‘Panna’ is wisdom, right understanding or insight. It is not mere wisdom or knowledge, but it is the wisdom which leads to the complete realization nf truths. Panna is the light of truth that brightly illuminates the knowledge, destroying the darkness of ignorance. Panna is the most excellent eye with which one can visualize the objects or possibilities that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Bodhisattas who practise
Paramita, endeavour to develop
their wisdom in every possible source. They do not feel ashamed to ask questions
to clear out their doubts or to gain knowledge from anyone wiser than them,
regardless of his social status, caste, creed or colour. They do not wish to
exhibit their knowledge, or to hide their ignorance in public with ulterior
motives. Panna can be divided into two classes namely: Lokiya Panna and Lokuttara Panna.
LOKIYA PANNA - Mundane wisdom.
All those ‘Puthujjanas’ - worldly people who have no attained the fair stages of sainthood can acquire the mundane wisdom. Mundane wisdom which also gradually leads one to the supra mundane state can be developed in the various ways, such as learning the different Arts and Sciences, listening to the Dhamma, associating with thc wise, engaging in profitable conversation, discussion and debates, reading widely and travelling far and wide.
LOKUTTARA PANNA - Supra-mundane wisdom.
All those who have attained the four stages of sainthood can achieve the supra-mundane states of wisdom. This state of wisdom can be developed with the realization of the Four Noble Truths and the Law of Dependent Origination through the attainment of the Four Paths and Fruitions.
To achieve this super-normal state of
wisdom, one should have a wider experience in the highest stage of meditation,
particularly on the Three Characteristics of life or on any other suitable
meditative subjects, according to one’s temperaments. Bodhisattas go
through the most severe course of mental culture to fulfil the perfection of
Panna, for the attainment of Enlightenment.
Illustration from SENAKA
THE STORY OF PANDIT SENAKA
In the course of his wanderings in SAMSARA, the Bodhisatta was born as Senaka in a Brahmin family. He was very wise and advised people constantly with regard to their material and spiritual welfare. At that time there was an old Brahmin who had earned a thousand gold coins. He gave this money to a certain family for safe custody.
Unfortunately, as the members of the family spent the whole amount for their own needs, they gave a young maiden in marriage to him. The old Brahmin was pleased with this exchange. The couple lived happily for some time. Later, the wicked woman, wishing to live as she liked, forced her old husband to go fetch a servant girl. She prepared and gave him some fried rice and flour as provisions for the journey.
The poor old man, putting them inside a bag, left his house and wandered from place to place to collect some money. One day as he was hungry, he rested at the foot of a tree and opened his bag to eat some food. He ate a little and, leaving the bag open, went to a stream close by to drink some water. Just then a snake, sensing the smell of flour, crept into the bag. The Brahmin returned, and unaware of the poisonous snake, closed the bag and carried it.
A certain tree deity, in order to make known the wisdom of the Bodhisatta, said: “O Brahmin, if you go home, your wife will die; if on the way you remain, you will die.”
The frightened Brahmin did not know what to do. He could not understand the meaning of those words. Luckily it happened to be a full-moon day. People had gathered in large numbers to listen to the teachings of Pandit Senaka. The worried Brahmin went to the hall and sat crying in a corner.
Pandit Senaka saw him crying and made inquiries. As if he saw everything with his Divine Eye, he understood what actually had happened. He ordered a person to bring a long stick and open the bag. Just then the hiding snake slowly crept out. People drove the snake out without harming it, and the poor Brahmin was saved by the wisdom of the Bodhisatta.
After His Enlightenment the Buddha said
“Investigating by wisdom, I then saved the Brahmin, In wisdom there is no equal to me. This is my Perfection of Wisdom.”