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What Is Abhinna Really Like? (Abijna, Abhinnanana)

The most extraordinary experiences I’ve ever had in my life were Jhana and Abhinna, and something else that doesn’t fit either one but was astounding in its own right. Of these, Abhinna was by far the most impactful. Read more about how Buddhism defines the Abhinnas and my direct experiences with some of them below.

What is Abhinna (Abijna, Abhinnanana)?

Abhinna are talked about as supernatural or supranatural knowledge or powers that are available to some degree (different in each person), to people who are reaching the Jhanas, specifically sometime after a meditator is reaching the fourth Jhana.

I have experienced some Abhinnas that I detail more in the pages linked to below.

Abhinna from the Pali-English Dictionary

This, from by T. W. Rhys Davids and William Stede’s edited Pali-English Dictionary.

Abhinna: 1 (f.) Rare in the older texts. It appears in two contexts. Firstly, certain conditions are said to conduce (inter alia) to serenity, to special knowledge (Abhinna), to special wisdom, and to Nibbana.

The contrary is three times stated; wrong-doing, priestly superstitions, and vain speculation do not conduce to Abhinna 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; and 6. certainty of emancipation already attained (cp. final assurance).

Abhinna, Abijna, Abhinnanana from Wikipedia

Vern’s Note: Keep in mind, Wikis 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.

Abhijna (Sanskrit & Pali, Abhinna; 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 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 knowledgeknowing 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. (Here is more info on one of my divine eye experiences.)

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

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 Brahma; (Some teachers believe this could be talking about lucid dreaming which is done in the awake state, not while sleeping. Few believe it means the actual physical acts. – Vern)

(2) by deva-hearing, purified, surpassing that of men, he hears sounds both heavenly and human, far and near; (Sometimes this is expanded upon to include hearing beings in the hell realms and heavenly realms. – Vern)

(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; (Here is some more information about this abhinna happening to me after I reached 4th Jhana. (A sort of mindreading ability where you can discern some things about people – even strangers. – Vern)

(4) he recalls to mind the various temporary states as he lived in during days gone by, namely, one birth, or more… in all their details and their modes; (The person experiencing this abhinna knows their own past lives. – Vern)

(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. (Meaning, the person has reached nibbana – Vern’s note)

The 6 ‘higher powers’, or supernormal knowledges, consist of 5 mundane (lokiya) powers attainable through the utmost perfection in mental concentration (samadhi) and 1 supermundane (lokuttara) power attainable through penetrating insight (vipassana), i.e. extinction of all cankers (asavakkhaya; s. asava), in other words, realization of Arahantship or Holiness.

Others Describe Abhinna (Abijna, Abhinnanana) as:

  1. Magical powers (iddhi-vidha – Pali language)
  2. Divine ear (dibba-sota)
  3. Penetration of the minds of others (ceto-pariya-a±ana)
  4. Remembrance of former existences (pubbe-nivasanussati)
  5. Divine eye (dibba-cakkhu)
  6. Extinction of all cankers (asavakkhaya)

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-a±ana), 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-nivasanussati), such as one birth, two, three, four and five births. A hundred thousand births. He 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 = yatha-kamma), 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 states of existence, in a heavenly world.

“Through the extinction of all cankers (asavakkhaya) 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-vijja). They are, however, not a necessary condition for the attainment of sainthood (arahatta), i.e. of the sixth Abhinna?.

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. patipada), Abhinna means the ‘comprehension’ achieved on attainment of the paths and fruitions.

Abhinna According to Thai Monk – Acariya Thoon Chakkhunana

Acariya Thoon Chakkhunana, a Theravada Buddhist Thai monk who comments on the Abhinnas.

He says, There are many types of Abhinna. I will briefly explain.

1. Chakkhunana is the divine eye that arises directly from the mind.

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.

(Khippapanyo, Venerable Acariya Thoon. Spark: Igniting the Flame of Wisdom (Kindle Locations 522-532). Neecha Thian-Ngern. Kindle Edition.)

Luang Por Jamnian’s Teaching About Abhinnas

L.P. Jamnian is the abbot of Theravada Temple in Krabi Thailand called Wat Tham Seua. Tiger Cave Temple. He is a Vipassana teacher and has been a monk for 60+ years. He is now 88 years old and resides in Ratchaburi on the border with Phetchaburi.

He has a video here where he speaks about Abhinnas. Start listening at the 15:41 minute mark. It is queued up for you if you click that link. He said that within the first 1000 years after the Buddha’s death there will be arahants who have access to the special knowledge (all 6 Abhinnas). Same in the 2nd 1000 years after the Buddha’s death.

In the 3rd 1000 years after the Buddha’s death (we’re in now, it is year of the Buddha 2667 (2024)) there will be arahants with only 3 Abhinnas.

The 3 Abhinnas availabe to arahants in this age are Clairvoyance (mind reading, knowing the minds of others), Recollection of Past Lives, and Seeing the Past and Future.

Do Hindus have Abhinnas or Talk of Supernatural Powers?

Yes, Hindus have a set of paranormal abilities they call Siddhis. These are the 5 Siddhis:

  • Knowing the past, present and future.
  • Tolerance of heat, cold and other dualities.
  • Knowing the minds of others.
  • Checking the influence of fire, sun, water, poison, and so on.
  • Remaining unconquered by others.

More Abhinna Reading

My experiences with Abhinna (articles)

Abhinna Videos:

Oneness (seamlessness) – Divine EyeKnowing People’s Minds

About me:

Who are you? (Where are you? How can I reach you?)

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 more about Abhinna on these pages:

2 thoughts on “What Is Abhinna Really Like? (Abijna, Abhinnanana)”

  1. I have read your descriptions of the the abhinna you’re experiencing with “goosebumps”, because I have almost identical experiences of them. I too have come to abhinna accidentally through vippasanna and jhana meditation. I am a lay practioner of Buddhism in the Thai Forrest Tradition. I am open to further discourse on the subject with you if that is agreeable.
    I am grateful for the opportunity to see another express this topic as you have. I knew as you did, that we were not alone in these abilities. It is however wonderful to see it expressed with such humility and compassion. I detect your motivation for publishing is for the benefit of those who may feel that abhinna are a burden because of the difficulty of speaking about them with those not capable yet of experiencing the same. Thank you for your work.

  2. Hi Jon, great to hear from you! I responded to your email just now.

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