Writing A Document for Authenticating The Abhidhamma and Commentaries

Yes…It would be good if you also posted your bhikkhu bodhi reference to this link here.


I know , but actually… I have not read it yet :slight_smile: But I like what is said about “sutta” Is that what you were saying? It is really written by exven aggadhammagavesaka who always had a goal of explaining what we want to explain here, in particular to the this topic in this thread (no pun intended).

The footnotes to “workings of kamma” also provide many references. He is a little too footnote crazy though with two levels of footnotes. One is to explain the text and another is to provide sutta references for what is being said. I should take a look again. However, i’m pulled in so many directions.

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I think Bodhi might be a little mistaken here Consciousness(citta, vinnana, mano) is not more or less rudimentary in sutta or abhidhamma.

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bhikkhu Bodhi here is talking about the nature of mano dhātu in comparison of mano viññāna dhātu.
He explains that this kind of consciousness ( that is mano dhātu) has a more basic function than mano viññāna dhātu.

Here “rudimentary” means the function in the cognitive process of mano dhātu, compared to mano viññāna dhātu wich is more elaborated.

He does not say it is more rudimentary in Sutta or in Abhidhamma, he tries to explain briefly the nature of these two dhātu by mentioning the Abhidhamma.

Mano dhātu is pañcadvārajjana (five door adverting) and sampaticcana (receiving) wich “converts” any sense cousciousness to a mind consciousness during a sense-door process, pañca dvāra vīthi… That is why it can be said it is more rudimentary, since for exemple the javana wich determines the nature kusala or akusala of the mentality, is mano viññāna dhātu, a much more elaborated fonction…

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A thought on this matter: Thinking one could truly understand the suttas without skewing them with massive personal bias and misunderstandings due to language, translations, etc. is as absurd as thinking one could understand Shakespeare perfectly without reading a single thing clarifying the differences between Elizabethan English, and modern English, and this would have to be something considering contemporary texts written around the time of Shakespeare. No one would argue with that, yet they argue they can know the true meaning of the suttas without the help of the commentaries.


18 posts were merged into an existing topic: Even the Attanomati is higher than Non-Theravada Suttas or Interpretations

Saw this on Dhammawheel. Originally posted by @RobertK . Excellent quote.

The prime object of every Commentary is to make the meanings of the words and
phrases in the canonical passages it is elucidating abundantly clear, definite, definitive even…This is to preserve the Teachings of the Buddha as nearly as possible in the sense intended, and as conveyed by the succession of teachers, acariyaparama. Always there were detractors, always there were and still are “improvers” ready with their own notions. Through friends and enemies alike deleterious change and deterioration in the word of the Buddha might intervene for an indefinite length of time. The Commentaries are the armour and protection against such an eventuality. AS they hold a unique position as preservers and interpreters of true Dhamma, it is essential not only to follow them carefully and adopt the meaning they ascribe to a word or phrase each time they comment on it. They are as closed now as is the Pali canon. No additions to their corpus or subtractions from it are to contemplated, and no commentary written in later days could be included in it.
-Horner. pxiii Clarifier of the Sweet Meaning" PAli Text Society 1978.


An article on how the non-classical scholars counter-argue about the word “Abhidhamma” in the Texts.

What did the Buddha mean by the word ‘abhidhamma’?
Bhikkhu Varado

I.B. Horner says that the term abhidhamma occurs not more than ten times in the first two pitakas (the Suttapitaka and the Vinayapitaka), three of these being in the Vinaya.’ (Book of Discipline III, p xi). She says that the word abhidhamma (apart from its use in interpolated material) should be ‘taken as referring to some material or method in existence prior to the compilation of this [Abhidhamma] Pitaka, and out of which it [the Abhidhamma Pitaka] was gradually elaborated and eventually formed.’ (Book of Discipline, Vol. III, p xi)

The ‘interpolated material’ occurs in the Book of the Discipline Vol. III p415: [Regarding the bhikkhunis, who were supposed to ask for leave before asking the Sangha a question] “Not given leave” means: without asking for permission. “Should ask a question” means: if having asked for leave in regard to suttanta, she asks about discipline or about abhidhamma, there is an offense of expiation.

This is the only place in the canon where the triad suttanta, vinaya and abhidhamma occur together, and is 'unhesitatingly asssumed to be an interpolation by Oldenburg. (ref: Book of Discipline, Vol. III, pxiv and Encyclopaedia of Buddhism, Vol. 1, p 39)

This view is substantiated by Horner. She says that ‘abhidhamma’ in the passage ‘probably means the literary digest of this name. This passage would therefore seem late, dating from some time after the compilation of the three pitakas.’ (Book of Discipline III, p 415)

The PTS Pali-English Dictionary says the word ‘abhidhamma’ was probably not used by the Buddha in the very earliest days of his teaching: ‘As the word ‘abhidhamma’ standing alone is not found in the Sutta Nipata or the Anguttara Nikaya, and only once or twice in the Digha Nikaya, it probably came into use only towards the end of the period in which the four Nikayas [of the suttas] grew up.’

In the vinaya, at one place the term abhidhamma occurs with vinaya, suttanta, and also gatha (which means poems):

[Regarding monks, for whom it is an offense to disparage the learning of vinaya] "There is no offense if, not desiring to disparage, he speaks saying: ‘Look here, do you master suttantas, or verses (gatha), or what is extra to dhamma [abhidhamma] and afterwards you will master discipline"Book of the Discipline Vol. III p42

Horner says, ‘The very presence of the word gatha is enough to preclude the term abhidhamma from standing for the literary exegesis of that name, for no reference to the third pitaka would have combined a reference to part of the material (poems) which one of the pitakas finally came to include.’ (Book of Discipline, Vol. III, p xii) Her logic here is that, since gatha does not mean Gatha Pitaka, abhidhamma does not mean Abhidhamma Pitaka. So, what does ‘abhidhamma’ actually mean here?

Horner says:

‘Although we can say fairly confidently what abhidhamma does not mean here, it is by no means so easy to assess what it does mean. A monk may say to another, “Master suttanta, or verses (gatha) or abhidhamma, and afterwards you will master discipline.”’ (Book of Discipline, Vol. III p xii)

Regarding this passage, she proposes that abhidhamma means ‘an intellectual exercise perhaps, devoid of all extraneous matter, in which the meaning of dhamma terms and concepts is to be grasped through their grouping, through their classified relations of identity and dependence and so on, instead of through the more picturesque, personal and hortatory methods, often made intelligible by homely parable and simile, which is the suttanta way of presenting dhamma.’(Book of Discipline, Vol. III p xiii)

She says that the word ‘abhidhamma’, occuring in the suttas and vinaya, although not indicating a complete and closed system of philosophy, ‘had been intended to stand for something more than dhamma and vinaya, perhaps in the sense of some more than usually complete grasp and mastery of them, due to further study and reflection’. (The Indian Historical Quarterly, XVII p299)

She proposes that the value of the gathas lay in ‘their appeal to the more emotional type of disciple…whereas the mastery of abhidhamma would provide a field to attract the more intellectual type, while mastery of suttantas would stir the normally virtuous man of average mental equipment.’ (p xiv)

T.W. Rhys Davids suggests the suttas that typify the early abhidhamma:

‘The last two suttas of the Digha Nikaya [the Sangiti Sutta and the Dasuttara Sutta] with their catechism as a monologue by the catechumen, and of the absence of narrative - they become practically abhidhamma rather than Sutta Pitaka…In the Majjhima Nikaya we have abhidhamma talk in the two Vedalla Suttas’. (Dialogues of the Buddha, Vol. III p199-200)

The reason Rhys Davids says that the Digha Nikaya suttas are ‘practically abhidhamma’ is because ‘tradition itself has recognised a distinction in style between the Dhamma [i.e. the suttas] and the Abhidhamma. Thus the suttas embodying the Dhamma are said to be taught in the discursive style, which makes free use of the simile, the metaphor and the anecdote. This is contrasted with the non-discursive style of the Abhidhamma which uses very select and precise, and therefore thoroughly impersonal terminology which is decidedly technical in meaning and function’. (WS Karunaratne, Encyclopaedia of Buddhism, Vol. 1, p38)

The Mahagosinga Sutta provides a valuable clue as to what abhidhamma meant in the earliest period of Buddhism. In the sutta, Ven Sariputta asks Ven MahaMoggallana what type of monk he thought would most illumine the Gosinga sal-wood. Ven MahaMoggallana replies:

‘In this connection, reverend Sariputta, two monks are talking on Further Dhamma[abhidhamma]; they ask one another questions; in answering one another’s questions they respond and do not fail, and their talk on dhamma goes forward’. (M 1 211. Tr IBH)

When the Buddha heard of Ven MahaMoggallana’s answer, he said, as I’ve said: ‘It is good, it is good. For, Sariputta, Moggallana is a talker on dhamma’.

This suggests that the earliest abhidhamma arose from the dialogues of monks of ‘the more intellectual type’. Intellectual interest in dhamma would naturally lead to conversations involving questioning and enquiry.

To discover what ‘abhidhamma’ meant in the earliest days, one should study the conversations between monks of the intellectual type. The Mahavedalla Sutta is a good example of this. It records a conversation between Ven Kotthita the Great and Ven Sariputta. Ven Sariputta was said by the Buddha to be ‘chief of those of great intuitive wisdom’. Ven Kotthita the Great was called ‘chief of those who have mastery in logical analysis’. These two monks were obviously very fond of discussing dhamma together. Many of their conversations are recorded in the Sutta Pitaka.

We have now said that the earliest abhidhamma was the field of the intellectual types. It was characterized by catechism, and by intellectual conversations. As one of the recurrent features of these conversations is analyses of terms, we could reasonably assume that a third feature of the earliest abhidhamma was analysis. Ven Sariputta, ‘chief of those with intuitive wisdom’, was a master of analysis, as is made clear in this passage:

‘Your reverences, when I had been two weeks ordained a monk, I grasped the analysis of meanings specifically and according to the letter (atthapatisambhida sacchikata odiso byanjanaso) That I explain it in various ways, I teach it, expound it, proclaim it, lay it down, open it up, analyse it and make it clear….[and likewise for the analysis of conditions (dhammapatisambhida), the analysis of definitions (niruttipatisambhida), and the analysis of intellect (patibhanapatisambhida)]. (Gradual Sayings, II, 159, Tr FL Woodward).


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Just sharing…

"Though the Abhidhamma Pitaka doubtlessly represents a later development of the original teachings, it nevertheless contradicts in no essential point the teachings laid down in the Sutta Pitaka, but on the contrary helps towards a correct understanding of the older texts. Particularly those passages in the present book which deal with the higher stages of knowledge will clearly show that a considerable part of Abhidhamma doctrine is already contained, at least in seed form, in the Sutta Pitaka. This will help to bring out strongly the impressive inner consistency of the whole edifice of Buddhist doctrine.

For one who masters the Páli language and has thoroughly studied and digested the voluminous body of the canonical texts, both of Sutta and Abhidhamma, and is also familiar with the Visuddhimagga and other commentaries, there can no longer exist any doubt or uncertainty regarding the essential teachings of the Buddha. For the same reason, no difference of opinion about the Buddha’ s doctrine can exist among the Buddhist scholars of Southern Asia. That, on the other hand, many Western authors and critics, in their interpretations of Buddhist doctrine, so often contradict each other, is due to the fact that they lack the aforementioned primary conditions. This applies, in particular, to the understanding of those central Buddhist doctrines of impersonality (anattá; not-self) and dependent origination (paticca-samuppáda). It is hoped that the texts presented here will contribute to a correct grasp of these two important doctrines and, in general, will be a help in the study and a stimulus towards the practice of the liberating teachings of the Enlightened One."

Nyanatiloka Island Hermitage Dodanduva, Lanka (Ceylon) January 1950

in preface of “The Buddha’ s Path to Deliverance”


One of our monks will be writing an article on the importance of the commentaries and abhidhamma in Sinahala.

He said,

“They have asked something about challenges for Buddhism. I am writing about the importance of studying commentaries. Because in Sri Lanka nowadays many people underestimate and don’t study commentaries”

Then I sent him a link to this page and also explained some of the history with PTS and even Bhikkhu Bodhi. He said this page was very useful and he will be writing based on many things stated here. Sadhu x 3. I have asked him to translate into English. I think he will.

By the way, I referenced a quote from the PTS DN that started the whole chain of doubts in the to follow since it was one of the earlier texts to be translated… The quote is from Mahaparinibbanasutta.
The quote on the doubts of the devas being able to fit on a tip of a hair is here. (and well, it is pretty clear in the Mula as well).

83] Buddhaghosa explains that even twenty to sixty angels or gods (devatāyo) could stand āragga-koṭi-nittūdana- (MS. nittaddana-) matte pi, ‘on a point pricked by the extreme point of a gimlet,’ without inconveniencing one another (aññam aññam avyābādhenti). It is most curious to find this exact analogy to the notorious discussion as to how many angels could stand on the point of a needle in a commentary written at just that period of Buddhist history which corresponds to the Middle Ages of Christendom. The passage in the text does not really imply or suggest any such doctrine, though the whole episode is so absurd that the author of the text could not have hesitated to say so, had such an idea been the common belief of the early Buddhists. With these sections should be compared the similar sections in Chapter VI, of which these are perhaps merely an echo.
There is no comment on nittūdana, but there can be little doubt that Childers’s conjectural reading is correct.


Sadly there are people like this even talk Abhidhamma badly.

I wonder how much demerits he/she stored for him/herself and such view could possibly blocked him/herself from advancement in Dhamma studies.

For his/her profile name, “Brokenbones” is kinda eerie to me. Which could be Vipaka to evil doer.

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This was placed in another thread…

Yes, it is quite clear from the suttas themselves that a lot of detail is left out

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