A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas
Chapter 4 - The Three Kinds Of Full Understanding
The development of satipaììhåna is the development of paññå leading to the realization of the noble Truths. In the course of the development of insight three degrees of full understanding, pariññå, can be discerned: full understanding of the known, ñåta pariññå 1, full understanding as investigation, tíraùa pariññå 2, and full understanding as abandoning, pahåna pariññå 3.
Full understanding of the known, ñåta pariññå, is paññå realizing the characteristics of nåma and rúpa that appear as non-self. Insight of the first stage, which clearly discerns the difference between the characteristics of nåma and of rúpa, nåma-rúpa-pariccheda-ñåùa, is a basis for the further development of paññå. Full understanding of the known is paññå that applies the knowledge gained at the moment of this stage of insight and it begins at this stage. Paññå should continue to investigate over and over again the characteristics of other kinds of nåma and rúpa, in addition to those realized at the moment the first stage of insight knowledge arose. Only thus nåma and rúpa can be clearly understood as they are. Full understanding as investigation, tíraùa pariññå, is paññå that thoroughly investigates nåma and rúpa, without preference for any particular nåma or rúpa, without selection of them. Paññå realizes the characteristics of realities as they appear through all six doors and thus it can see them as only dhammas. When paññå clearly realizes that all nåma and rúpa are equal, in this respect that they are only dhammas, it becomes more accomplished. Thus it can realize the fourth stage of insight, knowledge of the arising and falling away of nåma and rúpa. 4 Full understanding of investigation begins at this stage.
The third kind of full understanding is full understanding of abandoning, pahåna pariññå. When paññå investigates the dissolution of nåma and rúpa and it can clearly realize this, the stage of insight can be reached which is knowledge of dissolution, bhanga ñåùa. From then on paññå begins to become more detached from nåma and rúpa. Paññå becomes detached because it sees more clearly the disadvantage and danger of nåma and rúpa. Full understanding as abandoning begins at the stage of knowledge of dissolution and continues up to path knowledge, magga ñåùa, when enlightenment is attained.
In our daily life there are more conditions for akusala dhammas than for awareness and understanding of the characteristics of the dhammas that naturally appear. Akusala dhammas arise very often and therefore it is necessary to cultivate the thirty-seven factors leading to enlightenment, bodhipakkhiya-dhammas. These factors which lead to the realization of the four noble Truths are, as we have seen, the four satipaììhånas, the four right efforts (sammåppadhånas), the four bases of success (iddhi-pådas), the five spiritual faculties (indriyas), the five powers (balas), the seven factors of enlightenment (bojjhangas) and the eight factors of the noble eightfold Path. These factors that lead to enlightenment should be developed over and over again for a long time, they can only be gradually accumulated. Nobody can cause the arising of paññå just by a particular way of behaviour or by particular activities. Paññå can be developed naturally, in one’s daily life, by awareness of the characteristics of realities, which are non-self, which arise because of their appropriate conditions and then fall away very rapidly. There can be awareness of what appears at this very moment through the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body sense or the mind-door. Does one know at this moment what satipaììhåna exactly is? Does one know that what appears now through the senses or the mind-door is a paramattha dhamma, non-self? If this is not known, paññå of the level of intellectual understanding should first be developed. It is necessary to listen to the Dhamma the Buddha taught so that people would have right understanding of the characteristics of realities that appear. The Buddha taught the Dhamma so that people would have right understanding in conformity with the truth he had realized when he attained Buddhahood. One should have correct understanding of the practice, which is the development of paññå. Only the right cause can bring the right result, that is, paññå that sees realities as they are, as impermanent, dukkha and anattå. Paññå should realize that realities that arise and fall away are dukkha, unsatisfactory, not leading to happiness, and paññå should penetrate the nature of anattå of the realities appearing at this moment. There is no other way to know realities as they are but satipaììhåna, which time and again is aware, studies and investigates the characteristics of the dhammas appearing right now. In this way the wholesome qualities, sobhana cetasikas, are accumulated and can thus be a condition for paññå to become more accomplished so that the different stages of insight can be reached.
The Sammå-sambuddha had accumulated the perfections for four incalculable periods and hundred thousand aeons. From the time the Buddha Dípaòkara proclaimed him to be a Sammå-sambuddha in the future, he developed all the perfections from life to life. He came to see and listened to twenty-four former Buddhas during his past lives before he attained Buddhahood. In his last life, while sitting under the Bodhi tree, he penetrated the four noble Truths and attained successively the stages of enlightenment of the sotåpanna, the sakadågåmí, the anågåmí and finally the stage of the arahat, and thereby became the Sammå-sambuddha with incomparable wisdom. He attained Buddhahood in the last vigil of the night of the full moon, in the month of Vesåkha.
The Buddha’s chief disciples were the venerable Såriputta who was pre-eminent in wisdom and the venerable Moggallåna who was pre-eminent in supernatural powers. They had developed paññå during one incalculable period of time and hundred thousand aeons. In his last life Såriputta attained the stage of the sotåpanna after he had listened to the Dhamma, which Assaji explained to him. When Såriputta explained to Moggallåna the Dhamma he had heard from Assaji, Moggallåna attained the stage of the sotåpanna. Later on they both became arahats. The disciples who were pre-eminent in different ways, such as Kassapa, Ånanda, Upåli and Ånuruddha, had cultivated paññå for hundred thousand aeons. In the Buddha’s time there were many people who had cultivated paññå to the degree that they could penetrate the four noble Truths and attain enlightenment. The time when the Buddha had not passed away yet was the most favorable time for the development of paññå. The period from his parinibbåna until the present time is not all that long, but still, the present time is less favorable for the realization of the noble Truths. For the realization of the noble Truths there have to be the right conditions, which are: study and understanding of the Dhamma and the right way of practice. Only the right cause, the development of paññå, can bring the right result.
Before the Buddha’s enlightenment people could develop samatha even to the degree of realizing supernatural powers. They could perform miracles but they could not eradicate defilements. When the Buddha attained supreme enlightenment and taught the Dhamma he had penetrated, many people could realize the noble Truths. People who had formerly developed samatha to the degree of jhåna could, if they also had developed satipaììhåna, realize the noble Truths. Thus, two kinds of ariyans can be discerned: those who had developed only insight, who were “sukkha-vipassaka”5 and those who were freed with “mind-deliverance”, who were “ceto-vimutta”. 6
The ariyan with “mere insight”, who is sukkha vipassaka, attains enlightenment without jhånacitta as basis or proximate cause. Jhånacitta cannot serve as object of insight since he has not attained jhåna. It is true that the lokuttara citta which clearly realizes nibbåna is firmly established on it, with strong concentration, just like the citta which has reached attainment concentration, appanå samådhi, and which is firmly fixed on the object of the jhånacitta. However, the ariyan who is sukkha vipassaka does not have proficiency in jhåna. When cittas are counted as eighty-nine, only the lokuttara cittas of those who have mere insight, who are sukkha vipassaka, are taken into account, not lokuttara jhånacittas.
As regards the ariyan who is “mind-freed”, ceto-vimutta, he attains enlightenment with jhåna as basis or proximate cause. He must acquire “masteries”, vasís, of jhåna. 7 Only in that case jhånacitta can be the basis for insight, and that means that mahå-kusala citta accompanied by paññå can investigate and realize the true nature of the jhånacitta that has just fallen away. When paññå has become accomplished to the degree that enlightenment can be attained, the magga-citta and the phala-citta that arise are accompanied by jhåna factors. The ariyan who has attained enlightenment with jhåna factors of the different stages of jhåna is “mind-freed”, cetovimutta. He is delivered from defilements by paññå and by calm associated with jhåna. When lokuttara jhånacittas of the ariyan who is ceto-vimutta are included, cittas can be counted as one hundred twenty-eight.
Ñåta means what has been known and pariññå means full understanding.2.
Tíraùa means judgement, investigation.3.
Pahåna means abandoning.4.
The first stage of maha-vipassanå ñåùa.5.
sukkha vipassanå , mere insight, is also translated as "dry insight".6.
Ceto stands for citta, meaning here concentration. Vimutta means being freed, delivered.7.
Ceto stands for citta, meaning here concentration. Vimutta means being freed, delivered.8.
See the section on Samatha.