Monday, 28 March 2011

Analysis of the Term Dhamma in Pāli Commentaries


The Pāli commentaries represent how the term dhamma is analyzed in the Theravada tradition. Although the canonical works, show no a specific meaning to the term dhamma, the commentaries in Pāli tradition seemed to have used the term dhamma in some specific sense. In commentaries, the term has been used to denote absolute dhammas, which have, own characteristic multiplicity of factors related to the being is mentioned by that. 

The commentators had to do such an interpretation for they had to establish the doctrine 0f soul-less (pudgalanairAtmaya) in their commentaries. The commentators based their analysis on the Buddha’s analysis of beings into aggregates, faculties, elements etc.

The PapaJcasUdanī is the commentary on µajjhimanikAya by Ven. Buddhaghosa, shows how the term dhamma was used to denote aggregates, faculties and elements.

ßabbe dhammA nAlaM abhinivesAyAti etthA sabbe dhammA nAma paJcakkhandhA, dvAdasAyatanAni atthArasadhAtuyo.

=All dhammas are not to be attached to, thus here all dhammas means the five aggregates, twelve faculties and eighteen elements.”

The VibhaGgAtthakatha defines the dhamma of samsāric life as follows.

KhandhAnaM patipAti - dhAtu AyatanAni ca,
AbbhocchinnaM vattamAnaM - saMsAroti pavuccati.

=The continuous order of aggregates,
Elements and faculties in their presents,
Existence is called samsāra.

The ßuttasaGgahatthakatha defines ‘dhammAti sabhAva dhammA (dhamma means the nature)’. The PaTisambhidAmaggatthakatha defines attano lakkhaNaM dhAretIti dhammA (dhammas are factors which have own characteristics)’. According to the Abhidhamma things have two kinds of characteristics, namely
1. Lakkhaöa - (general) characteristics
2. Salakkhaöa – own characteristics. Followings are some of the definitions given to the term dhamma in Pāli commentaries.

1. Dhammanti catusaccadhammam(some time dhamma means the Four Noble Truths) is explained in µahAniddesaTThakatha.

2. ∂hammati diTThiyo (there are some occasion when the term dhamma is views)  is explained in µahAniddesaTThakatha.

3. ∂hammati vedanādayo khandha (in some occasion the sound dhamma means pain, sensation (vedanA) sense, perception (saJJA) essential condition (samkhAra) ) is explained in DhammapadaTThakatha

4. ∂hammeti desanādhamme. Dhammānuvattinoti taM dhammaM sutvā tadanucchavikaM patipadaM pūretvā maggaphalasacchikaraNena dhammānu vattino (in another occasion the dhmma can be meant the Buddha’s preaching and living according to the dhamma that is after listen to dhamma and having followed the right principle according to the dhamma and realize the maggaphala) is explained in ∂hammapadaTThakatha

5. Dasakusalakammapatha dhammo, dāna sīla bhāvanā dhammo vā (in another occasion the dhamma means ten meritorious actions, such as generosity, morality, meditation and so on) is explained in SuttanipātaTThakatha

6. Dhammo’ti samatha vipassanā (here the dhamma means the samatha- the way of concentrating the mind and vipassana - insight) is explained in SuttanipAtaTThakatha

7. Dhammeñānanti maggeñānaM (there are occasion which the word dhamma means nibbAnamaggaJAna – the wisdom of emancipation) SāraTThappakasini.

In this way, the term dhamma has been defined and analyzed in various ways in Pāli commentaries.

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