Does anyone else reference the Kathavatthu as a source to clear up confusion on dhamma? What are your thoughts on it?

Seems to me it is largely ignored, or unknown text. If you use it, how? And what value do you find in it?

Personally, I find it bridges a gap. We live in a sea of information today, due to technology, and so also a sea of interpretations of the dhamma. It’s easy to get lost. The suttas contain the pure dhamma, the commentaries flesh it out. But, there remains a gap between Theravada and other positions, and the clarification as to which is correct is not covered in the suttas, because these divergent positions didn’t exist yet. This is what easily can lead to getting lost, as a non Theravadin position can seem to be a reasonable interpretation of the suttas, and it may not be clear which position to accept as correct. Even though the commentaries clarify which position is correct, some may want a more thorough process.

So, Venerable Moggaliputta Tissa’s work, the Kathavatthu, fills this gap by being a compendium of debates between schools, where the Theravada position is demonstrated as defeating competing positions. It’s one thing to read the suttas, which can be misinterpreted, it’s another to read the commentaries, which clear things up, both are very important and indispensable, but it’s also very useful to read actual debates, so we can see why these positions make sense, even in the face of argument about them.


I always refer to Kathavathu if I encountered doctrinal issue.

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I’m slowly reading it now. While suttantans accuse Proper Theravadan’s of only reading the abhidhamma and vsm without practice, I have actually not read kathavatthu yet, but I have read all 4 nikaya basically cover to cover+ .


What issues has it helped you with?

Wow! That’s impressive! I’ve read maybe 40% of the Nikayas, spread over all four. Please update us on your thoughts on the Kathavatthu.

I remember when I was a layman and asked a monk if he read all of the suttas and he said, “No.”
So I made it a point to do so. Ebook reader helped me a great deal.
I vowed to read through the sn when I first got my ebook reader. Then the AN came out later as well.

I’ve been in the biz for 22 years. It is my duty.
Reading cover to cover is a great systematically way to read the suttas. You get a good understanding of things, especially if you read the footnotes on ven bodhi translations.

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Questions such as Antarabhava concept, whether Nirayapalas are real or just imaginary, whether there is a inner self, whether Asura is a separated Gati…

Kathavathu helped me on these questions.

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I think Kathavathu is an essential book for us to read and refer to, to understand what is and what is not in this religion.

Importantly, the two terms Sakavadin and Paravadin are playing important role here, signifying that although the groups of monks or layfollowers, donning robes or layfollowers attire, claiming to be Buddhists, yet they are not of us (Paravadin), alien to Buddha’s Dispensation.

So to say one follows Theravada tradition, it is necessarily means Vibhajjavada tradition, as mentioned by Arahant Moggaliputta Tissa Thera in the Third Council. And our modern Theravada is inherited from this Vibhajjavada tradition, the original group. For the Buddha is Vibhajjavadi.

So, normally I will also use Vibhajjavada to describe original Buddha’s teachings.

We’re lucky to have you sharing your wisdom!

Yeah it helped me with the bardo question, too. A bit technical, but that’s my failing in not understanding fully.

I’m not familiar with those other terms, lookinh them up now :slight_smile:

The Kathavatthu is getting better. The first style of format was quite difficult to read, but now it is getting better. With smaller subjects and more concrete quoted answers. It is very inspiring. Unfortunately, it does not start out that way. I would definitely tell someone who was already buddhist to skim through the first section. up to page 60 and definitely gets better near page 70, and then gets really better and inspiring in pdf page 73 2. Of Falling Away
It is like having a really skillful teacher prove all the points you believe in but not being skillful yourself to come up with the references to prove the point.

Ironically, suttantas should find this very interesting.