Mahāvibhāṣā, also known as Abhidharma-mahāvibhāṣā, is a treatise on the Sarvastivada Abhidharma composed in the ancient Kashmiri region of northern India some time prior to 656 C.E. The text was translated into Chinese by the scholar–pilgrim Xuanzang between 656 and 659 C.E. No Sanskrit version of this text is extant.
Paul Williams states:
- The Mahavibhasa is conceived as an elaborate commentary on the Jñanaprasthana, one of the seven books of the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma. It details extensive doctrinal debates both within Sarvastivada and with others, as well as formulating what became Sarvastivadin orthodoxy.
Jan Westerhoff states:
- A second extremely important Sarvāstivāda text is the Abhidharma-mahāvibhāṣa (or Vibhāṣā for short), a gigantic work said to have been compiled by a council of Kashmirian Sarvāstivādin monks during the time of King Kaniṣka. Because the authority of the Vibhāṣā was so central for the Kashmirian Sarvāstivādins they were also referred to as Vaibhāṣikas, or ‘commentarians’. The Vibhāṣā follows the structure of the Jñānaprasthāna, for which it acts as a commentary. However, this work is best understood not as a commentary, but as an encyclopedic work comprising a wide range of early Buddhist viewpoints; not simply orthodox Sarvāstivāda tenets but also viewpoints of other Sarvāstivāda teachers, and doctrines of rival Buddhist schools. It frequently lists the positions of the four great Sarvāstivāda masters (Dharmatrāta, Buddhadeva, Ghoṣaka, and Vasumitra), often declaring Vasumitra’s position as the best.
The title is translated as follows:
- English: Great Exegesis of Abhidharma
- Tibetan: Chos mngon pa bye brag bshad pa chen po
- Chinese: Apidamo dapiposha lun 阿毘達磨大毘婆沙論
- Japanese: Abidatsuma daibibasharon
- Korean: Abidalma taebibasa non
Modern translation into Tibetan
- The Mahāvibhāṣa was not translated into Tibetan until the twentieth century, when a translation entitled Bye brag bshad mdzod chen mo was made at the Sino-Tibetan Institute by the Chinese monk Fazun between 1946 and 1949. He presented a copy of the manuscript to the young fourteenth Dalai Lama on the Dalai Lama’s visit to Beijing in 1954...
Phillip Stanely states:
- In 1949, the Chinese monk Fazun (1902–1980) completed the monumental task of translating the Chinese translation of the Mahāvibhāṣa into Tibetan, which was published separately in ten volumes in 2011.
- Buswell, Robert E.; Lopez, Donald S. (2014), The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton University
- Goodman, Steven D. (2020), The Buddhist Psychology of Awakening: An In-Depth Guide to the Abhidharma (Apple Books ed.), Shambhala Publications
- Stanley, Phillip (2014), "The Tibetan Buddhist Canon", The Wiley Blackwell Companion to East and Inner Asian Buddhism, John Wiley & Sons
- Westerhoff, Jan (2018), The Golden Age of Indian Buddhist Philosophy (Kindle ed.), Oxford University Press
- Williams, Paul; Tribe, Anthony (2000), Buddhist Thought: A complete introduction to the Indian tradition, Taylor & Francis