Concepts I - A real fruit and a painting of fruit

Paramattha dhammas are not pannatti dhammas. Paramattha dhammas are realities that each have their own characteristics that can be directly experienced, even if one does not use terms to name them. Pannatti dhammas (concepts) are not absolute realities. We may see a painting of fruit, such as grapes, or mangoes, and we may see real grapes and mangoes. What is then a concept? When we see a painting of mountains, of the sea, or trees, we know that it is a picture. When we see “real” mountains or trees do we believe that these are realities, not concepts?
It is evident that names are concepts (pannattis), because they convey the characteristics or the meaning of phenomena. However, even if one does not yet name things, or there is not yet a name, one can already think of a concept of a “whole” or a mass. There can be a concept or idea of “something” that appears even though one does not know any language or words to express its meaning. When we know what it is that appears, even without naming it, we know a pannatti (concept).
When we see what is only a painting of fruit and real fruit, both the painting and the real fruit are pannattis. A pannatti (concept) is not a paramattha dhamma (reality). As we have seen, there are many aspects of pannatti. It can be an idea of a whole or a mass; or it can be a name or term that refers to something, be it real or not real.
What is the difference between real fruit and a painting of fruit? What appears through the eyes while one sees are not beings, people, or different things. No matter whether one sees a painting of grapes or real grapes, only colour appears through the eyes. We may believe that only the picture is a pannatti and that the “real” grapes are not a pannatti (concept). However, in reality, the picture as well as the real grapes that appear are objects that are pannattis experienced by mind- door process cittas. The cittas of the eye-door process experience only colour that appears. The cittas of the mind-door process that experience a concept know the meaning of something; they know what something is. They know that there are grapes. Thus, the cittas (moments of consciousness) that know that there are grapes have a concept (a pannatti) as object, and not a paramattha dhamma.
When we see somebody, we should know that this is in reality the same as seeing a picture, thus we know in both cases a concept. It is difficult to separate concepts from realities, for example, when we notice that there is a chair. The object that is the paramattha dhamma appearing through the eyes and the object which is the paramattha dhamma appearing through the body-sense are not pannattis.

Topic 288