Metta sutta question/s

I’ve never seem the opening of the Metta sutta translated this way. Could you say how it is derived?
(As opposed to the typical ‘this is what should be done by one skilled in goodness/ the good/ finding out what is good. )



Yes, Bhante Sujato @sujato has translated it this way.

Are there other instances of kusala translated as ‘scripture’? I’m not familiar with this rendering.

Edit: I see now that it is ‘attha’ that is rendered as ‘scripture’.


None of the translations on SC that I can understand do. I remember hearing him explain why he went out on this limb, but unfortunately forget what he said.

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I suppose this being a verse that’s being translated isnt going to be a perfect word-by-word (or line-by-line) translation as the words are going to be jumbled up and not in the prose order to start with. Moreover the language also being different, the word order of Pali would not anyways match the word order of English.

The words you’ve indicated have the following meaning (which however is my translation).
Karaṇīyam (to be done/practised) attha-kusalena (by the one who understands the meaning of the teaching).

Here the word atthakusalo (Skt. artha-kuśalaḥ) refers to a person conversant-with (or adept-in) the meaning of the Dharma i.e. one who has studied the Dharma and understands it well.

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Thank you. @srkris
I guess that “kusala” has the sense of ‘skilled’ here, (rather than ‘wholesome’), and ‘attha’, which I would have thought is ‘good’, is ‘the meaning of the scripture.’

Looking at Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation of Paramatthajotika II, he translates,

“The Good” (attho’ti) : the practice, or anything beneficial to oneself, is called “good” because it is to be taken up (aranīyato)”

Ven. Bodhi then remarks on the word play here between attha and aranīya.

I wonder if it could be translated as, “one who is skilled in the good/ beneficial Dhamma. “

How can we know if ‘attha’ in this context means ‘the good’ , ‘the practice’ (patipadā, as the commentary glosses), the ‘meaning of the teaching’, or the teachings themselves- ‘scripture’?


The word is not aranīya but karaṇīyam (etāni kāryāṇi) atthakusalena
Karaṇīyam means something that “has to be done”.

Both attha and kusala can have multiple meanings (and the way the compound word is deconstructed can yield multiple interpretations for the compound as well)

The Monier Williams dictionary gives the following prominent sets of meanings for Skt artha (= Pāli attha):

  1. aim, purpose
  2. cause, motive, reason
  3. advantage, use, utility
  4. thing, object
  5. object of the senses
  6. (hence) the number"five"
  7. substance, wealth, property, opulence, money
  8. affair, concern
  9. having to do with (instrumental case ), wanting, needing anything (instrumental case )
  10. sense, meaning, notion
  11. manner, kind , prohibition, prevention

Skt. Kuśala (pāli: kusala) can mean:

  1. right, proper, suitable, good
  2. well, healthy, in good condition, prosperous
  3. fit for, competent, able, skilful, clever, conversant with
  4. welfare, well-being, prosperous condition, happiness
  5. benevolence
  6. virtue
  7. cleverness, competence, ability
  8. happily, cheerfully
  9. (also) religious merit

Here is where Bhante Sujato explains his translation choice.


Thank you Ayya. This is, of course, what I was thinking of in my answer to @stephen



I do not know much about Pali, so I cannot say anything about the meaning or syntax of each word. However, based on the context of the Metta Sutta, I prefer the translation “one who is skilled in the good” rather than “those who are skilled in the meaning of scripture.”

To my own understanding, metta is unconditional love. This is what we call spiritual love, while mundane love is a conditioned love.

In mundane love, we love with condition. I love that person because he/she is good. If he/she is an evil person then I cannot. I love this bird because it is cute. However, that ugly worm is stinky, harmful, I will get rid of it…

In unconditional love, we love without condition. Not because it is good, beautiful, ugly, if it is mine or not mine… We simply love with all of our heart no matter what it is. A mother loves her child regardless of if he/she is good or bad, ugly or beautiful, healthy or sick. She loves her child with all of her heart, and can sacrifice her life to protect her child without hesitation or condition.

If we have developed the mundane love to its perfection or we can say skill in mundane love, kindness, we will need to move to the next step which is unconditional love. This is why I think the first sentence has a sense of “one who is completed in practicing the mundane love, kindness” should practice unconditional love. Therefore, I do not prefer the translation “those who are skilled in the meaning of scripture” which does not emphasize this transition.

Moreover, we can see the Buddha is pointing us to the unconditioned, and I think the rest of the sutta fits very well with the unconditioned. That’s how I understand the Metta Sutta.

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