Wisdom in Buddhism
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Wisdom in Buddhism
Mañju?r?, the bodhisattva of wisdom. China, 9th-10th century

Prajñ? (Sanskrit) or paññ? (P?li) "wisdom" is insight in the true nature of reality, namely primarily anicca (impermanence), dukkha (dissatisfaction or suffering), anatt? (non-self) and nyat? (emptiness).


Prajñ? is often translated as "wisdom", but is closer in meaning to "insight", "non-discriminating knowledge", or "intuitive apprehension".[1]

  • jñ? can be translated as "consciousness", "knowledge", or "understanding".[web 1]
  • Pra is an intensifier which can be translated as "higher", "greater", "supreme" or "premium",[web 2] or "being born or springing up",[2] referring to a spontaneous type of knowing.[2]

Understanding in the Buddhist traditions

Paññ? is the fourth virtue of ten Therav?da p?ramit?s, and the sixth of the six Mah?y?na p?ramit?s.

Theravada Buddhism

In the P?li Canon, paññ? is concentrated insight into the three characteristics of all things, namely impermanence, suffering and no-self, and the four noble truths.[3][4][5]

In the 5th-century exegetical work Visuddhimagga, one of the most revered books in Theravada Buddhism, Buddhagho?a states that the function of paññ? is "to abolish the darkness of delusion".[6]

Mah?y?na Buddhism

In Mahayana Buddhism, the importance of prajna was stressed in combination with karuna, compassion. It took a central place in the Prajñ?-p?ramit? Sutras, such as the Heart Sutra. Prajna is spoken of as the principal means of attaining nirv?na, through its revelation of the true nature of all things as emptiness.

See also


  1. ^ Keown 2003, p. 218.
  2. ^ a b Loy 1997, p. 136.
  3. ^ Steven Collins (1998). Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities. Cambridge University Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-521-57054-1.
  4. ^ Richard Gombrich (2006). Theravada Buddhism. Routledge. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-134-90352-8., Quote: "All phenomenal existence [in Buddhism] is said to have three interlocking characteristics: impermanence, suffering and lack of soul or essence."
  5. ^ Carl Olson (2005). The Different Paths of Buddhism: A Narrative-Historical Introduction. Rutgers University Press. pp. 63-64. ISBN 978-0-8135-3778-8.
  6. ^ Buddhaghosa & Ñamoli 1999, p. 437.


Published sources

  • Buddhaghosa; Bhikkhu Ñamoli (1999), The Path of Purification: Visuddhimagga, Buddhist Publication Society, ISBN 1-928706-00-2
  • Keown, Damien (2003), A Dictionary of Buddhism, Oxford University Press
  • Loy, David (1997), Nonduality. A Study in Comparative Philosophy, Humanity Books
  • Nyanaponika Thera; Bhikkhu Bodhi (1999), Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: An Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya, Altamira Press, ISBN 0-7425-0405-0
  • Rhys Davids, T. W.; Stede, William (1921-25), The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary, Pali Text Society


  1. ^ See, e.g., Monier-Williams (1899), "jña," p. 425 (retrieved 14 August 2012 from "Cologne U." at mw0425-jehila.pdf).
  2. ^ See, e.g., Monier-Williams (1899), "pr?," p. 652 (retrieved 14 Aug. 2012 from "Cologne U." at http://www.sanskrit-lexicon.uni-koeln.de/cgi-bin/monier/serveimg.pl?file=/scans/MWScan/MWScanjpg/mw0659-prajalpana.jpg)

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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