Is saññā related to sañjānāti? (AN6.63)

Is saññā (fr. saṃ + jñā)
related to sañjānāti (saṃ + ñā + nā)?
Roots in () brackets were found in the dictionaries.

Stumbled upon AN6.63 thanks to Wisdom Publication DN Introduction Pg 33 (under Kamma).

Found the sutta riveting, especially when attempting to read in pali together with the english translation (Bhikkhu Bodhi).

[A bit annoyed that the āgama parallel mā111 is probably in the yet-to-be-published Vol. 2 of BDK]

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Yes, sañjānāti is simply the verb form of saññā; or more correctly, saññā is the noun form of sañjānāti.


Bhanthe, is that then related to ‘anna kondanna!’, the proclamation by the Buddha when the leader of the Five ascetics became a stream entrant, the first disciple who became a stream entrant in the dispensation?

with metta

Yes, aññā is from the same root, but has a distinct meaning. Saññā means “perception, recognition” while aññā means “enlightenment”.

The Indo European root “to know” (g̑en), found in Pali as the various forms of the root ñā, is one of the most prolific and characteristic of all PIE roots. Indeed, so much so that it is still extremely well represented in English. It’s why we have a “k” at the beginning of “know”; compare Sanskrit jnā with Pali ñā. It’s also found in roots like “ken”, “cognize”, etc. The PIE root u̯(e)id- (Pali vijjā, vijjati, veda, vedanā, etc.) is also strongly represented in English as “wit”, “witness”, “witch”, “wicca”, etc.

I think this is very significant, like cows :cow2: and horses :racehorse:

Why? Because for both of these we use the PIE root in Indic and European languages: gu̯ou/cow/go and * ḱr̥sos/horse/assa.

And this is for a very well-defined historical reason: horses and cows were extremely important to the ancient PIE people, and in fact they probably domesticated the horse (and the cow? I don’t know.) When they traveled to Europe and India, the things that were crucially important to them made a lasting impact on the people of their new lands, and remain in the language today. There’s no PIE root for, say, elephant, because they weren’t found in the PIE homeland.

So I think the very idea of “knowledge” was an Indo-European characteristic or invention. Not that other peoples don’t have knowledge, but perhaps it wasn’t as central, as reflected on, as definitive a part of their life. When the PIE people traveled the world, they didn’t just take their horses and their cows, they took their “knowledge”.

And this gets even more speculative, but I wonder if the two things are related: that is, is the very fact of the portability of PIE culture related to their idea of knowledge? Normally, knowledge is passed down in an embedded way in culture; it is fixed to the landscape, the people, the village, the stories of the elders. But when you go to another land, this traditional embodied knowledge or “kenning” is disrupted. You need to think about what it is that you know, how it is that you know, and how that knowledge can be preserved in a portable form, i.e. memory.

Could it be that the diaspora of the PIE peoples, for reasons we can only guess at, was the initial spur behind the creation of knowledge and learning as we know it today?


Is this also the root of the English word “wisdom”?


Yes, I think so.


Via the German “wissen”, “to know”. Likewise “kennen”, to know as in to recognize. (English is classed as a “germanic” language.)

Oddly, even our “note” goes back through Greek “gnosis” to the same PIE roots. (And in reading Mahasi Sayadaw’s more in-depth writings, this appears the sense he intended by “noting” in his vipassana method.)


Do the ancestral Semitic languages have the concept of knowledge? Was it borrowed from the PIE? I presume it wasn’t. I even presume we can find a native word for knowledge in Nahuatl and Quechua. A definite sign of the PIE being teh inventors of knowledge would be the borrowing of the words or roots into Semitic or Finno-Ugric languages, and a brief survey of modern words for ‘know’ in Finnish and Classical Arabic make this an unlikely possibility.

The research of the Early PIE shows that their culture was more primitive than the more sophisticated cultures of Central Asia and Near East. In fact, the chances are the early Indo-Aryans may have been for Central Asia exactly what the Huns and Mongols were for the later Europeans and Central Asians: ruthless blood-thirsty nomads destroying all on their way, killing and capturing thousands of people. So, how many fundamental cultural concepts like ‘knowledge’ did we inherit from the later nomadic people attacking Europe? I suspect the answer is equal or very close to zero.

I think the concept of knowledge (not the knowledge itself) is too basic for the normal functioning of an intelligent being that it was not an invention of the PIE people. Much more intriguing is how we can see where the idea for this concept may have come for. So, u̯(e)id is still very closely related to the word ‘see’: cf. Russian obsolete vedat’ ‘to know’ and Russian videt’ ‘see’, Latin videre ‘see’, etc. In fact, the PIE is theorized to have had more root for seeing, e.g. derḱ (cf. Sanskrit dṛś) and speḱ (cf. English spy). The fact that in some languages they were replaced with the derivative or variant grade of of u̯(e)id is quite interesting.

Even more intriguing is the difference in semantics between g̑en and u̯(e)id that is still maintained in many Slavic and Germanic languages (e.g. the Polish wiedzieć ‘to know, have information’ and znać ‘to know, be acquainted with’, as well as German wissen and kennen are direct descendants of these roots); I mean, not that the modern semantic difference is necessarily identical to the original one, but it is still highly intertesting.

Erm… No, wise and wissen are indeed related, but English didn’t borrow it from German. If it borrowed this word at all, it happened on an earlier stage of linguistic development, when there were no German and English languages; more liekly is that it inherited the word directly from the Proto-Germanic or Proto-Western Germanic.

Erm, not quite again. The Old Enlish not comes from Latin nōta, which is assumed to somehow stem or be connected with from nōtus, perfective past participle of nōscō ‘know’. That is, note has a connection with gnosis but only as two parallel branches of the same Indo-European root, they do not stand to each other in an ancestral relationship.

Sorry for all the technical details and general nerdishness :nerd_face:


Look up Sophia in the Septuagint. The Masoretic will have the corresponding Semitic root for “wisdom”.

Actually I was curious anyways, so I did it instead.

Its חכמות (ḥokmot).

Related, if you don’t want to go jumping into the textual transmission and recensions of the Bible:

No, wisdom and knowledge are two different things. While wisdom is etymologically connected with ‘knowing, seeing things’ in IE languages, in the Semitic languages it is connected with ‘judging, ruling’. So, no wonder that King Solomon was wise because he was a smart judge and vice versa. Cf. also the Islamic concept of Allah’s ḥukam, command over the world, God’s order, cf. the figures of the Islamic ulama and Jewish rabbi as both ‘wise people’ and lawyers. So, I suspect that the connotations the Ancient Hebrews gave to their Chokhmah were a little bit different to the Christian Sophia. I mean, ‘wisdom’ is not really a good term to base our comparative analysis on =-)

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Well, she was a Jewish Sophia for many many years before she was Christian. And, by that, I mean a “Jewish Sophia”, not a “Jewish ḥokmot”.

The Jews recognized the Greek Indo-European Sophia and thought there was nothing wrong with conflating the two in their translations. Hellenized Judaism, right? The birthbed of later Christianity.

Sure, just as Yahweh was a Jewish God for long before becoming a Christian one. I just mean that since the connotations of the term ‘wisdom’ are quite different between Greek and Hebrew (‘skilful’ vs. ‘capable of competent judgement’) it would be logical to assume that while the Christians and even Greek-speaking Jews overtook this character from the Semitic Jewish tradition, their perception of Sophia changed considerably. Which is actually beside the point in our current discussion, since we were curious about the concept of knowledge, not wisdom, and the word wisdom is not etymologically connected to knowledge even in Greek and Slavic. I am not even sure we know what the IE word for ‘wise’ is supposed to be, IE adjectives , esp. such abstract ones, fared comparatively badly in the descendant IE languages.

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Well, I’ll just bow out than rather than to say that etymology is not actually meaning. Otherwise the brahmakaya in DN would be a reference to the Vedic altar. Suffice to say, I cannot imagine having a verb “to know” without having a “concept of knowledge”. But I will take it that you are arguing a refined philosophical point that is beyond me at present.

Completely correct. However, you suggest we take ‘wisdom’, which is a concept different from knowledge, right? It might still work if there were an inherent etymological connection with knowing in the word ‘wisdom’ in both langauges we compare with each other. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The Greek word for wisdom is Sophia, which means something like ‘skilfulness’ - no verb meaning to ‘know’ The Hebrew word comes from a root that is also used for concepts like ‘execrizing authority, power’, in both the modern Herbrew and Classical Arabic the word for ‘know’ has different roots than ‘Chokhmah’, so I think it is safe to assume there is no ‘know’ in the Hebrew ‘wisdom’ as well. In other words, this use of ‘wisdom’ as a base for our analysis yields no results as well.

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How would you formally separate them? The matter of difference seems to be one of degree. Someone with wisdom has far more knowledge and smarts to act on that knowledge than someone who simply has “a lot of knowledge”.

The Semitic and Greek word for wisdom seem to suggest that this is not necessarily the case. In the Semitic version someone who is wise is capable of judging, acting or exercizing authority in an appropriate way. All cognate words with the h-k-m root do not possess any connection to knowledge but rather to power and authority and exercizing it. The Greek word suggests that a wise person is skilful in judgment. The Slavic word for wisdom seems to come from the older word meaning something like ‘zealous’, which in its turn comes from the PIE word for ‘thinking’, not ‘knowing’. In other words, in these three languages the definition of wisdom seems to be operational rather than based on knowledge: someone is wise is someone thinks or acts in the optimal ‘thoughtful’ way, producing the best results, someone who thinks before acting. An uneducated peasant could be sophisticated enough to be wise, an educated priest or aristocrat could act in an unwise manner. Having enough knowledge as condition for wisdom seems to be a part of our culture that we inadvertently assume to be universal, for Greeks, old Slavs and Ancient Hebrews that at least was not the most important aspect of wisdom, if it was associated with wisdom at all; as for having smarts, I don’t know, maybe it is universal, but it is again beside the point.

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If I may,

This could be because they are wise.

This could also be because they are wise. Incidentally, I found this root for Sophia: *seh₁p- (“to try, to research”).

You don’t actually need the word “wise” to have wisdom, or an idea of it. For instance, lots of languages have no tense or straight-forward words for time, but these cultures and peoples know perfectly well what time is, what before is, and what after is, as well as what the present is, even with no way to describe those concepts with single words.

The same with knowledge and thinking.

Or languages with only a small inventory of numerals. The people who speak those languages are fully aware that you can have larger “amounts” then their largest number.

If you are so disposed, could you explain what you meant to say here:

Because I am not getting the point it seems. My apologies.

In the interest of answering your question with an alternative answer, since it seems Sophia and ḥokmah don’t cut it, if I am not further misunderstanding your post (my again apologies if so), I would look at יָדַע (yadac), מַדָּע (maddac), דֵּעָה (decah), מַנְדַּע (mandac) , or דָּ֫עַת (dacat), all of them coming from the root י־ד־ע (y-d-c).

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Exactly, the thing is that in these cultures being wise not necessarily means having knowledge but rather acting and, more importantly, thinking skilfully. The connotations of being wise, the implications of wisdom were different in these cultures. Knowledge may not figure among them.

Take the concept of time. It is highly probable that every human population has an idea of time and its passage even without having corresponding words. However, the ways this concept exists in a particular culture are remarkably different. Cf. the cyclical time vs. the one-way time, future ahead of us in the European culture and future behind us in certain native American cultures, separation of space and time in more abstraction-oriented cultures and its close connection with space and particular objects, such as sun, in other cultures, etc. The cognitive linguistics often assumes that universally shared concepts have something like a core, which is sometimes fairly difficult to define (as is the case with time) - or less so (as with wisdom). The conceptual core of ‘wisdom’ seems to be something like ‘showing good judgment’, and that’s it. The presence of knowledge, special training or experience seems to belong to the fuzzy connotational halo of this concept. We tend to associate wisdom with knowledge, which is completely natural in a society deeply influenced by the Enlightenment, but it is not necessarily the case everywhere, for Ancient Hebrews a wise person could be the person who just acts and thinks skilfully, that’s it. This suspicion alon is enough to rule out ‘wisdom’ as a basis for our analysis.

My point is that ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’ (quite possibly) are two different concepts that should not necessarily related to each other, so we cannot compare two words meaning ‘wisdom’ and make any conclusions about the concept of knowledge. Wisdom and knowledge are basically like apples and oranges. What we should rather do is compare such words as ‘know’ and ‘knowledge’, probably comparing two translations of the Bible would be one of the easier ways to do it, using such sources as Hittite, Akkadian, or Vedic texts could help as well. I strongly suspect that after doing this we will find out that roots for ‘knowledge’ are quite old and not related to each other in Proto-Semitic and PIE, which would suggest that the concept of knowledge is not an Indo-European invention. However, we should not use the word ‘wisdom’ for this purpose for the reasons described above.

Yeah, exactly =-) Which is interesting and inconclusive, as it actually looks a lot like the PIE root :thinking:

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