Concepts II - Pannatti

The Atthasalini uses different synonyms for nama pannatti (concepts that are names). It is an interpretation, an expression that renders the meaning of something in language (nirutti). A name is a distinctive sign that shows the meaning of something (vyancana). There are sounds which people utter, letters combined as words which express the meaning of something (abhilapa). These synonyms explain the meaning of nama pannatti, a name or term. A term makes the meaning of something known. The idea or notion that is made known can also be called a concept. Thus, there are, generally speaking, two kinds of pannatti:

1. That which is made known (pannapiyatta or atthapannatti).

2. That which makes known (pannapanato), the name or term (sadda pannatti or namapannatti) which makes known the meaning of things. If we remember these two classes of concepts it will be easier to understand what a concept is. There are many kinds of concepts and they can be classified in different ways. One way of classifying them is the following (see Abhidhammattha Sangaha Ch. VIII, section 4, on pannattis):

i) concept of continuity: (santana pannatti), corresponding to the continuity of things, such as land, mountain or tree, which concept is based on the rapid succession of the elements.

ii) collective concept: (samuha pannatti), corresponding to modes of construction of materials, to a collection of things, such as a vehicle or a chariot. 

iii) conventional concept: (sammutti pannatti), such as person or individual, which is derived from the five khandhas.

iv) local concept: (disa pannatti), a notion or idea derived from the revolving of the moon, such as the directions of east or west.

v) concept of time: (kala pannatti), such as morning, evening.

vi) concept of season: (masa pannatti), notions corresponding to seasons and months. The months are designated by names, such as Vesakha.

vii) concept of space: (akasa), such as a well or a cave. It is derived from space that is not contacted by the four Great Elements.

viii) nimitta pannatti: the mental image which is acquired through the development of samatha, such as the nimitta of a kasina.

We read in the Abhidhammattha Sangaha:

All such different things, although they do not exist in the ultimate sense,

become objects of thought in the form of shadows of ultimate things.

They are called pannatti

because they are thought of, reckoned, understood, expressed,

and made known on account of, in consideration of,

and with respect to, this or that mode.

This 'pannatti' is so called because it is made known.

As it makes known, it is called 'pannatti'.

It is described as 'name', 'name-made', etc. 


Topic 289