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Is the Abhidhamma essential?

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  • Is the Abhidhamma essential?

    Dear Bhante(s); I was just wondering if you could give me your opinion on something that has been said to me several times in a group I go to...I have been told on several occasions that I will never be able to understand the Suttas unless I have a clear understanding of the Abhidhamma. Do you think is is essential to understand Abhidhamma in order to understand the Suttas? With Metta, Mark.

  • #2
    Dear Mark,

    It is accepted by the vast majority of Buddhist scholars that the Abhidhamma was produced several centuries after the Buddha passed away. If it is necessary to understand the Abhidhamma in order to understand the suttas, then nobody at the Buddha's time would have understood the suttas!

    It gets worse. There are concepts in the Abhidhamma that are not found in the suttas. Are they compatible with the suttas? In some instances I would argue that they are not, and that they can lead you severely astray. In other instances, I just don't know. Because of these uncertainties, and even apparent inconsistencies with the suttas, I would simply put the Abhidhamma to one side. It is just not worth the effort. There is a lifetime of study in the suttas alone. Go to the source, and avoid potential confusion to the best of your ability.

    With metta,
    Ajahn Brahmali

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    • #3
      Thank you for your reply Bhante; you're absolutely right, there is a lifetime of study in the Suttas, so I will stay with the source and plunge deeper. With metta, Mark.

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