Book of Analysis, analytic insight (Vb 15): translator's introduction

By Waltham St. Lawrence

(15) Analysis Of Analytic Insight (Paṭisambhidāvibhaṅga).

In the initial fourteen chapters of the Book of Analysis so far discussed it has been evident that the first six vibhaṅgas have dealt with both the analysis of the primary qualities which con-stitute the so-called being, and, because of the nature of that being, with the suffering to which he is subject, together with the system of Causal Relations which perpetuate that unsatisfactory [lxi] state of affairs. These six chapters, which constitute well over one third of the whole text, are followed by eight vibhaṅgas dealing with the Way leading to Release from this continuity of process which we call existence. The remaining third of the volume is, as pointed out earlier, devoted to four vibhaṅgas which are not classified under either of the two main sections already dealt with. The subjects analysed therein, however, have from their very nature a direct bearing on all the preceding vibhaṅgas in that they are concerned very much with their analytical background, and to the extension of detailed knowledge of material contained therein or inferred thereby.

The first of these four sections—itself the fifteenth vibhaṅga— is entitled Paṭisambhidāvibhaṅga, here translated as Analysis of Analytic Insight.

It has been said earlier in this introduction that the Buddha in his method of teaching would never permit loose thinking, It was also said that in view of the highly trained philosophers with whom the Buddha had discussions on many occasions, precise terminology with clear definitions as to the meanings and scope of a term was of the greatest importance. This aspect may be considered by some to show an over scholastic approach to religious argument, The essential point to be appreciated, however, is that the Buddha's attitude to the knowledge of Suffering, its Cause, its Cessation, the Way Leading to its Cessation and to the many aspects of his Teaching associated therewith, was not just that the student should be taught in a philosophical manner, or even in an extremely precise philosophical manner, and thereby get to know about such things. It was that he should come to realize and appreciate in a final and ultimate sense the full import and substance of that Teaching. It was not for the student just to know, but to experience for himself and thereby undergo that utter change in his whole being attendant on absolute realization. To speak of absolute realization is one thing; to attain to it is another. One thing, however, is apparent, unless the student is very clear in his mind as to the method he should adopt in attacking the apparent infinity of problems associated with the awakening of true understanding, his analysis will become lost in a maze of muddled speculation which will succeed only in enmeshing him even more strongly in the tangle of becoming. In this vibhaṅga, therefore, the Buddha shows by example four aspects of insight [lxii] and how they are related to each other. The Buddha is always concerned that right understanding should arise as to the nature of action and its result; because of this the first two analytic insights discussed are those of Consequence and Origin.

That which is around us, both internally, externally and at any given instant, every thought and every factor comprising that thought, is capable of being analysed in terms of its being the consequence or outcome of a preceding state or condition, whether that condition be either distant or proximate, Similarly, that present state can be analysed in the sense that it is of itself the origin of a further state or condition which in its arising may be either in the distant or proximate future. Insight into either of these aspects will lead toward the realization of the complete transience, the utter impermanence of all conditioned states, and to the absolute lack of any self nature or soul being inherent therein. The apparent infinitude of the continuity of process, the seemingly endless stream of action and resultant thereby becomes more clearly comprehended. With the arising of that greater clarity of mental vision the universal nature of suffering becomes better understood. In this way the Buddha indicates that although realization of some particular aspect of ultimate truth may appear to be sudden, it is always the result and outcome of careful and logical processes of analysing a problem along particular and well defined lines which eventually lead to proper and progressive realization. This is not intellectualism but the factual path of mental process by which knowledge and realization come to be.

The third Analytical Insight, here translated as Analytic Insight of Philology, is the development of that facility in studying, in thinking and in listening, which enables understanding the better to arise because of a proper ability in the student in the discerning of meaning, in the clarification and in the forming of definitions according to the form of language in which the subject is presented. It is knowledge of the variety of ways in which the spoken word can express its meaning. This is an essential aspect of analysis, for without it it is almost impossible to gain knowledge of the first two divisions of Insight of Consequence and Origin. If one is to study directly under a teacher and listen to his words and explanations, or if one is to read and study the Scriptures and their Commentaries with the aim of gaining a proper understanding, then the developing of this Insight of Philology is of the [lxiii] utmost importance; what it means is getting the intended meaning out of what is said or read.

The fourth of the Insights, here translated as Analytic Insight of Knowledge, means the student develops that insight which involves the full and correct understanding of all that is included and inferred in the preceding three Analytic Insights, It is what might be considered as the digestion and the drawing out of the nourishment from the food supplied by the other three.

Thus it is clear to see that only by a systematic approach to the whole matter of the development of understanding can the student expect to gain from his study and practice what there is to be gained. Everything must be done by one's self, but the Buddha pointed out the various aspects of training which if seriously foliowed make the attaining of understanding, though in itself the most difficult of all things, at least a real possibility.

Little need here be said of the various sections into which the text itself is sub-divided within the three methods of Analysis According to Suttanta, Abhidhamma and Interrogation. It should, however, be appreciated as with all the other vibhaṅgas, that they are each of equal and great importance to the correct understanding of the practice of the Buddha's Teaching.