The correct life of Bhiksus in the early centuries was prescribed in Vinaya, one of Tripitaka in Buddhist scriptures. Basically the rules of disciples pertained to rules of deportment, procedural principles, etc. There were several classes of offense in breach of the rules of disciples:
However eating meat was not forbidden in the Rules of Disciplines, though drinking liquor was an offense to be expiated.
The overall purpose of the rules of deportment was to render the Bhiksus worthy of reverence and of offerings, and to ensure that he received the formal respect. Etiquette alone, of course, was not sufficient, but was necessary part of the complete discipline through which good habits and characters developed.
In case of an offence, warning was given to the offender. If the offending behaviour persisted, the offender would be formally charged and put into trial by a jury consisting of the Sangha chapter. The code was designed to compel expiation of misdeeds and reconciliation of conflicts. Punishments prescribed in the Vinaya, though stringent in execution were moderate.
One last point; in the Vinaya rules, there had no certain foods to be impure, no certain acts or objects to be lucky or unlucky, no animal sacrifice, etc.
The Abhidhamma Pitaka contains the profound moral psychology and philosophy of the Buddha's teaching, in contrast to the simpler discourses in the Sutra Pitaka.
The knowledge gained from the Sutra can certainly help us in overcoming our difficulties, as well as in developing our moral conduct and training the mind. Having such knowledge will enable one to lead a life which is peaceful, respectable, harmless and noble. By listening to the discourses, we develop understanding of the Dharma and can mould our daily lives accordingly. The concepts behind certain words and terms used in the Sutra Pitaka are, however, subject to changes and should be interpreted within the context of the social environment prevailing at the Buddha's time. The concepts used in the Sutra are like the conventional words and terms lay people use to express scientific subjects. While concepts in the Sutra are to be understood in the conventional sense, those used in the Abhidhamma must be understood in the ultimate sense. The concepts expressed in the Abhidhamma are like the precise scientific expressed in the Abhidhamma are like the precise scientific words and terms used by scientists to prevent misinterpretations.
It is only in the Abhidhamma that explanations are given on how and at which mental beats a person can create good and bad karmic thoughts, according to his desires and other mental states. Clear explanations of the nature of the different mental faculties and precise analytical interpretations of the elements can be found in this important collection of discourses.
Understanding the Dharma through the knowledge gained from the Sutra is like the knowledge acquired from studying the prescriptions for different types of sicknesses. Such knowledge when applied can certainly help to cure certain types of sicknesses. On the other hand, a qualified physician, with his precise knowledge, can diagnose a wider range of sicknesses and discover their causes. This specialized knowledge puts him in a better position to prescribe more effective remedies. Similarly, a person who has studied the Abhidhamma can better understand the nature of them mind and analyse the mental attitudes which cause a human being to commit mistakes and develop the will to avoid evil.
The Abhidhamma teaches that the egoistic beliefs and other concepts such as 'I', 'you', 'man' and 'the world', which we use in daily conversation, do not adequately describe the real nature of existence. The conventional concepts do not reflect the fleeting nature of pleasures, uncertainties, impermanence of every component thing, and the conflict among the elements and energies intrinsic in all animate or inanimate things. The Abhidhamma doctrine gives a clear exposition of the ultimate nature of man and brings the analysis of the human condition further than other studies known to man.
The Abhidhamma deals with realities existing in the ultimate sense, or paramattha dharma in Pali. There are four such realities:
Citta, the cetasika, and rupa are conditioned realities. They arise because of conditions, and will disappear when the conditions sustaining them cease to continue to do so. They are impermanent states. Nirvana, on the other hand, is an unconditioned reality. It does not arise and, therefore, does not fall away. These four realities can be experienced regardless of the names we may choose to give them. Other than these realities, everything - be it within ourselves or without, whether in the past, present or future, whether coarse or subtle, low or lofty, far or near - is a concept and not an ultimate reality.
Citta, cetisaka, and Nirvana are also called nama. Nirvana is an unconditioned nama. The two conditioned nama, that is, cita and cetasik, together with rupa (form), make up psychophysical organisms, including human beings. Both mind and matter, or nama-rupa, are analysed in Abhidhamma as through under a microscope. Events connected with the process of birth and death are explained in detail. The Abhidhamma clarifies intricate points of the Dharma and enables the arising of an understanding of reality, thereby setting forth in clear terms of an understanding of reality, thereby setting forth in clear terms the Path of Emancipation. The realization we gain from the Abhidhamma with regard to our lives and the world is not in a conventional sense, but absolute reality.
The clear exposition of thought processes in Abhidhamma cannot be found in any other psychological treatise either in the east or west. Consciousness is defined, while thoughts are analysed and classified mainly from an ethical standpoint. The composition of each type of consciousness is set forth in detail. The fact that consciousness flows like a stream, a view propounded by psychologists flows like a stream, a view propounded by psychologists like William James, becomes extremely clear to one who understands the Abhidhamma. In addition, a student of Abhidhamma can fully comprehend the Anatta (No-soul) doctrine, which is important both from a philosophical and ethical standpoint.
The Abhidhamma explains the process of rebirth in various planes after the occurrence of death without anything to pass from one life to another. this explanation provides support to the doctrine of Kamma and Rebirth. It also gives a wealth of details about the mind, as well as the units of mental and material forces, properties of matter, sources of matter, relationship of mind and matter.
In the Abhidhammatta Sangaha, a manual of Abhidhamma, there is a brief exposition of the Law of Dependent Origination, followed by a descriptive account of the Causal Relations which finds no parallel in any other study of the human condition anywhere else in the world. Because of its analytical and profound expositions, the Abhidhamma is not a subject of fleeting interest designed for the superficial reader.
To what extent can we compare modern psychology with the analysis provided in the Abhidhamma? Modern psychology, limited as it is, comes within the scope of Abhidhamma in so far as it deals with the mind - with thoughts, though processes, and mental states. The difference lies in the fact that Abhidhamma does not accept the concept of a psyche or a soul.
The analysis of the nature of the mind given in the Abhidhamma is not available through any other source. Even modern psychologists are very much in the dark with regards to subjects like mental impulses or mental beats (Javana Citta) as discussed in the Abhidhamma.
Some scholars assert that the Abhidhamma is not the teaching of the Buddha, but it grew out of the commentaries on the basic teachings of the Buddha. These commentaries are said to be the work of great scholar monks. Tradition, however, attributes the nucleus of the Abhidhamma to the Buddha himself.
Commentators state that the Buddha, as a mark of gratitude to his mother who was born as a deva in a celestial plane, preached the Abhidhamma to his mother together with other devas continuously for three months. The principal topics (matika) of the advanced teaching, such as moral states (kusala dharma) and immoral states (akusala dharma), were then repeated by the Buddha to Venerable Sariputta Thera, who subsequently elaborated them and later compiled them into six books.
From ancient times there were controversies as to whether the Abhidhamma was really taught by the Buddha. While this discussion may be interesting for academic purposes, what is important is for us to experience and understand the realities described in the Abhidhamma. One will realize for oneself that such profound and consistently verifiable truths can only emanate from a supremely enlightened source - from a Buddha . Much of what is contained in the Abhidhamma is also found in the Sutra Pitaka, and such sermons had never been heard until they were first uttered by the Buddha. Therefore, those who claim that the Buddha was not the source of the Abhidhamma would have to say the same thing about the Sutra. Such a statement, of course, cannot be supported by evidence.
Actually the essence, fundamentals and framework of the Abhidhamma are ascribed to the Buddha, although the tabulations and classifications may have been the work of later disciples. What is important is the essence. It is this that we would try to experience for ourselves. The Buddha himself clearly took this stand of using the knowledge of the Abhidhamma to clarify many existing psychological, metaphysical and philosophical problems. Mere intellectual quibbling about whether the Buddha taught the Abhidhamma or not will not help us to understand reality.
The question is also raised whether the Abhidhamma is essential for Dharma practice. The answer to this will depend on the individual who undertakes the practice. People vary in their levels of understanding, their temperaments and spiritual development. Ideally, all the different spiritual faculties should be harmonized, but some people are quite contented with devotional practices based on faith, while others are keen on developing penetrative insight. The Abhidhamma is most useful to those who want to understand the Dharma in greater depth and detail. It aids the development of insight into the three characteristics of existence - impermanence, dissatisfactoriness, and non-self. It is useful not only for the periods devoted to formal meditation, but also during the rest of the day when we are engaged in various mundane chores. We derive great benefit from the study of the Abhidhamma when we experience absolute reality. In addition, a comprehensive knowledge of the Abhidhamma is useful for those engaged in teaching and explaining the Dharma. In fact the real meaning of the most important Buddhist terminologies such as Dharma, Kamma, Samsara, Samskhara, Paticca Samuppada and Nirvana cannot be understood without a knowledge of Abhidhamma.