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The Literary Abhidhamma Text: Anuruddha's Manual of Defining Mind and Matter (Nāmarūpapariccheda) and the Production of Pali Commentarial Literature in South India


This dissertation is a study of the ancillary works of the well-known but little understood Pali commentator and Abhidhamma scholar, Anuruddha. Anuruddha's Manual of Defining Mind & Matter (nāmarūpapariccheda) and Decisive Treatment of the Abhidhamma Ultimates (paramatthavinicchaya) are counted among the “sleeping texts” of the Pali commentarial tradition (texts not included in standard curricula, and therefore neglected). Anuruddha's well-studied synopsis of the subject matter of the commentarial-era Abhidhamma tradition, the Compendium of Topics of the Abhidhamma (abhidhammatthasaṅgaha), widely known under its English title, A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, came to be regarded as the classic handbook of the orthodox Theravādin Abhidhamma system. His lesser-known works, however, curiously fell into obscurity and came to be all but forgotten. In addition to shedding new and interesting light on the Compendium of Topics of the Abhidhamma (abhidhammatthasaṅgaha), these overlooked works reveal another side of the famous author – one as invested in the poetry of his doctrinal expositions as in the terse, unembellished clarity for which he is better remembered. Anuruddha's poetic abhidhamma treatises provide us a glimpse of a little-known early strand of Mahāvihāra-affiliated commentarial literature infusing the exegetical project with creative and poetic vision. In this dissertation I examine this genre, the literary abhidhamma text, and reconsider the historical context of the production of Pali exegetical literature in South India. This dissertation presents translation and analysis of major sections of Anuruddha's two minor works, the Manual of Discerning Mind & Matter (nāmarūpapariccheda) and the Decisive Treatment of the Abhidhamma Ultimates (paramatthavinicchaya) and queries the significance and extent of influence of the South Indian Pali exegetes' peripheral localization (with respect to the Mahāvihāra-based interpretive tradition) on the formation of the Theravāda commentarial tradition as we know it.

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