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Wisdom in Buddhism

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Title: Wisdom in Buddhism  
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Wisdom in Buddhism

10 pāramī
 6 pāramitā 
Colored items are in both lists.
Mañjuśrī, the bodhisattva of wisdom. China, 9th-10th century

Paññā (Pāli) or prajñā (Sanskrit: प्रज्ञा), "wisdom", is insight in the true nature of reality, namely dukkha, non-self and impermanence, and emptiness.


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

  • jñā can be translated as "consciousness", "knowledge", or "understanding."[web 1]
  • Pra is an intensifier which could 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

Paññā is the fourth virtue of ten Theravāda pāramitās, and the sixth of the six Mahāyāna pāramitās.

Theravada Buddhism

In the Pāli Canon, paññā is concentrated insight into the three characteristics of all things, namely impermanence, suffering and no-self, and the four noble truths.

In the 5th-century exegetical work Visuddhimagga, one of the most revered books in Theravada Buddhism, Buddhaghoṣa states that the function of paññā is "to abolish the darkness of delusion".[3]

Mahāyāna Buddhism

In Mahayana Buddhism, the importance of prajna was stressed in combination with karuna, compassion. It took a central place in the Prajñā-pāramitā Sutras, such as the Heart Sutra. Prajna is spoken of as the principal means of attaining nirvāna, 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. ^ Buddhaghosa & Ñāṇamoli 1999, p. 437.


Published sources


  1. ^ See, e.g., Monier-Williams (1899), "jña," p. 425 (retrieved 14 Aug. 2012 from "Cologne U." at
  2. ^ See, e.g., Monier-Williams (1899), "prā," p. 652 (retrieved 14 Aug. 2012 from "Cologne U." at

External links

  • What is Prajna?
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