Eight words for bowl

Hi friends,

I remember reading somewhere that there is an excerpt in the suttas where the Buddha mentions that there are eight distinct words for “bowl”. (This is, unsurprisingly, discussed in the context of the nature of the Pali language and related dialects.)

I have been unable to locate this, does anyone know where it is?




If you were going to look in an index to find this sutta, what would you check under? Assuming “bowl” didn’t give you any results.


You are probably looking for MN 139

It’s when in different localities the same thing is known as a ‘plate’, a ‘bowl’, a ‘cup’, a ‘dish’, a ‘basin’, a ‘tureen’, or a ‘porringer’. And however it is known in those various localities, you speak accordingly, thinking: ‘It seems that the venerables are referring to this.’ That’s how you don’t insist on local terminology and don’t override normal usage.


“Bowl” certainly gives you results, but way too many (it occurs in 237 Suttas!).

How about “porringer”? That has exactly 1 result.

The title of the Suttas is “The Analysis of Non-Conflict”. So perhaps “non-conflict”? That too has exactly 1 result. “Conflict” in turn would have 18.

Some examples in Voice’s examples list that pertain to MN 139 are

  • low, crude, ordinary, ignoble, and pointless
  • this is the only truth
  • middle way of practice
  • it is simply this noble eightfold path

… and a few more.

“This is the only truth” is, so I think, a nice one, as it points to people insisting that they alone know it all.

I think this not exactly what you are after, but perhaps it’s still of interest.


“local language” myself

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I looked on Google for ‘learn dhamma own language sutta’ or something very similar. It actually took me to another thread on this discussion board where I got the reference

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Thanks for the responses. I was most curious to know about the OP’s thought process though.

I think my question may not have been clear. I was asking about looking something up in an index. Would you have expected the translator to have indexed the word “porringer”? Also, I doubt that the OP knew that the word “porringer” was one of the names for a bowl, otherwise they would, as you mention, have found it instantly.

This, I guess, is one of the big differences between google search and an index. With a google search, knowing the most unusual thing about what you are looking for will be most successful, whereas you would not expect that of an index.

Bhante Bodhi has a surprising number of index items for this sutta, but none of them related to the bowl thing. “Conflict” and “speech” are as close as he gets. And that would take some digging to get to.

If you didn’t find it under that, would you have tried “language, local”?

Interesting. That’s not really what the sutta, or the specific thing is about though, is it?

I also find that google searches for a sutta lead me back to this forum. It’s a good sign, eh?


Yes And then, perhaps, “usage”?


It may be that I read about both passages in an essay by Walpola Rahula about Pali language. To me those were linked, and it worked


I was indeed wondering what was the intention behind your question.

And there’s still this third thing, example search. :wink:

The idea is that it works, even if you only remember vaguely what your Sutta was about. For example, there are all these similes with water, but you don’t quite remember the exact wording of what you are looking for. Start typing water into the search box, and some suggestions will pop up: “a deep lake fed by spring water”, “blue water lilies”, “earth, water, fire, and air”, “milk and water”, “pool with blue water lilies”, “those in water”, “thriving underwater”, “water overgrown with moss”, “water stirred by the wind”, “water that was cloudy, murky, and muddy”, “water that was heated by fire”, “water that was mixed with dye”. Some of them may equally be found by typing fire, dye, cloudy, etc. So there are some good chances you find what you search for.

For bowl there are currently: “bowl upside down” and “polished black bowl”—the latter one pointing to the hilarious Nanda Sutta.

I’d be very much inclined to add a ‘plate’, a ‘bowl’, a ‘cup’—the only reason I am hesitating is that I am not sure if the quote marks won’t confuse the code. Code always uses straight quotes, however, so these might still do no harm. @karl_lew, what do you think?

There is still one caveat: Voice isn’t very much up-to-date with examples currently. We are reluctant with updates because of the major security upgrades that are underway. This will still be so for some more months to go.

Meanwhile, though, there is still EBT-Site, which, for various reasons, has never been officially presented to the public. But it is there, is up-to-date with translation text and examples, and can be quite helpful for search.


Ayya @sabbamitta Would you care to point out for @Snowbird where he can find the big list of example phrases? That may be helpful :relaxed:


The big list of example phrases for English is here: ebt-data/examples-en-sutta-1-sujato.txt at published · ebt-site/ebt-data · GitHub

Hoping this is helpful for many people! :pray: :heart:

Just checking, I found that we already have truly understands: ‘This is suffering’, and this never caused any problem. So I am going to courageously add a ‘plate’, a ‘bowl’, a ‘cup’ now! @khagga, this means that normally within 24 hours you will be able to find your Sutta on EBT-Site, just typing “bowl”.


Your example phrase based search is indeed a third animal :unicorn::frog::mouse:! and a useful one.

I’d actually question adding a ‘plate’, a ‘bowl’, a ‘cup’ to your example words. Feels like you are then trying to make it into an index. There is only going to be that one instance of that phrase, eh? And I’m not sure how inspiring it is, either. :joy:


Well we try to respond to what people are searching for, if possible. I myself have been looking for that one already with no much luck, so I am quite happy to be able to find it easier. I do actually find the Sutta quite inspiring, and the choice of examples terms is mostly guided by ease of memory. So the different types of bowls are quite memorable. The reason why this example hasn’t been added yet is probably that I haven’t translated the Sutta yet.

We do indeed have a few singletons, but try to limit them. The best examples are those that return between 2 and 20 results.


Ayya, thank you for this new example and teaching. An alternate example is “local terminology”, which is also a singleton. However, I shall try to remember this sutta as “plate bowl cup”, since I can’t memorize quotes. At least one other has found so as well. If translation proves difficult, perhaps a translation of “local terminology” would be useful.

Kathañca, bhikkhave, janapadaniruttiyā ca anabhiniveso hoti samaññāya ca anatisāro?
And how do you not insist on local terminology and not override normal usage?

The wisdom taught here is explained in more detail in MN103, which is found by “transgression”.

MN103:7.3: ‘The venerables agree on the meaning but disagree on the phrasing.


Thanks everyone for the responses. I figured that searching for ‘bowl’ would not have given me useful results (I just checked, there are 806 results), since it’s obvious a word of importance in the suttas. Also, the fact that I was looking for what amounted to synonyms or words from different languages or dialects made it unclear to me what search queries might have improved results. (I certainly never would have imagined a ‘porringer’, word of the day!)

I would also be interested to read this! :blush:

Thanks again everyone.


It’s an essay in the book

Rahula, Walpola. 1997. Humour in Pāli and Other Essays: Colombo:
Rahula Foundation Trust.

I can’t find it in pdf (only the title essay).

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I believe I last spoke this word when I was a little boy reciting nursery rhymes. There was one that went:

What is the rhyme for porringer?
The King he had a daughter fair
And gave the Prince of Orange her.


But perhaps there are some regional Englishes in which the word is still current.



For anyone curious but not curious enough to google it.

Oddly, my family had modern ceramic one that we got when we got our first microwave. But we certainly didn’t call it a porringer.

Omg. Some googling shows that it was actually a “Grabit”.


Grab-Its are notable as being among the first cookware specifically designed for microwave use - their design was recognized by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Grab-Its strongly resemble porringers.

We must have had a knockoff because I think we just called it “the microwave dish”. But I’d vote for using “grabit” in the translation. :grin:

It’s when in different localities the same thing is known as a ‘plate’, a ‘bowl’, a ‘cup’, a ‘dish’, a ‘basin’, a ‘tureen’, or a ‘grabit’.


OMG! I have no idea yet what to make out of either porringer or grabit in German! At least porringer is known to one or the other dictionary, but grabit isn’t …

It can be fun at times—or head-scratching—to find words for all the synonyms in Pali! But certainly my favorite list of synonyms is this one about the bowls.