Department of Vipassanā
The present work would have never been materialized without unreserved help, support and encouragement of various individuals. I would like to extend my deep gratitude, thanks and appreciation to the following persons:
- Venerable Dr. Candāvarābhivaṃsa, my supervisor, for his most willingly help in going through the manuscript and suggesting improvements,
- Venerable Dr. Sīlānandābhivaṃsa, Rector of ITBMU, and the Board of Examiners, for selecting the topic of my thesis,
- Venerable Dr. Kumārābhivaṃsa, Venerable Dr. Nandamālābhivaṃsa, Venerable Varasāmi and Venerable Nodhiñāṇa, for clearing ambiguities of knotty passages in Commentaries and Sub-commentaries,
- Venerable U Kosalla, Sayalay Sudhammā and Sayalay Dhammarati, for their meticulous proof-reading,
- All teachers of ITBMU for their untiring effort in imparting their knowledge and understanding,
- The Administrative Body, all staffs and well-wishers of ITBMU, for helping me in one way or another during my study at ITBMU.
Last but not least, in grateful memory of my teachers, parents, relatives and benefactors, dead and alive, I humbly offer them the merit accrued from the effort of preparing this work. May they be well, happy and peaceful!
The fourfold analytical knowledge (catu-paṭisambhidā) is an integrated set of knowledge gained by the noble persons (ariya) who had developed necessary conditions eligible for this distinctive attainment. The fourfold analytical knowledge consists of:
(1) The analytical knowledge of result (attha-paṭisambhidā),
(2) The analytical knowledge of cause (dhamma-paṭisambhidā),
(3) The analytical knowledge of language (nirutti-paṭisambhidā), and
(4) The analytical knowledge of knowledge (paṭibhāna-paṭisambhidā).
The noble persons who possess these kinds of knowledge are able to penetratingly understand the four types of ultimate realities (paramattha-dhammā), namely, consciousness (citta), mental concomitants (cetasika), matters (rūpa) and Nibbāna, the unconditioned element, and are capable of elucidating them with lucid language and exposition. The Buddha, Venerable Sāriputta and other great noble disciples were real legends in this field of comprehension and explanatory dexterity, as evidently described in the Pāḷi literature.
Each of the fourfold analytical knowledge possesses different analyticities. The analytical knowledge of result has the power to understand fully the so-called resultant phenomena including all cause-produced things, meanings of the Buddha’s Word classified into nine categories such as sutta (discourses in prose), geyya (discourses in prose and verse) and so on, and the unconditioned element, Nibbāna. Similarly, the analytical knowledge of cause has the ability to know various causative phenomena that comprise all result-generating causes, the Buddha’s Word, and the Noble Path leading to the realization of Nibbāna. The analytical knowledge of language, on the other hand, is endowed with the capability of recognizing the grammatically correct usage and the grammatically incorrect usage of Pāḷi language, and is able to understand a wide range of Pāḷi terminologies connected with the ultimate realities. The analytical knowledge of knowledge is, however, capable of taking the foregoing knowledge as objects, and of comprehending their functional activities.
The attainment of the fourfold analytical knowledge is nothing but the accomplishment of collectively conditioning factors accumulated in both the past and present lives. The eight conditions must be fulfilled in order to give rise to the fourfold analytical knowledge, they are: attainment of the highest mundane insight knowledge (knowledge of equanimity towards formations) in the past lives, great erudition, proficiency of dialects, knowledge of Scriptures, inquiry, attainment of the Noble Path, association with teachers, and acquisition of good friends.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Many kinds of knowledge are found in the Buddhist Scriptures—mundane knowledge (lokiyañāṇa), supra-mundane knowledge (lokuttarañāṇa), knowledge based on thinking (cintāmayañāṇa), knowledge based on learning (sutamayañāṇa), and knowledge based on mental development (bhāvanāmayañāṇa), and so on. Buddhists gain all these kinds of knowledge or some of them just for one aim—to rid their minds of ignorance.
The fourfold analytical knowledge (catupaṭisambhidā) found in the Pāḷi Canon serves Buddhists with the same aim. The fourfold analytical knowledge consists of four categories, namely,
1) Analytical knowledge of result (atthapaṭisambhidā),
2) Analytical knowledge of cause (dhammapaṭisambhidā),
3) Analytical knowledge of language (niruttipaṭisambhidā), and
4) Analytical knowledge of knowledge (paṭibhānapaṭisambhidā)
The present study of these categories of analytical knowledge aims at the following objectives. Firstly, to be earnest, it is to fulfill the requirement for the degree of MA in Buddha Dhamma at the International Theravāda Buddhist Missionary University; secondly, to enhance better understanding of the subject-matter and of Buddhism as the whole; and finally, perhaps, the most inspiring objective, to represent a complete exposition of the subject-matter in accordance with the Pāḷi Canon, Commentaries (Aṭṭhakathā) and Sub-commentaries (Ṭīkā).
As a matter of fact, information about the fourfold analytical knowledge so far written in English and even in Myanmar language is very little and hard to find. To mention some English works, the so-called ‘full discussion and explanation’ of paṭisambhidā in the translation of the Kathāvatthu [PC. 377ff] by Shwe Zan Aung and Mrs. Rhys Davids is rather general and not satisfactorily convinced. The attempt had been also made to explain the subject-matter in the introduction to the translation of the Paṭisambhidāmagga, the Path of Discrimination, by A. K. Warder. The survey of the fourfold analytical knowledge given there is relatively extensive, but still not focused, because the emphasis is placed on the discussion of the objects taken by the knowledge rather than the knowledge itself.
Similarly, no much account of the fourfold analytical knowledge has been written in Myanmar. Volumes of important exposition on Buddhism were attributed to several leading Sayadaws of the twentieth century, yet the exposition of the fourfold analytical knowledge does not really exist there. Mingun Sayadaw, in the Great Chronicle of Buddhas, had attempted to represent the subject-matter; however, the material described there mostly came from the Vibhaṅga Aṭṭhakathā. The present attempt, therefore, is made, with the earnest wish of the researcher, to portray and analyze the fourfold analytical knowledge, as thorough as he can, in the line of the Canonical Texts and the authoritative traditional interpretations found in the Commentarial and Sub-commentarial Literature.
Though the subject-matter is not so well-known to the practitioners and to the Buddhist scholars alike, due to unavailability of reading material or any other reason, it is endowed with much hidden importance of which not many Buddhists know. The fourfold analytical knowledge is indeed very much involved with the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha, and is the distinctive spiritual achievement in Buddhism.
Concerning the Buddha, the fourfold analytical knowledge significantly contributes the Buddha’s supreme qualities. The Blessed One once said, "The arising of the Tathāgata, the Arahant, the Fully Enlightened One, is the arising of the fourfold analytical knowledge" [A. I. 20]. The fourfold analytical knowledge is also four of the fourteen kinds of the Buddha’s knowledge (cuddasa Buddhañāṇāni).
Relating to the Dhamma, the fourfold analytical knowledge plays an indispensable role in abiding, in preaching and preserving the Buddha’s Word, and in supporting the highest attainment, the Arahatship. As to the abiding, the fourfold analytical knowledge can be used for the contemplative abiding, as used by the venerable Sāriputta. It is said in the Dutiyapaṭisambhidāsutta [A. I. 22] that the venerable Sāriputta, having realized, penetrated and entered the fourfold analytical knowledge, abides therein. About the preaching of the Dhamma, the fourfold analytical knowledge helps the preacher to expound and represent the Dhamma in different ways, from various dimensions, and to deal with the problematic matters concerning the meaning and terminology. [A. I. 455-456; A. IV. 479; Miln. 322f]. The fourfold analytical knowledge is also very helpful in memorizing the Buddha’s Word, and then preserving it for later generations, as in the case of the venerable Ānanda. In connection with the supporting of the highest attainment, the fourfold analytical knowledge is said to play an important condition for the attainment of Arahatship. The Blessed One once said, if the bhikkhu who is endowed with the fourfold analytical knowledge, and reflects on the mind in conformity with the emancipation, he soon penetrates the imperturbable state, the Arahatship. [A. II. 105]
With regard to the Sangha, the fourfold analytical knowledge brings about noble inspiration and mutually respectable relationship in the holy life. The Buddha once said that a monk is loved and respected by his friends in the holy life if he is possessed of the fourfold analytical knowledge and if he is attentive and skilful in works.
Moreover, the fourfold analytical knowledge is a distinctive attainment in the Buddha’s Sāsana as they can be only attained by distinguished Noble Ones. They are considered more distinctive than the threefold penetrative knowledge (tevijjā) and the sixfold higher knowledge (chaḷabhiññā). Due to their distinctiveness, the fourfold analytical knowledge is attained only when special conditions such as attainment of supra-mundane Paths, proficiency in languages, etc., are fulfilled.
Thus, the fourfold analytical knowledge exists in Buddhism on its own right, and is a genuine quintessence of Buddhism. Therefore, acquaintance with the subject matter is noteworthy and highly recommended for Buddhists, particularly academic ones.
The present study is in six chapters. The first of which introduces a general survey of the fourfold analytical knowledge. The next four chapters deal with the substance of the fourfold analytical knowledge, each chapter presents each fold of knowledge. And the last chapter gives a concise treatment to the causes leading to the attainment and purification of the fourfold analytical knowledge.
At the very beginning of the first chapter, the key term ‘paṭisambhidā’, which stands for the core of the topic, is discussed. In connection with this, the etymological definition and analysis, and different viewpoints on the term are expressed so as to settle the true identity of the term from the aspects of etymological background and original connotation. It is also in this chapter that the Buddha and his numerous disciples are found in relation to the fourfold analytical knowledge. The last part of this chapter briefly surveys the existence of the fourfold analytical knowledge in the three divisions of Vinaya, Suttanta and Abhidhamma forming the Pāḷi Tipiṭaka, together with a brief description of the subject-matter in the contexts concerned.
In the next four chapters, the representation of the analytical knowledge of result (attha), cause (dhamma), language (nirutti) and knowledge (paṭibhāna) is given one after another. All these chapters equally have three parts. The first part of each chapter shares a common treatment, providing a thorough scan of general meaning of ‘attha’, ‘dhamma’, ‘nirutti’ and ‘paṭibhāna’ respectively. The second part of the same restates the specific meaning of each technical term in the context corresponding to each kind of knowledge i.e. in the context of atthapaṭisambhidā, dhammapaṭisambhidā and so on. And the last part highlights the salient features of each kind of analytical knowledge belonging to each chapter.
In the last chapter, a brief description of causes conducive to the attainment and purification of the fourfold analytical knowledge is described. The description is treated in two parts, the first deals with the causes leading to the attainment, while the second with the causes to the purification. In supplement to this chapter, the comparative account between the fourfold analytical knowledge and the reviewing knowledge (paccavekkhaṇañāṇa) is also added.
Thus, in virtue of this treatment, the gist of the first chapter is given first to keep in view a general image of the topic as the whole. After getting acquainted with the theme in general, it is straightforward to access and grasp the topic in detail. The same method is also applied to the next four chapters. Each of these four chapters at first provides a broad approach to its respective category of knowledge by generalizing the meaning of the technical term involved, then narrows the meaning by confining the term in the context it directly engrosses. Only after that, the explanation of the substantial part of each chapter is given. By doing so, the subject-matter is believed to be easily grasped.
The present study is conducted, as the topic title itself suggests, within the compass of Theravāda Buddhism, the foundation of which is the Pāḷi Canon and its Commentaries (Aṭṭhakathā) and Sub-commentaries (Ṭīkā). More specifically, the study essentially depends on the Aṅguttara Nikāya, the Vibhaṅga of Abhidhamma Piṭaka and the Paṭisambhidāmagga of Khuddaka Nikāya as the primary source; the first Text discusses the topic in general, while the other two in detail. The study also frequently refers to the secondary source, the Commentaries and Sub-commentaries, for additional interpretation and clarification of terminological ambiguity. The major commentaries which devote much exposition to the topic are the Visuddhimagga and the Vibhaṅga Aṭṭhakathā, both of them were composed by Buddhaghosa Thera in the 5th century AD. Similarly, the Sub-commentaries which offer much supplementary amplification and elucidation to the topic are the Visuddhimagga Mahāṭīkā, the Vibhaṅga Mūlaṭīkā and the Vibhaṅga Anuṭīkā, of which the first one was attributed to Dhammapāla Thera in the 6th century, and the other two to Ānanda Thera about 8th to 9th century and Culla Dhammapāla Thera (date unknown) respectively. Another Sub-commentary which seriously touches the subject-matter also should be mentioned here—the Abhidhammavatāra Abhinavaṭīkā ascribed to Sumaṅgala Thera (date unknown).
Sincere thanks to Bhikkhu Kusalagunna for making this digital version available (Binh Anson, December 2005)
last updated: 303-12-2005