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Prajna means wisdom that is based on a realization of dependent origination, The Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path. Prajna is the wisdom that is able to extinguish afflictions and bring about bodhi. Initially, prajna is attained at a conceptual level by means of listening to sermons (dharma talks), reading, studying and sometimes reciting Buddhist texts and engaging in discourse. The Buddha taught dharma to his disciples mainly through the mean of discourse or sermon, many attaining nirvana upon hearing the Buddha's discourse.
Once the conceptual understanding is attained, it is applied to daily life so that each Buddhist can verify the truth of the Buddha's teaching at a practical level. Lastly, one engages in insight (vipassana) meditation to attain such wisdom at intuitive level. It should be noted that one could theoretically attain nirvana at any point of practice, while listening to a sermon, while conducting business of daily life or while in meditation.
In to the fifth-century CE Buddhaghosa (an Indian Buddhist) states that the function of prajna is "to abolish the darkness of delusion" and that it is "manifested as non-delusion." Its proximate cause is concentration.
Buddhaghosa provides the analogy of a tree to discuss the development of prajna:
  1. The soil of the tree are the:
    • five aggregates
    • twelve sense bases and 18 elements
    • 22 faculties
    • Four Noble Truths
    • Dependent Origination.

  2. The roots are:
    • purification of virtue
    • purification of consciousness.

  3. The trunk is made up of:
    • purification of view
    • purification by overcoming doubt
    • purification by knowledge and vision of what is and is not the path
    • purification by knowledge and vision of the way
    • purification by knowledge and vision.
Buddhaghosa instructs that, to achieve prajna, one should first learn about the soil, then the roots and then the trunk.
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