Independent in sn21.7

In Bhante @sujato translation of sn21.7 we have the paragraph:

Now at that time Venerable Visākha, Pañcāli’s son, was educating, encouraging, firing up, and inspiring the mendicants in the assembly hall with a Dhamma talk. His words were polished, clear, articulate, expressing the meaning, comprehensive, and independent.

Tena kho pana samayena āyasmā visākho pañcālaputto upaṭṭhānasālāyaṃ bhikkhū dhammiyā kathāya sandasseti samādapeti samuttejeti sampahaṃseti, poriyā vācāya vissaṭṭhāya anelagalāya atthassa viññāpaniyā pariyāpannāya anissitāya.

I’m having difficulty understanding what is meant by the word independent (at the end of the paragraph) in this context. I’ve got some ideas, but they don’t seem to quite fit. Bhikkhu Bodhi translates as unattached, which muddies the water further for me.


Perhaps “extemporaneously?” or in a casual way?

The commentary glosses it as “vaṭṭanissitaṃ katvā akathitāya” (if I navigated the commentaries correctly) but my Pāli isn’t good enough to translate that with any confidence (“speaking having sat in a circle”??) so I’ll just patiently wait for someone more knowledgeable than me to help you out. :joy: :beginner:


Hi @stu,

How about this? -

anissita = a + nissita


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I think anissita is the opposite of nissita. According to New Concise Pali English Dictionary , it means “leaning on, attached to, supported by” etc.

In MN.144, we get;
“For the dependent there is agitation. For the independent there’s no agitation.‘nissitassa calitaṃ, anissitassa calitaṃ natthi.”

So, independent here means not being attached, or being free IMO.

With Metta


Building on what Nimal said, I wonder if this term refers to remain equanimous when teaching, regardless of whether the audience is attentive or not. This attitude is illustrated in MN 137 with the Buddha’s “three establishments of mindfulness”, in which he remains equanimous, mindful, and fully aware when students are not attentive, when only some are, or when all of them are.



The word, anissitāya [a form of anissita = a + nissita, is part of a list of adjectives, all in the same case, modifying the noun form, kathāya, which is a form of the feminine ā-stem noun, kathā, translated as “talk”. Without context, the case of kathā could be genitive, locative, dative, ablative, or instrumental. So we need the context. The instrumental fits the context. Hence, the translation, “with a Dhamma talk”, where the instrumental indicates the means by which the mendicants were educated, fired up, etc.: that is, by means of the Dhamma talk. So each adjective in the list should describe Visākha’s Dhamma talk.

I agree with @stu that there is something a bit odd about both “independent” and “unattached”. Perhaps the latter is preferable. The word “disintetested” would work, I think, but it sounds a bit old-fashioned to me.


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It means that Ven Visakha was not simply a parrot of the Buddha’s teachings but was speaking from his own independent experience as guided by those teachings.

SN42.12:22.5: This wearing away is visible in this very life, immediately effective, inviting inspection, relevant, so that sensible people can know it for themselves.

Ven Visakha was a sensible person.


Saṃyutta Commentary

‘Anissitāyā’ ti vaṭṭanissitaṃ katvā akathitāya.

Anissitāyā: not [with speech] that is spoken as one still subject to the round of saṃsāra.”

vaṭṭa – round/cycle [of saṃsāra].

katvā – lit. “having done”, but in commentarial Pali it’s often used idiomatically to mean “in the manner of one who…”.

akathitāya – not [with speech] spoken

Aṅguttara Commentary

‘Anissitāyā’ ti vaṭṭaṃ anissitāya. Vivaṭṭanissitameva katvā katheti, vaṭṭanissitaṃ katvā na kathetīti ayamettha adhippāyo.

Anissitāyā – Not [with the speech] of one subject to the round of saṃsāra. He speaks only in the manner of one freed from the round of saṃsāra. He does not speak in the manner of one still subject to the round; this is the meaning here.”


Thank you Bhante. A variant of that was on my list of theories.

Even though it is a natural thing for us humans to do, I find it interesting that it is maybe being suggested that it is possible to gain some insight into the state of someone else’s attainment from their speech. Though I’m guessing that you possibly need to be close to, at, or above that attainment to make such an assessment at all successfully.

On the other hand I guess it is maybe possible for someone to speak only in the manner of one freed from the round of saṃsāra, even if one is in fact not.