Nibbāna in the locative case?

I disagree with due respect. One doesnt need to translate the compound to explain it, one can explain it in Pali. So translation is not the impediment here to gain a sense of the word. You can explain your understanding in Pali if you like.

A pali compound cannot be split in the way you’ve suggested. When you split it you have to establish the declensions for each member and show how each member is interrelated nominally to other members within the compound and how the sense of the compound is derived syntactically.

So santivarapadam should be split in this manner grammatically : santisu yā varā sā santivarā (visesanuttarapada-kammadhāraya-samāso), santivaram yaṁ padaṁ taṁ santivarapadam (visesana-pubbapada-kammadhāraya-samāso). Alternatively it can also be “santivarāyā yaṃ padaṃ tam santivarapadam” (saṭṭhī-tappurisa).

If you have a different interpretation of it that makes sense to you and is in accordance with grammar and syntax, that too needs to be split like this not like the way you’ve done.

This is how another compound pabhassaravaravaṇṇanibhā is explained in the commentary - “pabhassaravaravaṇṇanibheti nibhāti dibbatīti nibhā, vaṇṇova nibhā vaṇṇanibhā, ativiya obhāsanato pabhassarā chavidosābhāvena varā uttamā vaṇṇanibhā etissāti pabhassaravaravaṇṇanibhā”.
So it is not just me, this is how compounds are to be analyzed normally in Pali (and it is the same method as used in Sanskrit). Unless you show the syntax and the declensions of each member in the compound you cant make sense of the compound.

I disagree, to one who knows the grammar of Pali, it is as clear as day.
If we will never know the proper meaning there is no point studying any Pali text, is there?

It appears that to you knowing the meaning is synonymous with translation (hence you claim that translations are approximations and we can never truly “know” the source). But to a person (living in the 21st century) who is comfortable with the language of the source text, knowing the meaning is possible without any translation whatsoever.

Not so. The sutta says he did not find it in the teaching of Āḷāra-Kālāma, not that he never found it, or that it wasnt findable or existing, or that he gave up trying to find it. In other suttas like MN86, Iti77,Thag1.32, Thag5.11 & Thag14.2 etc., Nibbāna is described as paramaṃ santiṃ which is identical in sense to santivarapadam.

But it’s OK if you don’t want to continue discussing the point, I am just stating it for others who translate Pali to see how Pali compounds are to be made sense of.

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Thank you for explaining your position. It appears you do not understand mine, but that is okay. As I mentioned before, I wish you the very best in your journey and hope you reach your goals.

PS: For the record, I do not agree that “paramaṃ santiṃ is identical in sense to santivarapadam” but if you want to believe so, that is entirely up to you. To me, understanding the possible differences between the two is important, given one was experienced by the Buddha, the other was not.

It is interesting that Bhante Sujato translates the two words differently, and so does Bhikkhu Bodhi, indicating they believe the two have different meanings. But again, that’s entirely up to you.

Insofar as we can speak of nuanced differences in grammatical form, it’s notable that nibbanasmim (sorry, I’m on phone so no diacritics) appears only in a context that relies on different grammatical endings to distinguish meaning. So it seems it is preferred over the more common -e ending for the sake of disambiguation.

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If it is android, then can use google keyboard, Sanskrit-English language.

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Thanks for the tip! I use my phone so rarely, though.

Oh wow, I just found the Sanskrit keyboard on my Mac. This is super cool. Types in Devanagari! I am still using “ABC - Extended” for Pali (Latin script).

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Hi Christie. Why are you saying this is accusative? Cannot it not be: “I have no confidence in Nibbana”? Has Sujato translated “about Nibbana”?

And yet my mind isn’t secure, confident, settled, and decided about the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.

Atha ca pana me sabbasaṅkhārasamathe sabbūpadhipaṭinissagge taṇhākkhaye virāge nirodhe nibbāne cittaṁ na pakkhandati nappasīdati na santiṭṭhati nādhimuccati.

SN 22.90

Why not? Why cannot knowledge arise about Nibbana while the mind is dwelling in Nibbana?

“Susīma, first comes knowledge of the stability of natural principles. Afterwards there is knowledge of extinguishment.”

“Pubbe kho, susima, dhammaṭṭhitiñāṇaṁ, pacchā nibbāne ñāṇan”ti.

SN 22.70

I don’t see the relevance of this. In MN 26, he sought the supreme peace with the first teacher, then concluded the first teacher could not bring Nibbana, then he sought the supreme peace with the second teacher, then concluded the second teacher could not bring Nibbana. I cannot see the relevance of your attempt to distinguish “supreme peace” from “Nibbana”. Nibbana is a state of peace; albeit a difference type of state of peace; with a different path to reach its type of peace. MN 26 has used the word “santi/santo” for both the original aim and the final result:

Once I had gone forth I set out to discover what is skillful, seeking the supreme state of sublime peace.

So evaṁ pabbajito samāno kiṅkusalagavesī anuttaraṁ santivarapadaṁ pariyesamāno yena āḷāro kālāmo tenupasaṅkamiṁ. upasaṅkamitvā āḷāraṁ kālāmaṁ etadavocaṁ:

‘This principle I have discovered is deep, hard to see, hard to understand, peaceful, sublime, beyond the scope of logic, subtle, comprehensible to the astute.

‘adhigato kho myāyaṁ dhammo gambhīro duddaso duranubodho santo paṇīto atakkāvacaro nipuṇo paṇḍitavedanīyo.

MN 26

This sounds like what I originally said, which was: “Why not? Why cannot knowledge arise about Nibbana while the mind is dwelling in Nibbana?:”

Does not MN 151 refer to “dwelling in emptiness”? Why cannot the mind dwell in Nibbana?

Why cannot SN 22.90 be read: “I have no confidence in Nibbana”?; similar to saying: “I have no confidence in the current prime minister”?

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Yes, locative read as, “in regard to”


Thank you Stephen. I will retain this mind. :pray:

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Hi Dunlop,

I am truly sorry, but I don’t think I can answer your question beyond what I have already posted. I am not even sure I understand your question, so any answer I provide will probably not satisfy you.

What I can say is that Pali is a grammatically flexible language. Unlike Sanskrit, where case endings and grammatical syntax do imply meaning, in Pali the relationship between vibhatti (grammatical form) and kāraka (grammatical meaning) is loose. Kaccāyana gives many examples of how a specific vibhatti can lead to multiple kāraka interpretations. I’ve tried to take some of that flexibility into account in my previous posts.

The Buddha himself takes advantage of the flexibility of Pali in constructively reinterpreting and providing new meaning to words and phrases. This technique is called “upāya-kauśalya” and used extensively in the suttas, particularly in redefining Sanskrit words with strong Brahmanical connotations to a different meaning altogether. In particular, I believe in some of the passages where the Buddha refers to nibbana as “peace”, he is actually not referring to a “state of mind” but an outcome of extinguishment. I hope that helps.

So bottom line is, I probably can’t give you any assurances about the questions you ask in a manner that would satisfy you. I can only give you my opinion, and you will have to weigh my opinion amongst others. Not everyone agrees with me, and I am okay with that.

The Buddha himself warns of the danger of people who memorise his teachings and misinterpret them:

Idha, bhikkhave, ekacce moghapurisā dhammaṁ pariyāpuṇanti— suttaṁ, geyyaṁ, veyyākaraṇaṁ, gāthaṁ, udānaṁ, itivuttakaṁ, jātakaṁ, abbhutadhammaṁ, vedallaṁ. Te taṁ dhammaṁ pariyāpuṇitvā tesaṁ dhammānaṁ paññāya atthaṁ na upaparikkhanti. Tesaṁ te dhammā paññāya atthaṁ anupaparikkhataṁ na nijjhānaṁ khamanti. Te upārambhānisaṁsā ceva dhammaṁ pariyāpuṇanti itivādappamokkhānisaṁsā ca. Yassa catthāya dhammaṁ pariyāpuṇanti tañcassa atthaṁ nānubhonti. Tesaṁ te dhammā duggahitā dīgharattaṁ ahitāya dukkhāya saṁvattanti. Taṁ kissa hetu? Duggahitattā, bhikkhave, dhammānaṁ.

To me, the goal is to experience and realise what the Buddha has taught. To do that, one has to sift through multiple possible meanings and interpretations of what he could have said until one arrives at the meaning that brings the liberating insight. Then, with perfect hindsight, one can with confidence say “Of course he meant X in that text. It is now obvious!”

I sincerely hope you will reach that goal one day.

SN 22.90 says:

And yet my mind isn’t secure, confident, settled, and decided about/in the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.

Atha ca pana me sabbasaṅkhārasamathe sabbūpadhipaṭinissagge taṇhākkhaye virāge nirodhe nibbāne cittaṁ na pakkhandati nappasīdati na santiṭṭhati nādhimuccati.

Snp 3.10 says:

Have confidence in/about Sāriputta and Moggallāna,

Pasādehi, kokālika, sāriputtamoggallānesu cittaṁ.

It reads as though both of these matters of confidence “in” an object are in locative case.

However, I can see your point of view because the quote below reads as though it is accusative. :slightly_smiling_face:

It’s when a noble disciple has faith in the Realized One’s awakening:

Idha, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako saddho hoti, saddahati tathāgatassa bodhi:

Case s. pl.
nom bodhi bodhiyo
voc bodhi bodhiyo
acc bodhiṃ bodhiyo
ins bodhiyā bodhīhi
dat bodhiyā bodhīnaṃ
abl bodhiyā bodhīhi
gen bodhiyā bodhīnaṃ
loc bodhiyā, bodhiyaṃ bodhīsu

This very use of the accusative (functioning as a dat or loc) is specifically addressed in Wijesekera Syntax page 66:

“ Sometimes the acc. is used where the dat. is also admissible. With the verb saddahati “to have faith in or to trust” the normal idiom is the dat. (§94.a.) or the loc.(§166.c.) of the person trusted, but the acc. of the thing. e.g., saddahati Tathāgatassa bodhiṃ A II.66 “has faith in the Enlightenment of the Tathāgata”.

One thing is definitely true, parsing Pali grammar, as fun as it is, will not bring anyone closer to Enlightenment.


Hi @Dunlop,

When you are comparing words across suttas, you may not want to make the assumption they mean the same thing in different sentences, even when they have the same grammatical form.

Pali has the concept of derived words (commonly called taddhita, kibbidhāna or kita affixes). Unfortunately, sometimes multiple derived words may collapse into the same form as their non derived equivalents, particularly when they are inflected (vibhatti affix applied).

To put it simply, homophones (the same inflected form of a word) can mean different things.

For example in English, the word “read” can mean a verb in present tense, or a passive past participle. Similarly, building could be an inflected verb, or a noun, ie. “building a building”.

Similarly, in Pali, the word buddho (which we normally understand as the nominative of the Buddha) can also be used as a taddhita - for example “buddho assa devatā” which is given as an example in rule 352 in Kaccāyana, or as a kita-affixed word in rule 557.

Similarly, words like nibbāna could be used in derived forms, along with tathāgata etc.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to distinguish these different meanings unless you are fluent in Pali. Simply comparing them to translations in English may not work, as even experienced translators sometimes get these wrong.

Anyway, I wish you good luck and may your studies be successful.

What you’re attributing to me was written by Wijesekera. See above.