The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Close of the Nikaya period, Buddhist literature begins to employ the term matika to signify composite matrices for lists. The careful analysis of these complex lists and their sub-categories becomes the basis and literary characteristic of the third basket of the Pali Canon, the Abhidhamma-pitaka, and of the particular system of thought set out in those texts and their commentaries, i.e., the Abhidhamma.
To the outside observer, the proliferating lists of the Abhidhamma might seem artificial and ultimately meaningless. But, in fact, they provide a clue to the intimate relationship between memory, mindfulness and meditation in Buddhism. In short, the indefinite expansions based on the matikas continually remind those using them that it is of the nature of things that no single way of breaking up and analyzing the world can ever be final” (p. 165).
The matikas, just like the Abhidhamma texts, are not meant to be read, but rather to be performed. The lists are devoted to exposition of different psychophysical processes, different types of mind, different types of consciousness. When reciting or “performing” the lists, one must keep awake, for if one falls asleep, one will not know where one is in the text and, in this sense, in one’s practice. At this level, memory becomes mindfulness: the mindful recitation of the matikas “acts as a series of ‘reminders’ of the Buddha’s teaching and how it is applied in the sutta. The recitation operates as a kind of recollection of Dhamma, a traditional subject of meditation” (p. 167).