Translation question about AN 4.180 -- The four great references

imassa ca bhikkhuno suggahitan’ti. Idaṃ, bhikkhave, paṭhamaṃ mahāpadesaṃ dhāreyyātha.

Bhante @Sujato’s translation: It has been correctly memorized by that mendicant. You should remember it. This is the first great reference.

I’m wondering about the second sentence in the Pali. Doesn’t it mean “You should remember this first great reference?”
So it would ask the listeners to remember the reference, instead of remembering the teaching of the mendicant.


Yes, you’re right, I’ll rephrase the sentence. Thx!

Oops, not so fast. When revising I noticed this note I made on the original translation:

I suspect there’s a textual problem here. It’s unusual to end an item in a numerical list like this with dhāreyyātha, and it’s not clear why it should be added, if the sense is “you should remember this mahāpadesa”. However compare the usage with chaḍḍeyyātha just above: the parallel is all too obvious. I think what it means is, not that the mahāpadesa should be memorized, but that the teaching should be memorized, mirroring the “rejection” of the wrong teaching. This is exactly what the Sanskrit parallel says: (sf245) nāyaṃ dharmo nāyaṃ vinayo nedaṃ śāstuḥ śāsanam iti viditvā chorayitavyāḥ … ayaṃ dharmo’yaṃ vinaya idaṃ śāstuḥ śāsanam iti viditvā dhārayitavyāḥ.

Checking again, I believe my original translation was right, and the sense you got from it—that the teaching should be remembered—is correct. It is certainly the sense of the Sanskrit, and while the word order appears a bit mixed up in the Pali, it can be read in this way without doing violence to the grammar.

What do you think?


To me it also makes sense to be asked to remember the reference. This sutta has a parallel in the Mahaparinibbanasutta, and there I have a feeling that the Buddha wanted to make sure that people know the reference, so that they have a standard for practise in the future.

With the badly remembered teaching, it makes sense to tell them to reject it (chaḍḍeyyātha). With the good one, they don’t necessarily need to be told to remember it, because they have already memorized it before:

…you should carefully memorize those words and phrases, then check if they’re included in the discourses and found in the texts on monastic training.

And they have found out that it is included in the suttas / vinaya they had learned previously, so they already know that teaching.
So the two passages might deliberately not be fully parallel.

As for the Sanskrit, I’m not sure how to take that. In oral transmission, it is quite common that things get standardized, so the Sanskrit could be the later text that has made the two passages exactly parallel.

If in doubt, it’s maybe best to stick with the original Pali meaning, instead of reconstructing a hypothetical meaning based on the Sanskrit? But as you say:

so I don’t know… I don’t think my Pali is good enough to challenge you there. :wink:


As discussed in a previous post, to “memorize” is different from “remember”: the later (dhāreti) refers to the active maintaining of memorized texts.

Not necessarily, the checking would also include checking it against teachings that others have memorized.

Possible, but I don’t think so in this case. Note that in a number of these Mahaparinibbana passages, the Sanskrit text is shorter and more straightforward than the Pali (for example, the story of Mahasudassana, or the Buddha speaking of the four assemblies). The Pali text was clearly subject to later development.

Normally, yes. But that’s not really what I’m doing. The Sanskrit simply helped confirm what I think it a better way of reading the Pali.