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 II - The Date Of The Manual

We can fortunately fix the date of the Dhamma-Sangani within a limit that, for an Indian book, may be considered narrow. Its aim is to systematize or formulate certain doctrines, or at least to enumerate and define a number of scattered terms or categories of terms, occurring in the great books of dialogues and sundry discourse entitled the Nikayas of the Sutta Pitaka. The whole point of view, psychological and philosophical, adopted in them is, in our Manual, taken for granted. The technical terms used in them are used in it as if its hearers, subsequently its readers, would at once recognise them. No one acquainted with those books, and with the Dhamma-Sangani, will hesitate in placing the latter, in point of time, after the Nikayas.

On the other hand, the kind of questions raised in our Manual are on a different plane altogether from those raised in the third book in the Abhidhamma Pitaka, viz., the Katha Vatthu, which we know to have been composed by Tissa at Patna, in the middle of the third century b.c.[1] The Dhamma-Sangani does not attempt to deal with any such advanced opinions and highly-elaborated points of doctrine as are put forward by those supposed opponents of the orthodox philosophy who are the interlocutors in the Katha Vatthu. It remains altogether, or almost altogether, at the old standpoint of the Nikayas as regards doctrine, differing only in method of treatment. The Katha Yatthu raises new questions belonging to a later stage in the development of the faith.

The Dhamma-Sangani is therefore younger than the Nikayas, and older than the Katha Yatthu. If we date it half-way between the two, that is, during the first third of the fourth century b.c. (contemporary, therefore, with the childhood of Aristotle, h. 384), we shall be on the safe side. But I am disposed to think that the interval between the completion of the Nikayas and the compilation of the Dhamma-Sangani is less than that between the latter work and the Katha Vatthu ; and that our manual should therefore be dated rather at the middle than at the end of the fourth century b.c, or even earlier. However that may be, it is important for the historian of psychology to remember that the ideas it systematizes are, of course, older. Practically all of them go back to the time of the Buddha himself. Some of them are older still.

The history of the text of our Manual belongs to that of the canonical texts taken collectively. There are, however, two interesting references to it, apart from the general narrative, in the Maha Vansa, which show, at least, that the Dhamma-Sangani was by no means laid on the shelf among later Buddhists. King Kassapa V. of Ceylon (a.d. 929-939) had a copy of it engraved on gold plates studded with jewels, and took it in procession with great honour to a vihara he had built, and there offered flowers to it.[2] Another King of Ceylon, Vijaya Bahu I. (a.d. 1065-1120), shut himself up every morning for a time against his people in the beautiful Hall of Exhortation, and there made a translation of the Dhamma-Sangani, no doubt from Pali into Sinhalese.[3]

I can testify to the seriousness of the task, and feel a keen sympathy with my royal predecessor, and envy withal for his proximity in time and place to the seat of orthodox tradition. Nothing, unfortunately, is now known, so far as I have been able to ascertain, of this work, in which the translator was very likely aided by the best scholarship of the day, and which might have saved me from many a doubt and difficulty.

Footnotes and references:


Atthasalini, p. 3 ; Maha Bodhi Vansa, p. 110.


Mah., ch. 1., vers. 50, 51, 56.


jhid., ch. Ixx., ver. 17.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: