Chinese Translation of Parallel of Snp 5.14 mentions "Non-Dual Dharma". Is this supported by the actual Chinese?

T210.35, the parallel to Snp 5.14 says the following

This is the first time I have seen non-duality mentioned explicitly in a parallel to anything related to the Atthakavagga or Parayanavagga.

My question is does the Chinese actually support this translation?

PS. Interestingly, there is no mention of the cessation of consciousness in the Chinese which is the most striking feature in the Pali.

Sorry, why are you identifying these as parallels? One is the Dhammapada, one is the Parayanavagga.

I can’t speak to the Chinese, but the Pali parallel to the line you refer to would seem to be Dhp 384, which says:

Yadā dvayesu dhammesu pāragū hoti brāhmaṇo
When a brahmin has gone beyond two things,

Here, dvayesu dhammesu is in locative plural, meaning “over two things” or “with respect to two things”. The fact that it is plural means that it cannot be “non-dual dharma”, which would be a noun in singular (dvayaṁ or similar).

The text doesn’t specify what two things, but probably it means “craving and ignorance” or something similar.


If you go into parallels for Snp 5.14 at Sutta Central, it says T210.35 is a parallel. Take a look for yourself.

Okay yes. That’s a reference to a specific verse. The first verse in Pali is a parallel with Dhp 386 and the others mentioned.

In the Pali on the left of the parallel table you can see that it indicates a specific verse. In the parallels, however, this is lacking, we should add it.

The Chinese reads like this:

以無二法, 清淨渡淵,
諸欲結解, 是謂梵志;

無二法 could be read as non-dual (無二) dharma (法) or without (無) two things (二法). It’s this sort of trouble (not having word boundaries) that Indic parallels help with. Non-dualism is a common concept in later Mahayana texts (which means “undivided” or “undifferentiated”). It’s easy for a translator with experience with them, which is usually the case for someone studying Chinese Buddhism, to read a passage like this that way.

Another thing that we can do is look at the commentary in T211 and T212 that include stories with the verses in Chinese. T211 doesn’t give anything specific to the verse that I can see with a quick scan, but T212 says:

[0770a25] 盡捨一切弊惡之法,出入行來周旋之處,言不及殺、不害一切無所傷損,清淨無瑕永無諸縛,是故說曰,彼以無二,清淨無瑕,諸欲結解,是謂梵志。

Entirely abandoning all wicked things, everywhere he travels, they say, “He’s incapable of killing and doesn’t hurt anyone. Doing no harm, he’s pure, flawless, and never has bonds.” Therefore, the verse says: “By not having two things, he’s pure and flawless; freed from the bonds of desire, this is called a brahmin.”

The second line is different in this version, but the commentary suggests not killing or hurting beings was considered to be the two things in this case. This would probably be a commentary about Brahmanical sacrifices, I would guess?

I think the next verse in this translation does sound like nonduality though it is tortured English. It does sound like an undifferentiated experience.

It reminds me of Ud 1.10 which I think is clearly nondual

When I thought this sutta was Snp 5.14, I thought it might be referring to Snp 4.11’s stanza

which I believe is describing the same experience as Ud 1.10 (see here).

Could the next verse in the Chinese that I quote above in this post and that I said sounds like it might be nondual be reasonably read as nondual? How would you interpret it?

Which is why we need both translators who focus on the Chinese context and those who read the Chinese through the Indic lens. :pray:

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Perhaps, the context the original Chinese translator was drawing from was Ud 1.10. Also, there is the next verse to consider.

It is a bit of riddle that sounds like a non-dual type of transcendence.

It’s tough to translate from Chinese because it’s using pronouns without any indication of what they refer to. So, a reader, and especially a translator, ends up using guesses to form a basis for an understanding of it.

It also reads differently than Pali, and I think it’s a good example of Indic words changing meanings because they were pronounced differently in one Indic language compared to another. We can piece some of it together by looking at the Indic parallel, the Chinese translation, and what we know about Gandhari today. (Gandhari was likely the language that was being translated to Chinese.)

Here’s the Pali parallel in the Dhammapada (with Sujato’s translation):

Yassa pāraṁ apāraṁ vā,
pārāpāraṁ na vijjati;
Vītaddaraṁ visaṁyuttaṁ,
tamahaṁ brūmi brāhmaṇaṁ.

One for whom there is no crossing over
or crossing back, or crossing over and back;
stress-free, detached,
that’s who I call a brahmin.

So, Gandhari doesn’t have long vowels. Words that are distinguished by long/short vowels in Pali or Sanskrit are homophones in that language. In the first two lines, P. pāra means “go beyond, cross over.” P. apāra is the negation of that, which Sujato is translating as “crossing back.” P. na vijjati means “not found” or “not exist.” Presumably, the verse is referring to crossing over the flood.

Now, let’s look at the Chinese translation by comparison:


He who is at ease with other and no-other;
For whom [both] other, [not] other, are avoid;
He who gives up sensual craving;
Is indeed a brāhmaṇa.

Instead of “crossing over” (P. pāra), the first two lines have a demonstrative pronoun (彼) that means “that, there, him, her, them, etc.” When it’s used for a place, it means “there” rather than “here.” So, it’s often used for the “other” shore in the Buddhist metaphor for liberation.

So, what happened here? I think because there are no long vowels in Gandhari, the word being translated would have been G. para, which means “other” just as it does in Pali and Sanskrit, rather than to “cross over.” Based on this, I’d say that in the first two lines, 彼 is the “other shore.”

Dhammajoti translates the verb 適 as “to be at ease.” It’s a tough word to translate without context because it can mean lots of things. But, if its object is a place, then it probably means “to go to” or “to reach.”

The next strangeness is that the three places in the Chinese are 彼, 無彼, and 彼彼, which would be something like “the other shore,” “no other shore,” and “other shore-other shore” (?). This perhaps is also caused by Gandhari lacking long vowels. P. pārāpāra can be read as pāra-apāra because the shared vowel in the compound becomes long. But in Gandhari it would be parapara, which looked like para-para, “other-other.” I suppose this might be read to mean another shore beyond the other shore.

The last bit of the Chinese, “空”, is yet another mystery. It can mean “empty,” “space,” “sky,” or “in vain/fruitless.” How did we end up with this instead of “not found/exists”? I’m not sure. P. vijjati would convert to G. vijadi, and I can’t see any words that begin with G. vi- that be confused in this way. However, G. navi means “not at all.” If P. na vijjati were compressed into G. navi by losing the final syllables (as sometimes happened in Gandhari), then that might explain the Chinese translation. Seems like a stretch, but it’s possible. It could also be the Chinese translator deciding to say “nothing” instead of “to not exist.”

This is what we deal with all the time when we really dig into these Chinese translations of Gandhari. Scholars for a long time thought Chinese translators were just terrible at translating Sanskrit, but the troubles probably began with the translation of Buddhist texts between different Prakrits. There’s far less confusion between Pali and Sanskrit than there is between Gandhari and those languages.

So, then, a revised translation of the Chinese might be:

“There’s no going to the other shore,
No shore, or a shore beyond at all.
The one who abandons lust,
He is called a brāhmaṇa.”

This is déjà vu all over again as the great philosopher Yogi Berra would say . The following is from PDF page 157 and print page 148 of
Kosalan Philosophy in the Kāṇva Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa and the Suttanipāta

Later on she goes onto say (PDF page 185 and print page 176)

Bhante @sujato translates Snp 1.1

Yup, this is nondualism.

Added later: this reminds me of Ud 1.10 where when in the seen there is only the seen … you won’t be in this world or the world beyond or between the two…

Added later still: I suspect T210.35 is a parallel to Snp 1.1. There are too many similarities to dismiss to claim otherwise.

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I’ve been feeling under the weather for a couple days. Quite literally, as the rainy season here in California activates my auto-immune syndrome, and I feel exhausted and achy all over. And we’ve been getting quite a rainy season this year.

Let’s see. I wrote that post on the second verse off-the-cuff without doing any research into what others have said, but I did a little more digging afterward, because I always feel a bit anxious when I go out on a limb. But as is my custom of doing everything backwards, I write first and check myself later. Ha! I may have overplayed the Gandhari angle, but I think it hasn’t gotten much thought by previous scholars.

Dhammajoti in his book on the Chinese Dhammapada says that he was being purposely “naive,” or excessively literal, to help other scholars compare the Chinese against the Pali. He wasn’t really attempting to create a reader-friendly translation. It’s more of an intermediate step of mechanically transcribing words into English, I guess. He has footnotes explaining ambiguity issues and context in the book that SuttaCentral is quoting, which is available on the Internet Archive.

The commentary on the second verse in Taisho 212 says that the “other” is the external sense fields (the outside world) and the “not-other” is the internal sense fields (personal experience). Which changes the frame from a metaphor about liberation to something about the bifurcation of experience into “self” and “other.” Which makes it even stronger as a non-dualism type of idea. It sounds like a simpler version of Yogacara philosophy, which considered the bifurcation of self and other in the mind as the root delusion (if I remember correctly, it’s been a while since I studied the topic).

Willemen, who translated the later Chinese translation of the Udanavarga, agrees with me that “other” must be the “other shore.” He translates the parallel verse in T213 as:

  1. Once one reaches the other shore there is no other shore. That other shore, although one may have reached it, does not exist. The one who has renounced covetousness, him I called a brahmin. (Odes of the Law, p. 243)

But the commentary in T212 steers us away from that reading. It reads the verse as being not about liberation as much as about experience. So, perhaps metaphors were being mixed in the original understanding of the verse (the other shore = the sensory experience of the outside world).

Now, imagine if we read the near and far shore in the passages you’ve quoted as meaning the external world and the inner experience. It sounds very much like a pre-Yogacara idea of non-dualism here to me, one which is experiential rather than ontological.


If you can point me to any good papers, articles, or books you have read about this I would greatly appreciate it.

Very intriguing. I like this.