Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

On the cultivation of insight/wisdom
Sacha G
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by Sacha G » Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:42 pm

Hi! Thanks for the replies so far: very interesting.
Yes I think from knowing feelings within oneself, one gets to know of feelings of others.
Now the problem remains the same for what is , to my understanding, purely conceptual, such as knowing the parts of the body. Some say that it's only a preparatory practice, and I think the Visuddhimagga tends to see things that way, but IMHO, I tend to think that seeing deeply, even if only in the aggregate of form, is sufficient for gaining release.
A related question is about the 3 stages of wisdom: listening, pondering, and meditating (or realising): is it somewhere in the suttas, or is from the Abhidhamma? I know that it's the same thing for the northern school sarvastivada, which tends to make it something old.
:anjali:
Pali and Theravada texts:
http://dhamma.webnode.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by dhamma follower » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:48 pm

Sacha G wrote:Hi! Thanks for the replies so far: very interesting.
Yes I think from knowing feelings within oneself, one gets to know of feelings of others.
Now the problem remains the same for what is , to my understanding, purely conceptual, such as knowing the parts of the body. Some say that it's only a preparatory practice, and I think the Visuddhimagga tends to see things that way, but IMHO, I tend to think that seeing deeply, even if only in the aggregate of form, is sufficient for gaining release.
A related question is about the 3 stages of wisdom: listening, pondering, and meditating (or realising): is it somewhere in the suttas, or is from the Abhidhamma? I know that it's the same thing for the northern school sarvastivada, which tends to make it something old.
:anjali:
Dear Sacha

I think you can find abundant supports from suttas and commentaries that the object of vipassana should always be paramatha, i.e what can be directly experienced by the seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and the mind (thinking, feeling).
Concepts (such as parts of the body) can not be directly experienced but it's the result of a thinking process that gives them a name. Name is not reality.
When attention is directed on concepts, it can not give rise to vipassana wisdom.
However, sometimes, even if the object is a concept ( example a leaf), but if attention is directed on seeing the leaf, and not the leaf itself, then it is vipassana.
As for the insight it-self, sayadaw U Tejaniya from Burma said : panna is direct understanding, and it understands the Truth (anicca, dukkha, anatta) so it is clearly non conceptual. However, at the same time that insight is occuring, sanna (perception) is working normally and knows the object in a conceptual way.
That means insight has nothing to do with the object but only with the universal characteristics, on the other hand,insight is not devoid of a conceptual perception of the individual characteristic of the object (to know what the object is). This is, of course not applied for the experience of Nibbana.

I hope that helps,

Regards,

D.F.

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legolas
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by legolas » Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:53 am

dhamma follower wrote:
Sacha G wrote:Hi! Thanks for the replies so far: very interesting.
Yes I think from knowing feelings within oneself, one gets to know of feelings of others.
Now the problem remains the same for what is , to my understanding, purely conceptual, such as knowing the parts of the body. Some say that it's only a preparatory practice, and I think the Visuddhimagga tends to see things that way, but IMHO, I tend to think that seeing deeply, even if only in the aggregate of form, is sufficient for gaining release.
A related question is about the 3 stages of wisdom: listening, pondering, and meditating (or realising): is it somewhere in the suttas, or is from the Abhidhamma? I know that it's the same thing for the northern school sarvastivada, which tends to make it something old.
:anjali:
Dear Sacha

I think you can find abundant supports from suttas and commentaries that the object of vipassana should always be paramatha, i.e what can be directly experienced by the seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and the mind (thinking, feeling).
Concepts (such as parts of the body) can not be directly experienced but it's the result of a thinking process that gives them a name. Name is not reality.
When attention is directed on concepts, it can not give rise to vipassana wisdom.
However, sometimes, even if the object is a concept ( example a leaf), but if attention is directed on seeing the leaf, and not the leaf itself, then it is vipassana.
As for the insight it-self, sayadaw U Tejaniya from Burma said : panna is direct understanding, and it understands the Truth (anicca, dukkha, anatta) so it is clearly non conceptual. However, at the same time that insight is occuring, sanna (perception) is working normally and knows the object in a conceptual way.
That means insight has nothing to do with the object but only with the universal characteristics, on the other hand,insight is not devoid of a conceptual perception of the individual characteristic of the object (to know what the object is). This is, of course not applied for the experience of Nibbana.

I hope that helps,

Regards,

D.F.
Hi

Since this a sutta forum, I think you have perfectly formulated what is NOT in the suttas. Guarding the senses is not vipassana per se and its reference in the suttas cannot be used to justify doctrines that have no relation to the Buddha's Dhamma.

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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by dhamma follower » Wed Jan 12, 2011 7:28 am

legolas wrote:
dhamma follower wrote:
Sacha G wrote:Hi! Thanks for the replies so far: very interesting.
Yes I think from knowing feelings within oneself, one gets to know of feelings of others.
Now the problem remains the same for what is , to my understanding, purely conceptual, such as knowing the parts of the body. Some say that it's only a preparatory practice, and I think the Visuddhimagga tends to see things that way, but IMHO, I tend to think that seeing deeply, even if only in the aggregate of form, is sufficient for gaining release.
A related question is about the 3 stages of wisdom: listening, pondering, and meditating (or realising): is it somewhere in the suttas, or is from the Abhidhamma? I know that it's the same thing for the northern school sarvastivada, which tends to make it something old.
:anjali:
Dear Sacha

I think you can find abundant supports from suttas and commentaries that the object of vipassana should always be paramatha, i.e what can be directly experienced by the seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and the mind (thinking, feeling).
Concepts (such as parts of the body) can not be directly experienced but it's the result of a thinking process that gives them a name. Name is not reality.
When attention is directed on concepts, it can not give rise to vipassana wisdom.
However, sometimes, even if the object is a concept ( example a leaf), but if attention is directed on seeing the leaf, and not the leaf itself, then it is vipassana.
As for the insight it-self, sayadaw U Tejaniya from Burma said : panna is direct understanding, and it understands the Truth (anicca, dukkha, anatta) so it is clearly non conceptual. However, at the same time that insight is occuring, sanna (perception) is working normally and knows the object in a conceptual way.
That means insight has nothing to do with the object but only with the universal characteristics, on the other hand,insight is not devoid of a conceptual perception of the individual characteristic of the object (to know what the object is). This is, of course not applied for the experience of Nibbana.

I hope that helps,

Regards,

D.F.
Hi

Since this a sutta forum, I think you have perfectly formulated what is NOT in the suttas. Guarding the senses is not vipassana per se and its reference in the suttas cannot be used to justify doctrines that have no relation to the Buddha's Dhamma.
Hi,

Could you be more specific about what is in my post that is NOT in the suttas ?

How about these:

"Then, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. When there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

and

"Bhikkhus, how do you conceive it: is form permanent or impermanent?" — "Impermanent, venerable Sir." — "Now is what is impermanent painful or pleasant?" — "Painful, venerable Sir." — "Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: 'This is mine, this is I, this is my self'"? — "No, venerable sir."

"Is feeling permanent or impermanent?...

"Is perception permanent or impermanent?...

"Are determinations permanent or impermanent?...

"Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?" — "Impermanent, venerable sir." — "Now is what is impermanent pleasant or painful?" — "Painful, venerable sir." — "Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: 'This is mine, this is I, this is my self'"? — "No, venerable sir."

"So, bhikkhus any kind of form whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near, must with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: 'This is not mine, this is not I, this is not myself.'

"Any kind of feeling whatever...

"Any kind of perception whatever...

"Any kind of determination whatever...

"Any kind of consciousness whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near must, with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: 'This is not mine, this is not I, this is not my self.'

"Bhikkhus, when a noble follower who has heard (the truth) sees thus, he finds estrangement in form, he finds estrangement in feeling, he finds estrangement in perception, he finds estrangement in determinations, he finds estrangement in consciousness.

"When he finds estrangement, passion fades out. With the fading of passion, he is liberated. When liberated, there is knowledge that he is liberated. He understands: 'Birth is exhausted, the holy life has been lived out, what can be done is done, of this there is no more beyond.'"

That is what the Blessed One said. The bhikkhus were glad, and they approved his words.

Now during this utterance, the hearts of the bhikkhus of the group of five were liberated from taints through clinging no more.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
....
"...'after death a Tathagata exists'...

"...'after death a Tathagata does not exist'...

"...'after death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist'...

"...'after death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist'... does not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full Awakening, Unbinding."

"Does Master Gotama have any position at all?
"A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with. What a Tathagata sees is this: 'Such is form, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is perception... such are mental fabrications... such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.' Because of this, I say, a Tathagata — with the ending, fading out, cessation, renunciation, & relinquishment of all construings, all excogitations, all I-making & mine-making & obsession with conceit — is, through lack of clinging/sustenance, released."
"But, Master Gotama, the monk whose mind is thus released: Where does he reappear?"

"'Reappear,' Vaccha, doesn't apply."

"In that case, Master Gotama, he does not reappear."

"'Does not reappear,' Vaccha, doesn't apply."

"...both does & does not reappear."

"...doesn't apply."

"...neither does nor does not reappear."

"...doesn't apply."

"How is it, Master Gotama, when Master Gotama is asked if the monk reappears... does not reappear... both does & does not reappear... neither does nor does not reappear, he says, '...doesn't apply' in each case. At this point, Master Gotama, I am befuddled; at this point, confused. The modicum of clarity coming to me from your earlier conversation is now obscured."

"Of course you're befuddled, Vaccha. Of course you're confused. Deep, Vaccha, is this phenomenon, hard to see, hard to realize, tranquil, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. For those with other views, other practices, other satisfactions, other aims, other teachers, it is difficult to know. That being the case, I will now put some questions to you. Answer as you see fit. What do you think, Vaccha: If a fire were burning in front of you, would you know that, 'This fire is burning in front of me'?"

"...yes..."

"And suppose someone were to ask you, Vaccha, 'This fire burning in front of you, dependent on what is it burning?' Thus asked, how would you reply?"

"...I would reply, 'This fire burning in front of me is burning dependent on grass & timber as its sustenance.'"

"If the fire burning in front of you were to go out, would you know that, 'This fire burning in front of me has gone out'?"

"...yes..."

"And suppose someone were to ask you, 'This fire that has gone out in front of you, in which direction from here has it gone? East? West? North? Or south?' Thus asked, how would you reply?"

"That doesn't apply, Master Gotama. Any fire burning dependent on a sustenance of grass and timber, being unnourished — from having consumed that sustenance and not being offered any other — is classified simply as 'out' (unbound)."

"Even so, Vaccha, any physical form by which one describing the Tathagata would describe him: That the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Freed from the classification of form, Vaccha, the Tathagata is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the sea. 'Reappears' doesn't apply. 'Does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Both does & does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Neither reappears nor does not reappear' doesn't apply.

"Any feeling... Any perception... Any mental fabrication...

"Any consciousness by which one describing the Tathagata would describe him: That the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed, made like a palmyra stump, deprived of the conditions of development, not destined for future arising. Freed from the classification of consciousness, Vaccha, the Tathagata is deep, boundless, hard to fathom, like the sea. 'Reappears' doesn't apply. 'Does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Both does & does not reappear' doesn't apply. 'Neither reappears nor does not reappear' doesn't apply."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The last sutta (Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta) is one that clearly shows how the Buddha distinguished Tathagata (a concept -unreal) from the five aggreates (form, feeling, perception, consciousness...)-reality that can be experienced in its characteristics of anicca (and so dukkha and anatta).



D.F,

rowyourboat
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by rowyourboat » Wed Jan 12, 2011 9:54 pm

The object of vipassana is non-conceptual, is based on direct experience, with a mind purified with samadhi.

The resultant insight maybe conceptual- it certainly becomes so when we are able to think about it and discuss it subsequently..even more so when it becomes part of supramundane right view.

with metta

Matheesha
With Metta

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& Upekkha

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Goofaholix
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by Goofaholix » Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:43 pm

rowyourboat wrote:The object of vipassana is non-conceptual, is based on direct experience, with a mind purified with samadhi.

The resultant insight maybe conceptual- it certainly becomes so when we are able to think about it and discuss it subsequently..even more so when it becomes part of supramundane right view.
Maybe we understand the term "conceptual" differently but I would have said that insight goes much deeper than concepts and if it doesn't then it's not really insight, it's knowledge.

Of course then we have to use concepts if we want to try and describe that insight but that's just a description of the insight. Also we should use those concepts to reflect on that insight which in turn starts a process that leads to more knowledge and hopefully more insight.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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legolas
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by legolas » Thu Jan 13, 2011 12:53 am

Hi, D.F

I actually had a bet with myself that the sutta with Bahiya would be introduced. This sutta does not mention non-conceptuality. I can look at something and understand through reasoned thought processes that one of the events taking place is "just seeing", there is no need for mental gymnastics to induce some sort of trance state. If I choose to be aware of "just seeing" I can begin to investigate that process according to my inclination e.g notself, impermanent, causally arisen etc.

The other suttas mentioned have no content in them that justifies a non-conceptual approach. I do not deny that the nibbana experience is beyond conceptual understanding, however you cannot take the "result" as the path - this is a course taken by our Buddhist brothers in the other tradition. One question that revolves around semantics- would you relate the word concept with perception? As I understand it, a perception cannot take place in isolation and has to involve at least a modicum of conceptual thought.

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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by ground » Thu Jan 13, 2011 5:41 am

I understand that any meaning added to mere sense data is a concept. So mental labelling is not the characteristic of "concept" but "added meaning" is which may be sort of subliminal, i.e. in a non-grasped state. Mental labelling actually is already one step further.
Thusly understood e.g. the Satipatthana Sutta teaches a conceptual familiarization with insight(s) as its goal(s).

Kind regards

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Goofaholix
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by Goofaholix » Thu Jan 13, 2011 6:02 am

TMingyur wrote:I understand that any meaning added to mere sense data is a concept. So mental labelling is not the characteristic of "concept" but "added meaning" is which may be sort of subliminal, i.e. in a non-grasped state. Mental labelling actually is already one step further.
Thusly understood e.g. the Satipatthana Sutta is a conceptual familiarization with insight(s) as its goal(s).
Yes you are right that labelling is conceptual, however noting is not, noting is just a non conceptual non verbal acknowledgement of an experience

The vipassana technique that is most well known for using labelling and noting is the Mahasi technique, I think it is a misunderstanding to think of it as a labelling technique as it's a noting technique. Unless I've misundertood my teachers labelling is really only encouraged for beginners to get them started at seeing things objectively, or later as an aid to poor concentration, the noting is the main thing.

I don't know of any vipassana technique where labelling is the main thing and in and of itself is expected to lead to insight.

The Satipatthana Sutta is a conceptual of course because it uses language, however the process it describes is not a process of concepts formulating in the brain but of experience being experienced.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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ground
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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by ground » Thu Jan 13, 2011 6:56 am

Goofaholix

our understanding of "concepts" or "conceptual" is significantly different. I guess a difference of understanding is involved among all people discussing such topics like that of this thread. That is why it is difficult to discuss such topics.

The interest in this topic seems to be based on confusing "attachment to concepts" and "concepts". Since everbody is interested in "non-attachment" there arises the idea that the flaw is inherent in "concepts", however it is just "attachment to concepts" that is the flaw.
And since "non-attachment" is highly esteemed there arises the bias to label "non-conceptual" meditation methods that actually are still conceptual. But there is no value inherent in non-conceptuality.
I consider the process the Satipatthana Sutta describes to be conceptual because what you label "experience" are concepts from my perspective. However as to the insight this conceptual process leads to ... I do not dare to label it either "conceptual" or "non-conceptual".

Kind regards

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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by Spiny O'Norman » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:16 am

Goofaholix wrote:Yes you are right that labelling is conceptual, however noting is not, noting is just a non conceptual non verbal acknowledgement of an experience
I'm not sure I understand how noting can be non-verbal. Could you elaborate on this?

Spiny

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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by PeterB » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:20 am

There is more than one " noting " technique...One involves naming...so that on hearing a car back fire outside one says " hearing hearing " ( for example ) and then returns to the object.
Another involves focusing awareness on a particular feeling or sensation without naming. And then moving the focus to another feeling or sensation.

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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by Spiny O'Norman » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:25 am

PeterB wrote:There is more than one " noting " technique...One involves naming...so that on hearing a car back fire outside one says " hearing hearing " ( for example ) and then returns to the object.
Another involves focusing awareness on a particular feeling or sensation without naming. And then moving the focus to another feeling or sensation.
Oh, I see. I assumed "noting" always involved some level of labelling.

Spiny

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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by PeterB » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:55 am

I am afraid that we ( and I include myself here ) have got into the habit of being a bit imprecise in our use of terms Norman...
I would be interested in Ben's take as he has just got back from a Vipassana intensive.

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Re: Vipassana: conceptual or non-conceptual?

Post by dhamma follower » Thu Jan 13, 2011 1:45 pm

legolas wrote:Hi, D.F

I actually had a bet with myself that the sutta with Bahiya would be introduced. This sutta does not mention non-conceptuality. I can look at something and understand through reasoned thought processes that one of the events taking place is "just seeing", there is no need for mental gymnastics to induce some sort of trance state. If I choose to be aware of "just seeing" I can begin to investigate that process according to my inclination e.g notself, impermanent, causally arisen etc.

The other suttas mentioned have no content in them that justifies a non-conceptual approach. I do not deny that the nibbana experience is beyond conceptual understanding, however you cannot take the "result" as the path - this is a course taken by our Buddhist brothers in the other tradition. One question that revolves around semantics- would you relate the word concept with perception? As I understand it, a perception cannot take place in isolation and has to involve at least a modicum of conceptual thought.
Hi Legolas,

Your statement above about understanding "not-self" through reasoned thought processes justifies the existence of commentaries, because the suttas are sometimes not precise enough. Actual insight is NOT a reasoned thought process, otherwise we all have become arahants like Bahyia already. It's totally another matter to understand not-self through reasoning than actually understand "in the seeing just the seen" right at the moment seeing is taking place. If sati and sampajana are not there at the moment eye consciousness meets the object through the eye organ, moha is automatically arising and taking seeing as "I see", as it's just the nature of moha. Any reasoning that comes afterwards is mere reasoning, unless that reasoning process becomes object of sati and sampajana it-self - in that case, there can be insight into the not-self nature of that very thought process.

Yeah... there seems to be a difference in our understanding of concepts here. Let's take a moment and make a distinction between concept and reality.

Take the example of the sutta I mentioned in my last post. According to the Buddha,
Tathagata = concept why : because there's no way we can actually experience the Tathagata
Five aggregates (materiality, feeling, perception, mental fabrication, consciousness)= reality. Why ? Because these can be actually experienced.
In the same way, can we directly experience the 32 parts of the body as such ? Can we experience the eye, the ear, the tongue, the skin without the thought process that gives them a name ?
No, what we can experienced is only hardness, softness, heat, cold etc....

Do the exercise and see for your self ! This truth is not in the commentaries, it's in your body and mind.

Even hardness, softness, heat, cold .... are only names because the reality of each element can not be experienced without the others' and just constantly passes away as soon as it arises.

As to answer your question whether I relate concept with perception. Well, concept is the result of the perception process. Because the process happens extremely fast, we assume that as soon as our eyes meet an object, it knows what the object is. Actually it is not so. Our eyes first see color, shape comes next and association comes up in the mind process to make sense of what we see. This can be experienced by practitioner. When sati has momentum, this perception process is still happening normally, but at the same time panna arises and understands the whole process as just process, not self. So panna is about the nature of the perception process, and not about the object of that perception - which is a concept made up by that process.

Of course, there's different levels of insights. The deeper it goes, the stronger the chracteristics of anicca, dukkha, anatta is felt, and the more unreal the objects seem to be...

I hope I have been more clear now, any comment is welcome !

D.F

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