Vladimir Korobov (Vilnius University, Lithuania) “Some Reflections on Taxonomies in Abhidharmasamuccaya of Asanga”


The exposition of Abhidharma presented in Mahayana canon by a condensed treatise Abhidharmasamuccaya, written by Asanga, consist of various taxonomies. The Western academic tradition mainly understands this collection of taxonomies as a terminological vocabulary or lexicon of terms, topics, and definitions outlining a range of problems presented in sutras.

At the same time the Buddhist exegetical tradition holds all the taxonomies, included in Abhidharmasamuccaya in tote, the demonstration (ston pa) of “a perception of not-self” (anātman), “perception of suffering” (duḥkha) and “perception of impermanence” (anitya).  According to Venerable Parṣva, Abhidharma “is the final, judgmental, absolute and non-erroneous prajñā” (Dhammajoti, 10). Again, according to Vasubandhu: “Abhidharma is so called because it sustains its own characteristic. This dharma faces  (abhi) toward  the dharma  in  the  highest  sense,  i.e., nirvana,  or toward the characteristics of dharma-s, thus it is  abhidharma” (Dhammajoti, 11).

If these functions (to sustain its own characteristic, to demonstrate anātman, to be the final prajñā, etc.) are placed under the text of Abhidharmasamuccaya  (as a backing representing an aim, or a value, artha)then there must be some traces of this artha on “the surface” of the text, within taxonomies, and between various taxonomies.

To answer the question of how the anātman, anitya and  duḥkha may demonstrate themselves at text level, I would like to examine in my presentation the several taxonomies from Abhidharmasamuccaya, which probably may be connected to this demonstration.

Dhammajoti, KL: Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma. 3rd edition. Hong Kong, 2007.