by Ven. Nyanaponika, Thera
buddhanet's online buddhist study guide
The preceding pages will have shown the importance of the Abhidhamma for clarity of thought, for correct understanding of actuality, and for individual inner progress. Yet as far as those are concerned whose life is devoted exclusively to the realisation of Deliverance, a knowledge of the Abhidhamma, at least in the sense of the seven books so called, might well be regarded as optional. But it is different for those who wish to teach and explain the Dhamma to others. Here a familiarity with the Abhidhamma is deemed quite indispensable by the Theravada tradition. We read in the Atthasalini: ‘Only monks who are proficient in Abhidhamma can be regarded as ‘preachers of Dhamma (dhammakathika)’. Others, even if they actually engage in preaching, cannot truly be so called. When giving a doctrinal exposition, they may, for instance, mix up the various kinds of karma and karmic results or the various factors found when analysing body and mind. But those proficient in Abhidhamma do not make such mistakes.
Features that make the Abhidhamma so important for teachers of the Dhamma are especially these: systematisation of the huge amount of doctrinal material contained in the Sutta Pitaka; education in orderly and methodical thinking; clarification of terms; proficiency in, and habituation to, the application of the view-point of ultimate truth (paramattha) to various subjects of thought and situations of life; mastery of doctrinal detail.