Introducing Buddhist Abhidhamma

Meditation and Concentration

by Kyaw Min, U | 1899 | 43,258 words

Abhidhamma is the 3rd and last part of the Buddhist Pāli Canon. This book is meant as an introduction to the various concepts presented in the seven books of the Abhidhamma....

Appendix III - The Abhidhamma

The Abhidhamma Pitaka consists of seven treatises, namely, Dhamma Sanganī, Vibhanga, Dhātu Kathā, Puggala Paññatti, Kathā Vatthu, Yamaka and Patthana.


1. Dhamma Sanganī "Classification of Dhammas"

This book has four chapters, dealing with:

  1. (Citta), Consciousness
  2. (Rūpa), Matter,
  3. (Nikkhepa), Summary,
  4. (Atthuddhara), Elucidation.

The 22 Triplets and the 100 Couplets, which comprise the quintessence of the Abhidhamma, are explained in this book.

Three quarters of the book is devoted to discussion of the 22 Triplets. In extent, it exceeds 104,000 letters.

The English translation, by Mrs. Rhys. Davids is called, "Buddhist Psychological Ethics". The main body of the book deals with the enumeration and definition of the various methods in groups of three and groups of two, by which the whole analytical teaching of the Buddha may be expressed in accordance with his different modes of analysis.

A Commentary, something like a Vade Mecum was written by Anuruddha Thera of Ceylon about the 8th Century, called the Abhidhammattha Sangaha. This was translated by U Shwe Zan Aung under the title Compendium of Philosophy, and first published in 1910.


2. Vibhanga - The Book of Analysis.

There are eighteen Analyses in this book. The first three Analyses, which deal with Khandha (Aggregates), Ayatana (Sense-Bases) and Dhatu (Elements), are the most important.

Most of these Analyses consist of three parts:

Suttanta explanation, Abhidhamma explanation, and a Catechism (Panhapucchaka).

In this treatise there are thirty-five Bhanavaras (280,000 letters).

The English translation is by U Thittila, with an Introduction by Mr.R.E.Inggleden.


3. Dhātu Kathā - "Discourse on Elements".

This book discusses whether Dhammas are included or not included in, associated with, or dissociated from Aggregates (Khandha), Bases (Ayatana), and Elements (Dhatu).

There are fourteen chapters in this work. In extent it exceeds six Bhanavaras (48,000 letters).

The English translation is by U Narada, Mula Patthana Sayadaw (Thera) of Burma, assisted by U Thein Nyun.


4. Puggala Paññatti - "Designation of Individuals".

In the method of exposition this book resembles the Anguttara Nikāya of the Sutta Pitaka. Instead of dealing with various Dhammas, it deals with various type of individuals. There are ten chapters in this book. In extent it exceeds five Bhanavaras (40,000 letters).


5. Kathā Vatthu - "Points of Controversy".

The authorship of this treatise is ascribed to Venerable Meggalliputta Tissa Thera, who flourished in the time of King Dhammaseka. It was he who presided at the third Conference held at Pataliputra (Patna) in the 3rd century B.C. This work of his was included in the Abhidhamma Pitaka at that Conference.

This book deals with 216 controversies and is divided into 23 chapters.


6. Yamaka - "The Book of Pairs".

It is so called owing to its method of treatment. Throughout the book a question and its converse are found grouped together. For instance, the first pair of the first chapter, of the book, which deals with roots, runs as follows: Are all wholesome Dhammas wholesome roots? And are all wholesome roots wholesome Dhammas?

This book is divided into ten chapters. In extent it contains 120 Bhanavaras (960,000 letters).


7. Patthana - "The Book of Causal Relations".

This is the most important and the most voluminous book of the Abhidhamma Pitaka.

The term Patthana is composed of the prefix "Pa", various, and "Thana", relation or condition (Paccayā). It is so called because it deals with the 24 modes of causal relations and the Triplets (Tika) and Couplets (Duka), already mentioned in the Dhamma Sanganī, and which comprise the essence of the Abhidhamma Pitaka.

The importance attached to this treatise, also known as "Mahā Pakarana", the Great Book, could be gauged by the words of the Atthasalini which states: "And while he contemplated the contents of the Dhamma Sanganī, his body did not emit rays, and similarly with the contemplation of the next five books, but when coming to the Great Book, he began to contemplate the 24 universal causal relations of condition, of presentation, and so on, His Omniscience certainly found its opportunity therein".

The English translation is by U Narada, Mula Patthana Sayādaw (Thera), assisted by U Thein Nyun.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: