Question re Balasutta AN9.5

We started doing daily Sutta readings here at Tilorien, picking out one of the blurbs on the SuttaCentral homepage.

But we have a few questions for Bhante @Sujato regarding AN9.5, the Balasutta and the translation used here.

First of all, you translate the the word “saṅgāhabalaṃ” as “the power of inclusiveness”. Bhikkhu Bodhi translates it as “the power of sustaining a favorable relationship”. According to the dictionary, the word “saṅgāha” is translated as “collection”. So can you please expound on your choice of translation and is the word related to the word “saṅgha” (“assembly” and therefore also a collection of people)?

The sutta expounds the 4 powers further and the fourth one (inclusiveness) is again split into 4 (dānaṃ, peyyavajjaṃ, atthacariyā, samānattatā or giving, kindly words, taking care, and equality). The first three of those are clear, but the last one, equality, is a bit vague:

The best kind of equality is the equality of a stream-enterer with another stream-enterer, a once-returner with another once-returner, a non-returner with another non-returner, and a perfected one with another perfected one.

The first three (giving, kindly words, taking care) are clearly things that one can develop. “samānattatā” however (translated in the CPED as “impartiality; sociability” and in the PTS as “equanimity, impartiality”) describes a state of being.

Bhikkhu Bodhi translates “samānattatā” as “impartiality”. And he translates that passage as:

Among types of impartiality, the best is that a stream-enterer is equal to a stream-enterer, a once-returner is equal to a once-returner, a non-returner is equal to a non-returner, and an arahant is equal to an arahant. This is called the power of sustaining a favorable relationship.

His notes mention:

The explanation of “impartiality” given here may be puzzling. Samānattatā is a compound of “equal” (samāna) and “oneself” (attan). As applied to conduct, it means treating others as one would have them treat oneself, without bias or partiality. Here the word is being used to express the equality between those at the four levels of awakening, all with himself or herself.

Can you please expound on your choice of translation and the meaning of this paragraph?


Basically it means being accepting of people in the group, which I think it quite close to the modern sense of “inclusiveness”.

No, it just sounds the same.

I think this paragraph shows that “equality” really is preferable to “impartiality” here.

The basic idea is that one treats people as equals, not showing favoritism. I guess the point being made is that the best kind of equality is when people truly are equal in what really matters, i.e. spiritual development.