Dhamma Letter No. 3

The Three Stages of Wisdom


The Three Stages of Wisdom

The Buddha described three stages of wisdom:

  1. Sutta-mayā-paññā (聞慧) is based on knowledge that was either heard or read and therefore dependent on the conveyance of others.

  2. Cintā-mayā-paññā (思慧) is acquired as the result of ones own consideration, reflection, and pondering independent of the teachings of others.

  3. Bhāvanā-mayā-paññā (修慧) is experiential wisdom based on mental developments spawned from the practice of meditation (samatha, 止 or vipassana, 觀).

Intellectual vs. Experiential Practice

Buddhist practitioners must pair an intellectual comprehension of the dhamma with experiential wisdom cultivated via a meditation practice. Take the ti-lakkhana, the three characteristics underlying all phenomena:

  1. Anicca (impermanence, 無常)

  2. Dukkha (dissatisfaction, 苦)

  3. Anatta (non-ego, 無我)

It is not enough to simply know the Buddha’s teaching of the ti-lakkhana in and of itself. You must meditate on this teaching and observe your experience within the framework of these characteristics. In this way, knowledge connects with the heart. This leads to a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of daily life by applying the dhamma directly to ones own experience.

Remember, everybody would like to be happy. As a human being, we were born for a reason. Without bhāvanā, we will be unable reach our goal.

May all accumulate the Paramīs and accomplish their own wishes!
May all beings be happy and well through the practices in this very life!

With Metta,

Ayyā Kosallā & Mahāpajāpatī Bhikkhunī Sangha
Edited by Max Montgomery 


If you have any questions related to dhamma, please feel free to ask. You can reach Ayya Kosalla directly at bhikkhuni.kosalla@gmail.com. We will answer your questions and include them in future Dhamma Letters.


Bhikkuni Kosalla Vipassini is the Abbess of Mahapajapati Monastery in Pioneertown, California. For monastery updates, please see Mahapajapati’s Facebook. Donations are gratefully accepted, whether you volunteer your time, offer funds, or provide needed requisites for the monastics. If you are inspired to donate, you may do so here.


Buddha Sāsanaṁ Ciraṁ Tiṭṭhatu! 
May the Buddha’s teachings last a long time!

​Bhavatu Sabba Sotiṁ ca Maṅgalaṁ ca!!  
May everyone be led on the path of peace and blessing!!

Sādhu Sādhu Sādhu !


Donate to Mahapajapati