The dictionary is not EBT so how 'early' are we really going?

We can’t ignore the fact that the go-to PTS Pali-English dictionary isn’t exactly EBT. Many important technical terms are translated in the lens of Abhidharma, Visuddhimagga, authors own ideas and bias, depends on the understanding and lineage of the monk they interviewed. Heck, it even has some good old fashioned Christianity showing its face here and there.

So I’m thinking it would be worth gold to try and come up with a kind of EBT dictionary sourcing earliest interpretations of the terms and being honest about from where a certain interpretation / translation comes from. Another thing we could do is creating a kind of glossary which shows how a certain Pali word is translated in early Chinese texts.


You might be interested in this thread:

Not sure if you’ve heard, but Margaret Cone is doing the job of a whole new dictionary of Pali.


That is great development in terms of grammar and things like that, but when it comes to meaning it mostly just repeats the same thing and continues to look up from all sorts of Abhidharmas, Visuddhimagga, etc.

The ‘new concise dictionary’ is a great work in the right direction :sparkling_heart:

Can you give us some examples? I’m not sure what you are talking about. It seems like a list of boogeymen. EBT studies uses resources as diverse as the Yogācārabhūmiśāstra and Mahāvibhāsa.


I simply mean that the meaning given is often derived with the ‘help’ of works like Visuddhimagga.

We have a different view on what EBT is then, I don’t see Visuddhimagga as EBT exactly, " It is a manual condensing and systematizing the 5th century understanding and interpretation of the Buddhist path as maintained by the elders of the Mahavihara Monastery in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka."

The closest thing to this that can be done already exists in the form of Hirakawa’s Chinese-Sanskrit dictionary. Karashima also created glossaries of early Chinese translations comparing them to Sanskrit/Prakit originals that still exist. I do have a project on th backburner to do glossary work for the Agamas and other texts that I translate, but I can’t seem to stop translating long enough to work on it. :man_shrugging:

Classical Chinese translations weren’t based on Pali, though; so, you can only indirectly compare the modern readings of Pali against the Chinese translations of parallels in other Buddhist traditions like the Sarvâstivāda. What that means is that sometimes what you discover is that the Prakit or Sanskrit tradition differed from what is now the orthodox way of reading the Pali cognates.

Also, on the issue of Abhidharma readings of sutra terms, it would be an interesting project to try to create a glossary that only collects sutra glosses. However, the reality is that sutras often don’t give us good glosses of terms. That’s why the Abhidharma tradition took off in the first place, I think. After a few hundred years, Buddhists didn’t agree on meanings anymore and started writing technical manuals to settle their disputes. The Mahāvibhāṣā was the biggest such project, and the Theravada’s commentaries serve the same purpose, largely.


Do you have any examples though from said dictionary? I’d be curious to see some.

1 Like

That is great elaboration on the issue and thank you for the glossary!

It appears that this is reasonably well documented in the Dictionary itself.
For example for Nimitta SuttaCentral we have:

  1. outward appearance, mark, characteristic, attribute phenomenon (opp. essence) DN.iii.249; AN.i.256; AN.iii.319 AN.iii.375 sq.; AN.iv.33, AN.iv.418 sq.; Ja.i.420; Pts.i.60, Pts.i.91 sq., Pts.i.164, Pts.i.170, Pts.ii.39, Pts.ii.64; Vb.193 sq
    ■ Mental reflex, image (with ref to jhāna) Vism.123, cp. Dhs-a.167

Of course, what I’d like is for those references to be links to the Pali… :sweat_smile:

Bhikkhu Nyanatiloka’s Buddhist Dictionary does have an Appendix that discusses developments. However, it is not a comprehensive dictionary.

nimitta: As signifying the mental reflex-image occurring in meditation, this term, singly or in compounds (parikkamma-, uggaha-, patibhāga-n.), is found only in the Com., Vis.M, etc. The same holds good for kamma-nimitta, gati-nimitta.

1 Like

For comparison, here’s the entry for uddhacca in three dictionaries.

1. Pali English Dictionary

Uddhacca (nt.) [substantivised ger. of ud-dharati, ud + dhṛ, cp. uddhaṭa & uddhata. The BSk. auddhatya shows a strange distortion. BSk. uddhava seems to be also a substitute for uddhacca] over-balancing, agitation, excitement, distraction, flurry (see on meaning Dialogues i.82; Dhs trsln. 119; Cpd. 18, 45, 83). A i.256, 282; iii.375, 421, 449; iv.87; v.142, 145, 148; D iii.234; S v.277 sq.; DhSA 260; SnA 492 (in sense of ‘haughtiness’? for Sn 702 uṇṇata); Nd1 220, 501; Ps i.81, 83; ii.9, 97 sq.; 119, 142, 145, 169, 176; Pug 18, 59; Dhs 427, 429 (cittassa), 1159, 1229, 1426, 1482; Vbh 168, 369, 372, 377; Vism 137, 469 (= uddhata-bhāva); Sdhp 459. Together with kukkucca ‘flurry or worry’ u. is enumd. as the 4th of the 5th nīvaraṇa’s and as the 9th of the 10 saṃyojana’s (q. v.), e. g. at D i.71, 246; iii.49, 234, 269, 278; S i.99; A i.3; iii.16; v.30; Nd2 379; Dhs 1486.

2. Critical Pali Dictionary

uddhacca, n. [sa. auddhatya, abstr. from uddhata, pp. ud-han; ~ instead of oddh° under influence of uddhata ? — PED wrong],* (mental) restlessness, distraction, excitement, agitation, flurry (“self-righteousness”, “haughtiness”, “conceit” not justified by context or epex.); often associated and compounded with kukkucca, see °-kukkucca below; — Kacc-v 640, Sadd 863,29 wrong deriv. from ud-dhū, Sadd 864,1 correct: uddhatassa bhāvo ~am; — epex. defin.: uddhata-bhāvo ~aṁ, taṁ avūpasama-lakkhaṇaṁ . . . anavatthāna-rasaṁ . . . bhantatta-paccupaṭṭhānaṁ . . . cetaso avūpasame ayoniso-manasikārapada-ṭṭhānaṁ, citta-vikkhepo ti daṭṭhabbaṁ, Vism 469,5 = Abhidh-av 23,32 = Nidd-a 62,25 ≠ Moh 40,33; uddhatassa bhāvo ~aṁ, avūpasamo ti attho, vikkhepass’ etaṁ nāmaṁ, Paṭis-a 117,29; ~aṁ cittassa uddhata-bhāvo, Mp II 378,28; uddhaṭa (sic) -bhāvo ~aṁ; yena dhammena cittaṁ uddhaṭaṁ (sic) hoti avūpasantaṁ, so cetassa vikkhepo ~aṁ, Th-a I 176,6; cittassa ~aṁ, avūpasamo, cittavikkhepo, bhantattaṁ cittassa, idaṁ vuccati ~aṁ, Nidd I 220,3 = Dhs 86,37 = 205,10 = Vibh 255,26 ≠ 168,32; cf. Peṭ 137,14; ~aṁ bhantatā mataṁ, Sacc 88; —

~ in various lists of akusalā dhammā: of 5 uddhaṁbhāgiyāni saṁyojanāni: rūpa-rāgo, arūpa-rāgo, māno, ~aṁ, avijjā, D III 234,20 ≠S V 61,16 = 136,26 = A IV 460,4 ≠ Vibh 377,10 = Abhidh-av 129,12 ≠ Vism 682,34 ≠ As 239,25 ≠ Thī 167 (rāgan ti rūparāgañ ca arūpa-r. ca, Thī-a 158,33) ≠ Nett 14,30; of 5 citta-kelisā (m. c. = kilesā, = nīvaraṇa): kāmacchando ca vyāpādo thīna-middhañ ca bhikkhuno/am vicikicchā ca pañca te citta-kelisā, Th 1010 ≠ 74; -f avijjā and arati, Paṭis I 163,8; of 8 kilesā (5 above + mānânusaya, bhava-rāgânusaya, avijjânusaya): Nidd I 100,1 = As 235,28; of 8 kilesavatthūni (lobho, doso, moho, māno, diṭṭhi, vicikicchā, thīnaṁ, ~): Vibh 385,18 ≠ Moh 220,9; of 10 (= 8 prec. + ahirika, anottappa): Dhs 214,25 = Vibh 341,12 = Abhidh-av 129,17; of 12 apuñña-cittāni, Abhidh-av 30,19*; of 52 akusalā cetasikā dhammā, Abhidh-s 6,9 ≠ Moh 52,11 ≠ Abhidh-av 29,9; —

°âdi-kilesā, Vism-mhṭ Se 108,9; — origin, causes of ~: accāraddha-viriyaṁ ~āya saṁvattati, atilīna-viriyaṁ kosajjāya s., A III 375,19 = Vin I 182,38 ≠ Pj I 96,6; yam pi te … evaṁ hoti: āraddhaṁ kho pana me viriyaṁ asallīnaṁ . . . samāhitaṁ cittaṁ ek’ aggaṁ (atha ca pana me na anupādāya āsavehi cittaṁ vimuccati), idan te ~asmiṁ, A I 282,10 (cf. Vism 137,23 foll.); idaṁ nūn’ imassâyasmato āraññakassa ekassâraññe seri-vihārena viharato ~aṁ cāpalyaṁ bahulī-kataṁ, M I 470,13; adhicittaṁ anuyutto bhikkhu ekantaṁ paggāha-nimittaṁ yeva manasikareyya, ṭhānaṁ taṁ cittaṁ ~āya saṁvatteyya, A I 256,38; (bhikkhuno) alābhena maṅku-bhāvo, maṅku-bhūtassa ~aṁ, uddhatassa asaṁvaro …, IV 87,21; kathābāhulle sati ~aṁ, uddhatassa asaṁvaro, 87,26 = Nidd I 394,6; (M I 116,13 kāye kilante cittaṁ) ūhaññeyyā ti ugghātiyetha (so read), ~āya saṁvatteyya, Ps II 83,6; . . . rāgo uppajjati, diṭṭhi vicikicchā ~aṁ domanassaṁ uppajjati, Moh 349,17, cf. 349,27; — ~ incompatible with arahatta: cha dhamme appahāya abhabbo arahattaṁ sacchikātuṁ: ~aṁ kukkuccaṁ +, A III 421,22; arahato rūparāgā . . . ~ā avijjāya + kilesehi . . . cittaṁ vivittam hoti, Nidd I 27,21; cf. Paṭis I 70,16; Kv 85,19; Moh 35,22; Dhs 75,7; — ~ unable to affect samādhi or samatha: samādhi ~ena na kampati, Mp II 51,18, cf. 162,2; samādhi-balassa ~e akampiy’attho abhiññeyyo, Paṭis I 16,21 (Paṭis-a 95,28: ~e ti avūpasamasaṅkhātena ~ena); ~e ca -f na kampati + ti samatha-balaṁ, 98,18; anunnataṁ cittaṁ / samādhinā pariggahitam cittaṁ ~e na iñjati [Ee w. r. pamāde na ijjhati], II 206,15,27, quoted Vism 386, 12,23, Ud-a 186,2,16, Sp 157,30 (viriyaṁ); viriyam samādhinā samyojitam ~e patituṁ na labhati, Ps I 292,2 = Spk III 157,20; — how to prevent or get rid of ~: ~assa pahānāya samatho bhāvetabbo, A III 449,12; tayo dhamme appahāya abhabbo ~aṁ pahātuṁ + : assaddhiyaṁ . . . avadaññutaṁ . . . kosajjaṁ, V 146,1; arahatta-maggena . . . ~assa pahīnattā, Paṭis I 196,6; cf. Pp 18,4-7; As 387,11-13; Spk I 165,33; Moh 35,21-24; ~assa pahīnattâ + samādhiindriyaṁ bhāvitaṁ hoti, Paṭis II 2,28; sammā-samādhi … ~añ ca pajahati, Ps I 106,11; samādhi-virahe laddhokāsena ~ena . . . cittaṁ nānârammaṇesu paribbhamati, 117,36; avikkhepena ~aṁ sammā samucchindati, Paṭis I 101,22 = II 230,12; avikkhepena ~aṁ nirodheti, I 101,30; avikkhepaṁ paṭiladdhassa ~am na upaṭṭhāti, 102,2; — °-vasena “due to”, Nidd I 108,18 = 202,11; Spk I 20,2; 44,27 ≠ 293,12; Paṭis-a 95,5; Nidd-a I 242,21; etaṁ tesaṁ bhikkhūnaṁ °âdi-vasena pamāda-vihāraṁ jānitvā, 1 Ud-a 239,5; — ifc. avūpasama-kara-°âdi-kilesa, kaṅkh° (Sacc 141), dhamm° (A II 157,20; Paṭis II 93,3), **ni-**° (Paṭis I 80,5), paññ° (Sacc 278), ’ līn° (Pj I 84,12 = As 217,19), vicikicch° (Vism 410,3), **sa-**° (Paṭis I 81,31).

3. Margaret Cone


Its not always documented where it has been an influence.

It can happen in a very subtle way - for example influencing how the roots are derived or what meaning is picked out of Sanskrit and things like that.

For example in samādhi, ‘concentration’ and ‘one pointedness’ is picked out because that’s how its talked about in the later interpretations, but it can have quite different meaning.

So which root is it and which meaning? Secretly ‘established’ interpretations come in, ‘concentration’ or ‘one pointedness’ or ‘meditation’ gets picked out while some of the other definitions could make perfect sense for someone (for example myself, Ajahn Brahm, Bhante Punnaji) and fit right in the suttas.

Check the Sanskrit definitions of these out:

Samdha, Saṃdhā, Sāṃdha: 5 definitions ?

Samadha, Samādha, Samādhā: 5 definitions ?

Samadhi, Samādhi: 40 definitions ?

Which brings us to another issue around relying on Sanskrit and its definitions and picking and choosing roots.

1 Like

You have a point, but it’s important not to demonize the sources that we have. Commentaries and other later texts are indispensable, as they often provide context that is simply missing from earlier texts.

I just came across an example today, in Ud 5.9 there is a term sadhāyamānarūpā that occurs nowhere else. From the context it appears to be a kind of nasty or harassing speech, but we can’t say much more than that. I’m not sure what the root is, or whether it occurs elsewhere. But the commentary gives the gloss “teases” (elsewhere used for the king’s wives teasing him) and since that fits the context it seems right. So when we use the commentaries, we are not just uncritically repeating what they say, it is a matter of intelligence and discrimination.

What we can do is to fill out the context more, with reference to a wider range of texts, especially early ones (as for example the Chinese work mentioned by Charles), and a deeper study of the Brahmanical and Jaina scriptures.

None of these sources should be taken uncritically, but neither should they be rejected out of hand.

I do agree that even in Cone’s recent work she relies on simply quoting the commentaries more often than I’d like, and there are some instances where a close reading of the early texts can clarify the meaning in important ways. But this is delicate and uncertain work, and it often happens that you think you have the “real” meaning only to later realize that nope, the commentaries had it right all along.

At this point in the history of modern Buddhist studies, we are only just approaching the point of actually having a complete and reliable dictionary. That’s a huge step forward. For future work, I think it would be absolutely a great thing to create a specialized dictionary of canonical Pali.


Greetings Bhante, I’m not exactly trying to demonize the texts just asking for some honesty and bringing up the issue which I think we can’t ignore.


I would use ‘in overconfident display’ i.e. ‘arrogantly’ or something like that. :cat:

1 Like

Or “mocking” perhaps?

I believe not sir!


Sadhāya comes from saddha which is something like ‘confidence’. The form tells me its a kind of ‘kind’. So literal translation for that would be something like confidence-kind

Māna means a kind of deceit or thinking you are something which you aren’t. That means not just thinking you are more than someone else which is why it isn’t exactly ‘conceit’, it also can mean less or equal or anything at all (because you aren’t really anything :scream:)

Rūpā is ‘form’ basically and as that it can also mean a kind of display, manner or way something is or is being done

So putting that together confidence-kind deceit form which just means arrogantly.


Lovegood, I’m sorry, but none of that is even remotely what the Pali says.

To explain what is actually going on, the key term is sadhāya which as I said before occurs nowhere else. I don’t even know what the root is, it seems to be sadh. In any case, it has nothing to do with saddhā.

To complicate matters, there are several variant readings: saddhāyamānarūpā (bj); vadhāyamānarūpā (si, Ma-aka); saddāyamānarūpā (sya-all, pts-vp-pli1 aṭṭhakathāyaṁ pāṭhantaraṁ); padhāyamānarūpā (mr). It is extremely unusual to find so much variation on a single term. This shows that the readings were highly uncertain even to the editors of the various recensions, and it suggests that the confusion goes back a long way.

As for the rest of the word in question, -māna here is not the word “conceit” but rather a verbal tense, the active present participle (= “-ing”). The suffix -rūpa in such cases has the sense of “in such a manner”.

For insight, we turn to the commentary, remembering that they were written by people who spoke native languages similar to Pali, and were compiled by experts over hundreds of years. The authors of the commentaries have forgotten more about Pali than you or I will ever know. They gloss with the phrase uppaṇḍanajātikaṃ vacanaṃ, i.e. “speech of a teasing sort”. Uppaṇḍana is itself a fairly rare word, but we do have one or two contexts that establish the meaning clearly. (See my earlier comment.)

Given that the commentarial reading fits the context, and lacking any further information, we assume this is correct. Now, it may be that further searches could shed some light on it, but that’s what we’ve got for now.

If you want to learn Pali, find a good course and study it properly. You are wasting your time by trying to guess things. Pali is one of the world’s best-studied and understood ancient languages. Don’t half-ass it.


I would translate all those forms the same way. The vadha and padha forms I believe are dialects of the same thing or might be overhearing (notice ‘v’, ‘p’ and ‘s’ are all quiet). Saddā form I believe comes from not hearing ‘h’ in transmission because its quiet. The most natural form I believe is sadhāya, saddhāya is overly literal, pronounces clumsily (what I mean here is that it is too long, so it takes more time to speak out I believe too long is not good, then saying it long it could sometimes sound like combination of two different words - sadd (the double dd here since its silent creates a pause) + h[long]āya I believe that source for confusion is not good. Those things that I don’t see as good I don’t think of Tathagatha to have said or spelled out.) so I don’t believe it was the actual form used in speech which also means it was probably not the earliest because we started out with spoken not written sutta.

The word arrogantly also fits the following context there perfectly. Then while someone is behaving arrogantly it can happen that he might say something derisive or mocking.

Uppaṇḍana I believe literally means ‘downards-give/deal’ i.e. putting someone down, derision, contempt.

Uppaṇḍanajātikaṃ vacanaṃ I believe means speech born out of contempt from someone or something.

That’s just what I believe.

1 Like

Lovegood, please no. If you want to learn Pali, study a proper course and learn how the language works. None of this has anything to do with the actual language. Learning language is not just making things up that sound plausible to you. There is a history and a science to it. Learn from people who know, else you will only follow your own misunderstandings.


First thing that would interest me is if the suttas said it.

I don’t find in suttas ‘This is the science, these are the rules, this is the dogma, these are the principles how how ‘Pali’ spoken by Tathagata works, not otherwise’.

What I do find is something else to do with harmonious perfection of speech of the Tathagata which makes me censure such view.

I withdraw from continuing this discussion which I believe invites censure.

1 Like