A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas is a masterwork , written by Acharn 1 Sujin Boriharnwanaket with great patience and a sense of urgency to help others to understand reality. The whole book, in which she explains in all details about citta, consciousness, cetasika, mental factors, and rúpa, physical phenomena, eradiates abundant mettå, loving kindness. Acharn Sujin stresses time and again that theoretical understanding, only knowing realities by name, is not sufficient, although it can be a foundation for direct knowledge. The real purpose of the study of the Dhamma is: seeing that this very moment is dhamma, non-self. All realities, dhammas, have to be known now, when they occur, so that the wrong view of self can be eradicated.
Acharn Sujin is the wise friend in Dhamma who untiringly explains the practice leading to the direct experience of realities. She has been explaining the Dhamma for over forty years and her lectures are braodcast daily all over Thailand; they can also be heard in Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia. This book is based on her lectures.
Throughout the whole book Acharn Sujin points to the truth of anattå, non-self. The clinging to the concept of self is very subtle and intricate and therefore difficult to notice. We are inclined to cling to an idea of self who develops paññå, understanding, but from the beginning we ought to remember that there is no self who can direct the arising of sati, awareness, and paññå. Sati and paññå are sobhana cetasikas (beautiful mental factors) which arise when there are the appropriate conditions and then they perform their functions already. Clinging to sati and paññå will be counteractive to their development. The right conditions for sati and paññå are listening to the Dhamma as it is explained by the right friend in the Dhamma and wise consideration of it. Acharn Sujin is the good friend in the Dhamma who assists many people to develop sati and paññå.
Acharn Sujin explains in detail about citta which arises in a process or series, with the purpose of showing that citta is only a conditioned element which is beyond control, non-self. The reader may wonder where in the scriptures he can find explanations about processes of citta. Acharn Sujin has a wide knowledge and a profound understanding of the whole Tipiìaka, the Commentaries and subcommentaries, and she used these texts as her sources. The Path of Discrimination (Paìisambhidåmagga of the Khuddaka
Nikåya 2 ) and the Conditional Relations (Paììhåna 3) deal with the processes of cittas. Many details have been given in the Visuddhimagga 4, and the Expositor (Aììhasåliní 5) which are entirely based on canonical tradition. Also the Manual of Abhidhamma (Abhidhammattha Saògaha) and the subcommentary, the Abhidhammattha-vibhåviní-ìíka, which are also derived from canonical tradition, deal with the processes of citta. Acharn Sujin has also made use of the latter subcommentary for the composition of her book.
The reader may wonder why so many details have been given about the different planes of existence where there can be birth. In the Scriptures, especially in the Jåtakas we shall come accross the names of these planes. Knowing about them helps us to see the intricacy of the causes which bring their appropriate results.
Many details about the development of samatha and the jhånacittas have been given with the purpose of pointing out that only the right cause can bring the right result. Samatha has to be developed with kusala citta accompanied by paññå and if that is not the case, there is wrong concentration with lobha, attachment, instead of right concentration. If someone sits and tries to concentrate without any understanding, there is wrong concentration. People may erroneously take for jhåna what is only lobha, and therefore, Acharn Sujin explains how many conditions are necessary for the attainment of jhåna and how difficult this is.
In the development of vipassanå, insight, paññå is developed in stages. Acharn Sujin explains in detail about these different stages of insight knowledge in order to show that the development of paññå is an extremely long process 6. One may read the Visuddhimagga (Ch XVIII-XXI) or the Path of Discrimination (Treatise on Knowledge, Ch V-XI) about the stages of insight with wrong understanding. One may erroneously believe that these stages are reached by thinking of nåma, mental phenomena, and rúpa, physical phenomena, by thinking of impermanence, dukkha and anattå. However, all stages, from the first stage on until
enlightenment, are realized by direct understanding of nåma and rúpa. No matter what stage paññå has reached, the object of pañña are the characteristics of nåma and rúpa as they naturally appear at this very moment. Acharn Sujin stresses this many times, because the practice of the Dhamma should be entirely in conformity with the Tipiìaka.
With my deepest appreciation of Acharn Sujins inspiring guidance I offer the translation of this book to the English speaking reader.
Khun 7 Amara Chayabongse translated the whole book, and her enthusiasm and her efforts inspired me to also translate the other parts of this book. For the first part of this book I gratefully consulted her translation in order to make some corrections. Thus, I wish to express my appreciation to her too.
I am very grateful to Khun Santi Phantakeong who wrote a Lexicon to this book at Acharn Sujins request. He explained many terms used in this book, and by his explanations he reminds the reader that all notions and terms deal with the reality appearing at this moment. I greatly appreciate his efforts.
I have divided the sections of this book into chapters, each with its own heading, in order to make the text more easily accessible. The footnotes to the text of this book are for the greater part from my hand. I added them to help the reader who is not familiar with some terms and notions in Acharn Sujins text.
The quotations from the suttas in English are mostly taken from the editions of the Pali Text Society 8.
May this book, basic for all who study the Dhamma, inspire the reader to carefully consider the realities explained by Acharn Sujin, and to develop more understanding of them.
Nina van Gorkom
1 Acharn in Thai means teacher. The påli term is åchariya.
2 See Treatise on Knowledge, Ch XVII, Behaviour, Cariya.
3 See Feeling Triplet, Investigation Chapter, under Proximity and Repetition, where also the process of enlightenment is dealt with. One has to remember that mind-element, mano-dhåtu, includes the adverting-consciousness and the receiving-consciousness, and that mind-consciousness-element includes all cittas other than those included in mind-element and the sense-cognitions.
4 Ch XIV, 96 and following, in the translation by Ven. Nyåùamoli.
5 II, Book I, Part X, Ch I and Ch II.
6 Cira kåla bhåvana, a development which takes a long time. Cira means long, and kåla means time.
7 In Thai Khun stands for Ms. or Mr.
8 73 Lime Walk, Headington, Oxford OX 37, 7AD. England.