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Barua Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

Barua Literature of the Theravada Abhidhamma

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Theravada buddhism
Theravada buddhism

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Published by: Ashoka0 on Apr 02, 2013
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01/02/2014

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THE LITERATURE OF THERAVADAABHIDHAMMA
ANKUR BARUA
The Centre of Buddhist Studies, The University of Hong Kong,Hong Kong
1
 
THE LITERATURE OF THERAVADAABHIDHAMMA
Introduction
 The Abhidhamma Pitaka is a Philosophical Collection that forms the third greatsection of the Buddhist Pali Canon (Tipitaka). It is a system of classifications,analytical enumerations and definitions, with no elaborate explanations on thesubject matter. These are huge collections of systematically arranged tabulations,accompanied by definitions of the terms used in the tables. The
 AbhidhammaPitaka
, primarily deals with the philosophy and psychology of the Theravada schoolof Buddhism.
1
The “
theravada
”, however, refers to that school of Buddhism which,supposedly adhere to the most original and purest form of the Buddhist teachings,advocated by those
theras
(monks) who obtained the erudition directly through theBuddha. They used the
bhasa Magadhika
or the
mula bhasa
(the original language)to record the original text or the
 pariyaya
, (the text of the canons). The term
 pariyaya
, however, when abbreviated became ‘pari’ or ‘pali’; and in course of timewas applied to denote the language of the entire canons and other compositionshaving the same language.
1,2
Meaning of the term “Abhidhamma”
 The word “Abhidhamma” may be analyzed etymologically, as the compound of 
abhi
(“to”; “toward”; “into”) and
dhamma
(root:
dhr 
, which means “to hold” or “bear”).
2
 
However, in textual context, it is interpreted as “leading to that which contains theadvanced or specialized teachings (of the Buddha)”. The renowned Palicommentator Buddhaghosa had interpreted the term ‘Abhidhamma’ as the
most advanced (atireka) or specialised (visesa) doctrine
to differentiate it from thedoctrine of the
Sutta-Pitaka
. It should be noted that every term of the Abhidhammahas a specific connotation or well-defined meaning for the advanced monks ortrainees.
2,3
Vasubandhu, in his Sanskrit version of the
 Abhidharmakosa
, had stated that theAbhidharma is the undefiled wisdom and it is concomitant. Asanga’s interpretationof Abhidharma also extends to the understanding of the above meaning. Prefixing
abhi” 
in four ways with the
dhamma,
he interpreted Abhidhamma” as (a)Thedhamma which is Nibbana-
encountering
, (b)The dhamma which is
analytical
, (c)Thedhamma which is
devoid
of the converse views and (d)The dhamma which is
 progressive
. It may be reiterated that every term of Abhidhamma is assigned adefinite connotation; and is often interpreted by way of its characteristic (
lakkhana
),function (
rasa
), manifestation (
 paccupatthana
) and proximate cause (
 padatthan
).So, the linguistic interpretation of the term has often been misleading; and itsvariant renditions create more complications to a reader rather than to extend hisunderstanding. It is believed that Abhidhamma is a way of life; and is meant for thechosen few, particularly for the erudite monks or scholars with specialized training.Scholars interested in Abhidhamma should also refer to the commentaries oncanonical Abhidhammic literature or living Burmese (or Myanmari) traditions for itspurest comprehension.
1,2,3
3

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