How are the words 'this', 'that' & 'it' used in MN 38 and MN 121?

In MN 38 is the translation: “Monks, do you see, ‘This has come to be’?”, which I assume is: “Bhūtamidanti bhikkhave passathāti?”

In MN 121 is the translation: “Whatever remains, he discerns as present: ‘There is this.’”, which I assume is ‘santamidaṃ atthī’.

I assume the Pali word for ‘this’ is ‘idaŋ’, i.e., in the ‘midam’ in both of the above quotes.

In his footnote to MN 38, Bhikkhu Bodhi states ‘this’ refers to the five aggregates, which sounds reasonable to me (given the Buddha would not be asking what is the nutriment of consciousness).

In MN 121, I think reference to the five aggregates is also reasonable, since the paragraph states: “this very kaya with life as its condition”, where I take ‘kaya’ (‘collection’, ‘group’) to refer to the five aggregates rather than the physical body alone.

Can anyone provide some insight on why the term ‘this’ is used?

Thank you

Also, I have a second question.

MN 38 continues: "“Monks, do you see, ‘It comes into play from that nutriment’?”, which I assume is ‘tadāhārasambhavanti bhikkhave passathāti?’ Both Bhikkhu Bodhi & Thanissaro translate the same however I am not fully satisfied with Bhikkhu Bodhi’s footnote which seems to refer to each aggregate having its own nutriment (ahara).

My question is: Could “it” refer to the five aggregates and “that nutriment” refer to consciousness as the nutriment for the five aggregates, such as consciousness is regarded as the nutriment of nama-rupa in SN 12.63 ?

I won’t go into too much detail, I’m afraid, but just briefly on this usage. It is indeed an interesting idiom, so well spotted.

The basic idea, as I understand it, is that it distinguishes kinds of identification that are specific as opposed to those that are universal. It’s the difference between “I am” and “I am this (feeling, perception, or whatever)”.

To eradicate attachment to specific things, we investigate them as specifically conditioned (idapaccayatā). This culminates in universal insights (sabbe dhammā anattā).

This has important consequences in practice. It means that rather than embracing a lofty notion that we should be unattached to all things, we would be better off looking at the specific things that we are in fact attached to, and seeing what it would be like to understand this, and let go.


Thank you Sujato.

So this is the idiom found in:

When this is, that is (Imasmiµ sati, idaµ hoti); this having arisen, that arises (Imassuppædæ, idaµ uppajjati); when this is not, that is not (Imasmiµ asati, idaµ na hoti); this having ceased, that ceases (Imassa nirodhæ, idaµ nirujjhati).

OK. I understand now.