The translation of the Buddha's doctrine in MN 18

Explore the ancient language of the Tipitaka and Theravāda commentaries

Moderator: Mahavihara moderator

The translation of the Buddha's doctrine in MN 18

Postby starter » Sat Apr 05, 2014 6:38 pm

Greetings!

MN 18 is the first discourse in MN teaching Dependent Origination (DO), and I think that the "honey ball" refers to DO. The more I study this sutta, the deeper it becomes, the more "sweet, delectable flavor" of the Dhamma I tastes, and the less attached to the worldly things I become after seeing their emptiness. While I appreciate various available translations of the Buddha's doctrine declared in this discourse, I'd like to propose a different translation of this important teaching after comparing the English translations of the Pali sutta with the Chinese Agama equivalents (MA 115 and EA 40.10) and study the following declared doctrine in its context.

“Yathāvādī kho, āvuso, sadevake loke samārake sabrahmake sassamaṇabrāhmaṇiyā pajāya sadevamanussāya na kenaci loke viggayha tiṭṭhati, yathā ca pana kāmehi visaṃyuttaṃ viharantaṃ taṃ brāhmaṇaṃ akathaṅkathiṃ chinnakukkuccaṃ bhavābhave vītataṇhaṃ saññā nānusenti– evaṃvādī kho ahaṃ, āvuso, evamakkhāyī”ti.

Ven. Thanissaro's translation:
"The sort of doctrine, friend, where one does not keep quarreling with anyone in the cosmos with its devas, Maras, & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk; the sort [of doctrine] where perceptions no longer obsess the brahman who remains dissociated from sensuality, free from perplexity, his uncertainty cut away, devoid of craving for becoming & non-becoming. Such is my doctrine, such is what I proclaim."

Ven. Bodhi's translation:
"Friend, I assert and proclaim [my teaching] in such a way that one does not quarrel with anyone in the world with its gods, its Maras, and its Brahmas, in this generation with its recluses and brahmins, its princes and its people; in such a way that perceptions no more underlie that brahmin who abides detached from sensual pleasures, without perplexity, shorn of worry, free from craving for any kind of being."

My personal understanding:
Friend, I proclaim [my doctrine] as such that makes one not quarrel with anyone in the world with its gods, its Maras, and its Brahmas, in this generation with its recluses and brahmins, its princes and its people, and as such that makes one cultivate detachment from lust/craving and become the brahmin who is free from doubt, free from worry/remorse, without craving for being and non-being, and (whose) perception/thoughts becomes free from (seven) underlying tendencies/drives.

I agree with Ven.Thanissaro's translation of "Bhavābhave" as being and non-being instead of "any kind of being", because "being and non-being" is also the translation in MA 115.

I don't quite agree with the English MN translations ("perceptions no more underlie" or "obsess" ...) or Chinese Agama translations ("has no perceptions") of "saññā nānusenti". I believe that the modern Chinese translator Mr. Chunjiang Zhuang's translation ["想沒有煩惱潛在趨勢", perception is free from (seven) underlying tendencies", see http://agama.buddhason.org/MA/MA115.htm] is closer to the original meaning, considering the context of the teaching.

In MA 115, there are such conversations between a monk and the Buddha for the clarification of the above-declared doctrine:

"于是。有一比丘即从坐起。偏袒著衣。叉手向佛。白曰。世尊。云何一切世间。天及魔.梵.沙门.梵志。从人至天。使不斗诤。云何修习离欲。得清净梵志。云何舍离谄曲。除悔。不著有.非有。亦无想耶。[This is the monk's questioning about the Buddha's declaration; see my above personal understanding for the translation]

世尊告曰。比丘。若人所因念。出家学道。思想修习。及过去.未来.今现在法。不爱.不乐.不著.不住。是说苦边。欲使.恚使.有使.慢使.无明使.见使.疑使.斗诤.憎嫉.谀谄.欺诳.妄言.两舌及无量恶不善之法。是说苦边。"
[This is the Buddha's explanation in brief: as one due to faith becomes a monk to learn the Dhamma, meditate and cultivate, detached from lust, enjoyment, attachment, and clinging from the past, future and present things, and reaches the end of suffering. The underlying drive for sensual desire (kāma-rāgānusaya), the underlying drive for aversion (paṭighānusaya), the underlying drive for notions (diṭṭhānusaya), the underlying drive for doubt (vicikicchānusaya), the underlying drive for conceit (mānānusaya), the underlying drive for desire to exist (bhava-rāgānusaya), and the underlying drive for ignorance (avijjānusaya), quarrels, hatred/jealousy, ... and countless evil unwholesome states ends without remainder.]

In MN 18, there are also similar conversations (the translation is based on my personal understanding):

"When this was said, a certain monk said to the Blessed One, "Lord, how does it [the doctrine] make one not quarrel with anyone in the cosmos with its deities, Maras, & Brahmas, with its contemplatives & brahmans, its royalty & commonfolk; how does it make one cultivate detachment from lust/craving and become the brahmin who is free from doubt, free from worry/remorse, without craving for being and non-being, and (whose) perception becomes free from (seven) underlying tendencies/drives?"

"If, monk, with regard to the cause whereby papañcasaññāsaṅkhā assail a person, if there is nothing there to delight in, welcome, or remain fastened to, then that is the end of the underlying drive for sensual desire (kāma-rāgānusaya), the underlying drive for aversion (paṭighānusaya), the underlying drive/tendency for notions (diṭṭhānusaya), the underlying drive for doubt (vicikicchānusaya), the underlying drive for conceit (mānānusaya), the underlying drive for desire to exist (bhava-rāgānusaya), and the underlying drive for ignorance (avijjānusaya). That is the end of taking up rods & bladed weapons, of arguments, quarrels, disputes, accusations, divisive tale-bearing, & false speech. That is where these evil, unskillful things cease without remainder."

Ven. Bodhi translated "papañcasaññāsaṅkhā" as "perceptions and notions [born of] mental proliferation", while in Chinese Agamas it appears to be translated as "諸亂想", "妄想" [distortional, delusive thoughts].

All papañcasaññāsaṅkhā are dependently arising and subjectively construed:

"With eye & forms as condition, eye-consciousness arises. From the meeting of the three arises contact. With contact as condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives. What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one becomes obsessed and deluded. When one is obsessed and deluded, the papañcasaññāsaṅkhā [distortional, delusive thoughts and ideas of obsessions] assail the one with regard to past, present, & future forms cognizable via the eye...

"Now, when there is the eye, when there are forms, when there is eye-consciousness, it is possible that one will construe a construed contact. When there is a construe of contact, it is possible that one will construe a contrue of feeling. When there is a construe of feeling, it is possible that one will construe a construe of perception. When there is a construe of perception, it is possible that one will construe a construe of thinking. When there is a construe of thinking, it is possible that one will construe a construe of dostorted, delusive thinking."

All papañcasaññāsaṅkhā are also dependently ceasing, and are ultimately empty ["with regard to the cause whereby papañcasaññāsaṅkhā assail a person, there is nothing there to relish, welcome, or remain fastened to"]:

"Now, when there is no eye, when there are no forms, when there is no eye-consciousness, it is impossible that one will construe a construe of contact. When there is no contrue of contact, it is impossible that one will construe a construe of feeling. When there is no construe of feeling, it is impossible that one will construe a construe of perception. When there is no construe of perception, it is impossible that one will construe a construe of thinking. When there is no construe of thinking, it is impossible that one will construe a construe of distorted, delusive thinking."

I'd like to add that in MA 115 there is the sentence of "如是族姓子于我此正法.律。随彼所观而得其味。观眼得味。观耳.鼻.舌.身。观意得味" [Like this in my righteous dhamma... gain the flavor as one contemplate the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind].

Once I heard a teacher interpreting this discourse as teaching us to restrain our six senses to avoid papañca. Now I've realized that it teaches us to apply the teaching of dependent origination to contemplate each of the six sense sets to understand the emptiness of all papañcasaññāsaṅkhā.

Your input has been and will be appreciated. Thanks and metta!
Last edited by starter on Tue Apr 08, 2014 12:29 am, edited 2 times in total.
starter
 
Posts: 852
Joined: Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:56 pm

Re: The translation of the Buddha's doctrine in MN 18

Postby culaavuso » Sat Apr 05, 2014 6:56 pm

A comprehensive book with much research into various suttas and interpretations of the pali that provide context for these terms can be found in Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought by Ven. Bhikkhu Katukurunde Ñāṇananda. It can be a useful book to read to understand the role that perception plays in the teaching of MN 18.
culaavuso
 
Posts: 1030
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:27 pm

Re: The translation of the Buddha's doctrine in MN 18

Postby starter » Sun Apr 06, 2014 5:10 pm

Hi culaavuso and other friends,

Thanks for your input.

For the convenience of the future readers of this thread, I'd like to add the following relevant discussion:

The translation of papañcasaññāsaṅkhā

viewtopic.php?f=23&t=20378

Metta to all!

Starter
starter
 
Posts: 852
Joined: Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:56 pm

Re: The translation of the Buddha's doctrine in MN 18

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Apr 06, 2014 7:22 pm

See also Thanissaro Bhikkhu's article and talks discussed in these threads:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=14229
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=12375

:anjali:
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10384
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: The translation of the Buddha's doctrine in MN 18

Postby Sylvester » Fri Apr 11, 2014 3:36 am

Hi starter

Thought I'd just chip in a bit on some of your comments -

starter wrote:I don't quite agree with the English MN translations ("perceptions no more underlie" or "obsess" ...) or Chinese Agama translations ("has no perceptions") of "saññā nānusenti". I believe that the modern Chinese translator Mr. Chunjiang Zhuang's translation ["想沒有煩惱潛在趨勢", perception is free from (seven) underlying tendencies", see http://agama.buddhason.org/MA/MA115.htm] is closer to the original meaning, considering the context of the teaching.


One of the things to note with Ven Nanamoli's translation of the MN that BB edited was the Ven's preference for a strict literal rendition of the Pali, rather than a more accessible idiomatic rendition. As such, saññā nānusenti has been faithfully rendered as "perceptions do not underlie". However, if you look at how the singular verb anuseti is used in the rest of the suttas, straightaway you will recognise that it is almost always pegged to or used as a proxy to the substantive noun anusaya. In effect, Ven Nanamoli's rendition is no different from the Agama version; both are asserting that one is out of the reach of the anusayas. We simply can't tell from the Chinese whether or not the original Prakrit form discussed in terms of the verb or the substantive noun. But either way, it would mean the same thing. Admittedly, Ven Nanamoli's literal translation is less accessible than the Chinese.

Ven. Bodhi translated "papañcasaññāsaṅkhā" as "perceptions and notions [born of] mental proliferation", while in Chinese Agamas it appears to be translated as "諸亂想", "妄想" [distortional, delusive thoughts].


Being too lazy to post in your other thread, I would say that I agree with you that saññā here in papañcasaññāsaṅkhā does not seem to bear its normal meaning of perception. In AN 10.60, we see several saññā which seem to be related to discursive thought and analysis, defined by the word reflects/paṭisaṃcikkhati.

AN 10.60 is also instructive, as I think this passage actually is a short code for the ending of papañca -

And what, Ānanda, is the perception of non-delight in the entire world? Here, a bhikkhu refrains from any engagement and clinging, mental standpoints, adherences, and underlying tendencies in regard to the world, abandoning them without clinging to them. This is called the perception of non-delight in the entire world.

Katamācānanda sabbaloke anabhiratasaññā: Idhānanda bhikkhu ye loke upāyūpādānā cetaso adhiṭṭhānābhinivesānusayā, te pajahanto viramati na upādiyanto. Ayaṃ vuccatānanda sabbaloke anabhiratasaññā.


You can decide if the verbs in this passage conceptually match the papañca verbs in MN 18 (relish, welcome, or remain fastened to), even if the 2 suttas do not use the same Pali terms.

Perhaps you could check the Chinese Agamas for the parallels to AN 10.56-57 to see if they also make the connection of non-delight with reference to the world as the opposite to the anusayas and papañca. It would be interesting to see how the Agamas discuss the "perception" 一切世間不可樂想.

Please continue your contributions. I enjoy them.

:anjali:
Sylvester
 
Posts: 1520
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:57 am

Re: The translation of the Buddha's doctrine in MN 18

Postby starter » Sat Apr 12, 2014 12:20 am

Sylvester wrote:Hi starter

starter wrote:I don't quite agree with the English MN translations ("perceptions no more underlie" or "obsess" ...) or Chinese Agama translations ("has no perceptions") of "saññā nānusenti". I believe that the modern Chinese translator Mr. Chunjiang Zhuang's translation ["想沒有煩惱潛在趨勢", perception is free from (seven) underlying tendencies", see http://agama.buddhason.org/MA/MA115.htm] is closer to the original meaning, considering the context of the teaching.


One of the things to note with Ven Nanamoli's translation of the MN that BB edited was the Ven's preference for a strict literal rendition of the Pali, rather than a more accessible idiomatic rendition. As such, saññā nānusenti has been faithfully rendered as "perceptions do not underlie". However, if you look at how the singular verb anuseti is used in the rest of the suttas, straightaway you will recognise that it is almost always pegged to or used as a proxy to the substantive noun anusaya. In effect, Ven Nanamoli's rendition is no different from the Agama version; both are asserting that one is out of the reach of the anusayas. We simply can't tell from the Chinese whether or not the original Prakrit form discussed in terms of the verb or the substantive noun. But either way, it would mean the same thing. Admittedly, Ven Nanamoli's literal translation is less accessible than the Chinese.
:anjali:


Hello Sylvester,

Your very helpful input is very much appreciated. I agree with your analyses. Just one point about saññā nānusenti: the translation of "perceptions no more underlie that brahmin who abides detached from sensual pleasures, ..."could lead the readers to the understanding that the brahmin has no more perceptions (and conceptualization/"proliferations"), rather than he is free from anusaya.

I hope you'll be less "lazy" to make your valued comments in my threads, so that I and other readers of this forum could benefit more. I'm very busy right now and will make the comparison you suggested later.

With gratitude and metta,

Starter
starter
 
Posts: 852
Joined: Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:56 pm


Return to Pali

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 2 guests