Success in lay life

Hello friends,

As a lay person I’ve always been fascinated by how open Tathagata has been about teachings on how to succeed in life for lay people. Today I decided to take a look at the Pali of one of my favourite suttas AN 8.54 and attempted to reconstruct the meaning of the 1st quality of “lay person’s happiness and well-being in this life”. After stating different occupations here’s what’s said in Pali:
tattha dakkho hoti analaso, tatrupāyāya vīmaṃsāya samannāgato, alaṃ kātuṃ alaṃ saṃvidhātuṃ.

This is a reconstruction based on my very limited understanding in Pali:
"always looking to improve the skill in that activity, endowed with investigation of appropriate means, sufficient to arrange and sufficient to carry it out.”

Here’s some of the reasoning behind rearranging the words:

  1. Interesting word context:

    • analaso - take this with a grain of salt as I have no understanding of what “sa”/“so” at the end means or where to look for an explanation but a similar word is “anala” meaning “fire” or as an adjective “not sufficient” or “dissatisfied” therefore I considered the meaning within this context to be “fired up” or “excited to do something” or “looking to do something” due to dissatisfaction with current state. Similar to how effort is described in in AN2.5 (SuttaCentral) as the 1st of the 2 qualities.
    • vīmaṃsāya - FUN FACT: this part of the sutta is where the image of iddhipada’s being applied is very likely as “vīmaṃsā” being 4th base right in the middle of the description.
  2. Reverse ordering of the meaning:
    There’s 3 parts separated by commas, part 1 word by word doesn’t quite make sense “there clever to be energetic” and part 2 puts the means into what could probably be connected with an ‘and’ gate “appropriate means for that having investigated (and) endowed with” however looking at part 3 there seems to be an apparent example of reverse ordering of the meaning towards the last word within this line of the sentence.

    Take an example of building a house. In English we say - “we should arrange the architecture and then we should carry out the arranged building work.”

    However in the sutta “kātuṃ” means “to do” and “saṃvidhātuṃ” means “to arrange” therefore possibly making more sense if we read it in reverse order.

  3. Applying reverse ordering to part 2 and 1:

    Part 2 in reverse word by word is “endowed with having investigated the appropriate means for that”. It seems to flow nicer but along with the flow a different meaning comes to surface resolving some tension I had reading the translations. The tension was around hesitation that arises when you have to determine whether your “means” are appropriate. However when something is endowed with continuous investigation then even if means aren’t appropriate they have an opportunity to improve or if they already are appropriate - to continue growing and not decline.

    And part 1 - simply using “analaso” interpretation "energetic to be clever there” turns into “(always) looking to improve (or become more clever in) the skill in that (activity)”

After writing this wall of text I realize it likely has faults and mistranslations. Therefore I ask to respond pointing out the faults, I will regard you as one who points out treasure.

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“And what does it mean to be consummate in initiative? There is the case where a lay person, by whatever occupation he makes his living — whether by farming or trading or cattle tending or archery or as a king’s man or by any other craft — is clever and untiring at it, endowed with discrimination in its techniques, enough to arrange and carry it out. This is called being consummate in initiative.”—AN 8.54

‘Sufficiency’ has cultural implications when the attitude to resources of Buddhist countries is compared with western excess:

Sufficiency economy - Wikipedia.

Happiness is also a fundamental value in Buddhist countries, for example Sri Lankan government workers are awarded 42 days leave per year plus annual holidays.

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