Pali Term: Ekāyana

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Pali Term: Ekāyana

Post by Assaji »

Hello Pali friends,

The expression 'ekāyana maggo' is used in Satipatthana formula, Mahasihanada sutta, three Jatakas, and explained in Niddesa.

In Mahasihanada Sutta (MN I 74) this term is used with the meaning "leading to only one place":

37. (1) "By encompassing mind with mind I understand a certain person thus: 'This person so behaves, so conducts himself, has taken such a path that on the dissolution of the body, after death, he will reappear in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell.' And then later on, with the divine eye, which is purified and surpasses the human, I see that on the dissolution of the body, after death, he has reappeared in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell, and is experiencing extremely painful, racking, piercing feelings. Suppose there were a charcoal pit deeper than a man's height full of glowing coals without flame or smoke; and then a man scorched and exhausted by hot weather, weary, parched and thirsty, came by a path going in one way only and directed to that same charcoal pit. Then a man with good sight on seeing him would say: 'This person so behaves, so conducts himself, has taken such a path, that he will come to this same charcoal pit'; and then later on he sees that he has fallen into that charcoal pit and is experiencing extremely painful, racking, piercing feelings. So too, by encompassing mind with mind... piercing feelings. ... mn012.html" onclick=";return false;

If we apply the same meaning to Satipatthana sutta usage, then the meaning would be 'leading to only one place (Nibbana) [and no other place]'.

Atthakatha (Commentary) to Satipatthana sutta (see English translation by Soma Thera below) gives five meanings, which includes (in translation of Rupert Gethin):

1) eka-maggo aya.m bhikkhave maggo na dvedhaa-patha-bhuuto ti eva.m attho da.t.thabbo

(this path is a path to one (destination), not a forked path)

2) ekena ayitabbo

(a path that is ekāyana is one to be travelled alone)

3) ekassa ayano ekāyano; ekassā ti seṭṭhassa; sabba-satta-seṭṭho va bhagavā

(the ekāyana path is the path of 'the one' in the sense of 'the best', which means 'the best of all beings', namely the Buddha)

4) ayatī ti va ayano; gacchati gacchati pavattatī ti attho; ekasmiṃ ayano ti ekāyano

(an ekāyano path is a path that occurs or is found in just one place; in the present context that is in the dhamma-vinaya of the Buddha)

5) eka.m ayatii ti ekaayano

eka.m nibbaana.m eva gacchatii ti vutta.m hoti

(a path that is ekaayana is one that goes to one place only, namely Nibbana)

The three Jataka usages are:

Ja IV 349:

sūkarehi samaggehi vyaggho ekāyane hato ti

Atthakatha explains is as: 'tattha ekāyane hato ti eka-gamasmiṃ yeva hato' - 'The tiger was killed at one charge by the pigs en masse.'

In Jaat. 524:

ekaayane ta.m pathe addasaasi.m balena va.n.nena upeta-rupa.m

One can just make guesses about this verse (Ja V 172-3) since it's not explained neither in the text nor in Atthakatha to this passage.

In Jaat. 537 (Ja VI 557):

2194. “Ekaayano ekapatho, saraa sobbhaa ca passato;
a~n~na.m magga.m na passaami, yena gaccheyya assama.m.

In the Atthakatha to this verse it is explained as narrow path:

Ekaayanoti ekasseva ayano ekapadikamaggo.

To complete the picture, here is Niddesa explanation, from "The Buddhist Path to Awakening" by Rupert Gethin:

"Interestingly though, the late canonical Niddesa does extend the application of the term ekaayana-magga to all seven sets. The Niddesa comments that the Blessed One is eka because because he has travelled the ekaayana-path (bhagavaa ekaayana-magga.m gato ti eko) and then goes on to explain the ekaayana-path as 'the four extablishings of mindfulness, the four right endeavours, the four bases of success, the five faculties, the five powers, the seven awakening-factors, the noble eightfold path' (Nidd I 455-6). The Niddesa then quotes the following verse:

Seeing the end and destruction of birth, he knows the ekaayana-path in friendliness and compassion; by this path they crossed the flood in the past, they will cross [it in the future] and they cross [it now].

(This verse is also found at S V 168, 186, and is quoted at Sv III 745, Ps I 230.)

So it is, says the Niddesa, that the Blessed One is eka because he has travelled the ekaayana-path (eva.m bhagavaa ekaayana-magga.m gato ti eko). At the same time as extending the term ekaayana-magga to all seven sets, the Niddesa also preserves a tradition of the term's special association with sati or 'mindfulness': 'that which is mindfulness, recollection ... the awakening-factor of mindfulness, the ekaayana-path - this is called mindfuless.' (Nidd I 10, 347, 506)"

Metta, Dmytro
Last edited by Assaji on Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:41 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Pali Term: Ekāyana

Post by Assaji »

Ole Holten Pind wrote in connection with this:

"When dealing with a difficult lexicographical question I prefer to make as
few assumptions as possible about the semantics of a particular term. First
of all, I investigate its distribution in the canon to see if there is a
particular pattern to its occurrences, and if an early canonical commentary
like the Mahaaniddesa would support a particular interpretation of it. If
you look at the Mahaniddesa, it appears that its interpretation centres upon
the idea that the ekaayanamagga is traversed by a single person (eka), a
paccekabuddha. If you look at the occurrences in the Jaataka ekaayana
invariably denotes a narrow path i.e. a path that only one person can pass.
This usage is compatible with early Sanskrit usage, cf. the excellent
Petersburger Wörterbuch on ekaayana.

Hope this clarifies my scepticism about the lexicographical relevance of the
later commentarial literature a bit."" onclick=";return false;
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Re: Pali Term: Ekāyana

Post by Assaji »

From the 'The Way of Mindfulness: The Satipatthana Sutta and Its Commentary - A translation of the Satipatthana Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya; its Commentary, the Satipatthana Sutta Vannana of the Papañcasudani of Buddhaghosa Thera; and excerpts from the Linatthapakasana Tika, Marginal Notes, of Dhammapala Thera on the Commentary' by Soma Thera: ... wayof.html" onclick=";return false;

"The only way" = The one way [Ekayanoti ekamaggo]. There are many words for "way." The word used for "way" here is "ayana" ("going" or road). Therefore, "This is the only way, O bhikkhus [ekayano ayam bhikkhave maggo]" means here: "A single way ("going" or road), O bhikkhus, is this way; it is not of the nature of a double way [ekamaggo ayam bhikkhave maggo na dvedhapathabhuto]."

Or it is "the only way" because it has to be trodden by oneself only [ekeneva ayitabbo]. That is without a companion. The state of being companionless is twofold: without a comrade, after abandoning contact with the crowd, and in the sense of being withdrawn (or secluded) from craving, through tranquillity of mind.

Or it is called "ekayana" because it is the way of the one [ekassa ayana]. "Of the one" = of the best; of all beings the Blessed One is best. Therefore, it is called the Blessed One's Way. Although others too go along that way, it is the Buddha's because he creates it. Accordingly it is said: "He, the Blessed One, is the creator of the uncreated path, O Brahman." It proceeds (or exists) only in this Doctrine-and-discipline and not in any other. Accordingly the Master declared: "Subhadda, only in this Doctrine-and-discipline is the Eightfold Way to be found." And further, "ekayana" means: It goes to the one [ekam ayati] — that is, it (the way) goes solely to Nibbana. Although in the earlier stages this method of meditation proceeds on different lines, in the latter, it goes to just the one Nibbana. And that is why Brahma Sahampati said:

Whose mind perceiving life's last dying out
Vibrates with love, he knows the only way
That led in ancient times, is leading now,
And in the future will lead past the flood.6

As Nibbana is without a second, that is, without craving as accompanying quality, it is called the one. Hence it is said: "Truth is one; it is without a second."

Why is the Arousing of Mindfulness intended by the word "way"? Are there not many other factors of the way, namely, understanding, thinking, speech, action, livelihood, effort, and concentration, besides mindfulness? To be sure there are. But all these are implied when the Arousing of Mindfulness is mentioned, because these factors exist in union with mindfulness. Knowledge, energy and the like are mentioned in the analytically expository portion [niddese]. In the synopsis [uddese], however, the consideration should be regarded as that of mindfulness alone, by way of the mental disposition of those capable of being trained.

Some [keci], however, construing according to the stanza beginning with the words, "They do not go twice to the further shore [na param digunam yanti]"7 say, "One goes to Nibbana once, therefore it is ekayana." This explanation is not proper. Because in this instruction the earlier part of the Path is intended to be presented, the preliminary part of the Way of Mindfulness proceeding in the four objects of contemplation is meant here, and not the supramundane Way of Mindfulness. And that preliminary part of the Path proceeds (for the aspirant) many times; or it may be said that there is many a going on it, by way of repetition of practice.

In what sense is it a "way"? In the sense of the path going towards Nibbana, and in the sense of the path which is the one that should be (or is fit to be) traversed by those who wish to reach Nibbana.

Regarding "the only way" there is the following account of a discussion that took place long ago.

The Elder Tipitaka Culla Naga said: "The Way of Mindfulness-arousing (as expounded in our Discourse) is the (mundane) preliminary part (of the Eightfold Way)."

His teacher the Elder Culla Summa said: "The Way is a mixed one (a way that is both mundane and supramundane)."

The pupil: "Reverend Sir, it is the preliminary part."

The teacher: "Friend, it is the mixed Way."

As the teacher was insistent, the pupil became silent. They went away without coming to a decision.

On the way to the bathing place the teacher considered the matter. He recited the Discourse. When he came to the part where it is said: "O bhikkhus, should any person maintain the Four Arousings of Mindfulness in this manner for seven years," he concluded that after producing the consciousness of the Supramundane Path there was no possibility of continuing in that state of mind for seven years, and that his pupil, Culla Naga, was right. On that very day, which happened to be the eighth of the lunar fortnight, it was the elder Culla Naga's turn to expound the Dhamma. When the exposition was about to begin, the Elder Culla Summa went to the Hall of Preaching and stood behind the pulpit.

After the pupil had recited the preliminary stanzas the teacher spoke to the pupil in the hearing of others, saying, "Friend, Culla Naga." The pupil heard the voice of his teacher and replied: "What is it, Reverend Sir?" The teacher said this: "To say, as I did, that the Way is a mixed one is not right. You are right in calling it the preliminary part of the Way of Mindfulness-arousing." Thus the Elders of old were not envious and did not go about holding up only what they liked as though it were a bundle of sugar-cane. They took up what was rational; they gave up what was not.

Thereupon, the pupil, realising that on a point on which experts of the Dhamma like his learned teacher had floundered, fellows of the holy life in the future were more likely to be unsure, thought: "With the authority of a citation from the Discourse-collection, I will settle this question." Therefore, he brought out and placed before his hearers the following statement from the Patisambhida Magga: "The preliminary part of the Way of Mindfulness-arousing is called the only way."8 And, in order to elaborate just that and to show of which path or way the instruction in our Discourse is the preliminary part, he further quoted the following also from the Patisambhida Magga: "The Excellent Way is the Eightfold way; four are truths; dispassion is the best of things belonging to the wise; besides that Way there is no other for the purifying of vision. Walk along that Way so that you may confound Death, and put an end to suffering."
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Re: Pali Term: Ekāyana

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

Thank you for that. :goodpost:

That's the one and only thread from Dhamma Wheel added to my bookmarks.
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