Hi all, especially Venerable,
Lots of interesting things going on here. Let me see what stands out for me, and I’ll reply as I read. Thinking out loud. Sorry for the chaos! If anything doesn’t seem to refer to anything said before, let me know and I’ll clarify.
I agree on the issue of time. The verb “to be”, being very flexible in all languages, doesn’t mean just the present moment. Fellow monks often say to me “there is no Dhamma talk” and I’ll understand it to mean there won’t be a talk later today, i.e., in the future. I know that because of the context. So, we have to consider (as we are right now doing) the context wherein atthi and hoti are used, especially with doctrinal important passages.
I concur “it doesn’t seem to matter whether the verb is hoti or atthi”. Although the two are generally used in somewhat different ways, they aren’t absolutely different. Also shown by the fact there is no future tense of atthi, and when the future tense is used, it is always of hoti/bhavati.
“Each of the statements either explicitly refer to rebirth or are explained as such”. OK. But you selected those statements on what basis?
“They don’t make great sense if translated in “boring present”.” Usually not, no. And you see the kind of confusion it created in this thread! Though by itself “the Tathagata exists after death” makes sense, of course implied is to continue to exist after death. A Tathagata isn’t gonna pop into existence at death. That’s not the point of the statement. The point is does they still exist?
“They’re not in contexts of ontological metaphysics that would justify “exist absolutely””. I suppose I agree, but I still don’t really get “exist absolutely”, anyway. I feel it is a pleonasm. What would it mean to exist non-absolutely?
“Now, as to translation. As always, it would be nice to be consistent, so long as that does not sacrifice sense.” There is no value per se in being consistent. It may have value for the reader to connect passages. If it’s a word like sankhāra or whatever, as it is a doctrinally central term. But with words like hoti I’d rather be inconsistent, if by being consistent I sacrificed sense even slightly. Since hoti has no central place in the dhamma. And if the sense in this case is translated rightly, then whatever connections the readers need to make, they will anyway.
“Survive” has a natural, spoken feel and avoids the problems with “exist (absolutely)”. But it does sometimes take away from the “emotional” importance of existence. How to put this? “To exist or not to exist” versus “To survive or not to survive.” Do you see what I’m getting at? “A Realized One doesn’t survive after death,” I don’t think gets to the heart of the matter.
Also, in a sense the underlying issue is still the existence of a self in the present (that would then either continue on or get annihilated). “Survive” doesn’t infer that. (I have a hard time wording my thoughts here. Let me know if you’d like clarification.) So I’d still prefer “A Realized One no longer exists after death.” With this translation there’s need to change hoti’s basic meaning. Just changes the meaning of na, as I pointed out above.
In your draft of the Ananda vacchagotta Sutta, though, I think “survive” overall works very well. Especially the statements about annihilism and eternalism just make sense straight away. Quite beautifully, in fact.
But I’m not sure if “survive” (or “keep existing”) is always the meaning of atthi in this sutta. It could be… maybe I need more time with your translation. But I used to think the meaning of atthi kind of shifts back and forth (from future to present) in a way that English will never be able to capture.
Especially troublesome, of course, in your current translation, is the last sentence ‘ahuvā me nūna pubbe attā, so etarahi natthi’”ti. You kinda leave out etarahi, which means now. But it could still technically mean “now (after this statement) won’t survive (in the future)”. Perhaps, though, before we translate, we should ask what the meaning of it is? Is Vacchagotta here assuming that suddenly, in the moment, he has no self?.. Hmm. That’s what I used to think. And at first glance that’s what the Pali seems to say. I don’t know what’s right here. If I get more insights, I’ll let you know. Perhaps I’ll try to translate the sutta myself and see what happens.
On MN90, with the devas, I agree the standard translation “are there devas?” makes no contextual sense. “Do the devas keep existing?” is my initial intuitive feel, with the sense that they keep existing as devas, and not become something else. (Edit: I see @stephen has the same intuition.) “Hoti tathāgato paraṃ maraṇā” at some point I also translated as “the Tathagata keeps existing after death”. “Exist absolutely”, as I said, on it’s own I don’t get the meaning of, but your explanation of it in the other thread makes sense and seems to come down to “keep existing”. I feel “survive” or “go on” here is a bit awkward, but still better than “exist absolutely”. “Persist” here would work, I suppose. “Do devas persist?”
I’m not absolute convinced of this (then again, when am I?), but as it doesn’t touch upon any major doctrinal point, I think it’s a safe guess. I’d prefer it over something awkward that leaves a reader confused about something of very minor importance.
MN2: “The view: ‘My self exists in an absolute sense.’ ‘Atthi me attā’ti; The view: ‘My self does not exist in an absolute sense.’ ‘natthi me attā’ti”
I can’t relate to these translations. Who has such views on an emotional level? I have: “I have a self” and “I don’t have a self”. Although these statements look very similar to the Ananda-vacchagotta sutta, I think the me makes all the difference. I think it’s the term of importance here, which creates the wrong view, not atthi And me is used in the same genitive sense as in SN5.6 which I shared above: Na me, mārisa, sā diṭṭhī “I no longer have that view, dear sir”. As Pali has no verb “to have”, I think atthi takes its place here, together with the genitive.
Last general comment: I get the feeling, Bhante, you try to connect passages together more strongly than is warranted. I’d look at them individually, and not assume too much of a connection.
Time for bed… Don’t be surprised if I take a while to recover from this discussion See ya when I see ya. Metta!