Meaning of 'vadha'

I am trying to find out the proper translation for ‘vadhena’ in the following passage:

AN 3.70 (Ajahn Thanissaro)
yadapi luddho… dukkhaṃ upadahati vadhena vā bandhanena vā jāniyā vā garahāya vā pabbājanāya vā… itipi tadapi akusalaṃ
Whatever suffering a greedy person… inflicts… through beating or imprisonment or confiscation or placing blame or banishment… that too is unskillful

Ven. Bodhi has ‘killing’, which gives another impression altogether.

The meaning given in PTSD is a little fuzzy:

striking, killing; slaughter, destruction, execution
– bandhana flogging and binding (imprisoning).
(vadha – cheda – bandhana; v. is expld at SnA 285 as “sattānaŋ daṇḍ’ ādīhi ākoṭanan” i. e beating)

The same or similar expressions comes several times in the texts.

Contexts supporting ‘killing’ as the correct meaning:

Pr 3: ‘vadhaka’ means unequivocally ‘killer/murderer’

bhikkhu bhikkhuṃ āṇāpeti — “itthannāmaṃ jīvitā voropehī”ti, āpatti dukkaṭassa. so taṃ maññamāno aññaṃ jīvitā voropetti, mūlaṭṭhassa anāpatti. vadhakassa āpatti pārājikassa.
If a monk tells a second monk, “kill so-and-so,” there is an offence of bad conduct. If the second monk kills someone else, thinking he is the one he was told to kill, there is no offence for the instigator, but there is an offence entailing expulsion for the murderer.

MN 10 killed/slaughtered

seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, dakkho goghātako vā goghātakantevāsī vā gāviṃ vadhitvā catumahāpathe bilaso vibhajitvā nisinno assa.
just as a skilled butcher or his apprentice, having killed a cow, would sit at a crossroads cutting it up into pieces

Contexts supporting ‘beating’ as the correct meaning:

At MN 19, the same expression occurs:

vadhaṃ vā bandhanaṃ vā jāniṃ vā garahaṃ vā

But given the context, ‘killing’ would sound excessive:

Just as in the last month of the Rains, in the autumn season when the crops are ripening, a cowherd would look after his cows: He would tap & poke & check & curb them with a stick on this side & that. Why is that? Because he foresees flogging or imprisonment or a fine or public censure arising from that [if he let his cows wander into the crops].

At Pr 2, ‘vadha’ is replaced by ‘hanati’:

rājāno coraṃ gahetvā haneyyuṃ vā bandheyyuṃ vā pabbājeyyuṃ vā
kings, having caught a thief, would flog, imprison or banish him

PTSD for hanati, which seems to be rather fuzzy in meaning, too:

  1. to strike, to thresh
  2. to kill; maggaŋ˚; to slay travellers on the road J i.274; iii.220.
  3. to destroy, to remove

However the Vibhanga explains clearly that it may mean either beating or mutilating:

haneyyuṃ vāti hatthena vā pādena vā kasāya vā vettena vā aḍḍhadaṇḍakena vā chejjāya vā haneyyuṃ.
Would flog means: they would flog with the hand, the foot, a
whip, a cane, a rod, or by maiming.

Context supporting ‘injury’ as the correct meaning:

MN 66

seyyathāpi, udāyi, laṭukikā sakuṇikā pūtilatāya bandhanena baddhā tattheva vadhaṃ vā bandhaṃ vā maraṇaṃ vā āgameti.
Suppose a quail were snared by a rotting creeper, by which it could expect injury, capture, or death

So, could ‘through injury’ be the correct translation in the AN 3.70 passage quoted above?

Also, could anyone enlighten me with what the commentary means:

vadhena vātiādi yenākārena dukkhaṃ uppādeti, taṃ dassetuṃ vuttaṃ.


Normally it means “killing, murder”, and I think it in fact always means this in the EBTs.

AN 4.111
Vadho heso, kesi, ariyassa vinaye
For it is death in the training of the noble one

AN 6.18
Addasā kho bhagavā addhānamaggappaṭipanno aññatarasmiṃ padese macchikaṃ macchabandhaṃ macche vadhitvā vadhitvā vikkiṇamānaṃ
While walking along the road he saw a fish dealer in a certain spot selling fish which he had killed himself.

AN 7.49
Anicce dukkhasaññāparicitena, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno cetasā bahulaṃ viharato ālasye kosajje vissaṭṭhiye pamāde ananuyoge apaccavekkhaṇāya tibbā bhayasaññā paccupaṭṭhitā hoti, seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, ukkhittāsike vadhake.
When a mendicant often meditates with a mind reinforced with the perception of suffering in impermanence, they establish a keen perception of the danger of sloth, laziness, slackness, negligence, lack of application, and unreflectiveness, like a killer with a drawn sword. …

AN 7.74
Seyyathāpi, brāhmaṇa, gāvī vajjhā āghātanaṃ nīyamānā yaṃ yadeva pādaṃ uddharati, santikeva hoti vadhassa santikeva maraṇassa;
It’s like a cow being led to the slaughter. With every step she comes closer to the slaughter, closer to death.

AN 8.12
ajja sīhena senāpatinā thūlaṃ pasuṃ vadhitvā samaṇassa gotamassa bhattaṃ kataṃ.
“Today General Sīha has slaughtered a fat calf for the ascetic Gotama’s meal.

MN 86
So manusse vadhitvā vadhitvā aṅgulīnaṃ mālaṃ dhāreti.
He was constantly murdering people, and he wore their fingers as a necklace.

AN 4.68
attavadhāya, bhikkhave, devadattassa lābhasakkārasiloko udapādi.
“Possessions, honor, and popularity came to Devadatta for his own ruin and downfall.

So when it comes to passages that are not in themselves decisive, I would normally translate as killing:

AN 3.69
yadapi duṭṭho dosena abhibhūto pariyādinnacitto parassa asatā dukkhaṃ uppādayati vadhena vā bandhanena vā jāniyā vā garahāya vā pabbājanāya vā balavamhi balattho itipi tadapi akusalaṃ.
When a hateful person, overcome by hate, causes another to suffer under a false pretext—by killing, capturing, taking things, criticizing, or banishing—thinking ‘I’m powerful, I want power’, that too is unwholesome.

Looking closer at the passage from MN 66 which you quoted, I had thought that vadha must mean something like “injured” here, but on reflection I believe that it means to be killed, i.e. slaughtered by a hunter, as opposed to simply being left to die in the snare.

MN 66
seyyathāpi, udāyi, laṭukikā sakuṇikā pūtilatāya bandhanena baddhā tattheva vadhaṃ vā bandhaṃ vā maraṇaṃ vā āgameti.
Suppose a quail was tied with a rotten creeper, and was waiting there to be killed, caged, or to die.

According to the dictionary, in certain compounds such as chedanavadhabandhana-, vadha is given in certain grammars under a separate root in meaning bandhana; but this doesn’t really make sense. In any case, in such contexts, so far as I know, the commentary glosses vadha as “killing” (Vadhoti māraṇaṃ. Bandhoti rajjubandhanādīhi). So we have:

mutilation, murder, abduction, banditry, plunder, and violence.

As for the commentarial passage, I cannot locate it in the commentaries: can you supply a reference?

It’s a bit hard to translate, as the meaning may depend on context. But I think it is:

vadhena vā’ti ādi yenākārena dukkhaṃ uppādeti, taṃ dassetuṃ vuttaṃ.
“Or by murder”, etc., is spoken to point out the cause by which pain is produced.


Could vadha(ka) mean inflicted pain, being similar to Vedana? I wondered if it also mean torture®, punishment or execution(er).

We still use the terms vadha and vadhaka in Sinhala.

With metta

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“killing” could be excessive, but who knows? I can imagine if a cowherd in charge of cows let them trample and damage a particularly valuable a part of the king’s property, the king might have him killed. It’s good to be the king, not so good to be one subject to the king’s whims.

vadha is also a Sanskrit word where it means slaying, assassination, death, murder, slaughter, annihilation and also an act of striking OR killing and injury, the connotation of deadliness seem to be prevalent here


Bhante, thank you for your answer.

It doesn’t seem to align well with Pc 20 in the bhikkhuni patimokkha:

tena samayena buddho bhagavā sāvatthiyaṃ viharati jetavane anāthapiṇḍikassa ārāme. tena kho pana samayena caṇḍakāḷī bhikkhunī bhikkhunīhi saddhiṃ bhaṇḍitvā attānaṃ vadhitvā vadhitvā rodati. yā tā bhikkhuniyo appicchā … pe … tā ujjhāyanti khiyyanti vipācenti — “kathañhi nāma ayyā caṇḍakāḷī attānaṃ vadhitvā vadhitvā rodissatī”ti … pe … saccaṃ kira, bhikkhave, caṇḍakāḷī bhikkhunī attānaṃ vadhitvā vadhitvā rodatīti? “saccaṃ, bhagavā”ti. vigarahi buddho bhagavā … pe … kathañhi nāma, bhikkhave, caṇḍakāḷī bhikkhunī attānaṃ vadhitvā vadhitvā rodissati! netaṃ, bhikkhave, appasannānaṃ vā pasādāya … pe … evañca pana, bhikkhave, bhikkhuniyo imaṃ sikkhāpadaṃ uddisantu —

  1. “yā pana bhikkhunī attānaṃ vadhitvā vadhitvā rodeyya, pācittiya”nti.
  1. yā panāti yā yādisā … pe … bhikkhunīti … pe … ayaṃ imasmiṃ atthe adhippetā bhikkhunīti.

attānanti paccattaṃ. vadhitvā vadhitvā rodati, āpatti pācittiyassa. vadhati na rodati, āpatti dukkaṭassa. rodati na vadhati, āpatti dukkaṭassa.

… at Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Now at
that time the nun Caṇḍakalī, having quarrelled with the nuns, wept
having struck1 herself again and again. Those who were modest nuns
… spread it about, saying: “How can the lady Caṇḍakalī weep, having
struck herself again and again?” …
“Is it true, as is said, monks, that the nun Caṇḍakalī wept, having
struck herself again and again?”
“It is true, lord.”
The enlightened one, the lord, rebuked them, saying:
“How, monks, can the nun Caṇḍakalī weep, having struck herself
again and again? It is not, monks, for pleasing those who are not (yet)
pleased … this rule of training:
“Whatever nun should weep, having struck herself again and
again, there is an offence of expiation.”
Whatever means: … nun is to be understood in this case.
Herself means: herself (individually).
If she weeps, having struck herself again and again, there is an
offence of expiation. If she strikes, (but) does not weep, there is an
offence of wrong-doing. If she weeps, (but) does not strike, there is
an offence of wrong-doing.

It is in the commentary to AN 3.69

Quite right, I will have to retract what I said.


In that case, the translation I made above is correct.