CHAPTER I - Different Types of Consciousness (citta-sangaha-vibhαgo)

Introductory Verse


§ 1.

Sammαsambuddhamatulam - sasaddhammaganuttamam -

Abhivαdiya bhαsissam - Abhidhammatthasangaham


The Fully Enlightened Peerless One, with the Sublime Doctrine and the Noble Order,
do I respectfully salute, and shall speak concisely of things contained in the Abhidhamma.

1. Abhidhammattha-Sangaha is the name of the book. Abhidhamma, literally, means "Higher Doctrine". Attha here means "things". Sangaha means "a compendium".

The prefix "abhi" is used in the sense of preponderant, great, excellent, sublime, distinct, etc.


2. Dhamma is a multi-significant term, derived from the root Φ dhar, to hold, to support. Here the Pαli term is used in the sense of doctrine or teaching. According to the Atthasαlini, "abhi" signifies either "atireka" -higher, greater, exceeding - or "visittha" - distinguished, distinct, special, sublime.

Abhidhamma means the Higher Doctrine because it enables one to achieve one's Deliverance, or because it exceeds the teachings of the Sutta Pitaka and Vinaya Pitaka.

In the Sutta Pitaka and Vinaya Pitaka the Buddha has used conventional terms such as man, animal, being, and so on. In the Abhidhamma Pitaka, on the contrary, everything is microscopically analyzed and abstract terms are used. As a distinction is made with regard to the method of treatment, it is called Abhidhamma.

Thus, chiefly owing to the preponderance of the teachings, or because it is conducive to one's Deliverance, and owing to the excellent analytical method of treatment, it is called Abhidhamma.


3. The Abhidhamma Pitaka consists of seven treatises - namely,

i. Dhammasangani,
ii. Vibhanga,
iii. Dhαtukathα,
iv. Puggalapaρρatti,
v. Kathαvatthu,
vi. Yamaka

(Dhammasangani Vibhangaρ ca - Kathαvatthu ca Puggalam Dhαtu-Yamaka-Pathαnam-Abhidhammo' ti vuccati)


Dhammasangani - "Classification of Dhammas".

This book is divided into four chapters, viz:-

(1) - (Citta) Consciousness,
(2) - (Rϊpa) Matter,
(3) - (Nikkhepa) Summary,
(4) - (Atthuddhαra) Elucidation.

The 22 Tika Mαtikαs (Triplets) and the 100 Duka-Mαtikαs (Couplets), which comprise the quintessence of the Abhidhamma, are explained in this book. The major part of the book is devoted to the explanation of the first triplet - kusalα dhammα, akusalα dhammα and abyαkatα dhammα. In extent the book exceeds thirteen Bhαnavαras* (recitals), i.e., more than 104,000 letters.

* Bhαnavαra = 250 verses: 1 verse = 4 lines: 1 line = 8 letters. One Bhαnavαra, therefore, consists of 8000 letters


ii. Vibhanga - "Divisions".


There are eighteen divisions in this book.

The first three divisions, which deal with

  • khandha (aggregates)
  • αyatana (sense-spheres) and
  • dhαtu (elements),

are the most important.

The other chapters deal with

  • sacca (truths,)
  • indriya (controlling faculties),
  • paccayαkαra (causal genesis),
  • satipatthαna (foundations of mindfulness),
  • samma-ppadhαna (supreme efforts),
  • iddhi-pαda (means of accomplishments),
  • bojjhanga (factors of wisdom),
  • jhαna (ecstasies or absorption),
  • appamaρρα (illimitable),
  • magga (paths),
  • sikkhα-pada (precepts),
  • patisambhidα (analytical knowledge),
  • ραna (wisdom),
  • khuddaka-vatthu (minor subjects), and
  • dhamma-hadaya (essence of truth).

Most of these divisions consist of three parts - Suttanta explanation, Abhidhamma explanation, and a Catechism (Paρhapucchaka).

In this treatise there are thirty-five Bhαnavαras (280,000 letters).


iii. Dhαtukathα - "Discussion with reference to Elements".


This book discusses whether Dhammas are included or not included in, associated with, or dissociated from:

  • aggregates (khandha),
  • bases (αyatana), and
  • elements (dhαtu).

There are fourteen chapters in this work. In extent it exceeds six Bhαnavαras (48,000 letters).


iv. Puggalapaρρatti - "Designation of Individuals".


In the method of exposition this book resembles the Anguttara Nikαya of the Sutta Pitaka. Instead of dealing with various Dhammas, it deals with various types of individuals. There are ten chapters in this book. The first chapter deals with single individuals, the second with pairs, the third with groups of three, etc. In extent it exceeds five Bhαnavαras (40,000 letters).


v. Kathαvatthu - "Points of Controversy".

The authorship of this treatise is ascribed to Venerable Moggalliputta Tissa Thera, who flourished in the time of King Dhammαsoka. It was he who presided at the third Conference held at Pαtalaliputta (Patna) in the 3rd century B.C. This work of his was included in the Abhidhamma Pitaka at that Conference.

The Atthasαlini Commentary states that it contains one thousand Suttas: five hundred orthodox and five hundred heterodox. In extent it is about the size of the Dνgha Nikαya.

This book deals with 216 controversies and is divided into 23 chapters.


vi. Yamaka - "The Book of Pairs".

 It is so called owing to its method of treatment. Throughout the book a question and its converse are found grouped together. For instance, the first pair of the first chapter of the book, which deals with roots, runs as follows: Are all wholesome Dhammas wholesome roots? And are all wholesome roots wholesome Dhammas?

This book is divided into ten chapters - namely,

  1. m ϊla (roots),
  2. khandha (aggregates),
  3. αyatana (bases),
  4. dhαtu (elements),
  5. sacca (truths),
  6. sankhαra (conditioned things),
  7. anusaya (latent dispositions),
  8. citta (consciousness),
  9. dhamma, and
  10. indriya (controlling faculties).

In extent it contains 120 Bhαnavαras (960,000 letters).


vii. Patthαna - "The Book of Causal Relations".

 This is the most important and the most voluminous book of the Abhidhamma Pitaka. One who patiently reads this treatise cannot but admire the profound wisdom and penetrative insight of the Buddha. There is no doubt of the fact that to produce such an elaborate and earned treatise one must certainly be an intellectual genius.

The term Patthαna is composed of the prefix "pa", various and "thαna", relation or condition (paccaya). It is so called because it deals with the 24 modes of causal relations (explained in a subsequent chapter) and the triplets (tika) and couplets (duka) already mentioned in the Dhammasangani, and which comprise the essence of the Abhidhamma Pitaka.

The importance attached to this treatise, also known as "Mahα Pakarana", the Great Book, could be gauged by the words of the Atthasαlini which states: "And while He contemplated the contents of the Dhammasangani His body did not emit rays, and similarly with the contemplation of the next five books. But, when coming to the Great Book, He began to contemplate the 24 universal causal relations of condition of presentation, and so on, His omniscience certainly found its opportunity therein.*

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* For a detailed exposition of these seven books see Rev. Nyanatiloka, Guide through the Abhidhamma Pitaka, and the introductory discourse of the Expositor, part i, p. 5-21. See also Buddhist Psychology, p. 135, 193. Relations, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, and the Editor's Foreword to the Tikapatthαna Text