ABHIDHAMMATTHA - SANGAHA
A manual of ABHIDHAMMA
Edited in the original Pali Text with English Translation and Explanatory
by Nārada Thera, Vājirārāma, Colombo
CHAPTER I - Different Types of Consciousness
- Introductory Verse
- Subject - Matter (Abhidhammatthā)
- The Four Classes of Consciousness (catubbidha-cittāni)
- Immoral Consciousness (akusala cittāni)
- (18 Types Of Rootless Consciousness)
- “Beautiful” Consciousness Of The Sensuous Sphere - 24
- (Form-Sphere Consciousness - 15)
- (Formless-Sphere Consciousness - 12)
- (Supra Mundane Consciousness - 4)
- (121 Types of Consciousness)
- CHAPTER II - Mental States (cetasika)
- 52 Kinds of Mental States
- Different Combinations of Mental States
- Immoral Mental States
- (Beautiful Mental States)
- Contents of Different Types of Consciousness
- Supra mundane Consciousness
- (Sublime Consciousness)
- Sense-Sphere Beautiful Consciousness
- Immoral Consciousness
- Rootless Consciousness
- CHAPTER III - Miscellaneous Section
- (i. Summary of Feeling)
- (ii. Summary of Roots)
- (iii. Summary of Functions)
- (iv. Summary of Doors)
- (v. Summary of Objects)
- (vi. Summary of Bases)
- CHAPTER IV - Analysis of Thought-Processes
- Five Sense-Door Thought-process
- Mind-door Thought-Process
- Appanā Thought-Process
- The Procedure of Retention
- Procedure of Javana (13)
- Classification of Individuals
- Section on Planes
- Diagram IX
- CHAPTER V - PROCESS-FREED SECTION
- Summary of Rebirth Procedure
- i. Four Planes of Life
- ii. Fourfold Rebirth
- iii. Fourfold Kamma (29)
- iv . Procedure with Regard to Decease and Rebirth
- v. The Stream of Consciousness
- CHAPTER VI - ANALYSIS OF MATTER
- Analysis of Matter
- Classification of Matter
- The Arising of Material Phenomena (52)
- Grouping of Material Qualities (57)
- Arising of Material Phenomena (58)
- Nibbāna (59)
- Diagram XIII
- CHAPTER VII - Abhidhamma Categories
- Introductory verse
- (Immoral Categories)
- Diagram XIV
- Mixed Categories
- Factors of Enlightenment (28)
- A Synthesis of ‘the Whole’ (36)
- CHAPTER VIII - The Compendium Of Relations
- Introductory verse
- The Law of Dependent Arising
- The Law of Casual Relations
- CHAPTER IX - Mental Culture
- Introductory verse
- (Compendium of Calm)
- Suitability of Subjects for different Temperaments
- Stages of Mental Culture
- Signs of Mental Culture
- Rūpa Jhāna
- Arūpa Jhāna (22)
- Supernormal Knowledge (23)
- Different Kind of Purity
- The Path of Purification
Abhidhamma, as the term implies, is the Higher Teaching of the Buddha.
It expounds the quintessence of His profound doctrine.
The Dhamma, embodied in the Sutta Pitaka, is the conventional teaching (vohāra
desanā), and the Abhidhamma is the ultimate teaching (paramattha desanā)
In the Abhidhamma both mind and matter, which constitute this complex
machinery of man, are microscopically analyzed. Chief events connected with the process of
birth and death are explained in detail. Intricate points of the Dhamma are clarified. The
Path of Emancipation is set forth in clear terms.
Modern Psychology, limited as it is comes within the scope of
Abhidhamma inasmuch as it deals with the mind, with thoughts, thought-processes, and
mental states but it does not admit of a psyche or a soul. Buddhism teaches a psychology
without a psyche.
If one were to read the Abhidhamma as a modern textbook on psychology,
one would be disappointed. No attempt has here been made to solve all the problems that
confront a modern psychologist.
Consciousness is defined. Thoughts are analyzed and classified chiefly
from an ethical standpoint. All mental states are enumerated. The composition of each type
of consciousness is set forth in detail. The description of thought-processes that arise
through the five sense-doors and the mind-door is extremely interesting. Such a clear
exposition of thought-processes cannot be found in any other psychological treatise.
Bhavanga and Javana thought-moments, which are explained
only in the Abhidhamma, and which have no parallel in modern psychology, are of special
interest to a research student in psychology.
That consciousness flows like a stream, a view propounded by some
modern psychologists like William James, becomes extremely clear to one who understands
the Abhidhamma. It must be added that an Abhidhamma student can fully comprehend the Anattā
(No-soul) doctrine, the crux of Buddhism, which is important both from a philosophical and
an ethical standpoint.
The advent of death, process of rebirth in various planes without
anything to pass from one life to another, the evidently verifiable doctrine of Kamma and
Rebirth are fully explained.
Giving a wealth of details about mind, Abhidhamma discusses the second
factor of man-matter or rūpa. Fundamental units of matter, material forces,
properties of matter, source of matter, relationship of mind and matter, are described.
In the Abhidhammattha Sangaha there is a brief exposition of the Law of
Dependent Origination, followed by a descriptive account of the Causal Relations that
finds no parallel in any other philosophy.
A physicist should not delve into Abhidhamma to get a thorough
knowledge of physics.
It should be made clear that Abhidhamma does not attempt to give a
systematized knowledge of mind and matter. It investigates these two composite factors of
so-called being to help the understanding of things as they truly are. A philosophy has
been developed on these lines. Based on that philosophy, an ethical system has been
evolved to realize the ultimate goal, Nibbāna.
As Mrs. Rhys Davids rightly says, Abhidhamma deals with “(1) What
we find (a) within us (b) around us and of (2) what we aspire to find.”
In Abhidhamma all irrelevant problems that interest students and
scholars, but having no relation to one’s Deliverance, are deliberately set aside.
The Abhidhammattha Sangaha, the authorship of which is attributed to
venerable Anuruddha Thera, an Indian monk of Kanjevaram (Kāñcipura), gives an epitome of
the entire Abhidhamma Pitaka. It is still the most fitting introduction to Abhidhamma. By
mastering this book, a general knowledge of Abhidhamma may easily be acquired.
To be a master of Abhidhamma all the seven books, together with
commentaries and sub-commentaries, have to be read and re-read patiently and critically.
Abhidhamma is not a subject of fleeting interest designed for the
To the wise truth-seekers, Abhidhamma is an indispensable guide and an
intellectual treat. Here there is food for thought to original thinkers and to earnest
students who wish to increase their wisdom and lead an ideal Buddhist life.
However, to the superficial, Abhidhamma must appear as dry as dust.
It may be questioned, “Is Abhidhamma absolutely essential to
realize Nibbāna, the summum bonum of Buddhism, or even to comprehend things as they truly
Undoubtedly Abhidhamma is extremely helpful to comprehend fully the
word of the Buddha and realize Nibbāna, as it presents a key to open the door of reality.
It deals with realities and a practical way of noble living, based on the experience of
those who have understood and realized. Without a knowledge of the Abhidhamma one at
times’ finds it difficult to understand the real significance of some profound teachings
of the Buddha. To develop Insight (vipassanā) Abhidhamma is certainly very useful.
But one cannot positively assert that Abhidhamma is absolutely
necessary to gain one’s Deliverance.
Understanding or realization is purely personal (sanditthika).
The four Noble Truths that form the foundation of the Buddha’s teaching are dependent on
this one fathom body. The Dhamma is not apart from oneself. Look within, Seek thyself. Lo,
the truth will unfold itself.
Did not sorrow-afflicted Patācārā, who lost her dear and near ones,
realize Nibbāna; reflecting on the disappearance of water that washed her feet?
Did not Cūlapanthaka, who could not memorize a verse even for four
months, attain Arahantship by comprehending the impermanent nature of a clean handkerchief
that he was handling, gazing at the sun?
Did not Upatissa, later venerable Sāriputta Thera, realize Nibbāna,
on hearing half a stanza relating to cause and effect?
To some a fallen withered leaf alone was sufficient to attain Pacceka
It was mindfulness on respiration (ānāpāna-sati) that acted
as the basis for the Bodhisatta to attain Buddha hood.
To profound thinkers, a slight indication is sufficient to discover
According to some scholars, Abhidhamma is not a teaching of the Buddha,
but is a later elaboration of scholastic monks.
Tradition, however, attributes the nucleus of the Abhidhamma to the
Commentators state that the Buddha, as a mark of gratitude to His
mother who was born in a celestial plane, preached the Abhidhamma to His mother Deva and
others continuously for three months. The principal topics (mātikā) of the
advanced teaching such as moral states (kusalā dhammā), immoral states (akusalā
dhammā) and indeterminate states (abyākatā dhammā), etc., were taught by
the Buddha to venerable Sāriputta Thera, who subsequently elaborated them in the six
books (Kathāvatthu being excluded) that comprise the Abhidhamma Pitaka.
Whoever the great author or authors of the Abhidhamma may have been, it
has to be admitted that he or they had intellectual genius comparable only to that of the
Buddha. This is evident from the intricate and subtle Patthāna Pakarana which minutely
describes the various causal relations.
It is very difficult to suggest an appropriate English equivalent for
There are many technical terms, too, in Abhidhamma which cannot be
rendered into English so as to convey their exact connotation. Some English equivalents
such as consciousness, will, volition, intellect, perception are used in a specific sense
in Western Philosophy. Readers should try to understand in what sense these technical
terms are employed in Abhidhamma. To avoid any misunderstanding, due to preconceived
views, Pāli words, though at times cumbersome to those not acquainted with the language,
have judiciously been retained wherever the English renderings seem to be inadequate. To
convey the correct meaning implied by the Pāli terms, the etymology has been given in
At times Pāli technical terms have been used in preference to English
renderings so that the reader may be acquainted with them and not get confused with
Sometimes readers will come across unusual words such as corruption,
defilement, volitional activities, functional, resultants, and so forth, which are of
great significance from an Abhidhamma standpoint. Their exact meaning should be clearly
In preparing this translation, Buddhist Psychology by Mrs. Rhys Davids
and the Compendium of Philosophy (Abhidhammattha Sangaha) by Mr. Shwe Zan Aung proved
extremely helpful to me. Liberty has been taken to quote them wherever necessary with due
My grateful thanks are due to the Kandy Buddhist Publication Society
for the printing of this fourth revised volume, to the printers for expediting the
printing, to Miss Rañjani Goonatilaka for correcting the proofs, and to Ven. Bhikkhu
Bodhi for his useful suggestions.
Above all I have to thank Mr. Lankatilaka, a most distinguished artist
of Sri Lanka, for his beautiful and symbolical dust jacket design.
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