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Translations of
EnglishVerses on the Treasury of Abhidharma
(IAST: Abhidharmakośakārikā)
(rōmaji: Abidatsuma-kusharon)
(RR: Abidalma-Gusaron)
(chos mngon pa'i mdzod)
Glossary of Buddhism

The Abhidharmakośakārikā or Verses on the Treasury of Abhidharma is a key text on the Abhidharma written in Sanskrit verse by Vasubandhu in the 4th or 5th century.[1] It summarizes the Sarvāstivādin tenets in eight chapters with a total of around 600 verses. The text was widely respected and used by schools of Buddhism in India, Tibet and East Asia.

Vasubandhu wrote a commentary to this work called the Abhidharmakośabhāsya. In it, he critiques the interpretations of the Sarvāstivādins, Vaibhāṣikas and others of the tenets he presented in his previous work from a Sautrāntika perspective.[2] This commentary includes an additional chapter in prose refuting the idea of the "person" (pudgala) favoured by some Buddhists of the Pudgalavada school. However, later Sarvāstivādin master Samghabhadra considered that he misrepresented their school in the process, and at this point designated Vasubandhu as a Sautrāntika (upholder of the sutras) rather than as an upholder of the Abhidharma.

History of the text[edit]

The Sanskrit original of the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya was lost for centuries, and was known to scholarship only through Chinese and Tibetan translations.  The work was of such importance to the history of Indian thought that in the 1930s, the great scholar Rāhula Sāṅkṛtyāyana (1893--1963) even re-translated the verses into Sanskrit, from Tibetan, and wrote his own Sanskrit commentary on them.  However, during a subsequent visit to Tibet, Sāṅkṛtyāyana discovered an ancient palm-leaf manuscript of 367 leaves that contained not only Vasubandhu's verses, but his lost commentary.[3] In 1967 and then in a revised edition of 1975, Prof. P. Pradhan of Utkal University finally published the original Sanskrit text of the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya, Vasubandhu's great work summarizing earlier traditions of the Vibhāṣā school of Buddhist philosophy.[4]


An English translation of the chapter titles, including the title of the 9th chapter of Vasubandhu's commentary, is:

1: The Dhātus
2: The Indriyas
3: Reality of Suffering
4: Reality of Origin of Suffering
5: The Latent Defilements
6: The Paths and Persons
7: Wisdom
8: The Absorptions
9: Refutation of the Pudgala


Chapter four of the Kośa is devoted to a study of karma, and chapters two and five contain formulation as to the mechanism of fruition and retribution.[5] This became the main source of understanding of the perspective of early Buddhism for later Mahāyāna philosophers.[6]

Vasubandhu elaborates on the causes[note 1] and conditions[note 2] involved in the production of results,[note 3] karma being one source of causes and results, the "ripening cause" and "ripened result."[web 1] Generally speaking, the conditions can be thought of as auxiliary causes. Vasubhandhu draws from the earlier Sarvāstivādin Abhidharma treatises to establish an elaborate Buddhist etiology with the following primary components:

Six Causes:

  • Acting causes[note 4] – all phenomena, other than the result itself, which do not impede the production of the result. This includes (a) potent acting causes, such as a seed for a sprout, and (b) impotent acting causes, such as the space that allows a sprout to grow and the mother or the clothes of the farmer who planted the seed.
  • Simultaneously arising causes[note 5] – causes that arise simultaneously with their results. This would include, for instance, characteristics together with whatever it is that possesses the characteristics.
  • Congruent causes[note 6] – a subcategory of simultaneously arising causes, it includes causes share the same focal object, mental aspect, cognitive sensor, time, and slant with their causes—primarily referring to the primary consciousness and its congruent mental factors.
  • Equal status cause[note 7] – causes for which the results are later moments in the same category of phenomena. For example, one moment of patience can be considered the cause of the next moment of patience.
  • Driving causes[note 8] – disturbing emotions and attitudes that generate other subsequent disturbing emotions and attitudes in the same plane of existence, though the two need not be of the same ethical status.
  • 'Ripening cause[note 9] - the karmic cause or efficacy.[7]

Four Conditions

  • Causal conditions[note 10] - corresponds to five of the six causes, excepting the kāraṇahetu, which corresponds to the three conditions below
  • Immediately preceding conditions[note 11] - a consciousness which precedes a sense or mental consciousness without any intervening consciousness and which produces the subsequent consciousness into an experience-ready entity
  • Focal condition[note 12] - or "object condition" - an object which directly generates the consciousness apprehending it into having its aspect, e.g. the object blue causes an eye consciousness to be generated into having the aspect of blue
  • Dominating condition[note 13]

Five Types of Results:

  • Ripened results[note 14] - karmic results.[7]
  • Results that correspond to their cause[note 15] - causally concordant effects
  • Dominating results[note 16] - the result of predominance. All conditioned dharmas are the adhipatiphala of other conditioned dharmas.[8]
  • Man-made results[note 17] - a result due to the activity of another dharma
  • Results that are states of being parted[note 18] - not actually a result at all, but refers to the cessation that arises from insight.


The Abhidharmakośa-kārikā (the verses) and the Abhidharmakośa-bhāsya (the auto-commentary) were translated into Chinese in the 6th-century by Paramārtha (T1559). They were translated again in the 7th-century by Xuanzang (T1560 & T1558). Other translations and commentaries exist in Tibetan, Chinese, Classical Mongolian and Old Uyghur.

The verses and the commentary were first translated into a European language by Louis de La Vallée-Poussin, published in 1923-1931 in French, which is primarily based on Xuanzang's Chinese translation but also references the Sanskrit text, Paramārtha's Chinese translation, and the Tibetan.

Currently, three complete English translations exist. The first by Leo M. Pruden in 1988 and the second by Gelong Lodrö Sangpo in 2012 are both based on La Vallée-Poussin's French translation. The third by Masahiro Shōgaito in 2014 is a translation of the Uighur translation of Xuanzang's Chinese translation.

  • La Vallée-Poussin, Louis de (1923–1931). L'Abhidharmakośa de Vasubandhu. Brussels: Institut belge des hautes études chinoises.
  • Pruden, Leo M. (1988–1990). Abhidharmakośabhāṣyam of Vasubandhu (4 volumes). Berkeley, California: Asian Humanities Press. ISBN 0-89581-913-9.
  • Lodrö Sangpo, Gelong (2012). Abhidharmakośa-Bhāṣya of Vasubandhu: The Treasury of the Abhidharma and its (Auto) commentary (4 volumes). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN 978-8120836075.
  • Shōgaito, Masahiro (2014). The Uighur Abhidharmakośabhāṣya: Preserved at the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 978-3-447-10204-9.


There are many commentaries written on this text, including an autocommentary by Master Vasubandhu entitled Abhidharmakoshabhasya. Vasubandhu's student Sthiramati wrote the Tattvartha-tika (6th c. CE). The Nalanda scholar Yasomitra (6th c. CE), also wrote a sub-commentary on the Abhidharmakoshabhasya, the Sputarth-abhidharmakosa-vyakhya.

Other scholars wrote commentaries on the Kosa to defend the Sarvastivadin tenets that Vasubandhu refutes in the text, these include the Nyayanusara (“In Accordance with the Truth”, by Samghabhadra, 5th c) and the Abhidharma-dipa (“Lamp of Abhidharma”, anonymous).

Dignaga's commentary, the Abhidharmakosa Vrtti Marmadipa also includes many sutra quotations.

Śamathadeva’s Abhidharmakośopāyikā-ṭīkā, (The Essential Companion to the ‘Treasury of the Abhidharma, Tib. Chos mngon paʼi mdzod kyi ʼgrel bshad nye bar mkho ba zhes bya ba, Derge no. 4094 / Peking no. 5595), is a handbook of the Abhidarmakosa that quotes passages from the Mūlasarvāstivāda Tripitaka.[9]

The First Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Gendun Drup (1391-1474) composed a commentary titled Illumination of the Path to Freedom.

Mikyö Dorje, 8th Karmapa Lama (1507-1554) also wrote a two volume commentary on this text.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ S. hetu, Tib. rgyu
  2. ^ S. pratyaya, Tib. rkyen, Pāli: paccaya
  3. ^ S. vipākaphalam, Tib. rnam-smin-gyi 'bras-bu
  4. ^ S. kāraṇahetu, T. byed-rgyu
  5. ^ S. sahabhuhetu, T. lhan-cig 'byung-ba'i rgyu
  6. ^ Skt. saṃmprayuktahetu, T. mtshungs-ldan-gyi rgyu
  7. ^ S. sabhagahetu, T. skal-mnyam-gyi rgyu
  8. ^ S. sarvatragohetu, T. kun groi rgyu
  9. ^ Skt. vipākahetu, T. rnam-smin-gyi rgyu
  10. ^ S. hetupratyaya, T. rgyu-rkyen
  11. ^ S. samanantarapratyaya, T. dema thag rkyen
  12. ^ S. alambanapratyaya, T. dmigs-rkyen
  13. ^ S. adhipatipratyaya, T. bdag-rkyen
  14. ^ S. vipakaphalam, T. rnam smin gyi 'bras-bu
  15. ^ S. niṣyandaphalam, T. rgyu-mthun gyi 'bras-bu
  16. ^ S. adhipatiphalam, bdag poi bras bu
  17. ^ S. puruṣakāraphalam, T. skyes bu byed-pa'i 'bras-bu
  18. ^ S. visamyogaphalam, T. bral 'bras


  1. ^ Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2010). "Abhidharmakosa". Encyclopædia Britannica. I: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, Illinois: Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. pp. 31. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8.
  2. ^ Gold, Jonathan C., "Vasubandhu", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2015/entries/vasubandhu/>.
  3. ^ Vasubandhu; Pradhan, Prahallad; Haldar, Aruna; Vasubandhu (1975). Abhidharmakośabhāṣyam (in Sanskrit). Pātaliputram: Kāśīprasadajāyasavāla-Anuśīlan-Samsthānam. pp. ix. OCLC 644450786.
  4. ^ Vasubandhu; Pradhan, Prahallad; Haldar, Aruna; Vasubandhu (1975). Abhidharmakośabhāṣyam (in Sanskrit). Pātaliputram: Kāśīprasadajāyasavāla-Anuśīlan-Samsthānam. OCLC 644450786.
  5. ^ Lamotte 2001, p. 18.
  6. ^ Lamotte 2001.
  7. ^ a b Ronkin 2005, p. 25.
  8. ^ A Study of Dependent Origination: Vasubandhu, Buddhaghosa, and the Interpretation of Pratīyasamutpāda. by Susan C. Stalker Ph.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1987 pg. pg 25
  9. ^ http://agamaresearch.ddbc.edu.tw/samathadeva-2


Printed sources[edit]

  • Lamotte, Etienne (2001), Karmasiddhi Prakarana: The Treatise on Action by Vasubandhu, English translation by Leo M. Pruden, Asian Humanities Press
  • Ronkin, Noa (2005), Early Buddhist Metaphysics: the Making of a Philosophical Tradition, Routledge, ISBN 0-203-53706-8
  • Vallée Poussin, Louis de la, trad. (1923-1931). L’Abhidharmakosa de Vasubandhu, Paris: Paul Geuthner, Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, Vol. 5, Vol. 6.
  • Pruden, Leo M. (1991), Abhidharmakosabhasyam, translated from the French translation by Louis de la Vallée Poussin, Asian Humanities Press, Berkeley.


External links[edit]