Abhidharmakośa

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Vasubandhu, from a Tibetan illustration.

The Abhidharma-kośa (T. chos mngon pa'i mdzod; C. apidamo jushe lun) or Treasury of Abhidharma, refers to a set of texts (root text and commentary) on the Abhidharma written by the Indian scholar Vasubandhu in the 4th or 5th century.[1] The original texts were written in Sanskrit, and then translated into Chinese and Tibetan. The Abhidharmakośa texts are widely studied at Tibetan Buddhist monastic universities to the present day.

Contemporary scholar Thupten Jinpa states:

In terms of stature and authority, the Treasury of Abhidharma rivals Buddhaghosa’s contemporaneous Theravada classic, The Path of Purification, and deals with such central themes as the nature and causal dynamics of emotions, the typology of mind and mental factors, different heightened meditative states, and karma and its diverse manifestations. Vasubandhu’s work also covers the Buddhist theory of evolution of both the cosmos and the life within.[2]

Origin

Concerning the origin of the Abhidharmakośa, contemporary scholar Steven D. Goodman writes:

The Treasury of Higher Dharma is based on the tradition of reflection on the legacy of the Buddha’s discourses (sutras) that were orally transmitted and studied in and around what was historically known as Gandhara in North-west India. Based on the encyclopedic text known as the Great Compendium (Mahavibhasha)—which today only survives in Chinese translation—Vasubandhu, according to tradition, would lecture on one topic for a day, and, at the conclusion, compose a four-line verse summarizing that lecture in a very concise form; this was done mostly to serve as a mnemonic device for later study. He composed almost five hundred such verses and wrote a commentary on them known as the Commentary to the Treasury of Higher Dharma (Abhidharmakoshabhashya), which consists of eight chapters (though a ninth chapter, on the nature of the self, pudgala, was later added). Those eight primary chapters embody a vast range of erudition, with detailed discussions about the nature of the person and their world, karma, emotional impediments, and meditative states. The technical terms and definitions embodied in Vasubandhu’s autocommentary have served as the primary material for almost all subsequent musings on the “higher” meaning of the Buddha’s discourses and ethical guidance. There were subsequent commentaries on Vasubandhu’s Treasury written in Sanskrit and translated into Tibetan as well as original Tibetan commentaries, which are studied to this day in the context of Buddhist colleges of higher learning.
From a doctrinal point of view, for those so interested, the Treasury lays out the primary tenets of the Sarvastivadin school (considered one of the eighteen schools that developed in India several hundred years after the death of Shakyamuni Buddha). This school was foundational for the Tibetan traditions understanding of both rules of conduct (vinaya) and the higher meaning of the sutras. The Sarvastivadin views embodied in the Abhidharmakosha are not to be confused or conflated with the Staviravadin or Theravadin (Way of the Elders) traditions, which are textually based on the Pali Buddhist Canon and have their own approach to Higher Dharma study; an outstanding example of which is The Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga) by Buddhaghosa.[3]

Root text and commentary

Vasubandu composed both a root text (in verse) and an auto-commentary:

  • The root text is called Abhidharma-kośa-kārikā (Verses on the Treasury of Abhidharma) - presented in eight chapters with a total of around 600 verses.
  • The commentary is called Abhidharma-kośa-bhāsya (Auto-commentary on the Treasury of Abhidharma) - presented in nine chapters

According to tradition, these two texts (root text and commentary) present the views of two different Early Buddhist schools. In the root text (Abhidharma-kośa-kārikā), Vasubandhu summarizes the tenents of the Vaibhāṣika school. In the commentary (Abhidharma-kośa-bhāsya), Vasubandhu critiques the interpretations of the Vaibhāṣikas that are presented in root text from a Sautrāntika perspective.[4]

The commentary includes an additional chapter in prose refuting the idea of the "person" (pudgala) favoured by some Buddhists of the Pudgalavada school.

Chapters

The following chapters are included in both the root text and the auto-comentary:

1: The elements (dhātus) - "outlines the Abhidharma analysis of the factors of existence and offers its basic view of the nature of reality."[5] The chapter analyzes reality using the framework of the five skandhas.
See also: Seventy-five dharmas of the Abhidharma-kosha
2: The faculties (indriya) - "examines the faculties by which sentient beings ensnare themselves ever tighter within the cycle of unenlightened existence as well as those faculties that help beings seek freedom from it."[5]
3: Cosmology (loka) - presents two topics: the twelve links of dependent origination and Abhidharma cosmology. (Hence, this chapter presents the truth of suffering.)[5]
4: Karma - "one of the most comprehensive presentations of karma in classical Buddhist sources."[5]
See also: * Causes, conditions and results according to the Abhidharmakośa
5: Negative tendencies (anuśaya) - "examines the root afflictions (kleśa) -- attachment, anger, conceit, ignorance, false view and afflictive doubt -- and their derivatives."[5]
6: Paths and beings (pudgala-marga) - "is structured around four topics: (1) the object of the path, the four noble truths, (2) stages on mental development on the path, (3) the eight types of persons on the path, (4) the path itself by way of the presentation of the thirty-seven factors conducive to enlightenment."[5]
7: Types of knowledge (jñāna) - differentiates "key aspects, or dimensions of the path, such as perserverance, knowledge and view."[5]
8: Meditative attainment (samāpatti) - "provides a detailed explanation of the dhyānas, or concentrations, and their various levels, which together constitute the basis for the attainment of the forms of knowledge outlined in chapter 7."[5]

A ninth chapter is included in the auto-commentary only:

9: Refutation of the Pudgala - a refution of the view of "self" that is posited by the Pudgalavāda school

Key topics

Translations

The original texts were written in Sanskrit by Vasubandhu.

Translations of the Abhidharma-kosha were made into Chinese by Paramārtha (564-567) and by Xuanzang (651-654). Other translations and commentaries exist in Tibetan, Chinese, Classical Mongolian and Old Uyghur; modern translations have been made into English, French and Russian.

English translations include:

Commentaries

Indian commentaries

The following commentaries on the Abhidharmakośa were written by Indian scholars. This list includes Vasubandhu's own commentary. All or most of these commentaries were translated into Chinese and/or Tibetan.

  • Vasubandhu, Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣyam (ཆོས་མངོན་པའི་མཛོད་ཀྱི་བཤད་པ།, chos mngon pa'i mdzod kyi bshad pa)
    • English translation:
      • Abhidharmakosabhasyam of Vasubandhu, translated by Leo M. Pruden, Asian Humanities Press, Berkeley 1990 (Translated into English from the French translation of Louis de La Vallé Poussin, L'Abhidharmakośa de Vasubandhu, Institut belge des hautes études chinoises, Bruxelles, 1971)
      • Sangpo, Gelong Lodro. Abhidharmakosa-Bhasya of Vasubandhu: The Treasury of the Abhidharma and Its Commentary. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 2012.
    • French Translation:
      • Louis de La Vallé Poussin, L'Abhidharmakośa de Vasubandhu, available for free download from Archive.org
  • Yasomitra, Sphuṭārthā-Abhidharmakośa-vyākhyā or Abhidharmakośa-ṭīkā or Abhidharmakośa-sphuṭārthā (ཆོས་མངོན་པའི་མཛོད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་བཤད།, chos mngon pa'i mdzod kyi 'grel bshad (don gsal ba))
  • Samghabhadra
    • Samghabhadra upholds the orthodox Sarvastivadin position and is famously arguing against some of Vasubandhu's Sautrantika assertions.[6]
    • Nyāyānusāra (“In Accordance with the Truth”, 5th c)
    • Abhidharmasamayapradīpikā
    • Abhidharmakośa-śāstra-kārikā-bhāṣya (ཆོས་མངོན་པ་མཛོད་ཀྱི་བསྟན་བཅོས་ཀྱི་ཚིག་ལེའུར་བྱས་པའི་རྣམ་པར་བཤད་པ།, chos mngon pa mdzod kyi bstan bcos kyi tshig le'ur byas pa'i rnam par bshad pa)[7]
  • Purnavardhana: two commentaries of the same title are included in the Tibetan Tengyur
    • Abhidharmakośa-ṭīkā-lakṣaṇānusāriṇī (ཆོས་མངོན་པ་མཛོད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་བཤད་མཚན་ཉིད་ཀྱི་རྗེས་སུ་འབྲང་བ།, chos mngon pa mdzod kyi 'grel bshad mtshan nyid kyi rjes su 'brang ba)
    • Abhidharmakośa-ṭīkā-lakṣaṇānusāriṇī (2nd commentary, but with same name as first)(ཆོས་མངོན་པ་མཛོད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་བཤད་མཚན་ཉིད་ཀྱི་རྗེས་སུ་འབྲང་བ།, chos mngon pa mdzod kyi 'grel bshad mtshan nyid kyi rjes su 'brang ba)
  • Śamathadeva, Abhidharmakośa-ṭīkopayikā (ཆོས་མངོན་པའི་མཛོད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་བཤད་ཉེ་བར་མཁོ་བ།, chos mngon pa'i mdzod kyi 'grel bshad nye bar mkho ba)
    • From WP: Śamathadeva’s Abhidharmakośopāyikā-ṭīkā, (Derge no. 4094 / Peking no. 5595), is a handbook of the Abhidarmakosa that quotes passages from the Mūlasarvāstivāda Tripitaka.[8]
  • Dignaga, Abhidharmakośa-vṛtti-marmapradīpa (ཆོས་མངོན་པའི་མཛོད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་པ་གནད་ཀྱི་སྒྲོན་མ།, chos mngon pa'i mdzod kyi 'grel pa gnad kyi sgron ma)
  • Unknown author, Sārasamuccaya-nāma-abhidharmāvatāra-ṭīkā (ཆོས་མངོན་པ་ལ་འཇུག་པ་རྒྱ་ཆེར་འགྲེལ་པ་སྙིང་པོ་ཀུན་ལས་བཏུས་༎, chos mngon pa la 'jug pa rgya cher 'grel pa snying po kun las btus)
  • Sthiramati, Abhidharmakośabhāṣya Tattvārthā or Abhidharmakoṣa-bhāṣya-ṭīkā-tattvārtha (ཆོས་མངོན་པ་མཛོད་ཀྱི་བཤད་པའི་རྒྱ་ཆེར་འགྲེལ་པ། དོན་གྱི་དེ་ཁོ་ན་ཉིད། chos mngon pa mdzod kyi bshad pa'i rgya cher 'grel pa, don gyi de kho na nyid)

Possible additional text (to be clarified):

  • Abhidharma-dipa (“Lamp of Abhidharma”, anonymous).

Indian commentaries translated into Tibetan

Including Vasubandhu's own commentary, there are nine Indian commentaries which have been translated into Tibetan and are included in the Tibetan Tengyur. The two most renowned are those by Yasomitra and Purnavardhana, of which Yashomitra's is considered, by Chim Jampaiyang, the best.[6]

  • Vasubandhu, Abhidharmakośa-bhāṣyam (ཆོས་མངོན་པའི་མཛོད་ཀྱི་བཤད་པ།, chos mngon pa'i mdzod kyi bshad pa)
  • Yasomitra, Abhidharmakośa-ṭīkā or Abhidharmakośa-sphuṭārthā (ཆོས་མངོན་པའི་མཛོད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་བཤད།, chos mngon pa'i mdzod kyi 'grel bshad (don gsal ba))
  • Samghabhadra, Abhidharmakośa-śāstra-kārikā-bhāṣya (ཆོས་མངོན་པ་མཛོད་ཀྱི་བསྟན་བཅོས་ཀྱི་ཚིག་ལེའུར་བྱས་པའི་རྣམ་པར་བཤད་པ།, chos mngon pa mdzod kyi bstan bcos kyi tshig le'ur byas pa'i rnam par bshad pa)
  • Purnavardhana, Abhidharmakośa-ṭīkā-lakṣaṇānusāriṇī (ཆོས་མངོན་པ་མཛོད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་བཤད་མཚན་ཉིད་ཀྱི་རྗེས་སུ་འབྲང་བ།, chos mngon pa mdzod kyi 'grel bshad mtshan nyid kyi rjes su 'brang ba)
  • Purnavardhan], Abhidharmakośa-ṭīkā-lakṣaṇānusāriṇī (2nd commentary, but with same name as first)(ཆོས་མངོན་པ་མཛོད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་བཤད་མཚན་ཉིད་ཀྱི་རྗེས་སུ་འབྲང་བ།, chos mngon pa mdzod kyi 'grel bshad mtshan nyid kyi rjes su 'brang ba)
  • Śamathadeva, Abhidharmakośa-ṭīkopayikā(ཆོས་མངོན་པའི་མཛོད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་བཤད་ཉེ་བར་མཁོ་བ།, chos mngon pa'i mdzod kyi 'grel bshad nye bar mkho ba)
  • Dignaga, Abhidharmakośa-vṛtti-marmapradīpa (ཆོས་མངོན་པའི་མཛོད་ཀྱི་འགྲེལ་པ་གནད་ཀྱི་སྒྲོན་མ།, chos mngon pa'i mdzod kyi 'grel pa gnad kyi sgron ma)
  • Unknown author, Sārasamuccaya-nāma-abhidharmāvatāra-ṭīkā (ཆོས་མངོན་པ་ལ་འཇུག་པ་རྒྱ་ཆེར་འགྲེལ་པ་སྙིང་པོ་ཀུན་ལས་བཏུས་༎, chos mngon pa la 'jug pa rgya cher 'grel pa snying po kun las btus)
  • Sthiramati, Abhidharmakoṣa-bhāṣya-ṭīkā-tattvārtha(ཆོས་མངོན་པ་མཛོད་ཀྱི་བཤད་པའི་རྒྱ་ཆེར་འགྲེལ་པ། དོན་གྱི་དེ་ཁོ་ན་ཉིད། , chos mngon pa mdzod kyi bshad pa'i rgya cher 'grel pa, don gyi de kho na nyid)

Tibetan commentaries

Tibetan commentaries include:

For a more complete list, see:

References

  1. Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2010). "Abhidharmakosa". Encyclopædia Britannica. I: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, Illinois: Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8. 
  2. Chim Jampaiyang 2019, p. 3.
  3. Goodman 2020, Introduction.
  4. Gold, Jonathan C., "Vasubandhu", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 Chim Jampaiyang 2019, General Editor's Preface.
  6. 6.0 6.1 RW icon height 18px.png Treasury of Abhidharma
  7. This title is only identified on the Rigpa Wiki; it is possibly another name for one of the titles above. See RW icon height 18px.png Treasury of Abhidharma
  8. http://agamaresearch.ddbc.edu.tw/samathadeva-2


Sources

Further reading (external links)

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