Theoretical understanding and penetrating the truth

Question : What is the difference between the panna which is theoretical
understanding and the panna which directly penetrates the truth of the
Answer : At this moment people listen to the Dhamma and they understand
what they hear, but this is not yet direct understanding which, when there is,
for example, seeing, penetrates the true nature of this reality. Hearing
appears at this moment and people know that it is a kind of nama, hearing-
consciousness (sotavinnana), which arises and then falls away. They have
theoretical understanding of this reality but they may not yet realize the true
characteristic of the reality which hears sound, which is arising and falling
away. Then there is only panna of the level of thinking, theoretical
understanding of realities. Hearing which arises at this moment is real, it is a
dhamma which arises and falls away. So long as one does not directly
understand the truth of the reality appearing at this moment, there is only
panna which is theoretical understanding, conditioned by listening. Whereas
when someone directly understands and penetrates the true characteristics of
realities, he knows that this kind of panna is different from theoretical
First of all, people should know the characteristic of sati. Sati of the eightfold
Path is not a "self" who is aware. Samma-sati, right mindfulness, of the
eightfold Path is aware of the reality which is appearing. When it arises there
is not merely theoretical understanding. Sati is directly aware of the
characteristic of the reality which is appearing, so that its true nature can be
understood at that moment. Thus, we can see the difference between
theoretical understanding and panna which directly understands the
characteristic of the reality which is appearing
It is panna which can understand the characteristics of realities and we do not
have to do anything special. If at this moment panna penetrates the
characteristics of realities it is not because of self who has to make a special
effort. There is no being, no person who is developing satipathhana. When
sati arises and it is aware of realities, one can know the characteristic of sati
and panna and in this way the wrong view which takes realities for self can
gradually be eliminated. Finally, there can be clear understanding of the truth
that everything which is appearing at this moment is dhamma. Dhammas are
appearing every day through the doorways of the eyes, the ears, the nose,
the tongue, the bodysense and the mind. When sati arises it is aware of
realities, and if it does not arise there is ignorance which does not understand
realities. Sati can be aware of the characteristics of realities which are
appearing naturally, one does not have to do anything special. Wanting to
know something else but what appears now is useless. Realities are already
appearing at this moment and thus whatever appears now can be understood
as it is.  

Topic 100