BT6211/ME6211 - Abhidharma Doctrines and Controversies

The period of Abhidharma Buddhism witnesses some of the most important and innovative development in Buddhist thoughts. Accordingly, familiarity with the doctrinal categories of the Abhidharma, and with at least some of the major issues debated in this period, is a sine qua non for a proper understanding of the history of Buddhist thoughts. Such a familiarity is also indispensable for the understanding of the doctrinal evolution in the Mahāyāna in its proper perspective.

This course comprises a general examination of the fundamental Abhidharma categories, followed by an in-depth investigation into selected controversial doctrines of the Abhidharma schools. The early part of the course will outline the historical and doctrinal background necessary for understanding the controversial doctrines to be examined in details subsequently. The bulk of the course that follows will focus on selected controversial doctrines of importance, which include:

· Tri-temporal existence of all dharmas (Sarvāstitvā);
· Thought (citta) and thought-concommittants (caitta) – their ontological status, etc;
· Theories of perception;
· Karma theories of the Sarvāstivāda and the Sautrāntika;
· Arhats and the Buddha : The difference in their Wisdom (prajñā);
· Theories of causes (hetu) and conditions (pratyaya);
· Theory of the ‘Person’ (pudgala).

The discussion on the controversies will primarily be based on the Abhidharmakośa-bhāsya, supplemented with commentarial material from the Abhidharma-mahā-vibhāsā, the Nyāyānusāra of Samghabhadra, the Abhidharmadīpa with Vibhāaā-prabhāvitti, and the Sphutārthā Abhidharmakośa-vyākhyā of Yaśomitra.