Alternative translation for viparināma

Viparināma is usually translated as change, but SN 22.38 gives us the following:

yaṃ kho, āvuso, rūpaṃ atītaṃ niruddhaṃ vipariṇataṃ; tassa uppādo paññāyittha, vayo paññāyittha, ṭhitassa aññathattaṃ paññāyittha.

Friends, with form that has passed, ceased, changed, an arising was discerned, a vanishing was discerned, an alteration of that which stands was discerned.

An argument could be made that “atītaṃ niruddhaṃ vipariṇataṃ” being arranged according to the waxing syllables principle implies that these are all synonyms. Here vipariṇataṃ would mean ‘vanished’ or ‘passed away’.

Also, since the context involves form with respect to which a vanishing was discerned, doesn’t using the conventional translation of ‘changed’ (but not yet passed away) result in a contradiction? It’s impossible to discern a vanishing with respect to form that is still standing (but has undergone change).

Are there any other instances of viparināma in the Suttas where it would mean ‘pass away’ instead of ‘change’?

1 Like

Yes, it generally has a meaning closer to “decay”, “vanish”, “die” rather than simply “change”. I often use “perish”.

There’s an earlier discussion of this here:

1 Like

In Sri Lanka we say “Viparitha” to indicate deform body due sickness or accident.

Bhante, you mention SN 22.80 as an exception. There is an argument to be made about SN 22.80 that suggests it also means ‘passing away’ or ‘perishing’.

Tesaṃ mamaṃ apassantānaṃ siyā aññathattaṃ siyā vipariṇāmo
Not seeing me they may decline and deteriorate.

The context for this is the Buddha dismissing a group of newly ordained Bhikkhus. The concern as I understand it is that these Bhikkhus will change their minds about being Bhikkhus, i.e. return to lay life, as a consequence of being dismissed by the Buddha. Couldn’t the ‘passing away’ or ‘perishing’ be understood as the ‘passing away’ of the state of being a Bhikkhu, or that of the desire of being a Bhikkhu?

Sure, in a metaphorical sense.

Another term we use in Sri Lanka is "Vipariyasa"
Changing fashions.

Hmm, this looks similar to the AN 10.29 passage -

pasenadissa kosalassa attheva aññathattaṃ atthi vipariṇāmo._

My preference would be to take the final 4 words as following the waxing syllables principle to show both nouns as synonyms. This points to vipariṇāma as being “change”, rather than “a perishing”.

1 Like