AN 5.63: kāya = life?

So here is the passage:

ariyasāvako ariyāya vaḍḍhiyā vaḍḍhati, sārādāyī ca hoti varādāyī ca kāyassa

ven. Bodhi translates:

a male noble disciple grows by a noble growth, and he absorbs the essence and the best of this life.

Neither the commentary nor the subcommentary offer any clarification, nor does the sentence appear anywhere else than in the text of this sutta, and ven. Bodhi does not offer any explanation for his choice either. Does anyone have an idea where he is coming from on this?

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full sutta is short, in pali

:diamonds: 63. “pañcahi, bhikkhave, vaḍḍhīhi vaḍḍhamāno ariyasāvako ariyāya vaḍḍhiyā vaḍḍhati, sārādāyī ca hoti varādāyī ca kāyassa. katamāhi pañcahi? saddhāya vaḍḍhati, sīlena vaḍḍhati, sutena vaḍḍhati, cāgena vaḍḍhati, paññāya vaḍḍhati — imāhi kho, bhikkhave, pañcahi vaḍḍhīhi vaḍḍhamāno ariyasāvako ariyāya vaḍḍhiyā vaḍḍhati, sārādāyī ca hoti varādāyī ca kāyassā”ti.

:diamonds: “saddhāya sīlena ca yo pavaḍḍhati VAR,

:diamonds: paññāya cāgena sutena cūbhayaṃ.

:diamonds: so tādiso sappuriso vicakkhaṇo,

:diamonds: ādīyatī sāramidheva attano”ti. tatiyaṃ.

b.bodhi has:
63 (3) Growth (1)

344“Bhikkhus, growing in five ways, a male noble disciple grows by a noble growth, and he absorbs the essence and the best of this life. What five? He grows in faith, virtuous behavior, learning, generosity, and wisdom. Growing in these five ways, a male noble disciple grows by a noble growth, and he absorbs the essence and the best of this life.”

345He who grows in faith and virtuous behavior,
in wisdom, generosity, and learning—
such a discerning superior man
absorbs for himself the essence of this life.

“life” appears in the verse, but not “kāya”, so that would give us a clue. Doing a quick analaysis in DPR it’s not obvious to me which word in the verse is “life” .

From the first sentence it definitely appears to be kāya=life.

In the verse, it appears to be “midha”… of which PTSD says:

Midha [does it refer to mī2 as in mināti2, or to middha?] is given as root in meaning “hiŋsana,” to hurt at Dhtm 536 (with var. v.v ll.), not sure.

Anything from other dictionaries?

I’m starting to think that indeed kaya means life here. Like, making the most out of this body before it runs into old age and death, in other words making the most out of this life.

Interesting sutta, and a very unusual usage of kāya here. While BB has “of this life”, Thanissaro has “in the body” and Hare has “whole being”. In my translation I originally followed BB’s rendering, but looking closer I think I’ll change it.

The key is in the verses. The operative term is in the final line, attano, “for oneself”. Kāya and attā have somewhat of a semantic overlap, both being used in the sense of “oneself, one’s own personal experience”. It is unusual, though, to find the normal term for this (attā) in the verse, while the more “poetic” idiom (kāya) is in the prose. In translation, I would render them both “for himself”.

Note that in these Anguttara-style verses, the normal situation is that the verses act as a summary or restatement of the prose. This isn’t always the case, but it’s a safe assumption unless there’s a reason to see it otherwise. So where one term is used in the prose and another in the verse, they were usually intended as synonyms.

Midha is not a word, apart from the one highly dubious reference in the dict. The word is sāra-m-idh[a]-eva where -m- is sandhi, and the final -a on idha is as usual elided before eva. In this context idha means “here, in this life”: “only what is essential in this life”.

“Mendicants, a male noble disciple who grows in five ways grows nobly, taking on what is essential and excellent for himself. What five? He grows in faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom. A male noble disciple who grows in five ways grows nobly, taking on what is essential and excellent for himself.”

“He who grows in faith and ethics,
wisdom, and both generosity and learning—
a good man such as he sees clearly,
and takes on only what is essential for himself in this life.”


Bhante, I wonder about the order of that. For example, the itivuttaka, a laywoman part of the queen’s inner circle, was instructed by the queen to attend a lecture series by the Buddha, memorize the lectures, and report back to the queen.

I’m guessing the verses are verbatim composed by the buddha, for the purpose of being memorized and transmitted 100% verbatim, and that the prose was the sutta listener’s summary of that lecture with a few explanatory comments about the verse.

So my imagining of what a discourse of the Buddha might have looked like, is he had that carefully composed verse as an outline of what he was going to talk about, he talked about it for 2 hours, added some jokes, reiterated important points, and what ended up in the suttas was a summary of that 2 hour condensed to 5 minutes.

That’s just purely a guess on my part, but I’d be keen to hear your understanding of how early discourses were composed, and which part was likely to be the verbatim words of the Buddha.

cc @Brahmali and other EBT experts

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Well, I think it depends, and there’s no fixed relation between the two historically.

In some cases, a pre-existing verse acts as the scaffold for a talk, and the verse itself is recited at the end.

In some cases, the Buddha gives a talk, and comes up with a spontaneous verse to sum it up.

And in some cases, the verse may be added by later editors as a kind of uddāna, a mnemonic summary.


I do think you have point, especially in regard to the suttas of the Khuddaka Nikāya. For instance, I believe it has been shown fairly conclusively by Ven. Anālayo, here, that the prose part of the Udāna is later than the verses. This is similar to the development we see with the Dhammapada and the Jātakas, where the commentaries add lengthy prose stories to the Canonical verses. I think there are good reasons for thinking the same is true for the Itivuttaka and also parts of the Sutta Nipāta.

With the Anguttara Nikāya, however, the situation is somewhat different. Having translated pretty much the whole collection while I was working on it with Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, I was struck by how the language in the verses often appears to be slightly later than the language in the prose. Moreover, the message is often very simple - do good and go to heaven, for instance - which has a summarising and populist feel to it. Apart from this, the verses just tend to reinforce and repeat what has been stated in the prose, rarely adding anything new of significance. This is in sharp contrast with the Khuddaka, where the verses are often more Dhamma oriented and original than the narrative stories that introduce them. So I agree with Bhante Sujato as well.


Thank you Bhante for this brilliant answer. I wonder why ven. Bodhi did not choose this interpretation. Perhaps ven. @Brahmali could help shed some light on this question?


I can’t really remember. My guess is that he just took kāya in a broad sense, as in “the body in this life” or “the person in this life”. I am not aware of kāya being used in this way elsewhere, but the extension seems quite natural. So I think Ven. Bodhi’s translation is acceptable, but I do prefer Bhante Sujato’s suggestion above. That there is a parallel between kāya and attā is an astute observation.