“Jānato Passato” and Ājāniya – Critical Words to Remember

Jānato passato” means to “know and comprehend.” Just knowing about something is not enough. One who “knows and sees with dhamma cakkhu” is a “purisa ājāniya” or a Noble Person.

May 18, 2024

Jānāti and Passati

1. The “Antarāmala Sutta (Iti 88)” explains the critical meanings of “jānato” and “passato.” Jānāti means “to have heard and understood to some extent,” and passati means to have a “full understanding by grasping the teachings (dhamma). That will become clear as we proceed.

  • Greed (lobha), hate (dosa), and delusion (moha) are the “three inner stains” that blemish one’s character. The English translation in the above link is good enough to get the idea. Please read through it. Further details in “Dasa Akusala and Anatta – The Critical Link.”
  • @marker 4.1: “Luddho atthaṁ na jānāti, luddho dhammaṁ na passati” OR “A greedy person doesn’t know the truth (atthaṁ). A greedy person doesn’t see the dhamma, which reveals that truth.”
  • @marker 7.1: “Duṭṭho atthaṁ na jānāti, duṭṭho dhammaṁ na passati” OR “A hateful person doesn’t know the truth (atthaṁ). A hateful person doesn’t see the dhamma, which reveals that truth.”
  • @marker 10.1: “Mūḷho atthaṁ na jānāti, mūḷho dhammaṁ na passati” OR “A deluded person doesn’t know the truth (atthaṁ). A deluded person doesn’t see the dhamma, which reveals that truth.”

2. The “Cūḷabyūha Sutta (Snp 4.12)” explains it further. @marker 1.3: “Yo evaṁ jānāti sa vedi dhammaṁ” means “‘Whoever knows and sees it this way understands the teaching.”

  • Note that “vedi” has a similar meaning to “passati,” i.e., a deeper understanding. The “Vedas” in Hinduism originated from that word, which they acquired from Pāli during Buddha Kassapa’s time. Yes, Buddha Kassapa lived millions of years ago, before Buddha Gotama. There were not one but three Buddhas (Kakusandha, Koṇāgamana, and Kassapa) on this Earth before Buddha Gotama. See “Mahāpadāna Sutta (DN 14)“.
  • The “Kapila Sutta/dhammacariya Sutta (Snp 2.6)” is another example.
  • Jānāti is sometimes used in the mundane sense, too. See, for example, “Vatthugāthā (Snp 5.1)” and “Sippa Sutta (Ud 3.9).” On the other hand, it refers to a deeper understanding in “Posālamāṇavapucchā (Snp 5.15.)
  • The point is that “jānato” happens first, and as one makes further progress, “passato” (full understanding) comes. That deeper understanding (passato) requires Vipassana (insight meditation.)
Jānāti/Passati and Jānato/Passato

3. Pāli is a highly inflected language that uses inflection, which means changing the form of words to indicate things like tense, person, number, gender, mood, voice, and case (also called declension.) This is done by adding prefixes or suffixes or even changing the internal structure of the word itself. In contrast, English is less inflected and considered analytic, relying more on word order and auxiliary verbs to convey meaning.

  • So, instead of relying on word order or additional helper words like in English, a highly inflected language like Pāli packs a lot of information into a single word. A good resource is “Pāli—Buddha’s Language” by Kurt Schmidt. Appendix B on “Grammar Basics” provides a guide to declension and shows how the same word is modified to indicate tense, gender, etc.

For example, jānāti” means “to know,” and one who has seen is a “jānato.” In ordinary language, “jānāti” could mean “to know about a certain task, place, etc.” as in “knowing how to do a certain task.” 

  • Of course, in Buddha Dhamma, “jānāti” means learning from an Ariya about various critical foundational aspects such as the Noble Truths, Paṭicca Samuppāda, and Tilakkhana

In the same way, passati” means “to see,” and one who has seen is “passato.” In ordinary language, “passati” means “to see with eyes,” as in “seeing a tree.”

  • Of course, in Buddha Dhamma, “passati” has a deeper meaning of “seeing with Dhamma eye/dhamma cakkhu.” That means comprehending the Noble Truths, Paṭicca Samuppāda, Tilakkhana, etc. One who has achieved that is a “passato.”
“Jānato Passato” – Examples

4. Understanding cakkhu (seeing, not the physical eyes) leads to getting rid of sakkāya diṭṭhi: “Sakkāyadiṭṭhipahāna Sutta (SN 35.166).” In the link, the verse “Cakkhuṁ kho, bhikkhu, dukkhato jānato passato sakkāyadiṭṭhi pahīyati” is translated as “knowing and seeing the eye as suffering, substantialist view is given up.”

  • That explanation does not clarify much, as with most “word-by-word” translations. At a minimum, one should realize that “a person with eyes” who does not fully comprehend how their unwise use can lead to suffering, i.e., how that can be explained via Paṭicca Samuppāda. One must first hear (jānato) about that explanation from a Buddha or a disciple of the Buddha (a Noble Person) and then fully comprehend that process (passato) to remove sakkāya diṭṭhi.
  • In the same way, “Paṭhama avijjāpahāna Sutta (SN 35.79)” states the same about removing avijjā (ignorance) by first hearing about the “anicca nature” of cakkhu, rupa, cakkhu viññāṇa, etc. and fully comprehending that explanation.
  • Several other suttās refer to the elimination of all saṁyojana: “Tassa evaṁ jānato evaṁ passato kāmāsavāpi cittaṁ vimuccati, bhavāsavāpi cittaṁ vimuccati, avijjāsavāpi cittaṁ vimuccati.” See “Cūḷasuññata Sutta (MN 121),” “Cūḷasakuludāyi Sutta (MN 79),” and “Mahāsaccaka Sutta (MN 36)” among more suttās.
  • At each of the magga phala, “ jānato passato” grows culminating in the Arahanthood.
“Jānato Passato”  Leads to Arahanthood

4. One starts on the Noble Path by learning the true teachings of the Buddha (jānato), and when that leads to full comprehension (passato), one would have removed all āsavās and attained Arahanthood.

“Jānato Passato” Makes One a Noble Person (Purisa Ājānīya)

5. In the “Sabhiya Sutta (Snp 3.6),” Sabhiya asked the Buddha who can be called vedaguṁ (knowledge master), Anuviditaṁ (one with “penetrating wisdom”), viriyavāti (capable of making the necessary effort) and become an Ājāniyo (a Noble Person who is fully accomplished): Kiṁpattinamāhu vedaguṁ, Anuviditaṁ kena kathañca viriyavāti; Ājāniyo kinti nāma hoti, Puṭṭho me bhagavā byākarohi” OR “What must one attain to be called ‘knowledge master’? How does one develop “penetrating wisdomby making the necessary effort? How does one gain the name ‘thoroughbred’ (purisa ājāniyo)? May the Buddha please answer my question.”

  • The Buddha explains how one becomes a purisa ājāniyoIt is a deep sutta that needs to be explained in detail.
  • In many English translations (as in the above translation), ājānīyo is translated as thoroughbred even when referring to Noble Persons (Ariyās.)  See, for example, “Potaliya Sutta (MN 54).” Let us look into the reason for that.
Comparison of Noble Persons (Ariyās) to Well-Trained Horses

6. In the days of the Buddha, part of a good army was a battalion of well-trained horses (called assājānīyaassa ājānīya, where “assa” refers to a horse and “ājānīya” refers to “excellent quality”). Such horses don’t crave food but are always ready to learn and practice. Of course, here, the word “ājānīya” is used in a mundane sense to describe a horse with superior training.

  • In the following suttās, the Buddha compared the training of an Ariya to that of a battle-ready horse: “Assājānīya Sutta (AN 5.203),” “Assājānīya Sutta (AN 8.13),” and “Assājānīya Sutta (AN 3.142).” 
  • Nowadays, such a horse is called a “thoroughbred.” A specific breed of horse, the Thoroughbred, was developed in England and is known for its speed, agility, and spirit. The term is also applied to purebred or pedigreed animals, especially horses. However, “thoroughbred” is not quite suitable to describe a Noble Person, even though the analogy is good.
  • On the other hand, a mule (the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse) is lazy; it wants to eat well and sleep. A mule (assakhaḷuṅkaassa khaḷuṅka) looks like a horse but is of inferior quality and never trained for battle; here, “assa” refers to a horse, and “khaḷuṅkarefers to “inferior quality.”
  • The following suttās describe assa khaḷuṅka and also compare them to “people of inferior quality” or “purisakhaḷuṅkā” (purisa khaḷuṅkā, where “purisa” refers to a “person.”): “Assakhaḷuṅka Sutta (AN 9.22),” “Assakhaḷuṅka Sutta (AN 3.140),” and “Assakhaḷuṅka Sutta (AN 8.14).”   

7. Compared to a purisa ājāniyo (Noble Person), those who follow other paths (without having access to the “broader worldview of the Buddha”) waste their time.   

  • The “Nappiya Sutta (AN 10.87)” describes why certain bhikkhus do not get the respect of the others. They don’t strive to train, ignore settling existing disciplinary issues, don’t strive to abandon cravings and anger, etc. The sutta discusses many other “bad behaviors” they engage in. 
  • Again, the comparison is made to a “lazy mule.” See @marker 13.1. 
  • It is a good idea to read the whole sutta there.
Meditation Techniques for Ariya and Anariya Jhāna

8. Cultivation of jhāna could be an important part of progresing on the Noble Path, especially if one is a bhikkhu. While the term “Ariya jhāna” does not appear in the Tipiṭaka, the Buddha clearly distinguished between jhānās cultivated by Ariyās and anāriyās. For example, when a bhikkhu named Sandha visited the Buddha, he was rebuked not to meditate like a mule (khaḷuṅka) but like a horse trained for battle (Ājānīya.) See “Sandha Sutta (AN 11.9).”

  • It is good to read that whole sutta.
  • @marker 2.16, the sutta describes how an anariya yogi cultivates a jhāna: “They meditate (with the mind focused on) earth, water, fire, and air. They meditate (with the mind focused on) the dimension of infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness, or neither perception nor non-perception.”
  • Note that “breath meditation” (or anariyakasina meditation” using a clay ball or fire) belongs to that category; it focuses the mind on the “air element.”
  • How does an Ariya meditate? That is described @marker 3.13: “They don’t meditate (with the mind focused on) earth, water, fire, and air. They don’t meditate (with the mind focused on) the dimension of infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness, or neither perception nor non-perception. They don’t meditate (with the mind focused on) this world or the other world. They don’t meditate (with the mind focused on) what is seen, heard, thought, known, attained, sought, or explored by the mind.”
  • We will discuss that further in the next post.

9. Several suttās compare the quality of Ariya and anariya jhānās to that between a well-trained horse and a lazy mule. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email