Viññū, how wise is wise?

It is said only ‘viññū’ can realise the dhamma, according to the definition of the ‘qualities of the dhamma’. How can we recognise s/he who is viññū? How do the texts define someone who is viññū?

Furthemore is it a static state or fluid, with practices that increase the ability to penetrate into the dhamma?

with metta,




It seems Vinnu refers to the ability to know what is going on in one’s mind (to be introspective and psychologically-minded, come to mind).

Having said that, that is only one aspect of the definition (possibly in terms of a beginner on the path). It is defined in other ways elsewhere.

Then the Venerable Upavaṇa approached the Blessed One … and said to him: “Venerable sir, it is said, ‘the directly visible

Dhamma, the directly visible Dhamma.’ In what way, venerable sir, is the Dhamma directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise?”

“Here, Upavaṇa, having seen a form with the eye, a bhikkhu experiences the form as well as lust for the form. He understands that lust for forms exists internally thus: ‘There is in me lust for forms internally.’ Since that is so, Upavaṇa, the Dhamma is directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise.

The term is related to the verb vijānāti it seems, which means to see, to comprehend, to have vision.

The way I make sense of it in the context of the standard recollection of Dhamma is that only once avijja (aka ignorance) - i.e. the lack of vision, knowledge and practical comprehension of the four noble truths - is dispelled one is therefore said to fully comprehend these four noble truths.

Hence, the ending of the standard Dhamma recollection is just reminding us that only by the fulfillment of the four noble tasks the reality and liberating implications of Dhamma are fully known, understood or appreciated (veditabbo).

In a nutshell, it’s a beautiful reminder to really appreciate the Dhamma ourselves by seeking to totally dispell the rebirth-dooming practical ignorance with regards to the liberating and awakening implications of the four noble truths and its respective four ennobling tasks.

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Viññū is not a hugely well defined or specific term. Probably the most specific definition is provided in the Vinaya, at Pacittiya 7 in the context of a person whose role is to act as a chaperone. They must be viññū, which is defined as:

paṭibalo hoti subhā­sita­dub­bhāsi­taṃ duṭṭhul­lā­duṭṭhul­laṃ ājānituṃ
They are capable of understanding what is well said and poorly said, and understanding what is corrupt and what is not corrupt.

This definition jells pretty well with how the suttas treat it. In the basic contexts such as the definition of Dhamma, I think this definition works fine, and so I translate it as “sensible”. In some cases it may be used in a more elevated sense, i.e. “wise”. But I don’t think that is the core sense.


If they know what is corrupt and not corrupt there would be a sense of what is right and wrong. A moral compass seems important. This is often a feature of the wise, in the dhamma.

I am also reminded that parents are supposed to inculcate a sense of what is right and wrong in their children (Singalovada sutta).

With metta



I think you are right Matheesha.

This is a reference in SN 8.5 that concerns speech, for instance:

[quote]"Bhikkhus, when speech possesses four factors, then it is well spoken, not badly spoken, and it is blameless, not blameworthy among the wise.
“Catūhi, bhikkhave, aṅgehi samannāgatā vācā subhāsitā hoti, no dubbhāsitā; anavajjā ca ananuvajjā ca viññūnaṃ.[/quote]
What is important here, is this reference to “blameless” and “blameworthy”.

There is a general consensus today, that liberation in mind could be devoid of blameworthiness, when it comes to the bad - namely acknowledging that there should be a fuzzy limit between good & bad, once acknowledging the union of the non-“I”.
This extract shows the contrary.

How to explain this amoral position that floats around?
Very simply indeed.
Mara or Satan both live in heaven. Read the account on the latter in the book of Job; when Satan comes for the party (fireworks of stars), and have a chat with Jehovah. Casual.
As for Mara, he got to heaven because he was a virtuous and a generous man; but then got carried away by his rewards.
Mara is indeed the most virtuous of all. And he won’t pardon a single fault to a man who pretends to be virtuous on earth; with the aim to leave the world.

In heaven, the boundary between good and bad is very thin. But not on earth. For getting in heaven requires to be virtuous.
We also know how Mara loves to trick people; even his henchmen - mostly his henchmen - how much more delightful and wicked can that latter be?
So he will tell people "no problem - I’m in heaven, and you’re my kind. Don’t worry about good & bad. You’re safe. You’ll come to heaven with me anyway (and even both ways).

But that is not what the Old Man said.
There is “blameless” and “blameworthy”, says Buddha. That is what the wises (viññū) acknowledge.
And the (paranimmita-vasavatti) heaven (or beyond) is for the wise & virtuous. No other way around, says Buddha. I suppose that, once you are there, you can do whatever you want. But not down here.

So yes. Teach your kids about good and bad, and how to be compassionate towards maras & human’s henchmen of Mara. Without fighting them.
That does not preclude strict virtue, and a blamable sagaciousness.

These are some other references to viññū in the Nikayas.
AN 3.74, AN 4.111, AN 6.10, AN 6.26, AN8.13, AN 10.95, AN11.11, AN 11.13,
MN 74,
SN 1.20, SN 3.19, SN 4.21, SN 8.5, SN 11.3, SN 11.4, SN 12.67, SN 16.3, SN 22.90, SN 35.70, SN 35.116, SN 35.117, SN 40.10, SN 41.1, SN 41.10, SN 42.12, SN 55.1, SN 55.27, SN 55.31.


Hi Yogakkhemi,

Morality has a much more practical application: it will determine if someone is happy or not, in this life. The person who continuously do negative acts against others, is selfish and isolates their wellbeing from that of friends, family and society will end up depressed. The pandemic of depression seems to me partially due to this disconnected society of personal consumption.

But in terms of Vinnu, wisdom, emotional intelligence and morality needs to be united in one person. I can’t quite find one word that will mean all of this. It might be yet another word that needs to remain untranslated, yet defined separately.

With metta


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