Should 'pāda' in 'iddhipāda' be translated otherwise?

Generally, it is translated as ‘basis’. However, SN 51.19 suggests otherwise:

“katamo ca, bhikkhave, iddhipādo? yo so, bhikkhave, maggopaṭipadā iddhilābhāya iddhipaṭilābhāya saṃvattati. ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, iddhipādo.

And what is the basis of psychic power? The path and practice that leads to gaining psychic
power. This is called the basis of psychic power.

Here is the PTSD definition for paṭipada:
means of reaching a goal or destination, path, way, means, method, mode of progress, course, practice

So wouldn’t ‘practice for psychic power’, ‘method for psychic power’ or even ‘path to psychic power’ be a more fitting rendering than ‘basis’, since this sutta actually provides a definition of the term?

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Hi Venerable,

It sounds like you are proposing pāda- and paṭipada- are synonyms meaning ‘practice/method/path’. While it’s true that the addition of prefixes such as pati don’t always change the meaning in appreciable ways, I’m not sure if that could be argued in this instance (one would have to make a fuller case).

Further, if ,as you suggest, pāda- be translated as ‘practice’, then the above passage would contain the rather meaningless statement ‘what is the *practice of psychic power?..the practice that leads to gaining psychic power’.

Hi Leon, thanks for your feedback.

How would you envision ‘making a fuller case’?

My logic is that apparently the sutta tells us that this is how we should interpret ‘pada’ here. Or do you see it as suggesting something else?

Well personally I have chosen ‘path’.

So it would read ‘the path that leads to gaining psychic power’.

That makes sense to me. Do you disagree?

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Hi Venerable,

To be really thorough, I think one would need to investigage how pāda- is used elsewhere, including as a compound term (as in iddhipāda-) to determine its range of meanings. One ought also to look at the related verbal root pad, and collocations with the preverb pati.
It could also be helpful to consider how the cognate forms are used in Sanskrit.

If you translate pāda- as ‘path’, how are you translating magga- ?

I take the words yo so… onwards as gloss/ exegetical comment on the compound iddhipādo.

I agree, whenever that is possible. I don’t know if it is or not in this case, but there are other cases where an expression appears only once in the entirety of EBTs and in such cases we still have to make a call.

Here, the sutta in my opinion clearly equates pada with magga and patipada.

That’s not an issue for me in French as I use ‘voie’ for magga so I can use ‘chemin’ for pada in iddhipada. I think in English one could use ‘way’, ‘road’ or any other synonym for path. That doesn’t seem to be a major problem to me.

Pāda is the Sanskrit term for “foot”

ṛddhipāda. (P. iddhipāda; T. rdzu ’phrul gyi rkang pa; C. si shenzu; J.
shijinsoku; K. sasinjok 四神足). In Sanskrit, “bases of psychic powers,” the
four qualities that are regarded as prerequisites for the attainment of
magical power. They are aspiration (CHANDA), thought (CITTA), effort
(VĪRYA), and analysis (mīmāṃsā).
Note that the chinese translation use the kanji of 足 (foot)

Foot, is the base, the support.

  1. Pāda (पाद) is another name (synonym) for stambha, a Sanskrit technical term referring to “pillar”. These synonyms are defined in texts such as Mayamata (verse 15.2), Mānasāra (verse 15.2-3), Kāśyapaśilpa (verse 8.2) and Īśānaśivagurudevapaddati (Kriya, verses 31.19-20).

Source: Google Books: Indian Temple Architecture: Form and Transformation

Pāda (पाद).—A type of moulding common to both the prastara (parapet) and adhiṣṭhana (plinth);—Pāda (literally ‘foot’ or ‘leg’) is the Sanskrit term for the pilasters (images of posts) in the wall of a tala, and by extension may be used to signify the wall zone. (The ‘wall’ of the parapet pavilions, is the grīvā)

So the translation derived from that meaning. That word Pāda has a lot of meaning related to foot, base, and even walking.

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Well, dealing with hapax legomena is a separate issue. In this case, pad/pāda- forms are well attested so there’s plenty of material from which to construct an argument.

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This is why I am asking the question here, hoping an expert could furnish some answers one way or the other. :face_with_monocle:

In any case, do you see a reason to understand this sutta as not equating pada with magga and patipada? It would seem that a sutta giving an explicit definition would be one of the most definitive sources to determine the meaning of a word, wouldn’t it?

Hi Venerable,

I’m afraid I’m not a Pali expert. But having spent many years as an academic publishing translations of texts in various Indo-Iranian languages, I can say that convincingly establishing the meaning of words is often a very laborious and time-consuming activity.

I don’t think that has (yet) been demonstrated in this thread.

The prefix ‘paṭi’ is directional therefore it seems ‘pada’ does not refer to a stationary ‘foot’ but, instead, moving in a certain direction. Imo, the important part of the word is ‘paṭi’ rather than ‘pada’.

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I don’t intend to convince all of the academic community, so I should be fine :smiling_face:

But can you demonstrate the contrary though? If not, it doesn’t feel like my interpretation is far-fetched at all. Caution is advisable, yes, which is why I opened this thread.