Samudaya - Origin vs Accumulation

Samudaya - similar to Samudra is the accumulation, we don’t say what is origin of sea but what is accumulated in sea, and its pretty familiar in many Indian languages as rightly mentioned in MA-31
“They are the noble truth of suffering and the noble truths of suffering’s accumulation, suffering’s cessation, and the path to suffering’s cessation”

I see other definitions in most of translations to English, where its referred to origin for e.g. SN-56.29
“The noble truths of suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering.
दुक्खं अरियसच्चं, दुक्खसमुदयं अरियसच्चं, दुक्खनिरोधं अरियसच्चं, दुक्खनिरोधगामिनी पटिपदा अरियसच्चं—”

Bhante Sujato - Should this be called accumulation, What’s the right way to read this, and what did buddha really meant here with “दुक्खसमुदयं अरियसच्चं”?

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My translation as “accumulation” is based on the Chinese translation of samudaya as 集 (to collect, gather), though I’m leaning toward changing it to “formation” or “coming together” (as in the formation and destruction of something conditioned). It seems the term meant something more nuanced that origin or cause.


From the meaning perspective when origin is paired with cessation it is an accurate interpretation. This in the sense of the cycle of impermanence, birth/growth/ripeness- decline/ageing/death. ‘Accumulation’ would refer to the ‘growth’ phase.

In visual energies and Chinese symbols maturity is shown as a balance between growth (vertical), and stability (horizontal). The suttas often associate tranquillity with water which unless provoked by wind (air), always assumes a horizontal. On the other hand insight is related to fire (SN 46.53). Stability is a fluid situation which can be upset by either too much insight or too much calm.

“the origination of stress, the cessation of stress, & the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress” - ‘Accumulation’ would refer to the path of practice where origination is investigated. This investigation is integral to the vipassana process when applied to hindrances and can only be carried out when the mind is calm:

“He discerns how there is the arising of unarisen sensual desire. And he discerns how there is the abandoning of sensual desire once it has arisen.15 And he discerns how there is no further appearance in the future of sensual desire that has been abandoned.”—MN 10


Buddha was very specific about word selection, for many things he said origin isn’t important. Where it is for eg yonisomansikara, yoni refers to origin, like search in sutta Central

Also here the origin or came first is different word

And the reason I am asking this question clarifying meaning is because it’s mentioned everywhere, suffering has to be clearly understood beyond concept. And with incorrect understanding of samudaya we could never achieve this

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Samudaya is misspelled samuddaya in the title, and to be clear, samudaya has nothing to do with samudda “ocean”. The sanskrit udra is “water”, so samudda is “gathering of waters”.

Samudaya is from sam + ud + i, literally “together + up + go”, i.e. co-arising. It’s always used in the sense of “arising, cause, origin”, and not, so far as I know, for “accumulation”.

That would be samuccaya, so perhaps there is some confusion there? It seems that 集 is used in both senses. I’m not quite sure why that would be, as samuccaya is root ci not i.


I recall long ago when I first tried translating Chinese renditions of the four noble truths, people were perplexed by it. Something I’ve noticed is that in Sanskrit, samudaya has the same range of meanings as Pali samudaya, though outside of Buddhism is has other usages. But there is also samudāya which is much closer in meaning to 集 (accumulation, collection). So, I’ve always wondered if that isn’t the source of the difference.

The other way it’s translated into Chinese is 習, which means something more like “habituation, study, custom” in the sense of doing something alot and getting a result from it. E.g., getting fat because of eating habits.

There was apparently an arm wrestling match between Chinese editors at some point judging by the frequency of alternate readings switching the two translations for the second noble truth. Perhaps one was at one point considered an improvement over the other, and they felt texts should be updated.


Bhante Sujato and Charles Patton, First of all many thanks to everyone for contributing to these text and translation, without all your efforts we won’t be even discussing this topic now and would have been ignorant

Secondly many thanks for taking time to explain and correct the understanding of readers.

As you rightly broken down the word here

It can be also like “Sam + udaya” same meaning as together arising, growing or like your growing collection of something
and “dukkha + Sam + udaya” as growing collection of dukkha,

in local Hindi language thre is a phrase “pap ka Ghada bharna” like your pot of sins is filling up
Which here in for e.g pot of dukkha filling up

just like suryodaya, Sun arising from East, we don’t say origin of sun here,

so where does “cause and origin” come from here in translations?

And if you put this in context of 4NT the first one itself describes origin of suffering explaining what is suffering and where it comes fromउदय


I ran into this with SA 379. The Chinese is clear enough that I just translated what was there. But when I checked for definitions of the Sanskrit term, I saw that at least one of the definitions was like accumulation. I just assumed that some Chinese translations took a different interpretation of the word. Anyways, the Chinese 集 is fairly straightforward to translate.


I looked up earlier Sanskrit occurrences… samudāya is not very old, it appears in some Srauta-sutras and Grhya-sutras, so maybe about contemporary to the Buddha. It appears once in the Jaiminiya-Upanisad-Brahmana which could be a bit older in the meaning of ‘coming-together of animals, who come together in spring’.

If we look for Sanskrit roots of Pali terms it’s better, however, to look for older source texts.
samudaya is later still and appears mostly in the Mahabharata and the Arthasastra. In the latter, it means ‘revenue’.

So I’m puzzled that we don’t find an older Vedic equivalent


This is my first post here. Thank you for the site and for this amazing opportunity to read and share.
On the subject:
? Can it be understood as:
Origin can lead to accumulation when the arising is not seen. V V Mahāsi Sayadaw in the Manual of Insight says basically you own it now.
If the arising is seen as arising (when the 'origin" is seen as a mental image during meditation or with mindfulness off the cushion) it passes and disappears without an identification or appropriation. It is merely arising and no story unfolds from that arising so there is no accumulation.


This would be opposed to the process of right effort:

“The monk rouses his will to avoid the arising of evil, unwholesome things not yet arisen… to overcome them… to develop wholesome things not yet arisen… to maintain them, and not to let them disappear, but to bring them to growth, to maturity and to the full perfection of development. And he makes effort, stirs up his energy, exerts his mind and strives.”—AN 4.13

I was thinking of Right Concentration. Admittedly, I don’t know about the word origins or translations but the conversation about accumulation brought to my mind what I posted above. :pray:t2:

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That would be correct, almost always beginners go towards serenity. There are two interwoven themes in the noble eightfold path- serenity and insight. Mindfulness is positioned between right effort and right concentration and can activate either depending on what is needed. It’s necessary to know that the seven factors of awakening are an expression of the NEP in the form of dynamics:

“Now, monks, on any occasion when the mind is sluggish, that is the wrong time to develop calm as a factor for awakening, concentration as a factor for awakening, equanimity as a factor for awakening. Why is that? The sluggish mind is hard to raise up by those mental qualities. Just as if a man, wanting to make a small fire blaze up, were to place wet grass in it, wet cow dung, & wet sticks; were to give it a spray of water and smother it with dust. Is it possible that he would make the small fire blaze up?”

“No, lord.”—SN 46.53

Concentration is linked to the element water. The sutta explains the two groups of serenity and insight in the seven factors.

Some beginners are fortunate to experience insight:

“Laypeople live in the realm of sensuality. They have families, money, and possessions, and are deeply involved in all sorts of activities. Yet sometimes they will gain insight and see Dhamma before monks and nuns do. Why is this? It’s just because of their suffering from all these things. They see the fault and can let go. They can put it down after seeing clearly in their experience. Seeing the harm and letting go, they are then able to make good use of their positions in the world and benefit others…

The laypeople live in a certain kind of thoroughness and clarity. Whatever they do, they really do it. Even getting drunk, they do it thoroughly and have the experience of what it’s like. So, because of their experience, they may become tired of things and realize the Dhamma quicker than monks can.” —Ajahn Chah

Hi Paul, Thank you for taking the time to elaborate. I don’t follow your point as it relates to addressing the arising vs accumulation distinction I first contributed though I appreciate your enthusiasm. Sensitive to going off topic of the op. :pray:

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Yes, it’s just something I noticed in Sanskrit dictionaries, that there are a couple very similar words that could be conflated because they sit at different places in a range of meanings. In terms of the Agamas, we would need to dig into Prakrit equivalents to really understand it.

It’s like another case of Pali/Sanskrit disagreement: padhāna and prahāṇa. The term that became the most popular in Buddhist Sanskrit means abandonment, not exertion. The pathway to reaching that term passes through old Prakrit and BHS to get there. In that case, Pali and Skt. diverged into two different words, but they appear to have had similar root origins.

Do you think we could more reliably find the Vedic term from the prakrit word?

I’m not sure what you’re asking. The Vedic literature was in Sanskrit from a very early time, yes? My understanding is that it was very late in Buddhist history, beyond 400 AD, that Sanskrit became the language of Buddhist scripture. Before that transition, Buddhist canons were in various Prakrits and Central Asian languages, and they were translated between those languages when Buddhists migrated from one region to another.

So, in the early days, I would guess Vedic influences would have involved translating Sanskrit to Prakrit, as Buddhists stuck to vernacular languages. In any case, this is only a tangent that I study as much as I need to understand this or that Chinese passage. It’s not my field of study. To me, from my limited reading of scholarship, it’s a big tangle of various word derivations from one Indian dialect to the next. In the footnotes to the Japanese translation of the Dīrgha Āgama, the scholars often speculate about the Chinese transliterations and how they differ from Pali. It’s often several steps of changing pronunciations. In my English translations, I typically just opt for Sanskrit if I can find the equivalent, or I stick to Pali. The actual Prakrit of DĀ is confusing and obscure. The Japanese translators usually just transcribed the Chinese transliteration as their own solution to it.

That’s probably for another topic, but generally Sanskrit is a formalized language from slightly later than the Buddha’s time. The older Vedic language, which is of course the foundation for Sanskrit, is more complex, with more exceptions, grammatical cases, etc.

My assumption is that Vedic migrants, probably ksatriya warriors, ventured to the East quite early on, at least several centuries before the Buddha. They took the Vedic language with them, conquered land, mingled with indigenous people and the result would be at least the supposed language of the Buddha, i.e. ardhamagadha. This could be similar to the language of the oldest Jain texts. So there might be the possibility to deduce the original Vedic terms from a Prakrit, especially when the original term underwent several changes before becoming the Pali term accessible (but unrecognizable) to us.

I’ll have to ask some Prakrit specialists about that though…


A fellow linguist scholar confirmed that it would be quite useful to find uncertain Pali terms in the oldest Jain texts. The re-sanskritization from the Ardhamagadhi/Prakrit should be more reliable than from the Pali.

So in our example, if we found the Jain term corresponding to samudaya it could give us a better hint what the orignal Vedic term could have been, if it was indeed from sam + ud + i, or a non-compounded term, etc.


You are right Gabriel, Prakrit definition says, refer to Sanskrit, and that one also has revenue mentioned as you had indicated

  1. Samudaya (समुदय) in the Prakrit language is related to the Sanskrit word: Samudaya.

Sanskrit definition has
Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary

Samudaya (समुदय).—1 Ascent, rising up (of the sun).

  1. Rise (in general).

  2. A collection, multitude, number, heap; सामर्थ्यानामिव समुदयः संचयो वा गुणानाम् (sāmarthyānāmiva samudayaḥ saṃcayo vā guṇānām) U.6.9.

  3. Combination.

  4. The whole.

  5. Revenue; Ms.7.56 (com. samudayantyutpadyante’smādarthā iti samudayaḥ).

  6. Effort, exertion.

  7. War, battle; महासमुदयं चक्रे शरैः सन्नतपर्वभिः (mahāsamudayaṃ cakre śaraiḥ sannataparvabhiḥ) Mb.6.116.45.

  8. Day.

  9. The rear of an army.

  10. Finance, account; सर्वं राज्ञः समुदयमायं च व्ययमेव च । एकाऽहं वेद्मि कल्याणि पाण्डवानां यशस्विनि (sarvaṃ rājñaḥ samudayamāyaṃ ca vyayameva ca | ekā’haṃ vedmi kalyāṇi pāṇḍavānāṃ yaśasvini) || Mb.2.233.53.

  11. A producing cause; आश्रमेषु चतुर्ष्वाहुर्दममेवोत्तमं व्रतम् । तस्य लिङ्गं प्रवक्ष्यामि येषां समुदयो दमः (āśrameṣu caturṣvāhurdamamevottamaṃ vratam | tasya liṅgaṃ pravakṣyāmi yeṣāṃ samudayo damaḥ) || Mb.5.63.13.

From many of these definitions, I think the rising collection, multitude make sense, which also correlates to Chinese Translation, with a caveat there is a intensity / growth /rise aspect here which is not fully covered in word accumulation, like water filling up or rising up

I am not a scholar or expert on any of these languages, are there any wise folks here who can conclude on what should the correct definition be, just want to ensure readers get proper perspective of buddha’s message and we don’t misinterpret it