How do you understand this? (AN 5.167)

Here is Bhante Sujato’s translation of AN 5.167:

Take a case where I see a certain person being accused at the wrong time, not being disturbed at the right time. They’re accused falsely, not disturbed truthfully. They’re accused harshly, not disturbed gently. They’re accused harmfully, not disturbed beneficially. They’re accused with secret hate, not disturbed lovingly.

and then

Take a case where I see a certain person being accused at the right time, not being disturbed at the wrong time. They’re accused truthfully, not disturbed falsely. They’re accused gently, not disturbed harshly. They’re accused beneficially, not disturbed harmfully. They’re accused lovingly, not disturbed with secret hate.

Maybe the question can be rephrased as: how do you understand the meaning of “disturbed” (kupitaṃ)? Could there be a more self-explanatory translation for this word?


There are a few more definitions here:

agitated, disturbed; in a state of unrest; provoked, angry; failed, invalid


Does it mean in the first part that the person would not have been disturbed/agitated/etc. if the admonition had been given at the right time? But then it doesn’t seem to mean in the second part that they wouldn’t be disturbed/etc. if the admonition had been given at the wrong time. The second part seems to mean that all went properly, not going improperly, but I have difficulty plugging this interpretation back into the first part.

Yeah I just went to that sutta to check and it doesn’t make much sense in my opinion. “They’re accused falsely, not disturbed truthfully.” doesn’t make any sense to me. What on earth is it to ‘truthfully disturb’ someone? Does it actually mean “They’re accused falsely, not truthfully.”? That’s my guess at what it might mean (looking only from the English). If so, I think it would be good to change it, because the latter makes a lot more sense in English in my opinion. But… maybe it means something else?

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Or… how about ‘disturbed for a valid reason’? I mean, what is the Pāli actually meaning in this context - rather than the literal meaning of the two words.

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I agree there’s a slight awkwardness about “disturbed” here. For comparison, here’s how Bhikkhu Bodhi puts it:

“Here, friends, I see some person being reproved at an improper time, not disturbed at a proper time; being reproved about what is false, not disturbed about what is true; being reproved harshly, not disturbed gently; being reproved in a harmful way, not disturbed in a beneficial way; being reproved by one who harbors hatred, not disturbed by one with a mind of loving-kindness.

“Here, friends, I see some person being reproved at a proper time, not disturbed at an improper time; being reproved truthfully, not disturbed falsely; being reproved gently, not disturbed harshly; being reproved in a beneficial way, not disturbed in a harmful way; being reproved by one with a mind of loving-kindness, not disturbed by one who harbors hatred.

So both translators handle the point of focus in almost exactly the same way. I guess one would have to overly stretch the original text to get this particular construct sounding more natural in English.

All the same, I think the overall meaning is still pretty gettable. Lovely sutta, thanks for highlighting!


… i do not know pali at this time, so perhaps this is useless. But from context, rather than disturbed, what about confronted? Confrontations can occur at right and wrong times, etc.


That’s what I had in mind too. Although perhaps a word with a slightly milder meaning would be preferable. Not sure there is one though (not a native English speaker)

I, likewise, don’t know Pali so couldn’t say much about much. However, exclusively thinking about the synonyms Ayya Vimala gave above from the dictionary, to my senses “confronted” doesn’t quite bring out the same meaning as found in the word cluster, “agitated, disturbed; in a state of unrest; provoked, angry; failed, invalid”.

“Confronted” seems closer to “accused” or “reproved” in which case Senryu’s proposition of just dropping it altogether (as in “They’re accused falsely, not truthfully.”) seems just as good a solution.

… I would miss something perhaps… Confront might have nuances which are not appropriate though when confronted with a challenge, i do not feel accusation…

Faced at the right time? edit: or approached?

Here are english synonyms for confront 294 Confronting Synonyms and 30 Confronting Antonyms in Confronting Thesaurus

but i trust the team and process completely. :slight_smile:


I don’t suppose there are ever any perfect answers; words can trigger different connotations for different people.

For myself, solely by the synonym group, I get more of a sense of “harassed”, but that’s just me.

Yes, from the little glances I’ve had here and there, I think Bhante Sujato has done a wonderful job.

I also trust, contemplating the basic meaning of the sutta :smiley:


In this case, the best thing to do it seems, is to look for other occurrences of the same word (kupita).

MN 5

“ṭhānaṃ kho panetaṃ, āvuso, vijjati yaṃ idhekaccassa bhikkhuno evaṃ icchā uppajjeyya — ‘āpattiñca vata āpanno assaṃ, na ca maṃ bhikkhū jāneyyuṃ āpattiṃ āpanno’ti. ṭhānaṃ kho panetaṃ, āvuso, vijjati yaṃ taṃ bhikkhuṃ bhikkhū jāneyyuṃ — ‘āpattiṃ āpanno’ti. ‘jānanti maṃ bhikkhū āpattiṃ āpanno’ti — iti so kupito hoti appatīto. yo ceva kho, āvuso, kopo yo ca appaccayo — ubhayametaṃ aṅgaṇaṃ.

It’s possible that some mendicant might wish: ‘If I commit an offence, I hope the mendicants don’t find out!’ But it’s possible that the mendicants do find out that that mendicant has committed an offence. Thinking, ‘The mendicants have found out about my offence,’ they get angry and bitter. And that anger and that bitterness are both blemishes.

MN 16

“puna caparaṃ, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sabrahmacārīsu kupito hoti anattamano āhatacitto khilajāto. yo so, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sabrahmacārīsu kupito hoti anattamano āhatacitto khilajāto, tassa cittaṃ na namati ātappāya anuyogāya sātaccāya padhānāya. yassa cittaṃ na namati ātappāya anuyogāya sātaccāya padhānāya, evamassāyaṃ pañcamo cetokhilo appahīno hoti. imāssa pañca cetokhilā appahīnā honti.

Furthermore, a mendicant is angry and upset with their spiritual companions, resentful and closed off. This being so, their mind doesn’t incline toward keenness, commitment, persistence, and striving. This is the fifth kind of emotional barrenness they haven’t given up. These are the five kinds of emotional barrenness they haven’t given up.

It seems that the word is overwhelmingly used with anattamano (displeased, irritated).

I think I found the word in French i was looking for to translate kupita in this context in a satisfying way that is self-explanatory.

I think ‘contrarié’ corresponds pretty well to the idea.

That seems much better English to me! I still think it requires perhaps a little explanation, and wonder if better English might be “being reproved for an invalid reason, not disturbed for a valid reason”, if that is what it means. But then, the fact I am not totally sure that that is what it means, highlights my point about maybe needing a bit of clarification. But, I do think this translatoin makes a lot more sense at least.

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Yeah, I think I’d agree, on that particular point it’s a bit more fluid, but I think overall Bhikkhu Bodhi’s rendering is just as awkward.

Yep, definitely more natural English! But to my humble little senses it might stray a little too much from the point. The sutta comes from the book of fives and my feeling is that the five highlighted points are the most key details to get across:

That one should accuse:

  • At the right time (not the wrong time)
  • truthfully (not based on lies*)
  • gently (not harshly)
  • beneficially (not harmfully)
  • out of love (not hatred)

* abhūtena is the word given in the sutta and the linked definition at least gives me the impression that it might cover the area of both being mistaken/inaccurate and lying. Cross-referencing with MN58 (particularly SC8.4), which uses the same Pali word, deception strikes me as being the ‘quality’ in focus.

I completely understand the “invalid” angle, but personally feel it could be taken in a much broader way than with respect to the specific issue of honesty. Also I don’t think it can be used to resolve the clunckiness of the other points in the list.

Anyway, it is a matter for people who actually know about language to resolve, so I’ll keep out of it! :grin:

That’s great to get clarity on the meaning - thanks @Aminah! SO then how about this. Rather than @sujato’s:

“They’re accused falsely, not disturbed falsely.”

… how about:

“They’re accused falsely, not disturbed for a reason based on lies.”

What do you think? It makes the meaning clearer, if that is indeed the right meaning. I think we should translate meanings of sentences, not just the words - especially the result doesn’t make sense in English! I am sure that was not @sujato’s intention, but it seems to me to be the result, in this case.

Just to add - perhaps another option could be this:

“They’re accused falsely, not disturbed for a reason based on something which is untrue.”

Both of these options have the advantage over ‘invalid reason’ because although shorter, an invalid reason may still be based on things which are true, but may be invalid for some other reason, such as, not a good enough reason for disturbing someone. So, if it is really about ‘truth’, these two examples would seem to stick more closely to the Pāli meaning.

Now, having dealt with ‘falsely’, we need to deal with ‘truthfully’.


They’re accused falsely, not disturbed truthfully.

I can’t access the full translatoin, nor the Pāli - I guess the site is down at the moment, or at least some of it… but assuming that this is just the opposite term, then let’s try:

“They’re accused falsely, not disturbed for a reason based on the truth.”


“They’re accused falsely, not disturbed for a reason based on something which is true.”

Or one more option to consider perhaps:

“They’re accused falsely, not disturbed for a reason which is in accordance to the truth.”

provoking anger may be better phrase

ahhh. Not accused; not quite confronted; corrected.

Correctly rightly, or corrected inappropriately.e

Just a thought… is this any help?

“corrected” could fit according to the context, but it doesn’t match the meaning of kupita.
How about “antagonized”?