Hui-Jiao’s Memoirs of Eminent Monks records that the 26th verse of Guṇavarman’s (367-431) last verse (of 36 in total), who came to China during the Liu Song Dynasty, “It is not what I said, but only the Buddha can prove it, “nava-abhidharma” and “five hetu-pratyaya-phala”” is incomprehensible.
In 2009, note 29 of the entry “Guṇavarman” in the Japanese translation of the Memoirs of Eminent Monks by Yoshikawa and Funeyama, for the “nava-abhidharma” term, citing the writings of Ji Zang in the Sui Dynasty, speculates that “nava-abhidharma” is synonymous with the Abhidharma formed by the nine divisions (jiufen pitan).”
This paper first analyzes the content and structure of the 36 verses, and infers that his meditation method may be related to the system of the Sarvāstivāda school, and then refers to the work of Lü Cheng (1961), as he quotes the Tang Dynasty writings of Yuance, and asserts that “Buddha’s nava-abhidharma (jiufen pitan)” is the “prototype of Abhidharma,” but venerable Yinshun (1989) believes that it is only associated to the view of the Saṃmitīyas.
This paper attempts to explain verse 26: it may refer to Paramārtha’s (499-569) translation of the Buddha-abhidharmasūtra (nine volumes, perhaps the so-called “nava-abhidharma, jiufen pitan”), “five forms to observe the causes, conditions and effect (pratītyasamutpāda)” related to the Śālistambasūtra/Rice Stalk sūtra, perhaps the so-called “five hetu-pratyaya-phala”, while also examining Luo Yun’s (Rāhula) image made by Guṇavarman in northern Fujian, which is related to the Vātsīputrīya school and its off-shoot, the Saṃmitīyas? In this way, we may gain a glimpse of the diversity of the sects to which Guṇavarman’s threefold training systems of “precept, concentration, and wisdom” belong.While the argument in this paper is tentative and may not be fully conclusive, it does offer insights into the viewpoint of the Buddha’s nava-abhidharma from the Southern Dynasties, Sui and Tang Dynasties, and even from the modern point of view. It further implies how it is connected to the Buddha-Abhidharmasūtra.
Keywords:Guṇavarman, Paramārtha, Nava-abhidharma, Buddha-abhidharmasūtra, Śālistambasūtra