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ipsissima verba of the Buddha not attempting to upset the mythical tradition that it was the special mode he adopted in teaching the doctrine to the "hosts of devas come from all parts of the sixteen world-systems, he having placed his mother (reincarnate as a devī) at their head because of the glory of her wisdom".1 Whether this myth had grown up to account for the formal, unpicturesque style of the Abhidhamma, on the ground that the devas were above the need of illustration and rhetoric of an earthly kind, I do not know. The Commentary frequently refers to the peculiar difference in style from that employed in the Suttanta as consisting in the Abhidhamma being nippariyāyade sa na-teaching which is not accompanied by explanation or disquisition. And the definition it gives, at the outset, of the term Abhidham ma shows that this Piṭaka, and a fortiori the Dhamma-Sangani, was considered as a subject of study more advanced than the other Piṭakas, and intended to serve as the complement and crown of the learner's earlier courses.3 Acquaintance with the doctrine is, as I have said, taken for granted. The object is not so much to extend knowledge as to ensure mutual consistency in the intension of ethical notions, and to systematize and formulate the theories and practical mechanism of intellectual and moral progress scattered in profusion throughout the Suttas.a
1 Asl., p. 1.
e.g. Asl. 403. The meaning of this expression is illustrated by its use on p. 317 of the Cy.: na nippariyayena digham rūpāyatana m; i.e. that which is long is only figuratively a visual object" (is really tactile object). 3 Asl., p. 2. Translated by Mr. A. C. Taylor, JRAS. 1894. Cf. Expositor, 24f.
4 Professor Edmund Hardy, in his Introduction to the fifth volume of the Anguttara Nikaya, expresses the belief that the Dhamma-Sangani is" entirely dependent upon the Anguttara ". For my part, I have found no reason to limit the Manual's dependence on the Suttantas to any one book. Buddhaghosa does not specially connect the two works.
It is interesting to note the methods adopted to carry out this object. The work was in the first instance inculcated by way of oral teaching respecting a quantity of matter which had been already learnt in the same way. And the memory, no longer borne along by the interest of narrative or by the thread of an argument, had to be assisted by other devices. First of these is the catechetical method. Questions, according to Buddhist analysis, are put on five several grounds: To throw light on what is not known;
To discuss what is known;
To clear up doubts;
To get assent (i.e. the premises in an argument granted); 2 To (give a starting-point from which to) set out the content of a statement.
The last is selected as the special motive of the catechizing here resorted to. It is literally the wish to discourse or expound (kathetukamya tā), but the meaning is more clearly brought out by the familiar formula quoted, viz. "Four in number, brethren, are these stations in mindfulness. Now which are the four?" Thus it was held that the questions in the Manual are analytic or explicative, having the object of unfolding and thereby of deliminating the implications of a mass of notions which a study of the Suttas, if unaided, might leave insufficiently co-ordinated in the mind.
And the memory, helped by the interrogative stimulus, was yet further assisted by the symmetrical form of both question and answer, as well as by the generic uniformity in the matter of the questions. Throughout Book I, in the case of each inquiry which opens up a new subject, the answer is set out on a definite plan called uddesa, or "argument", and is rounded off invariably by the appana,
1 Asl. 55, 56; cf. Sum. V, i, 68; cf. the different grounds in A. iii, 191, and the four ways of answering, D. iii, 221; A. i, 197; ii, 46.
2 A favourite method in the Dialogues. The Cy. quotes as an instance M. i, 232.
or emphatic summing up: "all these (whatever they may stand for on other occasions or in other systems) on this occasion = x." The uddesa is succeeded by the niddesa or exposition, i.e. analytical question and answer on the details of the opening argument. This is indicated formally by the initial adverb tattha-what here (in this connexion) is a...b...c? Again, the work is in great part planned with careful regard to logical relation. The Buddhists had not elaborated the intellectual vehicle of genus and species as the Greeks did, hence they had not the convenience of a logic of Definition. There is scarcely an answer in any of these Niddesas but may perhaps be judged to suffer in precision and lucidity from lack of it. They substitute for definition proper what J. S. Mill might have called predication of æquipollent terms in other words, the method of the dictionary. In this way precision of meaning is not to be expected, since nearly all so-called synonyms do but mutually overlap in meaning without coinciding; and hence the only way to ensure no part of the connotation being left out is to lump together a number of approximate equivalents, and gather that the term in question is defined by such properties as the aggregate possesses in common. If this is the rationale of the Buddhist method, the inclusion, in the answer, of the very term which is to be defined becomes no longer the fallacy it is in Western logic. Indeed, where there is no pursuit of exact science, nor of sciences involving " physical division ", but only a system of research into the intangible products and processes of mind and character, involving aspects and phases, i.e. logical division, I am not sure that a good case might not be made out for Buddhist method. It is less rigid, and lends itself better, perhaps, to a field of thought where "a difference in aspects is a difference in things ".1 However that may be, the absence of a development of
1 Professor J. Ward, Ency. Brit., 9th ed., "Psychology."
the relation of Particular and Universal, of One and All, is met by a great attention to degree of Plurality. Number plays a great part in Buddhist classes and categories.1 Whether this was inherited from a more ancient lore, such as Pythagoras is said to have drawn from, or whether this feature was artificially developed for mnemonic purposes, I do not know. Probably there is truth in both alternatives. But of all numbers none plays so great a part in aiding methodological coherency and logical consistency as that of duality. I refer, of course, especially to its application in the case of the correlatives, Positive and Negative.
Throughout most of Book II the learner is greatly aided by being questioned on positive terms and their opposites, taken simply and also in combination with other similarly dichotomized pairs. The opposite is not always a contradictory. Room is then left in the "universe of discourse" for a third class, which in its turn comes into question. Thus the whole of Book I is a development of the triplet of questions with which Book III begins (akusalam being really the contrary of kusalam, though formally its contradictory): What is A? What is B? What is (ab), i.e. non-A and non-B? (The other Indian alternative : What is AB? finds here no special treatment.) In Book III there is no obvious ground of logic or method for the serial order or limits observed in the "Clusters" or Groups, and the interpolated sets of "Pairs" of miscellaneous questions. Nevertheless, a uniform method of catechizing characterizes the former.
Finally, there is, in the way of mnemonic and intellectual aid, the simplifying and unifying effect attained by causing all the questions (exclusive of sub-inquiries) to refer to the one category of dhammā.
There is, it is true, a whole Book of questions referring to rupam, but this constitutes a very much elaborated sub
1 Cf. especially not only Book II of this work, but also the whole of the Anguttara.
inquiry on material "form" as one sub-species of a species of dhammā—rūpino dham mā, as distinguished from all the rest, which are a-rūpino dhammā. This will appear more clearly if the argument of the work is very concisely stated.
It will be seen that the Matikā, or table of subjects of all the questions, refers in detail only to Book III. Book III, in fact, contains the entire work considered as an inquiry (not necessarily exhaustive) into the concrete, or, as one might say, the applied ethics of Buddhism. In it many, if not all, fundamental concepts are taken as already defined and granted. Hence Books I and II are introductory and, as it were, of the nature of inquiry into data. Book II is psycho-physical; Book I is psychological. Together they constitute a very elaborate development, and, again, a subdevelopment of the first triplet of questions in Book III, viz. dham mā which are good, i.e. make good karma, those which are bad, and those which make no karma (the indeterminates). Now, of these last some are simply and solely results 1 of good or bad dhammā, and some are not so, but are states of mind and expressions of mind entailing no moral result (on the agent).2 Some, again, while making no karma, are of neither of these two species, but are dhammā which might be called either unmoral (rūpam)3 or else super-moral (unconditioned element or Nirvana). These are held to constitute a third and fourth species of the third class of dhamma called indeterminate. But the former of the two alone receives detailed and systematic treatment.
Hence the whole Manual is shown to be, as it professes to be, a compendium, or, more literally, a co-enumeration of dhammā.
The method of treatment or procedure termed Abhidhamma. (for Abhidhamma is treatment rather than matter) is,
1 Book I, Pt. III, Chap. I.
2 Ibid., Chap. II.
4 Appendix II.