'dāra' not 'partner'

I noticed that in many of the new translations of @sujato (if not all) that puttadāra and its plurals is translated at ‘children and partners’. I find that misleading as it is not at all a gender neutral expression.

dāra is both in Pali and Sanskrit a wive or a young woman belonging to the household. If the plural means ‘wife and sons’ or ‘wives and sons’ I don’t know. But the according suttas are directed at wealthy males and I would hope that the translation makes that clear.

Thanks for the feedback.

When approaching a translation that, for the first time, aims to be gender-inclusive, there are many aspects, and sometimes you just have to experiment and see what works.

I tried out using “partner” since it is a more inclusive term. In this, I was mindful of the fact that Indian norms of marriage are traditionally far more flexible than Western ones. For example, if a young man and woman elope, with no blessing of parents or any ceremony, that can still be regarded as a valid form of marriage. Not ideal, surely, but still legal.

This came up when we were advocating in favor of marriage reform in Australia. Both the Buddhist and Hindu national councils supported same-sex marriage. When I discussed it with my Hindu colleagues, they said it was for exactly this reason: that Hindu marriage laws were traditionally open and flexible, and did not dictate just one form of marriage. The modern idea, common in modern India (and some Buddhist countries, alas), that there is only one form of valid marriage stems from the Abrahamic traditions, not the Indic ones.

Nevertheless, as you say, dāra is used in the suttas typically in the context of a householder or wealthy man, who is depicted in his role as ruler, protector, or money-earner, all traditionally male roles. In fact, my translation currently wavers between “partner” and “wife”, preferring wife in contexts where it is clearly addressed to a man. It could be more consistent, for sure. I will review it and see whether I think the rendering of “partner” is still warranted.


Thanks for the feedback bhante. I was sure that there was a background to that translation decision - and in general I am well aware that you were facing many difficult decisions like that.

I have my own struggle with the texts, part of it is reconstructing what the texts actually say. And with time I found it hard to understand some of BB’s translation decisions, “why would he write that?” and then “ah, he got it from the commentaries”.

And in this case, trying to distinguish the social reality, the audience of the suttas, and the audience of the transmission I found dāra as ‘partner’ peculiar. Digging further into it I found that most of the androcentric elitarian attitudes are in the AN, not the SN.

So in my mind we have with the AN a transmission line that is more willing to affirm social power constellations (with gender, but also regarding slaves), whereas the SN is much more benevolent/silent about social questions. So seeing that the AN (influencing the MN) is more affirming the existing power structures was very interesting for me and somehow indicative of a spiritual tradition that apparently only in a few decades moved closer to the cities, gaining recognition, assuring support for viharas etc.

Anyway I’m always grateful if also the translations allow me to make observations like that and I don’t have to fall back on my Pali (which is still lousy). Thanks!


Interesting thread, thank you.

Sometimes language limits attention; i recall being quite surprised at the exclusions to polite or ethical behavior sometimes possible as rationalizations… Thus resulting in ultimately self harming intentional behavior.

I like the looseness of “partner”, to avoid the mind trap of (legal) spouse responsibilities; the focus should be on one’s own behavior, not the legal status of anyone else imo.

I appreciate the care for good communication.

1 Like

This is true, but I wonder to what extent it is simply that AN deals more with worldly contexts?

Interestingly enough, there is a Pali word dutiya, literally “second”, that more directly maps as “partner”. An “ex-”, for example, is called purāṇadutiya.


Right, this seems to be a pattern with the AN. Do you know of any systematic research, bhante, which deals with the different nature, concepts and perspectives of SN vs. AN?

1 Like

second meaning consort, or even concubine? as distinguished from wife?

Interesting where the root pali seemed to lead, to “a cause” of lust. So are householders considered… how to ask this… essentially corrupt or contaminated, unless utterly celibate, or solely focussed on procreat ive purpose?

Mods, please edit or delete if appropriate, pls and ty.