Abhidhamma is the kernel of Buddhism. And, to gain even a superficial understanding of what sort of teaching Buddhism is, one ought to have at least a little knowledge of Abhidhamma. Indeed, even if one were to attain the zenith in other fields of scientific knowledge, he would still not know what truly are “merits’ and what truly are “demerits”, what is right and what is wrong, what ought to be abstained from and what ought to be done, and, what ought to be accepted and what ought to be rejected, without even a glimpse into the Abhidhamma, much in the manner that eminent doctors of medicine might disagree in the diagnosis of particular types of illnesses, and eminent lawyers disagree in their findings in cases of crime and murder.
‘Anabhidhammiko hidhamman kathento, ayan sakavado, ayan paravado tinajanati; sakavadan dipessam7 tiparavadan dipeti;paravadan dipessamlti sakavadan dipeti; dhammantaran visanvadeti. Abhidhammiko sakavadan sakavadaniyan “era, paravadan paravadaniyamen * era dipeti; dhammantaranna visanvadeti.‘
The above Pali stanza says the Commentary to the Maha-Gosingasutta, which when translated literally means that “one who is ignorant of Abhidhamma is also ignorant of what are Right Views and what are Wrong Views, of what is Buddhist Philosophy and what is Sophistry. And, in preaching in ignorance, he may preach Buddhist Philosophy as Sophistry, Sophistry as Buddhist Philosophy, Right Views as Wrong Views and Wrong Views as the Right View. He may get confused, muddled in his mind, or mix up the True Dhamma with extraneous things or false Dhamma and the false Dhamma with the True Dhamma.
And, that it is the one who is learned, who knows the Abhidhamma alone, who is able to preach Buddhist Philosophy as Buddhist Philosophy, Sophistry as Sophistry, fallacies as fallacies, and, in short, not mix up or pervert the True Dhamma into the false Dhamma, and the False into the True, and thus mislead others.
Notwithstanding all this and more that might be said to show what place the Abhidhammatakes in the Philosophy of the Buddha, many folks imagine that they could know Buddhism and its subtle teachings without any knowledge at all of this aspect of the Dhamma. And, naturally, owing to their wrong presumptions, perhaps quite unwittingly, they pervert the True Dhamma into the False and false Dhamma into the True. One many, no doubt, have reached the ultimate in other sciences, but as the sacred Buddhist text says, ‘he who knows not the Abhidhamma, cannot differentiate between Sakavada and Paravada, that is to say, cannot separate the True Dhamma from the False, or,” sift the wheat from the chaff “, and, so as it too often happens ‘sophistry will be preached in the guise of Philosophy”.
For without an investigation into and knowledge of analysis (sampayoga) and synthesis (sangaha) or beings, realities, causes and effects, kamma-deedfi, resultants, re-birth, cessation and deliverance, one can surely not become a true and devoted Buddhist who could, with knowledg and understanding, accept the principles of cause and effect rhyme and reason. He would merely be like the blind man who gets hold of the elephant’s tail, ear, leg or trunk, and concludes that that portion he holds is the real elephant, whereas he who is more discerning and fortunate and makes a careful study, would, while knowing what Buddhism is, also realize what an elephant really is
Today the whole world cries in chorus accepting Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, Zoology, Law, Medicine, etc., as faculties that develop the human mind to a very marked degree, but if one of the great Doctors or Professors of these subjects were to gain merely a glimpse into the subtle philosophy of Buddhism, he would himself realize how his own knowledge of even these subjects in which he takes much delight, is, in the light of the vast storehouse of knowledge that is to be gathered through a study of Buddhism, like the light of a firefly before the Light of the Sun.