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A Manual of Abhidhamma
Edited in the original Pali
Text with English Translation and Explanatory Notes
Narada Maha Thera
i. Summary of Rebirth
1. Bhumi. derived from bhu, to be, lit., means a place where beings exist.
According to Buddhism the earth, an almost insignificant speck in the universe, is not the only habitable world, and humans are not the only living beings, Infinite are world systems and so are living beings. Nor is "the impregnated ovum the only route to rebirth" "By traversing one cannot reach the end of the world," says the Buddha.
* "There are about 1,000,000 planetary systems in the Milky Way in which life exists." See Fred Hoyle, The Nature of the Universe, pp. 87-89.
2. Apaya = apa + aya. That which is devoid of happiness is apaya. It is viewed both as a mental state and as a place.
3. States where sense-pleasures abound. See Chapter I.
4. and 5. See Chapter I.
6. Niraya = ni + aya; devoid of happiness. According to Buddhism there are several woeful states where beings atone for their evil kamma. They are not eternal hells where beings are subject to endless suffering. Upon the exhaustion of the evil Kamma there is a possibility for beings born in such states to be reborn in good states as the result of their past good actions.
7. Tiracchana = tiro, across; acchana, going. Animals are so called because as a rule quadrupeds walk horizontally. Buddhist belief is that beings are born as animals on account of evil Kamma. There is, however, the possibility for animals to be born as human beings. Strictly speaking, it should be said that an animal may manifest itself in the form of a human being, or vice versa, just as an electric current can be manifested in the forms of light, heat, and motion successively - one not necessarily being evolved from the other. An animal may be born in a blissful state as a result of the good Kamma accumulated in the past. There are at times certain animals, particularly dogs and cats, who live a more comfortable life than even human beings. It is also due to their past good Kamma.
It is one's Kamma that determines the nature of one's material form, which varies according to the skill or unskilfulness of one's actions. And this again depends entirely on the evolution of one's understanding of reality.
8. Peta = pa + ita; lit., departed beings, or (those) absolutely devoid of happiness. They are not disembodied spirits or ghosts. Although they possess material forms, generally they are invisible to the physical eye. They have no plane of their own, but live in forests, dirty surroundings, etc.
9. Asura - lit., those who do not sport or those who do not shine. These Asuras should be distinguished from another class of Asuras who are opposed to Devas, and who live in the Tavatimsa plane (see note 12).
10. Manussa - lit., those who have an uplifted or developed mind (mano ussannam etesam). Its Sanskrit equivalent is Manushya, which means the sons of Manu. They are so called because they became civilized after Manu the seer.
The human realm is a mixture of both pain and happiness. Bodhisattas prefer the human realm, as they get a better opportunity to serve the world and perfect the requisites for Buddha hood. Buddhas are always born as human beings.
11. Catummaharajika - This is the lowest of the heavenly realms where the four Guardian Deities reside with their followers.
12. Tavatimsa - lit., thirty-three. Sakka, the king of the gods, resides in this celestial plane. The origin of the name is attributed to a story which states that thirty-three selfless volunteers led by Magha, having performed charitable deeds, were born in this heavenly realm.
13. Yama - derived from yam, to destroy. That which destroys pain is yama.
14. Tusita - lit., happy-dwellers. Traditional belief is that the future Bodhisatta dwells at present in this celestial plane, awaiting the right opportunity to be born as a human being and become a Buddha.
15. Nimmanarati - Those who delight in the created mansions.
16. Paranimmitavasavatti - lit., those who bring under their sway things created by others.
These are the six Celestial planes - all temporary blissful abodes - where beings are supposed to live happily enjoying fleeting pleasures of sense. Superior to these Sensuous planes are the Brahma realms where beings delight in jhanic bliss, achieved by renouncing sense-desires.
17. These are the three Brahma realms where beings who have developed the first jhana are born. The lowest of these three is Brahma Parisajja, which, literally, means "Those who are born amongst the attendants of Maha-Brahmas." The second is Brahma Purohita which means Brahma's Ministers. The highest of the first three is Maha Brahma. It is so called because these beings exceed others in happiness, beauty and age-limit, owing to the intrinsic merit of their mental development.
Those who develop the first jhana to a normal extent are born in the first plane; those who have developed to a medium degree are born in the second; and those who have perfect control of the first jhana are born amongst the Maha Brahmas in the third plane. The three divisions of the other jhanic planes should be similarly understood.
18. Asasññasatta - This is supposed to be a plane where beings are born without a consciousness. Here only a material flux exists, normally both mind and matter are inseparable. By the power of meditation it is possible, at times, to separate matter from mind as in this particular case. When Arahat attains the Nirodha Samapatti, his consciousness ceases to exist temporarily. Such a state is almost inconceivable to us. But there may be many inconceivable things which are actual facts.
19. Suddhavasa - Only Anagamis and Arahats are found in these planes. Those who attain Anagami in other planes are born in these Pure Abodes. Later, they attain Arahatship and live in those planes till their life-term is over.
20. See Chapter I. All these four are immaterial planes.
It should be remarked that the Buddha did not attempt to expound any cosmological theory.
The essence of the Buddha's teaching is not affected by the existence or non-existence of these planes. No one is bound to believe anything if it does not appeal to his reason. Nor is it right to reject anything just because it cannot be conceived by one's limited knowledge.
ii. Fourfold Rebirth
22. Though congenitally blind, deaf or dumb they are born as human beings because of their past good Kamma.
23. i.e., fallen from happiness.
24. These are the eight sobhana vipaka cittas. See Chapter I.
25. Beings suffer in Woeful states in accordance with their Kamma. Their age-limit differs according to the gravity of the evil deed. Some are short-lived, and some are long-lived. Mallika, the queen of King Pasenadi of Kosala, for in stance, had to suffer in a woeful state for only seven days. Devadatta, on the other hand, is destined to suffer for an aeon.
At times, earth, bound deities live for only seven days.
26. Books state that 50 human years equal one celestial day. Thirty such days amount to one month, and twelve such months constitute one year.
27. Kappa - That which is thought of in accordance with the analogy of mustard seeds and the rock (kappiyati sasapapabbatopamahi' ti kappo).
There are three kinds of kappas, namely, antara kappa, asankheyya kappa, and maha kappa. The interim period when the age-limit of human beings rises from ten to an indefinite time and then falls to ten again, is known as an antara kappa. Twenty such antara kappas equal one asankheyya kappa - literally an incalculable cycle. Four asankheyya kappas equal one maha kappa. This exceeds the time required to exhaust a volume, a yojana in length breadth, and height, filled with mustard seeds, by throwing away a seed once in every hundred years.
28. By kappa, here and in the following cases, is meant a maha kappa.
29. Kamma, Sanskrit Karma, lit. means action, of doing. Strictly speaking, Kamma means all moral and immoral volition (cetana). It covers all that is included in the phrase - "thought, word and deed". It is the law of moral causation. In other words, it is action and reaction in the ethical realm, or "action influence" as Westerners say. It is not fate or predestination. It is one's own doing reacting on oneself.
Every volitional action, except that of a Buddha or of an Arahat, is called Kamma. The Buddhas and Arahats do not accumulate fresh Kamma as they have eradicated ignorance and craving, the roots of Kamma.
Kamma is action, and Vipaka, fruit or result, is its reaction. It is the cause and the effect. Like a seed is Kamma. Vipaka (effect) is like the fruit arising from the tree. As we sow, we reap somewhere and sometime in this life or in a future birth. What we reap today is what we have sown either in the present or in the past.
Kamma is a law in itself, and it operates in its own field without the intervention of an external independent ruling agency.
Inherent in Kamma is the potentiality of producing its due effect. The cause produces the effect; the effect explains the cause. The seed produces the fruit; the fruit explains the seed; such is their relationship. Even so are Kamma and its effect: "the effect already blooms in the cause".
According to Abhidhamma, Kamma constitutes the twelve types of immoral consciousness, eight types of moral consciousness pertaining to the Sense-sphere (kamavacara), five types of moral consciousness pertaining to the Realms of Forms (rupavacara), and four types of moral consciousness pertaining to the Formless Realms (arupavacara).
The eight types of supramundane consciousness (lokuttara citta) are not regarded as Kamma and vipaka, because they tend to eradicate the roots of Kamma that condition rebirth. In the supramundane consciousness wisdom (pañña) is predominant, while in the ordinary types of consciousness volition (cetana) is predominant.
These twenty-nine types of consciousness are called Kamma because the reproductive power is inherent in them. Just as every object is accompanied by a shadow, even so every volitional activity is accompanied by its due effect.
These types of consciousness that are experienced as inevitable consequences of good and bad thoughts, are called resultant consciousness (vipaka). The 23 types (7+8+8) of resultant consciousness pertaining to the Sense-sphere, the five types of resultant consciousness pertaining to the Realms of Form, and the four types of resultant consciousness pertaining to the Formless Realms, are called vipaka or fruition of Kamma.
See The Life of the Buddha and his Teachings, pp. 333-391, and Manual of Buddhism, pp. 19-88.
30. Every birth is conditioned by a past good or bad Kamma which predominates at the moment of death. The Kamma that conditions the future birth is called Reproductive (Janaka) Kamma.
The death of a person is merely "the temporary end of a temporary phenomenon". Though the present form perishes, another form which is neither the same nor absolutely different, takes its place according to the potential thought-vibrations generated at the death moment, as the Kammic force which propels the life-flux still survives. It is this last thought, which is technically called Reproductive Kamma, that determines the state of a person in his subsequent birth. This may be either a good or bad Kamma.
According to the commentary, Janaka Kamma is that which produces mental aggregates and material aggregates at the moment of conception. The initial consciousness, which is termed the patisandhi viññana (rebirth-consciousness), is conditioned by this Janaka Kamma. Simultaneous with the arising of the rebirth-consciousness there arise the body-decad, sex-decad, and base-decad (kaya-bhava-vatthu dasaka).
The body-decad is composed of the four elements - namely, the element of extension (pathavi), the element of cohesion (apo), the element of heat (tejo), the element of motion (vayo); their four derivatives (upadarupa) - namely, colour (vanna), odour (gandha), taste (rasa), nutritive essence (oja); vitality (jivitindriya), and body (kaya). The sex-decad and the base-decad also consist of the first nine plus sex (bhava) and seat of consciousness (vatthu) respectively.
From this it is evident that the sex is determined at the very conception of a being. I t is conditioned by Kamma and is not a fortuitous combination of sperm and ovum cells. Pain and happiness, which one experiences in the course of one's lifetime, are the inevitable consequences of Janaka Kamma.
31. Upatthambhaka - that which comes near the Reproductive Kamma and supports it. It is either good or bad, and it assists or maintains the action of the Reproductive Kamma in the course of one's lifetime. Immediately after the conception till the death moment, this Kamma steps forward to support the Reproductive Kamma. A moral Supportive Kamma assists in giving health, wealth, happiness, etc., to the person concerned. An immoral Supportive Kamma, on the other hand, assists in giving pain, sorrow, etc., to the person born with an immoral Reproductive Kamma as, for instance, to a beast of burden.
32. Upapidaka - Obstructive or Counteractive Kamma which, unlike the previous one, tends to weaken, interrupt and retard the fruition of the Reproductive Kamma. For instance, a person born with a good Reproductive Kamma maybe subject to various ailments, etc., thus preventing him from enjoying the blissful results of his good action. An animal, on the other hand, who is born with a bad Reproductive Kamma, may lead a comfortable life by getting good food, lodging, etc., as a result of his good Counteractive Kamma preventing the fruition of the evil Reproductive Kamma.
33. Upaghataka - According to the Law of Kamma the potential energy of the Reproductive Kamma could be nullified by a more powerful opposing Kamma of the past, which, seeking an opportunity, may quite unexpectedly operate, just as a counteractive powerful force can obstruct the path of a flying arrow and bring it down to the ground. Such an action is called Destructive Kamma, which is more effective than the previous two in that it not only obstructs but also destroys the whole force. This Destructive Kamma also may be either good or bad.
As an instance of the operation of all four, the case of Devadatta, who attempted to kill the Buddha and who caused a schism in the Sangha, may be cited. His good Reproductive Kamma conditioned him a birth in a royal family. His continued comforts and prosperity were due to the action of the Supportive Kamma. The counteractive Kamma came into operation when he was subject to much humiliation as a result of his being excommunicated from the Sangha. Finally the Destructive Kamma brought his life to a miserable end.
34. Garuka - which means either weighty or serious, may be either good or bad. It produces its results in this life, or in the next for certain. If good, it is purely mental as in the case of the jhanas. Otherwise it is verbal or bodily. The five kinds of immoral Weighty Kamma according to their gravity are: - (i) the creation of a schism in the Sangha, (ii) the wounding of a Buddha, (iii) the murder of an Arahat, (iv) matricide, and (v) parricide.
These are also known as Anantariya Kamma because they definitely produce their effects in the subsequent life. Permanent Skepticism (niyata micchaditthi) is also termed one of the Weighty Kammas.
If, for instance, any person were to develop the jhanas and later were to commit one of these heinous crimes, his good Kamma would be obliterated by the powerful evil Kamma. His subsequent birth would be conditioned by the evil Kamma in spite of his having gained the jhanas earlier. Devadatta lost his psychic powers and was born in an evil state, because he wounded the Buddha and caused a schism in the Sangha.
King Ajatasattu would have attained the first stage of sainthood if he had not committed parricide. In this case the powerful evil Kamma acted as an obstacle to his gaining sainthood.
35. Asanna, or Death-proximate Kamma, is that which one does or remembers immediately before the dying moment. Owing to its significance in determining the future birth, the custom of reminding the dying person of his good deeds and making him do good acts on his death-bed still prevails in Buddhist countries.
Sometimes a bad person may die happily and receive a good birth if fortunately he remembers or does a good act at the last moment. A story runs that a certain executioner, who casually happened to give some alms to the Venerable Sariputta, remembered this good act at the dying moment and was born in a state of bliss. This does not mean that although he enjoys a good birth he will be exempt from the effects of the evil deeds accumulated during his lifetime. They will have their due effects as occasions arise.
At times a good person may die unhappily by suddenly remembering an evil act of his or by harbouring some unpleasant thought, perchance compelled by unfavourable circumstances. Queen Mallika, the consort of King Pasenadi, led a righteous life, but as a result of remembering, at her death moment, a lie which she had uttered, she had to suffer for about seven days in a state of misery.
These are only exceptional cases. Such reverse changes of birth account for the birth of virtuous children to vicious parents and of vicious children to virtuous parents. As a rule the last thought-process is conditioned by the general conduct of a person.
36. Acinna Knnamma is that which one habitually performs and recollects and for which one has a great liking.
Habits, whether good or bad, become second nature. They tend to form the character of a person. At leisure moments we often engage ourselves in our habitual thoughts and deeds. In the same way at the death-moment, unless influenced by other circumstances, we, as a rule, recall to mind such thoughts and deeds.
Cunda, a butcher, who was living in the vicinity of the Buddha's Monastery, died squealing like a pig because he was earning his living by slaughtering pigs.
King Dutthagamani of Ceylon was in the habit of giving alms to the Bhikkhus before he took his meals. It was this habitual Kamma that gladdened him at the dying moment and gave him birth in the Tusita Realm.
37. Katatta - Reserve or Cumulative Kamma. Literally, it means "because done". All actions that are done once and soon forgotten belong to this category. This is as it were the reserve fund of a particular being.
38. Ditthadhammavedanaya Kamma is that which is experienced in this particular life. Ditthadhamma means this present life.
According to Abhidhamma one does both good and evil during the javana process which usually lasts for seven thought-moments. The effect of the first thought-moment, being the weakest, one may reap in this life itself. This is called the Immediately Effective Kamma. If it does not operate in this life, it is called Defunct or Ineffective (ahosi). The next weakest is the seventh thought-moment. Its evil effect one may reap in the subsequent birth. This is called Upapajjavedaniya Kamma. This, too, becomes ineffective if it does not operate in the second birth. The effects of the intermediate thought-moments may take place at any time until one attains Nibbana. This type of Kamma is known as Aparapariyavedaniya - Indefinitely Effective. No one, not even the Buddhas and Arahats, is exempt from this class of Kamma, which one may experience in the course of one's wanderings in Samsara. There is no special class of Kamma known as ahosi, but when such actions that should produce their effects in the present life or in a subsequent life do not operate, they are termed Ineffective.
39. Bahullavuttito - This term is used because these actions may be done through the other doors as well.
40. Kayaviññatti - expressing the intention through bodily movements.
41. Vaciviññatti - expressing the intention through speech.
42. By false beliefs are meant the following three misconceptions:
i. Everything has sprung without a cause (ahetuka
43. i.e., by viewing rightly, such as, "it is beneficial to give alms," etc.
44. The evil effects of the twelve types of immoral consciousness are the seven types of rootless resultant consciousness. They may take effect in the course of one's lifetime.
45. The desirable effects of moral actions are the eight types of Rootless resultant consciousness and the eight types of Beautiful resultant consciousness. The effects of the eight types of moral consciousness may not only serve as rebirth consciousness but also give rise to different types of resultant consciousness in the course of one's lifetime.
46. Ukkattha - lit., up (u) drawn (kas). A highest class of moral Kamma is that which is attended with good causes before and after the commission of the act. For instance, alms given to the most virtuous with righteously obtained wealth, with no later repentance, is considered a 'highest' moral Kamma.
47. Omaka - Inferior. While giving alms one may experience a moral consciousness with the three good roots. But, if he were to give to the vicious with unrighteously obtained wealth, and with later repentance, it is regarded as an inferior Kamma.
48. They are the teachers of the school of Mahadhammarakkhita Thera of Moravapi Monastery in Ceylon.
Twelve - 8 ahetuka vipakas and either
4 Prompted Resultants or 4 Unprompted Resultants.
50. The Sotapannas and Sakadagamis, who develop the fifth jhana, are born in the Vehapphala plane. But those Sotapannas and Sakadagamis, who develop a dispassion for material existence, are born in formless realms.
The Anagamis, who have developed the fifth jhana and who possess the five faculties such as confidence, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom to an equal degree, are born in the Vehapphala plane. Those who surpass in confidence (saddha) are born in the Aviha plane; those who surpass in energy (viriya) in the Atappa plane; those who surpass in mindfulness (sati) in the Sudassa plane; those who surpass in concentration (samadhi) in the Suddassi plane; and those who surpass in wisdom (pañña) in the Akanittha plane.
There is no fixed rule that Anagamis are not born in other suitable planes.
(Te pana aññattha na nibbattantiti niyamo natthi. - Comm.)
"Dry-visioned" (sukkha-vipassaka) Anagamis, who have followed the contemplation course, develop jhanas before death and are consequently born in the Pure Abodes.
iv . Procedure with
Regard to Decease and Rebirth
51. "Death is the temporary end of a temporary phenomenon." By death is meant the extinction of psychic life (jivitindriya), heat (usma = tejodhatu), and consciousness (viññana), of one individual in a particular existence. Death is not the complete annihilation of a being. Death in one place means birth in another place, just as, in conventional terms, the rising of the sun in one place means the setting of the sun in another place.
52. What are commonly understood to be natural deaths due to old age may be classed under this category.
To each of the various planes of existence is naturally assigned a definite age-limit, irrespective of the potential energy of the Reproductive Kamma that has yet to run. One must, however, succumb to death when the maximum age-limit is reached. It may also be said that if the Reproductive Kamma is extremely powerful, the Karmic energy rematerializes itself on the same plane, or on some higher plane as in the case of the devas.
53. As a rule the thought, volition, or desire, which was extremely strong during lifetime becomes predominant at the moment of death, and conditions the subsequent birth. In this last thought-moment is present a special potentiality. When the potential energy of this Reproductive Kamma is exhausted, the organic activities of the material form, in which is corporealized the life-force, cease even before the approach of old age.
54. If a person is born at a time when the age-limit is 80 years, and he dies at 80 owing to the exhaustion of the potential force of his Reproductive Kamma, his death is due to the simultaneous expiration of both age and Kamma.
55. There are powerful actions which suddenly cut off the force of the Reproductive Kamma, even before the expiration of the life-term. A more powerful opposing force, for instance, can check the path of a flying arrow and bring it down to the ground. Similarly, a very powerful Kammic force of the past is capable of nullifying the potential energy of the dying reproductive (janaka) thought-moment, and thus destroy the life of a being. The death of Devadatta was due to an upacchedaka kamma which he committed during his lifetime.
The first three types of death are collectively called kalamarana (timely death), and the last one is known as akalamarana (untimely death).
An oil lamp, for instance, may be extinguished owing to any of the following four causes, namely, the exhaustion of the wick, the exhaustion of oil, simultaneous exhaustion of both wick and oil, and some extraneous cause like the gust of a wind. Death of a person may similarly be caused by any of the aforesaid four ways.
56. As a person is about to die, a good or bad action may present itself before his mind's eye. It may be either a meritorious or a demeritorious Weighty action (garuka kamma), such as jhanas (ecstasies), or parricide etc. They are so powerful that they totally eclipse all other actions, and appear very vividly before the mental eye. If there is no Weighty action, he may take for his object of the dying thought a Kamma done or remembered immediately before death (asanna kamma).
If it is a past action, strictly speaking, it is the good or bad thought experienced at the moment of performing the action, that recurs at the death-moment.
57. Kamma nimitta is any sight, sound, smell, taste, touch or idea which was obtained at the time of the commission of the Kamma, such as knives in the case of a butcher, patients in the case of a physician, flowers in the case of a devotee, etc.
58. By gati nimitta is meant some sign of the place where he is to take birth, an event which invariably happens to dying persons. When these indications of the future birth occur, and if they are bad, they can be turned into good. This is done by influencing the thoughts of the dying person, so that his good thoughts may now act as the Proximate Kamma and counteract the influence of the Reproductive Kamma which would otherwise affect his subsequent birth.
These symbols of one's destiny may be hellish fires, forests, mountainous regions, mother's womb, celestial mansions, etc.
The Kamma is presented to the mind-door. Kamma nimitta may be presented to any of the six doors according to circumstances. Gati nimitta, being always a physical sight, is presented to the mind-door as a dream.
59. Taking one of the aforesaid objects, a thought-process runs its course even if the death be an instantaneous one. It is said that even the fly which is crushed by a hammer on the anvil also experiences such a thought-process before it actually dies.
Let us imagine for the sake of convenience that the dying person is to be reborn in the human plane and that his object is some good Kamma.
His bhavanga consciousness, interrupted, vibrates for one thought-moment and passes away. Thereafter the mind-door apprehending consciousness (manodvaravajjana) arises and passes away. Then comes the psychologically important stage - the javana process - which here runs only for five thought-moments by reason of its weakness, instead of the normal seven. As such it lacks all reproductive power; its main function being the mere regulation of the new existence - abhinavakarana. The object in the present case being desirable, the consciousness he experiences is a moral one - automatic or prompted, accompanied by pleasure, and associated with wisdom or as the case may be. The tadalambana consciousness which has for its function a registering or identifying for two moments of the object so perceived, may or may not follow. After this occurs death consciousness (cuti citta), the last thought-moment to be experienced in this present life. (See Diagram XI).
There is a misconception amongst some that the subsequent birth is conditioned by this last decease-thought. What actually conditions rebirth is not this decease-thought, which in itself has no special function to perform, but that which is experienced during the javana process.
With the ceasing of the decease-consciousness death actually occurs. Then no material qualities born of mind and food (cittaja and aharaja rupa) are produced. Only series of material qualities born of heat (utuja) goes on till the corpse is reduced to dust.
Now, immediately after the dissolution of the decease consciousness (cuti citta) there arises in a fresh existence the relinking consciousness (patisandhi viññana). This is followed by sixteen bhavanga thought-moments. Thereafter the mind-door apprehending consciousness (manodvaravajjana) arises, to be followed by seven javana thought-moments, developing a liking to the fresh existence (bhavanikanti javana). Then the bhavanga consciousness arises and perishes, and the stream of consciousness flows on ceaselessly (see Diagram XII).
60. In the case of Formless Realms there is no heart-base (hadayavatthu).
v. The Stream of
61. Patisandhi, bhavanga, and cuti consciousness of one particular existence are identical as they have the same object. The mental states in each of these three are the same. They differ only in name and in function. Immediately after the rebirth-consciousness bhavanga-consciousness arises. During lifetime, whenever no thought-processes arise, this bhavanga consciousness exists. One experiences innumerable bhavanga thought-moments in the course of one's lifetime.
62. Note the Pali phrase nadi soto viya.
63. Cuti citta or decease-consciousness, which one experiences at the moment of death, is similar to the patisandhi citta and bhavanga citta of that particular life.
64. Immediately after the decease consciousness there arises in a subsequent rebirth the relinking or rebirth consciousness (patisandhi citta), at the moment of conception.
Source: Tipitaka -der Pali Kanon des Theravada-Buddhismus, http://www.palikanon.com
(See also: Vietnamese Translation by Pham Kim Khanh)