Nina Van Gorkom
Some people separate pariyatti from pa.tipatti which they see as something that is not part of their normal daily life, as something particular they have to be engaged in. They forget that when they study
the theory, pariyatti, they should study with the aim to understand the reality that appears at this
One should study in order to understand that any reality of this moment is dhamma, be it
seeing or hearing, but one never knew before that it was dhamma. Thus, people should study with the
aim to correctly understand that naama dhamma at this moment is the reality that experiences, the
element that experiences. Naama dhamma is not theory, but there is naama dhamma while we are
seeing now. One may have heard and understood that seeing at this moment is naama dhamma,
because it is a reality that experiences something, but the expression “the reality that experiences” is
most difficult to understand and to penetrate. When one sees, there is something that is appearing
through the eyes, but the reality of naama that sees does not appear. Only when its characteristic
appears, it can be known as an element or a kind of dhamma that is real.
When people have understood this, they know that what is appearing through the eyes at this moment
could not appear if there would not be naama dhamma that has arisen and sees that object. One can
gradually understand that seeing at this moment is dhamma. Therefore, when one studies the Dhamma
one studies with the purpose to have right understanding of the characteristics of realities that are the
truth of each moment in daily life. This can be a condition for sati to arise and to be aware and in this
way one will gradually understand that when one sees at this moment, it is a reality, an element that
experiences, or when one hears, that it is an element experiencing sound.
People who listened at the time when the Sammaasambuddha had not yet finally passed away, could
understand immediately the characteristics of naama and ruupa. The reason was that they had
developed understanding, that they had listened and considered what they had learnt to a great extent.
When we read the life stories of those people we see that, before they could realize the four noble
truths at the moment of enlightenment, they had to study and listen a great deal during many lives, so
that they could become bahussuta. A person who is bahussuta (bahu is much, and suta is heard) is
someone who has listened and studied a great deal in order to understand realities. As Khun Nipat has
said, at that time there were no books.
Therefore, people listened with understanding and they did not think of textbooks or different subjects
written down in books. They heard about realities that were appearing, they could investigate and
understand them immediately. Their study was based on listening and considering, they knew that what
they heard concerned the reality appearing at that very moment.
When the Buddha asked whether seeing was permanent or impermanent, they answered,
“impermanent”. They did not memorize this from a textbook, but seeing was performing the function of
seeing, and the pa~n~naa they had developed was the condition for understanding the truth of the
reality at that moment.