Does anyone know where in the commentaries it is stated that dhammas exist "from their own side" (sarupato)?

Is there a sub forum to discuss the commentaries? Or is this the correct one to discuss them?

Anyway, in A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, Bhikkhu Bodhi writes:

Where is this stated explicitly in the commentaries (or Abhidhamma, or Visuddhimagga, or any such orthodox work)?


My idea is that since we are a Classical Theravāda group, we don’t need to have separate categories to discuss the commentaries. Most items will belong in General Theravāda group. Relax… :call_me_hand: you are not in dhammawheel anymore :slight_smile:

However, this question might be better suited for the abhidhamma category (but really that is general theravāda for us too :slight_smile: )


Interesting topic, is it equivalent to what we called Sabhava Dhamma?

I’m not sure. I read that in Bodhi’s work, and have been wondering what, specifically, he is referencing. Considering his level of precise scholarship, I believe we may be confident there is a clear source.

@RobertK Could you please help me out? I chased around a tip from one of your older threads on the abhidhamma website. The topic was: " sarupato- exist from their own side (unlike concets)"

And your comment was: “see manual of abhidhamma by narada”

I did a word search for every term I could think of that would lead to this info in Narada Thera’s “A Manual of Abhidhamma” , but I couldn’t find anything.

Could you please tell me where exactly this is discussed in that work?

These are some passages that I could found in Prof. Y. Karunadasa’s book. Some letters might have bit changed since it is a copy-paste.

Its Inquiry into the Nature of Conditioned Reality

The Nature and Range of Dhammas
In the course of this chapter we saw that the Abhidhamma uses a number
of terms to describe the basic constituents into which it analyses the world
of experience. Among them are dhamma (basic factor of actuality), bhāva
(being), sabhāva or sakabhāva (own-being, own-nature), salakkhaņa (own-mark, own-characteristic), paccatta-lakkhana (individuating characteristic),
paramattha (ultimate), saccikattha (true existent), and bhutattha (actual
being). These different terms bring into focus two important characteristics
of the dhammas. One is that they exist in a real and ultimate sense, thus
representing a category which truly exists independently of the cognitive
act. The second is that each dhamma represents a particular characteristic
which is peculiar to it and which thus sets it apart from all other dhammas.
If these and other words are used as different expressions for dhamma,
they are not intended to show that a dhamma is something complex and
therefore that it has different aspects. As a datum of actuality, a constituent
of conditioned reality, a dhamma is a unitary fact with no possibility of
further resolution. This is a situation on which the Pāli exegetes focus
much attention: Hence it is said: “In the ultim ate sense, a dhamma has but
one own-nature although it is sought to be expressed in many ways, which
are superim posed on it. This is like using a string of synonyms to express
the same thing in an easily understandable manner.” “” The reference to
superimposition for purposes of description is very significant. For as we
saw in the course of this chapter, description necessarily involves dualities
and dichotomies such as the characteristic and the characterized, the agent
and the action, the bearer and the borne, the possessor and the possessed.
But all such dualities and dichotomies have no corresponding objective
counterparts. They are mind-made and mind-based attributions made for
the coiivenienee of delinition and description.

Since pannatti represents name and meaning as concepts, it has to be
distinguished from dhammas, the category of the real. And since the term
paramattha is used in the Abhidhamma as a description of what is ultimately
r eal, the above distinction is also presented as that between pahhatti and
paramattha, or that between pahhatti and dhamma, because paramattha
and dhamma are mutually convertible terms. Thus we have the category
o f pahhattis on the one hand representing that which exists as name and
concept, and the category of dhammas on the other, representing that
wliicli exists as ultimate constituents of existence. The two categories
imply two levels of reality as well. These two levels are the conceptual and
I he real. It is the distinction between that which depends on the operation
of mind, and that which exists independently of the operation of mind.
While the form er owes its being to the act of cognition itself, the latter
exists independently of the cognitive act.
These two categoric.s, the pahhatti and the paramattha, or the conceptual
and Ihe real, are said to be mutually exclusive and together exhaustive
of Ihe whole of the know able (neyya-dhamma) Thus what is not
paramattha is pahhatti. Similarly wha is not pahhatti is paramattha.

H ence th e A h h id h a m m ā v a tā ra m ak es th is a sse rtiv e statem en t:
“ B esides the two categories o f param attha (the real) and pahhatti
(the conceptual), a third category does not exist. One who is skillful in
these two categories does not tremble in the face of other teachings”.’*
Although the theory of pahhatti is formally introduced in the works of
the Abhidhamma Pitaka, it is in the Abhidhamma exegesis that we find
more specific definitions of the term along with many explanations on the
nature and scope of pahhattis and how they become objects of cognition.
In the first place, what is called pahhatti cannot be subsumed under nātna
(the m ental) or rūpa (the m aterial). H ence the Nāmarūpapariccheda
describes it as “nāma-rūpa-vinimmutta”, i.e., distinct from both mind and
matter.’* This is another way alluding to the fact that pahhattis are not
dhammas. Both pahhatti and Nibbāna are excluded from the domain of the
five aggregates.‘® Since pahhatti refers to that which has no corresponding
objective counterpart, it is also called asabhāva-dhamma, i.e., dhamma
without own-nature.’* This description distinguishes it from the real
factors of existence. Since sabhāva, the intrinsic nature of a dhamma,
is itself the dhamma, from the point of view of this definition what is
qualified as asabhāva (absence of own-nature) amounts to an abhāva,
a non-existent in the final sense. It is in recognition of this fact that the
three salient characteristics of empirical reality, namely, arising (uppāda),
presence (thiti), and dissolution (bhahga) are not applied to them. These three
characteristics can be predicated only of those things which answer to
the Abhidhamma’s definition of em pirical reality.’* Again, unlike the real
existents, pahhattis are not brought about by conditions (paccayatthitika)P
For this same reason, they are also defined as “not positively produced”
(aparinipphanna). Positive production (parinipphannatā) is true only of
those things which have their own individual nature (āveņika-sabhāva).^"
Only a dhamma that has an own-nature, with a beginning and an end in
time, produced by conditions, and marked by the three salient characteristics
of conditioned existence, is positively produced.

The Abhidhamma theory of reality requires that we make a clear
distinction between the types of entities that exist in a real and ultimate
sense (dhammas) and the types of entities that exist only as conceptual
constructs (pannatti). The form er refer to those entities that truly exist
independently of the cognitive act, and the latter to those entities that
owe their being to the act of cognition itself It is in this context that we
need to understand the place the Abhidhamma assigns to time and space.


Hi Zans
unfortunately that topic (other than the title )got lost during transfer to the newer site.
However the meaning is clear enough I think - it is exactly as Bhikkhu Bodhi writes in the extract you gave - and in fact @Ontheway is correct, it is all related to sabhava dhammas. The article @ekocare gave is also very good.

So it is one of those critical areas in the teaching(and the reason you intuit its importance)

Let’s look at Bodhi’s wider explanation framing the sentence you gave:

Briefly, the dhamma theory maintains that ultimate reality consists of a multiplicity of elementary constituents called dhammas. The dhammas are not noumena hidden behind phenomena, not “things in themselves” as opposed to “mere appearances,” but the fundamental components of actuality. The dhammas fall into two broad classes: the unconditioned dhamma, which is solely Nibbana, and the conditioned dhammas, which are the momentary mental and material phenomena that constitute the process of experience. The familiar world of substantial objects and enduring persons is, according to the dhamma theory, a conceptual construct fashioned by the mind out of the raw data provided by the dhammas. The entities of our everyday frame of reference possess merely a consensual reality derivative upon the foundational stratum of the dhammas. It is the dhammas alone that possess ultimate reality: determinate existence “from their own side” (sarupato) independent of the mind’s conceptual processing of the data.

Such of the nature of the real seems to be already implicit in the Sutta Pitaka, particularly in the Buddha’s disquisitions on the aggregates, sense bases, elements, dependent arising, etc., but it remains there tacitly in the background as the underpinning to the more pragmatically formulated teachings of the Suttas…

This project starts from the premise that to attain the wisdom that knows things “as they really are,” a sharp wedge must be driven between those types of entities that possess ontological ultimacy, that is, the dhammas, and those types of entities that exist only as conceptual constructs but are mistakenly grasped as ultimately real

In essence the way of vipassana is about understanding those sabhava dhammas (which are all sarupato), those elements, as they are. And so the first step is differentiating between realities and what is only concepts. The world seems to last because we are so involved with concepts and not aware of the actual realities (which are so brief and insubstantial).
As far as finding references for sarupato, possibly venerable @bksubhuti could supply some (he has a great pali search engine). But I think there will be many and unless a pali expert explains them not much help. Probably Bodhi has already given the essence .


Another great explanation is given by Mahanama - see the translation here by Ven. Dhammanando:

Sabhaavena su––an’ ti ettha saya.m bhaavo sabhaavo, sayameva uppaado’ ti attho.

‘Empty regarding individual essence’: here individual essence is ‘essence by itself’; arising just of itself is the meaning.

sayam eva uppādo


Regarding the passage by Mahanama, Ronkin gives an academic take which is a bit hard to follow but has some useful info…

Mahānāma initially analyses the compound sabhāva as sayaṭbhāvo, or sako bhāvo, that is, ‘essence by itself’ or ‘essence of itself’, explaining this to mean ‘arising by itself’ (sayam eva uppādo) or ‘own-arising’ (attano yeva uppādo). Given this interpretation, to translate bhāvo as ‘nature’ is inappropriate, for the commentator points to the narrower and more technical sense of essence.[35] Mahånåma then turns to an explication of the coupling sabhåvena suññaµ. First, he states that essence, bhåva, is but a figurative designation for dhamma, and since each single dhamma does not have any other dhamma called ‘essence’, it is empty of essence other than itself. This, in fact, reveals a different analysis of sabhåva, as ‘the essence that it has of itself’ (sakassa bhåvo). It thus follows that every single dhamma has a single ‘essence-hood’ (ekassabhåvatå)
ronkin mahanama.pdf (143.0 KB)

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Thanks for all of the info. Very helpful!

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Much appreciated!

I think I will put this up on my wall.


Nice to see you posting here Roxi.
I think you would also like this booklet: