Bhikkhu Bodhi's opinion on Abhidhamma

Does Bhikkhu Bodhi consider the Abhidhamma to be spoken by the Buddha to his mother in heaven or a commentarial fabrication?

My opinion is either 1) it is not spoken by the Buddha and so of secondary importance, or 2) it was taught by the Buddha to his mother and other devas and humans were not the intended audiene

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@sujato What is your opinion, Bhante?

Maybe the topic below will be of your interest.



I haven’t spoken to him on this topic, but he is a man of wisdom and intelligence, and I have little doubt that he would see the story of teaching mother in heaven as what it is, a pious myth. There is no serious doubt as to the fact that the Abhidhamma is a late compilation.


This is from Bhikkhu Bodhi’s In the Buddha’s Words introduction:

The Abhidhamma Piṭaka is obviously the product of a later phase in the evolution of Buddhist thought than the other two Piṭakas. The Pāli version represents the Theravāda school’s attempt to systematize the older teachings. Other early schools apparently had their own Abhidhamma systems. The Sarvāstivāda system is the only one whose canonical texts have survived intact in their entirety. Its canonical collection, like the Pāli version, also consists of seven texts. These were originally composed in Sanskrit but are preserved in full only in Chinese translation. The system they define differs significantly from that of its Theravāda counterpart in both formulation and philosophy.

Source: In the Buddha’s Words - Introduction | Wisdom Publications



Coincidentally, I was reading his translation of the Samyutta Nikaya last night. In his commentary regarding tie-ins to the Abhidhamma I believe he said something like “there can be no doubt this is a later invention”. He seemed to be making the point that the abhidhamma is not worthless if seen in the right context and used for connections to understanding the canon as a whole.