Error in MN 61 translation (Ambalaṭṭhikā­rāhulovāda sutta)

As mentioned in this post on DhammaWheel, there is an error in the SuttaCentral translation of MN 61.

From the SuttaCentral translation:

From Nyanaponika’s (ostensibly correct) translation:

[quote]“If, Rāhula, when reflecting you realize; ‘Now this action that I have done by mind is conducive to my own harm, to the harm of others, and to that of both, hence unskilful is this mental action entailing suffering and productive of pain,’—such mental actions of yours, Rāhula, should be loathed, abhorred and despised.[13] Thus loathing, abhorring and despising, you should acquire restraint in the future.

13. Being a mental offence, Rāhula is not exhorted (as in the case of bodily, and verbal, action) to confess it to anyone.[/quote]

(Ven. Thanissaro trans. and Ven. Upalavanna trans., likewise, with somewhat different wording)

As remarked in the footnote to Ven. Nyanaponika’s translation, there is one notable difference in advice regarding mental unskillful deeds (“thought crimes”) that deviates from the otherwise repetitive enumeration pattern: namely, the Buddha does not recommend confession or disclosure in this case, but instead to feel abhorred and disgusted (and ashamed?) by it. This has always been the most intriguing and noteworthy twist in the sutta, which is why I noticed it.

I guess the translator for the SuttaCentral main version (Ven. Sujato, I suppose?) simply continued the repetitive pattern from before according to the same formula as for bodily and verbal actions, without checking the Pali for possible differences after that.

As a tangent here, I am asking myself at the moment (again), whether or not the sutta can be understood as the Buddha recommending to feel remorseful in this case, in response to Ven. Dhammanando’s implication here that he did not, because “remorse (kukkucca) is a hindrance and always unskillful”, but, IIRC, in some earlier thread long time ago, Ven. Dhammanando also mentioned some abhidhammic stuff about remorse being an example of “an unwholesome citta that can give rise to wholesomeness” or something like that, and in light of that I find that it makes sense that the Buddha might have recommended feeling remorseful in response to certain situations (deeds one committed, by body speech or mind).
Just to give some context. Maybe, if someone else has something to say about that, they could chime in on that thread on DhammaWheel. :slight_smile:


Thank you for pointing this out. This is IB Horner’s translation as shown here:
We do not change translations but merely show the translations by the original translator. (you can find all that information in the Meta area under the menu-icon in the top left corner of every sutta).

On our new site we will have Bhante Sujato’s translations next to I.B.Horner and Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translations (where available). Currently, Bhante Sujato’s translations are being proofread. On the new site, Bhante Sujato’s translations, unlike the translations by the other authors, will have additional functionality like the ability to show them next or above the pali text.

On our new site, discusions on the forum like this one will be automatically linked to the relevant sutta so it is very valueble for us to have these discussions here. We cannot link to Dhammawheel so it is great that you (and other people) copy information to this forum. Thank you! :anjal:


Thanks for pointing me to the right source. I assumed it might be Ven. Sujato, but should have noted from the slightly archaic style that this does not fit.

Thanks for pointing out, Ayye. Now that I see it, it seems almost obvious. But “metadata” seems so unexpressive, like “something I don’t really want to know about what it is”. IMO, something like “author info” or “source info” or something like that, and maybe in a bit more prominent visible place would be better. Just my opinion (as a non-native English speaker).



Indeed. That’s why on the new site we have an information-icon at the top of every sutta for this and the author will also be more visibly displayed in the top header. The new site will also have internationalisation (so a button where you can select your native language), but it will take a while before the UI is translated into several languages.

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Thanks so much for raising this. Ayya Vimala has addressed many of the issues already, so let me look at the textual situation.

I can confirm that, yes, Nyanaponika/Thanissaro/Uppalavanna’s translation is correct, and the Pali does indeed change there. I can’t find any relevant variant readings, so it seems as if this is a genuine oversight on the part of Horner.

Checking other translations, I find that the same mistake is made in Ven Bodhi’s translation, and it is found in his source translation by Nyanamoli, too. And, to my embarassment, I find it is in my translation as well. Oops! At least I can plead that it’s still unfinished—I’m sure my diligent proofreaders would have noticed it! Or at least I hope so.

Anyway, thanks to you my translation just got a little better.

Also, as a monastic, just to comment: phew! Thank you to the Buddha for being so compassionate and reasonable. If we had to confess every bad thought, and listen to the confession of every bad thought, of every fellow monastic, there’d be no time for anything else!



There is a good doctrinal point here- Morality (Sila) is confined to physical acts and speech. These belong in Step 3,4,5 of the Noble eightfold path. Thoughts (and other minor acts or speech) belong in Step 6 - right effort, and actually fall under the Samadhai component of the N8FP. Again being circumscribed about what one’s morality component and approaching it in a somewhat different manner is shown. This is of course, not to reduce the importance of negative thoughts.

with metta

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Also thinking further- any thought arising from craving, aversion and delusion would be relevant for the practices in the N8FP. In terms of vinaya, there might be some rules which are about behaviours more to do with politeness etc and not arising from craving, aversion or delusion. These would be subject to shifting social conditions and not integral to the path. So when a monk feels joy in keeping the vinaya -it would be about those core ‘precepts’.

with metta

A few days ago, when reviewing notes from MLDB, I found the following :

[639] In this section, however, the phrase “then you should confess such a bodily action… and laid it open” is replaced by the following: “Then you should be repelled, humiliated, and disgusted by that mental action. Having become repelled, humiliated, and disgusted by that mental action… ” This substitution is made because unwholesome thoughts, unlike bodily and verbal transgressions, do not require confession as a means of exoneration. Both Horner in MLS and Ñm in Ms missed this variation.