Abhidhamma View:Understanding; Khandha
[Presented by Dr.Tep Sastri @ sariputtadhamma/JTN]
The series of presentations (excerpts) from the Visuddhimagga from now to the end will come from Part III of the book (Visuddhimagga The Path of Purification).
Vism. p. 431-443 (A. UNDERSTANDING) :
2. (i) WHAT IS UNDERSTANDING? Understanding (pa~n~naa) is of many sorts and has various aspects. An answer that attempted to explain it all would accomplish neither its intention nor its purpose, and would, besides, lead to distraction; so we shall confine ourselves to the kind intended here, which is understanding consisting in insight knowledge associated with profitable consciousness.
3. (ii) IN WHAT SENSE IS IT UNDERSTANDING? It is understanding (pa~n~naa) in the sense of act of understanding (pajaanana). What is this act of understanding? It is knowing (jaanana) in a particular mode separate from the modes of perceiving (sa~njaanana) and cognizing (vijaanana). For though the state of knowing(jaanana-bhaava) is equally present in perception (sa~n~naa), in consciousness (vi~n~naa.na), and in understanding (pa~n~naa), nevertheless perception is only the mere perceiving of an object as, say, blue or yellow; it cannot bring about the penetration of its characteristics as impermanent, painful, and not-self.
Consciousness knows the objects as blue or yellow, and it brings about the penetration of its characteristics, but it cannot bring about, by endeavouring, the manifestation of the [supramundane] path. Understanding knows the object in the way already stated, it brings about the penetration of the characteristics, and it brings about, by endeavouring, the manifestation of the path.
[Note 1] Abhidhamma definitions very commonly make use of the Pali forms of verbal nouns, here instanced by pa~n~naa (understanding = state of understanding) and pajaanana (understanding = act of understanding), both from the verb pajaanaati (he understands). English does not always, as in this case, distinguish between the two. Similarly, for example, from the verb socati (he sorrows) we find soka (sorrow, state of sorrowing) and socana (sorrowing, act of sorrowing), and here the English differentiates.
[Note 2] "In arisings of consciousness with two root-causes [i.e. with non-greed and nonhate but without non-delusion], or without root-cause, understanding does not occur" (Vism-mh.t 432). "Just as pleasure is not invariably inseparable from happiness, so perception and consciousness are not invariably inseparable from understanding. But just as happiness is invariably inseparable from pleasure, so understanding is invariably inseparable from perception and consciousness" (Vism-mh.t 432).
6. However, it is not always to be found where perception and consciousness are. But when it is, it is not disconnected from those states. And because it cannot be taken as disconnected thus: "This is perception, this is consciousness, this is understanding," its difference is consequently subtle and hard to see. Hence the venerable Naagasena said: "A difficult thing, O King, has been done by the Blessed One."—"What, venerable Naagasena, is the difficult thing that has been done by the Blessed One?"—"The difficult thing, O King, done by the Blessed One was the defining of the immaterial states of consciousness and its concomitants, which occur with a single object, and which he declared thus: `This is contact, this is feeling, this is perception, this is volition, this is consciousness'" (Mil 87).
7. (iii) WHAT ARE ITS CHARACTERISTIC, FUNCTION, MANIFESTATION AND PROXIMATE CAUSE?
Understanding has the characteristic of penetrating the individual essences of states. Its function is to abolish the darkness of delusion, which conceals the individual essences of states. It is manifested as non-delusion. Because of the words, "One who is concentrated knows and sees correctly" (A V 3), its proximate cause is concentration.
8. (iv) HOW MANY KINDS OF UNDERSTANDING ARE THERE?
1. Firstly, as having the characteristic of penetrating the individual essences of states, it is of one kind.
2. As mundane and supramundane it is of two kinds.
3. Likewise as subject to cankers and free from cankers, and so on,
4. As the defining of mentality and of materiality,
5. As accompanied by joy or by equanimity,
6. As the planes of seeing and of development.
7. It is of three kinds as consisting in what is reasoned, consisting in what is learnt (heard), and consisting in development.
8. Likewise as having a limited, exalted, or measureless object,
9. As skill in improvement, detriment, and means,
10. As interpreting the internal, and so on.
11. It is of four kinds as knowledge of the four truths,
12. And as the four discriminations.
32. (v) HOW IS IT DEVELOPED? Now, the five things classed as aggregates, bases, elements, faculties, truths, dependent origination, etc., are the soil of this understanding, and the [first] two purifications, namely, purification of virtue and purification of consciousness, are its roots, while the five purifications, namely, purification of view, purification by overcoming doubt, purification by knowledge and vision of what is the path and what is not the path, purification by knowledge and vision of the way, and purification by knowledge and vision, are the trunk. Consequently, one who is perfecting these should first fortify his knowledge by learning and questioning about those things that are the "soil" after he has perfected the two purifications that are the "roots," then he can develop the five purifications that are the "trunk." This is in brief.
Love Buddha's dhamma,