Translation issues concerning the word Faith saddha

it appears the use of the word “faith” is the word chosen for Saddha - it would seem that speaking to How to understand “a degree of faith(Saddhā) and love for the Realized One” would include a discussion of the various uses of the word Saddha rather than the often translated assumptive usage of the word “faith” - particularly since we are saying in reponse to “who wrote this?” that the Buddha did - wherein fact the translator did.
In the West the word “faith” is a loaded word - however un-loaded it may become when differences are known regarding the Eastern usage of this word in the West and the Western usage of this word in the West. It would be interesting to see an explanation of the usage in this more scholarly atmosphere.

However if I am missing something and this is not where I should bring this up - just let me know. It seemed appropriate.


A key reason that this use of the word Faith by interpreters for the word spoken by Buddha - Saddha
is something to mull over and consider when using it in certain audiences is that from my understanding one could be a Christian and still be a practicing Buddhist at least on many levels and obviously there are many many Christian groups of different beliefs.

But in the usage of the word Faith in an audience of a large number of Christians - particularly those leaders of those religions. A great number would be immediately repulsed at the notion of having two Faiths as they understand the word to mean.

Yet it seems the Buddha’s use of the word Saddha interpreted as “Faith” by the translator did not in any way mean what those in the above audience would take it to mean.

Greetings spotless, it is not so much that this is not an appropriate question, it is just that it is very difficult to answer succinctly :slightly_smiling_face:

IN a way the question you have asked about the pali word saddha, can be expanded to resemble the core function of Sutta Central itself.

This is a very basic outline to start with. Sutta cetral was basically set up to fill a gap in the availablity of quality translations of the Pali Canon. It is based in scholarship from both a translation perspective as well as a historicity perspective of Early Buddhists Texts( EBTs).

As such, texts (which are examined for EBT authenticity using a variety of means) are translated within the contexts that they were handed down. It is a huge work bringing together probably the most comprehensive comparative study materials available in one place. This approach speaks to the basis for your question.

Originally this forum was set up as a means of communication amongst the many scholars who were working on the ‘project’ - (or mission to make the words of the Buddha freely available and as accurate as possible). As such, you can see that the ‘categories’ in the forum mostly address aspects of this work, from the technical web site and text indexing etc side, as well as from the translations side. The discussion category was added to be able to talk about the implications and applied meanings of the Suttas, and the watercooler category for people to have more of a casual hangout place for some light relief :slight_smile:

All in all the forum was set up as an ajunct to Sutta Central, and is not meant to be a stand alone site.

The specific and in-depth answer to your question is available by tracing through the materials in Sutta Central, but linked by where it appears in the original Pali Canon - as meanings can also change with context - ie they are not simply static or word for word.

In order to get an appreciation of this, I suggest you look at various resources available, and become a bit more familiar with the materials - then when you have questions it is easier to answer.

This is why I brought to your attention the fact that discussion is anchored within the EBTs. And this is why this isn’t just a general Buddhist chat room type site :slight_smile:

As work progressed, more people with an interest in the translations started to participate in the forum. As interest in EBTs has increased, more people come to Sutta Central and it is now visited by about 3000 - 4000 a day. So the mission of making the words of the Buddha available is being fulfilled. A large percentage of users are monastics, who use the site for study purposes.

When I first started here, and similarly to you, I had not had exposure to EBTs, and the language was completely foreign. I’ve spent basically 2 years full time studying the texts, and making use of the resources here. It has been the most rewarding experience!!

I have gone from being an ‘intuitive’, practice oriented Buddhist, who had no idea of how the many schools and lineages of Buddhism had evolved and what was the basis or difference between their doctrines, to now beginning to understand, the intricate inter-relatedness and complete message/dispensation of the Buddha. All I can do is recommend, from my heart, that pursuit of this knowledge will make a significant difference to practice. It is not easy or quick to be able to pick up the highly jargonised language and the plethora of terms in Pali, and when looking at comparative materials of Sanskrit and Chinese. But persistence over time pays off. If this is of interest to you, then you are in the right place :smiley: It is a gift of Dhamma, and those of us who volunteer here, do so in order to facilitate access to the Buddha Dhamma.

I suggest you look through the introduction to Sutta Central here

Check out the reading guides, as recommended Reading Guides - Discuss & Discover

And then have a look at the Translations and essays categories of the forum and then the AV resources.

You can ask questions in the Q and A category or send a PM to the moderators :smiley:

I hope this clarifies things for you

wishing you a wonderful journey
with meta



I have seen the word “saddha” translated as “faith through experience” by Bhikkhu Bodhi ( I do believe this definition occurs in his Word of the Buddha commentary) and it has also used the same way by other translators on Access to Insight, such as in the footnotes of the Dighajanu Sutta (AN 8.54), as translated by Narada Thera, this sutta describes the ways a layperson should be live in accordance to the teaching of the Buddha including having “experiential faith” in the Buddha. However in the Saddha Sutta (AN 5.38) it is translated as “conviction” by Thanissaro Bhikkhu and he uses the word conviction rather than “faith” to describe a follower of the Buddha, it does sound more experiential to a certain degree. However Bhante Sujato, and Bhikkhu Bodhi translate the same sutta using the word “faith” on the SuttaCentral versions.

If you read enough suttas, saddha implies that it takes a degree of experience to gain. In all languages words create images and feelings and it takes some training to adjust to a word’s context in a new language. The word “faith” is even subtle in English! You can have faith in the government or a business, but that isn’t the same kind of faith that one would have in God, a friend, or the pilot of your airplane is touching down. I am sure that the idea of faith in each of the 5 examples gave you a different feeling, and “saddha” should be given the same subtlety. If one is discussing faith in the EBT to an audience unfamilar with the EBT or Buddhism then this should ideally be explained in the introduction somewhere.


I have had a particular interest in words used in translations that can profoundly off-put or mislead those hearing them. Often times translations that have become habit and often words that instantly create unseen walls and or assumptions within those hearing them.

For those scholars learning to use a language they are not intensely familiar with, these words often create whole unnecessary miscommunications or complications. And those new to the language often have no idea the degree to which particular words have completely stopped the communication with a large portion of their audience.

If you live in the central United States the word Faith is very defined - and this is the case throughout much of the United States. Alternate words for the word Faith in Buddhist dialog with Westerners in general and Americans more specifically will afford a far greater ability for the audience of those words to hear what you are saying rather than moving into reaction mode and judgement.

The following article can help those wishing to use alternate wording in open settings wherein one is not addressing a purely Buddhist audience appreciate what I am talking about. For a very long time the translations of many of the talks by the Buddha and other Enlightened Beings have used words that are misleading to Western audiences and for no great reason other than habituation to the use of those words over time.

[Sharon Salzberg]

(Faith: Its Role and Meaning in a Buddhist Wisdom Tradition)


Ajahn Brahm often uses the term ‘confidence’ instead of ‘faith’, as demonstrated in his translation of Ven Nyanatilokas ;word of the Buddha’.

The first 2 items are what I am referring to, that were recorded a couple of weeks ago. you can choose either the podcast or the video recording :slight_smile: