Nirodha etymology

Nirodha Etymology

Sorry y’all, I’ve been on kind of an etymology kick.

I’ve heard one possible etymological analysis comparing nirodha to samudaya. I particularly like this one as this relates Ariya Sacca 2 & 3. Anyway, it goes like this:

samudaya = sam (together) + udaya (arising)
nirodha = nir (without or non-) + udaya (arising)

I like this since it logically pairs them together. In samudaya, dukkha co-arises with taṇhā. In nirodha, the non-arising of neither (when this is not, that is not).

I’ve also heard rodha means to grow up(wards) or sprout as in plants. To me, this is still essentially the same meaning. The agricultural layer though is rich/fertile (ha!) as I think it could carry the meaning of no more fertilizer (taṇhā) for dukkha weeds.

Open to any corrections.

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It seems to also co-arise with other unwholesome dhamma, such as becoming, delight, lust, etc.

Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to renewed becoming (bhava), accompanied by delight and lust…

SN 56.11


From the Visuddhimagga ???

Nirodha (cessation): the word ni denotes absence, and the word rodha, a
prison. Now, the third truth is void of all destinies and so there is no
constraint (rodha) of suffering here reckoned as the prison of the round of rebirths;
or when that cessation has been arrived at, there is no more constraint of suffering
reckoned as the prison of the round of rebirths. And being the opposite of that
prison, it is called dukkha-nirodha (cessation of suffering). Or alternatively, it is
called “cessation of suffering” because it is a condition for the cessation of
suffering consisting in non-arising.


A problem with the word “nirodha”

The word nirodha has been translated as “cessation” for so long that it has become standard practice and any deviation from it leads to queries. Even in this book I have opted for this standard translation for sake of convenience and to avoid confusing it for other Pali terms (apart from lack of a better word). In fact, however, this rendering of the word “nirodha” as “ceased” can in many instances be a mis-rendering of the text.

Where nirodha should be rendered as cessation is when it is used in reference to the natural way of things or the nature of compounded things. In this sense it is a synonym for the words bhanga, breaking up, anicca, transient, khaya, cessation or vaya, decay. For example, in the Pali it is given: imam kho bhikkhave tisso vedana anicca sankhata paticcasamuppanna khayadhamma vayadhamma viragadhamma nirodhadhamma: “Monks, these three kinds of feeling are naturally impermanent, compounded, dependently arisen, transient, subject to decay, dissolution, fading and cessation.”[S.IV.214]

As for nirodha in the third Noble Truth (or the Dependent Origination cycle in cessation mode), although it also describes a natural process, its emphasis is on practical considerations.It is translated in two ways in the Visuddhimagga. One way traces the etymology to “ni” (without) + “rodha” (prison, confine, obstacle, wall, impediment), thus rendering the meaning as “without impediment,” “free of confinement.” This is explained as “free of impediments, that is, the confinement of samsara.” Another definition traces the origin to anuppada, meaning “not arising” and goes on to say “nirodha here does not mean bhanga, breaking up and dissolution.” P.A. Payutto

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ni- and nir- are variants of nis- i think which can mean without, out of, or away from

the prison metaphor makes sense too, given some of the Buddha’s similes

Well, for the Nibbana-without-residue, ‘nirodha’ as ‘cessation’ sounds OK.

But for Nibbbana-with-residue, the term ‘cessation’ or ‘non-arising’ seems to be a problem in the following paragraph since it seems consciousness is not literally ‘ceased’.

On seeing a form with the eye, he does not lust after it if it is pleasing; he does not dislike it if it is unpleasing. He abides with mindfulness of the body established, with an immeasurable mind, and he understands as it actually is the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom wherein those evil unwholesome states cease without remainder. Having thus abandoned favouring and opposing, whatever feeling he feels, whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant, he does not delight in that feeling, welcome it, or remain holding to it. As he does not do so, delight in feelings ceases in him. With the cessation of his delight comes cessation of clinging; with the cessation of clinging, cessation of being; with the cessation of being, cessation of birth; with the cessation of birth, ageing and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.

MN 38

it’s the cessation of dukkha right?

the consciousness question is another topic entirely

For me, this is an important topic because i personally do not know the etymology of ‘nirodha’.

Cessation of suffering sounds OK but it could be also related to freedom from suffering ??? :neutral_face:

Idaṃ kho pana, bhikkhave, dukkhanirodhaṃ ariyasaccaṃ—yo tassāyeva taṇhāya asesa­virāga­nirodho cāgo paṭinissaggo mutti anālayo.

Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonreliance on it.

SN 56.11


Well, the suttas state viññāṇanirodho, saḷāya­tana­nirodhā phassanirodho, etc, which can sound unusual in respect of the living arahant.

Avijjāya tveva asesa­virāga­nirodhā saṅ­khā­ra­nirodho, saṅ­khā­ra­nirodhā viññāṇanirodho, viññāṇanirodhā nāmarūpa­nirodho, nāmarūpa­nirodhā saḷāya­tana­nirodho, saḷāya­tana­nirodhā phassanirodho, phassanirodhā vedanānirodho, vedanānirodhā taṇhānirodho, taṇhānirodhā upādānanirodho, upādānanirodhā bhavanirodho, bhavanirodhā jātinirodho, jātinirodhā jarāmaraṇaṃ soka­pari­deva­duk­kha­do­manas­supāyāsā nirujjhanti. Evametassa kevalassa duk­khak­khan­dhassa nirodho hoti.

MN 38

No, they are from completely different roots.

You can check the etymologies as given in the PTS dictionary on SC. The etymology is at the end of the entry.

Then to

I.e. the basic sense is to “stop, obstruct”.

Then to

i.e. ud + i = “go up”.


why wouldn’t cessation=freedom? not sure what the big difference would be

even in the quote you reference “cessation of suffering” in the description lists “freedom from it”

while we’re getting slightly derailed: there’s also the the question of whether the nirodha is permanent

the nirodha samāpatti/attainment, cessation of perception and feeling, doesn’t seem to be permanent

but the language of nirodha in terms of the 4NT’s as described in SN56.11 sounds unequivocally permanent

Good point. I don’t know.

it seems that way & can be contrasted with the term ‘atthaṅgamo’, which seems temporary.

‘Such is form, such its origination, such its passing away (atthaṅgamo). Such is feeling, such its origination, such its passing away. Such is perception, such its origination, such its passing away. Such are fabrications, such their origination, such their passing away. Such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance (atthaṅgamo).’

AN 4.41

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Thank you.

If I may press further, what’s the relation between nirodha as cessation and rundhati as stopping/obstructing? Doesn’t the ni- prefix negate?

The prefix nir or nis may suggest absence when it precedes certain nouns; as nir-papanca (non proliferation) for example. But it generally qualifies the meaning of a verb

In the case of nirodha you trace it back to the verb nirujjhati or nirundhati as Bhante said
you don’t split the noun in two.

Hope it helps

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thanks, that’s a bit clearer, i’m still a bit confused though, does that mean nirodha is just a form of nirujjhati meaning ceases or disappears?

That’s right, it’s a noun form of the verb.

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This is one possibility.
The sanskrit root rudh has two meanings (and two different conjugations), one of them leads to rund*, with the meaning “to obstruct” (Class 7 conjugation), the other leads to rodh*, with the meaning “to grow, to rise” (Class 6 conjugation). Therefore the other possibility is “does not rise”, which is quite understandable concerning the yogic “citta vrtti nirodhaḥ” expression. For me the obstruct, barrier etc. explanations are problematic, since I cannot easily fit in the “nir” part, which is logical in the “rise” version.
The problem with this etimology questions that “we were not there”, so it is hard to tell which one is correct.
The other problem is that nirodha has lots of meanings in sanskrit; among other things it means inprisonment, refusing, hurting.