Translation of SN35.63 Migajala (1)

A suggestion on the translation of SN35.63 Migajala (1).

The last sentence in the translation feels kind of weird:

Because craving is his partner, and he has abandoned it; therefore he is called a lone dweller.

Perhaps it would be better this way:

Because craving was his partner, and he has abandoned it; therefore he is called a lone dweller.

Compare to translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Because the craving that was his companion has been abandoned by him. Thus he is said to be a person living alone."

Pali text must be included for comparison of the post.

since the referenced translation has an author and its licence terms prohibit distribution of its altered versions, this is probably a suggestion for future translations

indeed the Pali text doesn’t have a verb

Taṇhā hissa dutiyā, sāssa pahīnā.

maybe it could be translated without the verb as well and so in a simple sentence rather than compound

Because craving, (as) his companion, has been abandoned by him

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I agree, well spotted. I’d probably translate it something like:

Since he has given up his partner, craving, he’s called “one who lives alone”.

And a few notes. Too much information, I know! But as you might guess, I’m kinda immersed in this stuff right now.

  • The particle hi is rendered as “because” in the above translations. However, stylistically it’s best when possible to render such “flow-particles” with similarly innocuous English words, or none at all if the sense permits. So I’d prefer “since”, or in some cases “for”, rather than “because”.
  • In this case, hi coordinates with tasmā (“since … therefore …”). As long as the sense is clear it’s not necessary to explicitly indicate both clauses. In fact stylistically it’s generally best not to, as you end up with an overdetermined text. Pali tends to explicitly declare syntactic relations that are normally implied by word order or context in English.
  • I’ve dropped the long-standing use of “abandon” for pahāna and its variants. Abandon is mostly used in English in a negative sense: “he abandoned the fight”, “abandon ship!”, “the children felt abandoned”. The verbal phrase “give up”, I think, works much better. You “give up smoking”, you don’t “abandon smoking”.
  • I don’t think Thanissaro’s rendering is grammatical (doesn’t the “because” clause require closure?) But I don’t really like either translation. They’re clumsy English, and at the same time, not particularly literal either. Both insert functional words that appear to mimic the Pali grammar. But they’re not necessary, nor do they actually represent the Pali with any fidelity. Bodhi’s translation adds the odd tense problem (… is his partner … has abandoned it …), which isn’t in the Pali at all. Thanissaro’s, while making more sense of the tenses, also adds unnecessary detail to the tenses (that washas been). It also overinterprets cases: dative/genitive is translated as instrumental (“by him”). This is perfectly justifiable in many cases, but is not necessary here. It just makes the whole, passively-constructed, sentence clumsy.
  • Neither of the above translations uses quote marks for “ekavihārī”, which I guess is okay, but they are indicated in the Pali by -ti.
  • Bodhi’s use of “dwells” for viharati is an interesting case. It’s a word that is mostly functional, not having any great doctrinal significance. It’s used very widely in many different contexts and senses, most of which Bodhi covers with “dwells” or some variant thereof. The thing is, “dwells” works perfectly okay in most cases. It’s fine! But also, it’s not how anyone uses actual English. You don’t say, “I was dwelling alone”. You say, “I was living alone”, or “I was staying alone”. So no problem, if you want to sacrifice a little naturalness of diction for consistency, that’s a perfectly valid choice. But do you actually gain anything? I can’t see it. But you do, I think, lose something in that the text becomes just that little bit more distant, a little colder.
  • In the final translation, I’d probably use a gender-neutral rendering, but that depends on context, so I leave this as is.
  • “Partner” is better than “companion” for dutiya, as it definitely has a sexual connotation. Dutiya sometimes means “wife”, and the whole text pivots on this connotation.
  • Word count:
  • Pali: 11
  • Bodhi: 17
  • Thanissaro: 22
  • Sujato: 14
    It might not seem like a big deal, but in a million-word corpus, it adds up quickly. I compared my translation of the Anguttara 4s with Ven Bodhi’s, and it uses about 83% the number of words. Over the 4 nikāyas, that’s about the size of an average book.
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Having near zero knowledge on Pali, I might have included the wrong Pali text :slight_smile:

It was actually the Chinese translation that smelled bad to me first.


but then abandon or even ditch/dump are more suitable to denote willfull parting with a partner :smile:

it’s actually fine, because of being preceded by a question to which it is a response

Why is that? Because the craving that was his companion has been abandoned by him.

so is sāssa Gen/Dat of so? i struggled to figure out, in a Pali grammar tutorial i looked up so in these cases is declined as tassa

Pali is quite unambiguous with genders thanks to the grammar, and of course being a language of a patriarchal society defaults everything to masculine, therefore turning the gender into neutral would be untrue to the original and make it sound more gender equality aware than it’s probably was meant to be

I will bear that in mind …

Quite right, I didn’t take context into account. Consider the accusation of ungrammaticality withdrawn!

It’s sā assa, where is feminine to agree with taṇhā: lit. “that (she) of him …”

I think it’s best to represent gender based on the meaning of the text rather than the linguistic forms.

As the previous example shows, it’s impossible to represent Pali genders in English. How could you do it: “He had a her-craving for he-food …”?

Any translation drops the genders maybe 95% of the time, because they simply don’t exist in English. This makes precisely zero difference to the meaning of the text, which is why the long-term tendency is for languages to move away from gendered forms. Like so many aspects of heavily declined languages like Pali, the text is simply overdetermined with grammatical information.

When you translate to English, you can, if you want, represent gender in a very few cases—i.e. personal pronouns—and you can make a stylistic choice to either do so or not do so. The choice to use gendered pronouns is no less political and deliberate than the choice to avoid them.

The cases where this comes up most often are such contexts as the above, where it is an abstract discussion equally applicable to everyone, regardless of gender. In modern English, such cases are usually handled in such a way as to avoid gender bias: by varying the pronouns, rephrasing the sentence, or using the singular they or the generic you.

There are cases where there is a gendered assumption, not just in the language, but in the social roles. For example, we have idioms like purisaviriya, “manly energy”, or, say, a simile where someone chops down wood or opens a business or is a warrior. When I judge (subjectively, of course) that it was a gendered role in that time and place, I keep the gendered forms, .

But in the case of general Dharma teachings on conduct, psychology, and so on, we have abundant evidence that such things are treated identically for men and women. In such cases the semantics of the text corpus are clearly gender neutral, and that’s what I’m interested in conveying.

Okay, now I’m confused … What exactly is the problem?

oh, thank you

When I read these two sentences together, I get that feeling:



The second sentence seems contradictory if compared to the first. It’s like reading the following:

Because craving is a partner which he has not given up.
Because craving is a partner which he has given up.

So I figured that it might have suffered a loss of tense from English translation.

Possible alternatives:


Well, maybe I was overreacting :slight_smile:

Okay, so you’re talking about the English translation of the Pali text, right?

There’s a Chinese parallel for this, I wonder what that says:

Yes, I was talking about the English translation in the first post. I read the English translation after I felt something wrong about the Chinese translation. And it turned out that the English translation has an issue too.

The Chinese parallel has similar contents, and the translation seems alright.

sujato your way really helps a lot.

Taṇhā hi+assa5 dutiyā, sa2+assa4 pahīnā.

Taṇhā : fig. craving, hunger for, excitement
hi: because
Assa5 3. sg. Pot. of “asmi” (see atthi).
Asmi (“I am”) see atthi.
Dutiya: accompanied by

Sa2: that, he, she.
Assa2: corner, "point"
Pahīna: given up, abandoned, left, eliminated

Taṇhā hissa dutiyā, sāssa pahīnā.

Assa4 is gen. dat. sg. of ayaṁ, this.
Ayaṁ: nt. idaṁ & imaṁ : this, “it”