stages of insight


Dear Nina & Jaran,

Sorry for the delay.

I’m adding some tapescript below which I hope may be helpful. Any mistakes
are mine of course;-). I’ve added brackets for some translations and extra
words to clarify as I understand. I think most people will find this
discussion very abstruse and may wish to skip it.
Jaran wrote:
“Now question (from Jaran): In the case of paccayaparigaha~na~na, pa~n~na
understands the conditions of dhamma, what about the sammasana-~nana, what
is the things to be understood by pa~na~na?
Anyone, please?”
Sarah: This was similar to a post of Nina’s (to Jon) which I read out to
K.Sujin in Bangkok, relating to the understanding of groups and khandhas.

Note: Just to summarise briefly, the first three stages of insight are:

1. naama-ruupa

Panna clearly understands the distinction between nama and rupa

2. paccaya-pariggaha-~naana

As Jaran writes above, panna clearly understands the conditioned nature of
dhammas. The anatta nature of dhammas is seen more clearly

3. sammasana

Panna understands ‘groups’ by understanding the succession of namas and
rupas arising and falling away.“Sammasana is derived from sammasati, to
grasp, to know thoroughly.” (‘Survey’, by A.Sujin)
Sarah reads out Nina’s question about sammasana and understanding
of groups.

When there is the touching of hardness, panna knows (the reality). There
is no need to think of groups…… It seems like we are only talking
about one object and one doorway and one series of javana (cittas).
Actually there are many series of javanas. That’s why groups can appear.

Because there are many processes and many javanas, so one appears at a

We shouldn’t say one at a time, because it’s so fast. That’s it. We
cannot count, we cannot know by ourselves how many there are of each.
Just when it appears, the kalapa (group) appears.

So, like at the first stage, the way nama and rupa can be distinguished is
because the processes are so quick…..

We don’t need to think of ‘process’ at all, because the manodvara
(mind-door) appears. Now the manodvara does not appear. So this is the
difference between satipatthana and vipassana nana. Because even if there
is a moment of being aware, the reality does not appear as it is. If it
appears as it is, the manodvara will appear. So all the vipassana nanas
appear through the mind-door process. We do not count at all. (There is)
no word, no thinking about process or name, but reality appears through
the mind-door – rupa and nama. But, panna at that level (1st stage) is
not keen enough to understand more, because it’s just the first experience
of manodvara and nama and rupa. So that is the first vipassana nana,
which is not enough, because there is also thinking ….(which) thinks,
“not I anymore”, but the thinking and ideas are conditioned. When panna
develops more, the satipatthana arises and is aware of more objects – not
just only when it’s vipassana nana – to develop and support the growth of
panna. So the more panna can develop and see the different realities,
(the more) it sees the paccaya (conditions), things cannot be different
(from how they are).

But it’s not just the word. For example, right now, there is seeing. It
sees the visible object. There is no need to say “the visible object is
the paccaya for seeing consciousness” because you see that when the Buddha
became enlightened, (there was) no word at all, but his panna was so great
that he could explain and tell the details of everything with his panna.

So that is the second one (stage). The third one experiences different
kalapas. That’s all. No need to talk about when, how many and through

So there’s still only one reality being experienced. Because of the nature
of different javanas….

Yes, but still no arising and falling away like in higher nana. It must be
through the mind-door.

I say OK, but it’s never OK….

Because you see, people usually think more than experience, so it brings
more doubt because it cannot be known by thinking.


Another extract.

Note : The first 3 stages of insight are referred to as ‘tender insight’
or vipassanaa. Panna is referred to as ‘cintaa’ or
thinking insight. The higher levels are ‘balava vipassanaa’ or ‘insight as

Sarah asks about cinta nana.

At higher levels, there is still thinking in between (other realities),
but panna knows thinking and there is less and less clinging to the idea
of self. With full understanding, there is no ‘falling down’, less doubt,
less idea of self.

How can space be known as it is asabhava (without it’s own nature)?

There can be understanding of space between groups of rupas, space between
kalapas. it can be proved when panna is developed and can experience many
groups of rupas, not just one at sammasananana (3rd stage). One group is
smaller than dust.

Panna develops more and more, seeing closer and closer. Hardness is just
one characteristic.

Usually one reads further than one knows. There is no question about how
many (are experienced) because at the moment of vipassana nana, there is
no counting – just seeing closer and closer. The best thing is to develop
what one can know, so that one knows what can be proven first. Then there
is no question about how many. At vipassana nana, there’s no counting or
thinking. Still (at the 3rd stage), only one reality like hardness –
smaller than dust.

That hardness has now gone. There is the arising and falling away. Khandha
refers to anything which arises and falls away so fast. Whenever it (the
khandha) arises, it is conditioned to be different from past and future
ones. It is never the same. This is the meaning of khandha. The one that
is coarse or fine, good or bad, in the past, future or now. (At this
stage), there is no doubt about what and why is khandha – it is anything
which arises and falls away.

The Mahabhuta rupas (4 primary rupas) arise together and with other rupas,
(just as) cittas arise with cetasikas. Khandha, dhatu and ayatana are the
bhumi (?sphere?) of satipatthana, but there must be understanding of
realities first. In order to understand khandha, first there must be the
understanding that visible object is the rupa experienced through the
eyes, in order to understand groups (later). There has to be the
understanding of many javanas and vithi cittas (process cittas) – (an)
uncountable (number).
I hope this helps. Comments welcome.



Hi Sarah,
> Are ‘groups’ concepts?
>N:Khandha is a group and A.Sujin speaks about direct experience of groups,
thus, realities. > I read: is no need to think of groups…… It seems like we are only talking
> about one object and one doorway and one series of javana (cittas).
> Actually there are many series of javanas. That’s why groups can appear.> end
Thus, they appear. As I see it: hardness appears, and we may think that it
is just one rupa unit, but in reality it is in a group: of the great
Elements and other four rupas, thus eight. And then each moment of
experience: in fact there are many javanas. But, we better not think too
much or count. We just know how coarse awareness is. Later more can be
known, but we are not as far yet. Maybe the speculating about what will be
known later on does not help us. What do you think? For now there is just
this or that characteristic that appears, but a lot of thinking about it
Another way she used to explain the third stage of tender insight: the
arising and falling away is known but coarsely, not precisely, not the
arising of one nama or rupa at a time.
I could clarify this a little:
When she says the mind-door, she means the mind-door process. Nama can be
known through the mind-door, and the vipassana nanas arise in mind-door
processes. When satipatthana is being developed, we do not know nama as it
really is. When a stage of insight arises, nama is directly
known. Then it can be directly known that seeing as nama, an element that
Any additions by Kom are most welcome!!! Kom may discuss this in Jack’s Bay
Area group.

namarupapariccheda- nana (distinguishing of nama and rupa)
is the first stage of vipassana. It is the same as ditthi
visuddhhi(purification of view)and is the most important stage
before before becoming a sotapanna because it is the first stage
of vipassana. Some people imagine they have attained it when
they concentrate and know, for example, that first there is the
intention to walk and then walking occurs. It is actually much
more profound than that and Khun Sujin has explained how at that
moment the mind-door, which is hidden to us by the rapidity of
chage and the idea of a “whole”, is revealed and the difference
between nama and rupa is clearly seen. It can only occur when
wisdom is sufficiently accumulated by hearing, considering ( of
the types done with mahakusala citta associated with panna
(wisdom)) much dhamma and by, as you correctly noted, having
studied (with panna) again and again the visesa lakkhana of
different dhammas.

K Busabongrampai (Q): Continuation of my question from last
week, there are 8 maggas arising with lokuttara citta
(during the Enlightment) and only 5 or 6 magga when
satipatthana arises. My question is “how many path factors
that are arising with vipassana ~na~na?”

A Sujin: Is vipassana ~na~na a magga citta, supermundane

K Busabongrampai: No, it’s not a magga citta.

A Sujin: So how many magga factors?

K Busabongrampai: Is it five?

A Sujin: Is there a need to know how many magga factors at
the vipassana ~na~na moment? At the moment of vipassana
~na~na or even of satipatthana, it is beyond the theory.
What matters is now, but we almost always overlook [the
characteristic of dhamma at] this moment. When
satisa.mpajjhanna arises, do we need to know how many
cetasikas co-arising?

K Busabongrampai: No, not at all.

A Sujin: So long as it is not magga citta, all three virati
cannot arise at the same time. Only pa~n~na can tell.
Often when we study dhamma, we are caught in detail of the
interesting theory. But we also need to consider if we can
understand [realize, know, experience] as described. Those
we don’t know and have some doubts now will be apparent when
we experience the characteristics of sabhava dhamma. Until
that happens, we are bound to doubts and to be caught in the
detail of the concept [as in theory] of dhamma which is not
the direct experience of characteristics of dhamma.

K Busabongrampai: So I think the answer to my question
should be only five path factors because of the absence of
the three virati cetasikas.

A Sujin: We can always continue to think, to ponder and
discuss about it. The question is for understaning the
realities, what must coarise [with citta]? And what level
of pa~n~na can tell [what coarising with that particular
vipassana ~na~na]?

K Busabongrampai: A moment ago K Sunan asked about
anatta-ness. For us to whom satipatthana begin to arise,
the pa~na~na is too weak to understand the nature of
non-self. But the moment after satipatthana, it seems that
we can retionalize that it [dhamma] is anatta more easily.

K Busabongrampi: A question about anatta, at the very
beginning when satipatthana just begins to arise, the
anatta-ness perhaps has not arisen. Can the subsequent
thoughts contemplate and retional the anatta-ness and the
dhamma may appear as anatta more clearly than usual?

A Sujin: It is impossible to think and have the same
understanding as the arising of vipassana ~na~na that
penetrates the characteristics of dhamma.

K Ratchada (Q): Regarding the understanding of the
distinction (demarkation) of nama and rupa
[nama-rupapariccheda~na~na], at the time of sati being aware
of, say, nama, is this already considered distinction? Or
does pa~n~na have to be able to tell the attributes of nama
from that of rupa?

A Sujin: It’s not the name that can tells. A skillful
person is steadfast of being honest to know whether or not
at this moment of, say, seeing, he is able to experience
realities as they are.

At the moment of seeing, there are both seeing and what is
being seen, … and both now quickly have fallen away.
Similarly, at the moment of hearing, there is hearing and
what is being heard. If we are to experience the realities,
we will experience the characteristics of hearing that it is
the element that knows” an object and what is heard as
the element that is being experienced. All of these happen
in daily, ordinary life.

However, for beginners the arising of sati may be very far
apart. For example, sati may arise at certain moments of
hearing but not seeing. Between the moments of
satipatthana, there is thinking. Although thinking always
arises after seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and
touching, we hardly know the quality of thinking.

If vipassana ~na~na is to arise now to penetrate the
characteristics of dhamma, it will understand the quality of
dhamma as usual only more profoundly with finer detail.
Vipassana ~na~na understand the characteristics of thinking
that it is different from seeing, hearing etc.

What it means by demarkation (distinction) of nama and rupa
is that no matter what the dhamma is, it is always an
element. Nama element always appear as mentality and never
as materiality, penetrates the nama dhamma in the nama-rupa
pariccheda ~na~na it cannot (does not) avoid experiencing
the object at that moment without discrimination. At that
moment, through the mind-door pa~n~na understands clearly
the nature of mentality and materiality.

Even for thinking (contemplating), vipassana~na~na can arise
to be aware of it and panna can study its characteristics.
At the moment of thinking, it is a natural phenomenon;
thinking is an element, not self, knowing an object. When
vipassana~na~na falls away, that person knows that thinking
cannot be controlled because the understanding prior to the
arising of nama-rupaparicchada~na~na and after it are
different. Furthermore, pa~na~na at the level of vipassana
nana cannot choose to experience an element, but it arise
due to conditions.

Vipassana-nana, or the insight knowledge, is the clear comprehension of the
characteristics of realities. There are 16 levels, which are attainment
levels, of clear comprehension starting with nama-rupa paricheta nana, or
the separation of nama and rupa. What does insight knowledge cognitive of?
The realities, the kandhas, the sense bases, and the dhatus, all realities
(paramatha dhammas), and not the concepts (pannatti, or objects of
thinking). How does Vipassana-nana come about? It comes from the
development of panna starting from panna at the listening level, at the
thinking level, and at the practice level.

There are many difficulties in learning about Vipassana. Firstly, vipassana
is a clear comprehension of REALITIES. If we consider why the Buddha’s
teaching is said to be irrefutable, we can begin to understand what
realities are. For example, when two people see a woman, one says she is
pretty, and the other says she isn’t. This fact of prettiness is refutable.
The Buddha’s teaching isn’t like that. Aversion has the characteristic of
repulsion of its object. When aversion arises, only a fool (well, moha or
ignorance) would deny / be unaware of this characteristic which is
irrefutable. The teachings of anicca (impermanence), dukha (suffering), and
anatta (non-self, uncontrollability) are like this as well: they are
irrefutable and inherent to realities.

Second, vipassana is a CLEAR COMPREHENSION of realities. It is not thinking
of realities. We may misunderstand our thinking of realities as
vipassana-nana. For example, thinking that nothing is permanent is not the
same as comprehending that nothing is permanent. Repeating to oneself about
impermanence, or enumerating the things that we think are impermanent, is
not vipassana-nana.

Third, one doesn’t jump from knowing nothing about realities to an
immediate, clear comprehension of anicca, dukha, and anatta, unless one has
been accumulating for a long time. Panna progresses in stages (hence the 16
levels). It is impossible to have clear comprehension of anicca and dukkha
without first the clear comprehension of nama and rupa.

It’s important to learn about the difference between kusala citta and
akusala cittas. We have them throughout our daily life. Without more
refined and thorough distinctions between the two, we often take akusala as
kusala. For example, when we see a small child, and we pet him, is that
petting born out of kindness or attachment? Kindness and attachment both
are co nascent with either pleasant mental feeling (and piti, or happiness)
or neutral mental feelings. The mental feeling alone cannot be used to
distinguish between the two. Even moha-mula citta, consciousness rooted in
ignorance, is also conascent with neutral mental feeling. When we feel calm
and undisturbed, is that kusala citta or citta born out of ignorance?

Kusala is free from defilements (kilesa). When the consciousness is kusala,
it is said to be mental seclusion (seclusion, or viveka, are two: body and
mental). It is secluded from defilements. For a bikkhu who lives near
town, he is said to be secluded if he is not defiled. When is the mind free
from defilement? Only when it is inclined toward dana (giving), sila
(abstaining from bad deeds, completing good deeds), tranquil development, or
insight development. When the mind is inclined toward other things, the
mind is defiled.

How do you know what I said above is true? It must match the Buddha
teachings, and ultimately, realities. We should prove to ourselves if what
one says matches / diverges from the Buddha teachings, and when one has
enough wisdom to prove/disprove it, then one no longer has to rely on others
in the development of panna.


• TA on characteristic
• Alberto Spera

Lukas: I’m trying to consider whatever there is as not mine, anatta…

Than Acharn: That is thinking; without thinking there cannot be any
conditions for direct awareness (of realities) like hardness, you have
to think; so, a reality is appearing, but those who do not understand it
take it for something instantly, and it falls away and arises again and
falls away again; they keep on on the idea of something permanent
instead; but in reality only the hardness is there, and (then) there is
seeing, it indicates that hardness doesn’t last at all – because there
is seeing, at the moment visible object’s appearing it’s not hardness,
so one can understand theoretically that everything goes all the time,
so by having such understanding no need to think about the past or the
future – only a characteristic: this is the studying of Dhamma, studying
the characteristic.

It’s hard, we don’t have to think that – only that characteristic is
hardness, not heat; so whatever appears, attention to that reality, and
that moment it’s studying or learning to know that it’s only a reality,
that’s why, Khun Lukas, it’s satipatthana.

L: Is it hardness or touching?

TA: (they’re) different, hardness is not touching, and touching is not
hard, touching can never be hard, it experiences hardness, at that
moment it’s so very… almost impossible to separate the two, because
they are there together, but actually without that which can experience,
hardness cannot appear; so this is the way the dhammas are taught all
the time, about conditions of each reality, until there is a little
understanding, when time comes, not being forgetful about the
characteristic; so at moment of having a reality appearing, it’s time to
understand it, not only by the book, because we’ve read a book, we’ve
the theoretical knowledge about it, but when time comes where is the
theoretical knowledge, it has to be right at that moment when it
appears, and that’s why the Buddha taught about three levels of
understanding, the theoretical understanding or intellectual
understanding, the direct one, and the penetration or realization.

Hi Sarah, and All.
First of all, I’d like to say a quick hello and introduce myself – I’m Robert Epstein, or “Rob E.” on dsg. Hi to my dsg friends and hello to anyone who doesn’t know me. I’ve been following Theravada/Abhidhamma-related issues on dsg for over a decade, and live in Washington, DC, USA.

Regarding the third stage of insight, I’m a little confused about how the knowledge of the groupings of rupas, and the understanding that they arise in groups, develops from knowing one dhamma at a time. Is it by way of sanna and through the mind door that the grouped nature of the directly known rupas is developed? Does that make this type of insight conceptual, or dependent on a conceptual element? Does panna know the grouped nature of the experienced rupas by way of nimitta, or how does insight associated with more than one rupa take place?

Rob E.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Nice to have you here Robert E!
Remember that sanna arises with every citta.
When for example hardness is experienced at this moment – without any wisdom- I think it is not only the hardness of one kalapa; there must be so many (remember how tiny a kalapa is). Yet without wisdom it is all so unclear.
By the 3rd stage of vipassana the minddoor – which is always arising and passing, but which is “hidden” in normal life, is now clear and so panna is seeing into the nature of reality. the kalapas -which surely arise in groups and even akasa would be known more and more clearly..
So while it is true that one dhama is known at a time, wosdom is arising and rearising in processes of cittas.

I don’t know if this clarifies or makes it worse.
I am speaking not from experience of course

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