19 Facts About Abhidharma


The early canonical Abhidharma works are not philosophical treatises, but mainly summaries and expositions of early doctrinal lists with their accompanying explanations.

FactSnippet No. 633,266

Later post-canonical Abhidharma works were written as either large treatises, as commentaries or as smaller introductory manuals.

FactSnippet No. 633,267

Abhidharma remains an important field of scholarship among both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhists.

FactSnippet No. 633,268

The Theravadin and Sarvastivadin Abhidharmikas generally considered the Abhidharma to be the pure and literal description of ultimate truth and an expression of perfect spiritual wisdom, while the sutras were considered 'conventional' and figurative teachings, given by the Buddha to specific people, at specific times, depending on specific worldly circumstances.

FactSnippet No. 633,269

Therefore, the canonical Abhidharma works are generally claimed by scholars not to represent the words of the Buddha himself, but those of later Buddhists.

FactSnippet No. 633,270

Various scholars such as Andre Migot, Edward J Thomas, Erich Frauwallner, Rupert Gethin, and Johannes Bronkhorst have argued that the Abhidharma was based on early and ancient lists of doctrinal terms which are called matikas .

FactSnippet No. 633,271

The close connection between the Sangiti Sutra and Abhidharma can be seen in the fact that it became the basis for one of the canonical Abhidharma texts of the Sarvastivada school, the Sangitiparyaya, which is effectively a commentary on the sutra.

FactSnippet No. 633,272

Therefore, the different Buddhist Abhidharma texts were developed over time as Buddhists expanded their analytical methods in different ways.

FactSnippet No. 633,273

The Theravada tradition is unique in regarding its Abhidharma as having been taught in its complete form by the Buddha as a single teaching, with the exception of the Kathavatthu, which contains material relating to later disputes and was held to only have been presented as an outline.

FactSnippet No. 633,274

Only after his death was the Abhidharma compiled systematically by his elder disciples and was recited by Ananda at the first Buddhist council.

FactSnippet No. 633,275

Sautrantika school rejected the status of the Abhidharma as being Buddhavacana, they held it was the work of different monks after his death, and that this was the reason different Abhidharma schools varied widely in their doctrines.

FactSnippet No. 633,276

Sarvastivada Abhidharma used these, along with a fifth category: "factors dissociated from thought" .

FactSnippet No. 633,277

Abhidharma project was thus to provide a completely exhaustive account of every possible type of conscious experience in terms of its constituent factors and their relations.

FactSnippet No. 633,278

Ultimate goal of the Abhidharma is Nirvana and hence the Abhidharmikas systematized dhammas into those which are skillful, purify the mind and lead to liberation, and those which are unskillful and do not.

FactSnippet No. 633,279

The Abhidharma then has a soteriological purpose, first and foremost and its goal is to support Buddhist practice and meditation.

FactSnippet No. 633,280

The examination of these characteristics was held to be extremely important, the Sarvastivada Mahavibhasa states "Abhidharma is [precisely] the analysis of the svalaksana and samanya-laksana of dharmas".

FactSnippet No. 633,281

Abhidharma's Visuddhimagga is a comprehensive manual of Buddhist practice that contains an overview of the Abhidhamma.

FactSnippet No. 633,282

Many Abhidharma texts have been lost- likely more than have survived.

FactSnippet No. 633,283

Many Abhidharma sastras discovered among the Gandharan Buddhist texts have no parallel in existing Indic languages or Chinese or Tibetan translation, suggesting the former breadth of Abhidharma literature.

FactSnippet No. 633,284