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Pāḷi Root Texts - Variations between two different versions of the Pāḷi root texts and their English translations

Could the Sutta Central editors please consider this post and reply to my 3 questions at the end of it? Thanks. I am posting this because I feel it can help improve the Suttacentral in the long-term:

Case: AN 10:60 Girimānanda Sutta : anicchasaññā vs anicchāsaññā = impermanence vs non-desire

Burmese Pali root text:

“Katamā cānanda, sabbasaṅkhāresu anicchāsaññā?

Idhānanda, bhikkhu sabbasaṅkhāresu aṭṭīyati harāyati jigucchati. Ayaṃ vuccatānanda, sabbasaṅkhāresu anicchāsaññā. (9)

Bhikkhu Sujato: “And what is the perception of non-desire for all conditions? It’s when a mendicant is horrified, repelled, and disgusted with all conditions. This is called the perception of non-desire for all conditions.

Bhikkhu Bodhi (2012, on Sutta Central):

(9) “And what, Ānanda, is the perception of impermanence in all conditioned phenomena? Here, a bhikkhu is repelled, humiliated, and disgusted by all conditioned phenomena. This is called the perception of impermanence in all conditioned phenomena.”

Comment by Dana: After reading both translations and contemplating on that sutta, I was puzzled by that 9th contemplation and wondered why would anyone experience such extreme negative mind-states on contemplating impermanence of (or even contemplating non-desire towards) all conditioned phenomena.

(As I see it, nature of the Cosmos, Universe is change, impermanence. But it is so vast, astounding, amazing in its size and scope, variety, and so humbling when we see our own insignificance in that context. Though on Earth one species feeds on another and it might appear cruel to some, that way controls the overproduction of the young, greed and overpopulation by anyone one species and it enables the life-unfolding or Evolution proceed. That seems to me much less Dukkha (suffering, stress, unsatisfactory) than the Dukkha due to any population explosion and destructive behaviour unchecked, since it would lead to premature collapse, great damage and even destruction of the Earth whole living ecosystems.)

So I approached Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi regarding the translation of that passage. He kindly explained that in his printed edition of the AN translation he included a note mentioning the variant reading anicchāsaññā.

He also explained his choice in detail. I am copying it here for you, trusting that it, and my 3 questions at the end of this post, that resulted from it, will help towards making the Suttacentral even better for users world-wide than it is now.

Bhikkhu Bodhi (personal comm. 2019) :

“Different editions of the Anguttara Nikaya have different readings of this ninth contemplation. The PTS and Sri Lankan editions have aniccasaññā; the Burmese 6th council edition has anicchāsaññā. Apparently Ven. Sujato relied on the Burmese edition; I consulted all three, giving preference to readings in the SL edition.

The expression anicchāsaññā does not occur anywhere else in the Pāli Canon. The Anguttara commentary does not comment upon the term used here. To my mind, the fact that the commentary is silent here counts partly in favor of aniccasaññā, which is a common expression hardly needing a comment; whereas anicchāsaññā is a unique occurrence of the type the commentary usually comments on. In any case, as I said, either reading is possible. “

He also referred me to MN 62, regarding the above 3 mental states

( MN 62: “… na ca tena paṭhavī aṭṭīyati vā harāyati vā jigucchati vā,” )

and his latest preferred translation of theses states:

Bhikkhu Bodhi: “In the Mahārāhulovāda Sutta (MN 62), the three verbs express how the earth is not repelled when people throw loathsome waste upon it–and the same with water, fire, and air. Perhaps a triad “troubled, repelled, disgusted” would be good.”

Questions:

Q1: Which of the 2 versions of the Pali root text is older and more consistent with other Suttas, so more likely to be the original?

Q2: Why hasn’t the Sutta Central included both Sinhalese and Burmese versions of the Pali root texts, at least where there are significant differences between the two? I believe it would prevent misunderstanding for the students like me, and perhaps also for the translators and mistranslations between languages.

Q3: Also, why haven’t you included there, any comments that the sutta translators had in their press-published texts? This would help the readers quickly clarify for themselves at least some inconsistencies between Bhikkhu Sujatos’ and Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translations, and possibly of other translators. This I believe would prevent misunderstandings.

Thank you.

With metta, Dana.

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Hi Dana, thanks for the questions. When making my translation, I made the note:

Adopting the MS main reading of sabbasankharesu anicchasanna. This is the difficult reading, being not found anywhere else. The reading anicca is problematic since it is already found earlier, and since the contemplation is described in essentially emotional terms, non-desire seems more fitting.

The silence of the commentary is noteworthy but hardly decisive, since it only comments on a few of the words in this text.

There is a Tibetan parallel, but it seems that it was a 14th century translation from Pali, so while it might help clarify the accepted Pali reading at that time, it would not provide an independent Sanskrit attestation.

Reviewing the translation, I find neither the points made by Ven Bodhi, nor the points I myself made, to be decisive.

What is decisive, and I should have noticed this earlier, is that this phrase occurs regularly with an exact pair throughout the Anguttara: AN 5.12, AN 4.169, AN 5.70, etc., all have the phrases:

sabbaloke anabhiratasaññī, sabbasaṅkhāresu aniccānupassī

This is identical to the Girimananda Sutta, and they always read anicca, not anicchā. So anicca must be the accepted reading, and I will change it accordingly.

Well, if you’d like to examine all the editions of all the Pali suttas and record all the differences, be my guest. :wink:

We are not Pali editors. We simply present the Mahasangiti edition as we obtained it. There are thousands of variant readings recorded, but for some reason this is not among them.

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Thank you Bhante for your reply.

But regarding my question 2 and your reply, I still think it would be good in the long-term if the Sutta Central had more than 1 version of the Pali root text (i.e. both Burmese and Sinhalese). Just as you have more than 1 English translation of most of the suttas. That would not require checking or comparing any Suttas, just uploading those Pali texts. I don’t see why not, except that it may be lots of work and so requires someone who has the time and skills to do that (which is certainly not me).

Still, the Sutta Central is a great collective achievement and invaluable resource as it is. :anjal:

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We’d love to have multiple editions. In fact, we are working right now to transcribe the oldest Pali manuscript.

The problem is, there is no simple way to get the published Pali editions from the form that they are in now to the form we use on SuttaCentral. there is also the problem that well-done digital editions are hard to come by. Indeed, the Buddha Jayanthi edition is poorly proofread, leaving the rather inconsistent PTS edition as the only other generally usable digital text. We’ve had some discussion about a Thai edition, too, but that is also of unclear status.

In any case, if you follow our work, we are currently in the middle of changing the file structure and format of all our Pali texts, so that will occupy us for some time.

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