Dhamma: Is it a philosophy?
non-aggressive, moral and philosophical system expounded by the
Buddha, which demands no blind faith from its adherents, expounds
no dogmatic creeds, encourages no superstitious rites and ceremonies,
but advocates a golden mean that guides a disciple through pure
living and pure thinking to the gain of supreme wisdom and deliverance
from all evil, is called the Dhamma and is popularly known as
all-merciful Buddha has passed away, but the sublime Dhamma which
he unreservedly bequeathed to humanity, still exists in its pristine
the master has left no written records of his teachings, his distinguished
disciples preserved them by committing to memory and transmitting
them orally from generation to generation.
demise 500 chief arahats
versed in the Dhamma
held a convocation to rehearse the Doctrine as was originally
taught by the Buddha. Venerable Ananda Thera, who enjoyed the
special privilege of hearing all the discourses, recited the Dhamma,
while the Venerable Upali recited the Vinaya.
Tipitaka was compiled and arranged in its present form by those
arahats of old.
the reign of the pious Sinhala king Vattagamani Abhaya, about
83 B.C., the Tipitaka was, for the first time in the history of
Buddhism, committed to writing on palm leaves (ola) in Ceylon.
voluminous Tipitaka, which contains the essence of the Buddha's
Teaching, is estimated to be about eleven times the size of the
Bible. A striking contrast between the Tipitaka and the Bible
is that the former is not a gradual development like the latter.
the word itself implies, the Tipitaka consists of three baskets.
They are the Basket of Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), the
Basket of Discourses (Sutta Pitaka), and the Basket of
Ultimate Doctrine (Abhidhamma Pitaka).
Vinaya Pitaka which is regarded as the sheet anchor to the oldest
historic celibate order the Sangha mainly deals
with rules and regulations which the Buddha promulgated, as occasion
arose, for the future discipline of the Order of monks (Bhikkhus)
and nuns (Bhikkunis). It described in detail the gradual development
of the Sasana (Dispensation). An account of the life and ministry
of the Buddha is also given. Indirectly it reveals some important
and interesting information about ancient history, Indian customs,
arts, science, etc.
Vinaya Pitaka consists of the five following books:
1. Parajika Pali Major Offenses
2. Pacittiya Pali Minor Offenses
3. Mahavagga Pali Greater Section
4. Cullavagga Pali Shorter Section
5. Parivara Pali Epitome of the Vinaya
Khuddaka Patha (Shorter texts)
2. Dhammapada (Way of Truth)
3. Udana (Paeans of Joy)
4. Iti Vuttaka ("Thus said" Discourses)
5. Sutta Nipata (Collected Discourses)
6. Vimana Vatthu (Stories of Celestial Mansions)
7. Peta Vatthu (Stories of Petas)
8. Theragatha (Psalms of the Brethren)
9. Therigatha (Psalms of the Sisters)
10. Jataka (Birth Stories)
11. Niddesa (Expositions)
12. Patisambhida Magga (Analytical Knowledge)
13. Apadana (Lives of Arahats)
14. Buddhavamsa (The History of the Buddha)
15. Cariya Pitaka (Modes of Conduct)
The Abhidhamma Pitaka is the most important and the most interesting
of the three, containing as it does the profound philosophy of
the Buddha's Teaching in contrast to the illuminating and simpler
discourses in the Sutta Pitaka.
the Sutta Pitaka is found the conventional teaching (vohara
desana) while in the Abhidhamma Pitaka is found the ultimate
the wise, Abhidhamma is an indispensable guide; to the spiritually
evolved, an intellectual treat; and to research scholars, food
for thought. Consciousness is defined. Thoughts are analyzed and
classified chiefly from an ethical standpoint. Mental states are
enumerated. The composition of each type of consciousness is set
forth in detail. How thoughts arise, is minutely described. Irrelevant
problems that interest mankind but having no relation to one's
purification, are deliberately set aside.
is summarily discussed; fundamental units of matter, properties
of matter, sources of matter, relationship between mind and matter,
Abhidhamma investigates mind and matter, the two composite factors
of the so-called being, to help the understanding of things as
they truly are, and a philosophy has been developed on those lines.
Based on that philosophy, an ethical system has been evolved,
to realize the ultimate goal, Nibbana.
Abhidhamma Pitaka consists of seven books:
Dhammasangani (Classification of Dhammas)
2. Vibhanga (The book of Divisions)
3. Katha-Vatthu (Points of Controversy)
4. Puggala-Paññatti (Descriptions of Individuals)
5. Dhatu-Katha (Discussion with reference to elements)
6. Yamaka (The Book of Pairs)
7. Patthana (The Book of Relations)
the Tipitaka one finds milk for the babe and meat for the strong,
for the Buddha taught his doctrine both to the masses and to the
intelligentsia. The sublime Dhamma enshrined in these sacred texts,
deals with truths and facts, and is not concerned with theories
and philosophies which may be accepted as profound truths today
only to be thrown overboard tomorrow. The Buddha has presented
us with no new astounding philosophical theories, nor did he venture
to create any new material science. He explained to us what is
within and without so far as it concerns our emancipation, as
ultimately expounded a path of deliverance, which is unique. Incidentally,
he has, however, forestalled many a modern scientist and philosopher.
in his "World as Will and Idea" has presented the truth
of suffering and its cause in a Western garb. Spinoza, though
he denies not the existence of a permanent reality, asserts that
all phenomenal existence is transitory. In his opinion sorrow
is conquered "by finding an object of knowledge which is
not transient, not ephemeral, but is immutable, permanent, everlasting."
Berkeley proved that the so-called indivisible atom is a metaphysical
fiction. Hume, after a relentless analysis of the mind, concluded
that consciousness consists of fleeting mental states. Bergson
advocates the doctrine of change. Prof. James refers to a stream
Buddha expounded these doctrines of transiency, (anicca),
sorrow (dukkha), and no-soul (anatta) some 2500
years ago while he was sojourning in the valley of the Ganges.
should be understood that the Buddha did not preach all that he
knew. On one occasion while the Buddha was passing through a forest
he took a handful of leaves and said: "O bhikkhus, what I
have taught is comparable to the leaves in my hand. What I have
not taught is comparable to the amount of leaves in the forest."
taught what he deemed was absolutely essential for one's purification
making no distinction between an esoteric and exoteric doctrine.
He was characteristically silent on questions irrelevant to his
no doubt accords with science, but both should be treated as parallel
teachings, since one deals mainly with material truths while the
other confines itself to moral and spiritual truths. The subject
matter of each is different.
Dhamma he taught is not merely to be preserved in books, nor is
it a subject to be studied from an historical or literary standpoint.
On the contrary it is to be learnt and put into practice in the
course of one's daily life, for without practice one cannot appreciate
the truth. The Dhamma is to be studied, and more to be practiced,
and above all to be realized; immediate realization is its ultimate
goal. As such the Dhamma is compared to a raft which is meant
for the sole purpose of escaping from the ocean of birth and death
therefore, cannot strictly be called a mere philosophy because
it is not merely the "love of, inducing the search after,
wisdom." Buddhism may approximate a philosophy, but it is
very much more comprehensive.
deals mainly with knowledge and is not concerned with practice;
whereas Buddhism lays special emphasis on practice and realization.