tiltbillings wrote:And we might also do away with such misleading translated as "the deathless," the unconditioned," which suggest there is some thing that is the deathless or the unconditioned that is outside of, separate from, the khandhas.
Ud. VIII.3 wrote:"Verily, there is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. If there were not this Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed, escape from the world of the born, the originated, the created, the formed, would not be possible"
And that is the common sort of translation one will find, but it really does not hold up well to a carefull look.
What does There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated
mean? There is a reason why these "un" translations get pressed into service as a proof that there is a God notion in the suttas.
These words - ajātaṃ
[unconditioned] - are adjectives, not nouns, but everyone of these "un" translations treats them as nouns, which is very, very misaleading.
The sentence in Pali reads: "Atthi [There is] ajaata.m, abhuuta.m, akata.m, asankhata.m."
The noun that should follow “There is
” is implied. There is what?
The immediate context, the sutta opens: Thus have I heard. At one time the Lord was staying near Savatthi in the Jeta Wood at Anathapindika's monastery. On that occasion the Lord was instructing, rousing, inspiring, and gladdening the bhikkhus with a Dhamma talk connected with Nibbana, and those bhikkhus, being receptive and attentive and concentrating the whole mind, were intent on listening to Dhamma. Then, on realizing its significance, the Lord uttered on that occasion this inspired utterance: There is, bhikkhus, ajaata....
What we see right off the top is that the subject is nibbana. There is what?
Nibbana. The four adjective modify, describe nibbana. So in the forms we have them above or in variations these four words are used to describe or characterize nibbana or are synonyms of nibbana.
The most straightforward definition the Buddha gives of Nibbana is:That which is the destruction of greed, hatred and delusion is nibbana.
-- S.N. IV 251 and IV 321
And we see:That which is the destruction of greed, hatred and delusion is asankhata.
-- S.N. IV 359 and S.N. 362
Clearly nibbana and asankhata are equivalent terms, synonyms. Nibbana is a
sankhata, “unconditioned,” because there is no further conditioning - sankhata - by hatred, greed and ignorance. The prefix "a" in a
sankhata is a cognate of the English (Latin/Greek) prefix a
as in, for example, a
sexual, without sexual characteristics, free of sexual characteristics. (And before a vowel, just as in English the Pali/Sanskrit privative a
as in anatta/anatama.)
The privative a
in Sanskrit/Pali needs not be, as unfortunately it so often is, limited to being translated as a tappurisa
compound, giving us the "un," "not," or "non" translations -- “the unconditioned.” A
sankhata, unconditioned, can be translated as a bahubbhiihi
compound, giving us “free from conditions” (of hatred, greed, and ignorance), “without conditions,” or, “conditionlessness,” as so forth for the other words in question.
One of things that is often said is that nibbana is "the Unborn
." Let us look at that usage where ajaata and nibbana are clearly synonyms:Then the group of five monks, being thus exhorted, thus instructed by me
[the Buddha], being liable to birth because of self, having known the perils in what is liable to birth, seeking the unborn
[ajaata.m], the uttermost security from the bonds -- nibbana -- won the unborn, the uttermost security from the bonds -- nibbana...."
-- from the PTS translation of the Majjhima Nikaya I 173
What is the "unborn
?" What does it mean? Try this:”Then the group of five monks, being thus exhorted, thus instructed by me [the Buddha], being liable to birth because of self, having known the perils in what is liable to birth, seeking freedom from birth, the uttermost security from the bonds -- nibbana -- won freedom from birth, the uttermost security from the bonds -- nibbana...."
Here there is a balance: being liable to birth
and freedom from birth
that actually tells us something useful and does not leave us with a mysterious - what the heck is it? - "unborn
There is no philological reason that the four words in question must be translated as we generally see them translated: unborn
, unconditioned, etc.
As was said above the line in Udana is a sentence without a noun but with a string of adjectives, which are essentially synonyms, or at least words with significant over lapping meanings that clearly define nibbana.
We might translate the "un" line so:"There is
[nibbana], free from birth, free from becoming, free from making, free from conditioning."
etc, by "freedom from birth," etc. supplies the implied noun via the privative a
as in a
We do not see in the Buddha's own commentary to this passage below (as found in the Itivuttaka, 37-8, which contains the Udana 80 line: "Atthi [There is] ajaata.m, abhuuta.m, akata.m, asankhata.m."
) any reference to a Nibbana that is some sort of "unborn
" thing, but we do see that "being freed of this" is a state of ease -- the "the conditions appeased (sankharupasamo)," a variation of asankhata
, nibbana -- is reached. If the Buddha had wanted to teach a deathless, unborn
“it,” we would have seen a very different sort of expression of the Dhamma.
This said by the Blessed One, the Worthy One, was heard by me
in this way: "Monks, there is freedom from birth, freedom from
becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning.
For, monks if there were not this freedom from birth, freedom from
becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning,
then escape from that which is birth, becoming, making,
conditioning, would not be known here. But, monks, because there
is freedom from birth, freedom from becoming, freedom from
making, freedom from conditioning, therefore the escape from that
which is birth, becoming, making, conditioning is known."
[Here the Buddha, The Blessed One, offers his own verse
commentary on his statement.]
This meaning the Blessed One spoke, it is spoken here in this way:
That which is born, become, arisen, made, conditioned,
And thus unstable, put together of decay and death,
The seat of disease, brittle,
Caused and craving food,
That is not fit to find pleasure in.
Being freed of this, calmed beyond conjecture, stable,
Freed from birth, freed from arising, freed from sorrow,
Freed from passions, the elements of suffering stopped,
The conditioning [of greed, hatred and delusion]appeased,
This is ease [bliss]. -- Iti 37-8.