Atthakavagga: Book of Meaning?

Atthakavagga is translated as Book of Eights. I’ve heard that there is a possibility that it could be translated as Book of Meaning or Book of Purpose or Book of the Goal/Aim, that the Sanskrit words like astha and artha are very similar to the Pali word for eight. Any thoughts?

Sn 4.5 “The Supreme Octet” illustrates why the Atthaka Vagga could be called the book of the goal, as it deals with the abandonment of all views. However the Atthaka Vagga should be read in context with other more well-known suttas, otherwise an unprofitable attitude could develop, as the path is gradual:

“the Buddha’s teachings on non-clinging all contain a central paradox: Some of the objects of clinging that must ultimately be abandoned nevertheless form part of the path to their abandoning. A certain amount of sensual pleasure in terms of adequate food and shelter is needed to follow the path to go beyond sensuality; right view is needed to overcome attachment to views; “—-Thanissaro

A major theme in the Sutta Nipata is the debunking of Brahman theories, so the purpose of the Atthaka Vagga in emphasizing the supreme goal is for that reason, not for general practice.

1 Like

Indeed. In Sanskrit aṣṭa = “eight” and artha = “meaning”, while in Pali these may both be represented by aṭṭha (artha is also spelled in Pali as attha). Given that several of the poems do in fact have eight verses, this has been the most common interpretation.

I haven’t read it yet, but I’m guessing Ven Bodhi’s recent translation would discuss this point.