Knowing & Seeing

Knowing and Seeing in pali is nana and dassana.

It was apparently present when the bodhisattva learnt under Alarakalama and he knew and saw what his teacher did.

Is it theory (sutamaya panna) and insight (bhavanamaya panna)?

Dhamma-followers and Faith followers Know but don’t See. Stream enterers both Know and See, but it doesn’t seem to be limited to only just the Buddhas teaching.

What is Knowing and Seeing?

with metta



The dictionary entries for the aforementioned terms are:

I was once told that the double term has probably origins in the spoken language the Buddha was teaching in.

It is noteworthy that ñanadassana happens at two stages of the process of transcendental dependent origination we found in Suttas like AN10.2, AN11.2 and SN12.23 :

First there is yatha bhuta ñana dassana - knowledge and vision of how things have come to be.

That in turn leads to dispassion and revulsion which in turns brings about or supports liberation (vimutti)

AN10.2 and AN11.2 suggests that once liberation takes place a knowledge and vision of this attainment is verified:

Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ yathābhūtaṃ jānaṃ passaṃ nibbindati virajjati.
Nibbinnassa, bhikkhave, virattassa na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: **‘vimutti­ñāṇadas­sanaṃ sacchikaromī’ti.*"
Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ nibbinno viratto vimutti­ñāṇadas­sanaṃ sacchikaroti.

Notice here the occurrence of the verb sacchikaroti, this is the verb that describes the third enobbling task of verifying for ourselves the end of suffering.

Interestingly, SN12.23 tells us of the same thing from a slightly different perspective. At the end of the dependent origination of awakening it has knowledge of destruction (of taints):

(…) samādhūpanisaṃ yathā­bhūta­ñāṇadas­sanaṃ,
yathā­bhūta­ñāṇadas­sanūpa­nisā nibbidā,
nibbidūpaniso virāgo,
virāgūpanisā vimutti,
vimuttūpanisaṃ khayeñāṇaṃ



Thanks for that.

Thanks again!

Now I wonder what the difference is between nana and dassana. I think they are different and not synonyms.

With metta


Relevant excerpt in Upaniṣads?

"You see, Maitreyi - it is one’s self (atman) which one should see and hear, and on which one should reflect and concentrate.
For by seeing and hearing one’s self, and by reflecting and concentrating on one’s self, one gains the knowledge of this whole world.
ātmā vā are draṣṭavyaḥ śrotavyo mantavyo nididhyāsitavyo maitreyi |
ātmano vā are darśanena śravaṇena matyā vijñānenedaṃ sarvaṃ viditam
BṛĀr.Up. 2.4.5


Here, draṣṭavya is the future passive participle of the √ दृश् dṛś - and darśanena, the instrumental of darśana.
Matyā is the instrumental of मति mati [act. √ मन् man].
Śravaṇena is the instrumental of श्रवण śravaṇa.
Vijñāneneda is the instrumental of विज्ञान vijñāna [act. vijñā].

दर्शन darśana:

  • seeing , observing , looking , noticing , observation , perception (RV. - ŚBr. - ŚāṅkhGṛ - MBh.)

√ दृश् dṛś:

  • to see , behold , look at , regard , consider (RV. - AV. - ŚBr - MBh.)
  • to see by divine intuition , think or find out Lit. (Br.)
  • to be seen , become visible , appear (RV. - AV. - ŚBr. - MBh.)
  • to be shown or manifested , appear as, prove (AV. - Br.)
  • to cause to see or be seen , to show a thing (esp. of something belonging to one’s self) or person ( [ātmānam] , also one’s self), to (AV. - ŚBr. - MBh.)

मति mati:

  • thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire (RV.) - [ matyā ] wittingly , knowingly , purposely.
  • the mind , perception , understanding , intelligence , sense , judgement (ŚBr. (in RV. also " that which is sensible " , intelligent , mindful).

√ मन् man:

  • to think , believe , imagine , suppose , conjecture (RV.)
  • to reflect upon , consider , examine , investigate (AV. Lit.- Br.)
  • to set the heart or mind on , honour , esteem, hope or wish for (RV.)
  • to think of (in prayer , "meditate on " - or " excogitate , invent " ) (RV. - AV.)
  • to honour , esteem , value highly (AV.)

श्रवण śravaṇa:

  • the act of hearing (also " that which is heard (revealed) " = [śruti]) (ŚBr. - MBh.)

विज्ञान vijñāna [ vi-jñā́na ]:

  • the act of distinguishing or discerning , understanding , comprehending , recognizing , intelligence , knowledge (AV.)

So based on this would dassana be considered something seen through meditation or a divine manner (or, as well as in a more mundane way)?

Thanks. I now know the real meaning of my Sinhalese name!

With metta


In the case of Buddhism we have yathā-bhūta-ñaṇa-dassana, with no mention of the self. Phenomena are just hinted in yathā-bhūta (lit. according to - what have become).

As far as ñaṇa-dassana is concerned, it can be related to the vijñā́na-darśana of the BṛĀr.Up. 2.4.5 pericope.
With ñaṇa & vijñā́na as “knowledge” (vijñā́na, also translated as such by the brahmin Nikhilānanda).

Interpretation of dassana is yours.
It depends on how you construe √ दृश् dṛś, I suppose. Maybe a preference might be given to the Kānva Shākha’s ŚBr definitions up there.

A hint:

In BṛĀr.Up. 5.14.4

“That Gāyatri rests on that fourth, [apparently] visible, supramundane foot. And that, again, rests on truth. The eye is truth, for the eye is indeed truth. Therefore, even today, if two persons come disputing, one saying: “I saw it,” and another: “I heard of it,” we should trust the one who says: “I saw it.”
That truth rests on strength. The vital breath (prāna) is strength…”

What could be heard in that context (philosophically speaking)?
Is that the śruti (the revealed)?
Or is it a non philosophical hint at the plain faculty of hearing?

What could be seen in that context (philosophically speaking)?
? …

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Dassana- ‘Seeing’ suggests a combination of both understanding deeply (and arriving at Right view- Samma Ditti) and seeing ‘directly’ through meditation. Dassana is also used in visually seeing the Tathagata or a bhikkhu for example. It therefore seems to have a broad meaning.

Nana- refers to knowledge or knowledges of different kinds arrived at through various processes that generate wisdom in the path.

Together they are used to denote attainment/enlightenment.

Cause for not knowing and seeing - the five hindrances
Cause for knowing and seeing - the seven factors of enlightenment
SN 46.56
Thatagata dassana AN 3.22
Bhikkhu dassana AN 6.28
"He attends appropriately, This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress… This is the way leading to the cessation of stress. As he attends appropriately in this way, three fetters are abandoned in him: identity-view, doubt, and grasping at precepts & practices. These are called the fermentations to be abandoned by seeing. MN2
YM gives rise to Right view- Samma Ditti (same root as Dassana)
-Voice of another, appropriate contemplation, tranquility and insight all lead to Right view.

Nanavatthuni -77 knowledges -Dependant Origination-SN 12.34
Synonyms: ‘dhammesu cakkhuṃ udapādi, ñāṇaṃ udapādi, paññā udapādi, vijjā udapādi, āloko udapādi.’ - 4Noble Truths
Knowledge (Nana) of own attaining and future destination AN 6.34
Gratification, drawbacks, escape- Nana AN 36.25
Bases of power- iddhipada- SN51.9
Four foundations of mindfulness -yathabhutanana. SN 47.4
Thatagata Bala SN 6.64 yathabhuta nana

MN71 Buddha’s enlightenment nd
SN 8.64. Sees aura of devas
AN 4.196 become enlightened
MN30 ND comes after concentration but before jhanas.


There might possibly be two types of nana dassana:

  1. Nana dassana as ‘knowledge & vision’, namely, wisdom, as found in suttas about the four noble truths & dependent origination, such as SN 56.11.

So long, bhikkhus, as my knowledge and vision of these Four Noble Truths as they really are in their three phases and twelve aspects was not thoroughly purified in this way, I did not claim to have awakened to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment… SN 56.11

  1. Nana dassana as ‘knowing & seeing’, which sounds like a psychic power, as found in AN 4.41.

And what is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the attainment of knowing & seeing? There is the case where a monk attends to the perception of light and is resolved on the perception of daytime [at any hour of the day]. Day [for him] is the same as night, night is the same as day. By means of an awareness open & unhampered, he develops a brightened mind. This is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the attainment of knowing & seeing. AN 4.41


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