Possible mistake in translation of Ud 1.10

I may be wrong here, it would not be the first time, but I think that the word “thought” below should be replaced by “sensed”.

“In that case, Bāhiya, you should train like this:
“Tasmātiha te, bāhiya, evaṁ sikkhitabbaṁ:
‘In the seen will be merely the seen; in the heard will be merely the heard; in the thought will be merely the thought; in the known will be merely the known.’
‘diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṁ bhavissati, sute sutamattaṁ bhavissati, mute mutamattaṁ bhavissati, viññāte viññātamattaṁ bhavissatī’ti.
That’s how you should train.
Evañhi te, bāhiya, sikkhitabbaṁ.
Ud 1.10

According to the lookup facility, “mute” has the connotation of knowing sense data while “vinnate” has connotations of known in the usage of recognition. That said, I am no Pali scholar.


No, my translation is correct.

Muta is the past participle of maññati “to think”, and it is always used in that sense in the suttas. This group of four dhammas refers to the ways by which spiritual teachings are known; it is a teaching derived from the Upanishads.

From the Abhidhamma period, however, this background was mostly forgotten, and the set was shoehorned into the six senses. Then muta did not fit, so it was given a new meaning as “what is smelled, tasted, or touched”, which has nothing to do with the original meaning. Modern scholars then render it as “sensed”, which once again stretches the meaning.

It’s acceptable to translate it as “sensed” in later texts, but not the suttas.

This was discussed in detail by Jayatilleke in his Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge.


Did it mean discursive thinking or non verbal thinking or both?

It corresponds with the group of seekers who are described in the suttas as takkī vīmaṁsī, i.e. those who seek the truth by rational thought. Pretty much what we would call a “philosopher” in the Greek tradition. So yes, discursive thinking.


Greetings Bhante! I humbly inquire as to the alternatives to seeking the truth. Is rationalism the wrong way? Maybe I am confused. Your wisdom is, as always, much appreciated.
Thank you with Mucho Metta!

Well, for the Buddha, reason was one of the faculties of the mind, and it may lead to either good or bad results. Which is where meditation steps in. But purifying the mind of biasses and unwholesome tendencies, it guards against the fallacy of just creating a rational argument to justify our preconditions.

The so-called “rationalists” of the Buddha’s day did not accept any complementary role for meditation or insight. For them, the power of their own thought was a sufficient guide to the truth.

Reason has its place, but without the rest of the path, it will just serve its true master, the ego.


Many thanks for the much needed clarity. Indeed rational thought has brought us to this precipice of self destruction as a species.
I will keep it at a distance, and focus on meditation.
Thanks so much!

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Sorry to resurrect this old thread, but I was looking at ‘Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge’ and it looks like the book sometimes translates the Pali words in question differently in different places in the book. Though, to be honest, it is difficult to be sure since the Pali isn’t shown in all cases.

Page 60: seen, heard, thought of, understood or attained
Page 92: seen, heard, sensed or known
Page 345 and 381: seen, heard, sensed, thought

None of these exactly matches the sequence you translated them to in Ud 1.10: seen, heard, thought, known. The sequence on page 60 appears to comes closest.

If merely the seen and merely the heard means seen and heard without the embellishments of apperception/sanna than I don’t think thought makes sense. If sanna has ceased, there is no thought so merely the thought makes no sense. Merely the sensed would make sense on the other hand.

If merely the seen and merely the heard means seen and heard without attachments thought could make sense, but then merely the known does not seem to make sense. Thought comes after perception so the known may come without attachments, but being accompanied by thoughts hardly seems like merely the known.

We do know that in Ud 1.10 there is no ‘you’ in that. If merely the seen etc… means without a seer etc… merely the thought without a thinker seems to make sense except that merely the known still seems off for the reasons stated above.

Given the above, Ud 1.10 seems to be describing the state where sanna/apperception has ceased so seen, heard, sensed, and known seems to make the most sense, to me anyway.


In his Index, under ‘muta’, Jayatilleke gives both ‘what is thought of?’ and ‘what is sensed?’ as possible translations.

It seems the context would dictate which works best, as well as how one understands the word ‘sensed’. (Surely it’s not to be understood in a phassa/photthabba way. )

One can ‘sense’ danger or a storm coming like a wild animal can, it’s a type of knowing but at a primal level.

You’re it does.

Interesting, it seems Jayatilleke was not 100% consistent.

  • On pg. 60 is the main discussion of the actual issue. He compares the Pali with the Sanskrit and throughout treats muta and its cognates as “thought”. “Understood” is viññāta.
  • Pg. 92 is part of a discussion on speech, where Jayatilleke appears to be leaning on Hare’s translation (“sensed”, “understood”.)
  • Pg. 345 and 381 he uses “sensed” for muta and “thought” for viññāta.

It seems to me probably just some sloppy editing. It’s a big, complicated book! I think it’s reasonable to assume that Jayatilleke’s actual belief is expressed in the place where he discusses the issue, namely pg. 60. I often find when I’m working that I begin by taking on the assumed knowledge of the field and then sometimes have to revise it, but it is not always easy to do consistently.

To be clear, muta is a very common root and it means “thought”. There is no context in the suttas where the meaning “sensed” can be derived or inferred: it is purely an Abhidhamma thing. I wrote about it in my intro to the Suttanipāta.

Thanks Bhante. Looking at various translations of this expression (in this, and other suttas), noone else seems to have noticed this. Vens Bodhi, Thanissaro, Nanananda, Anandajoti all have “sensed”.

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On pages 60-61 he says

The key take away here is “These terms occur mostly in contexts which criticize these very Upanisadic doctrines of the ätman.”

On page 92, the context and issue is different.

Here there is skepticism of even apperception/sanna. A little further down on the page it says

In Dighanakhasutta MN 74 we have an answer to this kind of skeptism.

Here the Buddha advocates for unmediated knowledge. That would be knowledge not mediated by apperception/sanna. There would be no thought here. There would only be the merely seen, heard, and sensed. That is, what is directly known, the merely known.

Ud 1.10 is not a criticism of the Upanisadic doctrines of the ätman. It is a description of the state where suffering has ended and appears to be an appeal to develop and use direct knowledge (no apperception/sanna, no thought) to directly know there is no you/self in that. That would be the merely seen, heard, and sensed. That is, what is directly known, the merely known.

I think context makes the difference here and I think Jayatilleke acknowledged that. I don’t think it was sloppy editing. If the context is Upanishadic, mute as thought makes sense. If the context is skepticism or Buddhist liberation through direct knowledge as in Ud 1.10, mute as sensed makes sense.

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I really don’t know how many ways I can say this, so I’ll just say it the same way: muta means “thought”. That is what the root means, it was what the usage implies, and there are precisely zero contexts in any early text where it has a different meaning.


I was asked to comment on this thread - and I hope I can add my 2p to the topic.

The verbal root man already has a past passive participle in the form ‘mata’ - and this is also the invariable Sanskrit (both classical and vedic, right from the Ṛgveda, for eg. ṚV1.46.5 ādāro vām matīnāṃ nāsatyā matavacasā) form of the past passive participle of this root.

So to regard muta as a lexical variant of the same mata seems slightly odd (particularly where there is no semantic change discernible) - as mata is also well attested across the tipiṭaka. So perhaps the ‘u’ in muta is pointing to a different root related to thinking but not really = mata?

I think Sanskrit smṛta (from the root smṛ “to remember/recollect”) might have possibly become muta (with the disappearance of the initial ‘s’, the ‘ṛ’ becomes ‘u’ under the influence of the preceding ‘m’, as both m & u are labials). However there is also the usual past passive participle form sata (where it is the m that disappears from smṛta, leaving behind the initial s, and whereupon the ṛ becomes ‘a’ as there is no preceding labial).

So if we take muta/muti as grammatically equivalent forms of sata/sati (both from the root smṛ) then we may possibly tie down ‘sata’ to its unique buddhist sense (sati = mindful?) and ‘muta’ to the generic sense ‘remembered’ – while standard sanskrit only has one form smṛti and smṛta.

So the probable translation of diṭṭha, suta, muta & viññāta = observed, listened, recollected & understood respectively.

I don’t see how muta can mean ‘sensed’ - what would be the verb root in that case & how would that postulated meaning fit the root?

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In the Pali commentaries we find this concept of mutamangala,

abhimaṅgalasammataṃ gandharasaphoṭṭhabbaṃ

Is there an equivalent concept of auspicious smells,taste and touch in Sanskrit?

Yes, but as you say that compound is found only in the commentaries, and therefore can only clarify how muta was understood by the commentators.

I’m not saying the commentators are wrong, but the commentators were people like us and they were writing in a dead language that they had to study first before they could comment about the canon using that language.

Going by the modern finding that they were exclusively relying on Sanskrit grammatical tradition to analyze their texts (as a reliable Pali grammatical tradition evidently didnt exist until their time), I think that most of the interpretations made in the commentaries are original interpretations i.e. they were not repeating pre-existing traditional explanations for the most part when they glossed or interpreted canonical vocabulary.

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The Pali form √mun is well established, eg. Yo munāti ubho loke.

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Thank you very much, I have learnt something new today that I want to investigate further, but it is very interesting, fit for etymological detective work.

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Yet, all I can imagine when I read this is Sarah Doering saying “cognized” :joy: