Abhidhamma, Abhidharma: 15 definitions



Abhidhamma means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

[«previous next»] — Abhidhamma in Theravada glossary
Source: Access to Insight: A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist TermsIn the discourses of the Pali canon, this term simply means "higher Dhamma," and a systematic attempt to define the Buddhas teachings and understand their interrelationships. (2) A later collection of analytical treatises based on lists of categories drawn from the teachings in the discourses, added to the Canon several centuries after the Buddhas life.Source: Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary

M (Superior, to face (sth) (abhi); study of reality (dhamma)). Supreme science on reality. Third basket of tipitaka, the abhidhamma is the purely theoretical part of it. It does detail forth a full description of everything that can be perceived and all the functioning that reality is made of.

Source: Buddhist Information: A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas

The term "abhi" can mean great, mighty. Abhidhamma is the Dhamma which is mighty, because it is anatta, non self, it is beyond anybody"s control

Abhidhamma, the third part of the Tipitaka, means "higher Dhamma", Dhamma in detail. It deals with ultimate or absolute realities, different from conventional truth. Ultimate reality or paramattha Dhamma can also be called Abhidhamma.

Source: Dhamma Study: Introduction to the Dhamma

1. Abhidhamma is a word from the Pali language, the language in which the Theravadin records of the teachings of the Buddha have been recorded and passed down to the present day. The word is composed of the two parts, "abhi" meaning "higher" or "greater" and "dhamma" which means "reality" or "truth" (it can be loosely translated as to mean "everything which is real"). So the word "Abhidhamma" means the "higher truth" or "the higher teaching".

The Abhidhamma itself is a collection of seven books of teachings. It is the third of the three sections of the Pali Canon (the collected teachings of the Buddha in the Pali language).

See Abhidhamma Pitaka.

2. The Abhidhamma is the higher teaching of the Buddha. It contains the essentials of the Buddha Dhamma without the need for conventional terminology. It deals directly with those elements which constitute the exact nature of our existence, and all questions of a conventional nature are left aside. This should not deter one from plunging into the Abhidhamma however. Once begun, the Abhidhamma can lead us on to a better understanding of the practise of insight (vipassana).

Source: Dhamma Study: Cetasikas

The Abhidhamma enumerates all realities and the different conditions for the phenomena which arise. The study of the Abhidhamma can prevent wrong ideas about the development of the Buddha's path. The realities of our life, including out defilements, should be understood as not self.

context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

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Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

[«previous next»] — Abhidhamma in Mahayana glossary
Source: Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

Abhidhamma (अभिधम्म) refers to a set of teachings according to the 2nd century Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter XXX). Accordingly, “... to say what world (dhātu) they belong to, what is their cause (hetu), their object (ālambana) and their fruit of retribution (vipākaphala); to make known, apart from these supreme worldly dharmas, the various practices (carita) of the śrāvaka up to his reaching nirvāṇa without residue (nirupādhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa); to analyze one by one the characteristics and meaning of the dharmas is what is called the Teaching of the Abhidharma”.

According to appendix 4 of the 2nd century Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra chapter III, the Pāli school divides its Basket of Abhidhamma into seven books, but the Haimavata school which is almost confused with it adopts another division.

  1. Distinctions with questions (Sapraśnaka),
  2. Distinctions without questions (Apraśnaka),
  3. Connections (Saṃgraha),
  4. Correspondences (Saṃprayukta),
  5. Places (Āyatana).

This should be compared with the first three chapters of the Śāriputrābhidharma: 1) Sapraśnaka, 2) Apraśnaka, 3) Saṃgraha-saṃprayukta.

Mahayana book cover
context information

Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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General definition (in Buddhism)

[«previous next»] — Abhidhamma in Buddhism glossary
Source: WikiPedia: Buddhism

Abhidharma (Sanskrit) or Abhidhamma (Pali) are ancient (3rd century BCE and later) Buddhist works which contain detailed scholastic reworkings of doctrinal material appearing in the Buddhist Sutras, according to schematic classifications. The Abhidhamma works do not contain systematic philosophical treatises, but summaries or abstract and systematic lists. "Abhidhamma Pitaka." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2008.

According to the Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism, Abhidhamma started as an elaboration of the teachings of the suttas, but later developed independent doctrines. According to L. S. Cousins, the suttas deal with sequences and processes, Abhidhamma deals with occasions and events. "Pali oral literature", in Buddhist Studies, ed Denwood and Piatigorski, Curzon, London, 1982/3

The literal translation of the term Abhidharma is unclear. Two possibilities are most commonly given:

  1. abhi - higher or special + dharma- teaching, philosophy, thus making Abhidharma the higher teachings
  2. abhi - about + dharma of the teaching, translating it instead as about the teaching or even meta teaching.

In the West, the Abhidhamma has generally been considered the core of what is referred to as Buddhist Psychology. See, for instance, Rhys Davids (1900), Trungpa (1975) and Goleman (2004).

Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

[«previous next»] — Abhidhamma in Pali glossary
Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

abhidhamma : (m.) the analytic doctrine of the Buddhist Canon.

Source: Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary

Abhidhamma, (abhi + dhamma) the “special Dhamma, ” i. e., 1. theory of the doctrine, the doctrine classified, the doctrine pure and simple (without any admixture of literary grace or of personalities, or of anecdotes, or of arguments ad personam), Vin.I, 64, 68; IV, 144; IV, 344. Coupled with abhivinaya, D.III, 267; M.I, 272. — 2. (only in the Chronicles and Commentaries) name of the Third Piṭaka, the third group of the canonical books. Dpvs.V, 37; PvA.140. See the detailed discussion at DA.I, 15, 18 sq. (As the word abhidhamma standing alone is not found in Sn.or S or A, and only once or twice in the Dialogues, it probably came into use only towards the end of the period in which the 4 great Nikāyas grew up.)

Pali book cover
context information

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

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Sanskrit dictionary

[«previous next»] — Abhidhamma in Sanskrit glossary
Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary

Abhidharma (अभिधर्म).—The supreme truth or Metaphysics according to Buddhistic dogmas.

Derivable forms: abhidharmaḥ (अभिधर्मः).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Edgerton Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary

Abhidharma (अभिधर्म).—m. (= Pali Abhidhamma), name of the third section of the Buddhist canon: Mahāvyutpatti 1413; Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra 290.8; Karmavibhaṅga (and Karmavibhaṅgopadeśa) 94.7; 102.1; 103.6; 155.1.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Abhidharma (अभिधर्म):—[=abhi-dharma] m. the dogmas of Buddhist philosophy or metaphysics.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Goldstücker Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Abhidharma (अभिधर्म):—[tatpurusha compound] m.

(-rmaḥ) (In Buddhistic doctrine.) The mani-fested or revealed truth; (Abhidharmakośa, as quoted in Burnouf's Introd. p. 40: = abhimukho dharmaḥ; therefore not to be rendered: the ‘supreme law’; dharma has been translated here ‘truth’, instead of ‘law’, in conformity with the judicious remark of Spence Hardy, East. Mon. p. 167); i. e. the Buddhistic dogmas and metaphysics, as laid down in the abhidharmapiṭaka q. v.—The first redaction of the Abhidharma is ascribed to Kāśyapa or Mahā-Kaśyapa, the principal disciple of Śākya Muni; but the redaction of the whole collection of works on this subject seems to belong to different periods the last of which precedes the third Buddhistic synod; (see Lassen's Ind. Alt. vol. Ii. p. 458). Hodgson relates of four great Nepalese schools divided on account of their views on the Abhidharma: the Svābhāvika, Aiśvarika, Kārmika and Yātnika (see Burnouf's Introd. p. 441 and the quotation given there); Csoma de Körös speaks of four other Tibetian schools which are divided and subdivided into various sects: 1. the Vaibhāṣikās which comprise four sects: a. one founded by Rāhula, the son of Śākya, and subdivided at the period of the third synod into seven sects: the Mūla-sarvāsti-vādās, Kāśyapīyās, Mahīśāsakās, Dharmaguptās, Bahuśrutīyās, Tāmraśātīyās and Vibhādyavādinas; b. one founded by Kāśyapa, a Brāhmaṇa, and subdivided into six sects, five of which, bearing the collective name of Mahāsaṅghikās, were known at the time of the third synod: the Pūrvaśailās, Avaraśailās, Haimavatās, Lokottaravādinas and Prajnaptivādinas; c. one founded by Upāli, a Śūdra, and having the surname Sammatās, subdivided into three sects: the Kaurmakullakās (?), Āvantikās and Vātsīputrīyās; d. one founded by Kātyāyana, a Śūdra, and subdivided also into three sects: the Mahāvihāravāsinas, Jyetavanīyās and Abhayagirivāsinas; 2. the Sautrāntikās with two sects; 3. the Yogāchārās, founded by Āryasaṅgha and divided into nine sects; 4. the Mādhyamikās owing their origin to Nāgārjuna who lived about 400 years after the Buddha, divided into two sects the founders of which are probably Āryadeva and Buddhapālita. (For these sects and the doctrine itself see Burnouf's Introd. p. 437 ff., Lassen's Ind. Alt. Ii. p. 456 ff.; also Spence Hardy's East. Mon. where a legend, related p. 197, conveys an idea of the great merit supposed to be acquired by the study of the Abhidharma.) E. abhi and dharma.

[Sanskrit to German] (Deutsch Wörterbuch)

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Böhtlingk and Roth Grosses Petersburger Wörterbuch

Abhidharma (अभिधर्म):—(abhi + dharma) m. das obere Gesetz, die Metaphysik (bei den Buddhisten) [Burnouf 563. 40.] abhidharmakośa Titel eines dem [VASUBANDHU] zugeschriebenen Werkes ibid. abhidharmakośavyākhyā ein Commentar dazu ibid. abhidharmapiṭaka bildet eine der 3 Abtheilungen unter den heiligen Schriften der Buddhisten [35. 40. 41. 448.] [Akademische Vorlesungen 254. 256. 267. 268.]

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Sanskrit-Wörterbuch in kürzerer Fassung

Abhidharma (अभिधर्म):—m. die Metaphysiker Buddhisten. kośa m. , dharmaprajñāna n. , piṭaka m. und samuccaya m. Titel verschiedener Werke.

context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family (even English!). Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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