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Early Buddhist Philosophy (Abhidharma / Abhidhamma)

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Early Buddhist Philosophy (Abhidharma/Abhidhamma) by Tadeusz Skorupski



Introduction

During the centuries after the Buddha's demise, the activities of the Sangha in India are sparsely documented. It is, however, evident that the Buddha's followers made efforts to gather and systematize his teaching. The efforts to gather his teaching resulted in due course in the collection of the Vinaya and Sutra Pitakas. The efforts to systematize

his teachings induced controversies, and resulted in the fragmentation of the Sangha into schools, and the composition of sectarian Abhidharma texts. Generally, the Tripitaka (Vinaya, Sutra, Abhidharma) is treated as the Buddha Word. However, particularly in the case of the Abhidharma texts, historical and textual studies indicate that their

crystallization into the Abhidharma Pitaka took several centuries after the Buddha. Conventionally, the Abhidharma is said to provide a systematization of the Dharma taught by the Buddha, but in effect it offers more than that. As such the term Abhidharma encompasses a body of literature and doctrine. In terms of literature, the roots of the

Abhidharma Pitaka are often traced to mnemonic lists called matrka in Sanskrit, and matika in Pali. Basic lists are already present in the Sutra Pitaka, for instance, in the Sangiti and Dasuttara suttas of the Dighanikaya. Starting with such lists, Buddhist masters produced more lists, which they grouped and collated to form the foundation of

Buddhist doctrine and practice. The phases that culminated in the compilation of the mature Abhidharma Pitakas, as we have them, remain enigmatic. In terms of doctrine, the Abhidharma does not represent a mere systematization of the Buddha's legacy. In addition to safeguarding his teaching, the Abhidharma casts new horizons for classifying and

analyzing the phenomena of existence. One of its seminal aspects is its focus on taxonomy of the entire spectrum of existence in terms of the ultimate realities called dharmas (factors, phenomena). The dharmas are differentiated into conditioned and unconditioned, and correlated with the threefold stratification of the cosmos. The conditioned dharmas

are analyzed in terms of their ethical and other qualities, and arranged into taxonomic groups. A clear distinction is made between dharmas that perpetuate existence or suffering, and dharmas that are conducive to the soteriological progress and attainment of the unconditioned state, nirvana. The Abhidharma adepts also produced innovative

theories and pragmatic stages of the path leading to emancipation. Thus the Abhidharma adepts formulated an innovative scenario of Buddhist doctrines, which they placed under the Buddha's authority, and at the same time proclaimed them as the ultimate teaching.


Extant Abhidharma Pitakas

The technical term abhidharma is a propositional compound composed of abhi and dharma, which the relevant sources endow with two principal meanings: (1) pertaining to or with regard to (abhi) the doctrine (dharma); (2) the highest or advanced (abhi) doctrine (dharma). While the first etymology is favored by the

Sarvastivada school, the Theravada tradition endorses the second interpretation. Taken together, these two interpretations clearly indicate that the term abhidharma is styled as a systematized and definitive exposition of the Dharma that is articulated in a variety of ways in the discourses of the Buddha and his immediate disciples. In the introductory

verses of his Abhidharmakosa, Vasubandhu makes a distinction between the abhidharma that is stainless wisdom {anasrava prajha), and the abhidharma as treatises {sastra) that are a repository of wisdom that aids to obtain the stainless wisdom. He credits the Buddha with teaching the ultimate Abhidharma, and treats the treatises of the Abhidharma Pitaka

as human products. It is impossible to determine whether all of the early schools had their own Abhidharma Pitaka, but certain sources indicate the existence of Abhidharma texts of several, some say seven, different schools. Unfortunately, only three complete collections of the Abhidharma Pitaka are extant: Theravada, Sarvastivada, and one attributed to the Dharmaguptakas. This entry mainly covers the Theravada and Sarvastivada Abhidharma Pitakas, and to a lesser extent the Dharmaguptaka Abhidharma treatise {sastra).


Theravada Abhidhamma Pitaka

According to the relevant sources, the Theravada Tipi taka was committed to writing in the second half of the 1st century BCE. What was actually recorded is not fully attested until the 5th century CE, the time when Buddhaghosa composed his commentaries. The Theravada Abhidhamma Pitaka comprises seven books or treatises, and survives in its original

Indian vernacular, Pali. This tradition ascribes the Abhidhamma Pitaka to the Buddha himself, both in terms of its historical origin and literary form. According to Buddhaghosa, the sequential order of the seven Abhidhamma books is as follows: Dhammasahgani, Vibhahga, Dhatukatha, Puggalapahhatti, Kathavatthu, Yamaka, and Patthana. The Pali texts of the

seven Abhidhamma books have been edited and published by the Pali Text Society. Five out of these seven Abhidhamma books have been translated into English and published by the Pali Text Society. Dhammasahgani is translated in Rhys Davids 1993, Vibhahga in Thittila 1988, Dhatukatha in Narada 1995, Puggallapahhatti in Law 1992, and Kathavatthu in Aung

and Davids 1993. Only the initial part of the massive Patthana is translated in Narada 1969-1981. The Yamaka remains untranslated, but there exist summaries, one of which is included in Lang 1996.


Aung, S. Z., and Caroline A. F. Rhys Davids, trans. Kathavatthu'. Points of Controversy. London: Pali Text Society, 1993.


This treatise is ascribed to Moggaliputta Tissa, who disclosed it at the conclusion of the council held at Pataliputta in the 3rd century BCE. It refutes some 250 doctrinal controversies. It defends the orthodox position held by the Fraternity of Elders {sthaviranikaya). It presumes the existence of the Dhammasahgani and Vibhahgha as authorities for resolving doctrinal controversies. First edition 1915.

Law, B. C., trans. Puggallapahhatti'. Designation of Human Types. London: Pali Text Society, 1992.

This text presents categories of persons {puggala), grouping them in sets from ones to tens. The term puggala does not denote any real entity, but is a mere concept {pahhatti) without any reality. As this text is tangibly derived from the sutta collection, some scholars think that it may appertain to the earliest Abhidhamma materials. First edition 1924.


Narada, U., trans. Patthana: Conditional Relations. 2 vols. London: Pali Text Society, 1969-1981.

This text, partially translated by U Narada, is the longest text included in this group of seven books. It is concerned with the twenty-four conditions that govern the interactions of all conditioned phenomena. Its aim is to demonstrate how the causes and their results or fruits are interrelated. Basically it deals with the phenomena classified in the Dhammasahgani with reference to the twenty-four conditions.


Narada, U., trans. Dhatukatha'. Discourse on Elements. London: Pali Text Society, 1995.

This text in fourteen chapters establishes the correlation between specific phenomena (dhamma) and the five aggregates, twelve sense-bases, and eighteen elements. The aim is to eliminate erroneous conceptualizations about one’s personal ego (alia). To that extent it treats the phenomena that appertain to the preceding three classifications, which do not stand for or nourish the self (qnatta). First edition 1962.

Rhys Davids, Caroline A. F., trans. Dhammasahgani: Buddhist Psychological Ethics. London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1993.

This text contains a detailed classification of mental and physical phenomena of existence. The largest portion of this text is concerned with the classification of consciousness and mental concomitants in terms of their ethical qualities, and in relation to the threefold stratification of the Buddhist world. First edition 1900. Thittila, U., trans. Vibhahga: The Book of Analysis. London: Pali Text Society, 1988.


This text is comprised of eighteen chapters, which individually deal with specific topics, including the five aggregates, the four noble truths, dependent origination, four foundations of mindfulness, and types of knowledge. The analysis of the treated subjects is given on the pattern of the methods of the discourses (suttd), Abhidhamma, and catechistic formulations. First edition 1969.


Sarvastivada Abhidharma Pitaka

The Sarvastivada Abhidharma Pitaka also consists of seven books, which were compiled by the Sarvastivada Vaibhasikas in Kashmir around the 2nd century CE. This Pitaka does not survive in its original Indian language, but exists only in its Chinese version executed in the 7th century. The Sarvastivada Vaibhasikas admit that named masters compiled the

seven Abhidharma books. However, at the same time they claim that ultimately the Abhidharma Pitaka stems from the Buddha himself, but some schools, notably the Sautrantikas, reject their claim. In this set of the seven Abhidharma books, the Jhanaprasthana is styled as the body, and the remaining six books are portrayed as the feet, or auxiliaries:

Prakaranapada, Vijnanakaya, Dharmaskandha, Prajhaptisastra, Dhatukdya, Sahgltiparyaya. Out of the seven Sarvastivada Abhidharma books preserved in Chinese versions, six books are complete and one book is incomplete. The Chinese version of the Prajhapti is incomplete, but its complete version is extant in a Tibetan translation. In terms of translations into Western languages, only the Sahgltiparyaya has been translated into German in Stache-Rosen 1968.


Dharmaskandha. In Taisho Shinshu Daizbkyb. Edited by Junjiro Takakusu, Kaigyoku Watanabe, and Genmyo Ono. 100 vols. Tokyo: Daizo Shuppan Kabushiki Kaisha, 1924-1934, No 1537. This text (Aggregation of Dharmas) is attributed to either Sariputra or Mahamaudgalyavana. It treats the thirty-seven factors conducive to enlightenment (bodhipakyika-dharmd),

and unveils one of the earliest systematizations of the path. It also inaugurates a distinction between the path of vision (darsana-marga) and the path of meditative cultivation (bhavana-marga), which stand at the heart of the Sarvastivada portrayal of the path.


Dhatukaya. In Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo. Edited by Junjiro Takakusu, Kaigyoku Watanabe, and Genmyo Ono. 100 vols. Tokyo: Daizo Shuppan Kabushiki Kaisha, 1924-1934, No 1540. This text (Collection of Elements) is attributed to either Purna or Vasumitra. It is a collection of classificatory schemes for grouping mental states. The first part provides a

scheme of ninety-one categories of mind (citta) and its concomitants (cailla), redistributed into fourteen groups. The second part ascertains the correlation between the mental states included in these groups.


Jhanaprasthana. In Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo. Edited by Junjiro Takakusu, Kaigyoku Watanabe, and Genmyo Ono. 100 vols. Tokyo: Daizo Shuppan Kabushiki Kaisha, 1924-1934, No 1544. This text (Foundations of Knowledge) is attributed to KatyayanTputra. It contains an ordered and mature exposition of the Sarvastivada doctrine and practice. It consists of

eight sections, which include expositions of defilements, knowledge, karma, absorptions, and intuitive vision. Essentially, these eight sections reflect the Sarvastivada soteriological schema. This text also establishes a set of six causes (hetu), not found in the earlier texts.


Prajhaptisastra. In Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo. Edited by Junjiro Takakusu, Kaigyoku Watanabe, and Genmyo Ono. 100 vols. Tokyo: Daizo Shuppan Kabushiki Kaisha, 1924-1934, No 1538 This text (Designations) is attributed to Maudgalyayana. It consists of three parts. Part one treats the speculations about the origins of the world. Part two ascertains the

causal conditions that govern the course of the Bodhisattva’s career. Part three provides a general exposition of the theory of ethical causes and their effects. Its complete Tibetan version is in Derge Tanjur: Tohoku Catalogue 4086, 4087, and 4088.


Prakaranapada. In Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo. Edited by Junjiro Takakusu, Kaigyoku Watanabe, and Genmyo Ono. 100 vols. Tokyo: Daizo Shuppan Kabushiki Kaisha, 1924-1934, No 1542. This text (Exposition) is attributed to Vasumitra. It consolidates the Sarvastivada fivefold classification of all phenomena into matter or form (riipa), mind (citta), mental concomitants (cailla), phenomena dissociated from the mind (cittaviprayukta), and unconditioned phenomena (asamskrta). The Sautrantikas and Mahayana schools accept this classification. It is considered to constitute the final scheme of the Sarvastivada doctrinal systematizations.


Stache-Rosen, Valentina, trans. Sahgitiparyaya: Das Samgltisutra und sein Kommentar Samgitiparyaya. 2 vols. Dogmatische Begriffsreihen im alteren Buddhismus 2. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1968.


Depending on the source, this text (Discourse on Concordance) is attributed either to Mahakausthila or to Sariputra. It is a commentary on the Sahgiti-sutra, and comprises a series of dharma lists, systematically arranged from ones to tens. It is in ten sections that cover some two hundred dharma groups. Some scholars consider it as one of the oldest among Abhidharma texts. The Chinese translation is in Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo No 1536.


Vijnanakaya. In Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo. Edited by Junjiro Takakusu, Kaigyoku Watanabe, and Genmyo Ono. 100 vols. Tokyo: Daizo Shuppan Kabushiki Kaisha, 1924-1934, No 1539. This text (Collection on Consciousness) is attributed to Devasarman. The initial section provides a sustained proof of the primary Sarvastivada tenet that all phenomena exist (sarva-asli) in the past, present, and future. The second section focuses on the refutation of the erroneous belief in a person. The next sections deal with different types of causes and conditions, and some other doctrines.


Dharmaguptaka Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra

The precise authorship of this treatise is not determined, but the dominant opinion among Buddhist scholars is that it probably originated in the Dharmaguptaka school. This treatise is preserved only in its Chinese translation executed at the beginning of the 5th century. According to Bareau 1950, it is a massive composition that provides a

complete exposition of the abhidharma doctrine. Yoshimoto 1996 provides a summary of this treatise. Matsuda 2002 identifies three Sanskrit fragments that exhibit parallels with the Chinese translation of this treatise. Bareau 1950 analyzes the doctrinal position of this treatise in an attempt to establish its sectarian affiliation. Bareau, Andre. “Les Origines du Sdriputrabhidliarmasdstra.” Le Museon 63.1-4 (1950): 69-95.


Bareau attempts to identify the school that may have produced the Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra. To that extent, he compares and contrasts the doctrinal tenets of this treatise with the doctrines held by the major schools of early Buddhism. He progressively eliminates the schools with which the Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra is in disagreement, and concludes that this treatise most likely originated in the Dharmaguptaka school.


Matsuda, Kazunobu. “Three Fragments Related to the Sariputra-Abhidharma.” In Buddhist Manuscripts. Vol. 2. Edited by Jens Braarvig, 239-248. Manuscripts in the Scheyen Collection 3. Oslo, Norway: Hermes, 2002.


In this study Matsuda edits and discusses three Sanskrit fragments, which suggestively approximate to a passage of the Chinese translation of the Sariputra Abhidharma. A modified version of this study with images of the manuscript fragments is included in Traces of Gandhara Buddhism: An Exhibition of Ancient Buddhist Manuscripts in the Scli0yen Collection, by Jens Braarvig and Fredrik Liland. Oslo, Norway: Hermes Publishing, 2010 (pages 46-49).

Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra. In Taisho Shinshu. Daizokyo. Edited by Junjiro Takakusu, Kaigyoku Watanabe, and Genmyo Ono. 100 vols. Tokyo: Daizo Shuppan Kabushiki Kaisha, 1924-1934, No 1548.

This treatise in thirty fascicles (chiian) was translated into Chinese at the beginning of the 5th century.

Yoshimoto, Shingyo. “Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra.” In Abhidharma Buddhism to 150 A.D. Edited by Karl H. Potter. With Robert E. Buswell Jr., Padmanabh S. Jaini, and Noble Ross Reat, 317-325. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 7. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.

Yoshimoto’s summary sketches the primary topics of this treatise. Yoshimoto also provides a reference to Baivu Watanabe’s Japanese translation of this treatise from the Chinese.


Synoptic Guides to the Abhidharma Pitaka

The publications listed in this section are intended to facilitate intellectual inroads into the content and structure of the seven Abhidharma books of the Theravada and Sarvastivada Abhidharma Pitakas. Norman 1983 and Hiniiber 1996 sketch the structure and broad content of the Theravada Abhidharma books. Narada 1979 and Narada 1986 offer a

limited and yet substantial guide to the Patthana. Nyanatiloka 2007 provides a detailed guide to the Theravada Abhidharma Pitaka. Takakusu 1904- 1905 sketches the content of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma treatises. Buswell and Lopez 2013 contains excellent entries on the individual texts of the Theravada and Sarvastivada Pitakas. Potter 1996 contains substantial summaries of all of the extant Abhidharma treatises.


Buswell, Robert E., Jr., and Donald S. Lopez Jr. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2013.

This dictionary includes one entry on the Abhidharma Pitaka, and analytic entries on each of the seven Abhidharma works of the Sarvastivada and Theravada Abhidharma Pitakas.

Hiniiber, Oskar von. A Handbook of Pali Literature. Indian Philology and South Asian Studies 2. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1996.

This book offers a comprehensive overview of the Theravada literary heritage. It covers editions and translations of the canonical and post-canonical works, as well as commentaries and sub-commentaries. It also discusses the history of scholarship of Theravada literature.

Narada, U. Guide to Conditional Relations (Patthana). Part 1. London: Pali Text Society, 1979.

Provides a guide to pages 1-12 of the Patthana.

Narada, U. Guide to Conditional Relations (Patthana). Part 2. Rangoon, Burma: Religious Affairs Department Press, 1986.

Provides a guide to pages 13-141 of the Patthana. In some editions the Patthana text extends over 2,500 pages.

Norman, Kenneth Roy. Pali Literature: Including the Canonical Literature in Prakrit and Sanskrit of All the Hinaydna Schools of Buddhism. Wiesbaden, Germany: Otto Harrassowitz, 1983.

This book provides a competent and authoritative treatment of the Theravada Tipi taka, commentaries, and later literature. The seven Abhidhamma treatises are discussed in terms of their structure and general content (pages 96-107).

Nyanatiloka, Mahathera. Guide through the Abhidhamma Pitaka: A Synopsis of the Philosophical Collection of the Buddhist Pali Canon. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 2007.


This guide provides summaries of the seven Abhidhamma books of the Theravada tradition. The initial section provides a translation and an explanation of the matika list, which is included at the beginning of the Dhammasahgani. This list or matrix serves as the primary framework for the classification and analysis of all phenomena. Potter, Karl H., ed. Abhidharma Buddhism to 150 AD. With Robert E. Buswell Jr., Padmanabh S. Jaini, and Noble Ross Reat. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 7. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.


This volume includes summaries of the seven Abhidharma works of the Theravada and Sarvastivada Abhidharma Pitakas. Takakusu, Junjiro. “On the Abhidharma Literature of the Sarvastivadins.” Journal of the Pali Text Society 5 (1904-1905): 67-146. The bulk of this paper provides an analytic description of the seven Abhidharma treatises of the Sarvastivada school. Essentially, it presents the content of each book in a somewhat tabulated but informative manner.


Theravada Commentaries

The Theravada tradition attributes to Buddhaghosa the composition of three commentaries (atthakathd) on the seven books of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. He compiled single commentaries on the Dhammasahgani and the Vibhahga, which he respectively named AithasalinT and Sammohavinodani. In the case of his commentaries upon the remaining five Abhidhamma books, he placed them together under the title of Pahcappakaranatthakatha. Three commentaries are available in English translations: Atthasalinl translated in Tin 1999, Sammohavinodani in Nanamoli 1987-1991, and the commentary on the Kathavatthu in Law 1940. Bus well and Lopez 2013 contains entries on Buddhghosa’s commentaries. Goonesekere 1967 discusses the history and categories of the Pali commentaries. Norman 1983 treats the development and scope of the Pali commentaries.


Buswell, Robert E., Jr., and Donald S. Lopez Jr. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2013. This dictionary contains instructive entries on the Pali commentaries.


Goonesekere, Lakshmi R. Buddhist Commentarial Literature. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1967. This booklet sketches the history and character of the commentaries on the Pali Tipitaka. In the initial sections, the author discusses the way in which the term commentary

(atthakathd) is understood in Sri Lanka. Next she discusses the early Sinhala and Dravidian commentaries, and then the commentaries produced by Buddhaghosa, Dhammapala, and other important commentators.


Law, B. C., trans. Kathavatthuppakarana'. The Debates Commentary. Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1940.


This is Buddhaghosa’s commentary on the Kathavatthu. It is an indispensable source for clarifying many shady and knotty passages in the Kathavattu. It also identifies the names of the schools that upheld controversial theories and contentions.


Nanamoli, Bhikkhu, trans. Sammohavinodani’. The Dispeller of Delusion. Revised by Lance Cousins, Nyanaponika Mahathera, and C. M. M. Shaw. 2 vols. Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1987-1991.


This is Buddhaghosa’s commentary on the Vibhahgha. It is divided into eighteen chapters, starting with an exposition of the five aggregates. Other topics treated in this text include meditation, the path, and rules of training. In this treatise Buddhaghosa provides a comprehensive exposition of the doctrine of dependent origination; perhaps the most detailed account of this doctrine in the Abhidhamma works. Volume one published 1987; volume two published 1991.


Norman, Kenneth Roy. Pali Literature: Including the Canonical Literature in Prakrit and Sanskrit of All the Hinayana Schools of Buddhism. Wiesbaden, Germany: Otto Harrassowitz, 1983.


Buddhaghosa’s commentaries on the seven Abhidhamma books are critically evaluated on pages 122-125.

Tin, Pe Maung, trans. Atthasahnv. The Expositor. 2 vols. Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1999.


This is Buddhaghosa’s commentary on the Dhammasahgani. In the initial sections, Buddhaghosa upholds a vigorous defense of the Theravada claim that the seven Abhidhamma treatises were spoken by the Buddha himself, and then handed down to Sariputta, and inherited by an unbroken succession of Abhidhamma masters. The third chapter of this commentary contains a comprehensive treatment of karma. First editions 1920, 1921.


Sarvastivada Commentaries

The Sarvastivada masters did not produce a set of commentaries on their Abhidharma Pitaka texts. Instead they composed three compendia of which the {Abhidharma-) Mahavibhasa is the largest and most important. This text was compiled in Kashmir, and survives only in its Chinese version. It is purported to be a commentary on the primary treatise of the

Abhidharma Pitaka, the Jhdnaprasthana composed by KatyayanTputra. Ichimura 1996 contains a summary of the Mahavibhasa, and Buswell and Lopez 2013 sketches its structure. Translations of selected topics treated in the Mahavibhasa are contained in La Vallee Poussin 1930, La Vallee Poussin 1931— 1932, La Vallee Poussin 1936-1937, and Rahder 1931-1932.


Buswell, Robert E., Jr., and Donald S. Lopez Jr. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2013.

This dictionary offers an insightful overview of the history and structure of the Mahavibhasa. Look under the heading of Abhidharmamahavibhasa.

Ichimura, Shohei. “Mahavibhasa.” In Abhidharma Buddhism to 150 AD. Edited by Karl H. Potter. With Robert E. Buswell Jr., Padmanath S. Jaini, and Noble Ross Reat. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 7. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.


This summary provides a fairly detailed digest of the major topics treated in the Mahavibhasa', pages 511-568.

La Vallee Poussin, Louis de. “Documents d’Abhidharma: Textes relatifs au nirvana et aux asamskrtas en general.” Bulletin de VEcole Frangaise d’Extreme- Orient 30 (1930): 1-28, 247-298.


The exposition of the nature of nirvana, and of the unconditioned dharmas, largely consists of translations from the Mahavibhasa, and from Sarighabhadra’s Nyayannsara.

La Vallee Poussin, Louis de. “Documents d’Abhidharma: La doctrine des refuges, le corps de 1’arhat.” Melanges Chinois et Bouddhiques 1 (1931-1932): 65-127. This study of the three refuges contains translations from the Mahavibhasa and from the Nyayannsara.

La Vallee Poussin, Louis de. “Documents d’Abhidharma: La controverse du temps; Les deux, les quatre, les trois verites.” Melanges Chinois etBouddhiques 5 (1936-1937): 7-187. The expositions of the controversy over the existence of the three times, and of the two and four truths, largely consist of translations from the Mahavibhasa and the Nyayanusara.


Mahavibhasa. In Taisho Shinshil Daizokyb. Edited by Junjiro Takakusu, Kaigyoku Watanabe, and Genmyo Ono. 100 vols. Tokyo: Daizo Shuppan Kabushiki Kaisha, 1924-1934, No 1545. As mentioned in the commentary paragraph to this section, this massive treatise compiled in 200 fascicles (chiian) survives only in its Chinese translation, which was executed in the 7th century by Hstian-tsang and his translation team.


Rahder, Johannes. “Le satkayadrsti d’apres Vibhasa.” Melanges Chinois et Bouddhiques 1 (1931-1932): 227-239

The exposition of the erroneous view of personality includes translations from the Mahavibhasa.


Abhidharma Synopses==


The seven Abhidharma treaties, as literary compositions, are rather dense, cryptic, concise, and schematic. As they are long and difficult to comprehend, there arose a need to produce shorter but comprehensive and topically structured expositions of Abhidharma doctrines. This need resulted in the composition of a series of systematized texts having

different titles, but here they are collectively categorized as synopses. The production of such synoptic treatises also reflects the next stage in the development and systematization of Abhidharma doctrine and practice. Both Theravada and Sarvastivada produced a number of synopses, some of which became highly celebrated, such as Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga, and Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosa.


Theravada Abhidhamma Synopses

his section presents Theravada works that are high-ranking and exist in translations. The approximate chronological order of the authors listed in this section is as follows: Upatissa, Buddhaghosa, Anuruddha, Sumangala, and Khema. Upatissa 1961, translated by Ehara, encapsulates the primary doctrines and practices necessary for the attainment of

emancipation. Buddhaghosa 1956, translated by Nanamoli, constitutes a masterly and treasured synopsis of Buddhist doctrines and practices. Anuruddha 1956, translated by Narada, and Anuruddha 1993, revised by Bodhi, is treated as the Theravada primer for the study of Abhidhamma doctrines and practices. Sumangala 2002, translated by Wijeratne and Gethin, provides a commentary on Anuruddha’s work. Khema 1987, translated by Saddhatissa, deals with consciousness and matter.


Anuruddha. Abhidhammattha-sahgaha. Translated by Mahathera Narada. A Manual of Abhidhamma: Being Abhidhammattha Sangaha of Bhadanta Acariya Anuruddha. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1956.

This important translation of Anuruddha’s work was revised by Bhikkhu Bodhi, as detailed in Anuruddha 1993.

Anuruddha. Abhidhammattha-sahgaha. Revised by Bhikkhu Bodhi. A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma: The Abhidhammattha Sangaha of Acarya Anuruddha. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1993.

A revision of Anuruddha 1956. Anuruddha’s dates and homeland are uncertain, but some scholars date him to the 11th century. Anuruddha’s work provides a complete exposition of Abhidhamma teachings. A textual guide compiled by Rewata Dhamma and Bhikkhu Bodhi accompanies Anurudha’s text. This work serves as the primer for the study of the Abhidhamma in the Theravada world.


Buddhaghosa. Visuddhimagga. Translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. The Path of Purification. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1956.


Buddhaghosa’s synopsis is a masterly and all-inclusive exposition of the Theravada doctrine and practice extracted from the Pitakas. Structurally, it is divided into three parts that correspond to the threefold training in morality, meditation, and wisdom. Part one deals with the purification of morality. Part two covers the purification of meditation. Part three explains the fivefold purification of wisdom.

Khema. Namarupasamaso. Translated by Hammalava Saddhatissa. “Summary of Mind and Matter,” Journal of the Pali Text Society 11 (1987): 7-31.

Khema’s text is assigned to the 10th or 11th century. It is a compact manual that provides a synopsis of the Abhidhamma categories of consciousness and matter. The works of Anuruddha and Khema, along with seven other works, form a group of texts known in Burma as “the little finger manuals.”

Sumangala. Abhidhammatthavibhavim. Translated by R. P. Wijeratne and R. Gethin. Summary of the Topics of Abhidhamma (Abhidhammatthasahgaha) by Anuruddha. Exposition of the Topics of Abhidhamma (Abhidhammatthavibhavim) by Sumangala, Being a Commentary to Anuruddha’s Summary of the Topics of Abhidhamma. London: Pali Texts Society, 2002.

This publication includes translations of two texts: Anuruddha’s treatise {Abhidhammatthasahgaha) and Sumangala’s commentary on it {Abhidhammatthavibhavim). Thus, in effect this publication has two titles combined into one. Sumangala’s work provides a fairly detailed and helpful elucidation of Anurudha’s text.

Upatissa. Vimuttimagga. Translated by N. R. M. Ehara, Soma Thera, and Kheminda Thera. The Path of Freedom by the Arahant Upatissa. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Saman, 1961.


The identity and dates of Upatissa (or Upatisya) are uncertain, and his work survives only in a Chinese translation. It is normally known by its putative Pali title; its Sanskrit title would be Vimuktimarga. Its attested existence dates to the 5th century. It is in twelve chapters, and sketches the path in terms of the three trainings in morality, concentration, and wisdom.


Sarvastivada Abhidharma Synopses

In addition to the three Vibhasa compendia produced in Kashmir, there exist Sarvastivada texts that originate from the cultural region of Gandhara. The Sarvastivada adepts from this region developed a distinctive strand of Abhidharma ideas and systematizations. Some scholars refer to the works produced in the Gadhara region as hrdaya (heart, essence)

texts, because their titles contain this term. The approximate chronological order of the Indian authors listed in this section is as follows: DharmasrT, Ghosaka, Dharmatrata, Vasubandhu, Sanghabhadra, Skandhila, and Yasomitra. DharmasrT 2006, translated by Willemen, represents one of the earliest compositions that provide a systematic and topically

arranged exposition of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma. Ghosaka 1977, translated by Broeck, also provides a coherent treatment of Abhidharma teachings. Dharmatrata 1999, translated by Dessein, is the same in structure as DharmasrT’s text, but it is much larger in textual volume. Skandhila 2008, translated by Dhammajoti (as well as by Velthem in 1997),

provides an exposition of the Sarvastivada dharma theory. Vasubandhu 1967, edited by Pradhan, constitutes the doctrinal culmination of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma developments in India; later Abhidharma generations did not write new treatises, but instead composed commentaries on it. Yasomitra 1932-1936, summarized in Anacker 2008, is a commentary on

Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosa. Sanghabhadra 1995, partially translated by Cox, defends the Sarvastivada orthodoxy against Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosa. Me)or 1991 studies the commentaries on Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosa.


Anacker, Stefan. “Sphutarthabhidharmakosavyakhya.” In Buddhist Philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D. Edited by Karl H. Potter. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 9. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2008.

In Part two of this volume, Anacker provides a fairly detailed summary of Yasomitra’s Sphutarthabhidharmakosavyakhya, pages 565-593.

Dharmasrl. Abhidharmahrdaya. Translated by Charles Willemen. The Essence of Scholasticism: Abhidharmahrdaya T1550. Rev. ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2006.

In academic circles, the vital dates of DharmasrT (or Dharmasresthin) range between the 1st century BCE and the 2nd century CE. At any rate, his text Abhidharmahrdaya is one of the first systematized expositions of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma. The original text survives only in a Chinese translation, and consists of 250 summary verses followed by their commentaries. The topics that are covered include karma, defilements, knowledge, and concentration. French translation by I. Armelin. Le Coeur de la Loi Supreme:

Abhidharmahrdayasastra. Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1978.

Dharmatrata. Samyuktabhidharmahrdaya. Translated by Bart Dessein. Samyuktabhidharmahrdaya'. Heart of Scholasticism with Miscellaneous Additions. Buddhist Tradition Series 33-35. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999.

This publication is in three parts. Part one of over seven hundred pages contains an introduction and a translation of Dharmatrata’s work. Part two provides copious annotations to Part one, and Part three consists of indices, glossaries, and bibliography. Dharmatrata’s treatise is an expansion of DharmasrT’s work and consists of 596 verses and their commentaries, divided into eleven topical chapters.

Ghosaka. Abhidharmamrtarasa. Translated and annotated by Jose van den Broeck. La Saveur de I’immortel (A-p’i-t-an Kan Lu Wei Lun): La Version Chinoise de I’Amrtarasa de Ghosaka (T. 1553). Publications de l’Institut Orientaliste de Louvain 15. Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: Institut Orientaliste, 1977.

The dates and homeland of Ghosaka remain uncertain, but it is surmised that he lived in the 2nd century, and probably composed his work in Gandhara. The Chinese translation was made in the 3rd century CE. The introduction provides an analysis of selected subjects treated in Ghosaka’s work. Taken together this text covers the entire spectrum of Abhidharma teachings.

Mejor, Marek. Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosa and the Commentaries Preserved in the Tanjur. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1991. This is an insightful study of Vasubandhu’s life and works, and a textual and doctrinal analysis of nine commentaries on his Abhidharmakosa that are extant in Tibetan translations.

Sarighabhadra. Nyayanusara. Translated by Collett Cox. Disputed Dharmas: Early Buddhist Theories of Existence, An Annotated Translation of the Section on Factors Dissociated from Thought from Sarighabhadra’s Nyayanusara. Studia Philologica Buddhica, Monograph Series 11. Tokyo: International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 1995.

This is a partially translated treatise that reasserts the Sarvastivada Vaibhasika orthodoxy, and at the same time debunks the Sautrantika positions as recorded in Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosabhasya. The translated portion deals with the fourteen factors dissociated from the mind (cittaviprayukta-dharma). In addition, Cox provides an insightful introduction with sections on the origin and scope of the Abhidharma texts.

Skandhila. Abhidharmavatara. Translated by Kuala Lumpur Dhammajoti. Entrance into the Supreme Doctrine: Skandhila9 s Abhidharmavatara. Hong Kong: Centre of Buddhist Studies, 2008.

Translated from the Chinese. Skandhila is dated to the 5th century, and is surmised to have been a Vaibhasika from Kashmir. His work is extant in Chinese and Tibetan versions. It is a summary of the dharma theory of the Sarvastivada school. The first live chapters treat the conditioned dharmas redistributed among the live aggregates, and the remaining chapters deal with the three unconditioned dharmas. The Tibetan version was translated by Marcel van Velthem. La Traite de la Descente dans la Profonde Loi:

Abhidharmavatarasastra. Publications de Tlnstitut Orientaliste de Louvain 16. Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: Institut Orientaliste, 1977.

Vasubandhu. Abhidharmakosabhasya. Edited by Prahalad Pradhan. Abhidharmakosabhasya ofVasubandhu. Patna, India: K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute, 1967.

Vasubandhu’s work was composed in India in the late 4th or early 5th century. It exists in the original Sanskrit, and Chinese and Tibetan versions. It emulates the structure of Dharmatrata’s work. It comprises the root text (karika), and its auto­commentary (bhasya). The Vaibhasikas approved of the root text as faithfully reflecting the Sarvastivada Abhidharma, but criticized the commentary for doctrinal distortions. French translation by Louis de La Vallee Poussin. L’Abhidharmakosa de Vasubandhu: Traduction et Annotations. 6 vols. Paris: Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner; J. B. ISTAS, Louvain, Belgium: 1923-1931. English translation from the French by Leo M. Pruden. Abhidharmakosabhasyam. 4 vols. Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1988-1990.


Yasomitra. Sphutarthabhidharmakosavyakhya. 2 vols. Edited by Unrai Wogihara. Sphutartha: Abhidharmakosavyakhya. Tokyo: Publishing Association of Abhidharmakosavyakhya, 1932-1936.

This is the only commentary on the Abhidharmakosa that survives in the original Sanskrit. Otherwise it is an Abhidharma treatise in its own right. There are no translations of this work in Western languages. See Anacker 2008.


Reference Works

Reference resources included here provide sound entries on Abhidharma topics and technical terminology. Among the sources listed in this section, the Encyclopedia of Buddhism, Malalasekera and Weeraratne 1961-2007, provides the most comprehensive coverage of Abhidharma literature and doctrine. The Encyclopedia of Religion, Jones 2004, is more limited

in coverage of Buddhism, but still contains an impressive range of entries on Abhidharma doctrines and schools. The Encyclopedia of Buddhism, Buswell 2003, offers substantial entries on Abhidharma literature and schools. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Buswell and Lopez 2013, contains numerous entries on Abhidharma texts, concepts, schools, and

masters. The Buddhist Dictionary, Nyanatiloka 1980, focuses on technical terminology culled from Pali sources. Buddhism: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies, Williams 2005, facilitates access to 110 articles, some of which are important for the study of the Abhidharma. Potter 1995 contains a wide-ranging bibliography on the Thcravada and


Sarvastivada texts and doctrines. Potter 1996, Potter 1999, and Potter 2008 essentially contain summaries of a large number of Buddhist texts, including all important Abhidharma works.


Buswell, Robert E., ed. Encyclopedia of Buddhism. New York: Macmillan, 2003. This encyclopedia includes approximately 470 entries in over 900 pages. Its coverage of Abhidharma terms is less extensive than in Malalasekera and Weeraratne 1961— 2007, or Buswell and Lopez 2013. However, it has a number of fine entries on Abhidharma, cosmology, dharma and dharmas, Hmayana, karma, mainstream Buddhist schools, Sarvastivada, and Theravada.


Buswell, Robert E., Jr., and Donald S. Lopez Jr. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2013.


This dictionary of over 5,000 entries is based on original sources in Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese, and Korean. It covers texts, concepts, authors, and much more. In terms of Abhidharma, it offers generous entries on Abhidharma, the seven works of the Abhidharma Pitakas belonging to the Theravada and Sarvastivada schools, commentaries, commentators, schools, and a gamut of technical terms.


Jones, Lindsay, ed. Encyclopedia of Religion. 2d ed. 16 vols. New York: Macmillan, 2004.


This encyclopedia contains a wide range of entries on Buddhist topics. Volume two provides a solid treatment of Buddhist history, literature, and teachings. The topics that are relevant to this entry include Buddhism in India, Buddhism in Southeast Asia, Hinavana, Buddhist philosophy, Buddhist soteriologv, Abhidharmapitaka, Sarvastivada, and Theravada.

Originally published in 1997, Mircea Eliade, editor-in- chief, New York: Macmillan.

Malalasekera, G. P., and W. G. Weeraratne, eds. Encyclopedia of Buddhism. 8 vols. Government of Sri Lanka, 1961-2007.

This encyclopedia was produced over the period of fifty years. It offers a wide range of entries on Buddhist history, literature, doctrine, and much more. It is particularly strong on the Theravada tradition and early Buddhism, but it also includes many entries on other Buddhist traditions.

Nyanatiloka, Mahathera. Buddhist Dictionary: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1980.

This dictionary covers a considerable range of technical terms of Buddhist doctrines and practices. The terms are given in Pali and explained on the basis of Pali sources. The overall aim of this compilation is to provide sound and readable explanations of the basic Buddhist terminology. First edition 1950.

Potter, Karl H. Bibliography. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 1. 3d rev. ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1995.

A fairly comprehensive bibliography, which includes a substantial range of publications on the Theravada and Sarvastivada Abhidharma topics. This bibliography is kept up to date and can be accessed online.

Potter, Karl H., ed. Abhidharma Buddhism to 150 A.D. With Robert Buswell, Padmanath Jaini, and Noble Ross Reat. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 7. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1996.

Part one has one section on the development of Abhidharma philosophy, and one section on a few early Abhidharma concepts. Part two provides summaries of twenty- four Abhidharma texts, including the Abhidharma treatises belonging to the Theravada and Sarvastivada Abhidharma Pitakas.

Potter, Karl H., ed. Buddhist Philosophy from 100 to 350 A.D. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 8. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999.

Part one includes one section on the Buddhist path, and one section on the categories of phenomena {dharmas). Part two contains summaries of over 200 texts, including the works of Vasubandhu, and of Sanghabhadra’s Nyayanusara.

Potter, Karl H., ed. Buddhist Philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 9. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2008. In Part one, chapter two discusses different aspects of the Abhidharma stages leading to liberation. Part two includes summaries of almost 200 texts, including Yasomitra’s Abhidharmakosa-Sphutarthavyakhya.

Williams, Paul, ed. Buddhism: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies. 8 vols. London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2005. The following articles are pertinent. Volume one: Collins on the idea of the Canon; Cousins on oral literature; Lamotte on textual authenticity, and on textual interpretation.

Volume two: Bechert on the sects; Cousins on the nature of jhana, Mahadeva’s five points, and person and self. Volume four: Cousins on the Patthana and Abhidhamma, and on nibbana and Abhidhamma; Gethin on the aggregates; Williams on Abhidharma ontology.



Historical and Textual Studies on the Abhidharma Treatises

This section includes a selection of books and articles that study the origin, formation, and content of the Abhidharma Pitaka and affiliated texts. Frauwallner 1995 traces the literary and doctrinal evolution of the Sarvastivada and Theravada Abhidharma Pitakas. Cox 1992 studies the origin and formation of the Abhidharma literature of the Sarvastivada school. Bronkhorst 2000 discusses the Sarvastvada Abhidharma doctrines. Watanabe 1954 assesses the debates and doctrinal disagreements among the Sarvastivada masters. Analayo 2012 assesses the accounts of the Buddha’s teaching of the Abhidharma in the abode of the Thirty-Three gods. Analayo 2014 formulates an innovative vision of the origin of the

Abhidharma Pitaka. Willemen, et al. 1998 provides a detailed survey of the Sarvastivada history and literature. Lamotte 1988 assesses the Abhidharma texts, and sketches the formation and character of the early schools. Bareau 1951 discusses the Abhidharma texts that are extant or possibly were in existence. Gethin 1992 concentrates on the lists (matika) that form the seminal core of the Abhidhamma treatises.


Analayo. “Teaching the Abhidharma in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three: The Buddha and His Mother.” Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies 2 (2012): 9-35. The story of the Buddha’s teaching the Abhidharma to his mother in the Trayastrimsa abode is contained in a number of Buddhist sources. The author traces its development and intended purpose, and concludes that it was devised to authenticate the Abhidharma treatises.


Analayo. The Dawn of Abhidharma. Hamburg Buddhist Studies 2. Hamburg, Germany: Hamburg University Press, 2014.


This study attempts to trace the origin of the Abhidharma treatises. The author postulates that initially the Abhidharma doctrines had their roots in certain formulations that were inserted into the Sutra Pitaka. After that these formulations were ingeniously reformulated into Abhidharma treatises, and finally placed under the Buddha’s authority.


Bareau, Andre. “Les Sectes Bouddhiques du Petit Vehicule et leur Abhidharmapitaka.” Bulletin de I’Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient 44.1 (1951): 1-11. First the author discusses the Abhidharma texts that exist as complete Abhidharma sets: Theravada, Sarvastivada, and Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra. Next, he attempts to determine

which schools definitely had, and which schools probably had, separate Abhidharmas. In his opinion, three other schools had their own Abhidharmas: Mahasanghika, Dharmaguptaka, and Haimavata. Five other schools probably had separate Abhidharmas.


Bronkhorst, Johannes. “Die buddhistische Lehre.” In Der Buddhismus I: Der indische Buddhismus und seine Verzweigungen. Edited by Heinz Bechert, Johannes Bronkhorst, Jacob Ensink, et al., 23-213. Die Religionen der Menschheit, Band 24.1. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer Verlag, 2000.


This lengthy study provides a comprehensive treatment of Indian Buddhism. It consists of three sections: the teaching in the Buddha's discourses, the Abhidharma systematization, and the Mahayana development. In the Abhidharma section, much of the discussion focuses on the Sarvastivada doctrines, and on the dharma theory. It is an erudite account of the Abhidharma within the spectrum of Indian Buddhism.


Cox, Collett. “The Unbroken Treatise: Scripture and Argument in Early Buddhist Scholasticism.” In Innovations in Religious Traditions: Essays in the Interpretation of Religious Change. Edited by Michael A. Williams, Collett Cox, and Martin S. Jaffee, 143-189. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1992. This is a comprehensive study of the origin and

development of the Abhidharma literature of the Sarvastivada school. Initially the author discusses the Buddhist position in relation to the Vedic texts. After that she systematically unfolds the stages of Abhidharma literature: formation of Abhidharma treatises, production of synoptic texts, and legitimization of Abhidharma treatises. Frauwallner, Erich. Studies in Abhidharma Literature and the Origins of Buddhist Philosophical Systems. Translated by Sophie Francis Kidd. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.


This book contains Frauwallner's research into the origin and development of the Abhidharma treatises and philosophical systems. In his opinion, the Theravada and Sarvastivada Abhidhamma treatises were not composed at a stroke and at the same time, but were compiled over a considerable period of time.


Gethin, Rupert. “The Matikas: Memorization, Mindfulness, and the List.” In the Mirror of Memory: Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Edited by Janet Gyatso, 149-172. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.


In this paper Gethin offers an insightful and instructive treatment of the Abhidhamma matikas. He identifies and discusses the character of the various matika lists, shows how they epitomize the essence of the Dhamma, and indicates how they underpin the development of the Abhidhamma. He also discusses their importance for meditation.


Lamotte, Etienne Paul Marie. History of Indian Buddhism, From the Origins to the Saka Era. Translated by Sara Webb-Boin. Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: Institut Orientaliste, 1988. The formation and canonicity of the Theravada and Sarvastivada Abhidharma works is discussed in the sections that deal with the early canonical collections (pages 179­191). In chapter six (pages 517-637), Lamotte collates and appraises a rich range of sources that shed light on the origin and doctrinal leanings of the early Buddhist schools.

Watanabe, Baiyu. Ubu abidatsumaron no kenkyu. Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1954.

This publication (Study of Sarvastivada Abhidharma Texts) is considered to be one of the most important studies of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma. The author largely focuses on doctrinal differences upheld by discordant Sarvastivada groups. He mainly deals with disagreements between the Sarvastivada masters from Kashmir, the masters from Gandhara, the western masters (pascatya), and the masters from the peripheral regions {bahirdesaka).

Willemen, Charles, Bart Dessein, and Collett Cox. Sarvastivada Buddhist Scholasticism. Handbuch der Orientalistik. Zweite Abteilung. Indien. 11 Bd. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1998.

This book provides an extensive survey of the history and literature of the Sarvastivada school. Chapter three contains an analysis of the seven Abhidharma books, and of their Vibhasa compendia. Chapter four ascertains the Abhidharma treatises produced in the Gandhara region. The bibliography of secondary materials includes an ample number of publications produced by modern Japanese scholars.


Academic Handbooks and General Studies

This heading encompasses a selection of academic publications that provide comprehensive or general studies of the Abhidharma treatises and their doctrines. Karunadasa 2010 provides a detailed study of the Theravada Abhidhamma. Ronkin 2005 focuses on the philosophical framework of the Theravada Abhidhamma. Nyanaponika 2010 outlines the Theravada

philosophical scope, and discusses the complex of mental states. Gorkom 2011 outlines the Theravada exposition of the mind and its processes. Skilton 2013 offers an insightful sketch of the Abhidhamma literature and doctrine. Dhammajoti 2009 offers an all-inclusive study of literature and doctrines of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma. Hirakawa 1990

provides an all- encompassing silhouette of early Buddhism in India. Stcherbatsky 1979 treats several concepts of the Sarvastivada school, and compiles the primary lists of all phenomena according to the classification system of the Sarvastivada schools.


Dhammajoti, Kuala Lumpur. Sarvastivada Abhidharma. Hong Kong: Centre of Buddhist Studies, 2009.


This book of over 500 pages provides an extensive survey of the history, literature, and doctrines of the Sarvastivada school. It is based on the Sarvastivada works and related sources. The sixteen chapters of this book include discussions of Sarvastivada treatises, causality, consciousness, karma, and the path of emancipation. Gorkom, Nina van. Introduction to the Abhidhamma. London: Zolag, 2011.


This publication of just over forty pages provides a coherent overview of the Abhidhamma principles. The main focus is on the states of consciousness and its ethical qualities, and on the process of its purification. This work is a modified and restructured version of the author’s earlier and longer book Abhidhamma in Daily Life, also published by Zolag in 2009.


Hirakawa, Akira. Indo Bukkyo Shi. Translated and edited by Paul Groner. A History of Indian Buddhism: From Sakyamuni to Early Mahayana. Asian Studies at Hawai’i 36. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1990.


As its title suggests, this book covers the Buddhist history and doctrine from the time of the Buddha to the origin of Mahayana texts and doctrines. Part two deals with the development of Nikaya Buddhism, Abhidharma literature, classification of phenomena {dharmas), cosmology, and the theory of karma.


Karunadasa, Y. The Theravada Abhidhamma: Its Inquiry into the Nature of Conditioned Reality. Hong Kong: Centre of Buddhist Studies, 2010.


This book of over 300 pages provides an extensive and coherent treatment of the Theravada Abhidhamma. It is based on primary sources and selected secondary sources. It consists of eighteen topical chapters, which essentially provide a comprehensive analysis of consciousness and its concomitants, matter, and other related topics.


Nyanaponika, Thera. Adhidhamma Studies: Buddhist Exploration of Consciousness and Time. Edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Boston: Wisdom, 2010.


Chapter one provides an overview of Abhidhamma philosophy. Chapter two ascertains the Abhidhamma method of analysis and investigation into the conditionality of phenomena. The next two chapters are based on the Dhammasahgani, and deal with its classificatory scheme of mental states. In the introduction, Bhikkhu Bodhi provides a fine overview of the Abhidhamma literature and teaching. First edition 1949.


Ronkin, Noa. Early Buddhist Metaphysics: The Making of a Philosophical Tradition. London: Routledge-Curzon, 2005.


This book soundly contributes to the study of the Theravada Abhidhamma. It is divided into five chapters, which cover the emergence of the Abhidhamma, the dhamma theory, the concept of svabhava, consciousness, and causation. A more succinct exposition of the major Abhidharma themes is given in Ronkin’s Abhidharma entry in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta, ed., available online.


Skilton, Andrew. “Theravada.” In A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy. Edited by S. M. Emmanuel, 71-85. Blackwell Companions to Philosophy. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. Skilton provides a competent and insightful survey of Theravada history, doctrine, and literature. The treatment of the canonical Abhidhamma treatises and their commentaries is informative and formulated with clarity.


Stcherbatsky, Theodor. The Central Conception of Buddhism and the Meaning of the Word Dharma. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1979.


This book provides a succinct and coherent exposition of the Sarvastivada principal concepts and a detailed classification of phenomena {dharma). The different groups of dharmas are explained separately. It also covers the law of causality, karma, and the theory of cognition. First edition 1923.


Studies on Abhidharma Concepts and Topics

In addition to handbooks and standard studies, there exists a considerable range of articles and books that treat specific concepts and topics, most of which appertain to the basic framework of Abhidharma doctrines. Gethin 2004 studies the term dhamma on the basis of Pali sources. Cox 2004 treats the notion and function of the term dharma as found in

the Sarvastivada sources. Boisvert 1995 studies the nature, function, and innate permutation of the five aggregates. Collins 1982 casts a diversified imagery of the Buddhist doctrine that denies the existence of the self (anatta). McDermott 1980 shows that the early Buddhist interpretations of karma and rebirth were controversial. Ryose 1987

discusses the notion of karma and related matters on the basis of the Sarvastivada sources. Cox 1993 traces the interpretative evolution of the notion of dependent origination

in the Sarvastivada sources. Karunadasa 1989 ascertains the notion and classification of matter on the basis of Theravada sources. Rospatt 2015 treats the controversial theories of momentariness as propounded in the Abhidharma sources.


Boisvert, Mathieu. The Five Aggregates: Understanding Theravada Psychology and Soteriology. Editions SR 17. Waterloo, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1995.


This study focuses on the five aggregate (khandha), and their correlation with dependent origination. Chapter one discusses the concept of khandha, and differentiates between the five aggregates as such and as the five aggregates of clinging. The next five chapters analyze each of the aggregates, and the final chapter examines their innate interrelationship and affinity to dependent origination.


Collins, Steven. Selfless Persons: Imagery and Thought in Theravada Buddhism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982.


Parts one and two analyze the Theravada doctrine of the nonexistence of the self or soul (anatta). Parts three and four deal with the accounts of personality, rebirth, and continuity. The author postulates that for Buddhists specialists, the anatta doctrine denotes a pattern of self-perception and mental analysis that reflects the true state of reality.


Cox, Collett. “Dependent Origination: Its Elaboration in Early Sarvastivadin Abhidharma Texts.” In Researches in Indian and Buddhist Philosophy: Essays in Honour of Professor Alex Wayman. Edited by Ram Karan Sharma, 119-141. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1993.


This instructive article concentrates on the interpretative evolution of the concept of dependent origination (pratityasamutpada) as found in the Sarvastivada Abhidharma texts. In order to demonstrate the progressive transformation of this concept, initially the author discusses its perceptions in the early discourses (sutra), in order to serve as the foundational scenario. Next she traces its conceptual transformation.


Cox, Collett. “From Category to Ontology: The Changing Role of Dharma in Sarvastivada Abhidharma.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 32 (2004): 543-597. This erudite article explores the doctrinal scope and function of the complex term dharma on the basis of the Sarvastivada texts. It also discusses its purpose and relation to other terms such as intrinsic nature (svabhava) and existence (bhava).


Dhammajoti, Kuala Lumpur. Abhidharma Doctrines and Controversies on Perception. Hong Kong: Centre of Buddhist Studies, 2007.


In the Theravada sources the exposition of the cognitive process of consciousness is largely uncontroversial. By contrast, Sarvastivada masters had tense disagreements about the process and nature of perception, and the cognitive error. The author investigates the Sarvastivada controversies about the apparatus of perception, the mental factors responsible for perception, and the process of gaining knowledge of the external world.


Gethin, Rupert. “He Who Sees Dhamma Sees Dhammas: Dhamma in Early Buddhism.” Journal of Indian Philosophy 32 (2004): 513-542.


In the initial sections the author discusses the previous publications on the subject, and some fundamental meanings of the term dhamma, such as teaching, truth, and mental or physical state. The next sections deal with the understanding of dhamma in the Theravada commentaries, and with the evolution of its Buddhist interpretation.

arunadasa, Y. Buddhist Analysis of Matter. Singapore: Buddhist Research Society, 1989.


This book offers a detailed analysis of matter (rupa) in the light of Theravada sources. Chapter one examines the senses and contexts in which the term rupa occurs. Chapter two deals with the four primary elements and their properties. The remaining chapters deal with the secondary matter, its classification, and other related topics.


McDermott, J. P. “Karma and Rebirth in Early Buddhism.” In Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions. Edited by W. D. O’Flaherty, 165-192. Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1980.


The author examines the early Buddhist theories on the karma process and transition from one existence to the next. The Pudgalavadins postulated that a “person” {pudgala) transmigrates and provides the link between lives. The Theravada introduced the rebirth-linking consciousness that arises at conception. The Sarvastivada school postulated the existence of an intermediate state or being between death and birth.


Rospatt, Alexander von. The Buddhist Doctrine of Momentariness: A Survey of the Origins and Early Phase of This Doctrine up to Vasubandhu. Rev. ed. Berkeley, CA: Institute of Buddhist Studies and BDK America, 2015.


This is a textually based study of the complex and controversial theory of momentariness of conditioned phenomena, and of their characteristic marks. It covers the doctrinal positions propounded by the Sarvastivada, Sautrantika, Darstantika, and other early sectarian affiliations. Original edition: Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1995.


Ryose, Wataru. “A Study of the Abhidharmahrdaya: The Historical Development of the Concept of Karma in the Sarvastivada Thought.” PhD thesis, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1987.


In Part one, this thesis ascertains the development and different aspects of karma, and assesses karma as a form of ethical system. Part two contains an analysis and a translation of the chapter on karma of DharmasrT’s Abhidharmahrdaya, and of the commentary culled from Dharmatrata’s work.


Studies on Abhidharma Soter io logical Topics

The Abhidharma treatises and related texts not just systematize and consolidate the Buddha’s doctrinal teaching, but they also vibrate with soteriological dimensions and concerns. The field of Buddhist soteriology is vast, and the selection of publications listed in this section represents a fraction of the available sources. Collins 1998

provides a broad study of the Theravada notion and metaphoric imagery of nirvana. Dhammajoti 2002 focuses on the Sarvastivada interpretation of nirvana. Fuller 2005 treats the notion of right view, which constitutes the first factor of the eightfold path. Bodhi 2006 sketches the core teaching of the eightfold path (magga), which is the primary

expedient of emancipation. Ge thin 2001 studies in detail a set of the primary factors that are conducive to spiritual liberation. Gunaratana 1988 treats the meditative techniques that are essential to climb the ladder of spiritual development. Cox 1992 provides an overview of the Sarvastivada exposition of the path. Bodhi, Bhikkhu. The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 2006.


In chapter one, the author discusses the nature of suffering, its causes, and the elimination of the causes of suffering. The remaining seven chapters provide a detailed exposition of the noble eightfold path. The book is based on Theravada sources. First edition 1984.


Collins, Steven. Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.


This is an innovative study of nirvana, which is realized in the final phase of meditative cultivation. Nirvana is studied in terms of its systematic treatment, and of its expression through images and in narrative. In the author’s words (page 188), Buddhist thought says that nirvana “is a real, external and timeless existent, not merely a concept; the Abhidhamma classification scheme places it in the categories of mental object sense-base and mental object element.”


Cox, Collett. “Attainment through Abandonment: The Sarvastivadin Path of Removing Defilements.” In Paths to Liberation: The Marga and Its Transformations in Buddhist Thought. Edited by Robert E. Buswell and Robert M. Gimello, 63-105. Studies in East Asian Buddhism 7. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1992.


In this article Collett Cox provides a detailed study of the Sarvastivada theory and practice of the path (marga) that concludes with the elimination of defilements. First she explains the character of defilements, and then outlines the consecutive stages of the path. The full exposition of the Sarvastivada path is given in chapter six of the Abhidharmakosa.

Dhammajoti, Kuala Lumpur. “The Sarvastivada Conception of Nirvana.” In Buddhist and Indian Studies in Honour of Professor Sodo Mori. Edited by a Publication Committee, 335-348. Hamamatsu, Japan: Kokusai Bukkyoto Kyokai, 2002.

Dhammajoti studies the notion of nirvana on the basis of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma treatises. He focuses on the nature of nirvana, its reality, and its character as a state of liberation. For the Sarvastivada school, nirvana (or pratisamkhya-nirodha) is a distinct entity, and a kind of ontological force that is experienced when all defilements are abandoned.

Fuller, Paul. The Notion of Ditthi in Theravada Buddhism: The Point of View. London and New York: Routledge-Curzon, 2005.

There are two primary ways of understanding the notion of \ lew s. The first way understands right view as a correction of wrong views. The second one understands it as the elimination of a views. The author argues that these two approaches are defective, and postulates that in the early texts, this term denotes an attitude that transcends all views.

Gethin, Rupert M. L. The Buddhist Path to Awakening: A Study of the Bodhi- Pakkhiya Dhammd. Oxford: One World, 2001.

This is a textual study of the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment based on Pali sources. These factors are divided into seven groups, and are considered to be equivalent to the path to enlightenment. The author assesses their formation, and then provides detailed studies of each group. The final section of this book deals with the Sarvastivada formulation of the path. First edition, Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1992. Originally a PhD dissertation submitted at the University of Manchester in 1987.

Gold, Jonathan C. Paving the Great Way: Vasubandhu’s Unifying Buddhist Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014.

This publication represents a major study of Vasubandhu’s religious and philosophical ideas. The author admirably discusses and unfolds Vasubandhu’s critical and creative contribution to the interpretation of the Sarvastivada Abhidharma doctrines.

Gunaratana, Henepola. The Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1988.

This is a comprehensive study of the four fine material jhanas and four immaterial jhanas. It is based on the Pali canonical texts and their commentaries. Essentially, it explores the dynamics of the jhanas and their function in the process of gaining the ultimate liberation, nibbana. It also discusses the supernormal categories of knowledge (abhinna).




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