The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Oct 21, 2009 3:58 am

Paññāsikhara wrote: Interesting thing is, we are still doing the same right now. But nowadays, many schools will outright reject the literature of other schools, and hence discussion falls into sectarianism, and worse. "Only this is true, all else is false!"
There are two rejection issues here:

1. Completely rejecting literature of other schools (which clearly has a long history).
2. Completely rejecting literature of one's own school (e.g. Abhidhamma and Commentary), which seems to be a particularly modern idea and is perhaps more prominent in Western Theravada. At least that's my impression. (To be over-simplistic about it: I don't see Chan/Zen Buddhists calling Bodhidharma mixed up the way some people talk about Buddhaghosa...)

Regarding the rejection of literature of other schools, isn't it arguable that for those of us don't have the time for a PhD-level study of these issues it might be more productive for us to practise according to a particular school and not get distracted by trying to figure out all the connections? My attitude is not so much: "I reject all these other schools"; but: "If I tried to seriously study all of the schools there wouldn't be any time left to actually practise..."

Sorry, that's getting a little off topic here.

Mike

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Oct 21, 2009 4:08 am

Hi pt1,
pt1 wrote: [Commenting on DSG]
Having spent a bit of time there, I get a slightly different impression. What's often said is that while there are exceptional people with very clear faculties (little dust in their eyes) that can understand all that needs to be understood just from the suttas, most of us are individuals of blunt faculties who need a lot of explaining and a lot of reminders, and hence we need abhidhamma to clarify things mentioned in the suttas. I can certainly say that this is true in my case.
Yes, good point, I was oversimplifying. I certainly find Abhidhamma/Commentary useful, since the practise I do is heavily based on it (though of course Khun Sujin's students disagree with the interpretations of Abhidhamma/Commentary/Visuddhimagga that the well-known Burmese teachers use...).

Metta
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by retrofuturist » Wed Oct 21, 2009 4:09 am

Greetings Mike,
mikenz66 wrote:Regarding the rejection of literature of other schools, isn't it arguable that for those of us don't have the time for a PhD-level study of these issues it might be more productive for us to practise according to a particular school and not get distracted by trying to figure out all the connections? My attitude is not so much: "I reject all these other schools"; but: "If I tried to seriously study all of the schools there wouldn't be any time left to actually practise..."
There's certainly a balance to be had though, as per recent cautionary tales from...

Doctor Who - http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... =20#p34390" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Chris - http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... =40#p34412" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

It's just as easy to accept the consensus scholarly view on these matters (without having to engage in PhD level study), as it is to accept the intra-tradition consensus view... it's probably more valuable though to consider the respective merits of each.
Sorry, that's getting a little off topic here.
It's not really that off topic. In some sense it points to the heart of the issue and why it's of importance...

Did the Buddha himself teach the Abhidhamma?... How close is it to what he taught?... How important or crucial does that make it to one's pursuit of the Dhammic path? etc.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Oct 21, 2009 4:29 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote: Did the Buddha himself teach the Abhidhamma?... How close is it to what he taught?... How important or crucial does that make it to one's pursuit of the Dhammic path? etc.
These are three very different questions. The way you've expressed the third one is rather restrictive (though I guess it fits in with the title of the thread). I would rather decouple it from "authenticity" and phrase it as:
"How useful is Abhidhamma in one's pursuit of the Path?"
and we might well ask:
"How useful are the Commentaries?"

As I said, it's interesting that I don't notice Mayahana schools outright dismissing their post-Buddha's-lifetime literature (of course they do argue about it...). Is that because the authors were mostly people with actual names (such as Nagarjuna or Bodhidharma) rather than just "The Ancients"?

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by BudSas » Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:01 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote: Did the Buddha himself teach the Abhidhamma?... How close is it to what he taught?... How important or crucial does that make it to one's pursuit of the Dhammic path? etc.
These are three very different questions. The way you've expressed the third one is rather restrictive (though I guess it fits in with the title of the thread). I would rather decouple it from "authenticity" and phrase it as:
"How useful is Abhidhamma in one's pursuit of the Path?"
and we might well ask:
"How useful are the Commentaries?"
Just a humble thought:

- Instead of making sweeping statements on the Abhidhamma or the Commentaries, perhaps it's more beneficial if we could be more specific: which part(s) of the Abhidhamma Pitaka (section/chapter/book) do you think are authentic or not authentic, useful or not useful?

Actually, I wonder how many of us actually read the Abhidhamma Pitaka?
(For me, I only know Abhidhamma from the English translation of the Abhidhamatthasangha and the Visuddhimagga, and some Abhidhamma textbooks written by contemporary teachers. )
As I said, it's interesting that I don't notice Mayahana schools outright dismissing their post-Buddha's-lifetime literature (of course they do argue about it...). Is that because the authors were mostly people with actual names (such as Nagarjuna or Bodhidharma) rather than just "The Ancients"?
Don't know if it's relevant here: in the 4th cencury CE, Ven Dao'an (Tao An), the famous Chinese scholar monk, raised questions on the authenticity of some translated Buddhist scriptures, and he made a catalog in which he reserved a class of texts which he named as of doubtful origin.

BDS

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by cooran » Wed Oct 21, 2009 6:36 pm

Budsas said: Actually, I wonder how many of us actually read the Abhidhamma Pitaka?
Very good point.

metta
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by retrofuturist » Wed Oct 21, 2009 9:46 pm

Greetings,

Well if this is current, then anyone whose only language is English will not have read the Abhidhamma Pitaka.

From "Abhidhamma Pitaka - The Basket of Abhidhamma" (Access to Insight) http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/abhi/index.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
The seven books

The Abhidhamma Pitaka is divided into seven books, although it is the first (Dhammasangani) and last (Patthana) that together lay out the essence of Abhidhamma philosophy. The seven books are:

I. Dhammasangani ("Enumeration of Phenomena").
This book enumerates all the paramattha dhamma (ultimate realities) to be found in the world. According to one such enumeration these amount to:
52 cetasikas (mental factors), which, arising together in various combination, give rise to any one of...
...89 different possible cittas (states of consciousness)
4 primary physical elements, and 23 physical phenomena derived from them
Nibbana
English translations:
Buddhist Psychological Ethics, translated from the Pali by C.A.F. Rhys Davids (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1900).

II. Vibhanga ("The Book of Treatises").
This book continues the analysis of the Dhammasangani, here in the form of a catechism.
English translations:
The Book of Analysis, translated from the Pali by Ven. U Thittila (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1969).

III. Dhatukatha ("Discussion with Reference to the Elements").
A reiteration of the foregoing, in the form of questions and answers.
English translations:
Discourse on Elements, translated from the Pali by Ven. U Narada (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1962).

IV. Puggalapaññatti ("Description of Individuals").
Somewhat out of place in the Abhidhamma Pitaka, this book contains descriptions of a number of personality-types.
English translations:
A Designation of Human Types, translated from the Pali by B.C. Law (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1922).

V. Kathavatthu ("Points of Controversy").
Another odd inclusion in the Abhidhamma, this book contains questions and answers that were compiled by Moggaliputta Tissa in the 3rd century BCE, in order to help clarify points of controversy that existed between the various "Hinayana" schools of Buddhism at the time.
English translations:
Points of Controversy, translated from the Pali by S.Z. Aung and C.A.F. Rhys Davids (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1915).

VI. Yamaka ("The Book of Pairs").
This book is a logical analysis of many concepts presented in the earlier books. In the words of Mrs. Rhys Davids, an eminent 20th century Pali scholar, the ten chapters of the Yamaka amount to little more than "ten valleys of dry bones."
English translations:
None.

VII. Patthana ("The Book of Relations").
This book, by far the longest single volume in the Tipitaka (over 6,000 pages in the Siamese edition), describes the 24 paccayas, or laws of conditionality, through which the dhammas interact. These laws, when applied in every possible permutation with the dhammas described in the Dhammasangani, give rise to all knowable experience.
English translations:
Conditional Relations (vol I), translated from the Pali by Ven. U Narada (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1969). Part I of the Tika-patthana section of the Patthana.
Conditional Relations (vol II), translated from the Pali by Ven. U Narada (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1981). Part II of the Tika-patthana section of the Patthana.
A Guide to Conditional Relations, translated from the Pali by Ven. U Narada (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1978). An introduction and guide to the first 12 pages (!) of the Patthana.
Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by DNS » Wed Oct 21, 2009 10:12 pm

BudSas wrote: Actually, I wonder how many of us actually read the Abhidhamma Pitaka?
:hello:

I have! And I like it too. The style is certainly not the same as the Suttas, but still seems to have some valuable information for analyzing and breaking down phenomena.

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by DNS » Wed Oct 21, 2009 10:14 pm

retrofuturist wrote: Well if this is current, then anyone whose only language is English will not have read the Abhidhamma Pitaka.
I assume you mean in full? All books have been translated by PTS, except the Yamaka. And as you noted above, Mrs. Rhys Davids calls it the "ten valleys of dry bones." Also, I have heard that the Yamaka is almost entirely repetition of some of the material in the other books.

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by retrofuturist » Wed Oct 21, 2009 10:29 pm

Greetings TheDhamma,
TheDhamma wrote:I have! And I like it too. The style is certainly not the same as the Suttas, but still seems to have some valuable information for analyzing and breaking down phenomena.
Setting aside the findings of scholars and such for now, has your personal reading of a decent amount of the Abhidhamma Pitaka provided you with any clues, insight, pointers, information etc. which may be relevant to the discussion?

I assume that was the relevance of Budsas' question of "I wonder how many of us actually read the Abhidhamma Pitaka?" to the discussion, since reading something does not change its origins or 'authenticity'. Reading something may give insights as to the 'efficacy' of the teachings, but that is an entirely different debate.

Metta,
Retro. :)

P.S. Yes, I did mean the entire thing, 'cover to cover' earlier when I provided the information on English translations.
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Oct 21, 2009 10:42 pm

TheDhamma wrote:
BudSas wrote: Actually, I wonder how many of us actually read the Abhidhamma Pitaka?
I have! And I like it too. The style is certainly not the same as the Suttas, but still seems to have some valuable information for analyzing and breaking down phenomena.
I occasionally browse it (we have almost the entire Tipitika in English and Thai at my local Wat). It is rather dense, but there is some interesting analysis of causation.

Of course, as has been pointed out elsewhere, most of us have only really studied relatively late commentarial works, such as the Visuddhimagga (400 CE) and the Abhidhamatthasangha, which is 500 or so years later. Or modern exposition such as by Nina van Gorkom or others. This can lead to confusion about what is actually in the Canon.

The really serious hole in translation into English is the Canonical Commentaries (on both Sutta and Abhidhamma). Those of us not fluent in Pali only have access to selected commentaries (e.g. of the Satipatthana Sutta, The Great Discourse on Causation (DN 15), etc, and generally rely on translators to provide footnotes of key passages, and the summaries in the Visuddhimagga.

This is a little off topic but I bring this up here because it's the same issue: it's hard to evaluate what one has not actually read.

Metta
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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by DNS » Wed Oct 21, 2009 10:49 pm

retrofuturist wrote: Setting aside the findings of scholars and such for now, has your personal reading of a decent amount of the Abhidhamma Pitaka provided you with any clues, insight, pointers, information etc. which may be relevant to the discussion? I assume that was the relevance of Budsas' question of "I wonder how many of us actually read the Abhidhamma Pitaka?" to the discussion, since reading something does not change its origins or 'authenticity'.
The style is certainly different from what is found in the other two pitakas, but then again the Vinaya is pretty different from the other two as well, except for perhaps the biographical stories in the Vinaya which is comparable to the Suttas.

The Abhidhamma appears to stand a little more on its own in relation to the other two, but there are some similarities with some of the analysis in the Anguttara Nikaya and especially the discourses on Dependent Origination and causation in the Samyutta Nikaya.

I find it helpful in regard to the analysis and causation, but sometimes wonder if it is needed for liberation -- not that I am anywhere near there, heavens no! But some of it appears to be analysis beyond the need, but for those with that type of inclination, it could be beneficial and the Buddha did teach in skillful means to different temperaments. And actually that is discussed in the Abhidhamma too -- the different personality and temperament types.

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by pt1 » Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:49 am

I'd just like to share that it's a bit easier to read the abhidhamma books in conjunction with their respective commentaries - both the dhammasangani commentary (Atthasalini - Expositor) and vibhanga commentary (Sammohavinodani - Dispeller of delusion) are available in English from PTS. With the commentary to other 5 books (Pañcappakarana), it's a bit harder, but there are bits and pieces of it translated by different authors (notably U Narada). If you happen to live in a big city, usually the biggest library will have some or all the books from PTS (excluding Yamaka as mentioned), so it's not that hard to find them. And of course there's more and more info online (I already mentioned Chew's blog - there are English translations of several sections of Yamaka there now, aside from the lectures and other interesting stuff).

In terms of the relevance of abhidhamma, I remember one of RobertK's posts where he says something to the effect that all the modern vipassana techniques are basically abhidhamma rehashed. I really liked that, because the more I learn about abdhidhamma the more that seems true. Actually, there's a commentarial explanation that says that abhidhamma is most useful for establishing the right view - and this seems very true, especially in terms of understanding the three marks and conditionality (I can't remember now what the other two pitakas are most useful for - I think suttas were for samadhi and vinaya for sila, though of course, each pitaka addresses all these issues in its own way).

Best wishes

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by BudSas » Sun Oct 25, 2009 10:07 pm

TheDhamma wrote:
BudSas wrote: Actually, I wonder how many of us actually read the Abhidhamma Pitaka?
:hello:

I have! And I like it too. The style is certainly not the same as the Suttas, but still seems to have some valuable information for analyzing and breaking down phenomena.
Let pick the odd one out first: How do you think of the Katthavathu of the Abhidhamma Pitaka? Do you think it's "authentic"? Do you think its contents reflecting the Abhidhamma? Do you think the explanation by Ven Buddhaghosa in the Atthasalini's Introduction on the origin of the Katthavathu credible? (that it was revealed by Ven Moggaliputta Tissa from his deep meditation ...)

To me, in my hunble opinion, that book should be treated as one of those post-canonical texts (such as the Milindapanha, the Visuddhimagga, etc.), and I'm not convinced that it should be included in the Abhidhamma Pitaka.

BDS

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Re: The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate

Post by DNS » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:33 pm

BudSas wrote: Let pick the odd one out first: How do you think of the Katthavathu of the Abhidhamma Pitaka? Do you think it's "authentic"? Do you think its contents reflecting the Abhidhamma? Do you think the explanation by Ven Buddhaghosa in the Atthasalini's Introduction on the origin of the Katthavathu credible? (that it was revealed by Ven Moggaliputta Tissa from his deep meditation ...)
To me, in my hunble opinion, that book should be treated as one of those post-canonical texts (such as the Milindapanha, the Visuddhimagga, etc.), and I'm not convinced that it should be included in the Abhidhamma Pitaka.
Hi BDS,

In my opinion, I agree with you, that the Katthavathu is post-Canonical. But perhaps the entire Abhidhamma is post Canonical, much like the Commentaries. It does not appear to have been recited at the First or Second Council, but it could still be some worthy and beneficial material, in the same way that the Visuddhimagga is.
Do you think the explanation by Ven Buddhaghosa in the Atthasalini's Introduction on the origin of the Katthavathu credible?
(My opinion, again) No, to me it seems to be a clear example of defining what is and is not Buddhism (known then as, Dhamma, Vibhajjavada).

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