Translating 'no paraṃ adhisīle sampavattā' in AN5.106

I would like to ask Ajahn @sujato the reasons for translating ‘no paraṃ adhisīle sampavattā’ in AN5.106 as ‘(he/she) doesn’t motivate others to be ethical’.

For example, Ajahn Thanissaro translate it as “(he) is not one who confronts another with regard to heightened virtue”.

AN 5:106  Phāsu Sutta | Comfortably

And this is aligned with what is found in the Siam Rath Thai translation of this sutta: “ภิกษุเป็นผู้ถึงพร้อมด้วยศีลด้วยตนเอง ไม่ ติเตียนผู้อื่นในเพราะอธิศีล”. They used the verb ติเตียน which means “to blame, reprove, express disapproval, censure, criticize”.

I also tag bhante @dhammanando and bhante @Brahmali who may be able to share their understanding of the message here.

Thanks in advance for your attention and help.



For what it’s worth the commentary has “paraṃ sīlabhāvena na garahati na upavadati


Hi Gabriel,

The word sampavattā is rare. Apart from this sutta, it occurs nowhere else in the entire Tipiṭaka, except for a few instances in the Apadāna, which is a much later work. So there is almost nothing to go by in terms of context.

If we turn to Sanskrit, we have the word sampravartaka, which seems to be cognate with sampavattā. In SED (Monier-Williams’ Sanskrit English Dictionary) it is explained as “setting in motion, promoting, furthering”. There is nothing here about “criticising” (garahati and upavadati), which Ven. Khemarato points out is the explanation in the Pali commentary.

As for etymology, sampavattā is simply pavattana plus the prefix sam. Pavattana is the same pavattana as what we find in Dhammacakkappavattana, that is, “setting in motion the wheel of the Dhamma.” It is quite possible that the sam prefix is largely empty of meaning, in which case sampavattā will have roughly the same meaning as pavattana/pavattā.

So the etymology of the word and the meaning of the Sanskrit equivalent both point in the same direction. Now the idea of “setting in motion” is similar to the idea of “motivating”, and so it seems to me that Bhante Sujato has a good case for translating as he does. I would only suggest that a slightly broader word such as “urge” might fit even better.

So is the commentary wrong? Not quite. To criticise is just a particular way of motivating or urging, albeit in restricted sense. So far as I can see, however, there is no particular reason why sampavattā should be restricted in this way, and so I support Bhante Sujato in his translation.


Thank you so much for your attention and prompt reply bhante!
I will reflect this in my Portuguese translation of the sutta.


Thanks for highlighting this bhante.
So, it seems both the Thai translators and Ajahn Thanissaro reflected the commentary in their translation then! :thinking:


They do indeed seem to follow the commentary, which in fact is standard practice, because it is both relatively easy and uncontroversial. Doing further research tends to be much more time consuming.

It is interesting that Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi renders the same word as “exhort”, which suggests that he is taking a slightly broader view than the commentary.


Yes bhante, their choices make sense.
In context of the broader message of the sutta in question my translation is along the lines of not pressing others on the topic of morality.
It makes sense to me that if a good bhikkhu wants to live comfortably among other bhikkhus, good and bad ones, he better just chill and rejoice on his own accomplishments in terms ethics, and not waste time trying too hard change others!


That’s good advice for all of us posting here at SuttaCentral!


Thanks for the expl., that is indeed exactly what I was thinking!

And I agree, “urge” would be better.


I agree that urge gives a slightly more relational feel to the “setting in motion” situation than motivate does. In the context of a behavior of watching another, the Buddha seems to be saying that a mendicant accomplished in their own ethical conduct will be comfortable in a monastic community if he/she isn’t a busybody or a meddler, doesn’t have a need to watch others or be known by others, instead content with focusing on what is essential.

“It’s when a mendicant is accomplished in their own ethical conduct, but they don’t urge others to be ethical. And they watch themselves, but don’t watch others. And they’re not well-known, but aren’t bothered by that. And they get the four absorptions—blissful meditations in the present life that belong to the higher mind—when they want, without trouble or difficulty. And they realize the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life. And they live having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements. That’s how a mendicant could live comfortably while staying in a monastic community.”

Thank you, Bhante Brahmali, I always appreciate your wisdom.

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It would seem that the idea is to avoid taking it upon oneself to enforce ethical standards - the higher ethics, i.e., adhisīla. See the related question, What is meant by “higher ethics,” etc., in AN 3.84 (Vajjiputtasutta)?. It might be worth noting that the ability to “encourage someone in the higher ethics” is praised in AN10.36. So there seem to be some subtle distinctions that are not explicit in AN5.106.



:smiley: :sweat_smile: :slightly_smiling_face:

This sutta is really interesting to view from the perspective of being a ‘Moderator’ within a community - and certainly helps to explain some of the causes and conditions within an online forum. :slightly_smiling_face: :upside_down_face:

A good reflection for the day - Thank You