Known by knowledge, known by inference

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Known by knowledge, known by inference

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Jul 06, 2009 11:09 pm


I was just wondering what people thought of the following extract from the sub-commentary to the Brahamajala Sutta?
Things in their true nature (paramatthadhamma) have two characteristics or marks; specific characteristics and general characteristics. The understanding of the specific characteristics is knowledge by experience (paccakka-nana), while the understanding of the general characteristics is knowledge by inference (anumana-nana).
Venerable Nyanatiloka goes on to say...
The specific characteristic, for instance, of the element of motion (vayo-dhatu) is its nature of supporting, its function of moving; its general characteristics are impermanence etc.
(both quotations sourced from page 42 of "The Progress Of Insight: A Treatise on Satipatthana Meditation" by Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw)

Does this division impact the way we approach vipassana/satipatthana/insight meditation?

Retro. :)
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Re: Known by knowledge, known by inference

Post by Individual » Tue Jul 07, 2009 12:39 am

I think the idea of a "true nature" reflects a materialist, empiricist, and realist bias. Why approach meditation with such preconceptions?

Where do you objectively draw the line between "specific" and "general" characteristics?

And also, why should objects of empiricism yield more detailed information than objects of the intellect? I would say that there is no clear distinction between objects of experience and objects of inference, since empirical observation is dependent on some degree of conceptualization or rationalization (usually sub-conscious) while objects of the intellect are dependent on experience, no meaningful statement can be made without reference to real things.
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Re: Known by knowledge, known by inference

Post by nathan » Tue Jul 07, 2009 10:19 am

Individual wrote:Where do you objectively draw the line between "specific" and "general" characteristics?
The three general characteristics are anicca, dukkha & anatta. The specific characteristics are extensively detailed in abhidhamma. These are causally compounded by kamma with momentary forms of conditional phenomenal interdependence arising and passing. These are found in the body and the six senses. These are examined with mindful attention; the development of virtue, concentration and precision in examination, understanding and dispassion, clarity and freedom.

To be directly known and understood by the wise, those who practice well.

Who look at what is to be looked at to see what one will see. Who Know. Realize. Understand.

There is the intention to know. As opposed to the intention to accept ignorance. Then there is developing knowledge and finally there is knowing. This is the skillful use of the given kamma that we are.

Avidyā (Sanskrit) or avijjā (Pāli) means "ignorance" or "delusion".
It is used extensively in Buddhist texts.

* 無明 Cn: wúmíng; Jp: mumyō; Vi: vô minh
* Tibetan: ma rig pa" onclick=";return false;)
Avidyā (Buddhism)
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Avidyā is a Sanskrit word that holds the semantic field of "ignorance", "delusion", "unlearned", "unwise" and that which is not, or runs counter to, vidya. It is used extensively in Hindu texts, including the Upanishads and as well in Buddhist thought.

Root of suffering

Avidyā plays a key role in Buddhism and Buddhist doctrine and is the primary cause of suffering in saṃsāra.

1. Avidyā is one of the three kleśas.
2. Avidyā is the first link of Pratītyasamutpāda.
3. Avidyā is the first spoke on the Bhavacakra.

As one of the kleśas, Avidyā leads to craving (tṛṣṇā) and clinging (upādāna).
As the first link of Pratitya-Samutpada, all other links depend on it.
As the first spoke on the Bhavacakra, all subsequent states follow in its wake.

[edit] From one to six aspects

Avidyā is a lack of knowing, and can be associated with intention. Avidyā has three aspects as associates to three kinds of vedanā (sensation), and presents four aspects as the ignorance of the Four Noble Truths, and five aspects as masking the five destinies (see : Samsāra). Avidyā has six aspects as associated to any of the six doors, the six senses (see: Ṣaḍāyatana).

See also:" onclick=";return false;
* Avidya for the treatment of the concept in Hinduism.
* Tanha for a complementary root of suffering in Buddhism.
* Kilesa for avidya's context within various Buddhist frameworks.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

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Re: Known by knowledge, known by inference

Post by rowyourboat » Tue Jul 07, 2009 12:07 pm

general chars are known by inference because we cannot discern all (for example) vayo dathu- near far, past future gross subtle. So we only know that everything is anicca by inference- this is sammasana nana (the 3rd vipassana nana) when what is seen experientially is understood to be true to for everything which ever existed. Similarly we can only know what is going on for another person inferentially, by seeing how things happen within us (there is suttic support for this -the 'internal external' refrain in the satipatthana)

specific chars can be known because we can experience an object in our mindfulness. this would be nama-rupa paricceda nana (knowledge of discerning mentality and materiality)

specific chars lead to understanding of general chars in a cause and effect manner- so all we have to do is to continue the practice correctly and the vipassana nanas will follow.

Thank you far asking that question. It has illuminated for me in yet another way, the unfoliding of vipassana.

with metta
With Metta

& Upekkha

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