Thread: Abhidhamma and Abhidharma

  1. #1

    Abhidhamma and Abhidharma

    Abhidhamma( Theravada) and Abhidharma (Mahayana/Vajrayana)- are they the same or different?

    Has anyone read them ...and if so can you share some thoughts about them?



  2. #2
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    We did a lot of comparisons between different types of Buddhism at the centre I used to go to. The main difference I found between the two is in the Lotus Sutra, one of the go-to sutras for Mahayana Buddhists, where the idea of an infinite Buddha is revealed. One who has always been there but who only steps in now and again to move things on. The idea is also introduced that everything that had gone on in Buddhism before was merely expedient teaching because that was all people could cope with at the time, but now was the right time for a 'greater vehicle'. Whereas Theravadan Buddhism was seen to be based on monastic Buddhism with a strict adherence to rules, the Lotus Sutra says that everyone can become enlightened, even women and that the repeated chanting of the Lotus Sutra will be enough.

    I always felt much closer to the Mahayana than the Therevadan because it seemed to be more open to more people, and because it promoted the idea that we can all become enlightened here and now. We did have a few tongue-in-cheek discussions about the idea of hanging around until all beings had become enlightened, the Bodhisattva Vow, particularly if everyone wanted to be the one to help the last being. All the same I liked the bravado of chanting out loud a vow I knew to be impossible, but chanting it anyway.

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    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    I have not read them. I have browsed a very little Theravada Abhidhamma.

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    Technical Administrator woodscooter's Avatar
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    I know nothing of the Abhidharma, but I have had an introduction to Abhidhamma at the meditation group that I used to regularly attend.

    It seemed to be held in great reverence by the teachers although some admitted it was a little 'difficult' to absorb. In fact, it's a theory of everything. It includes an explanation of how the mind works and how thoughts and experiences are formed. It's fairly far removed from what Western psychologists have accepted as a working explanation of the mind.

    Actually, we don't need theories and we don't need explanations, when neither Abhidhamma nor Western psychologists really understand very much about the mind.

    I see Abhidhamma as an irrelevance, and a diversion from one's primary path of practice.

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    I think the Abhidhamma well worth a read as a different approach to Buddhism. The idea of cause and consequence, things arising on conditions is fairly central to any practice, as is the idea that knowing how the mind works is useful to everyone's practice. They may not have got it right, but it points usefully in a direction well worth investigating. It is pretty difficult to read as a body of work, so be prepared to dip in and out of its main points.

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