The Perfection of Wisdom - What does panna penetrate? III

We read:

“Evenso, understanding as it arises knows states as kusala or akusala,

serviceable or unserviceable, low or exalted,

black or pure, similar or dissimilar.

And this was said by the ‘General of the Dhamma’ (Sariputta):

‘It knows; thus, monk, it is in consequence called understanding.

And what does it know? This is dukkha, etc.

Thus it should be expanded.

And thus knowing should be regarded as the characteristic of understanding.’

Here is another view: Understanding has the penetration of intrinsic nature,

unfaltering penetration as its characteristic,

like the penetration of an arrow shot by a skilled archer;

illumination of the object as its function,

as it were a lamp;

non-perplexity as its proximate cause,

as it were a good guide in the forest.”

This is the characteristic of panna which knows everything as it really is. When satipatthana does not arise, we spend our day with ignorance: we do not know which kind of akusala citta arises, what degree of lobha accompanies akusala citta, and we cannot clearly distinguish between attachment arising through the eyes, the ears or the minddoor. The whole day we are ignorant of the truth of realities. When panna arises, it knows precisely which dhammas are kusala and which are akusala. There is no need to ask someone else whether it is kusala or akusala that arises, because panna is able to understand this. Panna knows which dhammas are beneficial and which are not.

When akusala citta arises panna clearly understands it; it knows the danger of akusala and it knows that akusala should not increase. When kusala citta arises panna clearly understands it and it knows the benefit of kusala. As we read in the Commentary, panna knows the characeristics of the dhammas that are low or exalted, dark or pure.

We read further on:

“Again, the development of panna

with the aim to realize the four noble Truths is walking a very long way,

namely traversing the cycle of birth and death.”

  If panna arises we can understand that the cycle of birth and death we have traversed thus far is extremely long. So long as panna has not become accomplished, the path leading to the end of the cycle is still extremely long. Thus, as we read, for the development of panna we have an extremely long way to go. We have to go to the further shore, into the direction of nibbana, where, according to the Commentary, “we never went yet, not even in our dreams”.

Topic 280