Temples of Sri Lanka

Theravada and Sarvastivada Abhdhamma Views

By Geshe Thupten Chodak (Nyima Tashi)


Sera Jey Monastic University, Bylakuppe, Karnataka State, India

Enthused by great compassion, you expounded the sublime truth

In order to eliminate all wrong views,to you, the Gautama Buddha, I pay homage.



In Buddhism, The Buddha himself gave us great freedom to analysis his work as in Sutra it said;


Oh bhikshus and the wise one Just as gold is tested,           

Through burning, cutting and rubbing.

Likewise, examine my works thoroughly,                

And only then accept them, not merely out of respect for me.



Therefore we are trying to analysis as he said.  Also He introduces law of nature as;


Compounded things are all impermanent;              

Contaminated things all suffering

Phenomena all empty without self;                          

Only in nirvana is there peace.



And How to come over ‘the method is’


The Buddha’s does not wash away negativities with water;

Nor does he clear away suffering with his hand.

Nor can he transfer his own qualities to us;

He shows the true path; by that alone are beings liberated.



The above reasons are basis for teaching ABhidharma. And many masters after Buddha, they

Analysis as he guide us to. Therefore we have many commentaries by many masters and each

Of the commentaries has its own beauty, which we need to discover. Therefore we appreciate

these kind of dialogue.







1;         The Three conciliation of Buddhism

2;         Introduction of Tripitaka

3;         Concept of Abhidharma.

4          Identifying Abhidharma on different schools.

5          Commentaries on Abhidharma.

6          What kind of research can be done on Abhidharma?


  • བཀའ་བསྡུ་རིམ་པ་གསུམ། Three conciliations


The three conciliations according to Sthavira or Theravada school The three conciliations according to Mulasarvastivada school

The First Conciliation


The First Conciliation


Dipavamsa (chronicle of the island), Mahavamsa (great chronicle), Callavamsa, and Prof. JC Pande’s history of development of Buddhism.



Venue  =                               Sattapani Cave, Rajgir

Sponsor  =                            King Ajatshatru

Attendants  =                        500 Arahats

Compilers   =                           Vinaya by AryaUpali

Sutra by AryaAnanda

Chair-person   =                            Mahakashyapa


4 months after the Mahaparinirvana  of Lord BuddhaIt took three months of summer






Agamaksudraka (minor transmission), Ashokavadana, Acharya Bhavavivek’sTarkajvala, Taranatha history of Buddhismin India, and most of the Tibetan books on the history of Buddhism.


Venue    =                                 Mahasukha cave, Rajgir

Sponsor    =                               King Ajatshatru

Attendants  =                            500 Arahats

Compilers   =                Vinaya by AryaUpali

Abhidharma by Mahakashyapa

Chair-person  =                 Mahakashyapa


4 months after the Mahaparinirvana of Lord Buddha

The Second Conciliation The Second Conciliation
Venue    =                                              Vaishali

Attendants   =                                   700 Arahats

The chief topic of the discussion

The monks of Vaishali doing ten points which are not granted.

Compilers    =                                 700 Arahats


Monk Revata is the main speaker of the faults, and monk Yasha is the undertaker


100 years after the Mahaparinirvana of the Lord Buddha It took 8 months for this conciliation


Sponsor  =               King Kala Ashok

Venue  =                                     Vaishali

Attendants   =                      700 Arahats

The chief topic of the discussion

The monks of Vaishali doing ten points which are not granted.

Compilers   =                           700 Arahats


Nine arahat including ArahatThams cad ’dod



110 years after the Mahaparinirvana of the Lord Buddha. It took 8 months for this conciliation

Sponsor   =          King Dharma Ashoka

The Third Conciliation The Third Conciliation
Venue  =    Metok Drong Vihara, Patali putra


Attendants   =                         1000



The chief topic of the discussion

To expel the monks who are pursing livelihood





Compiler   =                            Moggaliputra Tissa



Sponsor   =                        King Dharma Ashoka He         convened this gathering after 17 years of his enthronement


Chair-person   =                Moggaliputra Tissa



Kathavastu, Moggaliputra Tissa composed a philosophical text of 500 questions and answers, refutingthe 17 schools other than Sthavira school


Venue    =           KunpanGupha, Jalandhar



500 Arahats, 500 Bodhisattvas including Monk Vasumitra, 500 Panditas

The chief topic of the discussion

Reading the teachings of the Buddha in Sanskrit, Prakrita, Apabhransha and Paishachi language, the followers split into 18 groups. The monk Naga, follower of Mahadeva and BhikshuYigtonargued with the propagation of the five points, due to which the 4 main groups gradually split into 18 groups.


500 Arahats including AryaTsiglob, 500 Bodhisattvas including monk Vasumitra, and 250 Panditas accepted the teachings of the Buddhas that can be found in the four Languages as the teachings of the Buddha. The three baskets of teachings put into words.

Sponsor    =            Dharma King Kanishka


AryaTsiblog, Ashvaghosh, and Vasumitra



400 years after the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha

Some says its 160 at MetokGyepa city.


2)      Meaning and classifications of Tripitakas

  • The collection of teachings on the discipline of the ordained ones in general and the 253 liberation vows in particular is VinayaPitaka
  • The collection of teachings mainly on meditative concentration with the introduction of the four noble truths and interdependence is Sutra Pitaka
  • The collection of teachings on wisdom by preaching the nature and classification of the aggregates and sources of precepts is AbhidharmaPitaka
  • According to Shravaka tradition, the Tripitakas further can be divided into 9 scriptural categories. According to Mahayana tradition, it can be divided into 12 scriptural categories which further can be divided into 84000 divisions of dharma


The Seven Abhidharma Shastra’s


No Theravada Mulasarvastivada
1 Dharmasangani=122 Jnanprasthan            =8
2 Vibhanga          = 11 Prakaranapada          =8
3 Dhatu Kata       = 14 Vijnanakayapada      = 5
4 Paggalapannati = 6 Dharmaskandha        =21
5 Katha Vatthu    = 18 Prajnaptishastra         =8
6 Patthana            = 10 Sanghitapiryaya         =12
7 Yamaka            = 24 Dhatu Katha               =2


3) Concept of Abhidharma, or what does it mean Abhidharma

Literal meaning of Abhidharma

“Dharma” was derived from the root word “Dhara” which means to hold one’s identity.  “Abhi” is like “Abhimukha” which means door to attain something. “Abhikshana”which means,completely again and again.  “Abhibhuya” means to completely overpower. “Abhisamaya” which means to understand something completely.


The higher and lower Abhidharma

  • The higher Abhidharma is Abhidharmasamuccaya which was composed by AryaAsanga. It has 5 chapters.
  • The lower Abhidharma is Abhidharmakosha which was composed by AcharyaVasubandhu. It has 8 chapters.
  • The term “higher and lower” with Abhidharma was used by Tibetans only. It is not popular in India.


  • Identifying Abhidharma on different schools.

The history of 7 Abhidharmashastras of Sthaviraschool

According to the view of AcharyaBuddhadeva, Abhidharma means the most extraordinary dharma. The period of their composition these are, according to some scholars, Paggalapannatti is first, then orderly Vabhinga, Dhammasangani, Dhatukatha, Patthana, and Yamaka. The fifth one, Kathavatthu, was composed by MoggalaputtaTissa. Though it’s not the real teaching of Buddha, people pay same respect to it as to that of Buddha’s teachings.


The 7 Abhidharmashastras of Mulasarvastivadashool

It is written in Chimzod, a commentary of Abhidharmakosha, that, some Vaibhashika scholars consider Jnanprasthan as the main and other six shastras as its parts. Some modern scholars believe that, periodically, SanghitapiryayaMahakoshthali and Dharmaskandha were composed first, and then Prajnaptishastra, Vijnanakayapada, Prakaranapada and Dhatukaya were composed, and Jnanaprasthan was composed at last. Among the 7 Abhidharmashastras, we have only Prajnaptishastra in Tibetan language, which has three sub-topics namely, Lokaprajnapti, Hetuprajnapti and Karmaprajnapti. The other 6 Abhidharmashastras can be found in Chinese language only; they were not translated into Tibetan language so far. However, nowadays, The Jnanaprasthana and Mahavibhasa are available in Tibetan Language because Chinese translator, LobsangChoephak translated them from Chinese language. Regarding the Lokaprajnapti, it is available more in Tibetan language than Chinese language.


History of Abhidharma according to Sthaviraschool

  • According to Sthavira school, Abhidharma is the teaching of the lord Buddha. Its old term was Matrika. They believe that, at Bodh Gaya,Lord Buddha directly attained the knowledge of Abhidharmawhile he was attaining the knowledge of the 12 links of interdependence in progressive and reverse order. Then after 4 months of enlightenment, five or six rays radiated from his body, and he completely experienced Abhidharma.
  • Later, during the 7th summer retreat, Lord Buddha taught Abhidharma to his mother, who was born in the heaven of thirty three, during his stay of 3 months of summer at there. While going for alms at Lake Manasarovar and going in the forest of sandalwood after excrement, Lord Buddha taught AryaShariputra the essence of the teachings he gave to his mother. AryaShariputra too taught this to his 500 disciples, and spread the teaching. This is known as Abhidharma. The Abhidharma taught to AryaShariputra has 22 groups of triple sections and 8 groups of double sections. Triple sections; the three phenomenon are, virtuous, non-virtuous and neutral phenomenon, the three feelings are, pleasure, pain and neutral. In double sections; they are six which has double sections on one cause, like, which are its cause and which are not its cause.


Whether the 7 Abhidharmashastras are teachings of Lord Buddha or not?

Periodically, the term “Abhidharma” was came into existence only after the Mahaparinirvana of Lord Buddha and compiling his teachings into categories, namely, VinayaPitaka, Sutra Pitaka and AbhidharmaPitaka. However, there are different views among the disciples of Lord Buddha on having or not having the separate texts of Abhidharma. Most of the Vaibhashikas believe that, there are separate texts of Abhidharma, and as the Udanavarga which was compiled by monk Dharmatrata is considerd as the real teaching of lord Buddha, so the teachings on Abhidharma compiled by AryaShatriputra etc. should be considered as the real teaching of Lord Buddha.       


5        Commentaries on Abhidharma.

Some major texts of lower Abhidharma

  • According to Mulasarvastivadashool, before the composition of Abhidharmakosha by AcharyaVasubandhu, there was Abhidharmahridya, which was composed by AcharyaDharmashri, approximately in 130 B.C. It wasn’t translated into Tibetan. Around 391 A.D., it was said to be translated into Chinese. Its Sankrit version is not available. This shastra has 10 chapters. It is said that, it resembles that of Abhidharmakosha, presenting complete knowledge of the five categories of principles(Pancajneyadhara) accepted by Vaibhashika school.
  • It can be figured out from the citation in Mahavibhasha that, there was a shastra titled Abhidharma Amrita composed by AcharyaGoshaka. His views have been cited by AcharyaVasubandhu for many occasions. This Acharya appeared to be a scholar of 12th century, who, as per the invitation, visited Tokara, an area in the northern part of Kashmir, after the death of King Kanishka. The shastra titled Abhidharma Amrita has 16 chapters.


Refusal of Self in the auto-commentary of Abhidharmakosha

  • In the roots of Abhidharmakosha, refusal of Self in general and refusal of Inexpressible Self accepted by Vatsiputriya in particular, the refusal of Self was nowhere expressed. Therefore, AcharyaVasubandhu intentionally added the ninth chapter titled “Refusal of Pudgala”, in his auto-commentary of Abhidharmakosha. Due to this, the ninth chapter is the best common-text for both the vehicles to conclude the non-existence of the individual self. In this chapter, a thorough analysis has been done on the Inexpressible Self accepted by Vatsiputriya with quotations and logic. He concluded that it is reasonable to accept the Pudgala same to that of Skanda. He opposed the self beyond skanda, which was accepted by non-buddhists, with logic. In short, it is very helpful to understand the theory of selflessness.


Commentaries of Abhidharmakosha by Indian scholars

  • Later, AcharyaVasubandhu came across with the “Five Treatises on the Ground”, composed by his brother, AryaAsanga. He was so fascinated by them that he started studying the sutras of Mahayana from his brother. Among the five works of Maitreya, he composed commentaries on AbhisamayaAlamkara and Madhyantavibhanga etc. He composed many Mahayana texts too.
  • Among the many commentaries on Abhidharmakosha by Indian scholars, the two most popular commentaries are, one composed by AcharyaDakpaiShenyen and the other one which was composed by AcharyaGangpel. In Tengyur, there are many commentaries on Abhidharmakosha by different Indian scholars, including the above two commentaries.


Abhidharma texts available in Pali

  • Acharya Buddhadatta composed Abhidharma texts, “Entering the Abhidharma” and “Differentiation of form and formless”.
  • Acharya Buddhagosha composed commentaries on DhammaSangani, Dhatukatha, PuggalaPrannapti, Kathavatthu, Patthana He also composed a text titled “Vishuddhamarga”.
  • The texts on Abhidharma and its commentary by Sri Lankan Acharya Aniruddha are available in Tibetan language. He was a contemporary of Acharya Buddhagosha.


What kind of research can be done on Abhidharma?


There could be many place where we can find similarity and differences in Theravada and Sarvastivada Abhidharma. But Major part of the concept are very similar.

We need to go through detail by each of the Chapter.

Seven Shastra’s of Abhidharma.

Detail content of Shastra’s.


Dr Lobsang Dorjee Rabling has been done research so wisely. Which I would like to thank you for his support.

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