It 58, Taṇhā Sutta in the Light of its Sanskrit Parallels


The Taṇhā Sutta of the Itivuttaka is one of those gems of early Buddhist poetry which combines clarity of expression with profoundness of thought. Together with its straightforwardness in proclaiming the core teaching of Buddhism, it bears the hallmarks of a genuine masterpiece.
Needless to say, such texts can suffer considerably from a long transmission process which spans over thousands of years. This circumstance makes parallel versions so valuable, especially when they stem from different schools which separated early on in the history of Buddhism.

Thanks to immense efforts by various scholars, two Sanskrit parallels of the Itivuttaka Taṇhā Sutta (It 58) have been made accessible to us. One parallel stems from the Ekottara Āgama fragments (abbr. EĀs) of the Gilgit Sanskrit manuscript finds (approx. 5th-6th century A.D.), and belongs to the (Mūla-)Sarvāstivāda school. The EĀs fragments have been edited and published by Chandrabhal Tripathi in ‘Ekottarāgama-Fragmente der Gilgit-Handschrift’, Reinbek 1995 (Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik, Monographie 2). GRETIL

The second parallel is contained in the Sanskrit Udānavarga which is based on fragments found in Central Asia. According to Lambert Schmithausen (‘Zu den Rezensionen des Udānavargaḥ’) the fragments are comprised of two recensions, and are likewise attributed to the (Mūla-)Sarvāstivāda school. The edition used here is that by Franz Bernhard, Göttingen 1965. GRETIL

Below I will present and compare the different versions with the aim of reconstructing an early form of the text, noting at first the main differences between the parallel versions. We will briefly look at the way in which the reuse of text was handled, and examine possible motives for the text modifications. For basic reading on the topic of the ‘Reuse of Text in Indian Literature’ I refer to the work of Elisa Freschi and her colleagues.

The Taṇhā Sutta can be divided into an introductory paragraph in prose and a subsequent verse section. The introductory prose passage has no parallel in the Sanskrit versions.

Vuttañhetaṃ bhagavatā, vuttamarahatāti me sutaṃ – 'Tisso imā, bhikkhave, taṇhā. Katamā tisso? Kāmataṇhā, bhavataṇhā, vibhavataṇhā – imā kho, bhikkhave, tisso taṇhā’ti. Etamatthaṃ bhagavā avoca. Tatthetaṃ iti vuccati – (here follows the verse section of the text)

Unlike the Sanskrit parallel of the Taṇhāsaṃyojana Sutta (It 15) in EĀs 14.91-93, which includes also the prose section of the Sutta, the Sanskrit parallel of the Taṇhā Sutta (It 58) in EĀs 14.52-53 contains the verses only.

As already noted by Choong (2000), Delhey (2009) and Anālayo (2011), the three types of craving, regularly listed in the Pāli canon in the context of the four truths, are hardly ever mentioned in parallel versions.
According to Choong (2000) they are found in EĀ 49.5 only (‘The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism’, note 78).
Another variant appears in T 14, MĀ 97, and T 52 at T 1, 243a, 579b, 845a (all parallels to DN 12, Mahānidāna Sutta), which states that craving is of two kinds: craving for sensual pleasures and craving for existence.
The Mahīśāsaka Vinaya, T 1421 at T 22 104c3 specifies craving for existence only.

It follows from the foregoing that the threefold classification of craving (for sensual pleasures, for existence and for non-existence) is a later invention of the Theravāda, since the idea of a craving for non-existence occurs almost exclusively in the canonical texts of that school. This distinctive feature in their philosophical classification of craving is also clearly reflected in their specific interpretation of liberation and the nature of Nirvāṇa. We will come across this point again later on when we deal with the motives for the text modifications.
In view of the situation described above, we are justified to conclude that the introductory prose section is a comparatively late addition to the verse text.

Now let us turn to the comparison of the verse section of the Taṇhā Sutta. Unsurprisingly, a first look at the different versions shows substantial agreement between the two Sanskrit parallels, and considerable differences between the Pāli version and its Sanskrit parallels.

Taṇhāyogena saṃyuttā, rattacittā bhavābhave /
Te yogayuttā mārassa, ayogakkhemino janā /
Sattā gacchanti saṃsāraṃ, jātīmaraṇagāmino //
Ye ca taṇhaṃ pahantvāna, vītataṇhā bhavābhave /
Te ve pāraṅgatā loke, ye pattā āsavakkhayan’ti //

It 58, Taṇhā Sutta It 50

tṛṣṇayā grathitāḥ satvā, raktacittā bhavābhave /
te yogayuktā mārasya, ayogakṣemino janāḥ /
jarāmaraṇam āyānti, vatsaḥ kṣīrapaka iva mātaraṃ //
tāṃ tu tṛṣṇāṃ prahāyeha, vītatṛṣṇo bhavābhave /
tṛṣṇayābhibhavad bhikṣur, anicchuḥ parinirvṛtaḥ //

EĀs 14.52-53

tṛṣṇayā grathitāḥ sattvā, raktacittā bhavābhave /
te yogayukta māreṇa hy, ayogakṣemiṇo janāḥ /
jarāmaraṇam āyānti, yogā hi duratikramāḥ //
yas tu tṛṣṇām prahāya iha, vītatṛṣṇo bhavābhave /
tṛṣṇayāvibhavad bhikṣur, anicchuḥ parinirvṛtaḥ //

Udānavarga 3.7-8

Leaving aside minor peculiarities, the only notable difference between the Sanskrit versions occurs in the second part of line three. We will look at the problem implicated in the third line separately later on, so let’s turn first to the substantial differences between the Pāli and the Sanskrit versions.

In order to make headway, we have to begin by making another comparison within the Pāli Itivuttaka itself, namely with It 96, Kāmayoga Sutta, which shares an unusual amount of correspondence of whole lines or parts thereof with the Taṇhā Sutta. To facilitate the comparison I have marked the corresponding text in extra bold type below.

Taṇhāyogena saṃyuttā, rattacittā bhavābhave /
Te yogayuttā mārassa, ayogakkhemino janā /
Sattā gacchanti saṃsāraṃ, jātīmaraṇagāmino //
Ye ca taṇhaṃ pahantvāna, vītataṇhā bhavābhave /
Te ve pāraṅgatā loke, ye pattā āsavakkhayan’ti //

It 58, Taṇhā Sutta It 50

Kāmayogena saṃyuttā, bhavayogena cūbhayaṃ /
Sattā gacchanti saṃsāraṃ, jātimaraṇagāmino //
Ye ca kāme pahantvāna, appattā āsavakkhayaṃ /
Bhavayogena saṃyuttā, anāgāmīti vuccare //
Ye ca kho chinnasaṃsayā, khīṇamānapunabbhavā /
Te ve pāraṅgatā loke, ye pattā āsavakkhayan’ti //

It 96, Kāmayoga Sutta It 95

To summarize the result in terms of the Taṇhā Sutta, the correspondence comprises the phrase ‘-yogena saṃyuttā’ in the first line, and ‘ye ca - pahantvāna’ in line four, where ‘kāma’ has been substituted for ‘taṇhā’ in each case. Furthermore we have complete correspondence in the case of line three and five.

This certainly exceeds the limits of what we would accept as coincidence. Of course the use or reuse of single lines in different compositions, or even presenting the same verse with just one or two variant words, is not rare in Buddhist poetry. Often it is not easy to decide which version should represent the original text, or in which direction initially the borrowing took place.

However if we have the opportunity to compare the versions of different schools, the situation is more favourable. Against this backdrop, if we compare the Pāli Taṇhā Sutta with its Sanskrit parallels, we gain the impression of substantial loss of text on the part of the Pāli version. An explanation that suggests itself would be that the reciters of the Itivuttaka decided to fix the text by borrowing material from the Kāmayoga Sutta.

Such an approach is conceivable in a situation where the different schools had been already widely separated due to their geographical expansion, and where there was no chance of recovering lost text from neighboring communities of different school-affiliation. But very likely it happened before the texts were written down in the first century B.C. in Sri Lanka, since otherwise we would have to expect greater variation among the versions of the Taṇhā Sutta of the Theravāda school, which is not the case.

However viewing the matter from an entirely different angle, we cannot exclude the possibility of a ‘surgical intervention’ either, since the replaced portions of text concerns the philosophically thorny issues of soul and liberation. The term ‘sattva’ (being) had become a kind of taboo word during a process of radicalization of philosophical ideas regarding the doctrine of not-self. Over the centuries, also terms like being, person, individual etc. had fallen prey to clerical censure, and were severely criticised in philosophical discourse as not corresponding to anything real. This may have had repercussions on the older Sutta texts as well, which prompted occasional refurbishing of older texts containing ‘misleading’ terminology. To elaborate on the issue of liberation in the last line of the verse would take us too far afield here, but it is well imaginable that the straightforwardness of the original text caused some uneasiness in the mystical world of thought of the Theravāda.

Let us now return to the question of the third line in the Taṇhā Sutta on which there is little agreement among the three versions. In the case of the Pāli version the whole line was apparently borrowed from the Kāmayoga Sutta, to which judging from the context it definitely belongs. In the Sanskrit versions we likewise witness instances of textual reuse, which is especially evident in the EĀs version.

The phrase ‘jarāmaraṇam āyānti, vatsaḥ kṣīrapaka iva mātaraṃ’ occurs in the Udānavarga 3.3, as well as in the Pāli Udāna 7.4 Dutiyasatta Sutta, where however again it is a case of textual reuse for the composition of a verse from heterogeneous materials. The first two lines are also found in the Pāli Theragāthā 297.

Kāma andha jāla prakṣiptās, tṛṣṇayā ācchāditāḥ prajāḥ /
pramattā bandhane baddhā, matsyavat kupināmukhe /
jarāmaraṇam āyānti, vatsaḥ kṣīrapaka iva mātaram //

Udānavarga, Tṛṣṇāvarga, 3.3

Kāmandhā jālasañchannā, taṇhāchadanachāditā /
Pamattabandhunā baddhā, macchāva kumināmukhe /
Jarāmaraṇamanventi, vaccho khīrapakova mātaran’ti //

Ud 7.4, Dutiyasatta Sutta

Kāmandhā jālapacchannā, taṇhāchādanachāditā /
Pamattabandhunā baddhā, macchāva kumināmukhe //

Theragāthā 297, Rāhulattheragāthā

The phrase ‘vatsaḥ kṣīrapaka iva mātaraṃ’ originally belongs to Udānavarga 18.4, which has parallels in the Patna- and Pāli Dhammapada. Because of an interesting variant at the end of the first line, I will cite all three versions of the verse here.

yāva hi vanatho na chijjati, aṇumattopi narassa nārisu /
paṭibaddhamanova tāva so, vaccho khīrapakova mātari //

Pāli Dhp 284

yāvatā vanadho na cchijjati, aṇumātto pi narassa ñātisu /
paṭibaddhamano hi tattha so, vaccho cchīravako va mātari //

Patna Dhp 362

na chidyate yāvatā vanaṃ hy, anumātram api narasya bandhuṣu /
pratibaddhamanāḥ sa tatra vai, vatsaḥ kṣīrapaka iva mātaram //

Udānavarga 18.4

So what do we make of all that? My take on the question of the third line is that it was added early on in the history of the verse to clarify the meaning of the second line ‘te yogayuktā mārasya, ayogakṣemino janāḥ’. In fact it appears as if a gloss had slipped into the text which then became part of the verse. Since both schools made considerable efforts to retain the third line in spite of obvious challenges, we can conclude that it was added to the text before the two schools separated, i.e. before 250 B.C. However today it is not possible anymore to reconstruct its original form, but like its later replacements it possibly consisted of some reused text from another verse.

Clearly such additions are not unusual and are a frequently occurring feature of the transmission process. A further telling example within the Itivuttaka is found in It 15, Taṇhāsaṃyojana Sutta, where the Pāli version along with the Prakrit Patna Dhammapada 141-142 consist of four lines, whereas the Sanskrit fragments of EĀs 14.91-93 (corresponding to EĀs 14.101-103), and of Udānavarga 3.12, 3.18 have added a fifth line which can be easily discerned as a relatively late addition.
Like in the case of the Taṇhā Sutta above, the additional second line has a commentarial function and serves to explain the meaning of the phrase 'sudīrghe ‘dhvani saṃsaran’ in the first line. To illustrate the point I will cite the different versions below.

tṛṣṇādvitīyaḥ puruṣaḥ, sudīrghe 'dhvani saṃsaran /
punaḥ punar upādatte, garbham eti punaḥ punaḥ /
itthaṃbhāvānyathībhāvaṃ, satvānām āgatiṃ gatiṃ //
tāṃ tu tṛṣṇāṃ prahāyeha, cchitvā sroto duratyayaṃ /
nāsau punaḥ saṃsarati, tṛṣṇā hy asya na vidyate //

EĀs 14.91-93 = EĀs 14.101-103

tṛṣṇā dvitīyaḥ puruṣo, dīrgham adhvānam āśayā /
punaḥ punaḥ saṃsarate, garbham eti punaḥ punaḥ /
ittham bhāva anyathī bhāvaḥ, saṃsāre tv āgatim gatim //
etad ādīnavam jñātvā, tṛṣṇā duhkhasya sambhavam /
vīta tṛṣṇo hy anādānaḥ, smṛto bhikṣuḥ parivrajet //

Udānavarga 3.12, 3.18

Taṇhādutiyo puriso, dīghamaddhāna saṃsaraṃ /
Itthabhāvaññathābhāvaṃ, saṃsāraṃ nātivattati //
Etamādīnavaṃ ñatvā, taṇhaṃ dukkhassa sambhavaṃ /
Vītataṇho anādāno, sato bhikkhu paribbaje’ti //

It 15, Taṇhāsaṃyojana Sutta, It 8
Sn, 3.12, Dvayatānupassanā Sutta 745 -746

tahnabitiyo puruṣo, drīgham addhāna saṃsari /
etthabhāvaṃñathābhāvaṃ, tattha tattha punappuno //
etam ādīnavaṃ nyāttā, tahnā dukkhassa saṃbhavaṃ /
vītatahno anādāno, sato bhikkhū parivraje //

Patna Dhp, 141-142

An early version of the Pāli Taṇhā Sutta and its Sanskrit parallels would thus have consisted of the remaining four lines, which seem to have been well preserved in the two Sanskrit parallels, but only partially in the Pāli version.

So let us have a look at the result of the comparison on the bases of EĀs 14.52-53. I will add my own translation with a view to give a literal interpretation, which allows for easy identification of the wording in the original.
As for the translation of the words ‘yogakṣema’ and ‘bhavābhave’ I follow K.R. Norman and his research on those terms. For ‘yogakṣema’ also see his article ‘Brahmanical Terms in a Buddhist Guise’ (p. 199). K.R. Norman
For ‘bhavābhave’ there are also ample notes in his translations of the Sutta Nipāta (The Group of Discourses, 2nd edition, 2001) and Theragāthā (The Elders’ Verses, 1995). Among other things he has shown that the lengthening of the vowel in ‘bhavābhave’ is metri causa.

tṛṣṇayā grathitāḥ satvā, raktacittā bhavābhave /
te yogayuktā mārasya, ayogakṣemino janāḥ //
tāṃ tu tṛṣṇāṃ prahāyeha, vītatṛṣṇo bhavābhave /
tṛṣṇayābhibhavad bhikṣur, anicchuḥ parinirvṛtaḥ //

Beings fettered by craving, with desirous mind for continual existence; (1)
they are in the bondage of death, people having no freedom from bondage. (2)
But having abandoned this craving here, being without craving for continual existence; (3)
the monk from the overcoming of craving, being without longing is completely extinguished. (4)

The Appropriate Limits of Comparative Religion

Bhikkhus, there are these three cravings. What three? The craving for sensual pleasures, the craving for being, and the craving for non-being. These are the three.

This was quite challenging and informational. :pray:

Perhaps the inferred Theravada addition of craving for non-existence was a pragmatic addition without which we might crave floundering in the plane of no-thing mistaking it for Nibbana?


This question would actually require an essay of its own, but a few remarks may be permitted here. In my understanding, the invention of a desire for non-existence has to be seen as part of the overall philosophical outlook of the Theravāda. As I said in the essay above, this distinctive feature is related to their specific interpretation of liberation and the nature of Nibbāna.

The Buddhists had a hard time dealing with these questions right from the beginning. Because of their rejection of the Brahmanical soul theory they were often accused of seeking annihilation. In connection with the famous unanswered questions, the Buddha declined to answer such questions as to whether or not he would continue to exist after death. These questions were precisely aimed at determining the nature of the Buddhist Nibbāna. In the Pāsādika Sutta (DN 29) the Buddha is portrayed as instructing the novice Cunda on how to respond to such questions if asked by other wanderers. It should be responded by saying that the Buddha has not revealed it, because ‘it is not conducive to the holy life, or to turning away, absence of desire, cessation, tranquillity, realization, awakening, Nibbāna’. The same position is reiterated in the Poṭṭhapāda Sutta (DN 9) and at other places in the canon.

That was really a strong pragmatic position. The Buddha is never represented as saying that it is impossible to talk about the nature of Nibbāna, that it is ineffable or the like, but that he was of the opinion that there is just no point in doing so unless one has understood its meaning through personal realization.

After the demise of the Buddha, the community of monks struggled to find strategies to ward off the attacks by their opponents, the responses becoming increasingly philosophical, enigmatic and evasive. When the initially small ascetic movement turned into a religion of the masses, the gradually forming sects formulated their respective positions in regard to these questions.

Now it is important to note that the various schools differed considerably in their views regarding the nature of Nibbāna, in fact we can find the whole spectrum from annihilation (Sautrāntika) to eternal transcendent existence (Mahāsāṃghika Lokottaravāda) among them. The Theravāda opted for a special kind of ‘unconditioned absolute’, in which the ideas of Nibbāna as eternal individual existence, as well as annihilation were rejected. This philosophical position has been enhanced by inventing a desire for non-existence, thereby making clear that annihilation is not their goal, and that any such aspiration has to be given up. This view, which features prominently in their canonical texts, occasionally prompted them to modify text passages so as to bring them in line with their position. In the social sphere it exempted them not only from the suspicion of seeking annihilation, but also acted as a strong defence against potential attacks by opponents.

The Appropriate Limits of Comparative Religion

Thanks so much for the interesting essay. I will definitely come back to this when translating the relevant verses. Meanwhile, these parallels are missing from SC, so @vimala when you get the time could you look at this?

Just a few notes.

On Yogakkhema: In the linked essay by Norman—which is a very handy, if necessarily incomplete, guide—he says:

In the Ṛgveda yogakṣema means the security or safe possession of what has been acquired, the safe keeping of property, welfare, prosperity, substance, livelihood

His source is for this is Monier-Williams. However the GRETIL text of RV only has yogakṣema at one place, RV_10,166.05a, and there the meaning seems quite vague. Griffith translates it merely as “highest”, which is doubtless inadequate, but it is hard to see how a more specific meaning can be derived from the context.

It is, further, absent from most of the Upanishads, and where it does appear in the Kathā (KaU_2.2) it already has a doctrinal sense.

I prefer the interpretation by Witzel, where khema means “oasis, sanctuary”, and the phrase stems from the experience of the wandering Indo-Europeans, who, at the end of the day’s journey, would reach a place of peace and sanctuary, release their weary beasts from the yoke, and find a cool place to rest and and bathe. Khemā appears repeatedly in the Jatakas as a name for a beautiful lake or parkland where wild beasts can rest safely. Hence I translate yogakkhema as “sanctuary”.

As to vibhava, I need to read the references you give, but allow me to make a few notes on the usage of the term in Buddhist Sanskrit. The term occurs fairly frequently in Buddhist Sanskrit texts, so let’s look at the contexts; leaving aside, of course, the places where it means “wealth”, etc. As a general disclaimer, I don’t know Sanskrit well at all!

  1. In some places it is used alongside anicca, virāga etc. as a term for “disappearance”, eg. SF 150 (ff): upādānīyeṣu dharmeṣv anityānudarśino vibhavānudarśino virāgānudarśino nirodhānudarśinaḥ pratiniḥsargānudarśinas tṛṣṇā nirudhyat. A similar usage in the Mahaparinirvana. This specific usage doesn’t seem to occur in Pali. There’s nothing doctrinally problematic here, but it is rather curious why the Pali lacks this usage.
  2. The phrase bhavāya vibhavāya ca, eg Patna Dhp 375; Uv 29.40, the latter of which (etad dvaidhāpathaṁ jñātvā bhavāya vibhavāya ca) is identical with the Pali Dhp 282 (Etaṃ dvedhāpathaṃ ñatvā, bhavāya vibhavāya ca).
  3. The pair bhavadṛṣṭir vibhavadṛṣṭiś, eg EA 28; SF 253 Sangitisutra; Dharmaskandha 10 na haiva kāṃkṣī bhavati vicikitsī api tu bhavadṛṣṭir bhavati vibhavadṛṣṭiḥ. This is a stock phrase in Pali as well.
  4. Kinds of craving, eg. Dharmaskandha 9: api khalv evam uktaṃ bhagavatā mahānidānaparyāye āyuṣmaty ānande | tatrānanda yā ca bhavatṛṣṇā yā ca vibhavatṛṣṇā itīme dve tṛṣṇādvayena vedanāsamavasaraṇe bhavataḥ | tad ucyate vedanāpratyayā tṛṣṇā. ("For it was said by the Buddha in the Mahanidana Exposition to Venerable Ananda: “Herein Ananda, that which is craving for continued existence and that which is craving to end existence, this is how these two, the duality of craving, converge on feeling.”) This is an Abhidharma text, quoting directly from its version (Sarvastivada) of the Mahanidana Sutta. Interestingly, while the stock definition of tanha in dependent origination does not mention vibhava (SN 12.2), the Pali text of DN 15 does.
  5. Uv 29.22 has the verse: bhave cāhaṁ bhayaṁ dṛṣṭvā bhūyaś ca vibhavaṁ bhave । tasmād bhavaṁ nābhinande nandī ca vibhavena me which I think means “Having seen the peril in existence and even more so in the ending of existence, therefore one should not delight in existence nor in non-existence”.
  6. As a synonym for uccheda in the Mahavastu 110: bhikṣavaḥ yathābhūtaṃ samyakprajñayā paśyato yā vibhavadṛṣṭi ucchedadṛṣṭi sāpi na bhavati. I can’t find an exact parallel for this, but vibhavadiṭṭhi occurs in a number of passages in the same sense.
  7. Another verse at Uv 3.8, yas tu tṛṣṇāṁ prahāyeha vītatṛṣṇo bhavābhave । tṛṣṇayā vibhavad bhikṣur anicchuḥ parinirvṛtaḥ, which I think means: “a mendicant who has given up craving for any form of existence, with the ending of craving is desireless, quenched.” Here, if I am not mistaken, tanha and vibhava are used closely together, but not in the sense of “craving for non-existence” but rather, “non-existence of craving”.

What can we learn from this? Well, at least we can say that vibhava is used in a range of contexts in Buddhist Sanskrit, where the general sense is the same as that in Pali. Not every context has exact parallels, but the similarities are enough to be confident that the idea was shared. If the threefold analysis of craving is to be accepted as a later development, then it builds on ideas current in the existing texts.

The fact that the Skt and Pali versions of the Mahanidana both share this phrase is rather suggestive, especially given how prestigious and influential this text was; and that it sets out to deal with subtleties and obscurities not addressed elsewhere. Notwithstanding the fact that several Chinese versions lack the phrase, is it possible that the term vibhavataṇhā originated here and was later imported into the stock set of three? Further, the Sanskrit has a much more straightforward sense of the idea that “these two converge on feeling”. In the Pali this phrase is not at all clear, but it is certainly different. It is much doctrinally cleaner if we think of this treatment of craving as originally a set of two, bhava and vibhava, paired together as in so many other places, later integrated with kāmataṇhā to form a rather ungainly set of three. If the pair was extended to include the third in the Pali text, this would have left the phrase about the converging duality dangling, hence another use for it was found.


I think you are onto something, although it does leave yoga a bit unaccounted for. Vanarata Ānanda Thera translates yogakkhema as “rest from exertion”, which perhaps better reflects both parts of the compound.


Hi Bhante,

He translates yoga as yoke:

Yoked by Māra’s yoke, these people
Te yogayuttā mārassa,

don’t find sanctuary from the yoke.
ayogakkhemino janā

Ven. Thanissaro translates it as “rest from the yoke,” so agreeing with Ven. Sujato on yoga and Vanarata Ānanda Thera on khema. I like the use of the English cognate yoke.


I see. I just went by the sentence I quoted.

Certainly yoga can mean “yoke”, but in the context of Dhamma practice it often means “exertion”, “effort”, etc. A typical expression that occurs a large number of times in the suttas is yogo karaṇiyo, “an effort should made.” So it’s a matter of style, I suppose. If you want to be poetic, then “yoke” is probably better. But if you want to stick to the way the word is usually used, I would choose “exertion”.


Thank you for taking the time to look closer into this matter. Sometimes I lack the advantages of a solid opposition, thereby running the risk of constructing my theories one-sidedly.

To start with this fascinating term ‘yogakṣema’, I completely agree with what you say. What we lack are sufficient textual sources to follow up the development of the various shades of meaning the term assumed by the time of the Buddhist canonical period. So I would argue for a pragmatic approach, that is to employ the shade of meaning that fits best the specific context. Now it is certainly true that the more general or dominant shades of meaning relate to security, welfare, rest or peace. However it would be somewhat odd to translate ‘yogakṣema’ in contexts like that of our Sutta as ‘peace from bondage’. So I find the aspect of meaning derived from ‘releasing the weary beasts from the yoke’, that is freedom from bondage, as suggested by Norman, quite appropriate in this specific context.

Considering ‘bhava’ prefixed by ‘vi-’ in its negating sense of not or non, we have the trouble of dealing with a term which has not only multiple uses, but also different levels of application. As we in our own languages would apply the terms existence and non-existence in every conceivable way, so did the Indians presumably at all times.

From the existence or non-existence of the man in the moon, (1.) the non-existence (‘disappearance’) of the ice-cream I just consumed, (2.) to what exists and what does not exist (i.e. what is real), (3./6.) to views about continued existence or non-existence (after death, i.e. afterlife), (4.) the desire for the existence (continuance) or non-existence (disappearance) of a certain feeling, (5.) the non-existence (‘disappearance’) of an existence (i.e. ending of an existence), are all within the range of possible applications (the numbers refer to the list of citations above).

Unsurprisingly, we find a selection of these applications in ancient Indian texts as well. Now what is important for our purpose are points 2 and 3/6, which occur also in philosophical discourse, and which are prone to be confounded with another level of application not occurring in this list of citations. It concerns ‘bhava’ in its meaning of ‘saṃsāric’ existence and ‘vibhava’ as a synonym for annihilation understood as liberation from ‘saṃsāra’ by other schools. These various levels of application need to be firmly distinguished, otherwise we run the risk of losing sight of the specific meaning of a particular application.

To put it in a nutshell: the levels (2) ‘what is real’, and (3/6) ‘views about the afterlife’, still refer to a specific object just like other applications, whereas on the ontological level it refers to existence and non-existence itself (i.e. being and non-being). What we are concerned with here, is the meaning of ‘vibhava’ in the context of the four truths, and especially with respect to liberation and Nibbāna.

Unfortunately there’s more to it than that. Comparative reading reveals that the two terms ‘bhava’ and ‘vibhava’ got occasionally muddled up in a fatal manner during the transmission process. Where one version of a text has ‘bhava’, the other has ‘vibhava’ even within the versions of the same school, not to speak about the versions of different schools. A telling example for this is Udāna 3.10, Loka Sutta and its parallels.

In verse we occasionally witness untypical usages of ‘vibhava’, like in citation 5 above. Poets sometimes display an inclination to pun with words, also metrical considerations influence the choice of words, giving a hard time to translators to make sense of it.

What is more, there are problems with the sanskritization of the underlying Prakrit. Already Oskar von Hinüber lamented about the inaccurate designation ‘Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit’, since in reality what we have are different Prakrit dialects in various stages of sanskritization. Even Pāli is not entirely free of it, though of course to a much lesser extent. First of all, there was the translation from the lost Māgadhī original into different Northern Indian Prakrits, from where the sanskritization process gradually picked up pace. I mention this with reference to your citation number 7, which is just the Udānavarga parallel to our Taṇhā Sutta dealt with in the essay.

Compare Udānavarga ‘tṛṣṇayāvibhavad’ with EĀ ‘tṛṣṇayābhibhavad’. I suspect an incomplete sanskritization of the underlying Prakrit, in which ‘avi-’ was used instead of ‘abhi-’. Together with an incorrect resolution of the Sandhi you end up with an erroneous sentence of this type. By the way ‘anicchuḥ’ is adj. relating to ‘bhikṣur’, derived from ‘an-icchā’ (wish, desire, longing), meaning free from desire, having no longing.

I am currently working on some of the problems related to sanskritization, from which also Pāli is not entirely exempted. When the original Māgadhī canon was translated into the western dialect underlying what we know today as Pāli, it was a translation into a historically earlier Prakrit which was closer to Sanskrit. This means we have to deal here with a similar problem. If the original Māgadhī dialect used ‘avi-’ instead of ‘abhi-’, which is not unlikely, we have to be prepared for such a situation when analysing sentences in Pāli. An example of this type we encounter in It 49, Diṭṭhigata Sutta, in which we have the following:

sa ve bhūtapariñño, so vītataṇho bhavābhave;
bhūtassa vibhavā bhikkhu, nāgacchati punabbhavan‘ti.

In the case of ‘bhūtassa vibhavā’ we could witness such an instance. Hypothetically it could go back to an original ‘bhūtassāvibhavā’, which due to a wrong resolution of the Sandhi ended up as ‘bhūtassa vibhavā’. This could have happened already when translating it from the original Māgadhī dialect into the Prakrit underlying Pāli; or if a remnant of the original dialect was left in the translation, an error in the Sandhi resolution could have happened any time during the transmission process.
So the original meaning could have easily been ‘from the overcoming of being’ instead of ‘from the non-existence of being’, which in the context of this verse sounds somewhat odd. At least to my ears.


Both of these are still just resolving the compound. The point Witzel makes—and I’m sorry I don’t have the reference to hand—is that it is in all probability an idiom. The metaphorical basis, resting as it does so deeply in the Indo-European past, has already faded. So it has the generalized sense of “a place or state of relief, sanctity, and safety”. And the English term for this is “sanctuary”.

I don’t think it’s quite as complicated as all that!

This rather means “development and decline”. It’s a pretty unusual poetic idiom.

Yes, the passage is about feelings and their appearance and how that provokes desire. But the terms bhava/vibhava don’t refer to this. Here, in PS, bhava always has to do with “continued existence (in a new life)”. And the Dhamaskandha defines it as such in the relevant place, at Dk 11. The point is that both the desire to continue existence in a new life, and the desire to end existence are conditioned by feelings.

This also has to do with rebirth, as is shown by the close connection with the term nandi, which is found in this sense in the second NT.

So we have three distinct meanings of vibhava:

  1. “Disappearance”, where it is a synonym of anicca. This is found in prose doctrinal contexts in the Sanskrit texts, not the Pali. But see the Kalahavivada Sutta which has a similar usage in verse.
  2. “Decline” as opposed to “flourishing” in meditation; a rare, possibly unique, poetic usage.
  3. “Ending of existence”, i.e. not getting reborn. This is by far the dominant meaning in doctrinal contexts.

Are you aware of any contexts (in the EBTs) using bhava/vibhava in this sense? So far as I can recall, such discussions always use atthi.

I’m far from convinced that there ever was an original dialect, whether Magadhi or anything else. It seems to me more likely that the texts were always preserved in a flexible variety of dialects, with a Magadhan flavour of course, and that putting them in a single dialect was a later endeavour. I’ve recently discussed these issues with a number of scholars, and it seems to me the situation is anything but clear. Hopefully your work can improve matters!


But that’s not what it means. Bhūta doesn’t mean “being”, it means “what has come to be”, i.e. “what has been reborn according to dependent origination”, i.e. “this life”. (SN 12.31) So the verse means:

They have indeed understood what has come to be, they are free of craving for any form of continued existence;
With the ending of what has come to be a mendicant does not return to a further existence.

Or, more idiomatically:

They have understand this life, they are free of craving for any more life;
With this ending of this life a mendicant does not return to a new life.

So leaving aside questions of textual history, the line as it stands makes perfect sense, and to me is much more idiomatic and clear than abhibhava would be.

Oops, that was careless, I’ll fix the translation.

Perhaps a few words about my translation principles are in order. I’ve found a few things very useful:

  1. Okkam’s Semantic Razor: Thou shalt not multiply meanings unnecessarily. If a word has an established meaning in a clear context then we should assume it has that same meaning in unclear contexts unless there is good reason to believe otherwise.
  2. The Principle of Least Meaning: Translate according to the most plain, ordinary, unphilosophical sense. This is specifically to counter the bias that religious texts tend to be overinterpreted, bearing a weight of meaning far beyond them.

(Hint: I think the western tradition—being used to ontological discourse and unused to discourse on rebirth—has been far too apt to read Buddhist texts on “being” in ontological terms. But “pure” ontology is rarely, perhaps never, found in the EBTs, and “existence” always has personal stakes.)


I am well aware of the sensitivities in the Theravāda concerning anything that has got to do with ‘being’ (bhūta). However I always regarded that as exaggerated and, historically speaking, as an overreaction to the Brahmanical environment in which Buddhist philosophy grew up. For what should ‘being’ (bhūta) be taken to mean other than ‘what exists’, or ‘what is in existence’? There is nothing in the term ‘bhūta’ suggesting unconditioned, absolute being or the like. As a matter of fact, it is often employed in the canon as a synonym for existence (bhava) and used interchangeably with it, very much like we are used to do in our own languages. I feel the Theravāda is still chasing the ghosts of supposed permanent entities in words and phenomena, which in our world today virtually no one is assuming in the first place. I am afraid you will have to live with the fact that many people prefer to use language in the natural way it has been ever since, and who are not willing to participate in the creation of a new artificial language.

I am sorry, but I don’t understand your position here. As far as I know, all the Vinayas of the different schools record that the compilation of the canon took place in the capital of Magadha shortly after the demise of the Buddha. In what language is that supposed to have happened? Even the Theravāda tradition maintains that the first compilation of scriptures was done in the Māgadhī language. The expansion of Buddhism occurred with the rise of the Magadhan empire, which by 300 B.C. covered almost the whole of northern India as far as the Indus river. From then on, Māgadhī was no longer the language of a small north-eastern kingdom, but had become the administrative language of large parts of northern India.

I feel your irony is really out of place here. The situation I described is of course not just my own view. It is the position which has grown and solidified over many decades, and is undisputed among philologists working in the field. Most of the evidence has long since been published, and is available for examination by anyone interested. If traditionalist scholars prefer to ignore it, that is understandable from their position. But the evidence will not go away on account of that, but is rather expected to grow further, since the interest in the field has been picking up again in recent years.

I realized that we do not use the term ‘ontological’ in the same way. I did not use it in its western philosophical meaning. But before we now start discussing word definitions, I would like to come back to our initial question, namely if the term ‘vibhavataṇhā’ is a later invention of the Theravāda. I feel we should not become too distracted by side issues. So I suggest to skip labels like ontological and the like and state directly what we mean.

If the Sutta quotation in the Dharmaskandha does not directly relate to feeling, which is of course a possibility, then the only alternative which is conceivable in the context of the ‘nidāna’ is that it relates to ‘bhavadṛṣṭiḥ’ and ‘vibhavadṛṣṭiḥ’ since such desires would lead to attachment to those views (that is, it would ultimately relate again to your citations 3. and 6.). So as you already suggested, this could be a trail worth following in determining how this idea of a desire for non-existence came up in the first place. The other applications you cited have no bearing on our topic. Because we are concerned only with ‘bhava’ in its meaning of ‘saṃsāric’ existence, and ‘vibhava’ as a synonym for annihilation.

The point under consideration, namely if ‘vibhavataṇhā’ is to be seen as a later invention, concerns this last mentioned meaning only. That is its meaning in the context of the four truths, and especially with respect to liberation and Nibbāna.
However it is here in this context that ‘vibhavataṇhā’ creates a strange anomaly. It works as part of a general principle or theory describing the functioning of a conditioned process like transmigration. However in the context of a drawn out spiritual process, and especially at the level of realizing the highest truth, that doesn’t make much sense. That the adept should give up the desire for non-existence, related to the view that existence is cut off at the end of life, appears far-fetched at this point. Would he be holding such a view, it is highly unlikely that he would have taken up the ascetic life in the first place, since there is not the slightest motive for doing so. He would rather end up as a materialist enjoying sensual pleasures to the highest possible extent.


(I’m not Theravadin.)

I’m not sure why you’re making this point here, but it seems to me that you’ve misread what I was saying.

In dependent origination and other important doctrinal contexts, it means, as I said, “what has come to be”, “what has been produced”. It doesn’t mean “what exists eternally”, at least not so far as I can recall. That’s all I was trying to say.

I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re talking about.

I can’t think of any examples of this. Can you give me any references, outside of poetry and in significant doctrinal contexts?

And they all disagree as to the exact contents of that canon.

The source of the canon cannot be reduced to the councils. At all times, there have been both centering movements, specifically the councils, that have brought the Sangha together and tried to enforce a single authoritative version. But the Sangha is irreducibly distributed and diverse, so at the same time there have always been multiple shifting and overlapping versions. It is completely impossible that in one short period of two months that the entire Sangha—thousands of individuals spread over a thousand miles—was made to recite exactly the same texts in exactly the same dialect. It’s just not how language or culture works—and it’s certainly not how the Sangha works. Heck, the council narratives even acknowledge this.

The diversity that can be observed at all stages of the evolution of the Buddhist texts is not an aberration or a later development: the texts have always been diverse. Standardization is never 100%.

It wasn’t irony.

You seem to be making a lot of assumptions about who I am and who I have been talking to. For the record, my recent conversations on the topic have been with Ven Brahmali, Richard Gombrich, and Mark Allon.

To you. It appears perfectly reasonable to me. The desire to prolong life and the desire to end it are flip sides of the same coin.

People take up a spiritual path for all sorts of complicated reasons, most of which they don’t understand at all when they are doing so. The desire to annihilate existence is strong, and deeply characterizes many of the behaviors I have seen in renunciantes over the years. Not to mention the fact that in the suttas, some of the sramanas explicitly taught a doctrine of annihilationism. Clearly such beliefs were no object to going forth.


Well, then let me put it another way. The real issue is the way we approach a language, in this case ancient Indian language. I wrote about it in a previous essay. I will try to restate it briefly, however at the risk of oversimplification.

One approach proceeds on the assumption that words have definite meanings, which in some extraordinary contexts may have to be adapted somewhat to that context. I guess that’s what is basically meant by your ‘razor-principle’ (Its possible I am wrong here since I haven’t read that book!). From this a honourable aspiration for precision arises, with the aim to determine the ‘true’ meaning of a word, which then can be applied in all sorts of contexts. This ‘word-centred’ approach perceives context only on the margins, that is, it is only secondarily considered. We can see the results of this approach in translations of Buddhist texts into western languages, especially of the recent past.
An undesirable effect of this approach is that we do not obtain the plain translation of a particular word as it is naturally used in that language, but a dictionary style word definition that reflects the cognitive schemata of the translator. Take for example your translation of the word ‘bhūta’, which is actually a sentence, not a translation of a word. It is more like a ready-made dictionary definition of the word you intend to translate, not the word itself. That does not always mean that the translation is dead wrong, though of course that may happen as well. However it adds an artificiality to the language by narrowing down meaning in a ready-made fashion, which we do not find in the original. In a translation the result of this can be quite awkward, to say the least.

The other (I would say contrary) approach is to analyze language the way it is naturally employed by the people who use it. Because in reality individual words have only a vague and unspecific meaning, the specific meaning is derived from the context in which the word occurs. So instead of looking for the precise general meaning in the word itself (which in reality does not exist!), precision is achieved by relating the word to the specific context in which it occurs. That is what everyone of us is doing all the time automatically when using our own native language.

Pretty severe restrictions. Let’s see if these here satisfy your criteria.

It 49, Diṭṭhigata Sutta, It 43
Ps 1.2, Diṭṭhikathā Ps VI 159

SN 12.31, Bhūta Sutta SN ii 47-49 = SĀ 345
Skt frgm Tripathi 1962: 198 -204 (24)

Nobody is claiming this. I don’t want to enlarge upon this here, because it actually has nothing to do with our topic. What is important is the following.
The various languages of Buddhist texts as they present themselves to us today have undergone various stages of transformation, including translations from eastern Prakrits into western ones, attempts at sanskritization in various degrees etc. The different eastern Prakrit remnants, and especially the so called Maghadisms, occurring in all those languages, testify to this. These refer to terms which have been left untranslated due to one reason or another, as well as eastern grammatical forms not understood by the translator and therefore left in its old eastern form. Along with other things this shows that at the end of the day all those languages go back to some eastern dialect(s).

I didn’t use the term traditionalist in any derogatory sense, but merely descriptive for a group of people who tend to hold such views. I didn’t mean you or your conversation partners in particular. Nonetheless it can be useful to leave ones echo chamber once in a while and talk to people who hold views contrary to one’s own, especially when talking to scholars of all sorts.

I knew this confusion would crop up at some point. It is the distinction I was trying to make earlier with my failed attempt at using the term ‘ontological’.
There are two semantic levels involved here. One is related to ‘bhavadiṭṭhi’ and ‘vibhavadiṭṭhi’. The former relates to the view that life continues after death in whatever form. The latter relates to the cutting off of life, annihilation, non-existence, in the sense that this happens automatically at death. Like in the case of the former, one does not have to make any effort to achieve this or accomplish anything to make that happen. It just happens by itself. This is the common belief of materialists and others. ‘vibhavadiṭṭhi’ relates to a commonly held view, not to aspirations of ascetic specialists striving for annihilation. That which you are referring to is not covered by the term ‘vibhavadiṭṭhi’ (see e.g. It 49, Diṭṭhigata Sutta), and that is what creates the anomaly in the context of the four truths.

The second semantic level, that of the spiritual striving to achieve annihilation as the goal of liberation, cannot have been meant in the context of your citation, because, as I said, this meaning is not covered by the term ‘vibhavadiṭṭhi’ to which ‘vibhavataṇhā’ would relate in that context.

A preliminary result of all this could be summed up in the following way. Either the term ‘vibhavataṇhā’ in the context of the four truths is understood in this last sense of a desire to achieve annihilation as the goal of one’s spiritual striving, in which case it would be a pure invention of the Theravāda in the way I already suggested in a previous post on this thread.
Or alternatively it is a brainchild created in the context of the Nidāna, which was then added somewhat clumsily to the definition of the four truths by the Theravādins, who either did not consider, or not bother about, the anomaly they created thereby.
At any rate, the textual bases justifies the conclusion that the threefold classification of craving in the context of the four truths is an invention of the Theravāda.


Hey again, thanks for responding in such detail and with such care.

Regarding translation principles, I won’t go into it too much, I would only say this; a couple of decades ago, I thought I had a pretty good handle on Pali and how to translate it. I had plenty of ideas about it—ideas not dissimilar to your own. But my work has evolved and changed during the process of learning, reciting, practising, and discussing Pali texts over that whole period; and they evolved further in the last two or three years, when I spent basically my whole time translating Pali. After translating a million words, now I finally think I have a handle on it. But that too is changing!

I have had plenty of these discussions before, and the problem is, I am not wanting to be convinced by an abstract argument about the nature of language. I’ve been around the block too many times to be impressed by sweet-sounding theories. What I want is to see examples where the translation can be improved. But, as we shall see, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

Forgive me, but I don’t believe I ever said that bhūta must always be translated as “what has come to be”. I said that’s the meaning of it in these contexts, not “existence” or “being”. And to illustrate this I gave two examples of possible translations, which I repeat here:

They have indeed understood what has come to be, they are free of craving for any form of continued existence;
With the ending of what has come to be a mendicant does not return to a further existence

They have understand this life, they are free of craving for any more life;
With this ending of this life a mendicant does not return to a new life.

Yes, the first example is clunky and over-literal, which is why I gave the second example. Is there anything awkward or unidiomatic about this? I think it sounds fine! Your translation was “from the overcoming of being”. My main point was that bhūta does not mean “being” here, and that there is no reason from the sense of the line to postulate an original abhibhava. To which I would add that the proposed translation is unidiomatic to the point of being incomprehensible.

So again, I’m not meaning to dismiss your ideas. I’m just saying, if you want to prove your point, show me translations that are more accurate and/or more idiomatic.

Thanks for chasing down some references. I know it is time-consuming! Let’s see what they say.

In Iti 49, we have three sections. The first two represent the extremes, characterized by attachment to bhava or repulsion from it and delight in vibhava. The third section is the correct practice, where someone, rather than “delighting”, “sees”, and what they see is bhūta, i.e. what has come to be.

The change in terminology is significant here. The first two are responding emotionally to the idea of existence as a continuity, either wanting it to continue or wanting it to cease. The third case is not focussed on the continuity of existence in future lives, but is looking at this life and understanding that it was produced by conditions. Thus the two terms bhava and bhūta are clearly not synonyms: they have distinct nuances and those nuances shape the discourse as a whole.

I’ll ignore the Patisambhida if you don’t mind and focus on the early texts.

These two are identical for our purposes, so far as I can tell. Both use the term bhūta in the sense of what has come to be, defining what has come to be in terms of the fuel or nutriment that has produced it. These texts don’t use bhava at all.

Like the previous sutta, the reason for using bhūta rather than bhava is because here the focus is on seeing. The point is that understanding the ongoing process of existence (bhava) requires a close scrutiny of this particular point in the process: you have to start at home. And that is grammatically expressed by using the past participle in a present perfect sense.

So I’m afraid these passages don’t satisfy my criteria. You said that bhūta and bhava are synonyms, and are “often used interchangeably”. But I have yet to see a relevant example of this. Bhūta in such contexts has a distinct, consistent, and specific nuance, and that nuance is conveyed rather precisely by its grammatical form.

Obviously it is not the case that all words work like this, but this word, in this context, does. This is not an imposition of a theory on to a language, it is an observation of how the language is used. It’s a specialized technical term used in a specialized technical context.

Arguments from how “natural” language works are inadequate because the texts we are dealing with are not “natural” language; or, rather, the very idea of “natural” language usage is misleading. Language is always used in different kinds of ways in different contexts; that is its natural state. The point is that the way language is used in Buddhist scripture is not always the same as the way it is used in conversation or novels or internet forums or other contexts. And the best way to understand that context is not through theory, but by immersing oneself in the language and culture as deeply as possible for as long as possible.

Thanks for including the “s” there: that’s a start. One of the problems recently raised is that the Magadhi theory, while explaining certain features, is incomplete, and fails to account for many other peculiar features of Pali.

Okay, I think I understand what you are saying now.

Source? A quick search reveals that, in the few instances that these terms occur, leaving aside context-free cases like bare lists, they are ascribed to samaṇā vā brāhmaṇā vā (SN 22.80, MN 11.6). This is generally true of diṭṭhi in the EBTs: while obviously not exclusively so, they are typically felt to be the province of professionals.

Some of those who have views about non-existence may be striving for such a state, while others may simply accept it, and we find examples of both in the suttas as we do today.

But just as it is easy to find examples of renunciants who have a deep-seated longing for annihilation, it is easy to find those who ordain while simply rejecting the ideas of rebirth and so on and accepting that this life is all there is. Again, I personally know plenty of monks like this, and they include those long gone forth who are famous teachers. One of the more famous examples would be King Mongkut, who not only personally rejected rebirth, but following whose example references to liberation and Nibbana were removed from the ordination ceremony (later reinstated!)

To keep the argument clear, you want to say that vibhavataṇhā is a late invention of the Theravada, not just on comparative grounds, but on philosophical ones. For the record, I think that the idea that vibhavataṇhā was a late Theravadin addition to the formula for the 4 NTs is reasonably well-established on comparative textual grounds, but I have yet to be convinced that it is philosophically incoherent.

To support this argument, you said that:

But there are plenty of people, both those who crave non-existence, and those who hold views about non-existence, who end up as renunciants. Quirky, but there it is. I know these things because, well, I am a renunciant, and I have lived with renunciants for most of my adult life.

In any case, the whole point—or, well, one of the points—of dependent origination is to show that our “views” are informed and created by underlying attachments and cravings. They’re not separate things; rather, a view is a consciously formulated belief or theory, driven in one way or another by desire and attachment. If there is such a thing as vibhavadiṭṭhi then there must be a vibhavataṇhā that underlies it. If it so happened that such craving was not mentioned in the texts, it could have easily be inferred from the general principles of the Dhamma. There are a number of similar cases, and in fact a large part of the Abhidhamma project was such “filling in the blanks”. I don’t think there’s anything particularly problematic about this from a philosophical point of view.

To which I would agree, with the caveat that, as mentioned just above, it would not be pure invention so much as filling in the blanks. Those responsible would have thought they were making explicit something that was merely implicit in the extant texts.


I think that’s as far as we can get for the moment. To me the objective of such discussions is not so much to reach agreement on every point nor to convince each other of one’s own position. It’s rather about bringing different viewpoints and approaches together, and see if we can shed more light on a specific issue.

About textual modifications in general a remark may be in order here. The objective of essays as this one is not so much to expose textual corruptions and hunt down its culprits in a specific tradition. It has more to do with taking care of the textual heritage and to contribute in whatever small way to its preservation. After all no one in the past who effected modifications in texts did so out of base motives. In the eyes of those responsible for it that was certainly not a matter of corrupting a text but rather of ‘improving’ it. If the result can be considered a success will mostly lie in the eye of the beholder.


Thank you for this very interesting article that I now finally had some time to look at!

First of all, let me give the details of the GRETIL references you mention on SuttaCentral.

The Ekottara Āgama fragment you mention is fragment 199 and can be found here:

The Udānavarga 3 is here:

Next to these parallels, there are a few more: in the Chinese T213.3, Tibetan Udānavarga Uv-Kg3 and the Sanskrit Udānavarga de Subaši.

I’ve uploaded all these now so they should be visible soon. Actually my python scraper had just found the SF199 parallel with the Udānavarga also :slight_smile:

With regards to the parallels of Iti 15, note that there are also parallels in AN 4.9, Iti 105 and in Snp3.12.

Note that this should be DN 15.

Another thing I noticed is that our links to GRETIL are incorrect in the meta data. @Aminah, I’ve made a ticket to correct that once you are done with the cleanup:


Great! I’ve now merged to where we’ve got to with the clean-up into the master branch. Because there are a bunch of :question:s still needing to be figured out in the respective thread, there’s no need to hold you up. I will pause on that for the time being and will check-in with you before doing anything more to it. :slight_smile:


Okay, done that (and changed the Gretil references). You can see the parallels here now on Staging:


Bhikkhus, there are these three cravings. What three? The craving for sensual pleasures, the craving for being, and the craving for non-being.

I thought the formulation that follows predates that:

What five? Desire for rebirth in the realm of form, desire to be reborn in the formless realm, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance. These are the five higher fetters.

“Pañcimāni, bhikkhave, uddhambhāgiyāni saṃyojanāni. Katamāni pañca? Rūparāgo, arūparāgo, māno, uddhaccaṃ, avijjā—imāni kho, bhikkhave, pañcuddhambhāgiyāni saṃyojanāni. SuttaCentral


I think craving for non-existence is common among advances practitioners.