Definition - What does Abhijna mean?

Abhijna is a Buddhist philosophical term, loosely defined as direct knowledge obtained through meditation and higher wisdom. Sanskrit translations of abhijna vary, with most pointing to a form of knowledge that is 'supernatural,' 'higher,' or 'direct'. Abhijna can therefore be understood as a kind of super knowledge, allowing the development of extra-sensory abilities, such as seeing past lives and reincarnations.

As such, it is a similar concept to the siddhis in yoga, although abhijna is understood through a Buddhist rather than a Hindu lens.

Yogapedia explains Abhijna

In Buddhism, abhijna is thought to be attained only through virtuous living and meditation. There are six kinds of abhijna:

  1. Iddhi-vidha (Higher Powers) - such as the ability to take on any form at will, to travel any distance or to pass through any obstacle
  2. Dibba-cakkhu (Divine Eye) - clairvoyance, or the ability to see everything (even the karmic paths of others)
  3. Dibba-sota (Divine Ear) - clairaudience, or the ability to hear everything
  4. Ceto-pariya-naa (Mind Penetrating Knowledge) - telepathy, or the ability to know another's thoughts.
  5. Pubbe-nivasanussati (Remembrance of Former Births) - the ability to recall past lives
  6. Assavakhaya (Removal of Mental Intoxicants) - such a sensual pleasure, craving and ignorance

Although attaining the six abhijna is regarded as a measure of spiritual progress, the Buddha warned against indulgence in these powers, as their use may serve as a distraction on the path to enlightenment.

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