Question about a line in Catusparisat Sutra

Hello all,

In catusparisat sutra there is a passage:

na hi santaḥ prakāśante
viditvā lokaparyayaṃ

Bhikkhu Sujato translate it as:

“Having understood the way of the world,
they proclaim not being [thus].”

If we translate each word:
viditva = understand, came to know
lokaparyaya = way of the world
santah = (maybe) peace
prakasante = announce, proclaim
na hi = related to nothing, nothingness, having no-, not exist, etc

The question is, what is “not being [thus]”?
What specific doctrine was that?

An alternate translation that came to mind:
“they proclaim nothing/nothingness”

Proclaim nothingness will be problematic because that will lead to nihilsm
Proclaim nothing might be related to how theTathagata was said to have no view, no theory, only direct experience.

But I am not expert in sanskrit so this could be wrong.

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Thanks for the question! It’s been a while since I did this translation, and, like you, I am no Sanskrit scholar. So let’s see if my translation holds up.

Here’s the verse in the Catusparisat:

na hi santaḥ prakāśante viditvā lokaparyayaṃ |
śāntā hi nityato buddhās tīṛnā lokaviṣaktikāṃ

The verse is part of the exchange between the newly-awakened Buddha and the ajivaka ascetic Upaka (Upaga in Sanskrit). It is therefore parallel to Pali passage in MN 26:

However the Pali has no verse that parallels the Sanskrit here. There are at least two parallels to this verse in Sanskrit, all of them in the same context. One is in the Udanavarga:

na hi santaḥ prakāśyante viditvā lokaparyāyam ।
ādeśayanto virajaḥ padaṁ śāntamanīṣiṇaḥ

And one in the Sanghabhedavastu (where the Buddha’s biography is given as part of the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya):

na hi santaḥ prakāśante viditvā lokaparyāyam |
ājñānirvṛtabuddhās te tīrṇā lokaviṣaktikām

As you can see, the relevant pada is virtually identical in all three versions, while the second pada is quite different. So that’s not much help! But at least it reassures us that the reading is genuine.

The context is that the Buddha is completing his exchange with Upaka, and just said that he will travel to Benares to beat the drum of the Deathless.

In my translation, I omitted the particle hi, which is sometimes mere filler in verse. But on reflection I think it should be included, as I think these lines link back to that verse.

In addition, I think the overall point of the lines is to say that, since the Buddhas understand the way of the world, they point out a different path. I don’t think it is pointing to a doctrine of nothingness, as that would be an abrupt and unnecessary philosophical tangent. Generally, it is best to understand things in the simplest way possible (“The Principle of Least Meaning”).

Even though there is no exact parallel, the Pali texts do have a similar phrase in Dhp 304:

Dūre santo pakāsenti,
himavantova pabbato;

Translated by Buddharakkhita:

The good shine from afar, like the Himalaya mountains. But the wicked are unseen, like arrows shot in the night.

Here the highly ambiguous santo is read as “the good”, which is probably right. But the sense of the verse is still obscure to me. Perhaps it is giving the opposite message to the Dhammapada verse above: Upaka is unable to recognize the Buddha, so the verse is saying that the good are not obvious to see on the surface.

I would probably translate the two verses something like:

I will go to Benares
Sounding the Drum of the Deathless
To roll forth the Wheel of Dharma
That cannot be rolled back in the world.

For the good are not always apparent,
having understood the way of the world.
Always peaceful, the Buddhas
have crossed over clinging to the world.

But I admit I am still uncertain!


Thank you for the reply Bhante,

I also submit this question elsewhere, and one sanskrit scholar gave his first translation like this:

“Good people do not shine, having understood the way of the world”

And that is quite close to your translation above.

Phew, I am not completely off!

But the sense of it is still obscure to me: do you have any thoughts on that?

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Search was unhappy. sob:

I have added this to our search improvements 2-do.

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I am quite satisfied with the answer.
I think it fits the context quite well, and better than previous translation which I think is quite confusing.

Evening bhante @sujato
I have another question. Forgive me if this become repetitive, as I am in the process of translating the sutra

In section 3 the bowl, there is a pharagraph

Then the Blessed One thought thus: “If I were to accept a bowl from one of the Great Kings, the other three might change their minds. If I accept two or three, the others might change their minds. Why do I not accept the bowls from all four of the Great Kings and transform them into one?”

I am quite confused about the terms “change their minds”
I checked the word, anyathātvam , that kinda means “different, opposite state” , so I guess the translation is correct, if not too literal.

But that is hard to translate and awkward, the meaning is not directly clear.

I checked the english translation of Lalitavistara and the word they used there is simple: “the other three would be upset”
Another two translation of Lalitavistara in my local language read : “the other three would be disappointed”

Can I assume that “change their minds” = “dissapointed”

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Perhaps “taken aback” or “startled”? Disappointment weighs a bit heavy, since that would happen if another King’s gift were received first. But if no gifts are accepted, this is quite fair and unexpected. It opens the possibility of their coming together and giving the gift of joint peace.

Gifts with strings of preferential treatment are tricky. And politically one normally just puts on a politic smile and thanks everyone profusely (and put the gifts on the table, please). But even taking one gift personally would yield to that giver the implicit priority of a first debt.

The original phrase is quite idiomatic, and is used in a variety of senses. The basic idea is that something will change, and I think my rendering stands. It can mean “becomes upset” and so on, but it depends on context. In this place I can imagine a number of reasons why they would not give; for example, they might simply think, “He has a bowl already, why bother?” So I chose “change their mind” so as to allow the broadest range of responses.


Thank you. I will use “disappointed” but put reference note about other meaning

And while I am at it, I should pointed out some error. On section 11:

The Blessed One was able to persuade the five monks from their unfortunate opinion. He taught the two of the five monks who ate first, while three entered the village for alms. The six of them ate what the three brought back.

And the Blessed One taught the three of the five monks who ate last, while two entered the village for alms. The six of them ate what the three brought back. The Tathāgata ate right away, before noon.

The last pharagraph is obviously wrong because checking the sanskrit text, the number doesnt match. Two monks doing something, five monks doing something, while the Buddha ate in appropriate time.

trīṃś ca bhagavāṃ paṃcakānāṃ bhikṣūṇāṃ paścādbhakte avavadati dvau grāmaṃ piṇḍāya praviśataḥ yad dvivargo ’bhinirharati tena pañcavargo yāpayati tathāgata pratiyaty’ eva kālabhojī

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Thanks, I’ve fixed this.

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Continuing about the error:

  1. The cry of spirits after rolling the dharma wheel. The second group read: ‘antariksa’ , and that should be sky/ space, so the spirits that dwell in the sky. The translation said, river spirits, I don’t know is it error in me or in translation?

  2. The line in 17.11 , It should be Yasa’s father that penetrated four noble truth, but the line still read Yasa. Maybe forget to edit after copy-paste

  3. the verse in 17.16 is parallel with Dhammapada verse 142.
    So the meaning should also be the same, but it is different. I think you mistook Alam (enough) with Alankara (decoration, ornament.)

The translation:

“Enough is done to live the Dharma
As a tamed, peaceful, controlled, spiritual practitioner.
Having laid down the rod towards all living beings,
He is a priest, he is an ascetic, he is a monk.”

While the Dhammapada verse (Anandajoti translation)

Alaṅkato ce pi samaṁ careyya,
Even if he were to adorn himself,
santo danto niyato brahmacārī,
(but) is peaceful, trained, settled, spiritual,
sabbesu bhūtesu nidhāya daṇḍaṁ,
and has put aside the stick2 towards all beings,
so brāhmaṇo so samaṇo sa bhikkhu. [142]
he is a brahmin, an ascetic, a monastic

The tibetan translation of parallel verse in udanavarga also agreed, that it was ornament.

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@sujato I am afraid you didn’t see my last post about the errors

Anyway, I have done Indonesian languange translation of catusparisat sutra. How do I contribute it to SC?
Also calling @seniya

Just email your translation to suttacentral and make sure your translation is formatted without footnotes and commentaries