Rupert Gethin: I place a question mark against the claims of ‘inconsistency’ of Abhidhamma and Commentaries

by A. Bhikkhu »

frank k wrote:
Everything we have inherited from the ancient sanghas is hear say, unconfirmed. So I’m open to any new evidence and will change my mind instantly if evidence is compelling. Ultimately, it’s not even Buddha Gotama I’m loyal to, the only allegiance I have is to truth.

I don’t see how this is true about the hearsay, unless you really believe that Theravādins have throughout the millennia up to the present day, incl. most bhikkhus from Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka etc. nowadays, all completely missed it about jhāna and have no practical experience on the basis of the commentarial understanding. It has already stood the test of time and essentially doesn’t need any modern-day interpretations from people who don’t even read, let alone completely understand the commentaries, usually with much less time and effort devoted to actual practice.

frank k wrote:
I admit that commentaries provide an alternative account, but despite objectively and giving it fair review, I don’t find the commentaries (in their entirety) equally cogent. There are inconsistencies, contradictions. They’re incoherent (in their entirety).

Didn’t you already say that you haven’t even read all of them? Interestingly, scholars who do seem to read and understand them, approaching them with an open mind, grant them that they have this power of at least providing an equally cogent alternative, like Rupert Gethin (The Buddhist Path to Awakening, p. xiii).

One of the things I suggested in my conclusion was that before we throw away the Abhidhamma and the commentaries, we need to be very sure we have understood what is is they are saying, and how it is they are actually interpreting earlier texts. What prompted that suggestion then was a sense that in dealing with the theory of the Buddhist path in the Nikāyas scholars had tended to dismiss the views of the Abhidhamma and commentaries without fully understanding them. Yet my own investigation of the treatment of the bodhi-pakkhiyādhammā in the Nikāyas and abhidhamma/abhidharma texts had led me to the conclusion that in fact, while the understanding of the later texts might not be precisely the same in all matters of detail, it was, when worked out and carefully considered, broadly consistent with what is found in the Nikāyas. […] my study does at least […] place a question mark against some of the claims of ‘contradiction’ and ‘inconsistency’ in the way the texts (the Pali Nikāyas, the Abhidhamma, and the commentaries) present the theory of Buddhist meditation.

I agree with him in that this is how they present themselves to me as well when carefully considered. What “late” means is again up to debate.


Definitely, the contradictions found by " scholars" between Sutta and Abhidhamma -commentaries are claimed probably by the most uninformed and ignorants, or unwise “scholars”…

One of the main reason of controversy is probably the mere absence of the Abhidhamma and commentaries topics, or key words, in Sutta.

For exemple, the catu mahā upādāya rūpa, precision and further explanation is not found in the Suttas… It is only mentioned… But because of the mere absence of it in the Suttas, the Dvipitakin think the Abhidhamma explanation of derived materiality is not the authentic Buddha’ s Teaching but later teachings only.
So that they may believe during 45 years the Buddha didn’t answer to it. Or they believe it was not important enough to mention it, or so obvious that one would understand without further explanations.
Or they just have doubt but can not give an explanation why it is not there. But whatever is it, their explanations to fill the lack of Abhidhamma and commentaries informations, wich they rejected… Their personal opinion can not be accepted by someone who believe in the Buddha ’ s enlightenment.

Their reference is “Suttas” because it contains all the words and topics wich are also found in Abhidhamma and commentaries, while Abhidhamma and commentaries contain words not found in Suttas…

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