The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Dhammanando » Thu May 31, 2012 7:09 am

fragrant herbs wrote:I am reading the book, Buddhist Warfare. The use of the Abhidharma has been used by Thai monks to support the belief that they can kill. My question is, if Buddha in other texts says that it is wrong to go to war, such as this one below, can we then say that perhaps the Abhidharma is not Buddha's words?


I think we could if it was in fact specifically abhidhammic teachings that the Thai monks were using to support their ideas, and if they were reading and applying these teachings correctly. Having just read the book, I would say that this is not the case at all. The author (Bernard Faure) mistakenly treats the teaching that "kamma is cetanaa" (on which the Thai monks base their case) as if it were a uniquely abhidhammic doctrine, when in fact it's a core principle of both Sutta and Abhidhamma. As for the monks themselves, from the views that Faure attributes to them it's not at all evident that they have any acquaintance with the Abhidhamma. Faure writes:

"A related type of argument that is used by modern Thai and Sri Lankan monks (see Kent and Jerryson) is more psychological and seems to rely on the Abhidhamma. This argument emphasizes intention and claims that, if the killing is committed with the right state of mind (detachment or compassion), it entails no karmic consequence and therefore can be considered to be a wholesome act." (pp. 214)

But this is in plain contradiction to abhidhammic doctrines.

"...if the killing is committed with the right state of mind (detachment or compassion)..."

According to the Abhidhamma acts of intentional killing always proceed from aversion-rooted cittas. An aversion-rooted citta hardly qualifies as a "right state of mind". Moreover, since the mental factors of compassion (karu.naa) and detachment (alobha) never arise with aversion-rooted cittas, the authors are describing an impossibility.

"...it entails no karmic consequence..."

According to the Abhidhamma only an action that proceeds from the functional cittas of an arahant entails no kammic consequence. Any action proceeding from the kusala and akusala cittas of non-arahants is liable to generate a vipaaka.

"...and therefore can be considered to be a wholesome act..."

According to the Abhidhamma intentional killing can never be considered a wholesome act for it proceeds from an aversion-rooted citta and such cittas are always unwholesome.

Now the Abhidhamma does allow that a series of kusala cittas in which compassion is predominant may trigger a series of akusala cittas that impel a bad action of some kind. This would give us the kind of scenarios conventionally referred to as "doing evil with a good motive". For example stealing bread to feed the starving or having a sick pet euthanized. The point to note with such scenarios is that it is not the prior motive (or in abhidhammic terms, the preceding series of kusala cittas) that determines the moral tone of the action, kusala or akusala, but the akusala cittas that directly produce the action. The kusala prior motive will mitigate the degree of the akusala involved in the theft of the bread or the killing of the pet, but they don't have the power to transform the nature of these kammas from akusala into kusala.

For a detailed discussion of Abhidhamma and killing see Rupert Gethin's article Can Killing a Living Being Ever Be an Act of Compassion? The analysis of the act of killing in the Abhidhamma and Pali Commentaries

http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/geth0401.pdf
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Nyana » Thu May 31, 2012 8:00 am

mikenz66 wrote:Well, yes, there is a tendency to "thingness".

Yes.

mikenz66 wrote:However, I think we agree that the problem is that "thingness" not the Abhidhamma itself (since one can assign "thingness" to the sutta classifications as well). And it's not a universal opinion amongst commentators on the Abhidhamma.

What I'm suggesting is, in part, that "the Abhidhamma" is too broad a category to be very useful, and often what critics of "the Abhidhamma" are criticizing are later commentarial accretions that aren't found in the Abhidhammapiṭaka itself.

mikenz66 wrote:I could add that it is also partly a problem of language. It is actually difficult to discuss the analysis of phenomena in either (sutta or abhidhamma) "paramattha" terms without sounding like one is assigning "thingness" to khandas, cittas, etc.

I would suggest that there are no explicitly "paramattha terms" to be found in either the Suttapiṭaka or the Abhidhammapiṭaka (except for the one instance already mentioned, and one or two others in a late text in the KN). Moreover, both these collections can be read, understood, and appreciated without any recourse to "paramattha terms."
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 31, 2012 8:18 am

Ñāṇa wrote:I would suggest that there are no explicitly "paramattha terms" to be found in either the Suttapiṭaka or the Abhidhammapiṭaka (except for the one instance already mentioned, and one or two others in a late text in the KN). Moreover, both these collections can be read, understood, and appreciated without any recourse to "paramattha terms."

I think we probably agree. These khandhas, cittas, or whatever are ways of analysing experience, not, as Ven Nyanaponika points out, to be taken as "genuine separate entities". However, in discussions of the breaking down the concept of self by analysing experience in terms of khandhas, sense bases, cittas, it would be tedious to qualify every statement with such a disclaimer...

:anjali:
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Nyana » Thu May 31, 2012 10:36 am

mikenz66 wrote:I think we probably agree. These khandhas, cittas, or whatever are ways of analysing experience, not, as Ven Nyanaponika points out, to be taken as "genuine separate entities". However, in discussions of the breaking down the concept of self by analysing experience in terms of khandhas, sense bases, cittas, it would be tedious to qualify every statement with such a disclaimer...

What seems most disconcerting to me is that there's no end to the labyrinth of such analysis.

(A fine contemporary example of this kind of labyrinth has been compiled by David Chalmers and David Bourget here.)

:coffee:

:D
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 31, 2012 8:06 pm

Hi Geoff,

I have no idea why you see analysis using the Buddha's categories as a labyrinth.

:anjali:
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Nyana » Thu May 31, 2012 11:57 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I have no idea why you see analysis using the Buddha's categories as a labyrinth.

Trying to establish distinctions between appearances and reality gives rise to the mental proliferation of perceptions and notions (papañcasaññāsaṅkhā).
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:32 am

Greetings,

Ñāṇa wrote:Trying to establish distinctions between appearances and reality gives rise to the mental proliferation of perceptions and notions (papañcasaññāsaṅkhā).

This is a timely observation given we've just been talking about MN 1 in another topic....

General formula derived from MN 1: Nanamoli wrote:From x he has direct-knowledge of x; having had from x direct-knowledge of x, he ought not to conceive (that to be) x, he ought not to conceive (that to be) in x, he ought not to conceive (that to be apart) from x, he ought not to conceive x to be ‘Mine’, he ought not to relish x. Why is that? He ought to diagnose it fully, I say.

And what is "to diagnose it fully"? To see that we are conscious (vinnana) of nama-rupa (name-and-form) rather than conscious of objective/absolute reality... that what there is consciousness of is nothing substantial... it is nothing worth craving or accumulating, let alone proliferating about.

The details or signs or characteristics, being insubstantial and fabricated, are not to be regarded as important, and are not to be taken as the grounds for mental proliferation of perceptions and notions (papañcasaññāsaṅkhā). Other than nibbana, all dhammas are sankhata-dhamma (formed dhammas)... volitionally formed experience. That being so, what objective/absolute reality could possibly be found in subjectively formed experience?

SN 12.15 wrote:When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one

Yet, in spite of this, we often hear views expressing the non-existence of self ("Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the existence of such a Soul"), views expressing the existence of the physical world ("The outer world is quite real and possesses objective existence"), and teachings advising that "everything comes into existence for a moment and then passes away" and that the "characteristics of reality are personally perceptible, and for this purpose one must proceed with the practice of contemplation". [Note: the origins of all these quotes are searchable via Google, should you wish to see for yourself that these views are not straw-men]

The irony is that by searching for and trying to pin down the objective reality through "breaking down the concept of self by analysing experience in terms of khandhas, sense bases, cittas", one is actually fabricating the subjective, and by doing so, actually preventing the observation of that which is not subjective - i.e. nibbana. Labyrinth indeed! (Out of interest Geoff, is this along the lines of what you were thinking?)

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:10 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I have no idea why you see analysis using the Buddha's categories as a labyrinth.

Trying to establish distinctions between appearances and reality gives rise to the mental proliferation of perceptions and notions (papañcasaññāsaṅkhā).

Well, of course, as I said it is possible for some to create all kinds of straw people and proliferation out of simple discussions of how to apply the Buddha-Vachana to analyse experience...

:anjali:
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Sylvester » Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:57 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I have no idea why you see analysis using the Buddha's categories as a labyrinth.

Trying to establish distinctions between appearances and reality gives rise to the mental proliferation of perceptions and notions (papañcasaññāsaṅkhā).


I'm not sure if I can agree with your translation of the compound "papañcasaññāsaṅkhā".

Ven Thanissaro translates it as "perceptions & categories of objectification".

In the MLDB, it's translated as "perceptions and notions [born of] mental proliferation". This seems to be an equally viable translation, since the key subject nouns are always at the tail of the compound, while the initial noun will take on an adjectival role or the patient role. Ven T uses the patient-agent sense, while MLDB uses the noun-adjectival noun sense.

For your translation to work, the compound should have been saññāsaṅkhāpapañca.

There seems to be nothing wrong per se with papañca, since it seems to afflict all, except Arahants. It is what flows from it, ie papañcasaññāsaṅkhā that is problemmatic. MN 18 suggests -

'Bhikkhu, as to the source through which perceptions and notions [born of] mental proliferation beset a man: if nothing is found there to delight in, welcome, and hold to, this is the end of the underlying tendency to lust, of the underlying tendency to aversion, of the underlying tendency to views, of the underlying tendency to doubt, of the underlying tendency to conceit, of the underlying tendency to desire for being, of the underlying tendency to ignorance; ...


We get a nice statement in MN 11 about the the delighting mentioned in MN 18 -

Any recluses or brahmins who understand as they actually are the origin, the disappearance, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in the case of these two views are without lust, without hate, without delusion, without craving, without clinging, with vision, not given to favoring and opposing, and they do not delight in and enjoy proliferation. They are freed from birth, ageing, and death; from sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair; they are freed from suffering, I say.

Ye ca kho keci bhikkhave samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā imāsaṃ dvinnaṃ diṭṭhīnaṃ samudayañca atthagamañca2 assādañca ādīnavañca nissaraṇañca yathābhūtaṃ pajānanti, te vītarāgā te vītadosā te vītamohā te vītataṇhā te anupādānā te viddasuno te ananuruddhaappaṭiviruddhā te nippapañcārāmā nippapañcaratino te parimuccanti jātiyā jarāya maraṇena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upāyāsehi. Parimuccanti dukkhasmāti vadāmi.


I think the delight and enjoyment criticised in MN 11 is the taking up of the standard 20 self-views (implied by the passage's reference to "these 2 views", which an earlier paragraph explains as "bhavadiṭṭhi ca vibhavadiṭṭhi". I don't think that papañca nor delighting in it has been intended to criticise the hyper-reductivist analysis of the Abhidhamma or the Commentaries.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Nyana » Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:39 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I have no idea why you see analysis using the Buddha's categories as a labyrinth.

Trying to establish distinctions between appearances and reality gives rise to the mental proliferation of perceptions and notions (papañcasaññāsaṅkhā).

Well, of course, as I said it is possible for some to create all kinds of straw people and proliferation out of simple discussions of how to apply the Buddha-Vachana to analyse experience...

Well, I don't think all Buddhist commentary is pragmatic and equally useful.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Nyana » Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:42 am

Sylvester wrote:There seems to be nothing wrong per se with papañca, since it seems to afflict all, except Arahants. It is what flows from it, ie papañcasaññāsaṅkhā that is problemmatic....

I don't think that papañca nor delighting in it has been intended to criticise the hyper-reductivist analysis of the Abhidhamma or the Commentaries.

How about the English term "bullshit" then?... Is there anything wrong with bullshit, as opposed to what flows from it (i.e. more bullshit)?
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby Nyana » Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:53 am

retrofuturist wrote:The irony is that by searching for and trying to pin down the objective reality through "breaking down the concept of self by analysing experience in terms of khandhas, sense bases, cittas", one is actually fabricating the subjective, and by doing so, actually preventing the observation of that which is not subjective - i.e. nibbana. Labyrinth indeed! (Out of interest Geoff, is this along the lines of what you were thinking?)

Yes, pretty much.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 01, 2012 5:18 am

mikenz66 wrote:I have no idea why you see analysis using the Buddha's categories as a labyrinth.

Ñāṇa wrote:Trying to establish distinctions between appearances and reality gives rise to the mental proliferation of perceptions and notions (papañcasaññāsaṅkhā).

mikenz66 wrote:Well, of course, as I said it is possible for some to create all kinds of straw people and proliferation out of simple discussions of how to apply the Buddha-Vachana to analyse experience...

Ñāṇa wrote:Well, I don't think all Buddhist commentary is pragmatic and equally useful.

Of course not. Some ancient and modern commentary I find useful. Some I find obscure and unhelpful.

:anjali:
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Re: What's up with Bhikkhu Bodhi

Postby Son » Thu Jun 28, 2012 2:09 am

appicchato wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:...personally I'm content to let it be and joyful that others allegedly benefit from it.


:thumbsup:


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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby cooran » Thu Jun 28, 2012 4:29 am

Which god?

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby PadmaPhala » Fri Jun 29, 2012 6:18 am

Sutra Pitaka is more... legit than the other pitakas.

Pāli Tripitaka sounds better... as per buddhist hybrid samskrita.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby mogg » Tue Apr 23, 2013 10:33 am

I take a common sense approach to this question. The Buddha's ministry lasted 45 years, he had plenty of time to teach the essentials to his disciples. If a teaching wasn't included in those 45 years then its not important to the path.

I take it on good authority from various Ajahns that the Abhidhamma is a later addition and not the 'word of the Buddha'. Thats good enough for me. There's 17000 odd suttas and only so much time.
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Abhidhamma Origins, Purpose & Limitations

Postby Kumara » Sun Aug 18, 2013 2:39 am

I thought some of you might be interested in this talk:
http://sasanarakkha.org/dhamma_mp3/vene ... ations.mp3
(probably faster downlaod) http://archive.org/download/AbhidhammaO ... ations.mp3
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Aug 29, 2013 8:02 pm

Thanks Kumara,

Bhante Aggacitta visited us here a few years ago. He has an excellent knowledge of Sutta, Abhidhamma, and practice. I really appreciate his practical attitude towards ancient and modern interpretations of the Dhamma.

:anjali:
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Ajahn Buddhadasa on Abhidhamma

Postby flaneur9 » Tue Sep 10, 2013 1:29 pm

would someone care to comment on buddhadasa's opinion of the abhidhama?

In a famous lecture in 1971 Buddhadasa condemned contemporary Abhidhamma studies in Thailand for overemphasizing the sacred and supernatural, for packaging themselves as “consumer goods”, and for leading their supporters into “delusion and addiction”

what's to be made of the following argument?

1. In the only canonical account of the first Buddhist council (Vinaya Cullavagga Ch.12 it is stated that the venerable Upāli recited Vinaya, then the venerable Ānanda recited the five nikāyas (i.e., the Suttantas), after which the council was brought to a close. Abhidhamma is mentioned not at all in the entire account (nor is it mentioned in the canonical account of the second council). The general consensus of Western scholars is that the traditional account of the first council is largely fiction; nevertheless, it does indicate that at the occasion of its composition (presumably some time before the third council) Abhidhamma philosophy was either unknown or considered to be unworthy of mention. Ven. Buddhaghosa in his commentary to the Dīgha Nikāya tried to rectify the omission by simply changing the details of the story, which is a rather unconvincing device. The standard Burmese explanation of the conspicuous absence of Abhidhamma in the oldest ecclesiastical histories is that it is included in the Khuddaka Nikāya of the Suttanta Pltaka, but this assertion receives no support from the ancient texts themselves. (The Burmese also consider Vinaya to be included in the Khuddaka Nikāya, thereby rendering the fifth Nikāya—“The Small Collection” or “Collection of the Small”—very much larger and more comprehensive than the entire remainder of the Canon and reducing the Buddhist scriptures to a single Piṭaka.)

2. The word “abhidhamma” is very seldom found in the Vinaya and Suttanta (according to one authority eleven times), and when it is found it is usually paired with the term “abhivinaya.” Since there is and never was an Abhivinaya Piṭaka the context implies that “abhidhamma” here means simply “about Dhamma,” not “higher Dhamma.” In the very few cases where the term clearly refers to the philosophy of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka it is found in relatively very late canonical exegesis of older texts—for example, the Vinaya Suttavibhaṅga and the Mahāniddesa.

3. Very many of the terms which play integral, central roles in Abhidhamma philosophy (cetasika, citta-vīthi, bhavaṅga, javana, kiriya-citta, rūpakalāpa, etc. etc.) are either entirely lacking in the Sutlanta or are found there rarely and in a radically different context. The elaborate doctrine of citta-vīthi, for example, which is essential to traditional abhidhammic psychology and is taught in even the most elementary of Abhidhamma courses, is entirely foreign to the first two Piṭakas (and, curiously, is mentioned only briefly and obscurely in the third). Abhidhamma philosophy is claimed by orthodox authorities to be the most profound and important part ofthe teachings ofthe Buddha; but there is not a single narrative episode in the Canon, believable or otherwise, which clearly indicates that he ever taught it to anyone; and furthermore, much of the supposed “highest teachings of Buddha” (e.g., the theory of rūpakalāpas) is non-canonical—not even to be found in the Abhidhamma Piṭaka itself.

4. Kathāvatthu, the fifth book of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, deals exclusively with dogmatic controversies with schismatic sects of Buddhism that existed around the time of the third council (i.e., the mid-third century B.C.). Also, it is believed that the compiler of the work was a bhikkhu named Moggaliputtatissa, who according to ven. Buddhaghosa presided over the third council. Some fundamentalism claim that the Buddha, foreseeing the doctrinal disputes and schism: that would arise after his death, laid down the general outline of the Kathāvatthu, and more than two centuries later ven. Moggalīputtatissa merely elaborated upon it. Although this cannot be categorically disproved it is, needless to say, rather unlikely. (Incidentally, considering that one of the main purposes of the third council was to purge the Saṅgha of heretics and champion what one faction, presumably led by ven. Moggalīputtatissa, believed to be Right View, it may be assumed that the Canon was edited and infused with new material favoring the views of the prevailing faction.)

5. Among the many ancient schools of Buddhism there were at least two versions of the Abhidhamma or Abhidharma Piṭaka, one being of the Theravadins, another being of the Sarvastivadins. Both of these versions consist of seven books, but this is almost their only resemblance, and they obviously are not based upon a common precursor. Other sects possessed of an Abhidharma Piṭaka, including the Mahayanists, tended to modify or borrow outright the version of the Sarvastivadins; but many schools, particularly thou which diverged from the Theravada/Sarvastivada lineage prior to around the beginning of the third century B.C., had none. Now it would be absurd to suggest that all of the ancient schools of Buddhism that broke away from the Theravadin line were so foolish as to throw out an entire Piṭaka, which many Theravadins claim is the most profound and most important of the three, that the Sarvastivadins subsequently concocted another one from scratch, and that some of the other schools then adopted the counterfeit in place of the original. lt would be much more reasonable to assume that there simply was no Abhidhamma Piṭaka in the earliest days of Buddhism, the trend for composing such abstract, technical philosophy beginning in the Theravada/Sarvastivada lineage shortly before the occurrence of the schism that divided them. This one point is sufficient to convince most Buddhistic scholars in the West that Abhidhamma philosophy was never taught by the Buddha.
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