'Kāya' and 'body' in context

The ‘body’ is one of the main objects of attachments, and as an attachment one of the main obstacles in the development of the mind in the Buddhist framework. What follows is less a reflection on the various body-meditations but more fundamentally the implications the choice of words in the suttas has on correctly understanding the context.

kāya in the dictionary

The entry is very long (why can’t it just have one meaning??), but the meanings of kāya are basically

group, heap, collection, aggregate, body

This range resonates with khandha, the other major doctrinal term which emphasizes the anattā-doctrine. Where the worldling is tempted to identify with the body-unity and to find in that body-image the cherished ‘me’, the term kāya brutally goes against this temptation and calls this beloved body simply a heap, a collection. The simile that most clearly exemplifies this - and might well be the root of kāya-as-body - is the ‘bag of grain’:

Just as though there were a bag with an opening at both ends full of many sorts of grain… so too, a bhikkhu reviews this same body as full of many kinds of impurity…
(MN 10, MN 119, DN 22, Thag 19.1 verse 1134)

kāya in pre-buddhist compositions

This is a simple matter because kāya just doesn’t appear in pre-buddhist literature and is a real novelty of the nikāyas! Due to the influence of the Buddhist texts kāya-as-body is later well-established - both in the meaning of ‘body’ and ‘collection’ - in the mahabhārata and manusmrti.

Pāṇinī seems to root kāya in ci- with the meanings: to arrange in order, heap up, pile up

How did the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (BU) and the Artharva Veda call ‘the body’ then?
Surprisingly mostly ātmān, and if in a pure material sense then śarīra (pali: sarīra), and sometimes aṅga (Pali: aṅga, hardly to be found in the suttas as ‘body’).

śarīra / sarīra

The Pali term appears a number of times in suttas, and I’m proposing the simplified theory: An almost complete replacement of such a basic term as ‘body’ didn’t come over night, and the Buddha could not have started out calling the ‘body’ something else, simply because it would have confused his audience. So I see the general use of kāya-as-body as a late developmental stage in the Buddhist texts. Hence suttas contaning sarīra-as-body might represent an old layer of suttas.

I could identify about 20 different original contexts for sarīra-as-body (sometimes with the connotation of corpse or ‘empty shell’) but would like to single out three contexts that fit into the above theory.

##body vs. soul
Most often we find sarīra in the pericope that summarizes all possible pre-buddhist philosophical positions that a bhikkhu should give up:

‘The world is eternal’ or ‘The world is not eternal’; ‘The world is finite’ or ‘The world is infinite’; ‘The soul (jīva)and the body (sarīra) are the same’ or ‘The soul (jīva) is one thing, the body (sarīra) another’; ‘The Tathāgata exists after death,’ or ‘The Tathāgata does not exist after death,’ or ‘The Tathāgata both exists and does not exist after death,’ or ‘The Tathāgata neither exists nor does not exist after death’.

(AN 4.38, AN 10.20, AN 10.93, AN 10.95, AN 10.96, SN 12.35, SN 12.36, SN 24.13, SN 24.14, SN 33.1, SN 33.55, SN 41.3, SN 44.7, SN 44.8, SN 56.8, SN 56.41, MN 25, MN 63, MN 72, DN 6)

Three things speak for the antiquity of this passage: The use of sarīra for body, and the use of the vedic jīva for soul (instead of attā). And that this passage represents one of the fundamental differences between any pre-Buddhist conception and the Budhha’s novel insights.

###Boundless determination
The second most often used passage with sarīra is when the bodhisatta sat with relentless determination for his last pre-bodhi meditation.

Willingly, let only my skin, sinews, and bones remain, and let the flesh and blood dry up in my body (sarīra), but I will not relax my energy so long as I have not attained what can be attained by manly strength, energy, and exertion.
(AN 2.5, AN 8.13, SN 12.22, SN 21.3, MN 70)

Here as well we cannot understand sarīra as corpse but rather as ‘body’ in a more general sense. What is striking about this passage is that it’s mostly used as a quote, as if it was an intertextual insertion, quoted from another source. This, next to the use of sarīra, indicates to me the older layer of text.

The break-up of the body

In the Dhammapada we come across the two verses 138 and 140 that speak for a transitional period when sarīra and kāya were still in equal use

Dhp 138: sarīrassa va bhedanaṃ
Dhp 140: kāyassa bhedā duppañño

Both lines mean a break-up of the body, and the poet sees no problem in using both terms equally, thereby quoting two different sources for the same expression. A later, more doctrinally oriented author would have chosen one term over the other in both verses, emphasizing either the aspect of the corpse (sarīra), or the collection-aspect of the body (kāya).

#kāya vs. ātman
Reading Olivelle’s contemporary translation of the BU I was surprised how often he translated ātman as ‘body’. My preconception was that ātman generally means ‘essence’ or ‘soul’. And in some cases I would have still chosen that over ‘body’. But in most cases it’s undeniable that ‘body’ is the straight forward translation for ātman, and only sometimes means ‘essence’/‘soul’.

What does it mean then that in the suttas we don’t find ātman any more in this meaning? We find it of course as anattā, the negated soul-principle. To me it’s very significant that when the BU speaks about the body it uses ātman which neighbors ‘soul’, whereas the suttas mostly favor kāya which neighbors ‘no-soul’. This cannot be a coincidence but must have been originally a doctrinal stand (before kāya became just the general term for ‘body’).

Compounds with kāya meaning ‘collection’ / ‘group’

In compounds kāya mostly occurs as the first part, but in a few cases also at the end, with the specific meaning ‘a group of’. I give more extended references here to show that kāya-as-group is by no means a rare occurance in the suttas.

nikāya - collection, group, assemblage. This is of course the best known example of kāya meaning collection, since every Buddhist pali text collection is called a nikāya. The word doesn’t appear alone in the suttas though, only at the end of a compound → dighanikāya, etc.

asurakāya - an assembly of Asuras (AN 3.37, DN 18, DN 19, DN 21, DN 24, DN 33)

balakāya - (is my favourite in this list) a collection of strength → an army (AN 3.14, AN 5.133, AN 5.136, AN 6.54, SN 2.23, SN 3.18, MN 92, DN 26)

brahmakāyika - one-with-the-Brahma-group → one who becomes part of the entourage of Brahma (AN 3.70, AN 4.123, AN 4.125, AN 6.10, AN 6.25, AN 7.44, AN 7.52, AN 7.56, AN 7.69, AN 8.35, AN 9.24, AN 11.11, SN 56.11, MN 31, MN 42, DN 11, DN 15, DN 33, DN 34)

devanikāya - an assembly of devas (AN 2.36, AN 4.191, AN 5.206, AN 7.40, AN 8.29, AN 8.64, AN 9.72, AN 10.14, SN 35.241, MN 16, MN 127, DN 14, DN 20, DN 33, DN 34)

mahājanakāya - a group of people (AN 4.244, AN 8.8, SN 3.10, SN 7.14, SN 35.244, SN 42.6, SN 45.160, SN 47.20, SN 52.8, SN 56.41, MN 77, MN 86, DN 14, DN 16)

hatthikāya - a group of elephants / assakāya - a group of cavalry / rathakāya - a group of chariots / pattikāya - a group of foot soldiers (AN 5.139, SN 3.5, SN 3.15, MN 82)

#Implications for the sutta transmission

  • It was the Buddha’s innovation to refer to the body as kāya. Not just that in the pre-buddhist era kāya was not used (instead mostly ātmān, śarīra or aṅga). But kāya has implications that are connected with the anattā doctrine, since kāya emphasizes not the unity of the body but on the contrary its fragmentation, and hence its unworthiness as an object of identification.
  • With this in mind the use of kāya would have been first limited to contexts where the body’s assembled nature was emphasized. This would have been made clear to the unaccustomed listener by the context, or a simile like ‘the bag of grain’.
  • Only later, when kāya became the general de facto Buddhist term for the body (replacing śarīra) it would have been applied to doctrinal and general contexts where the anattā connotation was secondary. It would have been that time when the suttas were fixed and edited.

In a way I used this research to show that the sometimes grim discussions about what ‘the real words of the Buddha were’ are misguided. To those accustomed to text critical studies it might sound trivial, but I tried to show that we can never know based on the suttas which words the Buddha really used. What we have are the texts portraying the message of the Buddha.

In these texts we can sometimes witness the evolution of terms and a solidification of ideas, or a mythical superelevation of gods and mystical powers etc. These are elements that are worth seperating from older layers.

More specifically I wanted to contribute to the discussion of how fundamentally different the Buddhist view of the body became compared to the mystics of the late vedic period. Whereas in many contemporary languages the original meaning of ‘body’ ‘Körper’ etc. are lost, the Indic choice of words was purposeful and resonated the worldview of its saints.


What a fabulous essay!

I’m still trying to find the technical name for the semantic shifts you describe. If you have any luck, pls let me know.

The acquisition of a new shell by a meaning, and the new shell acquiring the other old meanings represented by the old shell shows up quite starkly in DN 9.

In that narrative, the term “acquisition of self” is used for “body”. The former may have been the older, to be gradually supplanted by mind-made body = mind-made acquisition of self.

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I’m not a proper linguist, but isn’t it a metonymy? One aspect of the body, namely it consisting of different parts, becomes the term for all of it? Some sort of synecdoche? (funny, just yesterday the term came up in a conversation). It doesn’t fit exactly, but I don’t know a better term.


Thanks for the great article, especially showing citations of how various uses of sarira and kaya, and confirming kaya was the buddha’s preferred term for anatomical body over sarira (or atman or whatever else was common).

It makes perfect sense to designate kaya which prior to him was an impersonal heap, as anatomical body, considering how he tended to anatta-fy everything, and how he so carefully answered metaphysical questions about self that would lead the questioner to latch onto “something” like vinnana or sarira as a seat for the soul.

You may want to add this sutta reference to your essay,
from AN 3.16, describing fundamental, prerequisite, bedrock EBT practice for the destruction of āsavās. It establishes kāya as an anatomical body in 6 ayatana for guarding the sense doors (door #5), and the anatomical body that one has to feed while eating the proper way.

(5. body)

kāyena phoṭṭhabbaṃ phusitvā
With-the-body, tactile-sensations (he) senses.
na nimittag-gāhī hoti
(he) Does-not {grab}-signs ****.
Does-not {grab}-features.
yatvādhikaraṇamenaṃ kāy-indriyaṃ a-saṃvutaṃ viharantaṃ
Since-if-he-were-to {dwell with the} body-faculty un-restrained ***********,
Abhijjhā-domanassā pāpakā a-kusalā dhammā anvāssaveyyuṃ,
greed-(and)-distress (and) evil un-skillful states would-invade [his mind].
tassa saṃvarāya paṭipajjati,
His restraint (is put into) practice.
rakkhati kāy-indriyaṃ,
(he) protects (the) body-faculty.
kāy-indriye saṃvaraṃ āpajjati.
The body-faculty restraint (he) undertakes.

and 2nd portion in sutta on proper way to eat

paṭisaṅkhā yoniso āhāraṃ āhāreti:
reflecting carefully (on) food (he) consumes:
‘neva davāya
'not (for) amusement,
na madāya
not (for) intoxication,
na maṇḍanāya
not (for) beautification,
na vibhūsanāya,
not (for) attractiveness,
yāva-deva imassa kāyassa ṭhitiyā yāpanāya
only-for this body’s maintenance (and) nourishment,
injury-avoidance [from under eating],
[for] assisting (the) holy-life,
iti purāṇañca vedanaṃ paṭihaṅkhāmi,
[thinking:] thus old feelings [of hunger] I-will-terminate,
navañca vedanaṃ na uppādessāmi,
new feelings [of overeating] I-will-not-arouse,


Hi Gabriel.

Kāya appears:

In Bṛhaddevatā.

In Shulba sutra of Kātyāyana.
Again, in that śrautasūtra, kāya means the upper (part of the) body (of men); and that latter meaning appears also in the Mahābhārata.

Kāya also appears as:

Akāya: bodiless, incorporeal.
in Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā (YV)

Mahākāya: large bodied, of great stature, tall.
in Mahābhārata
Note: Mahābhārata should be checked to see if this is early or late.

Nikāya: body.
in Śvetāśvataropaniṣad

Vṛttakāya: a round body.
in Suśruta



Thanks for these quotes, yet I take it as established that the Mahābhārata is post-buddhist. Just to quote Hiltebeitel

The epics (and particularly the MBh) make numerous concealed and knowing references to the heterodoxies and subsume the heterodox movements, including Buddhism, vaguely under the rubric of nāstikya, heresy… The Mahābhārata, and probably both epics, would thus have likely been composed (or produced) … between 150 B.C. and the year Zero.
A. Hiltebeitel, Reading the Fifth Veda. Studies on the Mahābhārata, 2011, p.11

For the Bṛhaddevatā I find anything between 400 BC and 11th century CE
For the Shulba sutra 600 BCE - 200 CE
The Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad is in the catalog of early upanishads, but only for the Brhadaranyaka and the Chandogya there is a broad scholarly consensus to be pre-buddhist. Next would be Taittiriya, Aitareya and Kausitaki.

Personally from my studies and the vocabulary and themes involved I came to see the Atharvaveda and the BU as the main literary influences, and the Rgveda for a general vocabulary background. The Chandogya seems to have been transmitted in a different region, it doesn’t pop up often in common themes and vocabulary.

Of course a lot is possible, but I like to be on the safe side and include only the books that are rather safely pre-buddhist.


I hope you didn’t misunderstand me. The texts surely prefer kaya for the anatomical body. My strong guess is that originally the Buddha was using much more of sarira than we see in the suttas. That he used kaya only in specific contexts when he wanted to anatta-fy the body as you nicely say.

I can imagine the broad use of kaya-as-body in any context towards the end of his ministry, especially if he more and more dealt with dhamma-exposed bhikkhus. But I doubt it actually. He must have still met new people, brahmins, laymen all the time. They wouldn’t have understood kaya. They’d be like ‘he?’. That’s why I place the broad and general use of kaya to a later generation, where educated monks were mainly speaking doctrine among each other. They of course knew kaya-as-body and didn’t need an explanation.

I work with assumptions that don’t need to be followed of course…

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Are you kidding?
I see atharvaveda (if ever to be considered a veda,) as representing a very primitive stage of thought. It’s just a book of spells and incantations appealing to the demon world, and pullulates with notions about witchcraft current among the lower grades of the population.
Gee whiz, I have read Veda (and practiced [“lived”] it); but I would not touch that one with a ten foot pole.
As far as Buddhism is concerned, there is no mention of a fourth veda.

For the rest of the literature, I call on Wynne to decide. No less.

MBh between 150 B.C. and the year Zero !?!? - Holly cow!


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I don’t know why you’re so outraged. We consider different sources and come to different conclusions. From my research I often came across words that are used in a similar way as in the Ar-veda. So with ‘literary influence’ I meant ‘vocabulary pool’, not much more.
If you have good scholarly work about dating the Mbh please quote it with reference. Thanks

It’s almost right, but not quite. Please take a look at this discussion where we collected the references to the vedas in the suttas: External references in the Tipitaka: The Vedas

Maybe you’re interested to continue that discussion there or create a new one re. upanishads, Mhb and suttas? It’s more general in nature and has not much to do with kaya, body etc.

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I would not go on that slippery slope.

Trayo vedā etaiva vāg evargvedaḥ mano yajurvedaḥ prāṇaḥ sāmavedaḥ [BU.]
There are three Vedas: Ṛgveda is word, Yajurveda is spirit and Sāmaveda is breath.


Note: Also, veda means knowledge in general. Not every knowledge is Veda.

[quote=“Gabriel, post:1, topic:4216”]
The ‘body’ is one of the main objects of attachments… This range resonates with khandha…[/quote]
As a single khandha, the word ‘rupa’ is used for the physical body.

For a collection of ‘khandha’, the word ‘kaya’ seems to be used, such as in the term ‘sakkaya diṭṭhi’.

[quote=“Gabriel, post:1, topic:4216”]
ust as though there were a bag with an opening at both ends full of many sorts of grain… so too, a bhikkhu reviews this same body as full of many kinds of impurity…[/quote]
But is this referring to the physical body that has ‘impurity’ or both the mind & body?

This might be a conventional term for the physical body. ‘Rupa’ seems to have a different meaning (refer to SN 22.79), as does ‘kaya’.

Excellent distinction, which raises the question about what kāyassa bhedā really means. Thank you. Eternally grateful. :slight_smile:

Kaya can refer to the collection of aggregrates, such as in the term ‘sakkaya’.

Maybe he was not referring to the physical body.

As I previously mentioned, ‘rupa’ may also refer to fragmentation.

It seems more likely ‘kaya’ refers to the ‘fragmentation’ of the five aggregates.

For example, SN 12.19 starts with:

Avijjā­nīvara­ṇassa, bhikkhave, bālassa taṇhāya sampayuttassa evamayaṃ kāyo samudāgato. Iti ayañceva kāyo bahiddhā ca nāmarūpaṃ, itthetaṃ dvayaṃ, dvayaṃ paṭicca phasso saḷevāyatanāni, yehi phuṭṭho bālo sukhadukkhaṃ paṭi­saṃve­dayati etesaṃ vā aññatarena.

Bhikkhus, for the fool, hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, this body has thereby originated. So there is this body and external name-and-form: thus this dyad. Dependent on the dyad there is contact. There are just six sense bases, contacted through which—or through a certain one among them—the fool experiences pleasure and pain.

My view is ‘kayo’ here refers to the five aggregates since obviously the physical body alone cannot give rise to contact of external bodies & minds (nama-rupa).



Knowing the geographical importance of the Kanva rescension, it would be good to delve a bit further into that shakha.
What the Satapatha Brāhmaṇa, and the Īśāvāsya Upaniṣad have to say about kāya?

“This ritual done now is that which the gods did then, at inception.”
Satapatha Brahmana

Late Vedic depicts the creation of the world (cosmos) as the sacrifice of an anthropomorphous being.
The dismembered body constituted the ordered cosmos.
This man is Prajāpati, or Ka, in the Brāhmaṇas. The early Vedic disunited: Puruṣa, becomes the reunited to be: Prajāpati.
Puruṣa being the disunification (विद्रु vidru ) - Prajāpati being the reunification (संभू saṃbhū).
In the Brāhmaṇas, the primordial sacrifice of Prajapati is duplicated through the sacrificer’s own executions; through symbolic identifications and rituals. Each major sacrifice is the reenactment of the prototypal sacrifice.

In the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, the word of the dead enters the fire (agni); the breath into the air (vata); the eye into the sun (Aditya); the mind into the moon (candra); the ear into the quarters (dis). The dead person reunites with Ka, that is the teleological Prājapati.

Prajāpati (Ka) is also the creator. He propagates progeny. It is not Puruṣa, the “Man,” anymore. It is Prājapati, the “Lord of Creatures.”

The cosmos is mutually related to the body of the cosmic man. The configuration of the cosmos is that of a man.
Prajapati presents the epitome of a man. A man as a whole.
Man and cosmos are likened on both the “outer” plane of existence (physical body - cosmos’ spheres) and the “inner” plane of existence (mind and senses - animate components of the cosmos).
The mortal and the immortal.
“At inception, Prajapati was both mortal and immortal; his vital air (prana) was immortal and his body (sarira) was mortal.”
After his creation, Prājapati’s prana left sarira - Prājapati was cut off from the cosmos - and Prājapati (Ka,) became the typical example of a man.

The rituals in BU are just the way to recover the original state of unity.

The mind has a special place in that construct. It partakes in all physical experience - however it has the faculty to experience the physical experience independently.
The chief priest, for instance, partakes plainly to the sacrifice; yet doing nothing. The physical part being done by the lower priests. “Thinking” the sacrifice done by others is sacrificing by itself; at a higher level.
The higher priest gains an “unlimited” world; whereas the other priests win only one world each.

Note that the Brahmanic representation of Prajapati is such, that the upper half of the body is immortal, and the lower half mortal.
This also appears in the Shulba sutra of Kātyāyana - (and also in the Mahābhārata). The word kāya (as body,) is well defined in the latter two.

Kāya also means: “relating or devoted to the god Ka”. God or man, at this point?
How does Ka, the dismembered anthropomorphous being, appear in that Brāhmaṇa - and how might this concept be attached to the Buddhist concept of body?

Satapatha Brāhmaṇa: 2:5:2:13 Then follows a cake on one potsherd for Ka (Prajāpati); for by that cake on one potsherd to Ka Prajāpati indeed bestowed happiness (ka) on the creatures, and so does he (the sacrificer) now bestow happiness on the creatures by that one-cup cake: this is why there is a cake on one potsherd for Ka. Atha kāya ekakapālaḥ puroḍāśo bhavati | kaṃ vai prajāpatiḥ prajābhyaḥ kāyenaikakapālena puroḍāśenākuruta kamvevaiṣa etatprajābhyaḥ kāyenaikakapālena puroḍāśena kurute tasmātkāya ekakapālaḥ puroḍāśo bhavati.

kāyasya vapāyāṃ hutāyām tadanvitarā juhuyuriti ha smāha inānyathādevatam
prīṇātīti śailāliḥ prajāpatirvai kaḥ prajāpatimu vā anu sarve
devāstadevainānyathādevatam prīṇātīti
13:5:3:33. ‘When the omentum of the (victim) sacred to Ka has been offered, they should thereupon offer the others,’ said Sailāli; ‘for, doubtless, Ka is Prajāpati, and behind Prajāpati are all the gods: it is in this way he gratifies them deity after deity.’

Note that Kāya, as _"relating or devoted to the god Ka"_ (ṚgVeda - Śukla Yajurveda [Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā] - Krishna Yajurveda [Taittirīya saṃhitā]) [u]and[/u] the _"body"_ (Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā - Katyayana Śrautasutra [Śukla YV] - Śvetāśvatara U.) - have the same ideograph, namely काय (Devanagari) and ![](upload://kvAtBkl2wvLe2vtfeLqQaY4XScX.png (Brahmi). -------- What does the pre or post Buddhist, Isha Upaniṣad - but definitely around the time of Buddha - has to say?

The Pure Self pervades all. It is bright and is not bound by a body. There are no wounds in it; no veins run in it. It is pure. Sin cannot come near it. It is a seer. It knows all. It is above all and is self-begotten. This Principle duly allots to the eternal creators their various duties.
Sa paryagācchukramakāyamavraṇamasnāviraṃ śuddhamapāpaviddham kavirmanīṣī paribhūḥ svayambhūryāthātathyato’rthān vyadadhācchāśvatībhyaḥ samābhyaḥ

Good day.

(It’s shusi, not sushi).

Here are a few possibilities that apply to śarīrakāya

Catachresis - a need for a term and the lexical gap is filled by applying a trope to an already existing word, such as in the metaphorical sense of Engl. wing as an a) organ, b) subordinate part of a building.

Polysemy - the existing meaning of a word (kāya-as-collection) acquires a new meaning (kāya-as-body), so that the word becomes polysemous with the two senses/readings (as we can see in the compounds where kāya retains its meaning-as-collection).

Reductive meaning change - Of two meanings one meaning dies out. śarīra was the pre-Buddhist broad designation for body in many contexts and in time was degraded to only mean the pure materiality of a corpse.

Speaker-induced vs. hearer-induced meaning change - clearly using kāya-as-body was induced by the Buddha because of its contribution to his anattā doctrine, and thus was speaker-induced. What we often struggle with in the ebt-studies is the hearer-induced change of the commentaries and the abhidhamma, e.g. in vipassanā.

Source: Peter Koch, Meaning change and semantic shifts, in: Päivi Juvonen and Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm, The Lexical Typology of Semantic Shifts (2016).



What also interests me is how the Vedic sense of Atman = body, shifts into kaaya acquiring the sense of “self” as in DN 9.

Edit - comparing DN 9 to its parallel DA 28, if you look at the section containing Citta’s chat with the Buddha, the Chinese has what in DN 9 is taken as the “acquisition of self” in this -

“Suppose, Citta, they were to ask you: ‘Whatever your past acquisition of a self: Is that alone your true acquisition of self, while the future & present ones are null & void? Whatever your future acquisition of a self: Is that alone your true acquisition of a self, while the past & present ones are null & void? Whatever your present acquisition of a self: Is that alone your true acquisition of a self, while the past & future ones are null & void?’ Thus asked, how would you answer?”

“ … Thus asked, lord, I would answer: ‘Whatever my past acquisition of a self: on that occasion, that alone was my true acquisition of a self, while future & present ones were null & void. Whatever my future acquisition of a self: on that occasion, that alone will be my true acquisition of a self, while the past & present ones will be null & void. Whatever my present acquisition of a self: on that occasion, that alone is my true acquisition of a self, while the past & future ones are null & void.

is rendered as 身 (body).

Plus, in the discussion of the different “acquisitions of self”, the Chinese has the same 身 applied to the different types of “acquisition of self” including 有想無想處天身 (neither percipient nor non-percipient divine body).

While some scholars treat the DN/DA collections as late, it strikes me as singularly odd that for a late collection, the vocabulary is unusually early.


Very interesting! So do I understand correctly that the Chinese here takes the pali ‘atta’ as ‘body’ like some of the upanishads do?

I think there are many good reasons to see the DN as a late collection as a corpus. But that doesn’t tell us what the parts of the collection are made of. It seems like a hotchpotch really. Some of the wording strikes as old - like here atta-as-body.

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I’m not aware of any other way to read this.

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1) re Gabriel 2017-02-03 19:45:37 UTC #7
“… I place the broad and general use of kaya to a later generation, where
educated monks were mainly speaking doctrine among each other…”

Reading this concretized a suspicion that had been creeping-in while reading so far, namely that the whole idea of having “actual” words from the Buddha is something of a stretch. We have layer upon layer of later reports, spanning hundreds of years… Also made explicit later in the mention of “Speaker-induced vs. hearer-induced meaning change”.

2) re frankk 2017-02-03 17:29:55 UTC #4
Thumbs-up on that style of translation – literal with various parenthetical filling in pieces of grammatical (and semantic?) reference to help make the sense clear in English.

3) The title-topic here also brought to mind the great (Anapanasati) debate: “whole-body of the breath” vs “breath in the whole body”. And also a sub-debate recently here in the “Vitakka vicāra (Jhana-factors)” thread here, where the issue of a translation relating to “kāmā” went on and on for a while. Both these issues relate to the teachings of Thanissaro B, who I use as a main source for practice training. So a meta-issue that I will shoe-horn in here is the relationship between pariyatti and patipatti forms of endeavor. That is to say, at times the philological (pariyatti) issues appear less substantial from the practical (patipatti) viewpoint. Case in point, whereas TB may be technically incorrect translating as “sensuality” rather then “sensual objects” (or whatever it was), the distinction is less than crucial for the practitioner, and his instructions, by and large, are quite skillful guides to nitty-gritty practice.

While, admittedly, SuttaCentral could be said to focus on the pariyatti aspects, and the whole p_ariyatti/patipatti/pativedha_ idea may be more commentarial, has this perspective ever been discussed in this forum? Or are questions relating the philology et al to practice not proper here?

(edit 20160213:16:49 to add transition from 2) to 3) that got mushed 1st time around.)


I brought up this question before. Check the thread linked below. Make sure to cast a vote!

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[quote=“cjmacie, post:18, topic:4216”]
The title-topic here also brought to mind the great (Anapanasati) debate: “whole-body of the breath” vs “breath in the whole body”.[/quote]

The Pali is ‘sabba kaya’, which literally is ‘all bodies’ rather than the ‘whole body’. The word ‘sabbe’ means ‘all’ rather than ‘whole’ (‘kevala’).

lonely; unmixed; whole; entire

(adj-adv.) expression of the concept of unity and totality: only, alone; whole, complete; adv altogether or only

‘All bodies’ is supported my MN 118, which states:

Kāyesu kāyaññatarāhaṃ, bhikkhave, evaṃ vadāmi yadidaṃ—assāsapassāsāassāsa

I say that this is a certain body among the bodies, namely, in-breathing and out-breathing.

This statement from MN 118 clearly shows the word ‘kaya’ does not exclusively refer to the physical body since the breathing is also called a ‘kaya’.

Similarly, the term ‘nāmakāyassa’ is found in DN 15 in:

It was said: ‘With mentality-materiality as condition there is contact.’ How that is so, Ānanda, should be understood in this way: If those qualities, traits, signs, and indicators through which there is a description of the mental body (nāmakāyassa) were all absent, would designation-contact be discerned in the material body?”