On one sentence of the Kaccāna Sutta

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I’ve just been checking these CU references, so thanks for that. One curious detail I’ve noticed. In SN 12.48 we have a brahmin lokāyatika who asks “does all exist”, and the Buddha rather curiously says “this is the eldest lokāyata”. Then “all does not exist” is the “second lokāyatika”.

Now, in CU 6.2 we have:

sad eva somyedam agra āsīd ekam evādvitīyam | tad dhaika āhur asad evedam agra āsīd ekam evādvitīyam | tasmād asataḥ saj jāyata || ChUp_6,2.1 ||

‘In the beginning,’ my dear, 'there was that only which is, one only, without a second. Others say, in the beginning there was that only which is not, one only, without a second; and from that which is not, that which is was born.

kutas tu khalu somyaivaṃ syād iti hovāca | katham asataḥ saj jāyeta | sat tv eva somyedam agra āsīd ekam evādvitīyam || ChUp_6,2.2 ||

‘But how could it be thus, my dear?’ the father continued. 'How could that which is, be born of that which is not? No, my dear, only that which is, was in the beginning, one only, without a second.

So the oldest theory of the origin of the world holds that there was existence, while the second theory holds there was non-existence. Coincidence?


Obviously, I’m guilty of thinking that in SN 12.48 and SN 12.15, the Buddha was thinking precisely of the problem in CU 6.2.

What does Bhante think of the subsequent passage where “it” decides to become “many” (bahu?)? Any possible connection to the 4th lokāyata of puthutta?


well, it would seem so, wouldn’t it?


But the Pali word of the text is upaya, which seems to be quite distinct from upāya. In sutta usage, the former can mean “defilement”, whereas the latter means something like “means” or “strategy”.

Could it be that the list also exemplifies the waxing syllable principle? If we read cetaso adhiṭṭhānaṃ as a single concept (which it surely is), then we have a sequence of three phrases ranging from 6 to 8 syllables, all in increasing order.

As for your translation:

This is really good and clear. I actually think I understand it, which means I can argue with you.:smiling_imp: (There are certain benefits to obscure translations!)

I only have one minor query about this: would it read better if the “if” clause is taken to be completed by the ettāvatā clause? You would then have something along the following lines:

The world is for the most part shackled to approaching, grasping, and insisting. But if—when it comes to this approaching, grasping, mental commitment, insistence, and underlying tendency—you don’t approach, grasp, and commit to the notion of ‘my self’; and if you have no doubt or uncertainty that what arises is just suffering arising, and what ceases is just suffering ceasing, and your knowledge regarding this is independent of others, then, Kaccāna, you have right view.

Ettāvatā is a correlative that normally relates to the foregoing text, and this seems to be the case also here. It also seems natural to me to take “your knowledge regarding this is independent of others” to be part of what defines the streamenterer, rather than this being the outcome of not having sakkāyadiṭṭhi. I believe this is the normal way this is presented in the suttas.


Oops, how embarrassing! But in my defence, the two are constantly mixed in the manuscripts. So I have plenty of companions in error. I have edited the essay to fix this, I don’t want to create further confusion.

It could indeed, well spotted. The Sanskrit doesn’t fit so well, though.

Shh! That’s meant to be a trade secret!

No: ettāvatā completes the initial question, “kittāvatā …”

I translate this as “how is right view defined?”

In itself, I would agree. And this seems supported by what I think is the only other passage with this phrase, at SN 12.50. However, this part of the translation was influenced by the sanskrit:

duḥkham idam utpadyamānam utpadyate | duḥkhaṃ nirudhyamānaṃ nirudhyate | atra cen na kāṅkṣati na vicikitsati | aparapratyayaṃ jñānam evāsya bhavati

However, the “if” here is absent from the Pali, and I included it in the translation merely by inference from the Sanskrit, justified by assuming that the “hidden” if in the first clause of the Pali was distributive. Maybe it’s better to leave it out:

The world is for the most part shackled to approaching, grasping, and insisting. But if—when it comes to this approaching, grasping, mental commitment, insistence, and underlying tendency—you don’t approach, grasp, and commit to the notion ‘my self’, you’ll have no doubt or uncertainty that what arises is just suffering arising, and what ceases is just suffering ceasing. Your knowledge in this matter is independent of others.

I think that’s better, what do you think?


You’re right, ettāvatā relates to kittāvatā. I didn’t look at the whole text.

The problem, however, is that I still feel your suggestion is slightly artificial, in that it breaks up what to me seems like one long definition of the streamenterer. I wonder if my suggestion can still be defended. The clause that starts with tañcāyaṃ is the part that actually answers the question posed by Kittāvatā nu kho, bhante, sammādiṭṭhi hotī”ti? and as such it is still closely related to the ettāvatā concluding clause. The part before tañcāyaṃ is more like an introduction that sets the scene for the actual definition. To me the whole thing reads more naturally this way.


Short sentences are an essential feature of readable prose. I break up long sentences whenever I can. In some cases in the Pali they get very extreme. While I always strive to retain the meaning, I’ll break the sentence even if the natural flow is interrupted. In this case if I could break it up further, I would. But I can’t see a way to do that. Yet!


Short sentences are great. My point, rather, was that the concluding aspect of the if statement should still be the ettāvatā clause.


Sabbamatthī’ti kho, kaccāna, ayameko anto. ‘Sabbaṃ natthī’ti ayaṃ dutiyo anto.

All exists’: Kaccana, this is one extreme. ‘All does not exist’: this is the second extreme. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by the middle: SN12.15

These words aren’t meant in reaction but rather in response to having seen how phenomena manifests (arising, arising) and disappears (ceasing, ceasing) in the process leading to stream entry: if it keeps appearing then it cannot be said not to exist. If it ceases (ie Nibbana or 3rd Noble Truth) then it cannot be said to be an ontological reality ie it is purely an experiential phenomena ie the world is made up starting with the six sense bases, ‘specific conditionality’ (idapaccayata) - the only thing that exists now, is this causally created modicum of experience, which is fleeting but gives rise to yet another predictable ‘unit’ of experience and maintains the illusion of permanency as it isn’t viewed with enough samadhi to show the causal links and separate it out.

With metta

Ps- sorry if my sentence wasn’t short, but commas helps hopefully. :slight_smile:


Surely I should take this to heart when doing translation! :wink:


This is correct, except that the practitioner doesn’t need to understand the ‘causal links’, all they need is an integrated knowledge of impermanence.

“Continuity in developing awareness of impermanence is essential if it is really to affect one’s mental condition.50 Sustained contemplation of impermanence leads to a shift in one’s normal way of experiencing reality, which hitherto tacitly assumed the temporal stability of the perceiver and the perceived objects. Once both are experienced as changing processes, all notions of stable existence and substantiality vanish, thereby radically reshaping one’s paradigm of experience.”—‘Satipatthana’, Analayo.

The practical way to develop knowledge of impermanence is through the three exercises on impermanence of the body included in the first foundation of mindfulness, and observation of natural materiality. Due to the influence of the unwholesome root of greed, which in samsaric terms is a survival instinct, the mind is biased towards the growth stage of the cycle of impermanence, which helps the organism to collect food. This has to be counteracted by conscious cultivation of the decline phase, which explains its emphasis in Theravada texts. The six exercises in the first foundation are divided into three concerned with arising and three concerned with decline.


Tilakkhana isn’t adequate, sometimes:

Then it occurred to the Venerable Channa: “I too think in this way: ‘Form is impermanent … consciousness is impermanent. Form is nonself … consciousness is nonself. All formations are impermanent; all phenomena are nonself.’ But my mind does not launch out upon the stilling of all formations. SuttaCentral

Understanding causality deepens the realisation of anicca, as any underlying thoughts of ‘permanency’ is undermined.


That sutta is contradicted in the Vinaya:

“Passages in the Vinaya show that Ven. Channa — apparently, Prince Siddhattha’s horseman on the night of his Great Renunciation — was proud and obdurate. After becoming a monk, he was unwilling to accept instruction from any of the other monks. (See the origin stories to Sanghadisesa 12 and Pacittiya 12 in Buddhist Monastic Code .) DN 16 tells of how the Buddha, on the night of his parinibbana, imposed the brahma-punishment on him: he was to be left to his own ways without anyone to teach or correct him. According to Cv.XI, news of this punishment so shocked Ven. Channa that he fainted. He then went off into seclusion and practiced diligently to the point of attaining arahantship. As Ven. Ananda later told him, his attainment nullified the punishment.”—Thanissaro


It seems that in the current version of this sutta on SC, at 2.6 we have:

you’ll have no doubt or uncertainty that what arises is just suffering arising, and what ceases is just suffering ceasing. Your knowledge about this is independent of others.

I believe, grammatically, there are two issues with the English here:

  1. “Your knowledge about this is” —> “Your knowledge about this will be” (to parallel “you’ll”)
  2. “and what ceases” —> “and that what ceases” (to make it a complete subordinate clause)


No, Ven Channa is able to see his error, and learn from it.

When they had concluded their greetings and cordial talk, he sat down to one side and told the Venerable Ānanda everything that had happened, adding: “Let the Venerable Ānanda exhort me, let him instruct me, let him give me a Dhamma talk in such a way that I might see the Dhamma.”

“Even by this much am I pleased with the Venerable Channa. Perhaps the Venerable Channa has opened himself up and broken through his barrenness. Lend your ear, friend Channa, you are capable of understanding the Dhamma.”


SN 22.90 is completely contradicted in the Vinaya account, which is an excellent example of how attainment can be reached without a teacher, and relevant to western Buddhist practice.

"Saying: “Am I not, honoured Ānanda, destroyed because I may be neither spoken to nor exhorted nor instructed by the monks?” he fell down fainting at that very place. Then the venerable Channa, being troubled about the higher penalty, being ashamed of it, loathing it, dwelling alone, aloof, zealous, ardent, self-resolute, having soon realised here and now by his own super-knowledge that supreme goal of the Brahma-faring for the sake of which young men of family rightly go forth from home into homelessness, entering on it, abided in it and he understood: “Destroyed is (individual) birth, lived is the Brahma-faring, done is what was to be done, now there is no more of being this or that.” And so the venerable Channa became another of the perfected ones. Then the venerable Channa, having attained perfection, approached the venerable Ānanda; having approached he spoke thus to the venerable Ānanda: “Honoured Ānanda, now revoke the higher penalty for me.”

“From the moment that you, reverend Channa, realised perfection, from that moment the higher penalty was revoked for you.”–-Vinaya

Furthermore, the Buddha’s definitive account of anatta in the Anattalakkhana sutta instructs that anatta develops automatically through understanding impermanence.

It is a common problem with western practitioners that they become obsessed with the theoretical pursuit of dependent origination and anatta, rather than taking the practical path of meditation immersed in the body and impermanence as described in the first foundation of mindfulness.


Thanks; I agree with the first point, and will change it, but as for the second point it seems fine as is.


I think the notion of anicca ‘impermanence’ does not mention in the first foundation of mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation is not ‘insight meditation’ (janati, passati ‘to know’, to see’ = sammaditthi ‘right view’), but only the basic foundation for the development of awareness (sampajana) (cf. SN 47.2).


The four foundations of mindfulness are both a foundation for the development of awareness of body, feelings and mind, and also the vehicle for insight meditation. Whether they are utilized as an awareness exercise or for insight depends on the stage of the practitioner. The dhamma is referred to as a wheel, and the four foundations may be taken in the elementary stage of practice in a linear fashion as awareness of each foundation is developed, but later on when more fully understood they come to be integrated into a cyclic process where the fourth foundation operates on any of the other three to produce insight. This dual utilization according to need applies to all other path structures such as the Anapanasati sutta.

The Anapanasati sutta, which is a preliminary to Satipatthana, lists in the fourth tetrad impermanence, dispassion, cessation and relinquishment, the insight knowledges. So if the meditation on the breath is, in advanced usage, intended for insight, then Satipatthana is most certainly also. The five sets of categories in the fourth foundation are under the overarching framework of the four noble truths, so the integration between the fourth foundation and the other three is clearly intended for insight into right view.