A puzzling discrepancy in translations…

For some years I have used the Udanā as a seminal text for study with those new to Buddhism. In F.L Woodward’s translation of the Udanā and Itivuttaka he has two terms: pahitatta , ‘making the self strong’ and bhāvitatta , ‘having made the self to grow’ [Find in INDEXES under Self (attā)].

However, in John D. Ireland’s translations of the same texts it appears he has evaded (shirked?) from translating both these terms for reasons that may only be guessed.

Would someone please verify whether pahitatta and bhāvitatta appear in the Pali original, or whether they are possible corruptions.

If it can be shown that pahitatta and bhāvitatta are indeed authentic terms, and Woodward’s translation is acceptable, then their appearance in the earliest strata of the cannon is surely of far reaching significance when discussing the doctrine of anattā .

Welcome to the forum!

Could you help everyone out by sharing links to the suttas that contain these words?

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pahitatta = resolute. Refer to link: SuttaCentral

pahitattassa = dative (?) case = to put forth/express/give resoluteness

OK: the dictionary includes the meaning "“self-determined”, which seems to be from the “atta” suffix added to pa + dah + a; or pa + dhā

This was the first knowledge they achieved. Ignorance was destroyed and knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed and light arose, as happens for a meditator who is diligent, keen, and resolute.

Ayamassa paṭhamā vijjā adhigatā hoti, avijjā vihatā, vijjā uppannā, tamo vihato, āloko uppanno, yathā taṁ appamattassa ātāpino pahitattassa viharato.

Sujato SuttaCentral

This is the first knowledge attained by him. Ignorance is dispelled, knowledge has arisen; darkness is dispelled, light has arisen, as happens in one who lives diligent, ardent, and resolute.

Ireland SuttaCentral

pahitatta is found in many suttas, at this link: SuttaCentral. If you click on the Sujato translations and choose the Pali-English function you can read the various contexts in which the word pahitatta is used; thus come to your own understanding of its meaning :slightly_smiling_face:

welcome Buddhadasa! :pray:t2: The link I posted above has 141 results for pahitatta. Therefore, it seems difficult to argue a case the term is not authentic. Probably it is best to deem the word was a common ordinary word & the use of “atta”, similar to in many Pali words, is merely “convention”.

Kind regards :slightly_smiling_face:

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I don’t think the Udanā is “in the earliest strata of the canon”.

bhāvitatta does not occur in DN or SN, it occurs once in MN at MN56 and Digital Pali reader shows no occurrences in Ud.

The occurrence in MN56 btw is from a poem by Upali, not a teaching by the Buddha.

this is true, although I would note that the term is NOT found in DN. (as everyone on here should know I think that DN preserves some of the oldest material in the canon)


  1. well-trained; self-composed

one whose attan (ātman) is bhāvita

bhāvita + attan


102 results for bhāvitatta as the link: SuttaCentral

What things has the Realized One [self] developed and [self] cultivated so as to have such power and might?”

katamesaṁ dhammānaṁ bhāvitattā bahulīkatattā tathāgato evaṁmahiddhiko evaṁmahānubhāvo”ti?

SN 51.32

The 20th century Bhikkhu Buddhadasa may be helpful here, who suggested:

All languages have some words for ‘self,’ for ego, ‘soul,’ whatever we want to call it. And many of our words imply a ‘self’ and so we can’t use language without strengthening this belief in a ‘self.’ So this is so heavily conditioned into all of us. Beginning with that just basic sense or feeling of ‘self,’ that is very difficult to let go of it, to abandon it, to give it up. So even we find in Buddhism, we even find talk of ‘self.’ This is partly just because of the limitation of language. Even Buddhism that teaches ‘not-self’ very clearly still has to use languages that talk about ‘self.’ They use words like ‘I’ and ‘mine.’ And so it’s often very difficult for ordinary people to understand this. And even in other cases, just we have to talk, in Buddhism we actually have to use the word ‘self’ (attā) directly, so sometimes there’s even talking about ‘ourselves’ or the ‘self’ needs to do this and that. This is just the limitation of language but you should know whenever you find the word ‘self’ in Buddhism that we should take it to be a ‘self’ that is not-self. Anywhere in Buddhism you come across the word ‘self’ it’s just using the word, but that ‘self’ is not-self.

So in Buddhism or with all Buddhists are forced to use the word ‘self.’ No way of getting around it but the meaning when Buddhists use this word ‘self’ the meaning is of ‘not-self’. Something that is not-self. For example, something is very well known quote the Buddha said, “Self is the refuge of self”; “Attā is the refuge of attā.

For this to be understood correctly of ‘self’ that attā is not a ‘self,’ that attā is not-self – this has to be understood. So when we said, “Self is the refuge of self” what it means is that this ‘self’ which is not-self has to be its own refuge. It has to have this not-self ‘self.’ This ‘self’ which is not a ‘self’ has to have sufficient wisdom and understanding to realize that is not a ‘self.’ And when the ‘self’ can see that there isn’t a ‘self’ then all problems will cease. This is what is meant by “Self is refuge of self.” A ‘self’ is not-self. It’s not-self. It’s not ‘soul.’

Page 4 https://www.suanmokkh.org/system/books/files/000/000/070/original/880113_Anatta_and_rebirth_buddhadasa.pdf?1481939315

There is much debate on this. Just an FYI. Some consider the sutta nipata, itivuttaka, and udana to be very early in the scheme of things. Obviously the pali canon is a very intricate and delicate topic but I would very much love to hear @sujato comment on this thread, or maybe @Khemarato.bhikkhu since he has compiled much of this information on the educational site he created.

To help locate these terms:
pahitatta - Udāna, Ch. 3, ii - NANDA
bhāvitatta - Itivuttaka, Ch. 3, vii, x

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Generally in the Udana the gathas are considered old but the stories leading up to them, not necessarily.

Pahitatta appears twice in the Udana, in a stock expression found throughout the Nikayas, including the DN, contrary to what has been claimed above.

appamatto ātāpī pahitatto viharanto (and related variations)

This means that the presence of the word in the Udana does not signify anything particular, particularly since it does not appear in the gatha

As for bhāvitatta; the meaning is explained at AN 7.71

Hope that helps :slight_smile:


Bhāvitatta certainly appears in SN

A quick search shows the Udāna has bhāvitattena.

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Knew I should’ve tagged you. @stephen as well! My pali is basically below kindergarten level, so thanks!

There are multiple ways the suttas are referenced. An easy way to work it out is to go to Access To Insight and simply look at the list of suttas and, when applicable, their various reference numberings (such as Ud 1.8 = Ud 5) , here: Udana: Exclamations

Then the Venerable Nanda was humiliated, ashamed, and dismayed by his friends calling him “hireling” and “menial.” Living alone, secluded, diligent, ardent, and resolute, he soon realized even here and now through his own direct knowledge that unequalled goal of the holy life for the sake of which sons of good family rightly go forth from home to the homeless state, and entering into it he abode in it. And he knew: “Finished is birth, lived is the holy life, done is what had to be done, there is no more of this state.” And the Venerable Nanda became one of the arahats.

Also, the Itivuttaka has multiple reference numberings: Itivuttaka: This Was Said (by the Buddha) therefore is difficult. No luck with Access To Insight therefore will do word search on Sutta Central. It could be:

“Knowing that the body is fragile,
“Kāyañca bhiduraṁ ñatvā, Variant: bhiduraṁ
that consciousness fades away,
Viññāṇañca virāgunaṁ; Variant: virāgunaṁ
and seeing the danger in attachments,
Upadhīsu bhayaṁ disvā,
they go beyond birth and death.
Having attained ultimate peace,
Sampatvā paramaṁ santiṁ,
evolved, they bide their time.”
Kālaṁ kaṅkhati bhāvitatto”ti.

Iti 77


He once was considered astute,
Paṇḍitoti samaññāto,
regarded as evolved,
bhāvitattoti sammato;
his glory stood forth like a flame,
Jalaṁva yasasā aṭṭhā,
the renowned Devadatta.
devadattoti vissuto.

Iti 89

“This is a reason for joy
“Pāmojjakaraṇaṁ ṭhānaṁ,
for those who understand:
etaṁ hoti vijānataṁ;
that is, those who are evolved,
Yadidaṁ bhāvitattānaṁ,
the noble ones living righteously.
ariyānaṁ dhammajīvinaṁ

Iti 104


“The Teacher is the first, the great hermit,

“Satthā hi loke paṭhamo mahesi,
following whom is the disciple of developed self,
Tassanvayo sāvako bhāvitatto;
and then a trainee, a practitioner,
Athāparo pāṭipadopi sekho,
learned, with precepts and observances intact.
Bahussuto sīlavatūpapanno.

Iti 84

In conclusion, if you are interested in studying Sutta, the foremost resource is Sutta Central. Once you learn how to use its research functions you will be learning Dhamma from the Buddha’s Own Lips (rather than relying solely on monks, translators, scholars & dictionaries). :pray:t2:

I think the term atta used in these compounds is to be taken as the pronoun atta, and that its use is idiomatic rather than something to do with the doctrine of anatta.


In the stock passage mentioned above, Ireland translates pahitatto as ‘resolute’

PED has ‘of resolute will’. It has nothing to do with the anattā doctrine.

in the Udāna, Pātaligalāmiya Vagga (#8), #5 Cunda sutta,
There is a verse with the line,

So codito bhāvitattena cundo

Ireland translates the term as,
“ by the Composed One”.

A term used to describe the Buddha, it doesn’t really have anything to do with the anattā doctrine.

‘atta’ can often have a very mundane sense.

PED gives, “well trained or composed”

I don’t have access to the 1935 Woodward PTS edition to see how he rendered these lines.

Ven. Anandajoti has “One with Developed Mind”
Ven Sujato has “The evolved one”.

It seems to me a large part of the sense of the word has to do with how extraordinarily well the Buddha was able to behave while sick and dying.


oops! my bad, people are quite right, bhāvitattā occurs frequently, I was looking at bhāvitatta and pahitatto and pahitattā both occur, just not pahitatta

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It’s also important to look for the inflected forms, like bhāvitattena and bhāvitattānam

The tipitaka.org seach gives 38 hits for bhāvitatt* in the suttapitaka, which is almost certainly incomplete.

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I have nothing to add to the venerable @silence :slight_smile:


Just in case you and the OP are not aware, this tool helps you get to the sutta you are looking for most times:

You can put either format of Ud and Iti citation in and you will end up at the right place. The danger of using ATI as your source of citations is that several of the suttas in the AN have different citations from Sutta Central (they use roughly the Thai system)

Also, if you simply type Ud3.2 here in a message, it will automatically be linked to the sutta.

And for folks who aren’t aware, the DigitalPaliReader.online has an excellent search feature that breaks down the results into book, etc.

Do you have any sources for that claim? I’ve heard the opposite, that Udana is one of the oldest.

At this point I always start to think of the parable of the blind men and the elephant.