Translation of AN 1-18 - "...tiny bit of existence..."

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Translation of AN 1-18 - "...tiny bit of existence..."

Postby waterchan » Sun Feb 16, 2014 9:44 pm

Greetings, everyone.

I have a question regarding the translation of a passage in AN 1-18. It is often rendered as:
"Just as a tiny bit of faeces has a bad smell, so I do not recommend even a tiny bit of existence, not even for so long as a fingersnap.".
I do not know who the translator is, but I know that Ajahn Brahm uses this rendering. This rendering is consistent with the Burmese translation.

However, here, the same passage is rendered as:
"320. Bhikkhus, just as a little bit of excreta smells and should be got rid of, I do not specify thinking even for the fraction of a second."
SuttaCentral.net credits this translation to Sister Uppalavana.

I am not well-versed in the suttas or Pali, though I am not Pali-phobic either. I don't even understand the numbering systems used in the Anguttara Nikaya - both "AN 1.316" and "AN 1.18.1" seem to be correct designations for this passage. I am fluent in Burmese, however, and I'm aware that the Burmese editions of the suttas are not immune to criticism, having renditions such as "discursive thinking" for "vicara". What I do know that the second translation is different from the Burmese rendering, which uses "existence" in place of "thinking".

Could anyone comment on the differences? In English, the two translations have distinctly different meanings. Maybe Sylvester would like to take a crack at it...
Last edited by waterchan on Sun Feb 16, 2014 10:46 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Translation of AN 1-18 - "...tiny bit of existence..."

Postby cooran » Sun Feb 16, 2014 10:11 pm

Hello waterchan,

Please give the links to the translations you quote. Who were the Translators?

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Re: Translation of AN 1-18 - "...tiny bit of existence..."

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Feb 16, 2014 10:22 pm

The relevant passages are:
320. “Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, appamattakopi gūtho duggandho hoti; evamevaṃ kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, appamattakampi bhavaṃ na vaṇṇemi, antamaso accharāsaṅghātamattampi.”

321. “Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, appamattakampi muttaṃ duggandhaṃ hoti.. Appamattakopi kheḷo duggandho hoti.. Appamattakopi pubbo duggandho hoti.. Appamattakampi lohitaṃ duggandhaṃ hoti; evamevaṃ kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, appamattakampi bhavaṃ na vaṇṇemi, antamaso accharāsaṅghātamattampi.”

The first refers to excrement, the second to urine.

The Buddha does not speak in praise of (vaṇṇemi), even a little bit of existence (bhavaṃ).

The different reference numbers may refer to the Roman script and Myanmar script editions of the Pali text, or perhaps the passage appears in two places — that's not unusual.
Last edited by Bhikkhu Pesala on Sun Feb 16, 2014 10:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Translation of AN 1-18 - "...tiny bit of existence..."

Postby waterchan » Sun Feb 16, 2014 10:25 pm

cooran wrote:Please give the links to the translations you quote. Who were the Translators?


Links added and translators mentioned :)
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Re: Translation of AN 1-18 - "...tiny bit of existence..."

Postby waterchan » Sun Feb 16, 2014 10:41 pm

:anjali: Thank you. So I gather that the first translation is far more preferable.

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The different reference numbers may refer to the Roman script and Myanmar script editions of the Pali text, or perhaps the passage appears in two places — that's not unusual.


The footnote at the bottom of the SuttaCentral page suggests that "AN 1.18.1" is the PTS or Taisho equivalent numbering for "AN 1.316" which is the equivalent in... some other numbering system, I guess...
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Re: Translation of AN 1-18 - "...tiny bit of existence..."

Postby santa100 » Mon Feb 17, 2014 2:19 am

Ven. Bodhi's translation and some background story from the commentary:
"Bhikkhus, just as even a trifling amount of feces is foul smelling, so too I do not praise even a trifling amount of existence, even for a mere finger snap"

[179] Mp explains that after the Buddha had given a discourse on the rebirth of beings, saying that there are nine persons “freed from hell, the animal realm, and the sphere of afflicted spirits” (see 9:12), he considered: “If the bhikkhus, on hearing this discourse, think: ‘We are freed from hell, etc.,’ they may think there is no need to strive for the higher paths and fruits. Let me then stir up a sense of urgency in them.” Mp glosses the words, “I do not praise even a trifling amount of existence,” with: “I do not praise rebirth in any realm of existence even for a short time” (appamattakampi kalam bhave patisandhim na vannayami)
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Re: Translation of AN 1-18 - "...tiny bit of existence..."

Postby Kumara » Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:01 am

waterchan wrote:However, here, the same passage is rendered as:
"320. Bhikkhus, just as a little bit of excreta smells and should be got rid of, I do not specify thinking even for the fraction of a second."

There's quite a deal of injection and distortion here. I'm curious of the psychology behind this strange translation.
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