Repelled, humiliated, and disgusted

The three words “aṭṭīyati harāyati jigucchati”, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi in recent years as “repelled, humiliated, and disgusted” (in MN as “ashamed, humiliated, and disgusted”), appear in several suttas.

Sometimes they appear to be positive, used as a sort of code for wholesome nibbidā, as in MN 152:

“And how, Ānanda, is one a disciple in higher training, one who has entered upon the way? Here, Ānanda, when a bhikkhu sees a form with the eye…hears a sound with the ear…smells an odor with the nose…tastes a flavor with the tongue…touches a tangible with the body…cognizes a mind-object with the mind, there arises in him what is agreeable, there arises what is disagreeable, there arises what is both agreeable and disagreeable; he is ashamed, humiliated and disgusted by the agreeable that arose, by the disagreeable that arose, and by the both agreeable and disagreeable that arose.”

In AN 3.19:

“Bhikkhus, if wanderers of other sects were to ask you thus: ‘Friends, do you lead the spiritual life under the ascetic Gotama for the sake of rebirth in the deva world?’ wouldn’t you be repelled, humiliated, and disgusted?”
“Yes, Bhante.”
“Thus, bhikkhus, since you are repelled, humiliated, and disgusted with a celestial life span, celestial beauty, celestial happiness, celestial glory, and celestial authority, so much more then should you be repelled, humiliated, and disgusted with bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, and mental misconduct.”

In AN 9.11, with Sariputta speaking:

“Just as a woman or man–young, youthful, and fond of ornaments, with head bathed–would be repelled, humiliated, and disgusted if the carcass of a snake, a dog, or a human being were slung around her or his neck; so too, Bhante, I am repelled, humiliated, and disgusted by this foul body.”

In the Girimananda Sutta, AN 10.60, it’s recommended as a perception training:

“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.”

Clearly this kind of nibbidā is necessary for overcoming craving and clinging for those things we desire. In other suttas, these three qualities are discouraged, when we have them toward things that we typically have aversion toward, like old age, disease, and death in AN 3.39:

“Now I too am subject to old age…illness…death, and am not exempt from old age…disease…death. Such being the case, if I were to feel repelled, humiliated, and disgusted when seeing another who is old…ill…dead, that would not be proper for me.”

And the Buddha’s advice to Rahula in MN 62:

“Rahula, develop meditation that is like the earth…Just as people throw clean things and dirty things, excrement, urine, spittle, pus, and blood on the earth, and the earth is not repelled, humiliated, and disgusted because of that, so too, Rahula, develop meditation that is like the earth; for when you develop meditation that is like the earth, arisen agreeable and disagreeable contacts will not invade your mind and remain.”

I’m just now getting to my question; sorry for the length. The English words “repelled, humiliated, and disgusted” have a connotation of both aversion and negative self-consciousness (“humiliated”), both qualities that I don’t believe were possible for Sariputta.

Could these three words, when used together, possibly have been an idiom of the day that had a different nuance than each of the words had when used separately? Are there just not adequate words in English to translate them?

I’m hoping that @sujato or @Brahmali might chime in, but I’d love to hear from anyone else who might have some thoughts on this too.


These are difficult terms to render, for the reasons you explain. These days I translate the phrase as “horrified, repelled, and disgusted”. But I’m not at all confident that I have got it right.

I would agree, “humiliated” is misleading. I believe this rendering stems from the link between harāyati and hiri, sometimes rendered as “shame”.


Hi @Christopher,

There is a really good discussion on these terms in Ven Anālyo’s on-line course on ‘The Arahant and the Four Truths’, spring 2012. I’ve been looking to find exactly which lecture it’s in and finally found it (based on my notes). In lecture 3 of that course he discusses AN 9.11 and totally agrees with you that these terms imply aversion, not a quality an arahant would have. Also, Sariputta using these words with the simile he’s used doesn’t fit well with his descriptions following the previous similes in the sutta There was a lot of discussion about this sutta in the blog following this lecture and then in lecture 4, Anālayo goes over some of the comments, and then also does a survey of these (puzzling) terms in other suttas. Those 2 lectures are really well worth listening to. Unfortunately the blogs are not publicly available but the lectures are. Do you have those? I believe the links are somewhere in the AV category here but it you don’t have the link or can’t locate, I can try and find. They should still be available somewhere on-line. I believe he also discusses, more briefly, these terms in a later paper he wrote, but I just can’t remember which one.


Good question!

I think you are right about “humiliated”; it really does have the wrong connotations. It implies a reduced sense of self-worth, a putting to shame, and that is certainly not what the Pali refers to.

It seems clear to me that the three words refer to a reaction that leads to a turning away from certain phenomena. For this reason I think “repelled” is likely to be quite accurate. I have to admit I also like “averse/aversion”. Many people seem to equate this with ill-will, but to me aversion is a reaction of dislike, that leads to a turning away, such having aversion to pain, which may or may not be associated with ill will.

Like the suggested translation into English, the Pali words too have several nuances, which is why they can be used in the different contexts you bring up. So I don’t think we should expect to find the perfect word that matches the context of the Pali perfectly. But we should at least avoid words that are positively misleading, and I think “humiliated” may be such a case.


I hope this is timely :smile:


I believe the mind release of the divine abodes is similar to the above, but with more positive connotations- especially with good kamma generated and bad kamma vipaka dissolved as well.

For one who, ever mindful, develops
measureless loving-kindness,
the fetters thin out as he sees
the destruction of the acquisitions.

If, with a mind free from hate,
one arouses love toward just one being,
one thereby becomes good.
Compassionate in mind toward all beings,
the noble one generates abundant merit.

Those royal sages who conquered the earth
with its multitudes of beings
traveled around performing sacrifices:
the horse sacrifice, the person sacrifice,
sammāpāsa, vājapeyya, niraggaḷa.

All these are not worth a sixteenth part
of a well-developed loving mind,
just as the hosts of stars cannot match
a sixteenth part of the moon’s radiance. AN8.1

with metta


Thank you for that reference, Linda. And thanks for locating it, @musiko! I listened to the relevant parts of the lectures and, although it was inconclusive (as Ven. Analayo said, though his personal opinion is that these terms are hard to square with the arahant, he doesn’t have strong methodological arguments to discount this section of AN 9.11), still I found that the lecture added some depth and nuance to the issue for me.

He confined the examples he found of this phrase in other suttas to those where the phrase was used in regard to the body. I wonder what he would make of the other examples given in this thread that don’t have to do with the body. I came across another example, from DN 11, in which the Buddha experiences these reactions himself:

Seeing this drawback to the miracle of psychic power, Kevatta, I feel horrified, humiliated, and disgusted with the miracle of psychic power. (Maurice Walsh translation)

I’m really wondering if these three terms form an idiom that expresses the opposite of being strongly attracted or drawn to something, but rather than the opposite being hatred, the opposite would be seeing harm in that thing and wanting nothing to do with it.


Piya Tan makes an interesting point in his essay on nibbidā. He points out this section of the Vitakka­saṇṭhāna Sutta (MN 20):

If, while he is giving attention to some other sign connected with what is wholesome, there still arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then he should examine the danger in those thoughts thus: ‘These thoughts are unwholesome, they are blameworthy, they result in suffering.’ When he examines the danger in those thoughts, then any evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion are abandoned in him and subside. With the abandoning of them his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated. Just as a man or a woman, young, youthful, and fond of ornaments, would be horrified, humiliated, and disgusted if the carcass of a snake or a dog or a human being were hung around his or her neck, so too…when a bhikkhu examines the danger in those thoughts…his mind becomes steadied internally, quieted, brought to singleness, and concentrated.

He says:

Evidently, from this passage, we can deduce that feeling “troubled [sickened]” (aṭṭiyāti) is a practitioner’s or saint’s response to the unwholesomeness of the thought; “ashamed” (harāyati), to its blameworthiness; and “disgusted (with)” (jigucchati), to its resulting in suffering.


What are the usage or the intrinsic meaning of these three words? If I am not wrong in srilanka we use these three words to mean “born, no hard essence and excrement”
Which means you can’t get any satisfaction by trying to eat a born. You can’t make furniture from tree bark. Excermnts are smelly and some are disgusted by it.

he doesn’t have strong methodological arguments to discount this section of AN 9.11
Yeah, especially since it’s found in the parallels.

He confined the examples he found of this phrase in other suttas to those where the phrase was used in regard to the body. I wonder what he would make of the other examples given in this thread that don’t have to do with the body.

I recall this, and I too would be interested (I wonder if you could ask him at the BCBS course?). I had never looked up all the other examples so thanks for all the references (and also for the quote from Piya Tan’s)

I’m really wondering if these three terms form an idiom

This is a really interesting idea. I certainly agree with the ‘positive’ meaning of being a type of nibbida in these cases. I can think of things, experiences etc I am adverse to, or even disgusted by (in a positive way) and have no interest in because of their unwholesomeness. And even with unwholesome mind states that arise, when I see them I naturally want to find a way out. It’s unfortunate that words such as disgust tend to be always associated with a negative kind of aversion (in terms of being an unwholesome state). And since aversion is one of the common translations for one of the hindrances (and other related terms in various ‘lists’ such as the fetters, etc) it gets automatically associated with always being an unwholesome state of mind such as hatred and ill-will. And of course in ordinary English aversion tends to be used in a negative way or at least have a negative connotation as well, but according to the dictionary,

the Latin origin of averse has the meaning ‘turn from’


PS I still find the phrase used with the simile of the carcass in AN 9.11 a bit out of place (even though it appears to mean he is disgusted in a ‘positive’ way in that case) because those same words (aṭṭīyāmi harāyāmi jigucchāmi) in that simile are the same (aṭṭīyati, harāyati, jigucchati, except for being in the 3rd person) used with the opposite meaning in some of the previous similes used to describe his own mind, i.e. the earth, water, fire, air, cleaning duster, would not be disgusted by impure things. But as Ven Anālayo said, there’s no firm textual basis for saying so…

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Venerable sir, just as a woman, man or child fond of adornment, when had bathed the head, was to be wrapped round the neck with the carcas of a snake dog or a human would loathe it and be disgusted of it. In the same manner, I abide disgusted and loathing this putrid body.AN9.11

The unenlightened person takes that which disgusting (ashubha) is not disgusting. This is a ‘perversion’ (vipallasa) and part and parcel of their ignorance. I wonder if Ven Sariputta is using a commonly known idiom to express it in this manner, but it does come across strongly, as he is stating his case and probably trying to get the message across to unenlightened monks like the one who accused him of brushing past him.

I think the arahanth might feel this as mild unpleasant feeling, rather than any heavy emotional reaction to it. Alternatively it might be that after one has been an arahanth for a while even a mild disturbance may yet feel like a big one. :slight_smile:

with metta

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Hi Folks.

I’d like to point to the reverse side of this coin.

Here, as well as the nibbidā thread, observers have rightly pointed out how closely these states resemble “aversion”. I would characterise this quality as being “anti”.

On the other hand, you have the very “pro” side of the coin -

On seeing a form with the eye, he lusts after it if it is pleasing; he dislikes it if it is unpleasing. He abides with mindfulness of the body unestablished, with a limited mind, and he does not understand as it actually is the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom wherein those evil unwholesome states cease without remainder. Engaged as he is in favouring and opposing, whatever feeling he feels—whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant—he delights in that feeling, welcomes it, and remains holding to it. As he does so, delight arises in him. Now delight in feelings is clinging. With his clinging as condition, being comes to be; with being as condition,…
MN 38

In English, there’s really no mistaking “delight” as a pro-sentiment, as it were. BB tries to rationalise this delight in painful feelings but is there really such a need to explain Clinging by restricting it to only a “pro” phenomenon? One appropriates even painful feelings as a Self, and I think “delight” here should point to simply being engaged with our Aggregates as if they were the Self.

See also SN 22.5 -

Here, bhikkhus, one seeks delight, one welcomes, one remains holding. And what is it that one seeks delight in, what does one welcome, to what does one remain holding? One seeks delight in form, welcomes it, and remains holding to it. As a consequence of this, delight arises. Delight in form is clinging. With one’s clinging as condition, existence comes to be;

I wonder if the Buddha had to set-up an “anti” counterpart to completely point to the negation of the “pro” aspect of Clinging as “delight”. After all, it forms the basic enunciation of the 2nd Noble Reality of craving, by describing it as accompanied by nandi­rāga (delight and passion). Obviously, if we read this in only a “pro” fashion, it fails to account for all the negative states of ill-will, cruelty, and aversion. Despite its “pro” appearance, I don’t think “delight” in these formulations should be understood as such.


Positive and negative feelings are one thing. But that which is beneficial to one, is or can be, another. The Buddha has said that continuing as bhikkhu even while undergoing difficulty is still worthwhile. In the dhamma, the aim is for one’s good (atta/arta) - positive feeling and emotions arent always to one’s benefit, and neither is negative feelings always to one’s detriment. In the case of nibbida it is actually to one’s benefit.

with metta


That’s a really nice point, with some good references. So you’re suggesting that nibbidā can be better understood by seeing it as the counter to delight (nandi), which, as MN 38 points out, is the same as clinging?

Perhaps the delight even in painful feelings is because they, like the other two feelings, are used to help construct the Self, which seems to be the favorite pastime of all but arahants. “With clinging as condition, being comes to be…”

Whenever I read the word “delights in” in the suttas, I think of “wallowing”, like a pig in the mud.


Mat, when you say “positive and negative” do you mean “pleasant and unpleasant”? I just want to clarify because, to me, positive and negative implies a value judgment (e.g., in terms of the Dhamma, positive and negative would mean leading to nibbana vs. leading to bondage), whereas pleasant and unpleasant are simply the hedonic quality.


I’ll add it to my list! :nerd_face:

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I have listened to each one of these lecture series several times and found them of great value.

Quite interestingly, at one point in one of the lectures, I’m not sure which, after there were several references in the blog using Thanissaro translations, Bhikkhu Analayo makes a specific point to instruct the participants not to use Thanissaro translations, as they are not good translations (his words, as I cognized them). Ever since then I’ve tended to steer away from those translations or use them in comparison.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

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