Abhijānāti; Parijānāti

Renderings

abhijānāti: to recall

abhijānāti: to fully understand

nabhijānāti: to not understand

nabhijānāti: to not know

abhiññā: full understanding

abhiññā: transcendent insight

abhiññā: supernormal attainment

• parijānāti: to profoundly understand

pariññā: profound understanding

Introduction

Distinguished levels of understanding

Abhijānāti is often paired with parijānāti in contexts which, for both words, imply distinguished levels of understanding by arahants and other noble disciples. The words are here called ‘full understanding’ and ‘profound understanding.’

Parijānāti more sublime

Profound understanding is more sublime than full understanding because it is usually restricted to arahants. Rarely it is applied to non-returners (e.g. pañcakāmaguṇike rāge pariññate natthi taṃ saṃyojanaṃ yena saṃyojanena saṃyutto ariyasāvako puna imaṃ lokaṃ āgaccheyya, S.2.99).

Pariññā and nibbāna

The noun of parijānāti is pariññā, which shares the definition of nibbāna (rāgakkhayo dosakkhayo mohakkhayo ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave pariññā ti S.3.26; rāgakkhayo dosakkhayo mohakkhayo idaṃ vuccati nibbānan ti S.4.251).

Nābhijānāti: not understand, not recall

When abhijānāti occurs in the negative it means either:

1) to not know

2) to not understand

3) to not recall

• This world, the world hereafter, the brahmā world, and the deva world. I do not know the celebrated Gotama’s view of these.
Ayaṃ loko paro loko brahmaloko sadevako
Diṭṭhiṃ te nābhijānāmi gotamassa yasassino
(Sn.v.1117).

• We do not know what you are meditating upon.
Yassa te nābhijānāma yampi nissāya jhāyasi (Th.v.1084).

• Many in the world, being ignorant, are truly bound to the mud of sensuous pleasure. They do not (come to) know the end of birth and death.
Kāmapaṅkena sattā hi bahū loke aviddasū
Pariyantaṃ nābhijānanti jātiyā maraṇassa ca
(Thī.v.354).

• We do not understand those things though we have come like hair-splitting (archers).
Ye mayaṃ nābhijānāma vālavedhisamāgatā (Th.v.1084).

• I do not recall a sensuous thought having ever arisen in me.
☸ nābhijānāmi kāmavitakkaṃ uppannapubbaṃ (M.3.125).

• I do not recall any Ājīvaka ascetic who went to heaven.
nābhijānāmi kañci ājīvakaṃ saggūpagaṃ (M.1.483).

• I do not recall indulging in sexual intercourse even in a dream.
☸ nābhijānāmi supinantenapi methunaṃ dhammaṃ paṭisevitā (Vin.2.79).

Illustrations

Illustration: abhijānāsi, recall

Do you recall having asked other ascetics and Brahmanists this question?
abhijānāsi no tvaṃ devānaminda ime pañhe aññe samaṇabrāhmaṇe pucchitā ti (D.2.284).

Illustration: abhijānāmi, recall

When my husband died, he rose amongst the deities and he revealed himself to me in his former bodily form (purimena attabhāvena uddassesi); but I do not recall any inward disquiet on that account.
☸ na kho panāhaṃ bhante abhijānāmi tatonidānaṃ cittassa aññathattan ti (A.4.66).

Illustration: anabhijānaṃ, recall

If a bhikkhu, though not recalling it, should claim with reference to himself a superhuman attainment of knowledge and vision that is worthy of the Noble Ones, saying “Thus I know; thus I see;” then, whether or not he is later interrogated about it, fallen and seeking purification, he says “Friends, though not knowing, I said ‘I know’; though not seeing, I said ‘I see.’ I boasted vainly and falsely”; unless it was from over-estimation, he is pārājika, no longer in communion.
yo pana bhikkhu anabhijānaṃ uttarimanussadhammaṃ attūpanāyikaṃ alamariyañāṇadassanaṃ samudācareyya Iti jānāmi iti passāmī ti tato aparena samayena samanuggāhiyamāno vā asamanuggāhiyamāno vā āpanno visuddhāpekkho evaṃ vadeyya ajānam evaṃ āvuso avacaṃ jānāmi; apassaṃ passāmi. Tucchaṃ musā vilapin ti. Aññatra adhimānā ayampi pārājiko hoti asaṃvāso (Vin.3.91).

Comment:

Rendering anabhijānaṃ as ‘recall’ is supported by a perspective on the Word Commentary’s definition of ‘interrogated’ (samanuggāhiyamāno), as follows:

• ‘Interrogated means: when a matter (i.e. a claim to have attained a superhuman attainment) is acknowledged, he is asked: What was attained by you? How was it attained? When was it attained? Where was it attained? Which spiritual defilements have you abandoned? Which states have you gained?
Samanuggāhīyamāno ti yaṃ vatthu paṭiññātaṃ hoti tasmiṃ vatthusmiṃ samanuggāhīyamāno kinte adhigataṃ kinti te adhigataṃ kadā te adhigataṃ kattha te adhigataṃ katame te kilesā pahīnā katamesaṃ tvaṃ dhammānaṃ lābhī ti.

The correct answer to these questions would logically be ‘I do not recall attaining any superhuman attainment’ rather than ‘I do not know any superhuman attainment.’ Nonetheless, anabhijānaṃ in this rule is usually rendered ‘not knowing.’ This produces stilted results:

• Horner: Whatever monk should boast with reference to himself of a state of further-men, sufficient ariyan knowledge and insight, though not knowing it fully, and saying: ‘This I know, this I see.’.. (BD.1.159).

• Norman: Whatever bhikkhu should, while not knowing (for certain), boast a superhuman state, knowledge and insight deserving the name ‘noble,’ as being present in himself, (saying) ‘I know thus, I see thus.’.. (The Pātimokkha, PTS, 2001).

Illustration: abhijānāti, fully understand; abhiññāya, full understanding; parijānāti, profoundly understand; pariññāya, profound understanding

When a bhikkhu has heard that all things are unsuited to stubborn attachment he fully understands the whole teaching.
☸ evañcetaṃ bhikkhu bhikkhuno sutaṃ hoti sabbe dhammā nālaṃ abhinivesāyāti so sabbaṃ dhammaṃ abhijānāti

Through fully understanding the whole teaching, he profoundly understands the whole teaching.
☸ sabbaṃ dhammaṃ abhiññāya sabbaṃ dhammaṃ parijānāti

Through profoundly understanding the whole teaching, he perceives all phenomena differently.
☸ sabbaṃ dhammaṃ pariññāya sabbanimittāni aññato passati (S.4.50).

Illustration: abhijānāti, fully understand; abhiññāya, full understanding; pariññeyyaṃ profoundly understand

A bhikkhu who is a disciple in training… fully understands solidness to be solidness
☸ yopi so bhikkhave bhikkhu sekho… sopi paṭhaviṃ paṭhavito abhijānāti

Fully understanding solidness to be solidness
paṭhaviṃ paṭhavito abhiññāya

may he not think of solidness in personal terms
paṭhaviṃ mā maññi

… For what reason? So that he may profoundly understand it, I declare
Pariññeyyaṃ tassā ti vadāmi (M.1.4).

Illustration: abhijānāti, fully understand; abhiññāya, full understanding; pariññātaṃ profoundly understood

The arahant, too, fully understands solidness to be solidness (arahaṃso pi paṭhaviṃ paṭhavito abhijānāti)

Fully understanding solidness to be solidness
paṭhaviṃ paṭhavito abhiññāya

he does not think of solidness in personal terms
paṭhaviṃ na maññati

For what reason? He profoundly understands it, I declare
Taṃ kissa hetu? Pariññātaṃ tassā ti vadāmi (M.1.4).

Illustration: anabhijānaṃ, fully understand; aparijānaṃ, profoundly understanding

Bhikkhus, one who has not fully and profoundly understood the All and detached his mind from it and abandoned it, is incapable of destroying dukkha
Sabbaṃ bhikkhave anabhijānaṃ aparijānaṃ avirājayaṃ appajahaṃ abhabbo dukkhakkhayāya (S.4.17).

Illustration: abhiññāya, full understanding

One is the path to worldly gain, another the path leading to the Untroubled. Fully understanding this, the bhikkhu, the disciple of the Buddha, should not take delight in worldly honour.
Aññā hi lābhūpanisā aññā nibbānagāminī
Evametaṃ abhiññāya bhikkhu buddhassa sāvako
Sakkāraṃ nābhinandeyya
(Dh.v.75).

Illustration: abhiññāya, full understanding

The noble eightfold path should be developed for the full understanding of the five aggregates.
☸ Imesaṃ kho bhikkhave pañcannaṃ upādānakkhandhānaṃ abhiññāya ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo bhāvetabbo (S.5.61).

Illustration: abhiññeyyo, fully understood

The ascetic Vacchagotta said that most religious teachers declared the place of rebirth of even their best disciples, whereas the Buddha only declared this of some disciples. The ascetic Vacchagotta said that because of this:

‘There was unsureness and uncertainty in me: How is the teaching of the Ascetic Gotama’s to be fully understood?’
Tassa mayhaṃ bho gotama ahudeva kaṅkhā ahu vicikicchā kathannāma samaṇassa gotamassa dhammo abhiññeyyo (S.4.399).

Illustration: abhiññāya, fully understand

Sāriputta, friend, it is through seeing and fully understanding the ending of the visual sense, the visual sphere of sensation, and things known through the visual sphere of sensation, that I regard these things as “not (in reality) mine,” “not (in reality) what I am,” “not my (absolute) Selfhood.”
Cakkhusmiṃ āvuso sāriputta cakkhuviññāṇe cakkhuviññāṇaviññātabbesu dhammesu nirodhaṃ disvā nirodhaṃ abhiññāya cakkhuṃ cakkhuviññāṇaṃ cakkhuviññāṇaviññātabbe dhamme n’etaṃ mama n’eso’hamasmi na me so attā ti samanupassāmi (M.3.265).

Illustration: abhijānaṃ fully understanding; parijānaṃ profoundly understanding

Bhikkhus, one who has not fully and profoundly understood the visual sense and discarded and abandoned it, is incapable of destroying suffering
Cakkhuṃ bhikkhave anabhijānaṃ aparijānaṃ avirājayaṃ appajahaṃ abhabbo dukkhakkhayāya (S.4.89).

Illustration: abhiññāya, full understanding

There are these four spiritual shackles:

• the spiritual shackle of greed
abhijjhā kāyagantho

• the spiritual shackle of ill will
vyāpādo kāyagantho

• the spiritual shackle of adherence to observances and practices
sīlabbataparāmāso kāyagantho

• the spiritual shackle of stubborn attachment to dogmatic opinions 
idaṃsaccābhiniveso kāyagantho

• For the full understanding of these four spiritual shackles the noble eightfold path should be developed
imesaṃ kho bhikkhave catunnaṃ ganthānaṃ abhiññāya ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo bhāvetabbo (S.5.59).

Illustration: abbhaññāsiṃ, fully understand

Bhikkhus, in the world (of beings) with its devas, māras, and brahmās, in the world of mankind with its ascetics and Brahmanists, its royalty and commoners, whatsoever is seen, heard, sensed, cognised, attained, searched into, pondered over by the mind, I fully understand it.
☸ Yaṃ bhikkhave sadevakassa lokassa samārakassa sabrahmakassa sassamaṇabrāhmaṇiyā pajāya sadevamanussāya diṭṭhaṃ sutaṃ mutaṃ viññātaṃ pattaṃ pariyesitaṃ anuvicaritaṃ manasā tamahaṃ abbhaññāsiṃ (A.2.25).

Illustration: abhiññā, transcendent insight

There are ascetics and Brahmanists conducting and applying themselves rightly in the world who, having realised this world and the world hereafter for themselves through transcendent insight, make them known to others.
☸ atthi loke samaṇabrāhmaṇā sammaggatā sammāpaṭipannā ye imañca lokaṃ parañca lokaṃ sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā pavedentī ti (M.3.72).

Illustration: abhiññā, transcendent insight

I claim to have reached the consummation and perfection of transcendent insight into profound truths not heard before
☸ pubbāhaṃ bhikkhave ananussutesu dhammesu abhiññāvosānapāramippatto paṭijānāmi (A.3.9).

Illustration: abhiññāya, transcendent insight

Bhikkhus, I explain the teaching with transcendent insight, not without transcendent insight.
☸ abhiññāyā’haṃ bhikkhave dhammaṃ desemi no anabhiññāya (A.1.276).

Illustration: abhiññā, supernormal attainments

One might just as well think that a bull elephant seven or seven and a half cubits could be hidden by a palm leaf as think that my six supernormal attainments could be eclipsed (by the Venerable Ānanda’s attainments).
☸ Sattaratanaṃ vā so āvuso nāgaṃ aḍḍhaṭṭharatanaṃ vā tālapattikāya chādetabbaṃ maññeyya yo me cha abhiññā chādetabbaṃ maññeyyā ti (S.2.217).

Illustration: abhiññā, supernormal attainments

Six supernormal attainments (cha abhiññā)

1) various kinds of psychic power (anekavihitaṃ iddhividhaṃ).

2) divine ear (dibbasotadhātu): hearing the voices of devas and men, whether far or near.

3) knowledge of the minds of other persons, by encompassing their minds with one’s own (cetopariyañāṇaṃ)

4) the final knowledge: the knowledge through recalling of past lives
pubbenivāsānussati ñāṇaṃ vijjā

5) the final knowledge: the knowledge of the transmigration of beings (sattānaṃ cutūpapāte ñāṇaṃ vijjā), and discerning how beings fare according to their deeds (yathākammūpage satte pajānāti).

6) the final knowledge: the knowledge of the destruction of perceptually obscuring states (āsavānaṃ khaye ñāṇaṃ vijjā) (S.2.212-4).

Comment:

Bodhi says: ‘This is one of the rare texts in the Nikāyas where the word abhiññā is used collectively to designate the six higher knowledges.’

Illustration: abhiññāya, supernormal attainment

The Buddha told Baka the Brahmā that he knew of three groups of devas that Baka was ignorant of: the Ābhassarā, Subhakiṇṇā and Vehapphalā devas.

‘Thus, Brahmā,’ he concluded, ‘in regard to supernormal attainment I do not stand merely at the same level as you, so how could I be lower? Rather, I am above you.
evampi kho ahaṃ brahme neva te samasamo abhiññāya kuto nīceyyaṃ. Atha kho ahameva tayā bhiyyo (M.1.329).

Illustration: pariññā, profound understanding

What things should be profoundly understood?
☸ Katame ca bhikkhave pariññeyyā dhammā:

The five aggregates
☸ Rūpaṃ bhikkhave pariññeyyo dhammo… viññāṇaṃ pariññeyyo dhammo

What is profound understanding?
☸ Katamā ca bhikkhave pariññā?

The destruction of attachment, hatred, and undiscernment of reality
☸ Yo bhikkhave rāgakkhayo dosakkhayo mohakkhayo (S.3.26).

Illustration: pariññāya, profoundly understanding

Recognising this danger, that suffering arises dependent on existential nourishment, profoundly understanding all existential nourishment, one is free of attachment to all existential nourishment.
Etamādīnavaṃ ñatvā dukkhaṃ āhārapaccayā
Sabbāhāraṃ pariññāya
sabbāhāramanissito (Sn.v.747-9).