Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

The Abhidhamma—critiques and criticisms.

Bobby_LanierBobby_Lanier Veteran
edited December 2006 in Philosophy
Elohim, By introducing Abhidhamma as an 'authority' (Lat. autcoritas = validity) it almost draws battle lines for academic paintball because some of us are not entirely convinced in Abhidhamma's claim to be the words of the Buddha.

It is pretty well accepted that the Theravada sect developed Abhidhamma (= Abhivinaya) presented in seven books. There is a great deal of dispute, however, as to its authenticity as being a true basket. It is more than likely apocryphal. As Warder notes, "It is doubtful...whether any Abdhidhamma texts...were recited at the First Rehearsal (Indian Buddhism, 218). Indeed, The first Abhidhamma was probably compiled after the first major schism between 250 and 50 B.C.E. (H. Akira, History of Buddhism, 129). On the same track Pande sums Abdhidhamma up by saying that "Abhidharmas are in fact a systematization and development of the doctrines of the sutras alone sectarian lines. Their growth belongs to post-Nikaya period" (Origins of Buddhism, 2).

Personally, I find Abhidhamma thought to be an attempt to pass off the Buddha's teaching as being a systematic refutation on the notion of attâ or the self by deploying enumerations, summaries, and Q&As. But it hardly works out that way. What Abhidhamma presents, instead, is a schematic understanding of anattâ—largely organizational and unconvincing.

Those who support the Abhidhamma as being genuine see it as being superior to the Nikayas. It markets a two truth theory not found in the Nikayas. Roughly stated, the Suttas preach the truth in common language (P., vohâravacana) while Abhidhamma teaches ultimate meaning (P., paramattha). According to the proponents of Abhidhamma we are to regard the Abhidhamma as the ipsissima verba of the Buddha.

Not ambiguous in what it wants to do, Abhidhamma makes the referent the five khandhas after which it makes a concerted effort to annihilate any possibility of a referent other than the five khandhas. Therefore, the apophatic method is altogether lacking in it unlike in the Nikayas in which the self, which is the referent, is not to be identified with the five khandhas. Consequently, Abhidhamma appears to stand Nikayan Buddhism on its head in which an indissoluble referent is missing. What we are asked to believe is that the world of samsara is the true world since there is no other which could not be analyzed into virtual nothingness.

Elohim, I can certainly understand your position with regard to a controller. And there are some important reasons that I don't purchase Abdhidhamma; one of which concerns QM (quantum mechanics) and the place of O+L (objectivity and locality) which it refutes in favor of subjectivism and universality (nonlocalness). This, as you may have guessed, is a position in which we are all controllers. In truth, we are all builders of our house, but we are trapped in a Kafka-like house as a result, which we can't seem to get out of. The hidden orders which bind us are not those of God or some kind of evil demon, but come from us—but we do not know him! (And we should know him.)


Love ya'll,

Bobby

Comments

  • edited December 2006
    Is there scholary consensus on when and where the two truth concept was introduced, and who, person or group, did it? According to Frauwallner`s "studies in Abhidharma", both the Sarvāstivāda and the Theravada developed seperate Abhidharmas. Does the former have any significance to our discussion at all or is by Abhidharma (in your above post and other person`s posts here) only meant the Theravadin Abhidharma?
  • not1not2not1not2 Veteran
    edited December 2006
    I understand your sentiments, but I'm just wondering when Elohim introduced the Abhidhamma as authoritative.

    metta
    _/\_
  • Bobby_LanierBobby_Lanier Veteran
    edited December 2006
    fofoo wrote:
    Is there scholary consensus on when and where the two truth concept was introduced, and who, person or group, did it? According to Frauwallner`s "studies in Abhidharma", both the Sarvāstivāda and the Theravada developed seperate Abhidharmas. Does the former have any significance to our discussion at all or is by Abhidharma (in your above post and other person`s posts here) only meant the Theravadin Abhidharma?

    About the two truth concept in the Abhidhamma, where it all probably began, I will cite from Abhidhamma Studies: Researches in Buddhist Psychology (1965) by Nyanaponika Thera.

    "
    The Suttas, serving mainly the purpose of offering guidance for the actual daily life of the disciple, are mostly (though not entirely) couched in terms of conventional language (vohâravacana), making reference to persons, their qualities, possessions, etc. In the Abhidhamma this Sutta terminology is reduced to correct functional forms of thought, which accord with the true 'impersonal' and everchanging nature of actuality; and in that strict, or highest, sense (paramattha) the main tenets of the Dhamma are explained" (5).

    As you may have noticed, fofoo, if there were any troublesome or thorny parts in the Nikayas and the Vinayas they have all been eclipsed by the Abhidhamma!

    Any of us might, in a Dharma battle for his life, who is on the losing side; not likely to get funded by the king, dream up a new basket, vanquishing our foe. For no mention is made of the "Three Baskets" in the Pali or the Sanskrit literature. In is only in the post-canonical texts that the name first appears.

    And read how ingenious the birth of Abhidhamma is if true.

    Shakyamuni, it is said, discovered and collated the Abhidhamma at the foot of the Bodhi-tree near the Bodhimanda and first taught it in the Trayastrimsa heaven to his mother Maya, who had been reborn there. And then he came down to earth by way of a magical triple ladder in the company of Brahma and Indra. In this light, Abhidhamma was surely meant to supersede the content of the Nikayas and Vinayas which no doubt contained troublesome theories difficult to explain by Anattâvâda (No-self Doctrine).

    On to your other quesiton.

    I think both the Theravada Abhidharma and the Abhidharma of the "All-is" school (Sarvâstivâda) both claim to represent the words of the Buddha (cp. Origins of Buddhism, 2). Nevertheless, citing from Origins of Buddhism, Takakusu says:
    Comparing the two sets of Bbhidharma works as far as accessible to me, I don not find anything in form or in matter which could lead me to suppose that they were the same, though they treat as a matter of course, or more or less similar subjects" (2).

    Citing now from E. Lamotte's work, History of Indian Buddhism, I found these nuggets which might be of interest to the discussants.
    "Certain sources assert that the Elders of the council did no more than compile the Dharma and Vinaya, in other words, the first two Pitakas" (198).

    "Hsüan tsang (T 2087, ch. 9, p. 922c 25) also attributes the compilation of the Abhidharmapitaka to Kasyapa" (198).

    "For certain schools, the Abhidharma is not the Word of the Master. Hence, the Sautrantikas are so called because for them the norm consists of the sutras to the exclusion of the Abhidharma treatises (ye sutrapramanika na tu sastrapramanikah: Kosavyakhya, p. 11). Similarly, the Mahasamgitikas, mentioned by the Dipavamsa (V, 37 rejected the six (sic!) sections of the Abhidharma" (199).

    "The promulgation of the seven books of the Abhidhamma by the Buddha himself is in apparent contradiction with another Sinhalese tradition according to which the Kathâvatthuppakarana, the fifth or last of the Seven Books, was "revealed" or "difussed" by Moggaliputta Tissa at the council of Pataliputra, in the year 236 after the Nirvana (Dpv., VII, 41, 56-8: Mhv. V, 278)" (202).

    In my view, all Abhidharma can be looked up as that sect's thesis. While the Nikayas and the Agamas have demonstrated enormous consistency leading one to conclude that they were the hearsay of one person, Abhidharma has not been at all consistent. Abhidharmas are no doubt the work of latter-day compilers.


    Love ya'll,


    Bobby
  • Bobby_LanierBobby_Lanier Veteran
    edited December 2006
    not1not2 wrote:
    I understand your sentiments, but I'm just wondering when Elohim introduced the Abhidhamma as authoritative.

    metta
    _/\_


    If you believe something is valid at face value, it is an 'authority'. if I say, "According to the Abhidhamma there is no controller" that is using Abhidhamma as an authority.

    One need not say, "Here is my authority" one can simply say "based upon the Abhidhamma this is true" which is an implicit authority.

    I take the Nikayas, as much as possible, as an authority as I do scholars like Mrs. C.A.F. Rhys Davids, Pande or Isaline Blew Horner. But I draw the line at Hagen and Stephen Batchelor! :)

    Love ya'll,

    Bobby
  • not1not2not1not2 Veteran
    edited December 2006
    I don't agree. Claiming something as an authority is stating that it is true or correct. Jason simply was representing the Abhidhamma view as correctly as possible.

    I can say, "according to my fundamentalist Christian neighbor, I am going to hell", but that doesn't mean I believe him or that I consider his opinion to be authoritative (not even implicitly).

    _/\_
  • edited December 2006
    not1not2 wrote:
    I don't agree. Claiming something as an authority is stating that it is true or correct. Jason simply was representing the Abhidhamma view as correctly as possible.

    I can say, "according to my fundamentalist Christian neighbor, I am going to hell", but that doesn't mean I believe him or that I consider his opinion to be authoritative (not even implicitly).

    _/\_

    Is your neighbour a scripture held authorative by millions of people and per definition represents "higher knowledge/or truth"? :)

    Anyways, I think we should stick to the critique of Abhidhama in this thread, I do not believe Jason brought the Abhidhamma into play in order to win other arguments. Boby raised his concern, now I think we have explained us all.

    Of course this is a great opportunity to say that we all have been invited by the Buddha to follow the Dhamma which he gave to us as a gift. We do not need to be in line with any sect on all points, and we do not need the permission of anyone to practice the Buddhadhamma. The Buddha gave it to us for free.

    If someone brings in the Abhidhamma or someone sticks to Nikayas will of course raise some concerns in future again, maybe it is best in such situation to throw the words out of the window for a second and contemplate on a beautiful represantation of the Dhamma in form of a wheel of life for a few moments. :)
  • Bobby_LanierBobby_Lanier Veteran
    edited December 2006
    Elohim et al., It may be that the idea of a controller is out of the scope of Abhidhamma if we understand that Abhidhamma is largely devoted to dhammâ, that is phenomena. In other words what is covered in Abhidhamma is the modal view of this world (form without substance) not the agent in and through itself.

    From this we may surmise that according to Abhidhamma there is nothing in sensory data which is transcendent. For ultimate reality transcends the empirical world—and this is where the Abhidhamma goes, it exhausts the empirical. It doesn't go after the transcendent; to think so is a mistake.

    The Abhidhammika (the one who studies Abhidhamma) understands that all sensory data is phenomenal; phenomena are evanescent, non-substantial, lacking harmony and consistency. But now the Abhidhammika must ask what is beyond the empirical, for emptying out the empirical through analysis is not sufficient to awaken anyone. There is only one answer possible, it is nibbana which is beyond. Nibbana alone is paramattha. While it is true that mind (citta), the co-efficients of mind (cetasika) and form (rupa) are said to be paramattha, there is really only one actual unchanging state this being nibbana.

    Now since by mind the world is led (cittena niyati loko) mind plays an important role in Abhidhamma. It has to be purified, in other words. What is purified from mind are the various conditioned states of mind described the Abhidhamma. This leads me to say that when mind is purified this is nibbana which, incidentally, is beautifully covered in the long treatment of nibbana found in the PTS dictionary.

    It seems highly unlikely that Abhidhamma would contradict the suttas. And maybe where I object to Abhidhamma is that modern Abhidammika have gone beyond its original scope imputing a theory (vada) to it when it has none—nor was it ever intended to impart one.

    We also need to look at and consider the obvious. The difference between the Dhamma we take refuge in and the Abhidhamma is merely a difference of style. Dhamma is the discursive-style (sappariyaya-desana) while Abhidhamma is the nondiscursive-style (nippariyaya-desana). In this sense "abhi-dhamma" does mean "special dhamma" and nothing more. It is not a Dhamma replacement. If Abhidhamma were so important, then why aren't we taking refuge in the Abhidhamma instead of the Dhamma? Well, maybe our dear Abhidhammikas do this in secret. :)


    Love ya'll,


    Bobby
  • edited December 2006
    Elohim wrote:
    Paladin,



    The Abhidhamma trains the person to abandon the belief in a self, period.



    That is simple, this/that conditionality (SN 12.20), or as its also known, dependent co-arising (DN 15) explains all of this. In addition, in the Pali Nikayas, the mind is as fleeting and impermanent as anything else is.





    From the standpoint of the Abhidhamma itself, there is nothing higher.

    Regards,

    Jason




    Of course, from the standpoint of Abhidhamma, it might be relatively correct to say that it is the highest. But from the standpoint of Buddhism, I am not sure that it is the final teaching of the Buddha. Thanks to the forum, I have followed a link to the Nirvana Sutra site that is run by Dr. Tony. This is what he has stated on his site:

    "The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra ("Mahayana Great Complete-Nirvana Scripture" - commonly known as the Nirvana Sutra, for short) is one of the most profound, inspiring and arguably most important of all the Buddha's Mahayana sutras. This scripture claims to preserve the final, ultimate Mahayana teachings delivered by the Buddha on his last day and night of life upon earth. The sutra can be said to eclipse all others in its authority on the question of the Buddha-dhatu and Tathagatagarbha. It claims to be definitive: the quintessence of Mahayana Dharma. And yet despite being greatly revered and strongly influential in the East, it is little known, and even less well studied, in the West."

    Certainly, as Buddhists, we are all entitled to our opinions and to our various methods of practice. It is more important, I think, that several angle of Buddha teachings be represented to the forum readers so that they may, if they wish, arrive at indepth understandings for their own benefit.

    As I have indicated before, one can lead the horse to water. Whether the horse drinks it is entirely another matter. Just try to be impartial to other folks's view here so that one may think more clearly without the poison of anger. Samsara is thick and merciless but that does not mean we should be like so.




    Paladin
  • edited December 2006
    About the two truth concept in the Abhidhamma, where it all probably began, I will cite from Abhidhamma Studies: Researches in Buddhist Psychology (1965) by Nyanaponika Thera.

    "

    As you may have noticed, fofoo, if there were any troublesome or thorny parts in the Nikayas and the Vinayas they have all been eclipsed by the Abhidhamma!

    Any of us might, in a Dharma battle for his life, who is on the losing side; not likely to get funded by the king, dream up a new basket, vanquishing our foe. For no mention is made of the "Three Baskets" in the Pali or the Sanskrit literature. In is only in the post-canonical texts that the name first appears.

    And read how ingenious the birth of Abhidhamma is if true.

    Shakyamuni, it is said, discovered and collated the Abhidhamma at the foot of the Bodhi-tree near the Bodhimanda and first taught it in the Trayastrimsa heaven to his mother Maya, who had been reborn there. And then he came down to earth by way of a magical triple ladder in the company of Brahma and Indra. In this light, Abhidhamma was surely meant to supersede the content of the Nikayas and Vinayas which no doubt contained troublesome theories difficult to explain by Anattâvâda (No-self Doctrine).

    On to your other quesiton.

    I think both the Theravada Abhidharma and the Abhidharma of the "All-is" school (Sarvâstivâda) both claim to represent the words of the Buddha (cp. Origins of Buddhism, 2). Nevertheless, citing from Origins of Buddhism, Takakusu says:



    Citing now from E. Lamotte's work, History of Indian Buddhism, I found these nuggets which might be of interest to the discussants.



    In my view, all Abhidharma can be looked up as that sect's thesis. While the Nikayas and the Agamas have demonstrated enormous consistency leading one to conclude that they were the hearsay of one person, Abhidharma has not been at all consistent. Abhidharmas are no doubt the work of latter-day compilers.


    Love ya'll,


    Bobby


    Thanks Bobby.

    The two truth doctrine as an idea per se seems to have been popular in India before the rise of Buddhism already. The early Upanishadic thinkers also tried to top the the vedas while not invalidating them, stating vedas were lower truth, or limited truth (vedanta), their tohughts in contrast explaining the rest. This way they both saught to be authorized by the vedas and go beyond them.

    I read that according to Theravadin tradition, the Buddha taught the Abhidhamma in a Heaven Realm, returning every day once to earth during that time to beg for food. Sariputta is supposed to have heard it from him then. I read that in "Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works. Their Legacy" by Nyanaponika Mahathera.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited December 2006
    fofoo wrote:
    .........................

    I read that according to Theravadin tradition, the Buddha taught the Abhidhamma in a Heaven Realm, returning every day once to earth during that time to beg for food. Sariputta is supposed to have heard it from him then. I read that in "Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works. Their Legacy" by Nyanaponika Mahathera.


    Are you suggesting that we take this story literally, Fofoo?
  • edited December 2006
    No. It`s just what I read

    If you want my opinion, it`s a clever way of giving authority to a thing in times. You know, according to Aristotle, there are 3 ways to persuade: Ethos, Logs and Pathos. Ethos usually has to be established first because it wins gullible people(who might at times be the majority) in advance, Logos and Pathos then become secondary issues. But even if the audience is full of geniuses, you usually have to establish Ethos first by telling them what qualifies you to speak on the topic. So, the story is basically part of the Ethos of Abhidhamma in my eyes.

    Regards
Sign In or Register to comment.