(Skt.; Pāli, Abhidhamma). Term meaning ‘higher doctrine’ and denoting the scholastic analysis of religious teachings. The earliest Abhidharma material was composed over several centuries beginning around 300 bce and formed the substance of the various collections of canonical scholastic treatises (Abhidharma Piṭaka) of the different early schools. Influential later non-canonical compendia of Abhidharma teachings include the Abhidharma-kośa of Vasubandhu and the Abhidharma-samuccaya of Asaṇga. The contents of the Abhidharma do not form a systematic philosophy and it is mostly devoted to classifying and analysing material contained in the Buddha's discourses (sūtras) using a special analytical framework and technical terminology. The fundamental doctrines discussed are those already presented in other parts of the canon.which are therefore taken for granted. According to legend the Abhidharma was first preached by the Buddha to his mother during a visit to her in heaven after her death. The legend also says that after his enlightenment (bodhi) the Buddha spent a week revolving the complex doctrines of the Abhidharma in all their details in his mind.
From: Abhidharma in A Dictionary of Buddhism »