Request for Ven. Thanissaro's translation of AN10.58 to be uploaded

That is good and i appreciate the allaying of suspicions. Cheers :slight_smile:


That’s what I already suspected :wink:


Alright then, let me confirm your suspicions! :laughing:


Had i not seen the alternative translations i would interpret it as Deathless being the highest or something along those lines but having seen the alternatives i am leaning towards the other translation. I also find that it is a quite unique passage if Thanissaro is correct because it is not often the relationship between conditioned and the unconditioned elements are spoken of in that way and it opens up for what i think to be quite useful ways of explaining on that basis.

1 Like

I guess that you are probably of the opinion that effort is not needed for deathless to be realized. Of another note I am not sure if Ven: Thanissaro too meant the same thing as “culminate in the deathless” when he said “gain a footing in the deathless” because it is hard to read his mind exactly.

In any case IMO, if one understands that effort is needed to realize deathless a key obstacle can be eliminated in understanding the discourse.
With metta

No, “gain a footing” is incorrect. Amatogadha is a common term, frequently used alongside amatapariyosāna and amataparāyana in the sense of ‘culminate, climax, finish’.

The basic meaning of ogadha is to be grounded or gain a footing, but here it clearly has an idiomatic sense. I think the root of the metaphor may lie with a boat crossing a river: when it reaches the far shore (parāyana) it is beached or grounded. Perhaps we could translate something like “gains a safe harbor in the deathless”.


Thanks for the explaination. I can’t really say much else on the matter but do think that whether or not one is justified in concluding that it is a figure of speech warranting a non-litteral translation is from the looks of it a moot point. I also think that if indeed one was to claim that the expression is extraordinary, idiomatic, one should then provide extraordinary evidence.

As for amataparāyanaṃ amatapariyosānaṃ, imo, it does not constitute such evidence because these are not synonymous with culmination when taken as reaching “the highest point of development” or “climax”.

Consider this;

It’s when a mendicant develops right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion, which culminate, finish, and end in the deathless.
Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sammādiṭṭhiṃ bhāveti amatogadhaṃ amataparāyanaṃ amatapariyosānaṃ … pe … sammāsamādhiṃ bhāveti amatogadhaṃ amataparāyanaṃ amatapariyosānaṃ.

I think we can agree that Path leads to the Deathless and it is a Path to cessation of what is “Sabbe Dhamma Dukkha” or Dukkha in general.

Therefore it would be very strange if what is extinguished was said to gain a safe harbor in anything given that they are Ceased. If one was to explain Deathless as “a safe harbor” that would in itself arguably be a figure of speech akin to “Deathless being an unsurpassed security from bondage” and a similar expression does occur in the Dhp.

If however one goes with “grounded in” it puts an emphasis on the idea that what is extinguished is one thing and that in which it is grounded is another. In this sense it makes a lot more sense imho for if the grounded is extinguished it is natural that there is that which is the ground and the ground is unaffected by the extinguishment of that which gains a footing. Thus the ground is a single element whereas manyfold things can be gaining a footing ie many types of flowers can gain a footing in the same soil. In this sense there are two elements; one which varies (the grounded) and that which is unvaried (the ground) and this goes well with the two elements explained as Conditioned Element (various, manyfold) and the Unconditioned (unvarying singleness).

A way to think about it is considering the two elements Conditioned and the Unconditioned as a whole system. Some mendicants hold to the Idea that the Unconditioned has no Cosmological function and this is correct imo but even tho the Unconditioned is not a part of the Cosmology it is still an Integral part of the system as a whole, it is fundamental at that and if it wasn’t a part of the system then it would simply be a different system altogether and an imaginary one at that.

If one then agrees that unconditioned element is a fundamental part of the system as a whole it is then natural to infer that what is fundamental could be spoken of as the fundament, a foundation or the basis of something; a ground.

Not at all: idioms happen constantly in language. The problem, rather, is that those who are learning a scripture, with little training or experience in dealing with the linguistic context of scripture, or indeed in the field of literature generally, frequently tend to assume over-literal readings.


Certainly they do not happen constantly and do not happen more often than not, such idioms do not occur frequently in the Sutta at all and the claim is therefore extraordinary and unsubstantiated, thus warranting the use of both hitchen’s and the occam’s razors imho.

Anyway, you are free to translate however you see fit, if you see the word which you know means a footing you can translate it as culmination, a finish or a safe harbor even tho the words are hardly related semantically.

So far you have not provided any concrete evidence here at all and if your only argument here is that people who disagree are “… those who are learning a scripture, with little training or experience in dealing with the linguistic context of scripture, or indeed in the field of literature generally, frequently tend to assume over-literal readings.” It does not really mean much because even if Ven. Thanissaro and others who disagree are unlearned, untrained and would be prone to making mistakes, it does not establish that they are mistaken in this case.

This is also a very important word and not a trifling matter as it deals with Path and i think it is an unreasonable assumption that the Buddha would be using some vague idiom on matters he himself said were most important in his teaching, such as the matter of Path and Fruition.

Lastly i think people read translations because they want to know what the Buddha supposedly said rather than what the translator thinks the Buddha meant, for the latter one can utilize footnotes…

1 Like

I take Dhamma here to mean ‘teaching’.

Yes, however if we take a conventional meaning in this, it could mean the teachings culminate in nibbana, not in the strict sense of it causing nibbana.

if you take it in that way it makes sense. However the Dhamma there are also explained in these terms;

“‘Friends, (1) all things are rooted in desire. (2) They come into being through attention. (3) They originate from contact. (4) They converge upon feeling.

“Teaching” here does not really fit as i see it.

Also from the footnotes of Thanissaro;

According to the Commentary to AN 8.83 (which covers the first eight of the ten questions given here), “all phenomena” (sabbe dhamma) here means the five aggregates. These are rooted in desire, it says, because the desire to act (and thus create kamma) is what underlies their existence. The Commentary’s interpretation here seems to be an expansion on MN 109, in which the five clinging -aggregates are said to be rooted in desire, an assertion echoed in SN 42.11, which states that suffering & stress are rooted in desire. Here, all the aggregates — whether affected by clinging or not — are said to be rooted in desire.

The Commentary goes on to say that the statement, “All phenomena are rooted in desire,” deals exclusively with worldly phenomena, whereas the remaining statements about all phenomena cover both worldly and transcendent phenomena.

Therefore it is not the go to interpretation imho.

1 Like

How are you able to get a hold of Hitchen’s razor? Did you know him before he died?

William of Ockham has also been dead for many hundred years, I doubt you will be able to procure any shaving equipment he might have owned.

Unless of course… you are using language in an idiomatic sense here, but that is quite rare I am told, so I’m not sure what to make of your post :wink:


it is not about shaving equipment, it is an epistemological razor; relating to the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion.

You are welcome keep arguing but i will probably appeal to logical fallacies if you keep arguing that point…

Indeed, in your post that I quoted you first say that idioms do not happen constantly in language, and then you yourself make use of the phrase

‘…the use of both hitchen’s and the occam’s razors’

Which is a highly ideomatic phrase that has nothing to do with shaving equipment. In fact, to take it literally is to miss the point completely.

Basically, your own words of disagreement with Ven. Sujato’s was actually evidence in favor of his assertion that language is highly idiomatic. I was trying to point this out in a friendly but humourous way :slight_smile:


"'All phenomena are rooted in desire.[1]
"'All phenomena come into play through attention.
"'All phenomena have contact as their origination.
"'All phenomena have feeling as their meeting place.
"'All phenomena have concentration as their presiding state.
"'All phenomena have mindfulness as their governing principle.
"'All phenomena have discernment as their surpassing state.
"'All phenomena have release as their heartwood.
"'All phenomena gain their footing in the deathless.
"‘All phenomena have Unbinding as their final end.’ Mula Sutta: Rooted

This seems reasonable enough. I think the concept of phenomena or dhammas fit well in this context. However as you said the idea of Dhamma (including nibbana) doesn’t fit well here.

1 Like

If i said that idioms do not occur in language you would be arguing against my position but now you are arguing against a straw-man argument.

It is a friendly discussion and if you can point out flaws in my reasoning i would appreciate it greatly.

1 Like

The phrase ‘arguing against a straw-man argument’ is also highly idiomatic. There’s no men made of straw involved, so it can’t be taken literally, it only makes sense as an idiom for ‘misrepresenting an argument and then refuting it’.

It’s another example of how idiomatic phrases abound in natural language! :slight_smile:

Even in just the short exchange we’ve had in this thread, if we were to interpret one another overly literal, we would not be able to understand each other.

The idea that language is highly idiomatic and therefore often ambiguous, is actually quite uncontroversial. It’s why it’s so hard to get computers to make good translations. It’s why publishers can’t use google translate but have to hire expensive translators to get their books in other languages.

A funny example: a Norwegian website I saw a while ago asked people to ‘push our employees to know more about them’, obviously what they meant was ‘click on’ because you could click on the employee pictures to see their bios, but it gave the sense of asking site visitors to physically push or psychologically pressure the employees for knowledge :sweat_smile:


“Hitchen’s Razor” is a word which has a certain meaning and can’t be taken literally. However it is not the case that all words are of this nature.

Arguing that the word amatogadha ought to be translated as something other than a footing because language in general has terms which are not to be take literally is akin to saying “some animals bark therefore a penguin barks” or rather “some animals bark therefore a certain animal barks”; it may bark if it is a dog but it being a dog is not a given.

It is a fallacy.

1 Like

Yes, and the relevant question is whether amatogadha should be taken literally or not.

Consider these examples:

  1. He used Hitchen’s razor to rid himself of his mustache
  2. He used Hitchen’s razor to rid himself of a bad argument
  3. He felt the sting of Hitchen’s razor

Context tells us whether we’re talking about an actual razor or not. The third phrase is actually ambiguous, it could mean he cut himself while shaving using a razor belonging to someone named Hitchen, or it could mean he had an emotional reaction to the use of Hitchen’s razor in a discussion with someone.

If one is faced with ambiguity, it’s easy to see that it would not be more correct to choose the literal reading (physical razor) over the idiomatic one (debate heuristic). In this case, you either choose the right one, or one that completely misses the mark.

The only way to know which one is right is to be a really good at English and also have a bunch of implicit knowledge that allows you to understand the context, and thus which reading is correct.

I personally have no idea what the correct way to read amatogadha is, but I know that Ven. Sujato is a Pali expert and has extensive knowledge of the historical context the Pali suttas were composed in. So when he says amatogadha should not be taken literally in a certain context – since he is speaking from his experience as an expert and I am not an expert – I tend to accept that.

Maybe in time I will become an expert as well, and then if I have an expert’s reason to disagree, I will do so :slight_smile:


Fair enough. I hope you become both a Pali expert and realize for yourself the ultimate Dhamma (if you haven’t already done so) so that you are able to discern what is rightly and wrongly spoken independent of language barriers.