Annotated Related Bibliography

AN ANNOTATED LISTING OF ABHIDHARMA & RELATED TEXTS
Annotated Related Bibliography

Primary Sources:

Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, general editor (2000). Abhidhammatttha Sangaha, a Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma. BPS Pariyatti Editions, Onalaska WA.

Comprehensive manual it is. This is the single most thorough and clear translation and explanation of the summary text of the Theravadan Abhidharma from about 1000 AD. Bhikkhu Bodhi does the translating and explaining. He is methodical and technical, but also beautifully clear and very readable, if you want to really get into the nitty gritty of the topic.

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R. P. Wijeratne and Rupert Gethin, translators (2007). Summary of the Topics of the Abhidhamma (Abhidhammatthasangaha by Anuruddha) and Exposition of the Topics of Abhidhamma (Abhidammatthavibhavini by Sumangala, being a commentary to Anuruddha’s Summary of the Topics of Abhidhamma. The Pali Text Society, Lancaster.

This book is designed in a similar manner to Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation, breaking each section of the Sangaha down and explaining it step by step. Their word choices are a bit more sparse and up-to-date, but they don’t have quite the depth of explanation and thoroughness of the Comprehensive Manual.

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The Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga) by Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa, translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Nanamoli, (2010). Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy.

This book appears in the Buddhist canon somewhat later than the original Abhidharma lists, but explains a lot of it in a more concrete and directive manner. There is a great description of the art project of making meditation objects and almost chatty descriptions of some concepts and practices first outlined in the Abhidharma.

 

Secondary Sources:

Baptist, Egerton C. (2008). Abhidhamma (Buddhist Metaphysics) for the Beginner. Buddhist Cultural Centre, Sri Lanka.

“Buddhist Metaphysics” and “Beginner” clash as ideas and this book has excellent ideas, but is not simple and requires some background in Buddhist philosophy and the Abhidharma. It is set up similarly to Bhikkhu Bodhi’s manual but with less clarity of explanation.

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Collins, Steven (1982). Selfless Persons: Imagery and thought in Theravada Buddhism. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

This book derived from a dissertation and retains its academic tone, but is extremely interesting and informative on the cultural context within which Buddhism and the Abhidharma began.

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DeSilva, C.L.A. (1997). A Treatise on Buddhist Philosophy of Abhidhamma. Sei Satguru Publications, Delhi.

Again, a great but very developed text, requiring some background on Theravadan Buddhism.

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Eckman, Paul (2003). Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life. Henry Holt and Company, New York.

Paul Eckman had a life-transforming experience meeting the Dalai Lama during a Mind & Life Institute conference on emotions. This book explains his research and it takes the idea of emotion out of a specific cultural context as well as anything I have read. In that way, it is an interesting counterpoint and companion to the Abhidharma’s view of emotion.

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Frauwallner, Erich (1995). Studies in Abhidharma Literature and the Origins of Buddhist Philosophical Systems, translated from the German by Sophie Francis Kidd. State University of New York Press, Albany.

This is heavy-duty depth analysis of both the philosophy and the history of the Abhidharma, with references to ideas developing in different texts and lineages of Buddhist study. It is difficult but shines light on how complicated the development of the Abhidharma system has been over time.

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Freud, Sigmund, translated by James Strachey (1961). Beyond the Pleasure Principle. W. W. Norton and Company, New York.

Freud should have some standing in any great psychological system, and this book is probably the one that most relates to Buddhist ideas in general. The concepts are different, but there is an underlying similar effort to systematize consciousness as a motivating force in nature.

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Gethin, Rupert (1992). “The Matikas: Memorization, Mindfulness, and the List” in Janet Gyatso, editor, In the Mirror of Memory: Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Sri Satguru Publications, Delhi, pages 149-172.

This is a fantastic chapter on the pure idea of how the Abhidharma is a series of matrixes and not prose. Gethin captures the magic of it and the development of it, and, for an academic writer, almost presents an ode to matrixes.

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Gethin, Rupert (1998). The Foundations of Buddhism. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

From my reading, this is the single best overview of Buddhism that I’ve encountered. Gethin does justice to the history, range of philosophy, and depth of practice of one of the world’s major and most complicated religions.

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Goldstein, Joseph (2013). Mindfulness, A Practical Guide to Awakening. Sounds True, Boulder, Colorado.

Mindfulness is an important and far-reaching aspect of the Abhidharma, and certainly of Western culture’s take on Buddhism. I don’t think anyone describes it as clearly and delicately as Joseph Goldstein. It is such an overused word and he brings it back to its source.

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Govinda, Lama Anagarika (1937). The Psychological Attitude of early Buddhist Philosophy and its Systematic Representation According to Abhidhamma Tradition. Rider and Company, London.

I love this book, but it’s very complicated. He looks at the Abhidharma through a kind of post-Freudian, early psychological lens, and makes some wild charts of his own from the Abhidharma charts. I think he draws some psychological conclusions that make sense in an esoteric way. I just read that he made the acquaintance of Allen Ginsberg some years after writing this book, and I’m not sure who influenced whom.

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Guenther, Herbert V. (1976). Philosophy and Psychology in the Abhidharma. Shambala Press, Berkeley.

This is an interesting explanation of Abhidharma, but has a kind of mid-century psychology to it and a judgmental ring in some of the ideas.

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James, William (1902). The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, 2004 edition. Barnes and Noble Classics, New York.

Such a classic of Western psychology and religion intersecting belongs in most thinking about religion beyond cultural context. I’m partial to this book on any count, because of his thorough examination and open, curious tone.

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Jiang, Tao (2006). Contexts and Dialogue: Yogacara Buddhism and Modern Psychology on the Subliminal Mind. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu.

This book is about a later derivative of Buddhist philosophy than the original Abhidharma, but I include it for its effort to look at concepts across Western psychological and early Buddhist cultures, without diluting either or overdoing comparisons.

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Katagiri, Dainin (2007). Each Moment is the Universe: Zen and the Way of Being Time. Shambhala Publications, Boston.

This is a completely Zen book but I really love it and you can hear the Abhidharma study under the poetic Zen ideas. It is interesting to read something from such a different time and school and still realize how the structure of the Abhidharma underpins Buddhism.

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Karunadasa, Y. (2014). The Theravada Abhidhamma: Its Inquiry into the Nature of Conditioned Reality. Center of Buddhist Studies, Hong Kong.

This recent contribution to Abhidharma literature is phenomenal. The material is organized differently than the straight translation style of Bhikkhu Bodhi, but Doctor Karunadasa covers much of the same content. He also includes comparisons with the Sarvastavadin Abhidharma and some other systems. He is a great writer and thinker and brings the material to light.

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Law, Bimala Charan , translator (1969). Designation of Human Types (Puggala-Pannatti). Pali Text Society, London.

This is a pretty straight translation of the book of the Abhidharma that lists types of people mostly relative to Buddhist development. I thought this would be more of a psychological personality kind of discussion, but it has lists of all types, for instance, Four Kinds of People Comparable to a Mouse and Four Kinds of People Comparable to Jar. The lists here remind me of lists in Sei Shonagon’s “Pillow Diaries,” from the Heian era in Japan. They are quaint, a little funny, and oddly illuminating.

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Ledi, Mahathera Sayadaw (2011). The Manuals of Dhamma. Vipassana Research Institute, Maharashtra, India.

This is old-fashioned Buddhist philosophy from an early twentieth century master and monk. His emphasis is strictly Theravadan, but these chapters illuminate the central stance of basic Buddhism.

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Ledi, Mahathera Sayadaw (1986). The Buddhist Philosophy of Relations: Patthanuddesa Dipani. Buddhist Publication Sociaty, Kandy.

This is a small book focusing on the 24 types of conditioning relationships described in the Abhidharma. It is technical and old-fashioned but still very clear, while explaining the heart of an outrageously intricate system.

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LeDoux, Joseph (2002). The Synaptic Self: How our brains become who we are. Viking Group, New York.

This is my favorite book on the brain and the mind interacting. He explains some neuropsychology in detail, but you can follow it without a strong scientific or medical background and LeDoux’s commentary is thought provoking.

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Mendis, N. K. G. (2005). The Abhidhamma in Practice. Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy.

This is another book that tries to look at applied Abhidhamma, but stays within a pretty strict Theravadan frame of reference. It is a helpful synopsis but doesn’t really take the topic to a lay person’s generally applied psychological level.

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Nyanatiloka, Mahathera (1957). Guide Through The Abhidhamma Pitaka: A Synopsis of the Philosophical Collection of the Theravada Buddhist Canon. Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy.

Again, this is a very technical, but far ranging and excellent book, probably for the more academically inclined.

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Skilton, Andrew (1994). A Concise History of Buddhism. Barnes & Noble Books, New York.

This is another useful and readable history of the complicated development of Buddhism and its different schools, without the philosophical and religious background that Rupert Gethin’s Foundations provides.

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Snyder, Stephen and Rasmussen, Tina (2009). Practicing the Jhanas: Traditional Concentration Meditation as Presented by the Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw. Shambhala Press, Boston.

This book got a little tedious in parts and isn’t written in the most compelling style, but it is a fascinating and thorough explanation of the higher meditative attainments, or jhana states, described in the Abhidharma. It explains the actual training for a state described as, for example, “Beyond Consciousness,” which is a pretty amazing linkage to me.

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Suzuki, Shunryu (1970). Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal talks on Zen meditation and practice. Weatherhill, Inc. New York

This book might be considered the primer of Zen Buddhism in America and it is simply elegant and moving. Once you know some Abhidharma, this lovely book also rings with the underpinnings of Buddha’s original system of understanding the mind in action.

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Thera, Nyanaponika (2010). Contemplation of Feeling: The Discourse-Grouping on the Feelings, introduction and translation from the Pali. Access to Insight, 7 June 2010. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel 303 html. retrieved 2/22/12.

This article brings together many Sutra references to emotion from early Buddhism and provides context for thinking about emotion in the Abhidharma. It is not psychologically sophisticated in a Western sense, but a very helpful effort to pull this topic together from the original Buddhism angle.

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Thera, Nyanaponika (1999). The Four Sublime States: Contemplations on Love, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity. Buddhist Publications Society, Sri Lanka.

Nyanaponoka Thera is a classical writer about Buddhism and this is an illuminating view of both emotion and the particular mental factors of the title. It is Theravadan in context, with a generally humanistic tone.

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Thera, Nyanaponika (1998). Abhidhamma Studies: Buddhist Explorations of Consciousness and Time. edited and with an introduction by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Wisdom Publications, Boston.

This is Nyanapoika Thera’s collection of essays directly about the Abhidharma and they are fantastic. They are quite intellectual in tone, but with fascinating description and philosophical development of ideas.

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Trungpa, Chogyam (1978). Glimpses of Abhidharma. Prajna Press, Boulder.

While this book sounds like it’s about the Abhidharma, I think he really means Glimpses, and aspects of the Abhidharma are starting points for some further speculation in Buddhism. I find it interesting in that way and it is very readable with a mix of transcribed Dharma talks and Question and Answer sections.

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van Gorkom, Nina (2010). The Conditionality of Life: An Outline of the twenty-Four Conditions as taught in the Abhidhamma. Zolag, London.

This book is also an exposition of the 24 modes of conditionality, the list at the heart of Abhidharma interaction. It is also very technical and gets a little preachy and uses Pali terms a great deal. But I like the book for its clarity of explaining the complex interactions of causality.

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Winnicott, D.W. (1969). The Use of an Object. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 50:711-716.

If D. W. Winnicott did not study Buddhism, he came by its concepts naturally and this is a classic article of 20th century Western psychology. In it, he really explains how we construct people in our heads out of the people in our lives. In that way, I think it is one of the most powerful transpositions of the Buddhist idea of delusion into a psychologically relevant and treatable issue.