Abhidhamma and this forum


Are we allowed to post Abhidhamma questions in this forum?


Sure, why not?


Yes if you want to end up ‘muṭṭhasatī’


What does that mean (‘mutthasatissa’)?


It’s the misspelled dative or genitive form of muṭṭhassatī or muṭṭhasatī, “one of muddled mindfulness”. As a noun of state with the ṇīya suffix it becomes muṭṭhasacca, which the Vibhaṅga defines:

Tattha katamaṃ muṭṭhassaccaṃ? Yā assati ananussati appaṭissati assati assaraṇatā adhāraṇatā pilāpanatā sammusanatā: idaṃ vuccati ‘muṭṭhassaccaṃ’.

Therein what is “unmindfulness”? That which is absence of mindfulness, absence of constant mindfulness, absence of recollection, absence of mindfulness, absence of act of remembering, absence of bearing in mind, superficiality, forgetfulness. This is called unmindfulness.


And that has what to do with asking questions about abhidhamma?


Presumably a negative comment about the efficacy of Abhidhamma in establishing mindfulness… :sunglasses:


I don’t know. Perhaps Bhante Darma was alluding to the passage in the Atthasālinī which relates how each of the three baskets of the Tipiṭaka may lead one astray when wrongly grasped. In the case of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka the danger is said to be that of falling into madness or distraction as a result of thinking about the four acinteyyas:

Abhidhamme duppaṭipanno dhammacintaṃ atidhāvanto acinteyyānipi cinteti, tato cittakkhepaṃ pāpuṇāti. Vuttañhetaṃ: ‘cattārimāni, bhikkhave, acinteyyāni, na cintetabbāni, yāni cintento ummādassa vighātassa bhāgī assā’ ti.

“The bhikkhu, who is ill-trained in the Abhidhamma, makes his mind run to excess in metaphysical abstractions and thinks of the unthinkable. Consequently he gets mental distraction. For it has been said, ‘Bhikkhus, there are four unthinkables, things that should not be thought of. Madness or vexation will be the portion of him who does so.’ “
(Expositor I. 41; Dhs-a. 24)


This is a bad advice by a monk!
I am reading Abhidhamma for few years and I did not have any problems. Actually it clears your doubts.


Tho I’m facinated by abhidhamma, finding aides to understanding practice, the dangers are also quite evident. It’s clearly not everyone’s cup of tea, and requires guidance of competent teaching, which in the West (largely Thai lineages) is hard to come by, tho critiques abound.

After once following an intro course taught by Noah Ronkin, following roughly the Abhidhammattha Sangaha, when I asked her where to begin, she said “at the beginning – the Dhammasangani”. Havings trudged thru that book (CAF Ryes Davids trans, with some parallel referring to the Pali), I then asked U Jagara Sayadaw how to proceed. He said “go to Burma!”

Given Nyanaponika Thera’s advice the that the Dhammasangani (1st book, outlining the vertical, spatial dimension) and the Patthana (last book, outlining the horizontal, temporal dimension) form the two pillars anchoring the whole abhidhamma structure, I found online a series of 50 or so talks in English on the Patthana by a reknowned Burmese Sayadaw. But the project dropped into limbo at that point; English translation of the book is incomplete, and my Pali isn’t that advanced.

Of course, there are the commentaries, but also largely untranslated (other then the Atthasalini, which I’ve found in English and German). But even then, the bar is rather high.

E.g. digging into the quotation offered above by Dhammanando (from Expositor/ Dhs-a), in the neighborhood of that citation I came across a couple of rather daunting Pali word-constructs:
… A bit out of my depth for now.

I guess one could ask questions here, but who would be competent to answer anything beyond the basics?


The way I understand this is the wrong way to go about it. Bhikkhu Bodhi once said that reading Sutta Abhidhamma is like eating grass. (or word to that effect.)
My suggession is start simple.
This is my suggession.

Then read comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma by Bhikkhu Bodhi. This is a free download.

Do not expect to be a master of Abhidhamma by one go. I have read Manual of Abhidhamma by Narada many times. I feel I just still scratch the surface. But that has given me enough confidence in Abhidhamma to understand it as Buddha’s teaching.
Perhaps you should consult someone like Ven @Dhammanando to get some guidance.


Abhidhamma pitaka of the Tipitaka was developed over roughly 250 years by the lineage of bhikkhus started with Ven. Sāriputta. It was compiled by Arahants at the Third Council, and the whole Tipitaka was also written down by Arahants at the Fourth Council.

The book Practical Abhidhamma is easy to understand with the following chapters:

  • Historical Development of the Abhidhamma

  • Consciousness (Citta)

  • Mental Factors (Cetasika)

  • Matter (Rūpa)

  • Realms of Existence

  • Kamma and Natural Decisive Support

  • Processes

The book only writes on the three realities (Citta, Cetasika and Rūpa) which are conditioned and Nibbāna (unconditioned) was left out.

Enjoy reading. :smile:


But it’s not real Abhidhamma book, it’s just subcommentaries of Abhidhamma taken from Abhidhammattha-sangaha which is written in 11-12th century based on Visuddhimagga and other commentaries. Luckily, on SC we have some canonical Abhidhamma texts translated in English and if we read the canonical Abhidhamma texts, its nature far different from Abhidhammattha text.


Do you actually read posts that you respond to? I wrote that my study began with going through the Abhidhammattha Sangaha (the text that Bhikkhu Bodhi translated and glossed under the title “a COMPREHENSIVE MANUAL of ABHIDHAMMA”) under the guidance of Noah Ronkin (protoge of Rupert Gethin and author of “Early Buddhist Metaphysics”, an authoritative work which traces the evolution of the Pali Abhidhamma.

Thanks for the advice. As much as I respect Ven. Dhammanando, the guidance of Ms. Ronkin and U. Jagara, both of which I have personal access to, should suffice. (U. Jagara was ordained by Mahasi Sayadaw, and later spent a couple of decades studying and working with the Pa Auk Sayadaw; he has also himself been granted the title “Sayadaw”, which in those lineages means at least 20 years abhidhamma study.)

On the other hand, I can’t pretend any significant mastery of abhidhamma, having just been into it for 5 or so years, and, at age 75, unlikely to have that many decades left for the endeavor. Not to say that what I’ve managed to glean hasn’t greatly deepened my understanding and practice. But again, that kind of analytical work doesn’t suit everyone’s propensities.

One realization that came up rather early on is that abhidhamma can be seen as a sort of “reverse engineering” of some of the vastness of the Buddha’s understanding (the entire forest of leaves) from the “handful of leaves” he chose to bequeath in the sutta-s. (Noah Ronkin confirmed that this perspective is not that far off the mark.)


Just wanted to mention the website (and for German speakers) by Ayya Agganyani. It has lots of material, books, translations, courses, etc.


Probably also worth mentioning is “The great Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate”, over on DhammaWheel.


I consider the Abhidhamma to be the Assembly Language of Buddhism. That was a geek joke. :sweat_smile:

(@Jhanarato, are you out there?)

Let me illustrate with an example:

It’s like trying to talk to R2D2! :r2d2:


Abhidhamma is very useful if you want to become a teacher.


I can relate to it.
Pehaps Abhidhamma is more appeal to a computer geek.


Personally, I’d love to hear a little more discussion on the Canonical Abdhidhamma. This seems to be rather neglected, with people focussing either on “The Suttas” or “The ‘Abhidhamma’”, in the sense of the late Commentarial elaborations.

As the introduction to the Abhidhamma on SC says:

While they introduced a number of new terms and methods, the canonical Abhidhamma texts are doctrinally conservative. Many of the concepts familiar from later Abhidhamma are not found—ultimate vs. conventional truth, mind moments, kalāpas, the idea that each phenomena is defined by its sabhāva or indvidual essence. While some new terms are found, for the most part they seem to have been introduced in order to clarify and disambiguate the terminology, and weren’t intended to convey specific new concepts. That is not to say that there are no new ideas, just that they play a fairly minor role overall.

My impression is that one of the challenges of the Abhidhamma project was that it aimed to give a consistent expostion of the concepts that are scattered throughout the suttas. This is not a straightforward task. Some modern attempts at this task (making sense of the EBTS) seem to me to have a more modest aim of giving a consistent treatment to the parts of the EBTs that the author thinks are the “important bits”. This is particularly noticable in the “Secular Buddhism” sphere…

There is certainly value in constructing a consistent expostion, and it may be that studying and critically discussing the Canonical Abhidahmma might lead to a better understanding than starting from scratch.