Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Sixes, Sutta 53 (11)

With reference to Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Sixes, Sutta 53 (11).

There is quite a difference between the translations of this sutta by Bhikkhu Bodhi (BB) and of that of the translation provided on SuttaCentral at (awake.kiev)

A Brahmin asks the Buddha if there is one thing that reaches up or accomplishes good both here (in this life) and after (in the future life). The Buddha’s answer differs depending upon which translation you read. BB says “heedfulness” whereas awake.kiev says “diligence”. This is difference is considerable because this word is the theme and subject for the whole sutta.

To elaborate on his answer, the Buddha, in this sutta, gives six examples of how heedfulness or diligence (depending upon which translation you read) reaches up or accomplishes good both here (in this life) and after (in the future life). In comparing these two translations, there is one really big difference in the fifth example given by the Buddha.

In BB’s translation it says:

“Just as all petty princes are the vassals of a wheel-turning monarch, and the wheel-turning monarch is declared to be the foremost among them, so too heedfulness is the one thing that, when developed and cultivated, can accomplish both kinds of good, the good pertaining to the present life and the good pertaining to the future life.”

In awake.kiev it says:

“Brahmin, like all other kings are under the universal monarch and of them the universal monarch is the most prominent, in the same manner diligence developed and made much reaches up to both the good, here and now and here after.”

The main difference I think to note is that in BB’s translation the Buddha is talking about “petty pinces”, whereas awake.kiev the Buddha is talking about “the universal monarch”.

Finally this leads to the main question I have: what are these “petty princes” BB refers to? Is his translation accurate, and if so, is this just a typo? Should it perhaps be “pretty princeses”?

1 Like

Hi Stu.

Just a note: When discussing suttas on here, make sure to add the canonical SuttaCentral ID. This can go anywhere, in the title or the body, it just has to be somewhere, then we will automatically link to the correct text. Here goes: AN 6.53. Done!

Actually, I just noticed, auto-linking is now broken on the site, probably due to an update from Discourse. We will fix it ASAP. But the advice is still important! Fixed now, thanks @blake!

Generally speaking, the translations on awake.kiev are of poor quality, and BB’s are to be preferred.

In this case, regarding the differences you mention, diligence and heedfulness are two different renderings of appamāda.

No it’s not pretty princesses. :grinning:

Pali is khuddarājāno, so “lesser kings”, so BB is correct. These are the kings who rule under the wheel-turning monarch. While the awake.kiev translation is less accurate, the basic sense is the same.

1 Like

if i may remark, since the Pali source text is readily available, when in doubt it’s advisable to refer to the source text and figure out the more accurate or probable meaning through the Pali-English dictionary

it makes for a good excercise in Pali as well


Thank you Bhante and LXNDR for the feedback, clarification & advise. BTW, for me, “lesser kings” sounds much better than “petty princes”. In my humble opinion, petty sounds derogatory, like a put down. I don’t think it is in the spirit of the sutta, hence why I had trouble with this term and thought it may have been a mistake. Ok LXNDR, next time I’ll do a check against the Pali dictionary, although sometimes it it hard trying to identify the corrsponding English and Pali words when comparing a sutta in both in languages. - With metta S.

1 Like

i agree, for someone like me with little Pali knowledge a plain unmarked text in Pali is overwhelming enough for the word search to get hindered, but that’s where the great SC comes to rescue:
first by turning on Textual Information under Controls tab of the sidebar for text on both languages i uncover labels of each section
then on the Pali text page i turn on Pali -> English dictionary under Controls tab of the sidebar and do search in the corresponding section of the Pali text hovering the mouse pointer over the words for lookup in the dictionary, getting the sense of the section composition thereby figuring out the place of the word in question
of course knowing some words by heart and grammar basics facilitates ability to suss out correspondence between sentences in both languages and thus orientation within the section


I agree, although this is one of the dictionary meanings:

petty - inferior in rank or status; “the junior faculty”; “a lowly corporal”; “petty officialdom”; “a subordinate functionary”

Perhaps this meaning is more archaic or formal. I’m reminded of Tolkein’s “petty dwarves”.

Thank you some much LXNDR for explaining that! I was not aware of that function (((metta)))

1 Like

Using this tool, and a little of my own knowledge, I translated SN27.1 from Pali to English just to see what it would look like if a literal, word-for-word translation was done. Here’s the result:

SN 27.1 The Eye Thread
At Sāvatthi. “Any person, Monk, the eye I am exciting, mind impurity. Any person the ear I am exciting, mind impurity. Any person the nose I am exciting, mind impurity. Any person the tongue I am exciting, mind impurity. Any person the body I am exciting, mind impurity. Any person the mind I am exciting, mind impurity. From where indeed, Monk, Monk this place having the purpose of impurity eliminated to be, renouncing the world, mind to be. Renouncing the world mind deed seems to be special knowledge – fit to be realised.”

I read the SN about 2 years ago so this sutta was not fresh in my mind and I did not read the English translation immediately before doing this translation. Generally speaking, the word-for-word translation makes sense and I like the stripped-down nakedness of it.

I think I’ll do some more translating. In fact, I am starting to think that I prefer reading the suttas this way! It takes longer but I like the rawness in the literal translation.

I look forward to the English-Pali dictionary @sujato is proposing.