Enumeration of Phenomena

400 B.C. | 124,932 words

*english translation* The first book of the Abhidhamma (Part 3 of the Tipitaka). The Dhammasangani enumerates all the paramattha dhamma (ultimate realities) to be found in the world. According to one such enumeration these amount to: * 52 cetasikas (mental factors), which, arising together in various combination, give rise to any one of... * ......

Part I - The Manual And The History Of Psychology

If the tombs of Egypt or the ruins of Greece itself were to give up, among their dead that are now and again being restored to us, a copy of some manual with which the young Socrates was put through the mill of current academic doctrine, the discovery would be hailed, especially by scholars of historical insight, as a contribution of peculiar interest. The contents would no doubt yield no new matter of philosophic tradition. But they would certainly teach something respecting such points as pre-Aristotelian logical methods, and the procedure followed in one or more schools for rendering students conversant with the concepts in psychology," ethics and metaphysic accepted or debated by the culture of the age.

Readers whose sympathies are not confined to the shores of the Mediterranean and Ægean seas will feel a stir of interest, similar in kind if fainter in degree, on becoming more closely acquainted with the Buddhist text -book entitled Dhamma-Sangani. The English edition of the Pali text, prepared for the Pali Text Society by Professor Dr. Ed. Muller, and published fifteen years ago, has so far failed to elicit any critical discussion among Pali scholars. A cursory inspection may have revealed little but what seemed dry, prolix and sterile. Such was, at least, the verdict of a younger worker, now, alas ! no more[1]. Closer study of the work will, I believe, prove less ungrateful, more especially if the conception of it as a student's manual be kept well in view. The method of the book is explicative, deductive; its object was, not to add to the Dhamma, but to unfold the orthodox import of terms in use among the body of the faithful, and, by organizing and systematizing the aggregate of doctrinal concepts, to render the learner's intellect both clear and efficient.

Even a superficial inspection of the Manual should yield great promise to anyone interested in the history of psychology. When upwards of six years ago my attention was first drawn to it, and the desirability of a translation pointed out by Professor Ehys Davids, I was at once attracted by the amount of psychological material embedded in its pages. Buddhist philosophy is ethical first and last. This is beyond dispute. But among ethical systems there is a world of difference in the degree of importance attached to the psychological prolegomena of ethics. In ethical problems we are on a basis of psychology, depending for our material largely upon the psychology of conation or will,[2] with its co-efficients of feeling and intelligence.

And in the history of human ideas, in so far as it clusters about those problems, we find this dependence either made prominent or slurred over. Treated superficially, if suggestively and picturesquely, in Plato, the nature and functions of that faculty in man, whereby he is constituted an ethical and political "animal", are by Aristotle analyzed at length. But the Buddhists were, in a way, more advanced in the psychology of their ethics than Aristotle — in a way, that is, which would now be called scientific. Eejecting the assumption of a psyche and of its higher manifestations or nous, they were content to resolve the consciousness of the Ethical Man, as they found it, into a complex continuum of subjective phenomena.

They analyzed this continuum, as we might, exposing it, as it were, by transverse section. But their treatment was genetic. The distinguishable groups of dhamma — of states or mental psychoses — "arise" in every case in consciousness, in obedience to certain laws of causation, physical and moral [3] — that is, ultimately, as the outcome of antecedent states of consciousness. There is no exact equivalent in Pali, any more than there is in Aristotle, for the relatively modern term 'consciousness', yet is the psychological standpoint of the Buddhist philosophy virtually. as thoroughgoing in its perceptual basis as that of Berkeley. It was not solipsism any more than Berkeley's immaterialism was solipsistic. It postulated other percipients[4] as Berkeley did, together with, not a Divine cause or source of percepts, but the implicit Monism of early thought veiled by a deliberate Agnosticism.

And just as Berkeley, approaching philosophical questions through psychology, "was the first man to begin a perfectly scientific doctrine of sense-perception as a psychologist"[5], so Buddhism, from a quite early stage of its development, set itself to analyze and classify mental processes with remarkable insight and sagacity. And on the results of that psychological analysis it sought to base the whole rationale of its practical doctrine and discipline. From studying the processes of attention, and the nature of sensation, the range and depth of feeling and the plasticity of the will in desire and in control, it organized its system of personal self-culture.

Germany has already a history of psychology half completed on the old lines of the assumed monopoly of ancient thought by a small area of the inhabited world. England has not yet got so far. Is it too much to hope that, when such a work is put forth, the greater labour of a wider and juster initiative will have been undertaken, and the development of early psychological thought in the East have been assigned its due place in this branch of historical research?

Footnotes and references:


H. C. Warren, ' Buddhism in Translations,' xviii. Cf. Kern, ' Indian Buddhism,' p. 3.


Cf. G. C.Kobertson, * Elements of General Philosophy,' pp. 191, 197 ; * Philosophical Kemains,' p. 3 ;

A. Bain, 'Moral Science' — 'The Psychological Data of Ethics.'

'Every ethical system involves a psychology of conduct, and depends for its development upon its idea of what conduct actually is ' (C. Douglas, ' The Philosophy of J. S. Mill,' p. 251).


Utu and kamma.


Cf. e.g. below, p. 272 [1045].


G. C. Eobertson, op. cit., p. 154.

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