Guide to Tipitaka

Canonical Pâli Buddhist Literature of the Theravâda School

by U Ko Lay | 48,543 words

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(a) Abhidhamma

The Higher Teaching Of The Buddha

Abhidhamma is the third great division of the Pitaka. It is a huge collection of systematically arranged, tabulated and classified doctrines of the Buddha, representing the quintessence of his Teaching. Abhidhamma means Higher Teaching or Special Teaching; it is uni- que in its abstruseness, analytical approach, immensity of scope and conduciveness to one's liberation

The Buddha Dhamrna has only one taste, the taste of liberation But in Suttanta discourses, the Buddha takes into consideration the intellectual level of his audience, and their attainments in parami. He therefore teaches the Dhamma in conventional terms (voh a ra vacand), making references to persons and objects as I, we, he, she, man, woman, cow, tree, etc But in Abhidhamma the Buddha makes no such concessions, he treats the dhamma entirely in terms of the ultimate reality (paramattha sacca) He analyses every phenomenon into its ultimate constituents All relative concepts such as man, mountain, etc. are reduced to their ultimate elements which are then precisely defined, classified and systematically arranged.

Thus in Abhidhamma everything is expressed in terms of khan- dhas, five aggregates of existence; ayatanas, five sensory organs and mind, and their respective sense objects; dhatu, elements, indriya, faculties; sacca, fundamental truths; and so on Relative conceptual objects such as man, woman, etc are resolved into ultimate compo- nents ofkhandhas, ayatanas, etc, and viewed as an impersonal psycho- physical phenomenon, which is conditioned by various factors and is impermanent (amcca), suffering (dukkha) and is without a perma- nent entity (anatta).

Having resolved all phenomena into ultimate components analy- tically (as in Dhammasangani and Vibhanga) it aims at synthesis by defining inter-relations (paccayd) between the various constituent factors ( as in PattMna). Thus Abhidhamma forms a gigantic edifice of knowledge relating to the utlimate realities which, in its immen- sity of scope, grandeur, subtlety, and profundity, properly belongs only to the intelectual domain of the Buddha.  

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