Abhidharma (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
The first centuries after Śākyamuni Buddha's death saw the rise of multiple schools of thought and teacher lineages within the Buddhist community as it spread throughout the Indian subcontinent. These new forms of scholarly monastic communities had distinct theoretical and practical interests and, in their efforts to organize, interpret, and re-examine the Buddha's scattered teachings, they developed a particular system of thought and method of exposition called Abhidharma (Pali, Abhidhamma). The Sanskrit term abhidharma seems to derive from the expression “concerning (abhi) the teaching(s) (Skt., dharma, Pali, dhamma).” For the Buddhist exegetical tradition, however, the term means approximately “higher” or “further” teaching, and it refers both to the doctrinal investigations of the new scholastic movement and to the body of texts yielded by its systematic exposition of Buddhist thought. This body of literature includes the third of the “three baskets” (Skt., tripiṭaka, Pali, tipiṭaka) of the Buddhist canon, namely, the Abhidharma-piṭaka (Pali, Abhidhamma-piṭaka), its commentaries, and later exegetical texts.
- Abhidharma. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2014.