The Abhidharma is the third of the three divisions or “baskets” of the Tripitaka or Buddhist Canon. Its Dharma is organized thematically and logically; it can be said to be a systematic exposition of Buddhist psychology of mind.

The Abhidharma taught by the Buddha is the seven books of the Abhidharma-pitaka. Later Abhidharma includes systematic treatises by enlightened masters. The most well-known of the Hinayana Abhidharma treatises is the Abhidharma-kosa by the Venerable Vasubandhu (see entry). Among the most widely studied of Mahayana Abhidharma treatises is the Treatise on Consciousness Only (Cheng Wei-shi Lun) by Tripitaka Master Xuanzang (see entry).

According to the Abhidharmakosa “Abhidharma is the immaculate prajna [i.e., wisdom] with its retinue.” (Jha, p. 5) “In common use, the Abhidharma designates all prajna that makes one obtain the Abhidharma in its proper sense.” (Jha, p. 7)

“Abhi” means “paired”, and “dharma”, which is variously translated, is of two types: one, Dharma in the supreme sense, that is, nirvana, which is both wholesome and permanent, and so is called “supreme”; two, dharma of dharma marks, which coincides with the Four Sagely Truths . . . . (FAS-PII 97)

The paired Dharma Store has the special name “wisdom shastra”. The old translation [into Chinese] means “incomparable dharma”. That is because it portrays wisdom as supreme. (FAS-PII 103)

1) Ch. a bi da mo °þ¹G·fºN, lun±Á, 2) Skt. abhidharma, 3) Pali abhidhamma, 4) Alternate Translations: paired dharma, incomparable dharma, special Dharma, higher knowledge.

See also: Tripitaka, Dharma, dharma.

BTTS References: FAS-PII 97-108.