Typo in immaterial jhana formulas?

it appears that there’s a typo in the formulas of 2-5 immateral jhanas

the 1st immaterial jhana formula reads

sabbaso rūpasaññānaṃ samatikkamā

where samatikkama is transcending

all subsequent formulas instead of samatikkamā feature samatikkamma

sabbaso ākāsānañ­cāyata­naṃ samatikkamma

sabbaso viñ­ñā­ṇañ­cāyata­naṃ samatikkamma

sabbaso ākiñ­cañ­ñā­yatanaṃ samatikkamma

sabbaso neva­saññā­nā­sañ­ñāyata­naṃ samatikkamma

this is the case in both PTS and Mahāsaṅgīti editions

surely it could be an example of a wordplay and the word could be broken down into sama+ti+kamma, but it doesn’t seem to lend itself to a sensible translation

Vens Bodhi and Thanissaro, Horner, all translate these two words with the same English word as if they were the same word in Pali

Dear Lxndr,

Samatikamā and samatikamma (from sam + ati + √kam) are basically interchangeable. The former is a noun in the ablative case, meaning “from the overcoming” or “due to the overcoming”, whereas the latter is an absolutive (or gerund) verb, meaning “having overcome” or “after overcoming”. It is possible that these were originally the same and that the difference between the two arose during the course of transmission. Usually, however, such discrepancies are original to the text, according to the principle known as lectio difficilior potior, which essentially means that the more unusual reading is more likely to be original. This is so because unusual readings are more likely to be normalised or standardised than standard readings are to change. In fact, you can see this process happening in manuscript transmission, where strange words and expressions that are no longer understood, or poorly understood, are changed to something more familiar.

The upshot of this is that, all things being equal, the existing reading is likely to be correct. However, in this case I suspect all things are not quite equal. The formulas for the four jhānas have a strong preference for nouns in the ablative case (vūpasamā, virāgā, pahānā (twice), atthaṅgamā) and hardly use the verbal absolutive at all (with the exception of upasampajja towards the end of each formula.) I therefore suspect that the formulas for the first immaterial attainments originally read samatikamma and then got changed by accident due to “pressure” from the jhāna formulas. However, this is just an hypothesis and it would be good to find more evidence before coming to a firm conclusion. And since the difference in reading does not seem to have any effect on the meaning, it is probably better to leave the text unchanged.

There is also the interesting question why there is this distinction, that is, why the ablative is preferred for the jhāna, whereas the absolutive is used for the immaterial attainments. My guess is that we are dealing with two different lists of four factors each that at some stage were added together to make one long list of eight factors. In one list the ablative nouns were favoured, and in the other absolutive verbs. This could possibly be due to one list being slightly more archaic than the other, and my conjecture would be that the jhāna formulas are older. My sense is that the ablative is used more in older textual material. But please keep in mind that this is highly conjectural!

With metta from Perth,


thank you very much, bhante, for the input

And that is how to answer a question on the Suttas!