Another question: what about the teachings in Buddhism which are about liberation from cognitive discursive thought and letting go of grasping at things? This includes letting go of trying to name and number everything? Is seems somewhat contradictory to me that this text seems to be an example of attempting to name and numbering everything (a desire for perfect knowledge?).
Can anyone give a general comment as to what is profound about this book that Buddhists appreciate and have studied it for so many centuries? Anyone have any insight on this text to share?
Its dimensions are manifold - it contains a systematic soteriology, moral psychology, phenomenology of mind, cosmology and metaphysics.
I would say that one of the biggest errors that contemporary Buddhists tend to make is to take the view that the Abhidharma is just a big scholastic exercise in conceptual proliferation, and offers us nothing except that (a tendency which must be
relinquished, so therefore, why waste your time...). What's missed in that view is that those schools which talk about the necessity of liberating from cognitive discursive thought etc can only really be understood in a dialectical relationship with
the Abhidharma. For example, whilst Nagarjuna clearly takes at aim at certain metaphysical postulates of the Sarvastivadin's, he nonetheless presupposes (and I would argue, in certain ways retains) much of the content preserved in the Kosa.
So it follows that if you want to adopt the advice of those schools, you should be interested in both the content and context of the Abhidharma.
It is easier said than done though. The best English commentaries are generally published in India and can be hard to track down. Just flipping through the Kosa itself is not going to reveal much. You should consider it like all of the great works that human civilisation has produced - great works require very deep and systematic study. i.e. You have to think on it.
Anyway, if only I followed my own advice......