The Ten Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism : Knowledge

Last Saturday, on Oct 12, 2019, we studied the tenth of The Ten Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism — Jñāna (Knowledge).

To learn more about the very last Paramita, we shared a list of eleven knowledges that a bodhisattva must fulfill as recorded in the Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra. We then read the article “Perfection of Knowledge” by B. O’Brien’s, and “Two Paths to Knowledge” by Bhikkhu Bodhi to see how Buddhist’s view on knowledge differ from a more conventional, scientific approach. Although we ran out of time to watch the Dharma talk together, we did share a summary of the idea presented in Master Sheng Yen’s video about “obstacle of knowledge” and proceeded with our discussion.

Below is a copy of our handout, the articles, and video we shared, questions we discussed, and our homework. For your reference, extra reading material on the “eleven knowledge” are also posted below — something we did not share during last week’s session. Happy learning!


The Ten Paramitas of Mahayana Buddhism : Knowledge

RECAP: Pāramitā (Sanskrit) or Parami (Pāli): “Perfection” or “Transcendent”. In Buddhism, the Paramitas refer to the perfection or culmination of certain practices. These practices are cultivated by Bodhisattvas for crossing from sensuous life (Samsara) to Enlightenment (Nirvana).

Knowledge (Jñāna):

Jñāna in Sanskrit, ñāṇa in Pali. Literally, the word means “knowing, becoming acquainted with, knowledge, knowledge about anything cognizance, conscience” etc.

The idea of jñāna centers on a cognitive event which is recognized when experienced. It is knowledge inseparable from the total experience of reality, especially a total or divine reality.


From the Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra
(“the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) by Nagarjuna

Jñāna refers to a set of “eleven knowledges”, according to the 2nd century Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra chapter 38.

“The bodhisattva-mahāsattva must fulfill completely the eleven knowledges (ekādaśa jñānāni):
1. the knowledge of things (dharmajñāna),
2. subsequent knowledge (anvayajñāna),
3. the knowledge of another’s mind (paracittajñāna),
4. conventional knowledge (saṃvṛtijñāna),
5. the knowledge of suffering (duḥkhajñāna),
6. the knowledge of the origin of suffering (samudayajñāna),
7. the knowledge of the cessation of suffering (nirodhajñāna),
8. the knowledge of the path of the cessation of suffering (mārgajñāna),
9. the knowledge of the cessation of the impurities (kṣayajñāna),
10. the knowledge of the non-rearising of the impurities (anutpādajñāna),
11. the knowledge conforming to reality (yathābhūtajñāna).”


Definition of the Eleven Knowledges (ekādaśa-jñāna):

Click to read the 'Definition of the Eleven Knowledges'

The Eleven Knowledges according to Mahāyāna:

Click to read the 'The Eleven Knowledges according to Mahayana'


Dharma Readings:

'Perfection of Knowledge' by Barbara O'Brien *


* O’Brien is a Zen Buddhist practitioner who studied at Zen Mountain Monastery. She is the author of “Rethinking Religion” and has covered religion for The Guardian,, and other outlets.


'Two Paths To Knowledge' by Bhikkhu Bodhi **


** Bhikkhu Bodhi is an American Theravada Buddhist monk, ordained in Sri Lanka. Bhikkhu Bodhi is founder of the organization Buddhist Global Relief, which funds projects to fight hunger and to empower women across the world. He now lives and teaches at Chuang Yen Monastery (Carmel, NY), and is the president of the Buddhist Association of the US.


Dharma Video:

The cause of obstacle of knowledge and views and its effect on us” by Master Sheng Yen ***

*** Sheng Yen (1931 –2009) was a Chinese Buddhist monk, a religious scholar, and one of the mainstream teachers of Chan Buddhism. He was a dharma heir in the Linji school (Japanese: Rinzai) , the Caodong (Japanese: Sōtō) lineage. He was the founder of the Dharma Drum Mountain, a Buddhist organization based in Taiwan.



  1. Bhikkhu Bodhi said in his article:
    “the knowledge to be acquired by the practice of Dhamma… (is) a deep personal insight into the real nature of one’s personal existence. The aim is not to understand reality from the outside, but … from the perspective of one’s own, living experience.”
    How then, while practicing Dharma, do we avoid being trapped in the kind of “self-centered universe” that Master Sheng Yen described in the video?
  2. In her article, Ms. O’Brien cited Rev. Taigen Leighton’s writing:
    “This knowledge, also referred to as the perfection of truth, is at the service of wisdom, putting wisdom to work in the world.”
    I think we can all agree that we have yet to attain the Perfection of Wisdom, how then, can we put “wisdom to work in the world”? Should we even try? Why?



  1. Contemplate on the Ten Paramitas, revisit the material we shared this year on all ten Perfections:
  2. Contemplate on the Ten Paramitas, FORGET everything we have discussed on the topic!
    Start your own research on Paramitas, find a teacher or Dharma friend(s) to debate your findings, raise more questions, keep your beginner’s mind!
    SUGGESTION: check out the Ten Bhūmis from the Daśabhūmika Sūtra, and see how each Perfection matches up to at least one stage of attainment!