Source: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abhidharma
Abhidharma (Sanskrit) or Abhidhamma (Pali) are ancient (3rd century BCE and later) Buddhist texts which contain detailed scholastic reworkings of doctrinal material appearing in the Buddhist sutras, according to schematic classifications. The Abhidhamma works do not contain systematic philosophical treatises, but summaries or abstract and systematic lists.
According to Collett Cox, Abhidhamma started as an elaboration of the teachings of the suttas, but later developed independent doctrines.
The literal translation of the term Abhidharma is unclear. Two possibilities are most commonly given:
In the West, the Abhidhamma has generally been considered the core of what is referred to as "Buddhist Psychology".
In the commentaries of Theravada Buddhism it was held that the Abhidhamma was not a later addition to the tradition, but rather represented in the fourth week of Gautama Buddha's enlightenment. Optimistic devas created a beautiful jeweled chamber after spent 3rd week dispelling mistrust and sitting inside it meditated on what was later known as the "Higher Doctrine". His mind and body were so purified that six-coloured rays came out of his body -- blue, yellow, red, white, orange and a mixture of these five. The mixed color represented all these noble qualities. Later, he traveled to the Trāyastriṃśa and taught the Abhidhamma to the divine beings that dwelled there, including his deceased mother Maya, who had re-arisen as a celestial being. The tradition holds that the Buddha gave daily summaries of the teachings given in the heavenly realm to the bhikkhu Sariputta, who passed them on.
The Abhidhamma is thus presented as a pure and undiluted form of the teaching that was too difficult for most practitioners of the Buddha's time to grasp. Instead, the Buddha taught by the method related in the various suttas, giving appropriate, immediately applicable teachings as each situation arose, rather than attempting to set forth the Abhidhamma in all its complexity and completeness. Thus, there is a similarity between the traditions of the Adhidhamma and that of the Mahayana, which also claimed to be too difficult for the people living in the Buddha's time.
Scholars generally believe that the Abhidharma emerged after the time of the Buddha, in around the 3rd century BCE. Therefore, the seven Abhidhamma works are generally claimed by scholars not to represent the words of the Buddha himself, but those of disciples and scholars. Factors contributing to its development could have been the growth of monastic centers, the growing support for the Buddhist sangha, and outside influences from other religious groups.
As the last major division of the canon, the Abhidhamma works have had a checkered history. They were not accepted as canonical by the Mahasamghika school and several other schools. Another school included most of the Khuddaka Nikaya within the Abhidhamma Pitaka. Also, the Pali version of the Abhidhamma is a strictly Theravada collection, and has little in common with the Abhidhamma works recognized by other Buddhist schools. The Theravadin Abhidhamma is in some respects rather skeletal, with the details not entirely fleshed out. According to Rupert Gethin however, obvious care and ingenuity have gone into its development.
The various Abhidhamma philosophies of the various early schools have no agreement on doctrine and belong to the period of 'Divided Buddhism' (as opposed to Undivided Buddhism). The earliest texts of the Pali Canon (the Sutta Nipata, parts of the Jatakas, and the first four Nikayas of the Suttapitaka) have no mention of (the texts of) the Abhidhamma Pitaka. The Abhidhamma is also not mentioned at the report of the First Buddhist Council, directly after the death of the Buddha. This report of the first council does mention the existence of the Vinaya and the five Nikayas (of the Suttapitaka).
According to L. S. Cousins, the suttas deal with sequences and processes, while the Abhidhamma describes occasions and events.
Numerous apparently independent and unrelated Abhidharma traditions arose in India, roughly during the period from the 2nd or 3rd Century BCE to the 5th Century CE. The 7th-century Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang reportedly collected Abhidharma texts from seven different traditions. The various Abhidhammic traditions have very fundamental disagreements with each other. These various Abhidhammic theories were (together with differences in Vinaya) the major cause for the majority of splits in the monastic Sangha, which resulted in the fragmented early Buddhist landscape of the 18 Early Buddhist Schools.
In the modern era, only the Abhidharmas of the Sarvastivadins and the Theravadins have survived intact, each consisting of seven books, with the addition of the Sariputra Abhidharma. The Theravada Abhidharma, the Abhidhamma Pitaka (discussed below), is preserved in Pali, while the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma is mostly preserved only in Chinese - the (likely Sanskrit) original texts having been lost, though some Tibetan texts are still extant.
A small number of other Abhidharma texts of unknown origin are preserved in translation in the Chinese canon. These different traditions have some similarities, suggesting either interaction between groups or some common ground antedating the separation of the schools.
The Abhidhamma Pitaka is the third pitaka, or basket, of the Tipitaka (Sanskrit: Tripitaka), the canon of the Theravada school of Buddhism. It consists of seven sections or books:
Four pillars (four unconventional objectives) in Theravada Abhidharma are;
The Theravada Abhidhamma, like the rest of the Tipitaka, was orally transmitted until the 1st century BCE. Due to famines and constant wars, the monks responsible for recording the oral tradition felt that there was a risk of portions of the canon being lost so the Abhidhamma was written down for the first time along with the rest of the Canon.
These had all been published in Pali Canon in the first century BCE at Alu Vihara Temple in Sri Lanka, and most have been translated into English by the Pali Text Society as well. Some scholars date the seven Pali Abhidhamma books from about 400 BCE to about 250 BCE, the first book being the oldest of the seven and the fifth being the newest. Additional post-canonical texts composed in the following centuries attempted to further clarify the analysis presented in the Abhidhamma texts. The best known of such texts are the Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosa and the Abhidhammattha-sangaha of Anuruddha.
Early Western translators of the Pali canon found the Abhidhamma Pitaka the least interesting of the three sections of the Tipitaka. Caroline Augusta Foley Rhys Davids, a Pali scholar and the wife of Pali Text Society founder Thomas William Rhys Davids, famously described the ten chapters of the Yamaka as "ten valleys of dry bones". As a result, this Abhidhammic aspect of Buddhism was little studied in the West until the latter half of the 20th Century. Interest in the Abhidhamma has grown in the West as better scholarship on Buddhist philosophy has gradually revealed more information about its origins and significance.
Within the Theravada tradition the prominence of the Abhidhamma has varied considerably from country to country with Buddhism in Burma placing the most emphasis on the study of the Abhidhamma.
In addition to the canonical Abhidharma, a variety of commentaries or manuals were written to serve as introductions to the Abhidharma. The best known commentaries in the Theravada tradition are:
According to some sources, Abhidharma was not accepted as canonical by the Mahasamghika school. The Theravadin Dīpavaṃsa, for example, records that the Mahasaṃghikas had no Abhidharma. However, other sources indicate that there were such collections of Abhidharma. During the early 5th century, the Chinese pilgrim Faxian is said to have found a Mahasamghika Abhidharma at a monastery in Pataliputra. When Xuanzang visited Dhanyakataka, he wrote that the monks of this region were Mahasamghikas, and mentions the Purvasailas specifically. Near Dhanyakataka, he met two Mahasamghika bhiksus and studied Mahasamghika Abhidharma with them for several months, during which time they also studied various Mahayana Sastras together under Xuanzang's direction. On the basis of textual evidence as well as inscriptions at Nagarjunakonda, Joseph Walser concludes that at least some Mahasamghika sects probably had an Abhidharma collection, and that it likely contained five or six books.
The Sariputra Abhidharma Sastra (舍利弗阿毘曇論 Shèlìfú Āpítán Lùn) (T. 1548) is a complete Abhidharma text that is thought to come from the Dharmaguptaka sect. The only complete edition of this text is that in Chinese. Sanskrit fragments from this text have been found in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, and are now part of the Schoyen Collection (MS 2375/08). The manuscripts at this find are thought to have been part of a monastery library of the Mahasamghika Lokottaravada sect.
Like the Theravada Abhidharma, the Sarvastivada Abhidharma also consists of seven texts. However, comparison of the content of the Sarvastivada texts with that of the Theravada Abhidhamma reveals that it is unlikely that this indicates that one textual tradition originated from the other. In particular, the Theravada Abhidharma contains two texts (the Katha Vatthu and Puggala Pannatti) that some consider entirely out of place in an Abhidharma collection.
The texts of the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma are:
Following these, are the texts that became the authority of the Vaibhasika, the Kasmiri Sarvastivada Orthodoxy:
Little research in English has been made in these texts, although all of them are summarized, many in fine detail, in the Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Vol. VII: Abhidharma Buddhism.
In addition to the canonical Sarvastivadan Abhidharma, a variety of commentaries were written to serve as introductions to the Abhidharma. The best known commentaries belonging to the Sarvastivadan tradition are:
In addition to the Theravada and Sarvastivadan Abhidharma traditions, a third complete system of Abhidharma thought is elaborated in certain works of the Mahayana Yogacara tradition, principally in the following commentaries:
While this Yogacarin Abhidharma is based on the Sarvastivadin system, it also incorporates aspects of other Abhidharma systems and present a complete Abhidharma in accordance with a Mahayana Yogacara view that the mind (Vijñapti) alone is ultimately "real."
Yogacarins developed an Abhidharma literature set within a Mahayana framework. John Keenan, who has translated the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra into English, writes:
The Yogacara masters inherited the mystical approach of the Prajnaparamita texts. However, they did not reject the validity of theoretical Abhidharma. Rather they attempted to construct a critical understanding of the consciousness that underlies all meaning, both mystical and theoretical. Their focus was on doctrine, but as it flowed from the practice of meditative centering (yoga), rather than as it was understood in acts of conceptual apprehension.
In the traditions derived from Sanskrit Buddhism, such as the Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese, the two main Abhidharma commentaries are:
These are both works from approximately 4-5th century India, and are extant in Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan translations, as well as the Sanskrit.
The Satyasiddhi Sastra, also called the Tattvasiddhi Sastra, is an extant Abhidharma text from the Mahasamghika Bahusrutiya school, which was popular in Chinese Buddhism. This Abhidharma is now contained in the Chinese Buddhist canon, in sixteen fascicles (Taisho Tripitaka 1646). Its authorship is attributed to Harivarman, a third-century monk from central India. Paramartha cites this Bahusrutiya Abhidharma as containing a combination of Ha«nayana and Mahayana doctrines, and Joseph Walser agrees that this assessment is correct. Ian Charles Harris also characterizes the text as a synthesis of Hinayana and Mahayana, and notes that its doctrines are very close to those in Madhyamaka and Yogacara works. The Satyasiddhi Åastra maintained great popularity in Chinese Buddhism, and even lead to the formation of its own school of Buddhism in China, the Satyasiddhi School, or Chéngshí Zōng (成實宗), which was founded in 412 CE. As summarized by Nan Huai-Chin:
Various Buddhist schools sprang to life, such as the school based on the three Madhyamaka Åastras, the school based on the Abhidharmakosa, and the school based on the Satyasiddhi Sastra. These all vied with each other, producing many wondrous offshoots, each giving rise to its own theoretical system.
The Satyasiddhi School taught a progression of twenty-seven stations for cultivating realization, based upon the teachings of the Satyasiddhi Sastra. The Satyasiddhi School took Harivarman as its founder in India, and Kumarajiva as the school's founder in China. The Satyasiddhi School is counted among the Ten Schools of Tang Dynasty Buddhism. From China, the Satyasiddhi School was transmitted to Japan in 625 CE, where it was known as Jōjitsu-shu (成實宗). The Japanese Satyasiddhi school is known as one of the six great schools of Japanese Buddhism in the Nara period (710-794 CE).