The most extraordinary experiences I’ve ever had in my life were Jhana and Abhinna. Of these, Abhinna was by far the most impactful. See my latest Abhinna Experiment here.
What is Abhinna (Abijna, Abhinnanana)?
Abhinna are talked about as supernatural or supranatural powers which are available to some degree (different in each person), to people who are reaching the jhanas, specifically mentioned is the fourth Jhana.
From the Pali-English Dictionary edited by T. W. Rhys Davids and William Stede
Abhiññā: 1 (f.) [fr. abhi + jñā, see jānāti]. Rare in the older texts. It appears in two contexts. Firstly, certain conditions are said to conduce (inter alia) to serenity, to special knowledge (abhiññā), to special wisdom, and to Nibbāna.
The contrary is three times stated; wrong-doing, priestly superstitions, and vain speculation do not conduce to abhiññā and the rest (D III.131; A III.325 sq. and V.216). Secondly, we find a list of what might now be called psychic powers. It gives us 1, Iddhi (cp. levitation); 2, the Heavenly Ear (cp. clairaudience); 3, knowing others’ thoughts (cp. thought-reading); 4, recollecting one’s previous births; 5, knowing other people’s rebirths; 6, certainty of emancipation already attained (cp. final assurance). This list occurs only at D III.281 as a list of abhiññās.
Abhinna (Abijna, Abhinnanana) from Wikipedia
Vern’s Note: Keep in mind, Wiki cannot be taken as an authority about any subject, because anyone can edit their articles, but I include it to show that this definition does not largely conflict with other sources on this page.
Abhijñā (Sanskrit & Pali, abhiññā; Tibet, mngon shes) has been translated generally as “knowing,” “direct knowing” and “direct knowledge” or, at times more technically, as “higher knowledge” and “supernormal knowledge.”
Abhinna is a rare occurrence that is sometimes experienced by meditators who have reached the fourth jhana during Vipassana or similar meditation.
Buddha Described Six (6) Abhinnas:
1. Higher powers – like walking on water and through walls.
2. Divine ear – clairaudience; hearing sounds not normally within the range of the human ear.
3. Mind-penetrating knowledge – knowing things about others, or, telepathy.
4. Recalling one’s former abodes – past lives.
5. Divine eye – seeing beings reborn and dying… knowing others’ karmic destinations, to which realm they will be reborn, or not reborn at all.
6. Extinction of mental intoxicants – when the mind is purified in this way, it leads to nirvana.
PTS: DN.34, The Tenfold Series, VI (pp257-8), Rhys Davids, trans.
PTS: DN.34, The Tenfold Series, VI (pp257-8), Rhys Davids, trans. [Excerpt]:
Abhinna – Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines
x. There are Six Things that help much, that are to be developed, to be realized: — the six superknowledges. Herein, friends, a brother
(1) enjoys the wondrous gift in its various modes: — being one, he becomes many … he becomes … invisible; he goes without obstruction through a wall … solid ground … on water… in the sky … he reaches with the body up to the heaven of Brahmā;
(2) by deva-hearing, purified, surpassing that of men, he hears sounds both heavenly and human, far and near;
(3) by his mind he understands the minds of other beings, other persona; he discerns the passionate mind as passionate … the freed mind as freed, the unfree mind as unfree;
(4) he recalls to mind the various temporary states as he lived in day gone by, namely, one birth, or more … in all their details and their modes;
(5) with the deva-sight, purified, surpassing that of men, he discerns the pageant of beings faring according to their deeds;
(6) he lives in the attainment, the personal knowledge and realization, through the extinction of the intoxicants, of sane and immune freedom of heart and mind.
The 6 ‘higher powers’, or supernormal knowledge’s, consist of 5 mundane (lokiya) powers attainable through the utmost perfection in mental concentration (samādhi, q.v.) and one supermundane (lokuttara) power attainable through penetrating insight (vipassanā), i.e. extinction of all cankers (āsavakkhaya; s. āsava), in other words, realization of Arahatship or Holiness.
Abhinna (Abijna, Abhinnanana) are:
- Magical powers (iddhi-vidha)
- Divine ear (dibba-sota)
- Penetration of the minds of others (ceto-pariya-ñāna)
- Remembrance of former existences (pubbe-nivāsānussati)
- Divine eye (dibba-cakkhu)
- Extinction of all cankers (āsavakkhaya)
The stereotype text met with in all the 4 Sutta-collections (e.g. D.34; M.4, M.6, M.77; A.III.99; A.V.23; S.15.9 and Pug.271, Pug.239) is as follows:
“Now, O Bhikkhus, the monk enjoys the various magical powers (iddhi-vidha), such as being one he becomes manifold, and having become manifold he again becomes one. He appears and disappears. Without being obstructed he passes through walls and mountains, just as if through the air. In the earth he dives and rises up again, just as if in the water. He walks on water without sinking, just as if on the earth. Cross-legged he floats through the air, just like a winged bird. With his hand he touches the sun and moon, these so mighty ones, so powerful ones. Even up to the Brahma-world he has mastery over his body.
“With the divine ear (dibba-sota) he hears sounds both heavenly and human, far and near.
“He knows the minds of other beings (parassa ceto-pariya-ñāna), of other persons, by penetrating them with his own mind. He knows the greedy mind as greedy and the not-greedy one as not greedy; knows the hating mind as hating and the not-hating one as not hating; knows the deluded mind as deluded and the not-deluded one as not deluded; knows the shrunken mind and the distracted one, the developed mind and the undeveloped one, the surpassable mind and the unsurpassable one, the concentrated mind and the unconcentrated one, the freed mind and the unfreed one.
“He remembers manifold former existences (pubbe-nivāsānussati), such as one birth, two, three, four and five births …. hundred thousand births; remembers many formations and dissolutions of worlds: ‘There I was, such name I had… and vanishing from there I entered into existence somewhere else …. and vanishing from there I again reappeared here.’ Thus he remembers, always together with the marks and peculiarities, many a former existence.
”With the divine eye (dibba-cakkhu = yathā-kammūpaga-ñāna or cutūpapāta-ñāna), the pure one, he sees beings vanishing and reappearing, low and noble ones, beautiful and ugly ones, sees how beings are reappearing according to their deeds (s. karma): ‘These beings, indeed, followed evil ways in bodily actions, words and thoughts, insulted the noble ones, held evil views, and according to their evil views they acted. At the dissolution of their body, after death, they have appeared in lower worlds, in painful states of existence, in the world of suffering, in hell. Those other beings, however, are endowed with good action …. have appeared in happy state of existence, in a heavenly world.
“Through the extinction of all cankers (āsavakkhaya) even in this very life he enters into the possession of deliverance of mind, deliverance through wisdom, after having himself understood and realized it.”
4-6 appear frequently under the name of the ‘threefold (higher) knowledge’ (te-vijjā). They are, however, not a necessary condition for the attainment of sainthood (arahatta), i.e. of the sixth abhiññā.
Vis.M. XI-XIII gives a detailed explanation of the 5 mundane higher powers, together with the method of attaining them.
In connection with the 4 kinds of progress (s. patipadā), abhiññā means the ‘comprehension’ achieved on attainment of the paths and fruitions.
Abhinna According to Thai Monk – Venerable Acariya Thoon Chakkhunana
There are many types of abhinna. I will briefly explain.
1. Chakkhunana is the divine eye that arises directly from the mind. Whatever
Khippapanyo, Venerable Acariya Thoon. Spark: Igniting the Flame of Wisdom (Kindle Locations 510-511). Neecha Thian-Ngern. Kindle Edition.
Whatever is desired to be seen can be viewed by focusing the mind. For example, if desired, the community of heavenly beings and how their daily lives transpire can be viewed in its entirety. Similarly, the community and lives of those in a hell realm or hungry ghost realm can be seen.
2. Sotanana is the divine ear that makes it possible to hear the sounds from all levels of heavenly beings along with the tormenting sounds of those in a hell realm.
3. Cetopariyanana is the ability to penetrate and know the thoughts of others, whether the thoughts are good or bad. This is telepathy, knowing the status of other’s minds.
4. Iddhividhinana is magical powers to dive into or soar above the earth. Both lay people and ariyapuggala have been documented to have this power.
5. Manomayiddhinana is the power of the mind. If desired one person can be multiplied into many persons or a person can transform into animal form.
6. Pubbenivasanussatinana is the ability to recollect one’s former lives, how that life transpired, and who were one’s relatives.
7. Cutupapatanana is the knowledge of the deceased, the location of their souls, what karma they are serving, and what will transpire once that karma has been fulfilled.
8. Attidhungsanana is the knowledge of the past concerning every issue.
9. Anakadhungsanana is the knowledge of the future concerning every issue. The abhinnanana described here are of the worldly or mundane level. They occur only with those who trained in that way during past lives. These various types of insight (nana) do not in any way eliminate defilements or desire from the mind. For those who do not possess wisdom, these nana will create tremendous defilements and self-conceit. There will be infatuation and delusion of the self as both grand and good. This self-conceit will greatly inflate the ego. During our times, people who possess these kinds of insight are highly regarded and praised by the masses as someone who practices to the fullest extent of righteousness and correctness. Or they may even be admired as one who has attained the final level of holiness on the path to ultimate enlightenment (arahant) who has emerged in the world. If abhinnanana has already occurred to oneself, one must constantly use wisdom to remind oneself that abhinnanana is only for amusement. Do not fall into the belief that one possesses any kind of virtue. It is only a worldly insight that may deteriorate. It is in no way permanent. Bhikkhu Siddhattha possessed the aforementioned abhinnanana before he became enlightened. Yet, he was still an ordinary person and he was unimpressed by these insights in any way.
Khippapanyo, Venerable Acariya Thoon. Spark: Igniting the Flame of Wisdom (Kindle Locations 522-532). Neecha Thian-Ngern. Kindle Edition.
My experiences with Abhinna (articles)
- What Is Abhinna? (this page)
- My Experiences with Abhinna (Abijna, Abhinnanana)
- Knowing Hearts and Minds – Abhinna experiences
- My “Divine Eye” Experience
Who are you? (Where are you? How can I reach you?)