Sutta Abhidhamma vs Abhidhammatha Sanga ha?


New post created to discuss your question.


2.2 billion Christians think that they found everything in the bible.
1.6 billion Muslims think that they found everything in Koran.
That is not how awakening to the truth.


It is a misunderstanding that by just hearing a sutta a person could attain arahanth. There are two ways to find the path. By studying and practicing dhamma himself or hearing dhamma from an arahanth. But for both become successful the person must have trihetuka patisandhi. Abhidhamma is the theory of mind if properly understood can be practically applied for any everyday aspect.


The only difference between sasankharika and asanskarika citts is the presence of thina midhdha chetasika. This seems not so important.


@SarathW1: There is a sutta explaining that a noble disciple would always take the side of the Buddha in case of a contradiction between the Buddha and the shanga.

Witch side would you take ? The Buddha or the shanga side ?

In who do you place more trust: in contemporary bhikkhus on youtube, bhikkhus living 300 years after the Buddha, etc. or in the Buddha ? Who would you take as your teacher ?

Buddha said his teachings are clear, well expounded and… COMPLETE. He was a good teacher, knowing how to explain well so even stupid people can understand. If ancient peasants were able to understand the suttas, why could we not do so today ?

Do you have confidence in the Buddha when he said that his teachings are “clear, well expounded and complete” or do you lack confidence in the Buddha and so prefer to go with other teachers in witch you place more trust ?


I marvel at the notion that one could master the Abhidhamma in three weeks, but, as I understand it (and I am the first to admit that I understand it imperfectly) the Abhidhammatha Sangaha, sometimes referred to as a compendium of things contained in the Abhidhamma, or, a Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma (see Bhikkhu Bodhi’s revision of Mahathera Narada’s translation), was an attempt to provide novice monks with easier access to what is otherwise a voluminous collection of material consisting of seven treatises. A teacher is essential for most of us but I think it is important to make an attempt providing the right teacher is found. In this I differ from Ajahn Brahm.


There’s no call to phrase this as a implied criticism of a person’s faith.


The suttas are only instructions on how to practice. The Buddha said after his parinibbana if you find that which goes in accordance to the Dhamma- Vinaya follow it. This of course means you have to know what that is or live in faith of someone who does.

I suppose it is safe to say all of the Buddha’s arahanths became enlightened hearing the suttas. Having limited time in this lifetime if I were to spend my time I would personally spend it on the sutta pitaka. You might do it differently:slight_smile:

With metta


It is one of my lines of argumentation when it comes to debates between sutta and abbhidhamma or commentary. When there is a contradiction between sutta and abbhidhamma written 300 years after the suttas, witch one to follow ?

It’s an argument I see used too rarely in this kind of debates. Everyone is free to believe in any religion and have any kind of personal faith. But when it comes to buddhism and different interpretation of buddhism, In my opinion we should check to see what the historical Buddha had to say. For the simple fact that the name of the reiligion is “buddhism”, this should make us interested enough to at least see what Buddha had to say and then compare him with other buddhist thinkers that came after him.

I know from another topic that SarathW has read abbhidhamma but not the nikayas. The problem of reading any book is that we get attached to it. Weather it’s the bible, a european philosopher book, a buddhist book, we then get attached to the book. This is the problem of starting with reading the abbhidhamma and only then reading the nikayas. If there is no knowledge in regards to the nikayas and differences between sutta and abbhidhamma, then that attachment will cause the person to claim abbhidhamma is the same as the suttas, without knowing the full contents of the nikayas in order to be able to compare them.

If a person does not have enough faith in the Buddha and has more faith in people who came 300 years after the Buddha, then what I felt was needed to be done was arousing the faith level in the person. If there is any faith in Sarath in regard to the Buddha, then she will check to see what the Buddha himself had to say to at least have a chance of knowing what is different between the Buddha and these people who wrote abbhidhamma 300 years after his death. In order to get the benefits promised by the Buddha for following his path, we need to hear what the Buddha himself had to say.

And as sjayasinge said:

It would be really unfortunate to miss out on awakening to the Buddha Dhamma that we have beautifully preserved in the Suttas by getting distracted by other things. The opportunity we have been given is extremely rare and valuable, don’t let it go to waste. I hope that you will be able to attain Nibbana within this Gautama Buddha Sasana, my dear friend.

If there is at least a small amount of faith in the Buddha, then let that faith make us check what the Buddha himself had to say, not what other people had to say. At least let’s give him a chance.

One of the reasons why I had not started reading the nikayas for a long time was the same idea that SarathW has, the idea that they are too difficult to understand and that we need “intermediars” to translate it to us from english to english. To my surprise, the suttas really turned out to be “clear, well expounded, complete”. Buddha was good at explaining things, have some trust in his teaching abilities.


Which Sutta is this? The only thing I can recall that Buddha said to keep Dhamma as your teacher.


Actually, I have read 80% of Sutta in Sutta Central twice. I agree that it is easier to understand Sutta than the Abhidhamma. The problem is Suttas written in conscious form. For example, it is not possible to grasp Dependent Origination unless you have read Abhidhama. People who haven’t read Abhidhamma see Sutta Dependent origination as a just a linear relationship.


This is not true. This is a very important difference. Unprompted Citta has a higher weight than prompted Citta or action.


That is because the overwhelming majority of people only read the first sutta from “Book of causation” out of context. That is like trying to figure out how an airplane engine works by having a mechanic do a summary of 12 steps about how the fuel goes to the engine, then the engine starts another thing, etc. It is like reading 1 page about an airplane engine and trying to figure out the rest by yourself with only that small amount of information.

In order to fully understand how a being works, much more than a single sutta out of context is needed. From my experience, after reading “Book of causation” from SN (600 pag) there was still a big fog in my head. Only after reading the next chapter, “Book of aggregates” (another 600 pag) did this fog go away. The most important information is in that “Book of aggregates” not in a single sutta out of context from Book of causation. After that, there is the “Book of sense bases” (another 600 pag) from witch the first 150 are the most important and about no-self. The last chapter “The great book” is about practice and, despite expecting it to be easier than the previous chapters, I found out it was at the same level of difficulty as them if not even more difficult.

SN is ordered in the same way as the Buddha discourses given to his 5 ascetic friends. First he gave discourses about causation, then about aggregates and sense bases, and only then about no-self.

Not only does it take over 1200pag of reading but it also takes a lot of contemplation. Reading the manual of an airplane engine will not help too much without doing some contemplation on the coach.

Having said that, we already have basically 1200pag in SN alone about how the aggregates interact with each other. Very difficult material that takes a lot of contemplation.

If abbhidhamma would be needed on top of these 1200pag, then the Buddha would have taught abbhidhamma. Do you think the Buddha was so stupid as to leave a dhamma that is incomplete behind him ? What would be the point of starting a religion if it’s teachings were not complete and awaited for some enlightened people 300 years after the Buddha to complete his work ? How stupid should a person be to start such a religion ? From what we know about the Buddha, doesn’t he look a little more smarter than that ?

Buddha said he did not teach the dhamma with a closed fist, he said his teachings are complete. Those 1200pag about how the aggregates work are enough.


It’s SN 55.23 but it’s not yet translated on StC

“Here, venerable sir, some issue concerning the Dhamma may
arise. The Blessed One might take one side and the Bhikkhu
Sangha might take the other side. Whatever side the Blessed One
would take, I would take that same side. Let the Blessed One
remember me as one who has such confidence.

“Here, venerable sir, some issue concerning the Dhamma may
arise. The Blessed One might take one side, and the Bhikkhu
Sangha and the Bhikkhunı Sangha might take the other side.…
The Blessed One might take one side, and the Bhikkhu Sangha,
the Bhikkhunı Sangha, and the male lay followers might take the
other side.… The Blessed One might take one side, and the
Bhikkhu Sangha, the Bhikkhunı Sangha, the male lay followers,
and the female lay followers might take the other side. Whatever
side the Blessed One would take, I would take that same side. Let
the Blessed One remember me as one who has such confidence.


Thank you.
The problem is we would not know what is the side of the Blessed One.
Even Abhidhamma claims that is the Blessed One’s word.


I think this is a personal choice- if you need the abhidhamma and the sutta then that is that. Alternatively for someone else if Suttas is adequate that is also good. I wouldn’t agree however if someone said abhidhamma was a must for everybody, trying to impose their views on others.

Sorry cant resist this joke: the Buddha knew the suttas, I know the Sutta AND the commentaries. Conclusion must be ‘I am smarter than the Buddha’! Sorry…:grinning:


You can’t learn a craft or profession by just reading a text. If that is the case we do not need schools. We need good teachers to show students how to apply the knowledge. That is why we need good monks with knowledge and experience. If you want to be a good teacher you need both practical and theoretical knowledge.


In Dhammasangini ‘asanskarika citta’ is sown in the following way:
See 366, 400, 401, 403, 404, 410, 411, 413, 414, 422
The word ‘asanskarika’ is not mentioned. But in 400, 403, 410, 413, 422 it is mentioned ‘with sanskara’. Therefore it is clear that in other 5 places it is without ‘sanskara.’ Same in kusala chittas.


Have some trust in the Buddha. He was a good teacher. :anjal:

There are many professions in this world where you need to be autodidact. I feel it is the same in buddhism. Others may teach you basic things, but for advanced knowledge in terms of buddhism, we should only rely on the Buddha himself. Or at least check what Buddha had to say. Check what he said the same or what he said different than other teachers.

The Buddha and the Abhidhamma

You cannot really compare Abhidhammattha-sa.ngaha and the Abhidhamma Pi.taka of the Paali canon.

The “A-sa.ngaha” is a compendium (sa.ngaha) of the meaning (attha) of the Abhidhamma. It is a short text (just nine brief chapters), a late work, written to be learnt by heart by beginners, students who intend to study Abhidhamma in detail later. The chapters are

  1. on consciousness (citta),
  2. on mental factors (cetasika),
  3. miscellaneous topics: feeling (vedanaa), root cause (hetu), function (kicca), sense-door (dvaara), object (, and physical basis (vatthu);
  4. sequence of consciousness (citta-viithi);
  5. consciousness outside a fixed sequence (viithi-mutta);
  6. matter (ruupa);
  7. collection of Abhidhammic terms (samuccaya);
  8. philosophy of relations (paccaya sa.ngaha);
    a) dependent origination (pa.ticca-samuppaada);
    b) conditioned relations (pa.t.thaana);
  9. stations of striving (kamma.t.thaana)
    a) calm (samatha);
    b) insight (vipassana).
    It is a really small text, listing many items in sequence, with a minimum of explanation.
    In the post commentarial age other similar manuals were written for the same purpose, but Anuruddha Thera’s work became most popular in the Theravaada countries, because it was so simple. It has been studied by generations of young students for hundreds of years, its contents have become something like a basic reference for Abhidhamma students.

Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga was written several centuries earlier, and is much more detailed.

Now compare this to the canonical Abhidhamma-pi.taka:
This “basket” is later than the Suttas, the EBT, but most of it dates to the pre-Christian area.
It contains seven different TEXTS, two short ones, three of medium length, and finally " The Great Book" ( on the law of conditioned relations (pa.t.thaana) ABBREVIATED into five volumes. — To these texts may be added the “Path to Discriminative Knowledge” (Pa.tisambhida-Magga), which is placed in the KN collection of the Sutta Pi.taka, but resembles the Abhidhamma texts in content.
If you think, that the canonical Abhidhamma texts are too complicated for such an early date, please compare the Parivaara of the Vinaya-pi.taka. it also uses comparable complicated methods to discuss the Vinaya. It is assigned to the 1st century BC.

---- The seven books of the Abhidhamma Pi.taka were probably compiled at different times: the first two “Compendium of Phenomena” (dhamma-sa.nga.nii) and “Book of Analysis” (Vibha.nga), are probably the earliest.
Dhs begins with a “Matrix” (maatikaa) of terms arranged as 22 triplets and 100 couplets. This matrix is again taken up in several other Abhidhamma books. The remainder is in four parts:
“chapter on the arising of consciousness” (cittuppaada-ka.n.da)
(see chapter 1 to 3 of Abhidhammattha-sa.ngaha);
“chapter of matter” (ruupa-ka.n.da)
(see chapter 6 of Abhidhammattha-sa.ngaha);
explaining the 22 triplets and 100 couplets of the matrix with reference to the contents of the previous two chapters;
“commentary-chapter” This is an old commentary explaining the 22 triplets and100 couplets again, more briefly.
Here we find the beginnings of the Abhidhammic method used in later centuries, by identifying older Dhamma terms in categories of 72 standard items. Nibbaana is used here as a standard item (dhammaa) f0r the first time, I think.— This system was developed into the “A-ya-kauk” method in medieval Burma.

The second book (“Book of Analysis”) is quite different. It has 18 chapters, which often begin with a Sutta quoted from the Four Great Nikaayas. Some people think, it may be older than the first book.

The third book (“Discourse on Elements”), and the two final books (“Book of Pairs”) and (“Book of Conditioned Relations”) further develop the Abhidhammic method of the first book, too very complicated detail.

It is advised to take instruction from specialist teachers for these books. Just a Paali dictionary is certainly not enough. One has to be able to extract “the method” from the printed text, to get at the purpose of the texts.
Pa.tisambhidamagga may fit in somewhere here.

Text no. 4 and 5 are different, they ignore the Abhidhamma matrix of Dhs.
“Puggala-panyatti” describes types of individuals, and “Kathaa-vatthu” discusses 500 views purported to have been discussed at the third Buddhist Council in the time of Emperor Asoka, before the Paali canonn was brought to Sri La.nkaa.

When we talk of “Abhidhamma type passages” in the Four Great Nikaayas, this is a much simpler feature - examples given in DN 33 (Sa.ngiiti Sutta) and DN 34 (Dasuttara Sutta). It is interesting to see that these two Suttas are also ascribed to Saariputta, the great master of wisdom.
Bhikkhu, the translator of Ps, points out that a passage of DN 34 is expanded in Chapter 1 of Ps…

These two Suttas contain matrixes of Dhamma terms, less extensive than the Abhidhamma matrix. The Abhidhamma matrix itself already shows features of elaboration in the “gocchaka” groups of the 100 couplets.