The 7th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Abhijñā(Skt.; Pali, abhiññā; Tib., Mngon shes, མངོན་ཤེས་) has been translated generally as "knowing," "direct knowing" and "direct Knowledge" or, at times more technically, as "higher Knowledge" and "supernormal Knowledge."
In terms of specifically enumerated knowledges, these include worldly extra-sensory abilities (such as seeing past and future lives) as well as the supramundane extinction of all Mental Intoxicants (āsava).
There are five that can be achieved by ordinary beings (miraculous abilities, clairvoyance, clairaudience, ability to read minds, and knowledge of former lives), but the sixth (asavakkhaya) is only achieved by a holy one.
[A] Monk who cultivates the Noble Eightfold Path, who assiduously practices the Noble Eightfold Path, comprehends with higher Knowledge those states that are to be so comprehended, abandons with higher Knowledge those states that are to be so abandoned, comes to experience with higher Knowledge those states that are to be so experienced, and cultivates with higher Knowledge those states that are to be so cultivated.
What, Monks, are the states to be comprehended with higher Knowledge?
They are the five groups of clinging. Which five? The Body-group, the Feeling-group, the Perception-group, the Mental-formation group, the Consciousness-group...
What, Monks, are the states to be abandoned with higher Knowledge?
They are Ignorance and the desire for [further] becoming.
And what, Monks, are the states to be experienced with higher Knowledge?
They are Knowledge and Liberation.
And what, Monk, are the states to be cultivated with higher Knowledge?
They are calm and Insight.
Enumerations of special knowledges
- "Higher powers" (Iddhi-: Vidyā, such as walking on water and through walls;
- "Divine ear" (dibba-sota), that is, clairvoyance;
- "Mind-penetrating Knowledge" (ceto-pariya-ñāṇa), that is, telepathy;
- "Remember one's former abodes" (pubbe-nivāsanussati), that is, recalling ones own past lives;
- "Divine eye" (dibba-cakkhu), that is, knowing others' karmic destinations; and,
- "Extinction of Mental Intoxicants" (āsavakkhaya), upon which arahantship follows.
the three knowledges or wisdoms (tevijja or tivijja)
- "Remember one's former abodes" (pubbe-nivāsanussati);
- "Divine eye" (dibba-cakkhu); and,
- "Extinction of Mental Intoxicants" (āsavakkhaya).
The three knowledges are mentioned in numerous discourses including the Maha-Saccaka Sutta (MN 36) in which The Buddha describes obtaining each of these three knowledges on the first, second and third watches respectively of the night of his Enlightenment.
While such powers are considered to be indicative of spiritual progress, Buddhism cautions against their indulgence or exhibition since such could divert one from the true path of obtaining Suffering's release.
Parallels in other cultures
- Knowing the past, present and future;
- Tolerance of heat, cold and other dualities;
- Knowing the minds of others;
- Checking the influence of Fire, sun, water, poison, and so on;
- Remaining unconquered by others.