Let's discuss Retrofuturist's Brief Sutta Based Refutation of Abhidhamma

Found here:


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The game isn’t worth the candle.

He doesn’t have a sufficient understanding of Abhidhamma.

I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back.

One of the biggest issues with using this quote to say the abhidhamma is a forgery is that the abhidhamma wasnt taught with a closed fist. It was taught to devas because it was most suitable to them (just like why he taught the Dhammacakkavappattana sutta to the 5 ascetics and not some other sutta) and then gave the summary to Ven. Sariputta.

Second, there are no secret teachings but we know there are holes in the suttas that cannot be explained based on the suttas alone. The biggest example is kasina meditation, we know the Buddha taught it and that it is indeed fruitful to practice and some of the Buddhas disciples even enlightened using such techniques, yet in no sutta is it explained how to actually do it, you have go to commentaries to find how to actually do them. So we have all these meditation techniques other than sattipattana and anapanasati that are mentioned in the suttas yet in no sutta does it explain how to do them. So you have a bunch of people who only believe the suttas and therefore that these various meditation techniques are beneficial and taught by the Buddha, yet none of them can explain how to do any of them since they dont believe in the commentaries. This is a pretty big logical hole imo. if teaching in with an open fist means you can find everything in the suttas alone, why dont the suttas explain how to do these techniques?


When I’ve brought this up before, I usually get something like “don’t know, don’t care” or “the Buddha didn’t teach those. They are later or non-Buddhist ideas”.


You may find this useful .
However , not sure if there are english version .

Ps .
The first author is professor and the second author is associate professor of Department of Culture and Religion in Hsuan Chuang University .

(A Comparative Research on the Evolution and methodological features of “Kasina Meditation” among Different Buddhist Heritages).


In this paper, the author intends to study the theory and principle of
“kasiNa” (totality) or “kasiNāyatanāni” (spheres of totality) meditation
methods. In addition, the author also concerned about the different evolution
of meditation methods “Dasa kasiNā” (ten kasiNas) among different Buddhist
heritages, especially Theravada, Sarvāstivāda, and Yogācāra, a major
Mahāyāna philosophical school.
There are ten kasiNas described in Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga. That
is: earth (paThavī kasiNa), water (āpo kasiNa), fire (tejo kasiNa), air or wind
(vāyo kasiNa), blue or green (nīla kasiNa), yellow (pīta kasiNa), red (lohita
kasiNa), white (odāta kasiNa), enclosed space, hole or aperture (ākāsa kasiNa),
bright light (āloka kasiNa) .
But according to the original Buddhist scriptures like Nikāya, Agama
sutras, The author initially found two points:

  1. There were not many times that “dasa kasiNāyatanāni” appear in the
    original Buddhist scriptures. In addition, “dasa kasiNāyatanāni” as a type of
    meditation methods, were not highly regarded in the original Buddhist scriptures.
  2. There are no bright light (āloka) kasiNa in these ten kinds of kasiNas,
    but instead of consciousness (viññāNa) kasiNa. As for “ākāsa”, the original
    Buddhist scriptures only call it “space-kasina”. However, is “ākāsa”
    synonymous with “enclosed space” or “limited space”? Perhaps further
    research is needed.
    In Theravada Buddhism, kasiNa refers to an ancient system of meditatio.
    As the first category of forty samatha kammatthanas (canonical objects of
    meditation, 止業處), KasiNa meditation uses visual objects to focus the
    mind, intended to cultivate the concentration ability of practitioners, and
    create a foundation for further practices of meditation.
    This paper compare academic evolution and methodological features of
    “Dasa kasiNā” among Primitive Buddhism and different Buddhist schools,
    including original texts, practical items and theoretical content and practice
    skills. The author explore the reasons for these differences, and pay attention
    to the relationship among these three types of meditation methods. This
    involves different theoretical structures and experience accumulation of
    different Buddhist meditation systems, and is also a great contribution of the
    meditation masters and śāstra writers from different heritages.

Note : I could not upload attachment as a new user .

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Good points. Why would he clearly mention the Kasinas in AN 10.25, MN 77 and other places probably, but not describe how to practice them in more detail, unless he knew there was a commentary or abhidhamma to describe them?

retrofuturist wrote:
Common Abhidhamma Argument #3 - Dhammas exist, independent of observation

Sutta Reponse: This may be true of noumena such as mahabhuta, which are not phenomena (dhammas) but as it applies to dhammas, it is refuted by the Suttas, which state…
SN 47.42 wrote:
With the arising of attentiveness there is the arising of dhammas. With the cessation of attentiveness there is the cessation of dhammas

Doodoot wrote:

It seems an examination of the suttas might find the word “dhammas” in SN 47.42 refers to Dhamma Principles, such as the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, as follows:

“And what, bhikkhus, is the nutriment fazor the arising of the unarisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness and for the fulfilment by development of the arisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness? There are, bhikkhus, things that are the basis for the enlightenment factor of mindfulness: frequently giving careful attention to them is the nutriment for the arising of the unarisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness and for the fulfilment by development of the arisen enlightenment factor of mindfulness.”

Also, the impressions from AN 3.136 & SN 12.20 is it appears the Dhamma Law exists regardless of its discovery, namely:

"Whether Realized Ones arise or not, this law of nature persists, this regularity of natural principles, this invariance of natural principles

Uppādā vā tathāgatānaṁ anuppādā vā tathāgatānaṁ, ṭhitāva sā dhātu dhammaṭṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatā ."

In SN 22.94 (see below) each aggregate is denoted as a suffering thing (viparinamadhamma) or suffering dhamma, this, of course, includes rupa. Hence, form has been declared a dhamma, and specifically singled out as existing. In MN 28 (see below) the existence of mind independent form is confirmed, and in SN 12.2 (see below), form is declared as made up of the mahabhutas (which Retro admitted were mind independent). And so, calling dhammas mind independent isn’t an Abhidhamma invention, and ultimately all quibbles about the word “dhamma” evaporate when we realize that “dhamma” is used with a huge number of meanings in the suttas, as astutely pointed out by Doodoot above. Critical to recognize, is the context of the sutta Retro referenced. In SN 47.42, the Buddha is discussing the four foundations of mindfulness, and only this topic. Thus, when he says what he does about dhammas, he is speaking about that specific use, and context of the word, and so the only dhammas that are being mentioned are the seven factors of enlightenment, or even the extended definition of dhammas for the four foundations of mindfulness, which is all “mind objects” (see below), which are not rupa dhammas in the first place, but are mental things, and so are irrelevant to the discussion about whether or not dhammas are mind independent. And, of course, this makes no case whatsoever for all dhammas being not mind independent.

Further, Retro admits mahabhuta are mind independent. Rupa is made of mahabhuta. Thus, this clearly confirms that rupa, at least the dhammas it is composed of, and the dhammas that make up the paramattha dhammas in abhidhamma, are mind independent. In other words, Retro wrote this “refutation” point and didn’t realize it agrees with, and validates the abhidhamma position. The mahabhuta being mind independent is one of the most crucial foundational points that validates the abhidhamma. Hence, his “refutation” ended before it began. The moment he affirmed the mind independence of the mahabhutas, he refuted his own refutation. He doesn’t seem to understand that mahabhutas are dhammas. And, even if they weren’t delineated as dhammas in the suttas, this still demonstrates that rupa, which is delineated as a dhamma in the suttas, is mind independent, or at least composed of mind independent mahabhutas, as it is made up of mahabhutas.

It actually sounds like the abhidhamma interpreted it perfectly: mahabhutas are the fundamental, mind independent building blocks of matter. Rupa is made up of them. The rupa we see is conventional reality, but is made up of ultimately real, mind independent mahabhutas.

In the end, the Abhidhamma position is not strikingly different from, and is easily supported by the suttas. In fact, the suttas are entirely based around a system which not only implies that objects exist mind independently, but completely demands it, and falls apart if this is not true. As can be seen in MN 28 and every other sutta that talks about this explanation of how consciousness arises and similar; objects must preexist consciousness, or consciousness would be impossible and we’d be senseless. Per the Buddha’s teachings on how our senses work, if you are perceiving an external object, then your physical sense organ made contact with it before the consciousness of it arose. With no external, consciousness independent objects to make contact with our sense organs, consciousness could not arise at all. So, the Abhidhamma is merely going on what the Buddha already ruled with his system.

Mind independent reality is such an assumed, given position in the Nikayas, that the Buddha used the opposite view as an analogy thusly:

“Student, suppose there were a man born blind who could not see dark and light forms, who could not see blue, yellow, red, or carmine forms, who could not see what was even and uneven, who could not see the stars or the sun and moon. He might say thus: ‘There are no dark and light forms, and no one who sees dark and light forms; there are no blue, yellow, red, or carmine forms, and no one who sees blue, yellow, red, or carmine forms; there is nothing even and uneven, and no one who sees anything even and uneven; there are no stars and no sun and moon, and no one who sees stars and the sun and moon. I do not know these, I do not see these, therefore these do not exist.’ Speaking thus, student, would he be speaking rightly?”

“No, Master Gotama. There are dark and light forms, and those who see dark and light forms…there are the stars and the sun and moon, and those who see the stars and the sun and moon. Saying, ‘I do not know these, I do not see these, therefore these do not exist,’ he would not be speaking rightly.”

“So too, student, the brahmin Pokkharasāti is blind and visionless.
-MN 99

Finally, we might do well to simply look at the definition of “dhamma,” and see that it is incredibly broad, including simply meaning “thing,” in some uses (I bolded it in the definition), and so using one isolated line from a sutta to ostensibly refute hundreds of other uses of the word is untenable.

masculine (& neuter)

  1. how the world of experience works, the processes by which it works and is explained (especially as formulated in cattāri ariyasaccānī and paṭiccasamuppāda), and the possibility and way of transcending it, as understood by the Buddha and taught by him (so that knowledge and understanding of it might bring awakening, arhantship, to others)
  2. the (stages to) freedom from the world of experience, culminating in nibbāna
  3. (singular) the behavior, conduct, practice required to realize and understand the way the world of experience works; the way to arahatship
  4. (plural) a quality or element of behavior or practice according to the Buddha ’s dhamma; a constituent of prescribed practice; an element of the teaching; a doctrine; appropriate and beneficial practice
  5. the substance of the teaching of the Buddha; the teaching as collected in the canon; the texts
  6. a constituent of experience; an aspect or quality of existence; physical sensation; a mental state or quality (good or bad); (sometimes merely) thing, phenomenon, matter; the nonindependent, conditioned constituents of processes and events, progressively more and more minutely analyzed into fundamental types of event or fundamental regularities
  7. mental constructs, concepts, ideas, what is to be cognized by the mind, that which is the object of mental activity
  8. for the sangha: a rule; the offense against that rule; the punishment or reparation for that offense; a procedure; ~ especially the special requirements (garudhammā) imposed on bhikkhunis
  9. an interpretation of reality of other religious teachers or philosophers; their teaching; a non-buddhist doctrine; a theory
  10. the way things are; a natural law, custom, tradition; the essential nature, the way, of men or animals
  11. the way things ought to be; the way one should act (depending on who one is); right, appropriate conduct; duty; what is right; law, justice
  12. good practice; a good quality or characteristic or attainment
  13. a quality or characteristic; any element of behavior or practice or attainment

Reverends, though the eye is intact internally, so long as exterior sights don’t come into range and there’s no corresponding engagement, there’s no manifestation of the corresponding type of consciousness.
Ajjhattikañceva, āvuso, cakkhuṁ aparibhinnaṁ hoti, bāhirā ca rūpā na āpāthaṁ āgacchanti, no ca tajjo samannāhāro hoti, neva tāva tajjassa viññāṇabhāgassa pātubhāvo hoti.
Though the eye is intact internally and exterior sights come into range, so long as there’s no corresponding engagement, there’s no manifestation of the corresponding type of consciousness.
Ajjhattikañceva, āvuso, cakkhuṁ aparibhinnaṁ hoti bāhirā ca rūpā āpāthaṁ āgacchanti, no ca tajjo samannāhāro hoti, neva tāva tajjassa viññāṇabhāgassa pātubhāvo hoti.
But when the eye is intact internally and exterior sights come into range and there is corresponding engagement, there is the manifestation of the corresponding type of consciousness.
Yato ca kho, āvuso, ajjhattikañceva cakkhuṁ aparibhinnaṁ hoti, bāhirā ca rūpā āpāthaṁ āgacchanti, tajjo ca samannāhāro hoti. Evaṁ tajjassa viññāṇabhāgassa pātubhāvo hoti.
-MN 28
And what do the astute agree on as existing, which I too say exists?
Kiñca, bhikkhave, atthisammataṁ loke paṇḍitānaṁ, yamahaṁ ‘atthī’ti vadāmi?
Form that is impermanent, suffering, and perishable.
Rūpaṁ, bhikkhave, aniccaṁ dukkhaṁ vipariṇāmadhammaṁ atthisammataṁ loke paṇḍitānaṁ; ahampi taṁ ‘atthī’ti vadāmi.

Feeling … Perception … Choices …
Vedanā aniccā …pe…

Consciousness that is impermanent, suffering, and perishable.
viññāṇaṁ aniccaṁ dukkhaṁ vipariṇāmadhammaṁ atthisammataṁ loke paṇḍitānaṁ; ahampi taṁ ‘atthī’ti vadāmi.
This is what the astute agree on as existing, which I too say exists.
Idaṁ kho, bhikkhave, atthisammataṁ loke paṇḍitānaṁ; ahampi taṁ ‘atthī’ti vadāmi.
-SN 22.94

The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form.
-SN 12.2

The subjects dealt with in the Satipatthana Sutta are corporeality, feeling, mind and mind objects…
-Nyanasatta Thera