MN20 Vitakka­saṇṭhāna. The Removal of Distracting Thoughts

MN20 Vitakka­saṇṭhāna. The Removal of Distracting Thoughts.

I’m translating this sutta and I’ve found an irregularity that neither Sujato, Bodhi, Thanissaro, Soma Thera nor Piya Tan have reflected in their versions. After the simile for each method, the text goes “in that same way, the bhikkhu does such and such”. But in methods 3 and 4 it doesn’t, it simply says “those thoughts are abandoned … his mind is settled internally …” So for example, for method 3 @sujato has:

In the same way, a mendicant … should try to ignore and forget about those thoughts …
evameva kho, bhikkhave, tassa ce bhikkhuno tesampi vitakkānaṃ ādīnavaṃ upaparikkhato uppajjanteva pāpakā akusalā vitakkā chandūpasaṃhitāpi dosūpasaṃhitāpi mohūpasaṃhitāpi, te pahīyanti te abbhatthaṃ gacchanti.
Tesaṃ pahānā ajjhattameva cittaṃ santiṭṭhati sannisīdati ekodi hoti samādhiyati. (3)

The Pali and English don’t match. More than an abbreviation (there’s no explicit sign of it in the Pali, is there?) it’s an expansion, it’s supplying something. Don’t get me wrong, it makes a lot of sense; I was translating and going ‘hum, it’s weird this way, how have others translated this?’ So, as someone who is learning to work with these texts, I was curious that noone has translated this asymmetry of the original text and wanted to flag this up. Not as a criticism, I repeat, because I feel the result is much better, but in thinking of how I would do it it felt strange to be supplying something instead of leaving things out or shortening, which I’m more used to.


Well spotted! Checking my translation, I had a note at that point. The PTS text here abbreviates so heavily that it does not make the situation clear. I am not sure where Ven Bodhi had a text witness that supported his translation, or whether he simply assumed that the consistent expansion applied. The Mahasangiti edition, on which SC is based, does expand the text, but in my note I posited that it had expanded the text incorrectly. On review, however, while that might be the case, I have changed my translation to represent the Pali more accurately. If I come across a textual witness to support the consistent expansion style, I’ll change it back.