- By Ashin âdiccavamsa (Sàsana University)
The word ‘Abhidhamma’ is composed of two parts– ‘Abhi’ and ‘Dhamma’. According to the Añhasàlini commentary, there are two meanings in the prefix ‘Abhi’_ ‘Atireka’- exceeding and ‘Visesa’- distinct. Although the word ‘Dhamma’ is multi-significant term, here it is used in the sense of ‘Teaching’ or ‘Doctrine.’ The word ‘Ahidhamma’ can, therefore, be translated into English ‘Exceeding Teaching or Distinct Teaching. It is an exceeding Dhamma and distinct from Sutta Piñaka and by the method of presentation.
In Sutta Piñaka, the Buddha has used conventional terms such as man, animal, being and so on. In the Abhidhamma Piñaka, on the contrary, the terms of ultimate reality such as Khanda (aggregate), âyatana (base), Dhàtu (element), Saccà (truth), etc. are used. By the method of presentation, the Dhamma in Abhidhamma is minutely analyzed while the same Dhamma in Sutta Pitaka is treated as a whole. For example, the five aggregates (pa¤cakkhandà) in Saüyutta Nikàya of Sutta Piñaka are treated in one page, and 68 pages in the Vibhaïga of Abhidhamma Pitaka. It is because, in Sutta Pitaka, they are treated as a whole. In Abhidhamma, they are treated by way of explanation of Suttanta method, by way of explanation of Abhidhamma method, and by way of questions and answers.
There are seven treatises in Abhidhamma and twelve books (4981 pages) in the version of the Sixth Buddhist Council (Chaññhasaüghàyanà). The first one is Dhammasaïgaõi, Classification of Dhamma, and Citta (Conciousness), Cetasika (Mental State), Råpa (Matter), etc. are classified in this treatise. The second treatise is Vibhaïga, Analysis of Dhammas, and the subjects in Dhammasaïgaõi are further analyzed in this treatise. The third one is called Dhàtukathà, Discussion with reference to Elements (Dhàtus), and in this treatise, it is discussed whether Dhammas are included or not included in, associated in or dissociated from, Khandas (aggregates), âyatanas (bases), Dhàtus (elements). The forth one is Puggalapa¤¤atti, Designation of Types of Individuals, and in the method, it resembles to the Aïguttara Nikàya of Sutta Pitaka. Different types of individuals are mentioned in this treatise instead of dealing with various Dhammas.
The fifth one is called Kathàvatthu, Points of Controversy, and the authorship of this treatise is ascribed to Venerable Moggalliputta Tissa Thera who flourished in the time of King Asoka. He was also a presiding monk of the third Buddhist Council held at Pañaliputta (Pañana of Modern India) in the 3rd century B.C. This work of his is also included in that Council. According to Atthasalini Commentary, there are one thousand Suttas: five hundred orthodox and five hundred heterodox in this treatise. However, Venerable Moggalliputta Tissa Thera, while preaching this treatise, did not use his own opinion. He preached this treatise in accord with the method given by the Buddha. As it is preached with the method given by the Buddha, it is respectfully ascribed to the treatise of Buddha.
The Sixth one is Yamaka, Book of Pairs, and the method of treatment used in this treatise is a pair of questions and answers. Therefore, question and its converse are found grouped together in this book. The seventh and the most prominent treatise in Abhidhamma is Paññhana, the Book of Causal Relations. It is also the most important, the most profound and the most voluminous book in Abhidhamma. The term Paññhana is composed of the prefix ‘Pa’, various, and ‘ñhana’, relation or condition (Paccaya). It is so called because it deals with 24 modes of causal relations.
The Buddha preached Abhidhamma at Tavatiüsà celestial abode in seventh rainy season (Vassa) after His enlightenment as a mark of gratitude to His mother Deva (celestial being), named Santusita. His mother who died seventh day after His birth was born as a celestial being of Tusita celestial abode. When the Buddha preached Abhidhamma, all Bramàs and celestial beings (Devas) including His mother Deva (celestial being) of the entire Universe gathered to listen it. The Buddha preached Abhidhamma at Tavatiüsa celestial abode because it is too long for human beings to listen it at a single sitting. The delivery of Abhidhamma took the whole rainy season (3 months) in human abode and it is just a moment of Tavatiüsà celestial abode.
The Buddha, while preaching Abhidhamma, preached continuously the whole three months. When it was time for alms round, He created another Buddha by His mental power. While the created Buddha was taking over to preach, the real Buddha went down to Human abode for alms. There He met Venerable Sariputtarà (the First Disciple of Him) and also preached the table of contents in the smallest size of Abhidhamma. Venerable Sariputtarà was so endowed with analytical knowledge and he made it suitable to preach it again to 500 disciple monks of him. The Abhidhamma preached by Venerable Sariputtarà is neither too large nor too small. Therefore, there became three versions of Abhidhamma. The first one is the Abhidhamma preached by the Buddha to celestial beings and it is too large. The second one is the Abhidhamma preached by the Buddha to Venerable Sariputtarà and it is the smallest size of Abhidhamma. The third and last one is the Abhidhamma preached by Venerable Sariputtara 500 disciple monks of him and it is neither too large nor too small. The Abhidhamma we are learning now is the Abhidhamma preached by Venerable Sariputtara 500 disciple monks of him.
At the end of Abhidhamma, Santusita Deva, previously the Buddha’s mother, had reached to the Sotàpatti Fruition (the first stage of sainthood). Then the Buddha returned to the human abode by stepping down the stair created by Sakka (the celestial king of tavatiüsà) on full moon day of Thadingyut. Sakka (the celestial king of tavatimsa) created three stairs leading down to the gateway of the city of Sankassa in human abode. The middle stair was built of ruby for the Buddha to step down. The right side stair was built of gold for the celestial beings and the left stair was built of silver for Bramàs. The returning Buddha was honored by celestial regalia and ceremonies. Many of celestial beings accompanied the Buddha. When the Buddha set foot upon the gateway of Sankassa City, the crowd waiting there paid obeisance to the Buddha and a grand ceremony with the light was held to welcome and honor Him. To commemorate this great event in the lifetime of the Buddha, the Myanmar People held the light festival on full moon day of Thadingyut.
Actually, the full moon day of Thadingyut is also the ending day of Abhidhamma which the Buddha preached in the way of the largest size, the ending day of Abhidhamma which the Buddha preached to Venerable Sariputtara in the way of the smallest size, and the ending day of Abhidhamma which Venerable Sariputtara preached in the way which is neither too large nor too small. Therefore, the Abhidhamma Society of Yangon City designated that day as ‘Abhidhamma Day’ as directed by Dr. U Linn (Aggamahapandita) and firstly celebrated the ceremony on the full moon day of Thadingyut in 1311 M.E (1949 A.D). In the first ceremony, the questions and answers on Abhidhamma written by Yamike Sayadaw of Dhammavihara Monastery, Kyauk Myaung, and some selected texts from seven Abhidhamma treatises were recited. From that day onwards, the ceremony was held annually. In 1316 M.E (1954 A.D), the sixth ceremony was greatly held at Yangon City Hall and Dr. U Ba Oo, the then president of Myanmar, opened the ceremony. On that Abhidhamma Day Ceremony, Abhidhamma questions and answers, some poems on Abhidhamma in Pàli were written by Tipiñakadhammabaõóàgàrika Baddanta Vicittasàràbhivaüsa, the Ovàdacariya Sayàdaw of the Society. From that day onwards, those of recitals and some selected texts from seven Abhidhamma treatises were recited in every Abhidhamma Day in all over the country.