A few terms to consider

I think these subtleties of meaning have to grow out of usage: we have to be careful about overloading our terminology with meaning.

As for upekkhā, literally “watching over” or “watching closely”. But again, this one is probably too well established to change.

Yes, maybe. It’s only that these are used for ekaggata and ekodibhava, etc. Still, maybe it can be done.

Interesting. Well, maybe I’ll share a few contexts using illumination and see how people respond when it’s actually used.

Probably right.

This is actually a really good point that I hadn’t considered. In Vinaya it is in fact essential to assume a default gender, not least since that’s how the literature is divided. The same would apply in, say the bhikkhu samyutta and bhikkhuni samyutta.

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This is one of the reasons I was hesitating about it.

Are you thinking of anything in particular?

@sujato @LXNDR

And I think benevolence is actually better for metta. In fact I have thought of using it, except loving-kindness is very well entrenched, and not just among specialists.

Please do serioulsy consider changing to benevolence for mettā. Why not? It’s so much better and you’re not afraid to use new terms for other well entrenched terms when you think another word is better!

I would if I was really convinced. My reservations are that it is still a somewhat distant term. Benevolence is what a society has, or maybe a god, but for me it doesn’t capture that closeness and power of mettā.

There are many things in the Pali where the translation feels colder and less vivid than the text. Obviously in some cases this is unavoidable. But where possible, I am trying to make the language closer, more direct, more human.

Actually, I would love to use “love” for mettā. Can?


This is one of the reasons I was hesitating about it.

Interestingly, I just looked it up in

Full Definition of ILLUMINATION

: the action of illuminating or state of being illuminated: as
a : spiritual or intellectual enlightenment
b (1) : a lighting up (2) : decorative lighting or lighting effects
c : decoration by the art of illuminating
: the luminous flux per unit area on an intercepting surface at any given point
: one of the decorative features used in the art of illuminating or in decorative lighting

re: possible confusion with convergence:

Are you thinking of anything in particular?

It was more wondering if many people might just go “Duh?” Also Bhikkhu Bodhi uses convergence for samosaraṇa, as in AN 9.14 & 10.58 (sorry, not sure how to link to the suttas in SC) for the fairly well-known teaching that all dhammas converge on feeling so not sure if that would be confusing.

Any reason why you don’t want to use unification? Just seems to me it might be a little more accessible in terms of someone getting a sense of what it means.


for me it doesn’t capture that closeness and power of mettā.

Interesting, I don’t feel that at all, I feel a lot of warmth in it… hmmm, maybe it’s partly due to my distaste of the translation ‘loving kindness’ :neutral_face:

Actually, I would love to use “love” for mettā. Can?

Personally, I dont’ like, too much baggage, but hey, you’re not going to please everyone! I’ve often heard people struggle with the idea of mettā saying “I can’t love everyone”… is that simply a problem with the word ‘love’…?

Why not leave it untranslated? It’s so well-known now, and the word is even used in secular settings when mettā is often taught alongside ‘mindfulness’ (so-called) in various programs. Seems to be one word in Pali that gets picked up quite easily & readily and used almost as frequently as the common translation of ‘loving-kindness’, whereas I never hear ‘sati’ used!

Actually, it’d be intersting sometime to ask any given group at a Dhamma gathering if they know any Pali words, and if so what. Mettā might be at/near the top even for people who know less than a handful of words.

I noticed recently that Ven Ñāṇananda uses ‘universal love’ in a booklet he has on the subject. Well, in the title; after defining it, he mostly leaves it untranslated in the text.

to my taste as of a non-native English speaker, it’s ideal

i take the meaning from the verb to cheer which literally denotes approval/endorsement/encouragement, its only drawback is a tone of exaltation

i would translate upekkha differently in the jhana and brahmaviharas context as equanimity and impartiality respectively

in the brahmaviharas context upekkha is an aspect of one’s relation to others, and to my non-native speaker’s ear eqianimity doesn’t give this connotation

in fact at first i wasn’t getting what eqianimity had to do with brahmaviharas, 3 of which all dealt with the way one relates to other beings

[quote=“sujato, post:12, topic:2277”]although that probably includes most of us!

certainly, since the understanding of the majority is intellectual and not experiential, therefore as it stands neither this is understanding per se, not ñāṇa dassana

I brought up your suggestions at tea yesterday, and here is some of the feedback:

Pride for muditā: no takers.

Convergence for samādhi: not very popular. Stillness was generally agreed upon as good, and I like this too. It is both simple and evocative.

Illumination for jhāna: ambivalence. Perhaps it is a little too fancy. Other suggestions were ecstasy and absorption. You could tie jhāna to samādhi by translating it as “ecstatic stillness” or “transcendent stillness” (transcendent because it is an uttarimanussadhamma).

Extinguishment for nibbāna: thumbs up.


Dai krup. Sorry, I heard that question in Thai 55.

But seriously, just my lay opinion - love can have a lot of “baggage”. In the Greek and the greco-christian tradition there are different words for love: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. Agápe would maybe come the closest to mettaa? ‘Good-will’ could probably be used as an English translation of agápe and might also be a good one for mettaa, and that would I think highlight it’s antidotal quality (to ill-will). ‘Unconditional-love’ I would think conveys the ultimate or most highly developed sense of mettaa. Just my thoughts…

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Well if “love” has too much baggage, shouldn’t “loving-kindness” be kindness with the same baggage? Since love in it’s purest form should be both kind and unconditional, I see no problem with using “love” for mettā.

The average person can’t love everyone, but they also can’t have mettā for everyone. I think the average person can’t even love their “loved ones” if they don’t behave in an expected manner…not always anyway. So the idea that love can and should be purified and developed until it becomes boundless and unconditional sounds pretty reasonable to me.


I guess the same reasoning could be used for “pride” but I haven’t heard the expression “Love comes before a fall” so at least for me “pride” has more egoistic connotations…

I also only have a few minutes - not enough to read all the replies so please ignore anything that is unhelpful replication:

I think this works well.

I think it is right to waver on points that should be wavered over! It strikes me that “convergence” goes away slightly from your mission to make the texts accessible.

My feeling is that it’s important to consider the this point in context of the larger “Pali-oriented Buddhist discussion” (hows that for clumsy terminology?!), and I don’t believe it is so that the whole community has dropped “concentration” for samādhi. I make this point not in defence of it, but rather from the point of view of those on their lonesome trying to make sense of a load of stuff from different sources. Because many people are still quite comfortable using “concentration” for “samādhi”, I think using the same term for something else unnecessarily opens space for confusion to arise.

Furthermore, I think “focused” might be a good antonym for “scattered”.

I can’t quite agree on this, however, I do really appreciate the point you are making with the use of “mendicant” and on that basis think it’s a jolly good way to go.

Now, I’ve no clue about Pali, or Pali etymology, but I did recently here John Peacock suggest that both “unbind” and “extinguish” were linguistically valid - I’d be very appreciative of clarification on this. At the same time, I do have to concede that in my own personal terms I don’t actually so much care about scholarly precision on this particular point, as I have discovered I simply really connect to the translation “unbound”, and that there is some almost physical relief in understanding what I’m trying to do by way of that word (but then I was deeply moved by the sutta about tangles - SN7.6). Saying this, for all it’s worth, I think “extinguish” is a great translation and heartily support it (I only have a slight reservation about the particular inflection you’ve gone for).

I couldn’t agree more!!! That said, there is also the issue of being able to relate to a text, and I’d just suggest if a ‘spiritual text’ can’t be related to, it might not be doing its job.

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or collected


Seems to me that this insight points to the source of some of our difficulties with coming up with a single word to convey some of these “terms.” The meaning for a word like “metta” or “nibbana” or “jhana” is clarified by lots and lots of experiences (i.e. lots and lots of ‘practice’), and that the nature of such experiences is very particular and very not-ordinary. I am reminded of the Buddha’s purported initial reluctance to teach (MN 26). This stuff is hard to understand, and can only be understood through long, dedicated efforts. Why should there be one word that conveys such experiences. So, maybe finding one word isn’t always the project with translating. Maybe the goal in translating a word like metta might more fruitfully be understood to be to find the fewest number of words possible that will load a term with enough meaning to help the unitiated reader to engage in the kind of ‘usage’ which will lead to deeper understandings of what the word means. In this vein, these days I’m liking: for metta – boundless good will; for nibbana – total freedom from the causes of suffering; for jhana – progressive stages of deepening mental stillness and focus or if that’s too wordy and meaning-laden, ‘stages of mental absorption’ will do. Too much meaning or no?

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Thanks for the tea time feedback! I will bear this in mind. Of course it’s much more fun to think of ideas in abstract; wrestling them into sane language in real sentences is another matter altogether ….

I don’t know about this: convergence is quite a common word. And in any case, samādhi is an exalted context, so it can stand to be a little more esoteric. Still, point taken.

Fair enough. FYI, i’m using “focus” for manasikara rather than “attention”.

Not really. There’s an occasional connection between nibbana and the word vana, which means a forest, and by metaphor, craving. From there Ven Thanissaro gets “unbinding”. But this is not the dominant meaning. See the PTS dictionary entries for nibbana and nibbāna.

The usage throughout the suttas shows that the underlying metaphor is that of a flame going out. This image is used repeatedly and quite consistently, and ties in with a broader spectrum of metaphors around the idea of fire.


For sure, I’m definitely not sticking with one-to-one words. Sometimes a phrase is better, sometimes it needs to be changed in context. But with important technical terms, it is convenient to have a single, consistent term; it just makes it easier to handle different contexts. For example, what happens when you use a word in different parts of speech? How does it transform in plural, or adapt in a passive sentence, and so on. So any list of terminology is no more than a guide, and each context needs to be carefully considered.

Much thanks for the reply and explanation about nibbana/ nibbāna.

Just to clarify on the “convergence” point, I more meant that at least from my point of view, trying to apply “convergence” to my mind is a bit on the awkward, perplexing side rather than the word itself being uncommon. On the other hand, “stillness” as suggested above, is immediately relatable.