Exegetical strategies in the Abhidhamma Vibhaṅga-mūlaṭikā

Author: Giuliano Giustarini (Mahidol University)
Speaker: Giuliano Giustarini
Topic: Narrative and metanarrative
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Some exegetical works in the Theravāda Buddhist tradition legitimately represent stepping stones for later interpretations. Among them, Ānanda’s subcommentaries deserve special attention as they offer original contributions to Abhidhamma philosophy and are extensively quoted in later commentaries. Ānanda was probably the teacher of Dhammapāla, the famous author of sub-commentaries on the Nikāyas, who in his Sutta-ṭīkās cites or paraphrases several passages from his teacher’s works. Though the chronology is uncertain (Cousin 1972: 162), there are several elements that suggest that Dhammapāla was following lines of interpretation diverging from Buddhaghosa’s (Von Hinüber 1996: 141).

A study on the works of Ānanda may shed light upon those commentarial schools, and thus display an array of exegeses so far overlooked. Ānanda’s mūlaṭīkās and anuṭīkās also embody a crucial stage of the development of Abhidhammic reflections, and provide a network of connections between the Sutta-and the Abhidhamma-piṭaka. A section of the Vibhaṅgha-mūlaṭīkā, the Satipaṭṭhānavibhaṅga, is an exemplary case of Ānanda’s exegetical choices: it is based upon the omonymous sections in the Abhidhamma Vibhaṅga and its commentary, Buddhaghosa’s Sammohavinodanī. The complex analysis employed in the Satipaṭṭhānavibhaṅga of the Vibhaṅgha-mūlaṭīkā is further expanded in its parallel section of the Vibhaṅgha-anuṭīkā. These two Ānanda’s works seem to be intended as complementary, the former directly addressing the Vibhaṅga and the Sammohavinodanī, and the latter offering alternative explanations to the Sammohavinodanī as well as lexicographical elucidations on the Vibhaṅgha-mūlaṭīkā’s comments.

All the Satipaṭṭhānavibhaṅga versions discuss material from major discourses on the satipaṭṭhānas alongside passages from other texts; at the level of the Sammohavinodanī, this systematization contains some interpretations by Buddhaghosa in seeming contradiction with the Sutta’s framework. Ānanda provides his whole arrangement with explanations that may stand independent of the Sammohavinodanī’s layer and demonstrate the distinctiveness of his Abhidhamma manuals.