Dubbalyā in Bhikkhuni Sanghadisesa 13

Hello again!

Well, now that I have discovered ‘Discuss and Discover’ and its helpful and knowledgeable inhabitants – you might be hearing from me repeatedly as I plod my way through my trilinear project, leaving no pebble unturned. But don’t worry, you’ll get a break soon cos the rest of the Sanghadisesas are shared with the bhikkhus so I can just cadge my answers from Ven Nyanatusita’s superbly detailed Analysis of the Bhikkhu Patimokkha.

In the meantime, though, hope these questions might be fun quizzes for the Pali whizzes! None of these questions would actually impact how the rule is to be practiced, but am using this passage as an example to better understand Pali syntax.

Sanghadisesa 13 is quite long so I will just quote the relevant part:

Yā pana bhikkhunī evaṃ vadeyya: “saṃsaṭṭhāva, ayye, tumhe viharatha, mā tumhe nānā viharittha, santi saṅghe aññāpi bhikkhuniyo evācārā evaṃsaddā evaṃsilokā bhikkhuni saṅghassa vihesikā aññamaññissā vajjappaṭicchādikā, tā saṅgho na kiñci āha tumhaññeva saṅgho uññāya paribhavena akkhantiyā vebhassiyā dubbalyā evamāha

Am trying to figure out how ‘tumham’ and ‘dubbalyā’ function in this sentence.


1.Can āha take the dative? PED had it that it takes the accusative. As seems to have happened early in the passage: saṅgho na kiñci āha (the Sangha does not say anything to them.)

If āha can also take the dative perhaps the tumham (dative of ta(d) in the compound word tumhaññeva) is paired with āha: ie. The sangha says only (eva) to y’all. (as opposed to saying it to the other badly behaving bhikkhunis that also exist). That’s just my stab at it.

IB Horner had it a bit differently, but still pairing tumham with āha as far as I can tell: It is to you yourselves that the Order, out of disrespect, out of contempt, out of impatience, in gossiping, on poor evidence, says this:

Other translators had interpreted the function of tumham differently.

  • Aj Thanissaro had paired it with ‘dubbalyā’:
    “It’s simply because of your weakness that the Sangha…says”

  • Aj Brahmali had paired it with ‘sangha’:
    “It’s because of disrespect, contempt, impatience, slander, and weakness that your Order of nuns says this”

2.In deciding what goes with what, does proximity matter at all? I am told that in Pali grammar word order does not matter. But is it total anarchy?

3.In a string of related words, can one word use the common form of an instrumental ending and another word use a more archaic or uncommon form? Or is it only in 2 different texts from different time periods that would use different kinds of endings for the same case?

Like in uññāya paribhavena akkhantiyā vebhassiyā dubbalyā

paribhavena is clearly instrumental, which makes me guess that all the other ones are also instrumental. Except dubbalyā which looks like an ablative. Unless it is the less common form of the instrumental which has the ā ending. (From Wijesekara p. 122 I understand this ending is older: “In Pāli the confusion is worse confounded by the fact that the old inst. in -ā, which Franke has definitely shown to survive in Pāli”)

But I suppose if the instrumental here is an instrumental of cause, it works like an ablative anyway so the distinction doesn’t matter much. But again, whose weakness is it? A. Brahmali has translated the whole string here as a unit, so it’s the Sangha’s weakness whereas A. Thanissaro had it as the accused bhikkhunis’ weakness.

4.Intriguingly, both the PED entry for dubbalyā and the footnote for it in IB Horner’s translation had suggested it meant “on poor or weak evidence” referencing a JPTS article from 1886. So apparently this discussion has been literally going on for centuries. How cool is that, though, to reference something from back in the time when Prussia was a country? Of course I then had to look it up. With no explanation, dubbalyā was said to = appakkhata = groundlessly. (p. 129). Does anyone agree with this? I kind of think it does flow logically from vebhassiyā (‘gossiping.’)

Thank you very much for reading, and to anyone who might reply. Rock on, Pali scholars!


According to CPD, āha can take the genitive, which is what I suspect is happening here.

Actually not any more. This is my latest version:

It’s because of disrespect, contempt, intolerance, slander, and weakness that the Sangha of nuns says to you …

Pairing tumhañ(ñeva) with saṅgho is quite natural, since the genitive is normally placed immediately in front of the the word it relates to grammatically. On the other hand, the idea of “your Sangha” is not found elsewhere, as far as I know. From this perspective I don’t consider it a likely reading, and thus my rephrasing

I also consider AT reading as unlikely, since the the two words should really be next to each other if his reading is correct.

If, however, tumham is the object of the verb, then the distance between the two words can be expected. This is because we now have a slightly different relationship between the words, and because verbs tend to found at the end of sentences, which often makes it impractical to have the direct object immediately next to them.

This is a difficult one, and I don’t really know the answer. I would have thought that form would be the same for words that belong to the same text, since they are likely to all stem from the same period. But what is likely is not necessarily true in all situations.

With the specific example of bhikkhunī-saṅghādisesa 13, I would say dubbalyā is more likely to be an ablative. The entire string uññāya paribhavena akkhantiyā vebhassiyā dubbalyā is adverbial in nature, and so there is no real need for the individual words to agree with each other.


You are one of those students where both the teacher and the student are on the receiving end of the learning! They are the best kind of students, really. So keep it coming. I will use anything interesting you come up with to improve my translation. I guess I will use you as a kind of slave. :smiling_imp: And you wouldn’t even know, unless I was so foolish as to divulge it on a public forum …

Edit: I have just checked the commentary and it seems AT’s reading comes from there: Dubbalyāti tumhākaṃ dubbalabhāvena, “Dubbalyā means your being weak.” Also, you might notice the -ena ending in the commentary, which might suggest the dubbalyā should also be regarded as an instrumental, but not necessarily so. In any case, for now I stand by my understanding.


Thank you very much for your thorough answer and kind words, Ajahn. Very glad to know my multitudinous micro-questions could actually be helpful to the answer-er! Win-win. And really, it would be no form of servitude as the questions bubble up on their own anyway, unbidden! So, until the next mysterious word…