The sense-fields which serve as supports for the sense-cognitions to arise.

16. Rūpa - Both colour and shape are implied by this term.

17. Photthabba - owing to its subtlety, the element of cohesion (āpo) cannot be felt by the sense of touch. Only the other three Fundamental Elements are regarded as tangible. In water, for instance, the cold felt is tejo, the softness is pathavi, and the pressure is vāyo. One cannot touch āpo as its property is cohesion.

See Compendium, p. 155, n. 6.

18. Itthattam purisattam - also termed itthindriyam, purisindriyam - are collectively called in the abbreviated form bhāva-rūpa, the state by means of which masculinity and femininity are distinguished.

19. Hadayavatthu - The seat of consciousness. Dhammasangani omits this rūpa. In the Atthasālini hadayavatthu is explained as cittassa vatthu (basis of consciousness).

It is clear that the Buddha did not definitely assign a specific seat for consciousness, as He has done with the other senses. It was the cardiac theory (the view that heart is the seat of consciousness) that prevailed in His time, and this was evidently supported by the Upanishads. The Buddha could have accepted this popular theory, but He did not commit Himself. In the Patthāna, the Book of Relations, the Buddha refers to the basis of consciousness in such indirect terms as "yam rūpam nissāya'' "depending on that material thing", without positively asserting whether that rūpa was either the heart (hadaya) or the brain. But, according to the views of commentators like Venerable Buddhaghosa and Anuruddha, the seat of consciousness is definitely the heart. It should be understood that the Buddha has neither accepted nor rejected this ancient popular cardiac theory.

See Compendium p. 156, n. 1, and p. 277.

20. Jīvitindriya - There is vitality both in mind and in matter. Psychic life, which is one of the fifty-two mental states (cetasikās), and physical life, which is one of the twenty-eight rūpas, are essential characteristics of this so-called being. Psychic life is one of the seven universals and physical life is associated with almost every material group except in dead matter. Simultaneous with the arising of the rebirth-consciousness, physical life also springs up together with the initial material groups. Jīvita is qualified by indriya because it has a dominating influence over other co-adjuncts in vivifying them.

21. Kabalīkāro āhāro - so called because gross food is taken in by making into morsels. Here āhāra means nutritive essence (ojā) which sustains the physical body. In the statement - sabbe sattā āhāratthitikā, all beings live on food - āhāra means a condition (paccaya).

22. Eighteen - 5+4 (tangibility excluded), 2+1+1+1 = 18.

23. Sabhāva-rūpa - With respect to their own peculiar characteristics such as hardness, fluidity, etc.

24. Salakkhanarūpa - So called because they arise with the inherent general marks of impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and soullessness (anattā).

25. Nipphannarūpa - i.e., produced by Kamma mind, etc.

26. Rūparūpa - Here the first term rūpa is used in its etymological sense, i.e., change-ableness, as in the Pāli phrase - dukkha-dukkha.

27. Sammasanarūpa - Because it enables one to employ them as objects fit for contemplation or insight.

28. ākāsadhātu - Ceylon Commentators derive ākāsa from ā + Ö kas, to plough. Since there is no ploughing as on earth, space is called ākāsa. According to Sanskrit, ākāsa is derived from ā + Ö kās, to view, to recognize. In Ledi Sayadaw's opinion it is derived from ā + Ö kās, to shine, to appear. ākāsa is space which in itself is nothingness. As such it is eternal. ākāsa is a dhātu in the sense of a non-entity (nijjīva), not as an existing element like the four Essentials. By ākāsa, as one of the 28 rūpas, is meant not so much the outside space as the intra-atomic space that 'limits' or separates material groups (rūpakalāpas). Hence in Abhidhamma it is regarded as a 'pariccheda-rūpa'. Although ākāsa is not an objective reality, as it is invariably associated with all material units that arise in four ways, Abhidhamma teaches that it, too, is produced by the same four causes such as Kamma, mind, seasonal changes. and food. Simultaneous with the arising and perishing of the conditioned rūpas, ākāsa rūpa also arises and perishes.

See Compendium p. 226.

29. Viññatti is that by means of which one communicates one's ideas to another and one understands another's intentions. It is done both by action and speech - kāya-viññatti and vacī-viññatti. The former is caused by the 'air-element' (vāyo-dhātu) produced by mind (cittaja); the latter by the 'earth-element produced by the mind. The duration of viññatti is only one thought-moment.

30. Vikārarūpa - Change-ability of rūpa.

31. Lahutā denotes physical health, and is comparable to an iron rod heated throughout the day.

32. Mudutā is comparable to a well-beaten hide.

33. Kammaññatā is opposed to the stiffness of the body, and is comparable to well-hammered gold.

34. Lakkhanarūpa - So called because they assume distinguishable characteristics at different stages, such as arising (upāda), static (thiti) and dissolution (bhanga).

Upacaya means the first heaping-up or the first arising. Here 'upa' is used in the sense of first. The arising of the first three decads - kāya, bhāva, and vatthu - at the very moment of conception, is regarded as upacaya. The subsequent arising of the three decads from the static stage of rebirth-consciousness throughout lifetime is regarded as santati. Both upacaya and santati are sometimes treated as jāti - birth. Then the number of rūpas amounts to 27 instead of 28.

The life term of conditioned rūpa is normally 17 thought-moments or 51 minor thought-instants (according to Commentators, during the time occupied by a flash of lightning, billions of thought-moments arise.)

The first thought-moment is like the upacaya, the last thought-moment is like the aniccatā, the intermediate 15 are like the jaratā. Aniccatā is the dissolution of rūpa.

Strictly speaking, there are only three lakkhanarūpas, viz: birth, growth-decay, and death. Aniccatā is synonymous with marana (death). The entire interval between birth and death constitutes development or decay.

With the exception of the five rūpas - namely, two viññattis, jāti, jarā, and aniccatā - all the remaining 23 rūpas last for 17 thought-moments.

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