Seven treatises of Abhidharma

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The Seven treatises of Abhidharma (Tib. མངོན་པ་སྡེ་བདུན་, ngönpa dé dün, Wyl. mngon pa sde bdun) — according to the Vaibhashika school the seven treatises of Abhidharma were first spoken in sections by the Buddha in various lands and to various individuals. Later, seven arhats collected them into treatises. They assert these Abhidharma treatises to be the Word of the Buddha. However, the Sautrantika or 'Followers of Sutra' and all higher schools consider these texts to be composed by the seven arhats and classify them as treatises.

The Vaibhashika contend that if you do not posit these abhidharma texts as Word of the Buddha, then the three pitakas wouldn't be complete. But the Sautrantikas reply that this is not the case, since the abhidharma pitaka is found within the Sutra and Vinaya texts, and so it is not necessary to have some separate texts to qualify as a pitaka. The Sautrantikas assert that these texts cannot be the Word of the Buddha, because in these texts things like space and uncompounded things are claimed to be substantially established (Wyl. rdzas su grub pa). This is contrary to logic and the Buddha would never have said anything illogical.

The seven treatises are:

  • Jnanaprasthana (Skt. Jñānaprasthāna) by Katyayanaputra (Wyl. ye shes la 'jug ka t+ya'i bus)
  • Prakaranapada (Skt. Prakaraṇapāda) by Vasumitra (Wyl. rab tu dbye ba dbyig bshes kyis)
  • Vijnanakaya (Skt. Vijñānakāya) by Devakṣema (or Devaśarman) (Wyl. rnam shes tshogs ni lha skyid kyis)
  • Dharmaskandha (Skt.) by Shariputra or by Maudgalyayana according to Chinese sources (Wyl. chos kyi phung po shA ri'i bus)
  • Prajnapti-sastra (Skt.) by Maudgalyayana or by Katyayana according to Chinese sources (Wyl. gdags pa'i bstan bcos mo'u 'gal bus)
  • Dhatukaya (Skt.) by Vasumitra or Purna (Wyl. khams kyis tshogs ni gang pos byas)
  • Sangitiparyaya (Skt.) by Mahākauṣṭhila or by Shariputra according to Chinese sources (Wyl. yang dag 'gro ba'i rnam grangs ni / gsum po che yis byas zhes grags)

Although it is said that the Jnanaprasthana is considered the central text and the other six subsidiary, this might have been a later development. All seven texts were summarized in the Mahavibhasha. Vasubandhu then studied this text and summarized its content in his famous Treasury of Abhidharma.

All seven texts can be found in Chinese translation, most of them translated by Xuanzang. In the Tibetan Kangyur, only parts of the Prajnapti sastra can be found translated into Tibetan.