This thread seeks to clarify some of the evident misconceptions I have about what exactly is written in the Abhidhamma, what the Abhidhamma argues, and what Nagarjuna was "refuting", if anything, in his establishment of the Madhyamaka narratives.
Ideally, it would not devolve into questions such as a) is the Abhidhamma an authoritative transmission of Buddhavacana? b) is the Abhidhamma a heretical text c) is the Abhidhamma related to the sutta-layer of the teachings, since there is already an extensive thread covering all of these issues (or is there not? It seems to have disappeared).
Earlier in the month I made an apparent boo-boo on this thread when I stated what I had thought was a generally agreed-upon fact vis-a-vis Mahayana-Theravada polemics:
What followed was a bit of disputation of my previously held beliefs (which is always a pleasure), namely that the writings of Nagarjuna are not a refutation or response to Theravada Abhidhammic discourse (I'm still in the process of exploring this idea). If it is true that the conception of Nagarjuna apparently addressing Theravada-specifc Abhidhammic discourse is a widely held misconception, from where/whence originates the misconception that Mahayana Emptiness-teachings are antithetical to the Theravada Abhidhammapitaka?Coemgenu wrote:Similarly the Heart Sutra does not address the Theravada Abhidhamma directly. The Emptiness Doctrine expounded in the sutra, however, contradicts Abhidhammic teachings.
This misconception is probably more limited to myself than any of the teachers I have had in the past, since it is something I moreso inferred than directly was told, or something that came up among fellow uneducated lay practitioners, but it pops up in many areas that could perhaps be catagorized as "questionable Dhamma", that I no-doubt read at an earlier stage in my progress when my discernment was poorer and I had little ability to discriminate appropriately between reputable and unreputable sources of Dhamma.
Take this seemingly (in my opinion) dubious site, called "Nuclear Dhamma" that states:
(if this is not an appropriate site to link to, I apologize, it was only for the purposes of this post, which addresses misconceptions specifically)The Madhyamaka is regarded as a reaction against the development of the Abhidhamma. In the abhidhamma, the understanding of anatman is developed by analysing phenomena into single dhammas, "each with an inherent 'own-nature'". By doing so, the Abhidhamma analysis constituted independent existing 'things', contrary to the Buddha's teachings on the middle way.
Similar information as this was previously, I am pretty sure, on the wikipedia pages for Theravada Buddhism, the Abhidhamma, and on a previous version of Nagarjuna's page, but it has been removed (perhaps rightly), it would seem. I distinctly remember reading an account of this above discourse on wikipedia before but can't find it now.
From an uneducated layman's perspective, namely my own, but I think others share this misconception, it seems, from this (mis)information, that the Abhidhamma argues for a distinct separate external world, and a separate external "Nibbanic world" (using the word "world" metaphorically), that these are "prime dhammas", that are "existent on their own" (sabhāva), irrespective to sentience, perception, etc... which amounts to what is called, in the West, "substance dualism", where one fundamental substance is "existence" and one fundamental substance is "Nibbana", and that there is little commonality between the two.
Although I don't know if it is an "official teaching", my fellow lay Mahayanists, of various levels of education, often believe the Emptiness Doctrine to be a refutation of this substance dualism that transcends the duality between the two that is (allegedly) established by that school called the Hinayana, which is often believed to be the Theravada tradition (although it seems even that is under fire as a probably misconception). The Doctrine of Interpenetration is often also presented as a refutation of the alleged Theravada teaching of "Nibbana-as-an-Absolute-Other" (my phraseology).
Where does this discourse run off-the-tracks from an Abhidhammic/Abhidhammika perspective? What is being said that is incorrectly inferred, or, blatantly fabricated? And from where/whence does this misconception concerning the substance dualism of the samsara-nibbana dichotimy in Theravada come from?