This is correct, but to be fair, the Visuddhimagga specifically states that in the context of dependent origination, nāma excludes vinnana—a distinction not often noted.[quote=“SarathW1, post:14, topic:4600”]
I have read 80% of the Sutta (English translation) and Abhidhamma (Narada) at least twice.
My apologies, I was feeling mischievous.
But note that your answer reveals one of the basic problems here. You equate Narada with Abhidhamma. But of course, this is a 20th century summary and explanation of a 12 century Burmese text, the Abhidhammatthasangaha, a text whose interpretation was heavily disputed for centuries in Theravada, and which is full of concepts, terms, and ideas that are not only not found in the Suttas, but are not found in the canonical Abhidhamma either.
So if you want to step beyond generalities and discuss the relation between the Abhidhamma and the Suttas, you have have to begin by asking what, exactly, do you mean by Abhidhamma?
Who said I was opposed to abhidhamma? “Abhidhamma” just means “about the dhamma”, and it is what we do here, have discussions “about the dhamma”. But in modern Theravada, abhidhamma is used in a much more pregnant sense. It has come to mean a specific body of teachings, primarily those found in the Abhidhammatthasangaha, which constitute the “Higher Teachings”.
So what I’m opposed to is misusing the abhidhamma by using it as a lens through which the suttas are seen. That’s not what it was meant for: it was meant as an advanced study for those who have already mastered the suttas and want to put their study on a more systematic basis.
The problem is that, as used in modern Theravada, the abhidhamma has come to be seen as authoritative, and rather than explaining the suttas, it explains them away. For practical purposes, in modern Theravada, when the abhidhamma (i.e the Abhidhammatthasangaha and its commentaries) and the suttas disagree, the suttas are interpreted so as to agree with the abhidhamma.
Don’t underestimate the scope of the problem. When I taught a sutta course in Jakarta, I was told that that was the first time anyone had taught the suttas in Indonesia. Is that true? I find it hard to believe, but maybe it is. But nevertheless it is telling. Modern Theravada is all Abhidhamma, all the time. My first Dhamma lesson was not, “Here’s what the Buddha said in the suttas”, but, quite literally, drawing 17 circles on a blackboard to represent the 17 mind-moments, and go from there.
It’s not uncommon to find monasteries, even major ones, where they do not even have the suttas, but only the Abhidhamma. Or if the suttas are there, they are left in the cabinet because they’re too sacred, and only the “abhidhamma” is read. In the Thai academic system of Dhamma study, Suttas are not taught in any of the 9 years. That’s right: you get the equivalent of a Phd in Buddhsim without having ever read any suttas. This problem is hardly limited to Thailand. Ignoring the suttas in favor of later texts is, of course, normal in all the schools of Mahayana, and common in Western academic courses, too.
Sorry, I’m too busy.
Again, I don’t really want to spend too long on this, as I have written extensively on this problem elsewhere. But the basic problem is that the Abhidhamma treats the nāma as “mind”, which it never means in the suttas, and then rūpa becomes “body”, which it sometimes means in the suttas, but not here. (Rūpa is broader than “body”, as it includes the objects of the five sense, and even the objects of the sixth sense that have material properties such as color and position).
This then creates a dualistic mind/body analysis. The primary mode of analysis is to distinguish between the mind and the body, and again, this is never found in the suttas. The suttas are much too sophisticated to fall into this kind of trap. They never treat the mind and the body as separate entities, or posit them as primary forms of analytical categories.
This mind/body dualism lies at the heart of much Western philosophy, such as Descartes, and has been responsible for many of the most insoluble and damaging implications of western philosophy. Indeed, I believe that the reason we are subject to such an influential extremist materialism today, with its far-reaching and devastating consequences in terms of divorcing fact and value, lies precisely because the West has never escaped the dysfunctional abyss of mind/body dualism.
When the Buddha discussed the mind and the body, he always placed their relation foremost, not their separation. This is apparent in the commentarial attempt to justify the so-called nāmarūpapariccheda. This means the “cutting between, complete separation of mind and body”. But this is not found anywhere in the EBTs, so to support it they use a passage on meditative vision. But that passage speaks not of the separation between these things, but quite the opposite: that they are bound together, dependent on each other.
Anyway, I could keep going for quite some time on the many, many ways the modern Abhidhamma teachings neither represent the EBTs, nor are philosophically coherent, nor offer a realistic map of experience, nor provide an adequate basis for addressing the problems that we, as a species, encounter today. We should focus on bring the Buddha’s teachings alive, not on worshiping the bones of ancient scholastics.