Seeking yourself


I’ve been reading ven. Ānandajoti’s translation of Mahākhandhaka recently and came across this story where group of friends search for a woman thief in the forest. They come across the Buddha and ask him if he saw her, and he replies:

What do you think of this, young men, what is better for you: that you should search for a woman, or that you should search for yourselves?

The Pāli here is:

"taṁ kiṁ maññatha vo, kumārā, katamaṁ nu kho tumhākaṁ varaṁ — yaṁ vā tumhe itthiṁ gaveseyyātha, yaṁ vā attānaṁ gaveseyyāthā"ti?

Ven. Ānandajoti notes:

Horner: seek for the self; which gives the wrong impression, as though they were to seek for their Higher Self. The word attānaṁ however is plural and no indication of the Self is given in the text.

But it seems that both itthiṁ and attānaṁ are in accusative singular form. Is there any justification for plural rendering in this case?

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Though morphologically it’s accusative singular, semantically attānaṃ covers the plural as well. For example:

Udakañhi nayanti nettikā, usukārā namayanti tejanaṃ,
Dāruṃ namayanti tacchakā, attānaṃ damayanti paṇḍitā.

“Truly canal-makers lead water; fletchers straighten the arrow; carpenters bend wood; wise men tame themselves.”
(Dhp. 80)

Ye te bhavanti arahanto sammāsambuddhā, te sake vaṇṇe bhaññamāne attānaṃ pātukaronti.

“Those who are the Arahants, Perfectly Awakened Ones, reveal themselves as such when their praise is spoken.”
(Sela Sutta, MN92)