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The Abhidhamma for Hypnotherapists
by Dr. Simon Robinson
 
What is the Abhidhamma?
The Abhidhamma is a collection of seven books that represent the 'higher' teaching of the Buddha and are, in essence, a rich and detailed model of mental experience. Whilst mythically these texts were dictated directly by the Buddha, historians suspect they were complied by scholarly monks in the first few centuries after the Buddha's passing.
 
For many centuries they were preserved within different Buddhist sects, and we now have three versions, which hold different levels of importance depending on sect. In Theravada Buddhism, which originates in South East Asian, the Abhidhamma is highly regarded and there are volumes and volumes of commentaries, and then sub-commentaries on what are really seven, small and highly distilled books of wisdom.

Is it still relevant over two thousand years later?
Yes, and more that this, it is terrifyingly relevant. The detail and accuracy is mind blowing. I suspect one of the biggest obstacles to any serious study is belief that such knowledge could ever be possibly worked out. The specific detail is at first hard to accept, such as for example, 'a cognitive moment consists of exactly seventeen single moments of awareness'
 
It is written for the purpose of easy memorisation, which means it is overtly technical, with lists of categories. These categories are on the whole, totally new and unfamiliar. This can be off-putting I suspect to many. However, we must consider both the practicalities and wisdom in this approach. Firstly, it is designed to be taught to monks who were to memorise these lists and categories, and not merely for discipline. The second and more pertinent reason was to provide a new model of reality, which is built piecemeal, through the memorisation of seemingly abstract lists.
The focus is on subjective experience - which is analysed from various aspects and broken down into rather abstract categories. Once the entirety, and I mean entirety of experience is reduced to elemental constituents, one is introduced to the 24 types of relationships that occurs as 'forces' between these elements.

Now, these 'elements' extend beyond the physical and into mental subjectivity, where they are called 'dharmas'. The Abhidhamma is inclusive and categorises consciousness into 89 distinct types, based on roots and karmic direction. It approaches 'karma' as a physics textbooks addresses 'gravity' and whilst initially it might be daunting, once one has grasped the basics, it is a text that keeps on giving.

Learning the Abhidhamma is not an easy feat - personally, it has taken me over four years to gain a basic working confidence of the text, and I recognise I have hardly scratched the surface. Still, there are some very good youtube videos and a freely available comprehensive text for those interested.

How might this benefit my practice?
Initially, it might not. At first I suspect it offers a confusing and very different paradigm that might take a good while to 'absorb' practice. However, in time, having what I consider to be a thoroughly usable and accurate model of mental reality, that supersedes anything I have been taught in modern psychiatry, it will impart a powerful understanding of the mechanism of mind.

Studying the Abhidhamma is a commitment and investment. As an hypnotherapist it will teach you a comprehensive model of reality that is far superior to anything I have hitherto discovered. Furthermore, the purpose of this model is to explain suffering, its cause and elimination, which means ones main benefit is likely to be personal.

The Abhidhamma has spiritual elements, for it is concerned with spiritual enlightenment. There are parts that detail the anatomy of the heavens and such, which might be off-putting or confusing to some. Nevertheless, the rich explanation of karma and mental conditioning is hard to ignore for anybody interested in mental dynamics.

It certainly isn't for everybody, yet, as hypnotherapists we are a subset that entertains a deep fascination with 'the mind'. For these purposes alone I would recommend you download and at least 'flick through' the pages of the Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma by Bhikkhu Bodhi or take a look at his video series.



Dr. Simon Robinson Clin. Hyp (Adv.), CNLP, MBSCH, MBChB, FRCA, FRCAGP

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