I was reading Pāli Paṭhamabodhisuttaṃ (Ud 1.1) and was wondering, why paṭhamābhisambuddho is translated as “the first (period) after attaining Awakening”.
Is this some kind of idiom? Where does this sense of period come from?
I’m just learning Pāli and my knowledge is quite weak, but for me the more literal translation would be to treat paṭhamābhisambuddho as adjective describing Bhagavā (both sg. nom.). It would then be “… at the root of the Awakening tree fully awakened for the first time”.
You are quite right, this is an idiomatic usage of paṭhama.
Here, paṭhama can be compared to an English idiom like: “When I was first learning Pali.” It doesn’t mean I was the first person ever to learn Pali, but refers to the period during which I began to learn. So we could translate as “When the Buddha was first awakened.” This sense is quite well attested in the dictionary.
According to the commentary, this compound is to be resolved thus:
Paṭhamābhisambuddhoti paṭhamaṃ abhisambuddho
Thus it is a tappurisa compound. Paṭhama is in accusative, where it plays the role that Ānandajoti calls the “accusative of time when”. Compare such common idioms as ekaṁ samayaṁ. We could render this as “at first”, but that would probably be overly literal.
Thank you very much for clearing this up for me.