This work, "Relations in Abhidhamma Philosophy", of Bimalendra Kumar, who is interested in Abhidhamma for all the right reasons, is proof of solid scholarship. He studies the Patthana, one of the seven Abhidhamma texts of Theravada, spoken by the Buddha. The seven texts were written down as sacred texts (pall) in the time of King Vattagamani. This king, who founded the Abhayagiri Vihara, reigned in 47 BC and again in 32 - 20 BC. The texts were written down between 35 and 32 BC, according to E. Lamotte, History of Indian Buddhism, Louvain-La-Neuve 1988: 368. A. Skilton, however, in his A Concise History of Buddhism, Birmingham 2001: 150, proposes that Vattagamani reigned from 29 till 17 BC, and that the Tipitaka was written down during the last year of his reign. The Patthana, "Causal Relations", is the seventh text of the seven Abhidhamma texts. It offers a full discussion of Dependent Origination, Pratityasamutpada.
The first to leave the sangha after the first schism, sanghabheda, between the sangha and the mahasangha, ca. 340 BC, in the time of King Mahapadma Nanda, were the pudgalavada Vatsiputriyas, ca. 280 BC. The pudgalavadins then split up, their most important school being called Sammatiya. The sangha then split up again during the reign of King Asoka (268-232 BC. Other dates are given too). Those who were considered orthodox called themselves Vibhajyavada, analyst, distinctionist. Those who left were the Sarvastivadins. The texts written down during the reign of King Vattagamani returned to this Asoka Vibhajyavada "orthodoxy". The Patthana is an essential text of this orthodoxy. If the Buddha has said so, there is no doubt that the text is "orthodox". Action or reaction against it is not possible. The same would happen in Kasmira, during and immediately after the reign of King Kaniska (reign 155-179 AD). At that time a Sanskrit "orthodoxy", spoken by the Buddha, was written down in seven texts.
When the Pali orthodoxy was written down in the South, at the other end of the Indian cultural area, in Bactria, the Sarvastivadins Abhidharmahrdayasastra was composed by Dharmasresthin. This text just teaches how to reach the highest stage of arhatship. It is not Buddhabhasita, spoken by the Buddha, but it uses the words of the Buddha, as seen in the sutras, to outline a path of progress. One may remember that Sarvastivada is also called Hetuvada, a term used for both the "orthodox" Vaibhasikas and for the Sautrantikas. Sautrantikas are the traditional Sarvastivadins, who do not believe that the Abhidhamma was spoken by the Buddha.
Bimalendra Kumar's study, based on the Pali Patthana, offers us a clear and detailed account of the concept of paccaya, causal conditions. The law of dependent origination is clearly expounded. The importance of this study reaches beyond the Indian cultural sphere. Scholars of Chinese Buddhism will benefit from this study too, even though Abhidhamma there is rather traditional Sarvastivada. The Chinese Vaibhasika so-called orthodoxy, translated by Xuanzang in the seventh century, is of limited importance. The importance of the Pali Theravada orthodoxy is far greater today. The narrative literature of the traditional Sarvastivadins, as originally found in their Vinaya, has a greater impact today. A study about avadana (glorious event), nidana (illustrating the origin of precepts), drstanta (metaphor), and Udana (spontaneous tales) is still awaited.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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