The Buddhist Analysis of Matter

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A fluent English explanation of the Theravada Buddhist analysis of matter for serious students of Buddhist thought.

“This admirable book began life more than half a century ago as a doctoral thesis for the School of Oriental Studies at the University of London . . . Edward Conze, the most eminent Buddhologist of the day, wrote that it was ‘likely to be the last word on the subject for some time to come.’ There can be little doubt that the same judgment could be repeated today.”

from the foreword by Richard Gombrich, Emeritus Boden Professor of Sanskrit, University of Oxford

“Professor Y. Karunadasa has long been one of the clearest, most dependable, and most knowledgeable exponents of the thought-world of Early Buddhism. His treatise on the Buddhist analysis of matter gives us a fascinating look at how the thinkers of the Theravāda Abhidhamma tradition pursued the cursory treatment of matter in the suttas to new depths of detail, providing a foundation for a deep contemplation of the first of the five aggregates into which Buddhism analyzes a sentient being. I am glad that this early work of his is now being made available to a wider readership.”

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Buddhist scholar and translator


Y. Karunadasa

The Buddhist Analysis of Matter is an in-depth study of the Buddhist view of the nature and composition of matter as interpreted in Theravāda Buddhism. The study is mainly based on the seven treatises of the canonical Abhidhamma as well as the subsequent commentarial exegesis. However, in order to bring the subject into a wider perspective and to present it with a measure of precision, it takes into consideration the parallel doctrines of the Vaibhāṣika and Sautrāntika schools of Buddhism. These were two of the leading non-Mahāyāna schools with which the Theravādins had much in common. Both subscribed to a realistic view of existence: while the former had a tendency to extreme realism, the latter had a predilection, but not a commitment, to subjectivism.

Acclaimed scholar Y. Karunadasa’s Buddhist Analysis of Matter provides a much-needed micro view of the topic with a detailed examination of the Theravādins’ list of rūpa-dhammas—the ultimate irreducible factors into which material existence is analyzed. It exposes the nature of the basic material elements and explains their interconnection and interdependence on the basis of conditional relations. It concludes with an attempt to understand the nature and relevance of the Buddhist analysis of matter in the context of Buddhism as a religion.

book information
  • Hardcover
  • 280 pages, 6 x 9 inches
  • $29.95
  • ISBN 9781614294511
  • ebook
  • 280 pages
  • $14.99
  • ISBN 9781614294672
about the author
The Buddhist Analysis of Matter

Y. Karunadasa is Professor Emeritus at the University of Kelaniya and a former director of its Graduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies. He has served as a visiting professor at the University of London, the University of Toronto, and the University of Hong Kong, and as the Numata Chair at the University of Calgary. He lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Other books by Y. Karunadasa:
The Theravada Abhidhamma
Early Buddhist Teachings

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