Showing posts with label Dhammapada. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dhammapada. Show all posts

04 September 2015

The Trackless One?

In two well known verses from the Buddhavaggo of the Dhammapada, the Buddha is referred to as apada. Many translations read apada "the trackless one". The great philologist of Middle-Indic, K. R. Norman, translates "leaving no track, by what track will you lead him?" The translation of these verses has long puzzled me. Why would one who "leaves no track" be difficult (or impossible) to lead somewhere? And isn't the image messed up? A track can lead somewhere, but do we lead someone by a track? What about the translation "trackless". What could this possibly mean? So when someone wrote to me recently with a question about these verses, I spent some time working on the verses and I think I came to a better understanding of apada. The two verses in Pāḷi read:
yassa jitaṃ nāvajīyati jitaṃ yassa no yāti koci loke
taṃ buddhaṃ anantagocaraṃ apadaṃ kena padena nessatha? |179|
yassa jālinī visattikā taṇhā n'atthi kuhiñci netave
taṃ buddhaṃ anantagocaraṃ apadaṃ kena padena nessatha? |180|
The key word is pada. It is a tricky word with many meanings. It literally means "foot" and comes from the Proto-Indo-European *ped- "foot". Some cognates, all meaning "foot" include Greek pod; Latin ped; Proto-Germanic *fot; and English foot. In Pāli, living creatures are characterised as sattā apadā vā dvipadā vā catuppadā vā bahuppadā  "beings with no feet, with two feet, with four feet or with many feet" or "footless, bipeds, quadrupeds, and creepy-crawlies" (SN v.41, AN ii.34).

In Sanskrit and Pāḷi pada can, by association, also mean "footprint". For example, in the Cūḷahatthipadopama Sutta (MN 27) an elephant's footprint (hatthipada) is used a metaphor for the experience of the stages of liberation - a tathāgatapada "a footprint of the Tathāgata" or a sign by which one can know the Tathāgata. The other types of sign that elephants leave help to fill out the image: uccā nisevita "a high-up scratching place" and dantehi ārañjitāni "furrows made by tusks". In the simile of the text one must see the foot that made the footprints, in order to fully comprehend the elephant.

Abstractly, the image of the footprint as a sign of the passing animal can become "a sign" more generally. This led to the sense of pada as a "word" (a linguistic sign). Sometimes pada can mean "a track" as in a series of footprints left behind by an animal's feet or the track created by many passing feet. Metaphorically, a verse has "feet" of a fixed number of syllables: siloka meter has four feet of eight syllables, for example. So when we see this word pada in a text, we always have to pause to carefully consider what sense is intended. Ironically, one of the more difficult words to translate is dhammapada. Partly because pada here is singular and the text is an anthology of verses. Does pada here mean, 'foot', 'sign', 'word', or 'track'? 

The majority of translators have opted to translate pada/apada in these Dhammapada verses with some variation on "track" and "trackless". One leaves a track as one goes. One follows a track; one follows where the track leads. The verb in these verse is √nī 'lead'. We have the English idiom of a track "leading somewhere". So "track/trackless" may fit the context. However, why would one who leaves no track be difficult to lead? What is the logic of this image? By taking the two verses together I first argue that pada must mean something like "sign" here, because it is strongly implied by the verses. However, as I dig deeper into the word apada and how it is used, I uncover another more fundamental metaphor which seems to inform the passage. 


yassa jitaṃ nāvajīyati |179a|
What he has won cannot be lost
Jita is the past tense of jayati 'he wins, he conquers' < √. It can mean that which was conquered (yad jitaṃ), or "it was conquered by him" (tena jitaṃ), the "one who has conquered" (jito), or simply "a victory". It's combined here with avajīyati, the passive of ava√jī, 'diminished, lost, undone.' So the sense of the sentence is that what has been won by him cannot be lost. His transformation cannot be undone. His victory cannot be diminished

jitaṃ yassa no yāti koci loke |179b|
What he has won does not go anywhere in the world
Metrically jitaṃ seems to belong with 179a, but semantically it is part of this sentence (179b). Word order is much less important in Pāḷi, especially in verse, so yassa jitaṃ or jitaṃ yassa both mean the same thing: "his victory, what he has won". And it "does not go (no yāti) anywhere (koci) in the world (loke)." This sentence is a bit esoteric. But consider it in the light of the Rohitassa Sutta (S 2.26, PTS S i.61; also A 4.45, PTS A ii.47), in which the eponymous young deva asks the Buddha:
yatha nu kho bhante na jāyati na jīyati na mīyati na cavati na upapajjati, sakkā nu kho so, bhante, gamanena lokassa anto ñātuṃ vā daṭṭhum vā pāpuṇituṃ vā ti?
Is there a way to know, or see, or to reach, the end of the world – where there is no birth, no ageing, no death; no dying and being reborn – by travelling?
The answer is that one cannot reach the goal by physically travelling. He also says:
na kho panāhaṃ, āvuso, appatvā lokassa antaṃ dukkhassa antakiriyaṃ vadāmi. Api ca khvāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññapemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadanti. (S i.62)
However, friend, I say there is no making an end of disappointment, without reaching the end of the world. And, friend, it is right here in this arm-span measure of body endowed with perception and cognition that I declare the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, and the way leading to the cessation of the world.
These passages help to define what we mean by 'the world'. As Bodhi says, 
"The world with which the Buddha’s teaching is principally concerned is ‘the world of experience,’ and even the objective world is of interest only to the extent that it serves as that necessary external condition for experience" (Bodhi 2000: 394, n.182).
So "the world" referred to in the verse is most likely the world of experience, the world contained in the body endowed with mental faculties, the end of which can be reached without travelling. And perhaps this is why the tathāgata's victory does not go anywhere in the world?

taṃ buddhaṃ anantagocaraṃ apadaṃ |179c|
Awakened, with limitless perception, signless
Anantagocaram is also a compound meaning one whose sphere or field of sense perception (gocara - literally 'pasture' or the 'range of a cow') is without ends (an-anta). Compare Dhp 22 where the ones who enjoy sobriety with respect to the senses (appamāde pamodanti) are ariyānaṃ gocare ratā "those who delight in the range of the nobles (i.e., the enlightened)." 
We've already introduced the words pada and apada, and until we have translated 180 we just need to say that apadaṃ is something predicated of the Buddha. Metrically apadam is part of 179d, but syntactically goes with buddhaṃ.

kena padena nessatha? |179d|
By what sign will you lead him?
The verb is neti 'to lead', from √. The form nessatha is the second person plural future tense, "you (plural) will lead". The future can also be used to convey a hypothetical proposition. However, while 'lead' is the primary meaning and goes well with pada as "track", we need to consider that √has a range of other meanings. It can also mean 'takes, takes away, especially to take away in marriage, carries off.' In Sanskrit the verb can also mean 'to bring to subjection, subdue.' So we must consider that the sentence could read: "By what pada could you take him away?" or "By what pada could you subdue him?" And in each case "you" plural. 
We'll take 180a and b together, and 180cd is the same as 179cd.

yassa jālinī visattikā taṇhā n'atthi kuhiñci netave |180ab|
He has no lust, clinging, or craving to lead [him] anywhere.
Now the verb here is also from √., here a rare form of the infinitive 'to lead'. Although the sentence is phrased in the negative (n'atthi "there is not") let's first consider it in the positive. If we ignore the negative particle na for a minute the sentence would say that he is led by desire for sense experience, i.e., lust (jālinī), clinging (visattikā) or craving (taṇhā). Such a person would be padaṃ, which must mean they are characterised by a sign. And that sign is craving itself. By contrast, the Buddha is apadaṃ and thus he has no craving to lead him anywhere. Padaṃ and craving play the same role in the sentence. Ergo, what this verse means by padaṃ is craving. It's a little odd, but not as odd as the standard translations. 

Our finished translation is:
What he has won cannot be lost,
What he has won does not go anywhere in the world.
That awakened one, with limitless perception, who is himself signless,
By what sign will you lead him? (179) 
He has no lust, clinging, or craving,
To lead him anywhere.
That awakened one, with limitless perception, who is himself signless,
By what sign will you lead him? (180)


As already mentioned, apada is used in it's most obvious sense of "without a foot" in many places. Snakes are the most obvious example of apada. The form apadaṃ only occurs in a very few suttas. For example in the Nivāpa Sutta (MN 25) we find out that a bhikkhu in the state of first jhāna cannot be followed by Māra or his retinue. I'm going to give Ñānamoḷi & Bodhi's (Ñ&B) translation to begin with.
Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, bhikkhu andhamakāsi māraṃ, apadaṃ vadhitvā māracakkhuṃ adassanaṃ gato pāpimato. (MN i.159)
This bhikkhu is said to have blindfold Māra, to have become invisible to the Evil One by depriving Māra's eye of its opportunity. (Ñ&B 2001: 250-1)
The passage is repeated at AN iv.434. Now, on face value this translation is incomprehensible, because there is no word that means "opportunity". "To have become invisible to the Evil One" must translate adassanaṃ gato pāpimato.  So, "by depriving Māra's eye of its opportunity" therefore translates apadaṃ vadhitvā māracakkhuṃ. Mara's eye is māracakkhuṃ; vadhitvā is a gerund meaning 'having stuck, having killed' which must therefore correspond to Ñ&B's "depriving" (translating gerunds as English present participles is fine). So here apadaṃ must correspond to "of its opportunity", though it's not clear how this could work.

In these cases we usually suspect that the translators have bowed to Buddhaghosa, so the next step in following this thread is to look at the commentary. The corresponding passage in the Papañcasūdani is:
"Apadaṃ vadhitvā māracakkhun" ti teneva pariyāyena yathā mārassa cakkhu apadaṃ hoti nippadaṃ, appatiṭṭhaṃ, nirārammaṇaṃ, evaṃ vadhitvāti attho.  (MA 2.163)
Apadaṃ vadhitvā māracakkhun is a way of saying (pariyāya) that the eye of Māra is without a sign, signless, unsupported, without any basis, this is what "destroying" means.
Having pondered this for a time, I don't think it makes any more sense than the sutta passage it is commenting on. The commentary on AN iv.434 (AA 4.201) is shorter but similar:
"Apadaṃ vadhitvā"ti nippadaṃ niravasesaṃ vadhitvā.
Apadaṃ vadhitvā [means] having destroyed [Māra's eyes] completely, signlessly.  (Bodhi 2012: 1832, n.1940)
In his comparative study of the Majjhima Nikāya and Madhyamāgama, Anālayo (2011) notes another similar passage in AN 9.39. Here a monk who has attained the 8 vimokkhas (the four rūpa jhānas and four arupa āyatanas) is:
antamakāsi māraṃ, apadaṃ vadhitvā māracakkhuṃ, adassanaṃ  gato pāpimato
One who has blinded Māra, put out Māra's eyes without a trace, and gone beyond the sight of the Evil One. (Bodhi 2012: 1306)
Where antamakasi is almost certainly meant to be andhamakāsi "blinded" and is translated accordingly (cf. Bodhi 2012: 1831, n.1939). So, in fact, the Ñ&B translation is not based on the commentary this time, and Bodhi has opted for a completely different translation in his solo work (which is quite unusual). Here Bodhi translates apadaṃ as "without a trace" which implies completeness. I'm not convinced that this is a possible connotation of apada, however. It seems more likely that having destroyed Māra's eye, he becomes apada; he cannot see a sign.

It's quite unusual for the patient of the gerund to come after the gerund in prose. The two phrases apadaṃ vadhitvā māracakkhuṃ and adassanaṃ gato pāpimato both have 10 syllables so may have originally come from verse, though I cannot locate this verse. 

This is a very difficult idiom to understand. The idea that it is explained by "tracks" or "leaving  tracks" seems a bit far-fetched. There are three apparently unrelated uses:

  1. When as animal has no feet, it is apada
  2. When the Buddha is without craving he is apada
  3. When Māra is without sight, blinded, he is also apada

I think all three are in fact connected by an obscure metaphor which relies not on the "track" sense of pada, but on "foot". The arising of craving is what propels people towards the object of desire. If craving is the "foot" that propels people around, then the Buddha is "footless". Remember also that in Dhp 179b jitaṃ yassa no yāti koci loke "What he has won does not go anywhere in the world." It does not go anywhere (no yāti koci) because it cannot go, because the Buddha's victory (jita) has deprived it of propulsion, in this metaphor it is now apada or footless. MN 25 asks Kathañca, bhikkhave, agati mārassa ca māraparisāya ca? "Where is it that Māra and his retinue are unable to go?" Māra cannot go where he cannot see. By blinding him we render him "footless", and cannot go anywhere.

With this in mind, we can also reconsider the translation of 179c in which the Buddha is described as anantagocaraṃ apadaṃ. I followed the herd here in translating anantagocara as 'limitless perception', but I noted that gocara literally means  'range of a cow' from cara 'walking' and go 'cow'. But what's interesting here is the juxtaposition of the 'range of a cow' being limitless and a being who is footless. When Māra is footless he cannot go anywhere. When the Buddha is footless he can go anywhere. Māra represents the world "out there", the Buddha represents the world "in here", in this arm-span length of body. Being footless in the physical world is crippling. Being footless in the sense of without craving to propel us into motion opens up the "inner" world completely. Mental "feet" like craving and hatred tend to propel us away from present experience, to lead us outwards towards the object of desire, or away from the object of aversion. Cut off those feet and we stay immersed in experience.

We can also point to another reading of 179cd/180cd
taṃ buddhaṃ anantagocaraṃ apadaṃ kena padena nessatha? |179|
I suggested above that apadaṃ should be read as part of pada c. But. in fact. we could read it as part of pada d.
taṃ buddhaṃ anantagocaraṃ apadaṃ kena padena nessatha? |179|
The range of that awakened one is limitless
By what footpath could you lead the footless?
I think this is a superior reading. It nicely exploits the ambiguity of pada in a play on words. We get something of the flavour of it by using "footpath" to juxtapose with "footless".


Having worked through the translation, we are now in a position to deal with the question of what a "trackless one" is. He is, shall we say, a misunderstanding. However, K. R. Norman is not easily mislead, so why does "trackless one" seem like a good translations here? Pada is a complex word and often difficult to translate. There isn't really a wholly satisfactory translation of "dhammapada."  When presented with an image using pada we tend to think of the figurative uses. We are so used to taking it abstractly or figuratively that we only translate pada as "foot" only when the situation demands it. I think the combination of the word pada and the verb √ are quite persuasive. We have a combination of tracks and leading, and the link between certain beings, the Buddha, and Māra all being apada is very obscure. 

On the other hand, taking Dhp 179 and 180 together it's more obvious, though still fairly obscure, that apada refers to the Buddha's lack of craving, but we do not know why it does. One of K R Norman's observations about the philologer is that they don't simply say what a text means, they say why it means that. So the job is only half complete. The key insight emerges out of following the thread a little further and looking at the handful of other times that the word apada is used. It is only used to describe: an animal without feet; the Buddha without craving; and Māra without sight. What the last two have in common is that they do not "go" anywhere. The footless animal, i.e.. a snake, ought not to go anywhere, but somehow does. So the link is locomotion. We can extend the comparison between the snake and the Buddha. Just as a snake is able to move about without any feet, the Buddha relates to other beings without any craving and, thus, without creating any karma that must ripen. Māra, on the other hand, is crippled when made footless/blind.

Now one of the traps for translators is to slavishly translate a word with the same English word each time it occurs. As in all languages, Pāḷi words have denotations and connotations. And just as in English a Pāḷi word may have multiple denotations and multiple connotations. People with very orderly minds like to think that language should restrict one word to one meaning so as to avoid ambiguity. But, in practice, such an ideal language has probably never existed. Language always involves ambiguity. And just as well, since almost all comedy depends on it, and communal laughter is an important evolutionary adaptation to living in large groups; and a good deal of poetry also depends on it. And in the case of these verses, I think that "path" is probably the best translation of padaṃ in 179d and 180d. This suggests that the poet was aware of the all the ambiguity and was exploiting it for effect. And, in fact, if someone is footless (and in this imagery unable to physically go anywhere) then where could you lead them? Political correctness had no place in the worldview of the people who composed and preserved these verses.

My final translation, then is:
What he has won cannot be lost,
What he has won does not go anywhere in the world.
The range of that awakened one is limitless
By what footpath could you lead the footless? (179)
He has no lust, clinging, or craving,
To lead him anywhere.
The range of that awakened one is limitless
By what footpath could you lead the footless? (180)
Pāḷi texts are seldom purposefully esoteric. On the whole we can take the suttas on face value. Of course, some of the metaphors have become reified or are obscure to us, but the feeling is that the author was not trying to misdirect us, they were trying to communicate in a fairly direct manner. Sometimes verses in the Dhammapada that use obscure metaphors can seem as though they are esoteric. Considering the huge popularity of the text, it is surprisingly difficult at times. It's a text to be quite wary of, especially in translation. Even the best translations sometimes fail to plumb the depths of the Dhammapada.



Anālayo (2011) A Comparative Study of the Majjhima-nikāya. Vol. 1 (Introduction, Studies of Discourses 1 to 90). Dharma Drum.

Bodhi (2012) The Numerical Discourses. Wisdom.

Ñāṇamoli and Bodhi. (2001) The Middle Length Discourses. Wisdom.

Norman, K. R. (2000) The Word of the Doctrine (Dhammapada). Pali Text Society.

27 August 2010

A Pāli Pun

In the Aggañña Sutta (DN 27.22) we find some interesting material on the Buddhist attitude to class prejudice. [1] We need to be clear that this not an objective historical record; it is a document which is meant to convince us of a particular view, or perhaps persuade against one. However, the fact that the Pāli texts recall the kinds of insults that Brahmins aimed at Buddhists suggests that there is some veracity in the texts, since they would probably not make up insults for themselves, nor preserve them. Some Brahmins saw the samaṇa as having taken on the status of śudra - the lowest of the four classes, though not the lowest level of Indian society, since one could be outcast. Note that 'Brahmin' is an Anglicisation of the Sanskrit brāhmaṇa usually adopted to avoid confusion with the texts of the same name. Here a former Brahmin called Vāseṭṭha who has converted to Buddhism recounts the kinds of insults he receives from Brahmins:

brāhmaṇova seṭṭho vaṇṇo, hīno añño vaṇṇo. Brāhmaṇova sukko vaṇṇo, kaṇho añño vaṇṇo. Brāhmaṇāva sujjhanti, no abrāhmaṇā. Brāhmaṇāva brahmuno puttā orasā mukhato jātā brahmajā brahmanimmitā brahmadāyādā. Te tumhe seṭṭhaṃ vaṇṇaṃ hitvā hīnamattha vaṇṇaṃ ajjhupagatā, yadidaṃ muṇḍake samaṇake ibbhe kaṇhe bandhupādāpacce.

Brahmins are the best class, the other class is defective (hīna). Brahmins are the pure [white] class, the other is impure [black]. Brahmins are the offspring of Brahmā's mouth, born from Brahmā, created by Brahmā, the kin of Brahmā. Having deserted the best class you have accepted the class that fails to measure up, with these baldy, petit-ascetic, menials, blacks, offspring of Brahmā’s feet! [DN 27.3, D iii.81]
Note the use of hīna in this context to describe the śudra class, and then hīnamattha which I've rendered 'fails to measure up' and does literally mean 'lacking a full measure'. The word for both 'pure' and 'white' is sukka; while the word for 'impure' and 'black' is kaṇha. The insults muṇḍaka 'bald' and samaṇaka 'ascetic' are in a diminutive form that is hard to capture in English - elsewhere they have been rendered "shaveling little ascetics". The last three terms (which can also be read as "menial, black offspring...") are often used of śudras. Indeed, the reference to "Brahmā's feet" is an allusion to Ṛgveda 10.90 The Puruṣa Sūkta. [2] However, I think the idea would have been a cliché (or, indeed, an insult) by the Buddha's day, so it doesn't necessarily suggest familiarity with the Ṛgveda, itself. These are insults that only a Brahmin could use. In looking for contemporary parallels I suggest that the language of white racist abuse is on a par with the passage above. However, projecting contemporary attitudes and understandings backward onto the texts is an uncertain enterprise, at best.

The Buddhist response in the Aggañña Sutta is a lengthy satire on Brahmanical cosmogony and views on the origins of the four classes that employs a series of puns. The funniest one is at DN 27.22 where the Buddha remarks that: ‘They don’t meditate’ (ajhāyaka) is the meaning of ‘brahmin student’ (ajjhāyaka).

However, I want now to focus on the first of the puns in this section. It is less obvious, less amusing, but offers some interesting reflections on the history of Budddhism.
Pāpake akusale dhamme bāhentīti kho, vāseṭṭha, ‘brāhmaṇā, brāhmaṇā’ tveva paṭhamaṃ akkharaṃ upanibbattaṃ. [D iii.93-4]
They ward off evil unwholesome things, Vāseṭṭha, [hence] they are ‘Brahmins’. This is the first pun produced.
The word akkharaṃ literally means 'constant', but also 'letter, sound'. Hence, it is used as the name of the Vedic science of phonology - the sounds of the letters being the constants of language and having a greater significance, even at an early date, than we assign to our letters. It is only a guess, but I think that it suggests 'pun' here - a play on words based on similar sounds. This makes more sense in view of the following discussion.

At first glance there is no pun in the passage quoted. However, brāhmaṇa is a Sanskrit form. In Pāli, consonant clusters like 'br' get resolved in various ways; e.g., the Sanskrit term śramaṇa becomes samaṇa in Pāli. This suggests that the form of our word should be bāhmaṇa and, indeed, Richard Gombrich notes that this form is found in some of Asoka's edicts. [3]

In his work An Outline of Meters in the Pāḷi Canon Ānandajoti notes that the conjunct br in brāhmaṇa regularly fails to “make position”; i.e., it fails to cause the preceding syllable to be metrically heavy. However, it does regularly make position medially. This suggests that brā was frequently treated as , at least for the purposes of meter.

If bāhmaṇa (possibly bāhmana) was the form, then we do have a pun with bāhenti, 'they ward off'. [4] This kind of sound alike etymology is called nirutti (S. nirukti) and relies on verbal roots having phonetic similarity. [6] The verb bāheti is said by PED to be a causative from bahati or a denominative perhaps related to Sanskrit bahis 'outward', which is also the opinion of Edgerton in BHSD. The root of which is obscure. Though John Brough thinks it unlikely [5], the root may be √vah 'carry' - there is a regular confusion of 'b' and 'v' in Indic languages [see note 4]. This idea that Brahmins have avoided or warded off evil is consistent with Brahmins claiming to be sukka - pure/white - but it also reflects the Buddhist notion that a Brahmin is a Brahmin because of their conduct, not because of their birth.

There are a number of texts in Pāli, Sanskrit and Gāndhārī which make use of this same pun - I'll highlight the key terms in italics, and add hyphens to compounds to help clarify the connection. At MN 39.24 (M i.280) we find:
Kathañca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu brāhmaṇo hoti? Bāhitāssa honti pāpakā akusalā dhammā...
And how is a bhikkhu a brāhmaṇa? They have warded off evil unskilful mental states…
Again, in the Dhammapada, verse 388:
bāhita-pāpo’ti brāhmaṇo, samacariyā samaṇo’ti vuccati
pabbājaya attano malaṃ, tasmā pabbajito’ti vuccati.

Brahmin means ‘evil put aside’, we call the calmly living ‘samaṇa’.
Putting aside his own impurity, he is called ‘gone forth’.
We have several versions of the Dhammapada. In the Gāndhārī language version of the Dharmapada [7] the parallel verse (DhpG 1.16) runs:

brahetva pavaṇi brammaṇo
samaïrya śramaṇo di vucadi
I refrain from attempting to translate, but these words are not so different from the Pāli (pavaṇi = pāpa). The 'r' in brahetva is probably an anomaly, since it is not found in either the Pāli or Sanskrit versions. John Brough (who edited the GDhp) notes that it may have been "artificially introduced to buttress the pseudo-etymology of brāhmaṇa, if this arose originally in a dialect which assimilated br- of the latter word"; but, overall, he is doubtful about deriving P. bāheti from √bah or √vah and links it to √brah or √barh. [8] However, if we derive the verb from the same root as brahmaṇa (actually √bṛh) then the verb means 'to strengthen' and the sentence means the opposite of the parallels - i.e., that the Brahmin is one who strengthens evil. So we can probably conclude that the Gandhāran composer understood that this was a pun, and because in their dialect brāhmaṇa is spelt brammaṃa, introduced an 'r' into the verb to preserve the pun. Though it is strange that they should do this and obscure the meaning. Gāndhārī baheti is also listed as equal to P. bāhetvā in Stefan Baums and Andrew Glass (preliminary) Gāndhārī Dictionary, so we know that the 'r' is not required in that dialect.

Another version of the Dhammapada survives in a Sanskrit text which is called Udānavarga (UV 11.15)
brāhmaṇo vāhitaiḥ pāpaiḥ
śramaṇaḥ śamitāśubhaḥ
Note that UV has vāhita like the variant Pāli, and consistent with Sanskrit usage of the verb. In turn, this leads us to two parallels from the Pāli Udāna:
Yo brāhmaṇo bāhita pāpadhammo (Ud 1.5)

He is a Brahmin who avoids evil states

Bāhitvā pāpake dhamme, ye caranti sadā satā;
Khīṇasaṃyojanā buddhā, te ve lokasmi brāhmaṇā 'ti (Ud 1.6)

Having avoided evil states, they always behave mindfully;
With fetters destroyed and awake, they are called brahmins in the world.
Max Müller (in his Dhp translation) notes another occurrence of our phrase in the (Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit) Lalitavistara:
…trailokya-brāhmaṇaṃ bāhita-pāpakarmāṇaṃ bhikṣuṃ

...the three-worlds' Brahmin with evil deeds cast aside is a bhikṣu [LV 22.5]
Note that LV follows the Pāli in using bāhita. I've made no attempt at an exhaustive search; these are just the examples that come easily to hand. But still we have a number of passages which work together to show that at some point this pun on bāhenti/bāhmana must have been reasonably common, and have made sense - i.e., that the two words bāhetva/bāhita and bāhmaṇa shared the syllable bāh. We would have expected Pāli to preserve the pun, since bāhmana is the natural form of that word in Pāli. Since it did not, we have something of a mystery.

One possible conclusion is that the spelling was deliberately changed - and that this change affected not only the Pāli, but also the Buddhist Sanskrit usage. In turn, this suggests that LV emerged in a milieu that spoke a dialect closely allied to Pāli, though UV did not, since it uses the form vāhita. The change from bā > brā involves a Sanskritisation which suggests a Brahmin influence, since at the time Sanskrit was the sole preserve of the Brahmins, and yet it occurs precisely in the context of satires on Brahmanical beliefs. Madhav Deshpande has pointed to passages in the Lalitavistara Sūtra that indicate the "increasing prominence of Brahmanical elements within Buddhist traditions". [9] Perhaps Brahmin converts were able to live with the canonical criticisms of their former faith/culture and. in any case. could not erase them because it would be noticed; but they retained enough pride in their heritage to correct the spelling of their former social class across the whole canon?

Another possibility is that though the original dialect used bāhmaṇa, Pāli had brahmaṇa as a loan word directly from Sanskrit by the time the texts were translated into Pāli. The Gandhāran translator must have had (or heard) a text in the original dialect to see the pun, and make the unusual change they did. There is some linguistic evidence to suggest more than one wave of Indo-European speaking people moving into India, and that those who wrote the Vedas and built the Brahmanical culture may not have been directly connected to the earlier (or perhaps later) wave that moved much further east more quickly. This might allow for brāhmaṇa to be a new word to those in the East. But that is a complex argument, and this is now a long post. However, one important point to follow up would be to locate the Asoka use of bāhmaṇa geographically, and compare this to the most recent deliberations on the comparison of Pāli and the Asokan dialects.

~~| This is Rave no. 200 |~~

  1. There are some structural features which suggest that the text is not in its original form, especially the sudden transition between verse 9 and v.10. My guess is that a verse has which should introduce this part of the text has been lost. However, some have seen it as two separate texts. It is true that the narrative that stops at v.8 (v.9 is standalone and may not have originally been in this position) and is resumed at v.27. However, v.23 references v.4 linking the two. A verse which introduced the cosmogonic story would have been expected (cf other similar texts such as D.3, D.26 where the change is signalled). It is not hard to skip a verse when copying a text. This sort of thing is impossible to prove, however.
  2. The Puruṣa Sūkta mentions the Sāmaveda and Yajurveda written 500-600 years after the probable date of the Ṛgveda ca 1500-1200 BCE, so it must have been added to the Ṛgveda after this time. This is still well before the Buddha's days. For a discussion on sūkta/sūtra/sutta see: Philological Odds & Ends I.
  3. What the Buddha Thought, p.224, n.8. The earliest reference I have found to this theory is Müller, F. Max. The Dhammapada : A collection of verses being one of the canonical books of the Buddhists. Translated from pāli By F. Max müller . Oxford, the Clarendon Press [1881], p.liv (online text). However, Müller himself cites a German ethnographical study published in several volumes from 1866-68 so it may go back a few more years. (Note the Pali Text Society was founded in 1881.)
  4. In the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana edition of the canon the verb is spelt vāhenti rather than bāhenti. This confusion between ba and va is widespread and partly due to phonetics, and partly because the characters have always been similar in Indic writing: cf Devanāgarī: ब व. The two verbs unusually have slightly different senses in Pāli, and the va spelling further obscures the pun.
  5. Brough, J. The Gāndhārī Dharmapada. P. 178, n. 1.
  6. For which see my Yāska and his Nirukta, and Yāska, Plato and Sound Symbolism. For sound symbolism generally see Magnus, Margaret: What's in a Word? Studies in Phonosemantics. Unpublished PhD Dissertation; and her popular website Magical Letter Page. Magnus has shown that words which share an initial phoneme are indeed more likely to have overlapping semantic fields than words which do not. A growing body of evidence is challenging the Saussurian dictum that the "sign is arbitrary" which is the paradigm from which mainstream linguists see Yāska, and dismiss the value of nirukti etymologies as "fanciful".
  7. Gandhāra was in the Northwest of India - what is now the Taliban stronghold in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Several caches of texts from that region date from the first couple of centuries common era in a language which has been called by modern scholars after the region. This and the next passage are from: Ānandajoti Bhikkhu . A Comparative Edition of the Dhammapada with parallels from Sanskritised Prakrit edited together with A Study of the Dhammapada Collection. (2nd revised edition July, 2007 - 2551). Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  8. Brough, as for note 5.
  9. Deshpande, Madhav. Sanskrit & Prakrit, sociolinguistic issues. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1993, p.9.
  10. See, for instance, Deshpande, Madhav. 'Genesis of Ṛgvedic Retroflexion: a Historical and Sociolinguistic Investigation.' in Deshpande, Madhav M and Hook, Peter Edwin (ed.s) Aryan and Non-aryan in India. The University of Michigan, 1979. esp p.261ff.
image: Brahmin from

29 August 2008

Dhammapada 5 - 6

na hi verena verāni, sammantīdha kudācanaṃ
averena ca sammanti, esa dhammo sanantano

pere ca na vijānanti, mayamettha yamāmase
ye ca tattha tato sammanti medhagā

Not by hatred are hatreds calmed at any time
By non-hatred they cease, this teaching is primeval

And others don't realise that we should be restrained.
But if they do realise this, then they will settle quarrels.
Verse 5 is one of the most famous Buddhist aphorisms. Hatred is like fuel on the fire, it only leads to more hatred. These two verse continue the theme established in verses 3 and 4: that we are never justified in holding a grudge. Vera, translated here as hatred can also mean "revenge, hostile action." It's actually related to the term vīra which usually translates as "hero" but can also mean something like "mighty". Avera then is the absence of hatred: "friendliness, friendly, peaceable".

The verses tell us that this idea is sanantano or "primeval, or "of old, for ever, eternal", the word being related to the Latin senex, and the English senile. So it could mean that the teaching is old, or that it will always apply.

Either way it is an important principle. And those who know this principle restrain their hatred (line 6a). Actually the first line of verse 6 is difficult to translate because the word yamāmase seems only to occur once (a hapax legomenon), and is of unclear etymology. I have followed K.R. Norman in reading it as an optative of √yam a verbal root meaning 'restraint'. Others relate it to the god of death Yama, and make the line say something like: Others do not know that we must all face death. There is good and useful Dharma in this approach. It reminds us that our future destination depends on our conduct in this life. If we indulge in hatred the traditions suggests that we are destined for the hell-realms. I would say that being angry has a hellish quality anyway. [see also Jayarava Rave. 08-02-2008: The Anger Eating Yakkha] That said however, the idea of restraint seems to fit the context a little better I think.

Although it is clear that the text is saying not to hold grudges, and that when one feels anger one should restrain oneself, it's not entirely clear how one might do that from these verses. There is such a plan in the Aṅguttara Nikāya however (sutta V.161). Here we find five methods for dealing with grudges:
  • Practice the brahma-vihāra meditations. If you feel hatred towards someone then try to cultivate the opposite: ie love, compassion, equanimity. (the text suggests mettā, karuṇā, and upekkhā but leaves out muditā and so counts this as three methods). We could call this 'cultivating the opposite'.
  • Pay the person no attention, give no thought to them. This is sometimes called the "blue sky mind" approach - don't feed the feelings and they will subside.
  • Reflect on the consequences. Particularly reflect that whatever bad thing that person has done to you, they will have to experience the fruit of that action which will be painful for them!
There is an obvious link between non-hatred (avera) and loving-kindness (mettā), so cultivating mettā could well have been what the Buddha meant in this case. When we cultivate love, the opposite of hate, then hate cannot find a purchase in our hearts. I suspect that muditā or sympathetic joy was left off the list because it would be difficult to cultivate towards someone to whom you grudge happiness. Best to start with simply not hating them, build towards love, and then perhaps we can take joy in their joys.

A more active form of the blue sky approach which I find quite useful is to think about something else. Many of my raves for this blog have resulted from me taking up a subject to reflect on precisely to stop my attention wandering onto less helpful subjects.

Reflecting on the consequences is also, effectively, reflecting on the Dharma. This is inherently positive. In Dhammapada 3-4 we saw that hatred is never a good thing - that the effects on us of entertaining anger are always negative. So reflect on the consequences of that person shouting at you, or bashing you. As I noted last week, our culture is one in which we seek to punish (ie inflict harm upon) anyone who breaks the law. But since some one who abuses us will suffer anyway, is there really a need to inflict more suffering on them. The question is: "would seeing another person suffer make us happy?" If we see that other person as a human being, then we will not feel joy at their suffering. We know what suffering feels like. We know how unbearable it can be. We know that if we inflict pain because we are angry, that person will become angry and inflict pain also. This has to stop. We must try to stop the cycle of anger and harming. Really reflecting on the causes and consequences of anger and hatred is quite sobering. If we reflect on what might have led a person to want to harm us, we will find fear and anger at the root of it. If we wonder why are they experiencing fear and anger, then we will see that they too have been victims of other people's fear and anger. They have learned this wrong lesson that we seem to teach everyone - that despite what we may say, anger and lashing out are legitimate responses some times.

I recall in Michael Moore's film, Bowling for Columbine, Mike was interviewing a PR man at Lockheed-Martin the massive weapons manufacturing business. They were standing in front of a very large missile, one that could only be used to strike at many people a very long way away (i.e. a weapon of mass destruction). He held his arms wide and his hands open, in the classic gesture of honesty, and said that he did not understand why these boys, who had gunned down many of their school mates, would resort to violence to resolve their problems. Why indeed? A very large missile, designed to deliver weapons of mass destruction is just the result of coordinated hatred, and of course our leaders do often resort to violence to solve their problems with the help of weapons manufacturers like Lockheed-Martin. And we often allow the emotions like hatred to persist in our minds. Of course we might take our revenge by something as simple as withdrawing our affection, or by doing something we know to be annoying. We might not be using a missile to kill thousands of people, or a handgun to kill our classmates. But it is only the scale that is different. If we were angry enough, and someone put a gun in our hand... well sometimes perhaps it doesn't pay to dwell on the consequences for too long. Just enough get the message and move on.

There is a definite sense in these early texts of working to eliminate negative or harmful mental states. There is none of the psycho-babble about allowing your anger to have expression or find an outlet. This is because from the Buddhist point of view the angry thought harms you, and any action undertaken with anger in mind will cause harm (viz my post on Dhammapada 1 - 2). Hatred is harmful so do what you can, whatever you have to, in order for it to subside. There is also no sense in early Buddhist texts of just thinking of anger as 'energy' as some Tantric traditions might do. Sure, there is energy: but are we alert enough, aware enough, Awake enough to refrain from hurting when we are angry? Not in most cases I think. Not without a great deal of training, and a great deal of mettā. Better to err on the side of caution with anger. It can be insidious. We can find ourselves justifying little cruelties to ourselves and others on the basis that "it's just energy", or "it's for their own good". Better to just nip it in the bud.

Bearing grudges only makes you miserable, and you are probably holding onto the possibility of harming someone in return for the harm they caused you. Hatred is never pacified by hatred - it never has been and it never will be. It is only by the opposite, by avera - non-hatred, that hatred is pacified. The good news is that by not bearing grudges, by not holding out for revenge, the hate will subside in you. When hate subsides it makes room for other more positive emotions. Dwelling in mettā all the time is equated with nibbāna in many texts.

See also my commentary on Dhammapada v.1-2, and v.3-4

22 August 2008

Dhammapada verses 3 - 4

akkocchi maṃ avadhi maṃ ajinji maṃ ahāsi me
ye ca taṃ upanayhanti veraṃ tesaṃ na sammati

akkocchi maṃ avadhi maṃ ajinji maṃ ahāsi me
ye ca taṃ n'upanayhanti veraṃ tesaūpasammati

"He abused me, he beat me, he overpowered me, he took from me."
In those who bear these grudges hatred is not stilled

"He abused me, he beat me, he overpowered me, he took from me."
In those who don't bear these grudges hatred settles and ceases.

akkocchi is verbal abuse, while avadhi is physical abuse. ajini comes from the root ji which means "to have power" or "to conquer" and so can mean overpowered, conquered, vanquished. Āhara is the past tense of hara "to take" and me is probably the genitive, so āhara me literally means "he took mine" - it is most often translated as "robbed me" or "stole from me". Sangharakshita has pointed out that the second precept against "taking the not given" has a broader frame of reference - it is not just stealing material things, but taking from someone anything which they have not willingly given you - their time or energy for instance.

These verses are said to have been spoken by the Buddha approximately 25 centuries ago. What this immediately tells us is that some things have not changed. Back then people shouted abuse at each other, they physically attacked each other. Some people tried to dominate their fellows. Some people took things that weren't theirs or that they were not entitled to. I find this quite a thing to reflect on. In 2500 years the human species as a whole has not evolved at all in the ethical sphere. So much for progress. Fortunately some individuals have evolved, and as individuals we all have the potential to evolve ethically and spiritually.

These two verses are only the bear bones of a manifesto for an ethical evolution, even perhaps a revolution. What they are fundamentally saying is that bearing hatred (vera) towards someone is never justified, no matter what they have done to you. This is not what we have learnt in our lives, not what we do on the whole, and seems almost shocking on first contact. Hatred in all it's manifestations is never justified. There is no righteous anger in Buddhism, no room for righteous indignation. Both terms are oxymoronic according to the Buddha. Most of us feel justified in being angry about something or someone, and about cultivating that anger, keeping it alive, feeding it, allowing it to fester. But the Buddha says no to all of this. Never allow anger to persist.

Because we are human our first response to being shouted at, or hit, or if someone tries to overpower us, or take our stuff, may be fear; but anger is usually not far behind. This is understandable. We can see anger is helpful for survival: it marshals our energy reserves (by preparing the body for action) and moves us away from danger, or prepares us to fight for survival. Most often there is nothing we can do about our physiological response to a threat - the reaction is instinctive, and most of us might not be alive today if that response had not kicked in at some appropriate moment in the past.

It is important not to beat yourself up for getting angry. Angry is instinctual. The verb in the second line of each verse is upanayhati which means: 1. to come into touch with; 2. to bear enmity towards, grudge, scorn. I've translated as "bear a grudge" because this seems the most useful way to approach it. For most of us it's not the initial reaction that is problematic, it is the ongoing anger, the grudge, the holding onto hurt, the contemplation or seeking of revenge.

When we hold on to hateful thoughts what happens? One thing is that while we replay the images or the conversation in our head we continue to re-experience the physical responses associated with the event. Say someone shouts at us, and there is an altercation. Our body prepares for action: the adrenal glands release adrenaline into our blood; our heart rate jumps and blood pressure rises; muscles tense ready for action. This can all happen in a moment, and yet it takes quite a few minutes to allow everything to settle back to a resting state. If we constantly replay the events in our minds, then we stir our bodies up, we may even vividly re-experience the the upset or even trauma of an event. Our bodies may continue to maintain a state of alertness for danger, of readiness for action, without ever fully relaxing. Over a long period of time this can be quite damaging to our body and our mind: one thinks of heart problems for instance, or of clinical depression. So holding onto hateful thoughts might be bad for our health in the long term.

Another possibility is that we become "an angry person". When we are constantly stimulating anger in ourselves, we feel angry, and we look angry: we scowl, we frown and grimace. We SOUND angry! Our body language communicates anger as well. Other people will be aware of this incipient hatred and experience it as a threat. It is quite clear to us when someone is angry, and we all know from experience that angry people are the ones who shout and hit, who try to overpower us, and so what do we do? We avoid them. It's only logical to avoid angry people - it is self preservation. Compare for instance the Rev. Iain Paisley with the Dalai Lama. Who would you rather spend time with? One very angry man (though admittedly much less so these days) and one who despite provocation does not express anger (in public at least). What's more people who are angry find it hard to communicate: even if you have something reasonable to say, you'll find that people are much less willing to listen if you are angry (unless perhaps they are angry about the same thing). So if you're angry a lot you're likely also to be lonely.

Holding grudges and exacting revenge prolongs conflicts and creates the conditions for more and more people to be harmed. We've all of us been harmed by someone, and probably all done harm even if only inadvertently. As the proverb goes: if an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth were really the rule; we would all be blind and toothless. The cycle has to stop somewhere. Why not with you, in you, right now?

On a deeper level there is the underlying tendency to refuse painful experiences. We can't avoid some unpleasant sensations. It makes sense to avoid pain if it is avoidable, but sometimes we must simply have a painful experience. At the very least we are all going to die, and then we must be prepared to hold that pain in our awareness just as we would a pleasurable sensation. Holding of grudges suggests that somewhere in our being we are saying "it's not fair", and we are holding back from experiencing the pain of that injustice. This is a wrong view of the world. Such a view causes us constant disappointment. Of course it isn't fair if someone shouts at us or bashes us. But life isn't fair. Experiences arise in dependence on causes, and we must constantly be trying to see this process in action whether we enjoy the experience or not.

So I think it's clear that bearing grudges is counter-productive by any rational criteria - whether or not you believe in rebirth, or Awakening, or other traditional Buddhist beliefs. What these verses do not tell us is the "how". How can we possibly not hate the person who has inflicted harm on us? The next two verses go into this little, and I'll deal with them in my next post along with some help from another text.

See also my commentary on Dhammapada v.1-2.

15 August 2008

Dhammapada verses 1 - 2

mano pubbaṅgamā dhammā manoseṭṭhā manomayā
manasa ce paduṭṭhena bhāsati vā karoti vā
tato naṃ dukkham anveti cakkaṃ va vahato padam

mano pubbaṅgamā dhammā mansoeṭṭhā manomayā
manasa ce pasannena bhāsati vā karoti vā
tato naṃ sukham anveti chāyā va anapāyinī

Mind precedes experience, mind is foremost, [experience is] mind-made.
If, with a corrupt mind one speaks or acts:
From this disappointment and suffering follow as the wheel, the foot of the ox.

Mind precedes experience, mind is foremost, [experience is] mind-made.
If, with a clear mind one speaks or acts:
From this happiness and well-being follow like an inseparable shadow.
This is a fairly literal translation which largely retains the structure of the Pāli. Two interesting philological features are pointed out by K.R. Norman and John Brough with regard to these verses. Firstly the word anveti appears to be a Sanskritisation. Norman suggests that Pāli would usually resolve the consonant cluster nv to nuv, but here it doesn't. Secondly Brough (p.243) points out in his notes to the Gāndārī Dhammapada that vahatu (vahato being the genitive case) is an archaic word not in the Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary. The word means ox, and vahato padam is “foot of the ox”, where pada is also used in it’s archaic sense of "foot", as opposed to it's later more abstract meaning "word" as in the title of the Dhammapada: "the word of the doctrine".

The archaic forms suggest age, but the Sanskritisation may also indicate later editing or composition. Perhaps an old image re-used? Interestingly the Pāli commentators (Sri Lanka, ca 5th century) seem to have understood the sense of “vahato padam” but not the words, so come to the right conclusion by some tortuous arguments. This is evident in many Dhammapada translations which treat vahato as a present-participle meaning something like "bearer".

In these verses the terms mano and dhammā (nominative plural) are twinned, as are sukha and dukkha, and paduṭṭha and pasanna. Mano and dhammā in this context are the mind which senses mental "objects", and those "objects" or dhammas. This is the more specific meaning of mano, which is sometimes also used synonymously with other words for "mind" such as citta and viññana. Dhamma has such a wide range of meanings that it can be misleading to settle on one in particular, but here does seem to indicate the mental phenomena which the mind senses - in these cases it is usually written in lower-case. Note also that mind here includes the emotions, and other subjective experiences. Mano also coordinates the mental responses to the information coming in from the five physical senses. I have chosen the word "experience" as a translation of dhamma in this case because it covers both the mental and physical aspects. I have justified using "experience" to translate dhamma in other contexts as well, particularly in my essay on the Buddha's Last Words.

Mano is that part of us that cognizes experience, that part of us that knows we are experiencing. And these verses are saying that mano comes first. But why? Other Buddhist models of the psyche suggest that mind, in the sense of citta, arises in dependence on contact of sense organ with sense object. It is important not to get caught up in the various models here. This is a pragmatic teaching. Mind comes first in these verses because mental states determine actions, and therefore consequences. The Buddha famously said: Cetanāhaṃ, bhikkhave, kammaṃ vadāmi - I say, monks, that intention is action [A vi.63]. This is why we must focus on the mind.

Actions arising from a mind which is paduṭṭha (spoiled, rotten, corrupt, literally "made bad") lead to dukkha - which I translate as "disappointment". However actions which are directed by a mind which is passana (clear, bright, good) result in sukha or bliss. The latter term is one which was in use before the Buddha. Brahman, the universal absolute has three characteristics: being, consciousness, and bliss (sukha). Brahman is also nitya (Pali nicca) or eternal. So in a Brahminical context sukha has a connotation of the goal of the spiritual life: union with Brahman. I think the Buddha may well have been employing sukha as a synonym for nibbāna - drawing on the Brahminical imagery as we know him to have done in many other cases. Despite this I have translated sukha as happiness and well-being. References to underlying Brahminical metaphors are often confusing to modern Buddhists who are frequently ignorant of the Brahminical context of some of the Buddha's sermons. Happiness here though does mean true happiness, the highest happiness, the bliss of nibbāna.

Dukkha, then, is the opposite of nibbāna. This gives it a much broader scope than is usually suggested by translations such as "suffering". When we read "suffering" we tend to think of physical pain or injury. But dukkha characterises all unenlightened experience. At this point you may be thinking "aha! Jayarava has fallen into that old trap of stating, contra the Dharma itself, that everything is suffering". However I am making a more subtle point. Not every experience is physically painful, but we the unenlightened have habitual tendencies which make even pleasure a disappointment. This operates at the level of immediate responses to vedana or sensations. Typically when we experience a pleasant sensation we want it to last, and when we have an unpleasant sensation we want it to stop now. We seek out pleasure, and avoid pain. I have argued at length in my essay on the Buddha's Last words that it is at this level of experience that dependent arising is really important. It is experiences (sensations including mental sensations and our responses to physical sensations) that are impermanent (anicca). The disappointment (dukkha) comes because we fail to grasp the nature of experience - we think of it as, or desire it to be, lasting (nicca). Because experiences (dhammā) are impermanent (anicca) they are disappointing (dukkha). The argument showing how this ties in with the doctrine of anattā would take a bit long to spell out, but it relates to the Brahminical idea about ātman being Brahman in the microcosm, and therefore necessarily having sukha as a characteristic - anything which has dukkha as a characteristic cannot be the ātman. A purely psychological understanding of ātman as simply 'ego' is, I think, a bit limited.

The verses are saying that we experience dukkha if our mind is corrupt. That is, if we fail to see and understand the nature of experience (yathābhūta-ñāṇadassana), then suffering follows, just as the wheel follows the ox which draws the cart - as the wheel follows the foot in the simile of the verses. The image for sukha is subtly different. If our mind is clear and bright (pasanna) then we see things as they are, and bliss cleaves to us. For dukkha the sense is that one thing follows another, and the two are distinct. A shadow however is simply an extension of our body - the shadow moves with us, moves as we move, instantaneously. Our shadow is inseparable (anapāyinī literally not-going-away). Apāyinī can also connote "a falling away (in conduct)" or "transient state of loss or woe after death" [PED sv apāya] so that anapāyinī (not-apāya), like sukha, suggests the goal of the Buddhist life: not falling away from good conduct, not falling into state of loss or woe.

So mind is first, mind is foremost, and things are said to be mind-made because mind determines the results of our actions. Those results are experienced as vedana (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral sensations) and it is our response to vedana that determines whether we experience 'being' as dukkha or sukha, ie saṃsāra or nibbāna. If we fail to understand our existential situation we can expect only dukkha. Of course Buddhism offers us a plethora of tools for the job of waking up, and tells us that everyone can wake up. So while unawakened experience is disappointing, it is not the only possibility. There is every reason for optimism.


  • Brough, John, ed. The Gandhari Dharmapada (London: Oxford University Press, 1962).
  • Norman, K.R., trans. The Word of the Doctrine (Oxford: The Pali Text Society, 1997).
See also my commentary on Dhammapada v.3-4

See Also:

Agostini, Giulio. (2010). 'Preceded by Thought Are the Dhammas': The Ancient Exegesis on Dhp 1-2. Buddhist Asia 2. Papers from the Second Conference of Buddhist Studies Held in Naples in June 2004. Edited by Giacomella Orofino and Silvio Vita. Italian School of East Asian Studies, Kyoto 2010.