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Abhidharma as Paradigm for Practice
Christopher Key Chapple in "Pali Buddhism"

  • "Historically, the Abhidharma texts are of critical importance to the Theravada tradition and are foundational to the development of later Mahayana schools. They represent the height of speculative thought in early buddhism, staying closer to the actual philosophy of the Buddha than the later Mahayana and Tantric innovations. Nevertheless, although largely anonymous, they represent the original thinking of early Buddhist philosophers." (80)
  • Pali tradition asserts 82 dharmas
  • schism around 250 BC in Sthavira school at the Council of Pataliputra gave rise to Sarvastivada or Vaibhasika school, which posited 75 dharmas. Vasubandu wrote Abhidharmakosa based on Sarvastivadins around 500 years later.
  • The Yogacara Abhidharma developed after 200 AD lists 100 dharmas. (see matrix)
  • Five Skandas - groups - agregates
    1. rupa - form / body
    2. vedana - feeling
    3. samjna - perception
    4. samskara - conditioning
    5. vijnana - consciousness
  • objective of Buddhist practice is to directly experience the "I" or self identity as composed of nothing but these five skandas, thus, one should renounce them, become detatched from them.
  • If one is attached to one of these, then one is bound to samsara, birth, death, suffering, etc.
  • "Given this basics orientation, it can be seen that two modes of "selfness" are evinced by the Buddha. One, an inauthentic self, is characterized by identity with suffering and change. This would be the young prince Siddhartha Gautama before he undertakes the ascetic quest. THe other, authentic self has been purified, made free, enlightened: this is the state of Buddhahood later described as the uncovering of the tathagatagarbha, the womb of suchness and emptiness. Various devices are used by the Buddha to lead his pupils to an understanding of the authentic, empty nature of self and things. Most of these proceed from a form of negative analysis, a seeing clearly of what one is not. This didactic technique is immensely practical, for nowhere does the Buddha allow for a positive statement which might engender attachment. However, later Buddhists, perhaps as a reaction against being left speechless in regard to what one authentically is, went to great lengths to explicate what one is not This concern for cataloging the inauthentic gave rise to the Abhidharma teachings." (82) [well said]
  • ayatana - 12 abodes of perception: are the six senses (indriya) sight, hearing, smelling, taste, touch, and mind (manas) and their respective objects (visaya) six faculties count as one dharma each, as do the first five objects of sensation. The mind has numerous dharmas as its object...
  • Breakdown of mental states (Cetasika) in the Theravada Abhidhamma (citing Anuruddhacariya)
    • sabbacittasadharana - seven universals
      1. phasso - contact
      2. vedanna - feeling
      3. sanna - perception
      4. cetanna - volition
      5. one-pointedness
      6. psychic life
      7. attention
    • pakinnaka - six particulars
      1. vitakko - discursive thought
      2. vicaro - reflection
      3. adhimokkho - decisiveness
      4. viriyam - strong effort
      5. piti - joy
      6. chando - desire / inclination
    • akusala - fourteen immorals: (delusion, shamelessness, lack of respect for opinion of others, restlessness, attachment, misbelief, conceit, hatred, jealousy, avariciousness, worry, sloth, torpor, doubt.)
    • sobhanasadharana - nineteen beautifuls: (this list is the reversal of the above: onfidence, mindfulness, shame, moral dread, non-attachment, goodwill, equanimity, tranquility, lightness, flexibility, adaptability, proficiency, rectitude of body (kaya) and mind (citta)).
    • viratiyo - three abstinences (speech, action, livelihood)
    • appamanna - two illimitables (? metta - friendliness, karuna - compassion, mudita - sympathetic joy, upekkha - equanimity ?)
    • pannindriya - one wisdom
  • first two are neutral, third negative, fourth positive: all first four are conditioned by desire, rebirth, etc., 5-7 are transcendent; thus list is organized as a map of the buddhist path.
  • pratitya samutpada - dependent origination
  • Abhidharmakosa by Vasubandhu on the other hand...
  • 46 mental (citta) dharmas and 16 "linking state" dharmas, which involves exposition of sarvastivadin's particular philosophical postiions.
  • 46 citta dhammas - mental dhammas important to understand for proper meditation:
    1. cittamahabhumika - 10 general mental faculties dhammas
    2. kusala - 10 universally good dhammas
    3. klesa - 6 impure dhammas
    4. akusala - 2 universally bad dhammas
    5. upaklesa bhumika - 10 vicious elements
    6. aniyata - 8 miscellaneous dhammas
  • this group deals explicity with what must be transcended...
  • "Early Buddhist scholars attempted to classify the above list of dharmas as metaphysics or ontology or cosmology. However in Buddhism, such categories are problematic: any ontology or cosmology is seen in terms of suffering. The first of the Four Noble Truths states that "all existence is suffering." Worldly reality has no redeeming character; it is painful and must be transcended. Thus, the Abhidharma, rather than positing real and lasting things, seeks to outline those things which must be made extinct. The Abhidharma is not a cosmology in the classical sense; rather, it is a psychological and religious construct which delineates the attitudes and conditions that bind a person to ignorance." (90)
  • "This problem of seemingly endless classification schemes... finds resolution if the Abhidharma is seen as perscriptive rather than descriptive... It serve[s] as an auxiliary to meditation, providing the theoretical framework for practice." (90)
  • "Along with Sankhya [look this up!], the Ab. presents one fo the most detailed constructs of the human psychological and emotional condition which has arisen out of the meditative traditions of Asia... The telos of the system is not found in objectifying reality, but rather in interiorizing reality... The Ab. does not offer a permanent, fixed, or absolute point of view, but rather looks at those elements which do cause a person to absolutize existence, and thereby miss the enlightenment experience... The implications of this system lie beyond speculation, in the realm of practice." (91)
  • "Two types of paradigm shift can be seen operating in our discussion of Ab. The first is historical: the Ab. is an elaboration of the Buddha's original teachings of Skandhas, no-self, dependent origination, etc. This shift to increased emphasis on detail evolved becuase the early buddhist community percieved a need for more sophisticated analysis of psychological states. At a later phase in Buddhist theory, Nagarjuna saw the need for resimplification and enacted another paradigm shift through his Madyamika philosophy. Similarly, the Yogacara doctrine of citta-matra may be interpreted as a paradigm shift emphasizing the need for meditation." (96)
  • "From a psychological perspective, practice requires a paradigm shift, not as a movement within history, but as a radical originary transformation of self-identity. For this to take place, states of conventional awareness and reliance on the cognition of discrete things must be suspended during meditation. The basic function of meditation is not to achieve a lasting state of consciousness [i disagree] but is rather to purify the impressions that adversely condition perception. In a sense, the process involves the deconstruction (asamskrta) of defiled patterns of dharmas... Release comes through nonattachment, through a fundimental reorientation away from the reification and into the renunciation sumarized in the formula "this is not mine, I am not this, this is not the Self of me." With this insight, one becomes free from passion and gains authenticity." (97-8)
  • "According to Tson Kha Pa... samatha and vipasyana are merely preparations for the study of Madhyamika and Yogacara which in turn are seen as preparation for tantric practice." (98) [oh shit they're on to me!!!]
  • Samkhya system involves ishwarakrishna [gimme a break, "my highest self krishna?" F*ck krishna.]. Studies of Stcherbatsky [theosophist if I'm not mistaken. fu*k theosophy too.] Kalupahana, and others... [gonna have to look into these guys...]
  • don't forget about our ally St. John the Cross
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