Udāna 1.10: Bāhiyasutta translation question

I’m having a problem understanding part of Ud. 1.10 text:

Yato kho te, bāhiya, diṭṭhe diṭṭhamattaṃ bhavissati, sute sutamattaṃ bhavissati, mute mutamattaṃ bhavissati, viññāte viññātamattaṃ bhavissati, tato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tena; yato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tena tato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tattha; yato tvaṃ, bāhiya, na tattha, tato tvaṃ, bāhiya, nevidha na huraṃ na ubhaya­manta­rena. Esevanto dukkhassā”ti

The English translation is:

And since for you, Bāhiya, in what is seen there will be only what is seen, in what is heard there will be only what is heard, in what is sensed there will be only what is sensed, in what is cognized there will be only what is cognized, therefore, Bāhiya, you will not be with that; and since, Bāhiya, you will not be with that, therefore, Bāhiya, you will not be in that; and since, Bāhiya, you will not be in that, therefore, Bāhiya, you will not be here or hereafter or in between the two—just this is the end of suffering

and actually - it doesn’t help at all :slight_smile:
Therefore two questions:

  1. Is this a good, literal translation, or to be literal it should be translated differently?
  2. What is the meaning of this text?

It means there’s mere phenomena that arise, pass away, no abiding soul or self that underlies that experience. This is in contrast with the ordinary person’s experience where we attach stories, delusions, hopes, erroneous perceptions on top of that bare phenomena. When we see through these delusions, and just experience phenomena as they truly are, then all suffering ceases.


This part is actually the part that is quite obvious to me from this whole passage, the other part, which I’ve put in bold is what I was actually asking about.

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Note that this passage also occurs in SN 35.95

“Here, Maluṅkyaputta, regarding things seen, heard, sensed, and cognized by you: in the seen there will be merely the seen; in the heard there will be merely the heard; in the sensed there will be merely the sensed; in the cognized there will be merely the cognized.

“When, Maluṅkyaputta, regarding things seen, heard, sensed, and cognized by you, in the seen there will be merely the seen, in the heard there will be merely the heard, in the sensed there will be merely the sensed, in the cognized there will be merely the cognized, then, Maluṅkyaputta, you will not be ‘by that.’ When, Maluṅkyaputta, you are not ‘by that,’ then you will not be ‘therein. ’ When, Maluṅkyaputta, you are not ‘therein,’ then you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. This itself is the end of suffering.”

And there is additional clarification.

“When, firmly mindful, one sees a form,
One is not inflamed by lust for forms;
One experiences it with dispassionate mind
And does not remain holding it tightly.

“One fares mindfully in such a way
That even as one sees the form,
And while one undergoes a feeling,
Suffering is exhausted, not built up.
For one dismantling suffering thus,
Nibbāna is said to be close by.

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I see that Bhikkhu Bodhi comments on the difficulty of passage:

The meaning is extremely compressed and in places the passage seems to defy standard grammar (e.g. by treating na tena and na tattha as nominative predicates). Spk gives a long explanation, which I translate here, partially abridged.


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Yes. The only mistake is “sensed” for muta. In fact this means “thought”.

However, the English prepositions are rendering Pali grammatical cases which by their nature are more ambiguous and might equally well be rendered a number of ways. For example we might have:

  • na tena: not with that; not by that; not through that; not because of that
  • na tattha: not in that; not in relation to that; not at that; not regarding that

The best approach is always to start with what we know and work from there. The most helpful phrase is the last one:

nevidha na huraṃ na ubhaya­manta­rena

This means “not in this world, i.e. the current life, not in the hereafter, i.e. the world beyond or the next life, and not in between the two, i.e. between the worlds.”

As a teaching on the final end of suffering, this is an idiomatic way of saying that you’ll have escaped from rebirth in any form.

So the sutta proceeds thusly:

  1. Contemplate the four ways of knowing
  2. Mysterious passage!
  3. End rebirth

Okay, so what we do know is that normally what happens is that through right contemplation, you let go of attachments, which leads to the end of rebirth. So presumably the second stage is describing a similar process here.

Note that the phrase nevidha na huraṃ na ubhaya­manta­rena, together with the quatrad including muta, and the context to a new convert, firmly place this passage as a response to the pre-Buddhist philosophies. Thus it is likely that this middle passage is also phrased in a way that is derived from or responds to a pre-Buddhist teaching, which would explain the difficult and obscure idiom. Probably we could find something similar in the Upanishads.

Unfortunately I haven’t done that, so we’ll have to fly blind a little bit. Any interpretation is tentative! But the thing to bear in mind is what I call the “principle of least meaning”. The idea is that in reading ancient texts we tend to over-interpret, reading great significance into tiny details. Instead, we should read passages so that they contribute the least meaning possible, preferring literal over metaphorical readings, and not changing established meaning—unless the passage demands otherwise.

In dependent origination, before rebirth takes place, we have two stages: the defilements (grasping, craving, etc.) and the process of ongoing existence (bhava). I suspect that the two phrases tena and tattha correspond to these.

Thus na tena means “not because of that”, i.e. not because of the causative power of defilements and kamma propelling you into a new life, stimulated by attachment for the ways of knowing. And na tattha means “not in that” i.e. the next life, the ongoing sphere of existence and rebirth.

This would suggest that we might be better off translating na tena as “not because of that”.


In the Vibhanga to pācittiya 1 we have:

Lies in full awareness: the speech of one who is intent on deceiving—his words, his way of speaking, his breaking into speech, his verbal expression, his eight kinds of ignoble speech: he says that he has seen what he has not seen; he says that he has heard what he has not heard; he says that he has sensed what he has not sensed; he says that he has cognized what he has not cognized; he says that he has not seen what he has seen; he says that he has not heard what he has heard; he says that he has not sensed what he has sensed; he says that he has not cognized what he has cognized.

And this is then further defined as follows:

Not seen: not seen with the eye. Not heard: not heard with the ear. Not sensed: not smelled with the nose, not tasted with the tongue, not touched with the body. Not cognized: not cognized with the mind. Seen: seen with the eye. Heard: heard with the ear. Sensed: smelled with the nose, tasted with the tongue, touched with the body. Cognized: cognized with the mind.

In this case I could not see any way out of translating muta as “sensed,” yet I wasn’t quite happy with it. I wonder whether this is an example intra-Vibhanga semantic evolution? Or could it be that muta acquired this meaning from an early stage?

Also, I do not really like “cognized” for viññāta, which seems to me overly technical and perhaps slightly off-putting. But again, I am not sure what to use to fit the context. Any thoughts?


Yes, I thought of exactly this as I was writing it! I think the question is a philosophical one. A text like the Vibhanga consists of a number of fairly discrete historical layers. Do we translate each later as is, even if this gives rise to inconsistencies? This honors the historical nature of the text, and allows the reader a clearer view, even if that view is a little jagged. Or do we translate according to the received view of the redactors? This yields a more coherent text, and one that is more generous to the competence of the redactors.

I don’t think there is an absolute answer to this. In this particular case, I certainly wouldn’t infer from the Vibhanga back into the suttas.

As to the treatment in the Vinaya itself, I think the crucial thing is that this occurs in the Vibhana only. If it was a patimokkha term that was glossed in the Vibhanga, I may translate according to the layers. But in this case, there’s no reason why the whole thing should not be a product of the Abhidhamma period, and in fact that is the most likely situation.

I agree, it is ugly. I am thinking of replacing it with “known”.


Yes, at the most it is an evolution from an already evolved “state.” So I think the most reasonable thing is to stick to “sensed.”

That’s exactly what I was thinking! For some reason I was hesitant, but I am not sure now why. In the definition field we would get: “Known: known with the mind,” which seems fine.


The reason I was reluctant was that “known” is used more broadly. It also encompasses, say, things that I have learned in the past, or skills I have (“I know how to do this”). Cognized is more specific. But in context, it will probably become clear—I hope!


Right. It is probably more of a problem for the suttas. In the vinaya other words for “known” are much rarer. But the narrowness of “cognized” is certainly a strength. However, I am going to go for readability, at least until I change my mind …


@sujato, @Brahmali thank you for very insightful comments and discussion here, it helped me a lot!

@mikenz66 thaks for the SN parallel, it also shed some light on the situation

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I’m a little late in coming to this but think i might have just understood something and wanted to check.

I’ve been puzzled by “in ‘the seen’ there is only the seen” because i’ve been taking ‘the seen’ as meaning the objects of seeing, desk, arm, computer screen etc. i.e. what is seen, when what makes sense to me from my experience is, in seeing there is only seeing. i.e. In, the sense base of sight there is only the sense base of sight. desk is really a thought/story attached to what is actually just sight?

But if ‘the seen’ is translated from diṭṭhamattaṃ [an accusative?] then it is correctly translated as ‘the seeing’ but really, this means sight? rather than the objects of sight?


  1. What is the meaning of this text?

I would like to share Ajahn Brahm’s explanation for the final part of Bahiya’s teaching

"Bāhiya, you should train yourself thus: in the seen will be merely what is seen, … in the cognized will merely be what is cognized. Practising in this way, Bāhiya, you will not be ‘because of that’. When you are not ‘because of that’, you will not be ‘in that’. And when you are not ‘in that’, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering."

What does it mean “you will not be ‘because of that’”? The Pāli is na tena. Tena is the instrumental of the word for ‘that’. Na is the negative. It means, literally, “not because of that, not through that, not by that”. It means in essence, you will not assume that there is a self, a soul, a me; because of, through, or by; the seen or the heard or the sensed or the cognized. The Buddha is saying that once you have penetrated the truth of sensory experience, by suppressing the Hindrances through Jhāna, you will see that there is no ‘doer’, nor a ‘knower’, behind sensory experience. No longer will you be able to use sensory experience as evidence for a self. Descartes’ famous “I am because I think” is refuted. You will not be because of thinking, nor because of seeing, hearing or sensing. In the Buddha’s words, “You will not be because of that (any sensory experience)”.

When the sensory processes are discarded as tenable evidence for a self, a soul or a me, then you are no longer located in the sensory experience. In the Buddha’s words, “You will not be ‘in that’”. You no longer view, perceive or even think that there is a ‘me’ involved in life. In the words of the doctor in the original series of Star Trek, “It is life, Jim, but not as we know it”! There is no longer any sense of self, or soul, at the centre of experience. You are no more ‘in that’.

Just to close off the loophole that you might think you can escape non-existence of a self or soul by identifying with a transcendental state of being beyond what is seen, heard, sensed or cognized, the Buddha thunders, "and you will be neither here (with the seen, heard, sensed or cognized) nor beyond (outside of the seen, heard, sensed or cognized) nor in between the two (neither of the world nor beyond the world). The last phrase comprehensively confounded the sophists!

In summary, the Buddha advised both Bāhiya and Venerable Mālunkyaputta to experience the Jhānas to suppress the Five Hindrances. Thereby one will discern with certainty the absence of a self or a soul behind the sensory process. Consequently, sensory experience will never again be taken as evidence of a ‘knower’ or a ‘doer’: such that you will never imagine a self or a soul at the centre of experience, nor beyond, nor anywhere else. Bāhiya’s Teaching put in a nutshell the way to the realization of No-Self, Anattā. “Just this”, concluded the Buddha "is the end of suffering".


I’m not sure if I understand you correctly, so sorry if my answer makes no sense :wink:

Sure, you could go to the bare experiences of seeing, but desk or computer screen is a useful story, and I don’t think this is a problem in itself. The story that is usually added by us, and presumably not by Bahiya, is the permanence, atta (soul/self, although I’m not sure if I like any of those translations), and belief that permanent satisfaction could be attained with the use of the seen. In my opinion that is what is usually (incorrectly) added to the measure / collection of the seen. On the other hand you couldn’t say that calling a table “table” is incorrect, that’s what it is - a table (but it’s not e.g. permanent).

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Not really, diṭṭha and the others are past participles, i.e. “the seen”, etc.

Yeah, good point, I had never really considered this before. It is indeed accusative, which means the standard translation is actually not very literal. Rather, it should be:

In the seen I shall have only the seen.

This is brought out in the commentary to Ud 1.10:

Yathā hi cakkhuviññāṇaṃ rūpe rūpamattameva passati, na aniccādisabhāvaṃ, evameva sesaṃ.
Just as eye consciousness sees only the sight in the sight, not the inherent nature of impermanence, etc., and so on for the rest.
Cakkhudvārikaviññāṇena hi me diṭṭhamattameva bhavissatīti sikkhitabbanti attho.
The meaning is: one should train: “So through the eye-consciousness door there shall be for me only the seen.”

The idiom bhavissati/hoti is commonly used with the dative to express the notion of “have”, for which Pali lacks a verb. Even though the dative me is absent, it is required by the context, and thus supplied in the comment.

To be clear, the standard translation is fine, and expresses the idea well, I am just clarifying the grammar behind it.

Another interesting detail in the commentary is that, while we would expect it to say “only the seen” means “not anything permanent, etc.”, in fact it says the opposite: “not impermanence, etc.” It is making the point that the understanding of impermanence is an inference drawn by the mind and cannot be seen directly by the eye.

These are all concepts, and hence exist only in the mind. What is “seen” is simply “light” in its different wavelengths, i.e. “color”. Everything else, whether our ordinary concepts of experience, or as pointed out by the commentary, the principles of insight, belong in the mind.


Hi Tuvok - thinking of words and ideas as helpful rather than true i would say that there isn’t actually such a thing as a table [not really]. Or to paraphrase Ajhan Chah ’ when one person asks for Ajhan Chah, i say yes, that’s me, but to another person i would say that there’s no such thing as Ajhan Chah.