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      The Buddha’s Teaching of Abhidhamma

In the Theravada tradition, it is mostly said that the Buddha stayed in the field of the thirty-three marvelous creatures to teach his mother, the doctrine of Abhidhamma for the time period of about three months. Then he move down towards the lake Anottata; where he himself taught the same doctrine to his most well-known follower Sariputta in the form of mnemonic poetries, who in turn taught the same again to the five hundred well-known priests known as the arahatas. Thus, Abhidhamma by way of the verbal tradition of communication beginning with the Buddha was passed on and on to Sariputta and in the same way through Bhaddaji, Sobhita, Piyajali, Piyapala, Piyadassi, Kosiyaputta, Siggava, Sandeha, Moggalliputta, Sudatta, Dhammiya, Dasaka, Sonaka and Revata; and then again through Mahinda, Ittiya, Sambala, Pandita, and Bhaddanama, it then reached to Sri Lanka. Interestingly, this tradition is still going on or carried in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand; though it has finished and also completely vanished in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Cambodia.

The Meaning of Abhidhamma:
Reasonably, Abhidhamma may be considered as the compound of abhi and dhamma. However, in this situation it is understood as “ giving importance to that which contains the superior or specialized-teachings of the Buddha” when we look into the observations of the best known Pali psychiatrist Buddhaghosa. The expert challenger reads the term ‘Abhidhamma’ as the most advanced or specialized belief to differentiate it from the standard of the Sutta-Pitaka, which is not so much properly organized; and also which occupy the common and predictable necessities and approach. It is remarkable that every term of Abhidhamma has a specific idea or well-defined meaning for the advanced priests or learners.

The Buddha addressing Abhidhamma in the Tavatimsa:
Buddha descending from Tavatimsa to teach Abhidhamma to Sariputta, the Thai version of this:

The explanation of Abhidhamma given above is moreover supported by the definition of ‘Abhidharma’ made by Vasubandhu in his Sanskrit article - the Abhidharmakosa. There he insist that “Abhidharma is the approximate wisdom and its helpers. Moreover, whatever is involved to achieve that; or the amount which is an aid to that” is Abhidharma. Asanga’s explanation of Abhidharma also enlarges to the understanding of the above meaning.                                                    Prefixing abhi in four ways with the dhamma, he clarify that:

The dhamma which is Nibbana-encountering;
The dhamma which is well-organized;
The dhamma which is refutative of the converse views ;
The dhamma which is advanced.

In the Chinese records, the term Abhidharma is considered as ta fa (great dhamma because of the greatness of the knowledge to the realization of Four Noble Truths etc.); wu-pi-fa (superior dhamma because of the eight forms of intelligence); sheng-fa (excellent dhamma as it is wisdom-realizing); tuei-fa (facing dhamma) and hsiang-fa (scheduled dhamma as the cause-effect theory that continues from cause to effect).

The modern well-known scholars: W.Geiger, T.W. and C.A.F.Rhys David's, Oldenburg, I.B.Horner, E.J.Thomas, Kogen Mizuno, Ken Sakurabe, Taiken Kimura and Bhikkhus Jagdish Kashyap have made some serious studies to understand the meaning of this same term. Still, none of the modern linguist's reading of the term gives any fresh light to the conception of the original meaning of the term because the study of Abhidhamma is not a unfruitful linguistic exercise. It may be repeated that every term of Abhidhamma is given a definite idea; and is often taken by way of its characteristic, function, expression and immediate cause. So, the linguistic explanation of the term has often been confusing; and its variation performance create more and more difficulties to a reader somewhat to develop his understanding. It is believed that Abhidhamma is a way of life; and is meant for the chosen few, particularly for the scholars with dedicated training. It may be definitely pointed out that the study demands no less seriousness than the study of the Rig Veda or Quran. The scholars interested in Abhidhamma may also turn to the living Burmese traditions for its purest conception; or the volumes of the explanation on the standard Abhidhammic literature.

The Seven Books of Abhidhamma are:
  *  Dhammasangani.
  *  Vibhanga.
  *  Dhatukatha.
  *  Puggalapannatti.
  *  Kathavatthu.
  *  Yamaka.
  *  Patthana.

The Sarvastivadin tradition of Buddhism, however, does not accept the above text as the original composition, because they have somewhat similar texts on the Vinaya Pitaka and Sutta Pitaka in coincidence with the Pali versions; but are missing in the case of the Abhidhamma.                                                     Yet, the Sarvastivadin have equal number of the Abhidharmic texts:
  *  Sangitipariyayapada.
  *  Dharmaskandha.
  *  Dhatukaya-patha.
  *  Prajnaptipada.
  *  Vijnanapada.
  *  Prakaranapada.
  *  Jnanaprasthana.

The Buddhist rules are classified into three; and the common and popular description for each of these classifications is Pitaka. These pitakas were first collected in the first Buddhist committee, which was held in Rajgir after the Parinibbana  of the Buddha during the domination of Ajatasattu , the king of the Magadha Janapada. The first of these body is called the Vinaya Pitaka; and the other two are called the Sutta-Pitaka and the Abhidhamma-Pitaka. The Vinaya Pitaka, deals with the Buddhist codes and manner and may be considered as the body of the Discipline. It supposedly records the performance made by the thera Upali in the committee. The latter two pitakas, collectively called the ‘Dhamma’  are the collection of the performance given by Ananda in the same committee. The performance of the above mentioned two priests, as a fact, are the answers by way of the explanations and illumination to the questions put forward by the President of the committee - Mahathera Maha Kassapa.

Most of the scholars believe that the Tipitaka was gathered in the third Buddhist committee. But most of theses argues are unsupported when we look at the Mahavamsa, it is clearly declared that even before the gathering of the third Buddhist committee, one thousand scholar priests “well versed in the Tipitaka …” were chosen for the re-gathering of the original and purest teachings of the Buddha to remove the disturbance skulk therein in the original body. The above statement agree with the fact that the Tipitaka definitely exist before the third Buddhist committee, however, its form could have been somewhat different from what was collected in the third council; or what is hand over down to us by the tradition in its recent form.

The Abhidhamma Pitaka, chiefly deals with the philosophy and psychology of the Theravada school of Buddhism. The “Theravada”, however, put forward to that school of Buddhism which, theoretically “hold to the most original and purest form of the Buddhist teachings”, encouraged by those theras who obtained the learning directly through the Master. Further, they used the bhasa Magadhika or the mula bhasa to record the original text or the pariyaya. The term pariyaya, however, when shortened became ‘pari’ or ‘pali’; and in course of time was applied to symbolize the language of the entire scale of the norm; and the exegeses and other compositions on those texts having the same language.