Theorists vs. Practitioners - who is better?

The context I am referring to is the context of my answer, which goes with the Sutta quote provided. Nothing much to do with your declamation.

It seems Theravada Buddhists (monks) do not entirely have the same ideas of teachings and practices.

They are also not entirely accepted by all Buddhists (monks) as representing the teachings and practices of all Buddhist Councils.

The main issue is what are the main Theravada ideas, and that ideas have to be accepted for being Theravada Buddhists (monks).

Yes, thank you for that question.

I believe that the “main ideas” of a group are the ideas which are mentioned as the “main ideas” by that very group or the opposite ideas to those which are mentioned as “not ideas of the group” by that very group.

Now let me suppose that you agree with me. If you agree with me, then here is the evidence that the idea of Abhidhamma as not the Buddha’s original teaching is “not the idea” of the Theravada group, hence the main idea would be that Abhidhamma is the Buddha’s original teaching. Nevertheless, I think this is an important text in the Commentaries which shows why it is good to accept Abhidhamma as the Buddha’s original word.

Pali Text Society Translation Series nos. 8,9
The Expositor (Atthasalini); Translated by Pe Maung Tin, M.A; edited and revised by Mrs. Rhys Davids, D.Litt., M.A., starting at page 35; I have neglected the Pali diacritics for comfortable copying.

“Thus as rehearsed at the Council, the Abhidhamma is a Pitaka by Pitaka-classification, Khuddaka-Nikaya by Nikaya-classification, Veyyakarana by Part-classification and constitutes two or three thousand units of text by the classification of textual units. One of those bhikkhus who studied the Abhidhamma once sat in the midst of bhikkhus who knew all the five Nikayas, and quoting the text (sutta) from the Abhidhamma taught the Doctrine thus: ‘The aggregate of matter is unmoral; of the four (mental) aggregates some are moral, some immoral, and some unmoral. Ten sense-organs are unmoral; the (remaining) two sense-organs may be moral, immoral, or unmoral. Sixteen elements are unmoral; the (remaining) two elements may be moral, immoral, or unmoral. The Fact of the Origination of Ill is immoral; the Fact of the Path is moral; the Fact of Cessation is unmoral; the Fact of Ill may be moral, immoral, or unmoral. Ten controlling powers are unmoral; the controlling power of grief is immoral; the controlling power of (intellect which prompts and inspires us) - “I shall come to know the unknown” - is moral; four controlling powers may be moral or unmoral; six controlling powers may be moral, immoral or unmoral.’ A bhikkhu, seated there, asked, ‘Preacher, you quote a long text as though you were going to encircle Mount Sineru; what text is it?’ ‘Abhidhamma text, brother.’ ‘Why do you quote the Abhidhamma text? Does it not behove you to quote othertexts spoken by the Buddha?’ (Preacher) ‘Brother, by whom was the Abhidhamma taught?’ ‘Not by the Buddha.’ (Preacher) ‘But did you, brother, study the Vinaya-Pitaka?’ ‘No, brother, I did not.’ (Preacher) ‘Methinks, because you have not studied the Vinaya-Pitaka, you say so in ignorance.’ ‘I have, indeed, brother, studied some Vinaya.’ (Preacher) ‘Then that has been badly acquired. You must have been seated at one end of hte assembly and dozing. A person who leaves the world under such teachers as yourself to give the Refuge-formula, or a person who receives the full ordination under a chapter of such teachers as yoursellf, who have badly studied the Vinaya, does amiss. And why? Because of this badly “studying some Vinaya.” For it has been said by the Buddha: “If without any intention of reviling the Vinaya one were to instigate another, saying, Pray study the Suttas or Gathas or Abhidhamma first and afterwards you will learn the Vinaya - there is no offence in him.” (Again, in the Bhikkhuni Vibhanga: “A bhikkhuni is guilty of a minor offence) if she questions on the Abhidhamma or Vinaya after getting permission (to question) on the Suttanta, or on the Suttanta or Vinaya after getting permission (to question) on the Abhidhamma, or on the Suttanta or Abhidhamma after getting permission (to question) on the Vinaya.” But you do not know even that much.’ With so much refutation was the heretic put down.”

The word for “heretic” in the Pali original is “paravādī”, literally “(follower) of others’ ideas.” In other words, somebody who doesn’t accept the main teachings and instead accepts a different teachings. The text continues -

The Mahagosinga Sutta is even a stronger authority (to show that the Abhidhamma is the Buddha’s word). For therein when Sariputta, the Generalissimo of the Law, approached the Teacher to inform him of the reciprocal questions and answers that took place between Mahamoggallana and himself, and told how the former had answered, (the Master said) 'Brother Sariputta, in the religion the talk of two bhikkhus on the Abhidhamma, each asking and answering the other without faltering, is in accord with the Dhamma. Now such a bhikkhu, brother Sariputta, might enhance the beauty of the Gosinga Sala Forest. The Teacher, far from saying that bhikkhus, who knew Abhidhamma, were outside his religion, lifted his drum-like neck and filling (with breath) his mouth, fraught as the full-moon with blessings, emitted his godlike voice congratulating Moggallana thus: ‘Well done, well done, Sariputta! One should answer rightly as Moggallana has done; Moggallana is indeed a preacher of the Dhamma.’ ANd tradition has it that those bhikkhus only who know Abhidhamma are true preachers of the Dhamma; the rest, though they speak on the Dhamma, are not preachers thereof. And why? They, in speaking on the DHamma, confuse the different kinds of Kamma and of its results, the distinction between mind and matter, and the different kinds of states. The students of Abhidhamma do not thus get confused; hence a bhikkhu who knows Abhidhamma, whether he preaches the Dhamma or not, will be able to answer questions whenever asked. He alone, therefore, is a true preacher of the Dhamma. To this the Teacher referred when he approving said, ‘Moggallana has well replied to questions.’ He who prohibits (the teaching of ) Abhidhamma gives a blow to the Wheel of the Conqueror, denies omniscience, subverts the Teacher’s knowledge full of confidence, deceives the audience, obstructs the path of the Ariyas, manifests himself as advocating one of the eighteen causes of dissension in the ORder, is capable of doing acts for which the doer is liable to be excommunicated, or admonished, or scorned (by the Order), and should be dismissed after the particular act of excommunication, admonition, or scorn, and reduced to living on scraps of food.

I am curious whether @Viveka would suggest here that the author of the Commentaries also uses “very emotive language” and suggest him “a bit restraint and dispassion.” :blush:

The text further continues. The word for heretic here is not included the original Pali text and was apparently added by the translator for easier reading -

"But if the heretic should say, had Abhidhamma been taught by the Buddha, there would have been an introduction prefatory to it, just as in many thousands of the Suttas the preface generally runs as, ‘One day the Blessed One was staying in Rajagaha,’ etc., he should be contradicted thus: ‘The Jataka, Suttanipata, Dhammapada, and so on, have no such introductions, and yet they were spoken by the Buddha.’ Furthermore he should be told, ‘O wise one, this Abhidhamma is the province of the Buddhas, not of others; the descent of the Buddhas, their birth, their attainment of perfect wisdom, their turning of the Wheel of the Law, their performance of the Twin Miracle, their visit to the devas, their preaching in the deva-world, and their descent therefrom are all manifest. It would be unreasonable to steal the Treasure-elephant, or horse of the universal Monarch and yoke it to a cart and drive about, or the Treasure-Wheel and fix it to a hay cart and drive about, or to use the Treasure-jewel capable of shedding light to the distance of a yojana by putting it in a cotton basket - and why? Because they are royal property. Even so Abhidhamma is not the province of others; it is the province of the Buddhas only. Such a discourse as the Abhidhamma can be taught by them only; for their descent is manifest … likewise their return from the deva-world. There is, O wise one, no need for an introduction to Abhidhamma.’ When this is so stated, the heterodox opponent would be unable to adduce an illustration in support of his cause.

Here “heterodox” is in the Pali text “paravādinā”, i.e., “by the (follower) of another one’s teachings.”

The Elder Tissabhuti, resident at the Central Park, wishing to show that the place of the Great ENlightenment is an introduction to Abhidhamma, quoted the Padesaviharasutta - ‘Bhikkhus, by whatever mode of life I lived after I first attained Buddhahood, I have [these two weeks] lived by that mode of living.’ This he expanded: There are ten positions: of the aggregates, the field of sense, the elements, the Truths, the controlling powers, the causal signs, applications of mindfulness, jhana, mind, and states. Of these the Teacher at the foot of the great Wisdom Tree intuited the five aggregates fully; for three months he lived only by way of the aggregate of feeling. He intuited the twelve sense-organs and the eighteen elements fully; for three months he lived only, by way of feeling, in the field and in the element of mental presentations. He intuited the four Truths fully; for three months he lived only by way of feeling in the Truth of Ill. He intuited the twenty-two controlling faculties fully; for three months he lived only by way of the five emotional indriyas (Fn: Vibhanga 123). He fully intuited the chain of the causal genesis; for three months he lived by way of feeling with touch as its cause. He intuited the four applications in mindfulness fully; for three months he lived only by way of feeling to which mindfulness was intensely applied. He intuited the four Jhanas fully; for three months he lived only by way of feeling among the factors of Jhana. He intuited mindfully; for three months he lived by way of feeling mind only. He intuited (other) states fully; for three months he lived only by way of (one or other of) the triplet of feeling. Thus the Elder set forth an introduction to Abhidhamma by means of the Padesaviharasutta.

In the following portion, “heterodox” is in original Pali “paravādī”, as we have seen already two times above.

"The Elder Sumanadeva, resident in a village, while translating the Scriptures at the base of the Brazen Palace, thought: ‘This heterodox believer, who does not know the introduction (nidana) to Abhidhamma, is just like one crying (helpless) with uplifted arms in the forest, or like one who has filed a lawsuit without witness.’ And in order to show the introduction, he said, 'At one time the Blessed One lived among the gods on the Pandukambala rock at the foot of the Paricchattaka tree in Tavatimsa. Then the Blessed One taught Abhidhamma to the Tavatimsa. Then the Blessed One taught Abhidhamma to the Tavatimsa gods thus: ‘moral, immoral, and unmoral states of consciousness.’ etc.

Whereas in the Sutta discourses there is but one introduction, in Abhidhamma there are two: one on the Career and its Goal, and one on the teaching. Of these the former comprises the events from the time of Dipankara of the Ten Powers up to the time of attaining the throne under the Wisdom Tree; the latter comprises the events between the last mentioned and the time of turning the Wheel of the Dhamma. Thus for proficiency in the introduction to Abhidhamma, which has both of these, the following questions should be asked: 1. From which source has this Abhidhamma originated? 2. Where has it matured? 3. Where, 4. when, and 5. by whom was it mastered? 6. Where, 7. when, and 8. by whom was it studied? 9. Where, 10. for whose benefit, and 11. for what purpose was it taught? 12. By whom was it accepted? 13. Who are learning it? 14. Who have learnt it? 15. Who knows it by heart? 16. Whose word is it? And 17. by whom has it been handed down?

The reply to these is: 1. Faith which urges to enlightenment was the source. 2. In the five hundred and fifty Jatakas. 3. At the foot of the Wisdom Tree. 4. On the full-moonday of Visakha. 5. By the omniscient Buddha. 6. At the foot of the Wisdom Tree. 7. During the seven days spent at the Jewel House. 8. By the omniscient Buddha. 9. Among the Tavatimsa devas. 10. Of the devas. 11. For release from the four Floods. 12. By the devas. 13. Probationers and good worldlings. 14. Saints free from the Intoxicants. 15. Those who lay it to heart. 16. Of the Blessed the Arahant, the Buddha Supreme. 17. By the unbroken line of teachers. It was conveyed up till the time of the third Council by the Elders Sariputta, Bhaddaji, Sobhita, Piyajali, Piyapala, Piyadassi, Kosiyaputta, Siggava, Sandeha, Moggaliputta, Visudatta, Dhammiya, Dasaka, Sonaka, Revata, and others. After that, it was conveyed by a succession of their pupils."

When we examine Buddhist texts closely and compare various historical recensions that exist, we can observe what are most likely copyist errors, mnemonic errors, and the narrative divergences that resulted from them. It’s simply a function of human error and time. We’re talking about textual traditions that are thousands of years in lineage. No, we don’t have an exact fossil record so-to-speak showing the generation to generation evolution of Buddhist textual traditions, but we have plenty of evidence that they evolved. In Chinese translation in particular, it’s quite clear because there we have preserved versions of Indian Buddhist texts at different points in time ranging from 100 CE to 1000 CE. To think that the Theravada tradition is the only Buddhist scriptural lineage not to evolve over time but rather was frozen in the exact form it had at the time of the Buddha looks like wishful thinking when seen in that light.

The main problem we have with claiming that the Theravada Abhidhamma is the original and unaltered teaching of the Buddha is that the Sarvastivada Abhidharma, which also claims to be the teaching of the Buddha, is somewhat different in structure. If there was one Abhidhamma tradition from the time of the Buddha, that level of divergence wouldn’t be observed. They should look much more similar, but they do not. That said, it does appear that the Abhidhamma traditions did begin fairly early in Buddhist history because there are texts shared in both the Theravada and Sarvastivada canons that are quite similar, while others are quite different. What’s most likely is that the Abhidharma canons as we have them today gradually grew over time after the sectarian splits.

This is not as much the case with the Nikayas and Agamas. They both had the same structures from the start: There’s a Digha/Dirgha collection, a Majjhima/Madhyama collection, a Samyutta/Samyukta collection, and an Anguttara/Ekottarika collection. Their contents differ, but we can observe that the sutta collections clearly began before the sectarian divides that cropped up later in Buddhist history because the various sectarian canons all had this in common.

These aren’t complicated or subtle points, but it does require some comparative research into the different extant Buddhist textual traditions to fully appreciate. When we do that in an objective manner, the sectarian claims of one Buddhist tradition or another as being the one true teaching of the Buddha becomes untenable. We can definitely see a commonality that all the sectarian traditions share, but we also see how much they branched off from each other and created their own materials.

Again, this isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s the nature of things that they change over time. The Theravada scriptural tradition has been subject to impermanence just as everything else has. We do have the good fortune that it is still a living Buddhist tradition. It’s the only complete sectarian canon descending from early Buddhist history that still exists. For the others, we have only pieces. The exception is the Sarvastivada tradition. Thanks to Chinese translations, we have most of that sectarian canon. But it’s in translation, and the translations are from different points in history and vary in quality. And, unfortunately, there’s been little interest in translating them to English.


Thank you for tagging me with your question. Apologies if the context for my comment was not clear here.

Let your curiosity be appeased. I was speaking in the context of the Guidelines for participation in this forum, which are based on the Buddhas teachings on Right Speech.

As you are new to this community, and may not have had an opportunity to familiarise yourself with them as yet, I post the link here for your convenience.


I like when it is put like this. Research is needed and unless we have been present in the heavens or during the Buddha’s “brief” teaching of Abhidhamma to ven. Sariputta, we cannot speak with dogmatic certainty.

What I didn’t appreciate is the “tone” with which some people reject Abhidhamma as a total baloney made up for fun by some know-it-all monks. This kind of approach is not appropriate and it is the kind of approach that I was refuting.

I believe that everybody has the right to have a doubt. Just please, keep doubt as doubt, not as a “truth.” Honestly, I also do not remember being in the heavens listening to the Buddha as a god or hearing ven. Sariputta recite for me the 7 books of Abhidhamma. All I can say is that I respect my teachers and believe that what they have preserved is either perfect or the most perfect they could do for us. I was never talking about the exactness of Abhidhamma. I was talking about the origin of Abhidhamma as a Pitaka regardless to what extent that may be in comparison to what we have today.

So, thank you @cdpatton for a nice summary of the modern approach to Abhidhamma, I am glad that it is positive.

And finally, I know that neither Abhidhamma nor the Commentaries are perfectly exactly accurate copy of the very first original from the First Buddhist Council to a letter and I have also never claimed it. We can see from accounts of the great master Patthana Sayadaw, the greatest authority on Patthana in Myanmar on the seventh book of Abhidhamma, that there has been undertaken editing in Patthana portion of Abhidhamma even in the Sixth Buddhist Council in terms of the repetitions and that the great master Patthana Sayadaw himself is suggesting literally countless further editing remarks for Patthana in His masterpiece “Guide to Patthana” and the full translation of the first two books of Patthana from Pali to English (which I have read whole).

Or in brief, sadhu, sadhu, sadhu. :sparkling_heart:


Sounds like the degree of authenticity of the Abhidhamma is a very ancient debate.


Bhante in Buddhism probably like Christianity new traditions about certain doctrines are always attributed to the the founder.

As we see in the sutta of chanting together. It was Sariputta who made the sort of 1 till 10 detailed explanation of Buddha’s teaching. And at the end Buddha approved.

And like I said Buddha says in sutta that Sariputta gives more detailed discourse than himself. All the hint are in the suttas

Buddhism is like Christianity. Whatever was passed down as tradition stays tradition. But the reality have to be searched for.

For me. The info I got from suttas is indicating that Abhidharma was probably the way Sariputta taught. I mean the early basic ones. This I got from the suttas. That indicate that Sariputta had a wisdom focused group. And that is actually the tradition of Abhidharma.

Because his way of teaching is supposed to someone attain the first Path

That’s why some Abhidharma style commmentary has a way to make immediate illumination.

But the second book of Sarvastivada is the earliest of them and it actually already focus on that Chanting Together teaching style. So I understand from there started all Abhidharma texts. From something Sariputta organized infront Buddha.

We have in Theravada supposed earliest text but seeing Indian text is what shows what happened.

Saṃgīti-paryāya-śāstra, by Mahākauṣṭhila / Śāriputra

The ‘recitation together’, composed by Mahākauṣṭhila – according to the Sanskrit and Tibetan, or Śāriputra – according to the Chinese sources. The Chinese recension was translated by Xuanzang: T26, No. 1536, 阿毘達磨集異門足論, 尊者舍利子說, 三 藏法師玄奘奉 詔譯, in 20 fascicles.

Structurally, the Saṃgīti-paryāya is similar to the Dharma-skandha, though earlier, as the latter is mentioned in the former. It is basically a mātṛkā on the early teachings, arranged in groups of dharmas by number, similar to the Ekottarikāgama.

This text, as the name implies, is essentially a commentary on the Saṃgīti-sūtra (T 9, Digha-nikāya no. 33). This also indicates that the contents are more a gathering together and assemblage of the Buddha’s Dharma, than any new theory or discussion. The background to the first recital of the Saṃgīti-sūtra, as the Jainas fell into disarray after the death of the Mahāvīra, and the Buddhist Saṃgha gathered together to recite the core teachings of the Dharma to prevent such a split in their own religion, perhaps indicates the fear of present or impending schism arising in the Saṃgha on the part of those who compiled this Abhidharma work, some time later.

So my point is like happened to a prophet living in desert in getting illumination happened before to Buddhism.

To that you to know history
There was a time in India the tradition was persecuted probably that when real tradition is lost and the new generation have to create new belief.

And another way to see it easy is because all sources don’t agree.

And there is tradition also that Indians attribute a work to the person who inspired the writing of the text. But it doesn’t actually mean he wrote it or created it. It’s weird

Hello Venerable sir. I haven’t spoken to you yet. Thank you for being a part of the monastic community and sharing the Dhamma. May you reach Nibbana.

Unfortunately when one starts a thread with a such a provocative title, it will likely result in a conversation filled with attachment and clinging to ideas and beliefs and degrade into a unwholesome and or rude conversation. I don’t have an opinion on the actual debate except for what I say below. But just wanted to share that context of maybe why this conversation has gone a little sideways.

This is just me speaking in general and about this thread now Bhante and not to you directly:

I am not speaking from a high ground or any authority. But I have noticed a lot of unwholesome feelings arise from this thread for me and others. So, here it is. For me this thread has been a great reminder to work on treating all people with loving kindness no matter what they believe, do or say. A reminder that clinging to views and attachments causes suffering for ourselves and others. This is all per the Suttas and commentaries of course.

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.>

SN 1.8


This is not true. What is true is that, as Frauwallner has shown, there is a core of material that is shared by the Theravada Abhidhamma and the northern Abhidharmas. See more here: Abhidharma - Wikipedia

Not really. There is continuity of course, but the Abhidhamma system is a later development. The best evidence for this is the very fact that while the early suttas of the different schools are often more or less identical, the Abhidharma texts differ considerably. This shows they developed after the suttas and thus are not from the time of the Buddha. For more info I would say read Frauwallner’s study of Abhidharma or this essay by Noa Ronkin:

The evidence is in the works of modern scholars who have studied Abhidharma like Frauwallner. Of course as I have pointed out above, the best argument for the lateness of the Abhidhamma is the differences among the abhidharmas of the different schools.

I do not think they are necessary to understand the Dhamma, no. That does not mean I think they are totally useless or wrong however. Though I do think they contain ideas that were not taught by the Buddha, for example, the theory of momentariness or the theory of the “heart base”. So it can certainly confuse people.

I think I mainly agree with Sujato’s position here. The commentaries are very useful, especially for translators and scholars, but they are not the word of the Buddha and must be read critically. That doesn’t mean however they they can’t help illuminate and understand certain passages, so I wouldn’t say people shouldn’t study them.


Abhidhamma, the Commentaries, are in fact not from the 1st council. Also, all EBTs are not the word of the Buddha. They are just texts, some early compiled, some later.

The earliest text contained in the Pali Canon, in terms of the formation of early Buddhist texts, not just languages, is found in SN/SA, particularly the so-called sutta/sutra-anga portion of SN/SA. This finding is according to the scholar-monk, Yin Shun. See pp. 7-11, and 2-7 in Choong Mun-keat, The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism: A Comparative Study Based on the Sutra-anga portion of the Pali Samyutta-Nikaya and the Chinese Samyukta-agama . Series: Beitrage zur Indologie Band 32; Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2000.


But this is still just a theory, an attempt to find a fault with Abhidhamma.

Why don’t you look at it from the other side and try to find reasons why Abhidhamma is the original teachings?

In my understanding loving-kindness is not just loving everybody, but also helping everybody to be happy in their life. In Anguttara Nikaya Ones he Buddha has said that He saw nothing worse in the world than Wrong View and that there is nothing more dangerous than Wrong View.

By various means we are trying to get the other person on right view. Although all speech may not be always pleasant, there is a reason for it and that is genuine love and care. As the Buddha said in Majjhima Nikaya Aranavibhanga Sutta -
“But when one knows overt sharp speech to be true, correct, and beneficial, one may utter it, knowing the time to do so.” (BB MN p.1084)



This could be written in a more exact way. The way you wrote it seems to be biased and prejudiced. Although Abhidhamma, Commentaries, and the text in most ancient Tipitaka has been edited by time, the added portions have been well mentioned by the Commentaries, hence we know what is original or not. For example, Majjhima Nikaya’s Bakula Sutta is specifically mentioned in the Commentaries as “added by the Second Buddhist Council.” However, what Commentaries do not mention as added by a later council is to be accepted as originally from the Buddha’s time or, if you wish, keep your theories and doubts as a non-member of the Theravada Buddhist community.


How do you know that they were fully-enlightened?
Did you directly understand their minds with your own mind?

I am still not seeing how this is valid reasoning for why Abhidhamma should be considered “original scripture” that was taught by the Buddha. The reasoning seems specious.

This doesn’t seem to be evidence that the Buddha taught the Abhidhamma.
Can you explain why you think this is an “example” or “evidence” for why the Buddha taught the Abhidhamma? How is “Ledi Sayadaw” considered “evidence” for the relationship between “Buddha” and “Abhidhamma”?

You drew a connection between “Ledi Sayadaw and His influential writings” and “the great boom of meditation retreats and centers.”
I can see how that may be the case. But I was not asking about this.

I was asking about how is “Buddha” related to “Abhidhamma”?

May you be happy, Venerable.

Something that is false and wrong cannot lead one to enlightenment. That would be impossible.

Where is the evidence that there are “countless Enlightened people in this very tradition”?
Where is the evidence that the “countless enlightened people in this very tradition” got enlightened by “Abhidhamma and Commentaries”?
How do you know that the “countless enlightened people in this very tradition” didn’t get enlightened only by the parts of the Theravada tradition that were actually taught by the Buddha, and not by or to the contrary, hindered by those parts that were not taught by the Buddha (such as the Abhidhamma and Commentaries)?

How about, “achieve Nibbana and I will believe your jhana is correct?”

So you have read the whole book?

The sections about Abhidhamma, doctrinal features, and denialist rhetoric comes to mind in relation to many of the claims that you made.

Chapter 4: Character of Early Buddhist Texts (pg 66 - 98)
Sub-Chapter 7.4: Denialist Buddhism (pg 145-150)

To be honest, I used to argue that the Theravada sect was closer to the actual teachings of the Buddha than Mahayana and Vajrayana.
My investigations have shown me that Theravada is much further away from the actual teachings of the Buddha than I had previous thought.

Therefore, I try to reject Vajrayana, Mahayana, Theravada, and even “Early Buddhism” to the degree that they do not accord with what the Buddha actually taught, and accept them to the degree that they do (which is a gradual learning process).

I have been considering ordaining for a while now, but something seems to have held me back.

Thank you for informing me about the realities of the Theravada sect, because I do not think the Theravada sect would be suitable for me to ordain into, if I was so fortunate enough to be able to do so.

Based on what you said, I think if I were able to ordain, I would want to do so in a sect that is even closer to the actual teachings of the Buddha than Theravada is.

I am not sure if there are any sects like that in existence.

My confession to you is that I sometimes wonder if I had heard the Dhamma being taught to me directly from the Buddha in a previous lifetime…and I think it is to some degree different from what the Theravada sect teaches today…as you can imagine, I am not pleased nor happy with this discrepancy because my primary loyalty lies with the Dhamma, and by extension to the Buddha and Sangha - whereas your loyalty seems to lie with the Theravada sect.

I find this to be the fundamental disagreement between you and I.

What do you think?

This thread seems to have strayed far away from the question: Theorists vs. Practitioners - who is better?

From my understanding, SuttaCentral wishes keep posts in a thread relevant to the topic so that it can easily be searched and referenced later on, thereby serving as like a repository of knowledge organized by topic.

So I created a new thread for the topic of just how different and similar Theravada and Early Buddhism is in relation to each other here:


Bhante it’s a theory because we don’t know the real tradition. I like Abhidharma. Commentaries. Matter a fact I read already read more Indian commentaries before. So maybe my scope of understanding the tradition seems to be the fact it’s the same in these commentaries. I’m not looking for excuse. For me it’s about searching the obvious tradition valid and visible already in the suttas. And for me Sāriputta started explaining Buddha’s teaching in this detailed form. All what I say just give Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar. I truly appreciate that you brought this forth about commentaries. Right now suddenly I have a lot in the library. I didn’t know there is so much. Some are later. But reading commentaries is like listening discourses straight from the masters. I find it strange. Our understanding. Commentaries is like listening to monks on YouTube. But ancient :joy: I like reading all . Lastly I did read a lot of the Indian sources. There is obvious disagreement in tradition.

For I take the example of Jatakas. Indian sources say there was some schools didn’t accept them as Buddhavacana. In that it has been studied that the obvious reasons because mostly is just those Indian stories that has actually predating religion. But I see the phase. It started with inspiration from vinaya. When Buddha gave stories of people that lived in the past.

Another thing I noticed now The treatise on Paramis by Dhammapala extracted from one of his commentaries he quoted Buddha preaching the Paramis for Buddhahood. Such things in commentaries can be anything that is really not Buddha words. But in that time making commentaries it’s normal using Indian influence.

For me Buddhaghosa and Dhammapala is coming from a tradition of Sthavira in India but it’s actually a tradition more open already. And they hoping already to see the future Buddha. It was common in that time. Buddhaghosa for example wished see Metteyya Buddha and attain Arahantship. And Dhammapāla probably is into the same . Because this parami teaching exposes who he was. He clearly has the tradition with the tradition of needing to be in front a Buddha for the aspiration to come true.

Another thing I noticed in commentaries in 4-5 CE in India they don’t use Brahma Sahampati, they use Mahabrahma.

Why I say this because the after schism maybe made every new sect made their own views in commentaries and sometimes we have to see another angle. I realize in other Indian commentaries that the doctrines varied a lot. Even sutras there was more. If you see the ones quoted in debates. You like what is that? Buddha said that? This was common after schism

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This is not true. What is true is that, as Frauwallner has shown, there is a core of material that is shared by the Theravada Abhidhamma and the northern Abhidharmas.

That is essentially what I said. The material of the Dhammasaṅganī and the Vibhaṅga can be found in other schools, thus they represent the earliest form of Abhidhamma. The matikas are nothing but an expansion of the various lists we see in the suttas. Nothing suggests that said matikas are from a very late period and they likely go back to the time of the Buddha himself.

Not really. There is continuity of course, but the Abhidhamma system is a later development. The best evidence for this is the very fact that while the early suttas of the different schools are often more or less identical, the Abhidharma texts differ considerably. This shows they developed after the suttas and thus are not from the time of the Buddha.

It would help if you clarified what you mean. Are you referring to the Abhidhammic texts themselves or the commentary on those texts? If its the commentary and ideas such as sabhāva, momentariness and the like then yes these are later elaborations as they come from the commentarial tradition and are not found in the Abhidhamma texts themselves. Even orthodox Theravada recognises that. I see no reason to reject the commenterial explanations of the Dhamma (in this case through the Abhidhamma) in favour of more modern and highly idiosyncratic ones. When we look at the commentarial material there is nothing in there which contradicts the Abhidhamma nor the suttas. When we look at the other schools we see much that does. This returns us to my earlier point that the Theravadin Abhidhamma is likely an older and more conservative version, which isn’t unlikely given the nature of the tradition, with a commentarial tradition that did not deviate from the suttas nor Abhidhamma and so what the Buddha taught. It is pure Dhamma in the sense of its great depth and analysis in the abstract, removed from any context or personalised teachings of the Dhamma like what we see in the suttas.

So, the core of the 1st two primary texts of the Abhidhamma are old and likely go back to the time of the Buddha. Even if we say it comes from after the parinibbana its not much later than that, from when we can be sure that arahants were still around to check things over. Following from this a commentarial tradition developed which gave further explanations of these teachings from which we get ideas such as own-nature, momentariness etc.

Out of interest, have you read much of the Abhidhamma or the commentaries?

How does that follow?

That isn’t true. The passage in question from the Visuddhimagga wasn’t written by Ven. Buddhaghosa.

It was added because they believed he was the future Buddha?

Besides that there is another proof really mysterious

According to Dhammaruwan’s memories, he learned the Pāli chants in a former lifetime in India, where he had been born as the son of a brahmin and trained in memorization of the Vedas. He had gone forth as a Buddhist monk and become a student of the eminent monk Buddhaghosa at Nālandā. After being trained as a reciter, together with other monks who had similarly been trained he was chosen to accompany Buddhaghosa from India to Sri Lanka. Having come to Sri Lanka, he stayed with Buddhaghosa at the Mahāvihāra in Anurādhapura.

I believe Dhammapala was the exact Dharmapala from Nālandā University also.

It’s said by Chinese source that he was taught in all 18 schools.

Buddhaghosa maybe was the same

Why we don’t have information where they exactly came from? I don’t think Theravada is going to say that.

They are scholars. Scholars of India in that time is mostly of Nālandā tradition. Buddhaghosa might be from that tradition before they made the big building.

A time where Chinese saw only the Sāriputta stupa there. But maybe there was a school somewhere else.

I’m not personally in that camp that rejects the Abhidhamma traditions outright. I think perhaps Abhidhamma became a bit overwrought, but it’s certainly a valuable part of the Buddhist tradition. It’s also valuable that the Theravada tradition has preserved such an extensive commentarial literature. It gives us a window into the past. The Agamas unfortunately lack that level of exegesis, so there are passages that are just mysterious today.

I also don’t think that the variations that I see as I translate Agamas from Chinese rise to the level that invalidates one Buddhist tradition or the other. It’s fascinating to me in the literary sense to see the different versions of traditional stories, but it’s not as though the differences would stop Buddhists from achieving arhattva if they practiced with one canon or the other. It’s really just a matter of history to me.


In what way to you see it as a valuable part? In other words, what value do you see in it?

Personally, I can see how the Kathavatthu is valuable to reconstruct the history of early Buddhist schools and how the analyses according to the suttas of the Vibhanga can sometimes help with the meaning of some words found in the suttas (‘parimukkham’ as an example). But I didn’t find any use of the rest of the books (yet). I’d be interested to know how some people are using this abhidhammic content and what value they see in it (like for example, notion X in this abhidhamma book helped me understand sutta Y).

To me, it’s not because it has been held in high esteem by a tradition over centuries that it is necessarily valuable.

Questioning the authenticity or value of the Abhidhamma is seen as being disrespectful, or ‘not appropriate’ by traditional Theravadins, as seen in this thread or on Dhammawheel for example, and I really don’t understand this reaction. If someone knows something for sure, or have an unshakable belief in it, then usually that person does not care if someone else criticizes or questions this belief. On the contrary when someone reacts to criticisms of a belief or invoke notions of ‘disrespect’ etc, it is usually because, IMHO, they themselves have some doubts about their beliefs.

This I came to see it that way as well. I do value the commentaries as a great help for understanding some of the Pali vocabulary and the history of Buddhism also. But the parts of the commentaries that interpret the suttas in an abhidhammic framework or that add explanatory stories seems to me more a detrimental hindrance than a valuable addition.