Having already expressed preference, exerted the necessary energy and having replaced fear with self-confidence, one is in a position to depict the various stages on the path of achieving knowledge (nana) Illustrations twenty-eight to thirty-eight depict the various stages on the path of achieving knowledge(by which one should understand is meant not book-knowledge but “experience of truth” in one’s own mind and body).
The first part of this picture deals with knowledge derived from the contemplation of rising and ceasing of all forms of existence (udayabbaya-nana
) while the bottom half is related to knowledge achieved from the preparatory stage of meditation called the “thorough_knowledge" (sammadana-nana) of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self-ness which precedes the attainment of insight.
Having already considered the truth pertaining to birth, old age and death, the standing figure on the bottom right hand side has consequently attained spiritual wisdom (panna
). The child on the left hand side is a representation of birth, the old man sitting and mashing his betel nut symbolizes the limitations of old age, while the corpse in the centre is death as well as the realization and appreciation of death arising due to thorough knowledge. By the attainment of this knowledge, one can clearly see and understand the quality of impermanence (anicca
), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha
), and selflessness (anatta
). However, in the achievement of insight, (vipassana-nana
), knowledge of the foregoing three characteristics (tilakkana
) is not counted as the first step (i.e. it is not included as one of the nine levels for arriving at insight.)
The top part of this picture is concerned with the first stage leading to attainment of insight (udayabbayanana
). At this point, one concentrates only on rising and cessation (symbolized here by the body and the corpse). Reflecting on arising and cessation, one progresses from thorough knowledge which considers the whole process of birth, old age, and death.
Naturally broader in scope, the latter knowledge offers general and unspecific impressions while if we compare the knowledge of rising and ceasing with sammasana-nana
, it can be seen that the former is more specialized and exact.
(For these knowledges explained in detail, see the “Path of Purification” - Visuddhimagga
translation from Semage, Colombo, Ceylon, Chapter XXI)