Dr. Mehm Tin Mon, Ph. D.,
(Professor in Samatha Patipatti)
( Preface )
The teachings of Lord Buddha in the course of 45 years of His Buddhahood have been divided into three collections called Tipitaka in pali, meaning 'Three Baskets' literally.
The first collection is known as 'Sutta pitaka'. It is the conventional teaching ( Vohara desana) in which Buddha used common vocabulary to explain His teachings. Practical aspects of tranquility and insight meditations are included in this collection.
The second collection is called 'Vinaya pitaka'. It is the authoritative teaching (Ana desana) in which Buddha used His authority over the monks to lay down rules and disciplines for them to follow. These disciplines embody the highest code of ethics and can surely purify one's action, speech and thought, thus making one noble and respectful.
The third collection is 'Abhidhamma pitaka'. It is the higher teaching of the Buddha. Here Buddha employed abstract terms to describe the ultimate realities (paramatthas) in the Universe and Nibbana which is the summum bonum and the highest goal of Buddhism.
So Abhidhamma may be regarded as the ultimate teaching (Paramattha desana) of Lord Buddha.
The principles and the causal relations which Buddha expounded in Abhidhamma are so natural, so logical and so beautiful that they can pin-point the root cause of miseries in the world and the ways to eradicate these miseries.
The most wonderful thing about Buddha's teachings is that the teachings contain both theory and practice, and they clearly and exactly define the human values, the best moral code, the eternal peace and the Noble Eightfold Path leading to that peace. All these valuable teachings have been verified time and again by millions of Ariyas, i.e., noble persons who had trodden on the path, and can still be verified at any time by any able person who will earnestly and steadfastly follow the path.
The Significance of Abhidhamma
Sutta pitaka and Abhidhamma pitaka are collectively known as Dhamma — a pali word meaning 'the doctrine or the teaching' of the Buddha. Dhamma is the doctrine that can salvage persons who abide by Dhammo from falling into the four lower abodes (apayas) and that can purify the mind from defilements so as to achieve lasting peace and happiness.
The prefix 'Abhi' is used in the sense of preponderant, great, excellent, sublime, distinct, marvellous, etc.
Abhidhamma pitaka is more preponderant, more sublime and more marvellous than Sutta pitaka in the sense that
(i) Abhidhamma pitaka contains more Dhamma groups (Dhammakkhandhas) than Sutta pitaka and Vinaya pitaka.
(Abhidhamma consists of 42000 dhammakkhandhas whereas Sutta pitaka and Vinaya pitaka contain 21000 dhammakkhandhas each.)
(ii) Buddha used more numerous methods in expounding Abhidhamma than when He taught Sutta Dhamma;and
(iii) In Abhidhamma Buddha analysed mind and matter in minute detail in terms of the ultimate realities known as 'paramatthas' . These 'paramatthas will be explained in the 'Introduction'
What is the Mind?
Philosophers used to refer to 'mind and matter' as the two basic Principles of the world. But they fail to come to a unanimous conclusion as to what the mind is.
Psychologists began their task by probing the nature of the mind. But, when they cannot specify and characterize the mind, they turn to the behaviour of animals and men. Thus Psychology becomes 'the study of behaviorism' rather than 'the science of the mind.'
Today's science possesses no instrument to detect the mind. So scientists tend to deny the existence of the mind and fondle the theory that the brain functions as the mind. This theory cannot explain the strange phenomena of telepathy, clairvoyance, extra sensory perception, psychokinesis, out-of-body experiments, life after death, etc., which cannot be denied by science to-day. Besides brain-research has revealed that, although the brain functions as a super-computer if requires an external agent to run it just as ordinary computers need to be programmed by men. Isn't that external agent the mind?
Abhidhamma describes the mind as a combination of citta (consciousness) and cetasikas (mental factors or concomitants of the mind). There are 52 cetasikas or mental factors — some can defile the mind, some can purify the mind and some are neutral. The total number of possible combinations between citta and cetasikas is 121.
These combinations account for the various states of the mind. They explain fully why the mind is sometimes bad and sometimes good, sometimes sad and sometimes happy, sometimes wicked and sometimes noble, etc.
In the practical aspects of His teachings, Lord Buddha described several ways for developing samadhi (concentration). When the unwholesome mental factors such as lobha (greed), dosa (anger), uddhacca (restlessness), kukkucca (remorse), vicikiccha (doubt), thina-middha (sloth and torpor) can be calmed down not to arise in the mind, then the mind is in — unperturbed, peaceful and lucid state. This is the state of upacara-samadhi (neighbourhood- or access-concentration), meaning it is close to jhana (absorption).
At the state of (upacara-samadhi), since the defilements are absent from the mind, one enjoys tranquility and peace unmatched by sensual pleasure. A higher bliss is enjoyed when one can raise the degree of concentration a litter higher to jhana-samadhi
After developing four rupa-jhanas (meditative absorptions of fine-material sphere) and four arupa-jhanas (absorptions of immaterial sphere), one can go a step further to develop abhinna (supernormal knowledge). There are five mundane (lokiya) supernormal powers:
(1) divine powers (iddhi-vidha), (2) divine ear (dibba -sota), (3) divine eye (dibba-cakkhu) (4) penetration of the minds of others (ceto-pariya-nana) and (5) remembrance of former existences (Pubbe-nivasanussati)
These supernormal powers far surpass the powers of telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, etc. With iddhi-vidha abhinna one can pass through walls and mountains without being obstructed, dive into the earth, walk over water and fly in the sky. With dibba cakkhu abhinnaone can see the apaya (lower) abodes as well as the worlds of devas and brahmas and the beings being reborn in the thirty-one planes of existence according to their kamma (karma or action). With ceto-pariya-nanaone can see the minds of others and know their intentions.
The attainment of these supernormal powers is not, however, the goal of Buddhism. The penetrating power of the mind accompanied by upacara-samadhi or jhana-samadhiis utilised to observe the arising and the vanishing of nama (mind and its concomitants) and rupa (ultimate matter) in the body. These nama and rupa are invisible even under electronic microscopes, but they can be seen by the samadhi-mind!
By meditating on the three common characteristics of nama and rupa -namely impermanence(anicca), suffering (dukkha) and not-self (anatta) and also on the causal relations between nama and rupa, one is treading along the Noble Eightfold Path and will sooner or later attain the first Magga (Path) and Phala (Fruition). Then one becomes a sotapanna ariya (noble person) and is fully guaranteed never to be reborn in the lower abodes again.
The sotapanna ariya can enjoy the transcendental peace of Nibbana whenever he chooses. If he continues with his vipassana (insight) meditation he will realize the three higher Maggas and Phalas (Paths and Fruitions) in due course and become an arahat (perfect one) in this very life. Even if he does not continue with his vipassana meditation, the sotapanna will automatically become an arahat in no more than seven lives.
In the arahat all the defilements are completely uprooted and destroyed. Since these defilements are the real causes of all miseries, their total destruction means complete happiness and eternal peace for the arahat.
Thus by purifying the mind from all defilements which cause miseries and debase a person, one can become an arahat who is among the noblest persons in the worlds of men and devasand who can enjoy the highest and lasting peace of Nibbana for ever.
So to become an arahat is the correct goal for men and devas, and this highest goal in life is attainable only through the correct analysis and understanding of mind and matter as taught by Lord Buddha.
It should be emphasized here that whatever Buddha had taught us out of His omniscience and own experience can be tested and verified by any one with his own experience.
An intellectual Treat
Abhidhamma deals with the realities that really exist in nature. It correctly and microscopically analyses both mind and matter which constitutes this complex machinery of man. It describes the six sense-doors in man, the six senses coming from outside and the arising of thought processes when the senses come into contact with the sense-doors.
Various mental states together with the causes of these mental states are vividly enumerated. Whole some and unwholesome thoughts and their consequences are elaborated. Also the process of life and death and that of rebirth in various planes under the kammic force are clearly explained.
Rupa, which comprises matter and energy, is subdivided and characterized to the ultimate states.
Both nama (mind and its concomitants) and rupa (matter and energy) are very short-lived. They arise and dissolve in the order of a trillion (10 to the power12) times per second. So the view that consciousness flows like a stream as propounded by some modern psychologists like William James becomes extremely clear to one who understands Abhidhamma
The law of Dependent Origination and the Law of Causal Relations are treated systematically and thoroughly in Abhidhamma. These laws find no parallel in any other philosophy.
Finally the four great Noble Truths, i.e., the Noble Truth of suffering, the Noble Truth of the cause of suffering, the Noble Truth of the cessation of suffering and the Noble Truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering, clearly come to light as one goes through Abhidhamma. These four Noble Truths are the ultimate truths that encompass all the causal relations in mundane as well as supramundane levels. Those who can vividly see these Noble Truths with their samadhi-mind or wisdom-eye will become enlightened as ariyas.
The Essence of Buddha Abhidhamma
Just as natural sciences investigate the natural laws that control natural processes, so also Abhidhamma illustrates the natural truths that govern natural processes. But the levels of treatment are different.
All natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry, biology, geology, geography, engineering, electronics and medical sciences, deal with matter and energy—the physical aspects of nature. Even psychology, which goes after behaviorism , cannot pin-point the mind and analyse it.
But it is the mind which leads the world and the life of every-body. All sciences and philosophies are produced by the mind, governed by the mind and children of the mind. So the mind is undoubtedly the most powerful agent in the world!
Abhidhamma pin-points the mind, analyses and characterizes the mind, describes the functions of the mind and puts the mind in its proper place. The true ability of every person lies in his mind. So nobody need look up to the sky and ask for help from some supernatural forces for the most powerful force lies within himself!
Abhidhamma also tells about matter in relation to the mind. It also describes Nibbana (Nirvana) which is free from mind and matter. Natural sciences cannot turn a scoundrel to a noble man whereas Abhidhamma can. Scientists and philosophers cannot show the way to the cessation of suffering and to eternal peace whereas Abhidhamma can.
Scientists, philosophers, psychologists and every lover of truth will find Abhidhamma to be a special intellectual treat.
What knowledge is there in life which is more valuable than Abhidhamma which is the ultimate teaching of the fully enlightened One?
This page at Nibbana.com was last modified: