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aka: cha'abhiññā (the six ~)

Higher Knowledge, The Six Higher Knowledges (Powers)

The six higher knowledges of the Arahant: Knowledge of magic powers enabling manipulation of the visible world; super-normal hearing and comprehension of sounds far and near; knowledge of the hearts and minds of others; knowledge of past lives; knowledge of the outcome of deeds; knowledge that the corrupting influences [āsavas] have been destroyed.

Selected References:

The Pāḷi Line: Higher Powers
[DN 34] D III.281
[DN 2] §87
[AN 5.28]
ATI: The Factors of Concentration
[SN 5.45.163]
BD: SN 5.45.163: Influences

Pāḷi MO Hare Horner Punnaji Bodhi Nanamoli Rhys Davids (Mrs)Rhys Davids Thanissaro Walshe Woodward
Abhiññā Higher Knowledge, Higher Powers super-knowledge direct knowledge superknowledge superknowledge supranormal super-knowledges knowledge


Pāḷi Text Society
Pāḷi English Dictionary
Edited by T. W. Rhys Davids and William Stede


Abhiññā: 1 (f.) [fr. abhi + jñā, see jānāti]. Rare in the older texts. It appears in two contexts. Firstly, certain conditions are said to conduce (inter alia) to serenity, to special knowledge (abhiññā), to special wisdom, and to Nibbāna. These conditions precedent are the Path (S V.421 = Vin I.10 = S IV.331), the Path + best knowledge and full emancipation (A V.238), the Four Applications of Mindfulness (S V.179) and the Four Steps to Iddhi (S. V.255). The contrary is three times stated; wrong-doing, priestly superstitions, and vain speculation do not conduce to abhiññā and the rest (D III.131; A III.325 sq. and V.216). Secondly, we find a list of what might now be called psychic powers. It gives us 1, Iddhi (cp. levitation); 2, the Heavenly Ear (cp. clairaudience); 3, knowing others' thoughts (cp. thought-reading); 4, recollecting one's previous births; 5, knowing other people's rebirths; 6, certainty of emancipation already attained (cp. final assurance). This list occurs only at D III.281 as a list of abhiññās. It stands there in a sort of index of principal subjects appended at the end of the Dīgha, and belongs therefore to the very close of the Nikāya period. But it is based on older material. Descriptions of each of the six, not called abhiññā's, and interspersed by expository sentences or paragraphs, are found at D I.89 sq. (trsl. Dial. I.89 sq.); M I.34 (see Buddhist Suttas, 210 sq.); A I.255, 258 = III.17, 280 = IV.421. At S I.191; Vin II.16; Pug 14, we have the adj. cha'abhiññā ("endowed with the 6 Apperceptions"). At S II.216 we have five, and at S V.282, 290 six abhiññā's mentioned in glosses to the text. And at S II.217, 222 a bhikkhu claims the 6 powers. See also M II.11; III.96. It is from these passages that the list at D III. has been made up, and called abhiññā's.

Afterwards the use of the word becomes stereotyped. In the Old Commentaries (in the Canon), in the later ones (of the 5th cent. A.D.), and in medieval and modern Pāli, abhiññā, nine times out ten, means just the powers given in this list. Here and there we find glimpses of the older, wider meaning of special, supernormal power of apperception and knowledge to be acquired by long training in life aud thought. See Nd1 108, 328 (expln. of ñāṇa); Nd2 s. v. and N0. 466; Ps I.35; II.156, 189; Vbh 228, 334; Pug 14; Nett 19, 20; Miln 342; Vism 373; Mhvs XIX.20; DA I.175; DhA II.49; IV.30; Sdhp 228, 470, 482. See also the discussion in the Cpd. 60 sp., 224 sq. For the phrase saya* abhiññā sacchi-katvā and abhiññā-vosita see abhijānāti. The late phrase yath- abhiñña- means "as you please, according to liking, as you like" , J V.365 (= yathādhippāya* yathāruci* C.). For abhiññā in the use of an adj. (*abhiñña) see abhiñña.




PTS: DN.34, The Tenfold Series, VI (pp257-8), Rhys Davids, trans. [Excerpt]:

x. There are Six Things that help much, that are to be developed, to be realized: — the six superknowledges. Herein, friends, a brother
(1) enjoys the wondrous gift[1] in its various modes: — being one, he becomes many ... he becomes ... invisible; he goes without obstruction through a wall ... solid ground ... on water ... in the sky ... he reaches with the body up to the heaven of Brahmā;
(2) by deva-hearing, purified, surpassing that of men, he hears sounds both heavenly and human, far and near;
(3) by his mind he understands the minds of other beings, other persona; he discerns the passionate mind as passionate ... the freed mind as freed, the unfree mind as unfree;
(4) he recalls to mind the various temporary states as he lived in day gone by, namely, one birth, or more ... in all their details and their modes;
(5) with the deva-sight, purified, surpassing that of men, he discerns the pageant of beings faring according to their deeds;
(6) he lives in the attainment, the personal knowledge and realization, through the extinction of the intoxicants, of sane and immune freedom of heart and mind.


[1] Iddhi (Vol. I, 88 f.; cf. above, p. 253, x.).


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