What is the task of panna?

What is the task of panna and in which way does it know realities? Someone asked what panna knows when flavour appears. Flavour may be salty or sweet, there are many different kinds of flavour. When we are eating pudding or herring, we think of their flavours with like or dislike, we are absorbed in concepts and at such moments there is an idea of some “thing” in the flavour, we do not know the true nature of flavour. When there is mindfulness of the characteristic of flavour, panna can know it as only a reality appearing through the tongue, as only a kind of rupa, no “thing” in it. At that moment the flavour is still salty or sweet, it has not changed into a “neutral” flavour, but panna does not think about the flavour, it knows its true nature. Flavour is tasted through the tongue and after that we may define what kind of flavour it is, but defining the flavour and thinking about it is not panna. It is the task of panna to know its true nature, no matter what kind of flavour it is.

We are bound to have misunderstandings about the characteristic and function of panna and take for panna what is not panna. Hardness and softness, for example, may appear and when we notice them we may believe that there is right awareness. Everybody, even a child, can know that something is hard or soft, but knowing this is not panna. We may not expressively think, “This is hard, this is soft”, but there may still be an idea of some thing that is hard or soft and then hardness and softness are not realized as only rupa. Or we may try to direct sati to these characteristics since we want to know them and in this way the truth will not be realized. When kusala citta with mindfulness arises, hardness and softness are not changed into something else, but panna can know their true nature.

Panna knows a nama or rupa which appears as only a reality. What does this mean? When a nama or rupa is known as only a reality it is not mixed up with the idea of a person or thing. Why is the word “only” used? When what we experience is taken for “something” or “somebody”, we attach great importance to it. We take what we experience for somebody who exists or for something we can control, thus, for “self” or “mine”. We are ignorant of the conditionality of phenomena. When panna knows, for example, hearing as only a reality, it knows it as a reality that has arisen because of its own conditions, not because of our will, and which cannot be controlled. Earsense and sound are conditions for hearing and also these factors are conditioned. Everything which arises because of conditions has to fall away. Hearing, sound and all the other conditioned realities are only present for an extremely short moment, they are insignificant realities.

Topic 228