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Ariyo vs. ariya

why is it ariyo-maggo but ariya-sacca?
Wikipedia has “the phrase does not mean the path is noble, rather that the path is of the arya” and refers to
Williams, Paul (2002), Buddhist Thought (Kindle ed.), Taylor & Francis

Is that his interpretation or grammatically sound?

maybe it’s because of difference in gender between magga (m) and sacca (nt)?

although according to declension table Nominative of ariya-sacca must look like ariyaṃ-saccaṃ

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Asians also use the word ‘noble’ therefore Wikipedia does not seem realistic when it states about the word ‘noble’: “this translation is a convention started by the early translators of Buddhist texts into English”.

I once heard the word ‘ariya’ means ‘without enemies’ because it destroys the enemy of dukkha. Speculating, it can also mean ‘without enemies’ in the sense of ‘irrefutable’, such as when the sutta states: “the matchless Wheel of truth has been set rolling by the Blessed One, not to be stopped by monk or divine or god or death-angel or high divinity or anyone in the world.” It could also mean truths that take the mind to a ‘noble state’.

For me, ‘path of noble ones’ is too subjective & can appear too conceited. The path itself must be noble because it must be able to make people noble rather than depend on noble people to use it.

For me, the noble truths are absolutely true & faultless and thus it is the truths & the path that are ‘noble’ (‘ariya’).

Ari [Ved. ari; fr. ṛ] an enemy. – The word is used in exegesis & word expln, thus in etym. of arahant….


> _4. Herein, what he recollects firstly is that the Blessed One is accomplished (arahanta)_
> _for the following reasons: (i) because of remoteness (áraka), and (ii) because of_
> _his **enemies (ari)** and (iii) the spokes (ara) having been destroyed (hata), and (iv)_
> _because of his worthiness (araha) of requisites, etc., and (v) because of absence of_
> _secret (rahábháva) evil-doing. **3**_

> _**3**. Cf. derivation of the word ariya (“noble”) at M-a I 21._

> _Page 188 Visuddhimagga_

As far as I know the origin of arya is speculative. in the Rgveda it has a positive connotation that could be ethnic or ‘faithful’ or just ‘a good person that follows the vedic laws’. But this is not my concern. It’s really purely a grammatical question as @LXNDR took it. There are differences of scope that could be limited by a precise grammatical explanation:

  • a noble path = a formula of high value in itself, like the alchemist formula to transform iron into gold
  • path of the noble(s) = a path that can be taken by nobles only. in that sense ‘right speech’ would be a practice but only nobles can have ‘right speech’ as a proper path factor (MN 117 and probably other suttas indicate this). that would mean that the NEP is by no means a general practice guide to buddhism but rather a guide for highly developed individuals
  • a path to become noble = a procedure for worldlings to become nobles
  • in spite of a defined grammar we can of course still interpret it non-binary in all those meanings

yet I see value in the most simple grammatical interpretation and still hope someone can provide it.

If a person must be noble before they take the path, what is the purpose or use of the path if the person is already noble?

It’s a possibility of interpretation. Sotapannas are noble as well without having realized the final liberation.

I may have missed the point of your question. I thought you were asking why use the term “ariya” meaning noble and that’s why I brought up the Aryan (Iranian) invasion of India:

They may have been considered superior persons, which could be why such a term would be adopted. They were also supposed to have chariot (wheel) technology, which were like the WMD’s of the day and would represent a quick and awesome power. This could be why such words were appropriated to mean supreme or powerful. The most powerful samādhi in MN119 is said to be like charioted horses.

What about the possibility of an ennobling path leading to noble results?

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thanks, that’s another possibility: ‘noble results’, without necessarily becoming ‘a noble’.

What I’m really looking for btw are sutta references that define what ‘ariya’ is, or who ‘ariyá’ are. Can for example someone who practices earnestly to become a sotapanna already be an ariya? maybe my understanding (sotapanna / once-returner etc) is based on commentarial sources, I don’t know. But I’d love to have some diverse sutta sources please.

the noble persons ariyapuggala are specifically sotapanna through to arahant, others are called men of integrity, superior persons

stock formula in SN 22.81

Here, bhikkhus, the uninstructed worldling, who is not a seer of the noble ones and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma, who is not a seer of superior persons and is unskilled and undisciplined in their Dhamma

Ven Bodhi

There is the case where an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person — who has no regard for noble ones, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma; who has no regard for men of integrity, is not well-versed or disciplined in their Dhamma

Ven Thanissaro

Thanks, I didn’t know this ‘category’ of sapurissa. So we have ‘uninstructed wordling’ - ‘sapurissa / a good man’ - ariya - arahant - buddha… anything in between?

I’m still looking for passages that say “This bhikkhus, is a ariya puggala” as I’m sure they must exist somewhere.

Looking at MN 27 we don’t get that clear picture of ariya. Here the Buddha describes the gradual path. The bhikkhu - before even meditating - possesses ariya silakhandha, then the noble restraint of the faculties, then possessing noble sati­sam­pajañ­ña.

How is that even possible if he hasn’t had his first jhana yet? But it goes on. The bhikkhu gets the first jhana, “but a noble disciple does not yet come to the conclusion: ‘The Blessed One is fully enlightened’”

Well, THIS noble disciple is not a sotapanna yet I would say - being a noble disciple + just the first jhana + no absolute faith in a fully enlightened Buddha

MN 27 appears to be in contradiction to SN 55.2 and numerous other suttas of Sotapattisamyutta with the same description of sotapanna qualities

in MN 27 it’s stated

“When he knows and sees thus, his mind is liberated from the taint of sensual desire, from the taint of being, and from the taint of ignorance. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘It is liberated.’ He understands: ‘Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being.’

It is at this point that a noble disciple has come to the conclusion: ‘The Blessed One is fully enlightened, the Dhamma is well proclaimed by the Blessed One, the Sangha is practising the good way. And it is at this point, brahmin, that the simile of the elephant’s footprint has been completed in detail.”

that is complete conviction is only attained with attainment of arahantship

whereas according to SN 55.2 confirmed confidence in veracity of these statements is already possessed by a sotapanna

“Bhikkhus, a noble disciple who possesses four things is a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as his destination.

“What four? Here, bhikkhus, a noble disciple possesses confirmed confidence in the Buddha thus: ‘The Blessed One is … teacher of devas and humans, the Enlightened One, the Blessed One.’ He possesses confirmed confidence in the Dhamma … in the Saṅgha.… He possesses the virtues dear to the noble ones, unbroken … leading to concentration.

Please correct me if I’m wrong but shouldn’t it say "a disciple who possesses… is a noble one, a stream enterer"
Whereas it says that someone who is a noble disciple becomes a stream enterer with four things. It sounds like a noble disciple is someone who is a dedicated practitioner or so

it invites a research into the question of synonymity between ariyasavako and aryapuggala

the dictionary equates them

I would at least say that the texts are not clear. Take SN 24.5: “When, bhikkhus, a noble disciple has abandoned perplexity in these six cases … he is then called a noble disciple who is a stream-enterer” which clearly says that the bhikkhu who already was a noble disciple / ariyasavaka became a stream enterer on top of that.

that is provided these two words are indeed synonymical

I collected passages from the Anguttara where an ariyasavaka doesn’t seem to fit the conception of at least a sotapanna. While in most passages the ariyasavaka could be at least a stream enterer, isn’t it possible that the ariyasavaka is an umbrella term for any serious instructed practitioner, on whatever level?

AN 4.60:
“Householder, a noble disciple (ariyasavako) who possesses four qualities is practicing the way proper to the layperson, a way that brings the attainment of fame and leads to heaven. What four? “Here, householder, a noble disciple serves the Saṅgha of bhikkhus with robes; he serves the Saṅgha of bhikkhus with almsfood; he serves the Saṅgha of bhikkhus with lodgings; he serves the Saṅgha of bhikkhus with medicines and provisions for the sick.

AN 5.41:
“Here, householder, with wealth acquired by energetic striving, amassed by the strength of his arms, earned by the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained, the noble disciple makes himself happy and pleased and properly maintains himself in happiness; he makes his parents happy and pleased and properly maintains them in happiness; he makes his wife and children, his slaves, workers, and servants happy and pleased and properly maintains them in happiness.

AN 5.43:
“Householder, the noble disciple who desires beauty . . . (3) . . . who desires happiness . . . (4) . . . who desires fame ought not to pray for fame or delight in it or [passively] yearn for it. A noble disciple who desires fame should practice the way conducive to fame.

AN 10.74:
“Bhikkhus, growing in ten ways, a noble disciple grows by a noble growth, and he absorbs the essence and the best of this life. What ten? (1) He grows in fields and land; (2) in wealth and grain; (3) in wives and children; (4) in slaves, workers, and servants; (5) in livestock; (6)–(10) in faith, virtuous behavior, learning, generosity, and wisdom.

at least such understanding would resolve the ostensible contradiction between MN 27 and SN 55.2 on the one hand and internal incoherence of SN 55.2 on the other

in this case MN 27 simply disregards the division into 4 noble levels and assumes attainment of arahantship past the lower ones

Bhikkhu Bodhi’s note on SN 55.24 says:

I agree, I think the usage is somewhat flexible. While in most cases ariya means one of the "eight individuals"on the path, such cases as you quote show that this is not always so. In such cases, i would take the language to be “aspirational”; it’s showing the highest example of what to aspire to.

Bhante, would you mind commenting on the first question of why it is grammatically ariyo-maggo but ariya-sacca? and if the grammar helps us to determine If it’s ‘the path of the noble’, ‘the path to nobility’ or ‘a noble path’?

Additionally this small excursion helped me to understand a bit better how the adjective ariya does not mean ‘a buddhist holy’, that’s it’s rather something in the character of, inspired by or developing in the Buddha’s teaching.
To be fair, the examples above are rare exceptions, mostly the disciples are ‘well-instructed’ and display right view. And ariya or ariyá as a noun seems to be stronger even - maybe arahants only?