A friend of mine picked up a copy of “The Buddha & His Dhamma” by Dr. Ambedkar during a trip to Penang and noticed a very striking phrase.
In the section that recounts the occasion of Mahapajapati’s parinibbana, Yasodhara’s parinibbana is also included.
Mahapajapati thanks the Buddha in a parallel to the life she gave him - she thanks him for giving her ‘birth’ in the Dhamma, and for ‘drinking the Dhamma-milk of him’, and requests to attain final nibbana.
Immediately following this, Yasodhara also approaches the Buddha, informing him she is 78 and going to die that night. The text then says
She did not ask his permission to die, nor did she go to him to seek him as her refuge.
On the contrary, she said to him (me saranam atthano), " I am my own refuge."
She came to thank him, because it was he who had shown her the way and given her the power.
My friend was very struck with this phrase “me saranam atthano” and asked me where it was from, and I have no idea!
My preliminary research shows me that in the book, the source given for the phrase, or perhaps the whole story is “Therigatha & Theragatha atthakatha”. Ambedkar also mentions in his introduction that much of his material and inspiration was drawn from Asvaghosa’s Buddhacarita.
I have searched all these sources, but no luck turning up the phrase “me saranam atthano”.
The phrase is kataṃ me saraṇamattano, “Made by me is a refuge for myself”. It’s from the Yasodharā section of the Therī-apadāna, not the Therīgāthā. In the older parts of the canon it’s spoken by the Buddha in the Mahāparinibbānasutta, DN16:
paripakko vayo mayhaṃ, parittaṃ mama jīvitaṃ |
pahāya vo gamissāmi, kataṃ me saraṇamattano ||
appamattā satīmanto, susīlā hotha bhikkhavo |
susamāhitasaṅkappā, sacittamanurakkhatha ||
yo imasmiṃ dhammavinaye, appamatto vihassati |
pahāya jātisaṃsāraṃ, dukkhassantaṃ karissatī ti*||
- Variants: vihessati (Sinhalese), viharissati (Siamese)
‘Ripe I am in years. My life-span’s determined.
Now I go from you, having made myself my refuge.
Monks, be untiring, mindful, disciplined,
Guarding your minds with well-collected thought.
He who, tireless, keeps to law and discipline,
Leaving birth behind will put an end to woe.’
“Well-matured, decayed, with little of my life remaining,
Having abandoned rebirth I will go, having made myself a refuge.
Be heedful, mindful, and virtuous, monks,
With well-reasoned thoughts, protect your minds.
Whoever in this Teaching and Discipline will live heedful,
Having given up the round of rebirths, he will put an end to suffering.”
[quote=“Dhammanando, post:2, topic:5342”]
The phrase is kataṃ me saraṇamattano, “Made by me is a refuge for myself”.[/quote]
I have just remembered that many years ago on the Buddha_L listserv there was a lengthy discussion between myself, Lance Cousins and a couple of others about the translation of this phrase. Unfortunately I haven’t retained a copy of it and the online Buddha_L archives only go back to 2005. What I do recall is that we eventually agreed that all the then existing English translations were wrong and that the correct rendering should be “I have made a refuge for myself” rather than “I have made myself a refuge.”
Thanks, I will take this into account when I get to translating this!
Thank you, excellent!
My friend will be very happy.
What about the similar phrase at SN 22.43
Sāvatthinidānaṃ. “Attadīpā, bhikkhave, viharatha attasaraṇā anaññasaraṇā, dhammadīpā dhammasaraṇā anaññasaraṇā
Translated here by Bhikkhu Bodhi as “with yourselves as a refuge”
(I apologize for any error, I am only trying to learn Pali, and not at all proficient)
Would I be wrong if I said refuge here is meant in the sense of being self-driven/empowered to overcome suffering, than a proclamation of faith?
Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation is fine.
I believe the only contested points regarding the translation of this passage have long since been settled. That is, contrary to some of the pioneering western translators, dīpa here certainly means ‘island’ and not ‘lamp’. And contrary to translators of a Theosophical or Vedantic persuasion, attasaraṇā viharatha doesn’t mean “Abide with the Self as your refuge.”