Abhidhamma, aka: Abhidharma; 10 Definition(s)


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)

[Abhidhamma in Theravada glossaries]
In 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): Access to Insight: A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms

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): Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary

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): Buddhist Information: A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas

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: Introduction to the Dhamma

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.

(Source): Dhamma Study: Cetasikas
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)

[Abhidhamma in Mahayana glossaries]

Abhidhamma (अभिधम्म) refers to a set of teachings according to the 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 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.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra
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)

[Abhidhamma in Buddhism glossaries]

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).

(Source): WikiPedia: Buddhism

Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

[Abhidhamma in Pali glossaries]

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

(Source): BuddhaSasana: Concise 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.)

—kathā discourse on philosophical or psychological matters, M.I, 214, 218; A.III, 106, 392. See dhammakathā. (Page 65)

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

[Abhidhamma in Sanskrit glossaries]

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

Derivable forms: abhidharmaḥ (अभिधर्मः).

(Source): DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. 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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