main | books | meditation | Buddha | dhamma | saṅgha | personal
The Pāli term paññā means understanding, wisdom, or insight. (The double "ñ" is pronounced as in "señor", but the "n" is long. The first "a" is short and the second one also long.)
Paññā is a very specific kind of wisdom, though: it is the ability to see reality as it is. Of course reality is always present and obvious and nothing is hidden, but an unfocused mind will wander aimlessly and imagine all kinds of things that distract it from the things laid out plainly in front of it.
An untrained mind will react blindly too all kinds of stimuli. When someone sees some object of desire, like an ice-cream cone, mind will immediately want that object and subsequently body will act in such a way that the desire is fulfilled. In the case of the ice-cream cone this is most probably not a great endeavor, but what about other objects? A new car? A bigger house? An attractive mate? Soon enough the pursuit of those object will cause profound suffering.
Paññā will train mind to see what really happens:
The chain of
sensing —> feeling —> cognition —> volition
works all the time in the human body/mind, but typically mind is conditioned to ignore all the steps and only care about the result, the desire to attain something (attraction) or get rid of something (aversion). As a consequence mind is at the mercy of all kinds of desires and suffering seems to be the result of "external" factors.
When paññā is developed, the inner workings of body/mind will become visible and the origins of suffering will become obvious. As this knowlegde matures, it will extend to the phenomena that are commonly understood to be "external", and it will become clear that body/mind is an inseparable part of the world as we experience it, and it no longer makes sense to view it as an independent, isolated object.
Paññā can only be developed by the practice of insight meditation (vipassanā-bhāvanā), and only the individual practitioner can develop p;aññā because the mechanisms that make body/mind work are as manifold as there are beings on this planet.
If you want to begin the exploration of reality as it is:
contact | privacy | changes