Introduction to the Abhidhamma: by Jill Jordan and Richard Giles

This is a nice introduction to Abhidhamma by an old friend of mine, Jill Jordan…(died 2010).

Introduction to the Abhidhamma jill jordan (2).pdf (182.7 KB)

From the last page:

What is Happening Right Now?

You may wonder what is the point of all these classifications. Are they of any use to one in coming to understanding the truth of the way things are? When the Abhidhamma enumerates lists of types of consciousness and lists of types of matter this is so that one can understand that this is all that there really is right now. We sit and we talk and we think and we move about but we do not realize that our sitting and talking and thinking, etc., are in fact conditioned by many different things. When we sit down how do we know that we are sitting? You may say, “Well, it is obvious, isn’t it?” But ‘sitting’ is known because of different experiences through the body-sense and the eye perhaps, and we remember that these experiences when occurring all together are conventionally known as sitting. It is, in fact, a type of (body-sense) consciousness which experiences hardness through the body, seeing which sees and memory which remembers what we are doing. Body-sense, seeing and memory are all types of nama which are conditions. They are each different and each have different functions. Hardness is a type of rupa (matter). It cannot know anything about anything. Hardness is not a seat. ‘Seat’ or ‘chair’ are conventionally labels we give to other sets of experience through different senses. None of these experiences is a person sitting. Each is different. Each experience occurs at a different moment. So in reality no ‘person’ exists who is ‘sitting’ on a ‘chair’. There are just different realities occurring one after another through different senses. This may still not seem clear, but perhaps if we apply this knowledge to all of our life, we can see that pain, for example, is just unpleasant result (of deeds in the past), that the aversion to pain is just nama, that the unpleasant feeling when there is pain is also just nama. When people insult us, it is just sound appearing through the ear. It is only when we see and hear ‘things’ which we don’t like that we have all our problems, worries, strife and woe. To understand Abhidhamma is to understand that there is just seeing, hearing, thinking, touching, tasting, etc., but no person in them. This knowledge as it develops, ultimately brings us release from this unsatisfactory wheel of existence.

To finish, a quote from ‘The Path of Purity’ by Buddhaghosa, a book recognized as the greatest written summary of the Theravadin teachings in existence today:

As long as a man is vague about the world,
About its origin, about its ceasing,
About the means that lead to its cessation,
So long he cannot recognize the truths.