Padaparamo—merely learns by rote

Calling all experts!

I was wondering about this passage from AN 4.133: Ugghaṭitaññūsutta

Ugghaṭitaññū, vipañcitaññū, neyyo, padaparamo
One who understands immediately, one who understands after detailed explanation, one who needs education, and one who merely learns by rote.

Bhikkhu Bodhi has something quite different:

One who understands quickly; one who understands through elaboration; one who needs to be guided; and one for whom the word is the maximum.

I’ll admit that I have no idea what “the word is the maximum” means.

Bhante Bodhi, in the notes gives this definition from “Pp 41 with commentarial clarifications at Pp-a 223”:

(4) “One for whom the word is the maximum is one who—though hearing much, reciting much, retaining much in mind, and teaching much—does not reach the breakthrough to the Dhamma in that life.”

Is this just a case of Bhante Bodhi giving a more literal translation and Bhante @Sujato giving a semantic translation?

padaparamo: pada means verse, paramo means the best. literally it means he is the best at verses.

I would say the way how people of different culture and time express is very different. seems a translator has to match the two ends.


I believe the sense here is, following the quoted commentary, that this student does not reach a personal, direct understanding of dhamma, he only knows what the text tells him. This is his ‘maximum’ or furthest understanding.

The Pali ‘pada’ can mean word, hence Norman’s translation of Dhammapada as 'The Word of the Doctrine."

PED defines this bahubbihi compound as, “one whose highest attainment is the word (of the text, and not the sense of it)”