The Buddhist Analysis of Matter

In The Buddhist Analysis of Matter, renowned scholar Y. Karunadasa interprets the Buddhist view of matter as presented in Theravada Buddhism, based on the Abhidhamma. His comprehensive work draws on both the earlier period containing the seven manuals of the Abhidhamma Pitaka and the later period containing Abhidhammic commentaries, sub-commentaries, and such compendiums as the Abhidhammatthasangaha of Acariya Anuruddha.

In order to bring the subject into a wider perspective, and for more precision, Karunadasa considers the (non-Theravada) Vaibhasika and Sautrantika schools of Buddhism—two of the leading non-Mahayana schools with whom the Theravadins had much in common, both of which subscribed to a realistic view of existence—as well as later sources such as the post-canonical commentaries and related literary sources of Theravada Buddhism. 

This book gives us the first clear picture of the Buddhist analysis of matter as such. Earlier works on this subject have tended to focus on the broad philosophical implications arising from the Buddhist theory of matter and were based more on earlier sources, such as the Pali canonical texts. The Buddhist Analysis of Matter provides a much-needed micro view of the topic with a detailed examination of the Theravadins’ list of rupa-dammas—the ultimate irreducible factors into which material existence is analyzed. It exposes the basic material elements into which the whole of material existence is resolved and explains their interconnection and interdependence on the basis of conditional relations. It concludes with an understanding of the nature and relevance of the Buddhist analysis of matter in the context of Buddhism as a religion.


The Theravada Abhidhamma: Inquiry into the Nature of Conditioned Reality

The renowned Sri Lankan scholar Y. Karunadasa examines Abhidhamma perspectives on the nature of phenomenal existence. He begins with a discussion of dhamma theory, which describes the bare phenomena that form the world of experience. He then explains the Abhidhamma view that only dhammas are real, and that anything other than these basic phenomena are conceptual constructs. This, he argues, is Abhidhamma’s answer to common-sense realism—the mistaken view that the world as it appears to us is ultimately real.

Among the other topics discussed are

  • the theory of double truth (ultimate and conceptual truth),
  • the analysis of mind,
  • the theory of cognition,
  • the analysis of matter,
  • the nature of time and space,
  • the theory of momentary being, and
  • conditional relations.

The volume concludes with an appendix that examines why the Theravada came to be known as Vibhajjavada, “the doctrine of analysis.”  
Not limiting himself to abstract analysis, Karunadasa draws out the Abhidhamma’s underlying premises and purposes. The Abhidhamma provides a detailed description of reality in order to identify the sources of suffering and their antidotes—and in doing so, to free oneself.