Introduction of Abhidhamma - Buddhism, Philosophy, and Khmer Literature


Buddhism, Philosophy, and Khmer Literature

The teachings of the Buddha are aimed solely at liberating sentient beings from suffering. The Basic Teachings of Buddha which are core to Buddhism are: The Three Universal Truths; The Four Noble Truths; and The Noble Eightfold Path.

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Introduction of Abhidhamma

 ·  Namo sammàsambuddhassa  ·

            About 2600 years ago, there lived a fully enlightened person who was called ‘the Buddha’. This is a historically proved and recorded fact. Thus, the Buddha is not just a legendary figure and what he taught is also not legendary, but the teachings of this historical person.
            He referred to his discourses and other teachings as “dhamma”. The Pàøi word “dhamma” has a very wide meaning; therefore it is often left untranslated.
This dhamma can be classified into ‘dhamma’ and ‘abhidhamma’.
            When the Buddha referred to the dhamma, his teachings, he used the special term ‘dhammavinaya’. It is used in many discourses.

What is Abhidhamma?
            Abhidhamma, a Pàøi term, means ‘special’ or ‘profound dhamma’.  The text in which these profound dhammas are explained is also called "Abhidhamma". The third collection (lit. ‘Basket’) of the Tipiåaka, the Pàøi Canon, is called ‘Abhidhamma Piåaka’ (‘Basket of Higher Philosophy’) and comprises seven treatises.
            The commentary on Abhidhamma gives the following definition: 
Abhidhamma is a treatise in which the dhamma is explained in greater detail and a more analytical way than in the suttas’.
            When we study dhamma, Abhidhamma is very important, because it explains dhamma.

Who is the author?
            According to Theravàda tradition, the Buddha himself is the author of Abhidhamma. There are many evidences in very ancient scriptures pointing out that the Buddha is the author. The great compiler and commentator on many Tipiåaka texts, Venerable Buddhaghosa, expressively said that it was the Buddha who taught Abhidhamma.
            The student of Abhidhamma after having got a glance at the depths and minute details of this work will be able to realize himself whether Abhidhamma may be the Buddha’s teaching or not.
            It is said that the mental power of Venerable Sàriputta was so highly developed that he was able to discern and count individual rain drops during a rain shower. He was, however, unable to differentiate all types of consciousness and their respectively arisen mental properties.
            Therefore, who else than the Buddha may be able to claim the discovery of the phenomena explained in Abhidhamma if even his wisest disciple failed?

Seven Abhidhamma Texts
          1.       Dhammasaæganì             Classification of Dhammas
          2.       Vibhaæga                       The Book of Analysis
          3.       Dhàtukathà                     A Talk on the Elements
          4.       Puggala paññatti             Designation of Individuals
          5.       Kathàvatthu                    Points of Controversy
          6.       Yamaka                          The Book of Pairs
          7.       Paååhàna                         Conditional Relations

Two Types of Dhamma

There are two types of dhammas explained in Abhidhamma, namely

1. Paññatti  = Concepts
2. Paramattha

            1. Paññatti comprises names and things. All names are paññatti, because through names we are able to know things. These things are also paññatti, because they have to be known through names. All names and words (languages) we use are called "sadda paññatti", because through them we come to know the things concerned. The things are called "attha paññatti", because they are known by means of names or words.
            Paññatti changes its designation when its form or substance changes. For example, we wear a shirt. It is made of cotton. First, there is cotton, the plant. After making that cotton into a thread, it is not called ‘cotton’, but ‘thread’. Because the form changes, the name also changes. After weaving the thread changes into cloth; it is called ‘cloth’. Then sewn, it becomes a ‘shirt’. No more cotton, no more thread, no more cloth. It is, however, conventional truth (sammuti saccà), because it is something that is generally accepted by people. Using conventional truth, the Buddha gives guidelines dealing with the following points: status, obligation of human society, morality, conditions of success in life and so on. Rules and regulations, laws etc. depend on sammuti saccà. For example in the Maægala Sutta, the Buddha said: “màtàpitu upaååhànaö” (‘to care for one’s mother and father’). According to conventional truth, it is generally accepted and right. In the ultimate sense, however, there is no mother and no father, only mind and matter; only they are real. If we talk about ultimate reality, caring for mother and father is not necessary. We live in human society, however, and have our obligations towards that society and its people. Sammuti saccà also comprises morality and conditions for success in life. Therefore, conventional truth is very important. On the other hand, if we are attached to conventional truth, we cannot attain enlightenment. We have to remove our attachment to sammuti saccà and upgrade our knowledge to the level of paramattha saccà.

            2. Paramattha is ultimate reality. The nature of ultimate reality is that it never changes. It is real forever. Ultimate reality is abstract truth (paramattha saccà). Using abstract truth, the Buddha expounds the wisdom of realization and emancipation or liberation.

The Four Ultimate Realities

Ultimate reality can be divided into four according to its own characteristics, namely:
1. Consciousness  - citta                         4. The state of freedom from attachment - Nibbàna
2. Mental states    - cetasika       Saösàra level
3. Matter               - rūpa

            In the ultimate sense, a human being is only a concept. It is composed of mind and matter. Mind consists of consciousness and mental states. When we say ‘I’, in the ultimate sense, there is no ‘I’. A human being is only a concept. What it really is, is just mind and matter.

Nibbàna is a state in which mind and matter become completely extinct.

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