Verse in AN 3.45

AN3.45:2.1: Sabbhi dānaṃ upaññattaṃ,
AN3.45:2.1: The virtuous recommend giving,
AN3.45:2.2: ahiṃsā saṃyamo damo;
AN3.45:2.2: harmlessness, restraint, and taming;
AN3.45:2.3: Mātāpitu upaṭṭhānaṃ,
AN3.45:2.3: looking after your mother and father,
AN3.45:2.4: santānaṃ brahmacārinaṃ.
AN3.45:2.4: and peaceful spiritual practitioners.
AN3.45:3.1: Sataṃ etāni ṭhānāni,
AN3.45:3.1: These are the things recommended by the good,
AN3.45:3.2: yāni sevetha paṇḍito;
AN3.45:3.2: which the astute should cultivate.
AN3.45:3.3: Ariyo dassanasampanno,
AN3.45:3.3: A noble one, having vision,
AN3.45:3.4: sa lokaṃ bhajate sivan”ti.
AN3.45:3.4: will enjoy a world of grace.”

I am a bit wondering about the translation of the line in an3.45:2.4, “and peaceful spiritual practitioners”. The lines before just summarize what has been said in the prose part of the sutta and therefore seem very straightforward. In this line however the recommendation is, next to looking after one’s parents, to also look after spiritual practitioners. In the prose part it very clearly says to become a spiritual practitioner oneself:

AN3.45:1.4: Pabbajjā, bhikkhave, paṇḍitapaññattā sappurisapaññattā.
AN3.45:1.4: going forth,

I am just stuck at the discrepancy between the prose part and the verse which I find unusual.

My expertise in Pali being limited, I am still wondering if santānaṃ brahmacārinaṃ could not refer to leading a peaceful spiritual life oneself, rather than supporting others who do so? Bhante @sujato? Many thanks for any clarification!


Translating the passage is not that hard. So I am not going to explain that part. But, when it comes to stanza rephrasing before the translation is necessary.

Sabbhi dānaṃ upaññattaṃ, ahiṃsā saṃyamo damo;
Mātāpitu upaṭṭhānaṃ, santānaṃ brahmacārinaṃ.

This should be rephrased to separate three things pointed in the former part of the sutta. What are those three; (1) Dānaṃ, (2) Pabbajjā, (3) Mātāpitūnaṃ upaṭṭhānaṃ

It is very important to identify adjectives (/words which discribs each of above things) in the stanza and which one of above is belong to which.

(1) Santānaṃ brahmacārinaṃ dānaṃ sabbhi upaññattaṃ,
(2) Ahiṃsā saṃyamo damo (Pabbajjā) sabbhi upaññattaṃ
(3) Mātāpitu upaṭṭhānaṃ sabbhi upaññattaṃ

These are the three things mentioned in the passage.
sabbhi - by the wise
Now we can see how 1st stanza makes sense.
Then the translation should be something like,

Santānaṃ brahmacārinaṃ dānaṃ sabbhi upaññattaṃ
Giving to the peaceful (santa) spiritual practitioners (brahmacārī) is prescribed by the wise
The virtuous recommend giving to the peaceful (santa) spiritual practitioners (brahmacārī).

When we take above phrasing to the sutta it reflects the most specific recommendation, explained in dhakkhinavibhanga sutta.

Ahiṃsā saṃyamo damo (Pabbajjā) sabbhi upaññattaṃ
The taking up of the ascetic life (the ordination (?) ) which consists of harmlessness, restraint, and taming is prescribed by the wise.
Pabbajjā - taking up of the ascetic life, ordination, becoming a monk.
Mātāpitu upaṭṭhānaṃ sabbhi upaññattaṃ
Taking care of (one’s) mother and father is prescribed by the wise.

Note: You might be wondering about the liability of rephrasing. See
Mā piyehi samāgañchi, appiyehi kudācanaṃ
Piyehi mā samāgañchi
Appiyehi kudācanaṃ mā samāgañchi
(Dhammapada; piyavagga; 210)

Sataṃ etāni ṭhānāni, yāni sevetha paṇḍito;
Ariyo dassanasampanno, sa lokaṃ bhajate siva”nti.

Sataṃ yāni etāni ṭhānāni sevetha paṇḍito
The wise who cultivates those things which can be reflected from the good people

Ariyo dassanasampanno sa(so)
The one (the wise who cultivates) who is noble and having vision [The noble one possessed of vision]

Sivaṃ lokaṃ bhajati.
Enjoys the shelter of the world which is nibbāna.
Associates a world of grace (a heavenly wold)

But I think using the meanings given below for siva is better.
Siva means sheltering, a safe place or nibbāna
Note: Metta sutta also suggest the same with (dassanenasampanno kamesu vineyyagedham nahi jātu gabbha seyyam punareti)
It may be a synonym to sagga since the commentary also suggesting the same. Therefore, cannot be sure about the meaning of siva here.

Hope I made it clear with my point of view. Other explainations may be there.
My expertise in Pali and English is limited. But I guess this would be valuable.


Very valuable!

Thank you, this is very elucidating! I just couldn’t see the “going forth” part in the verse and therefore was confused. But according to what you are pointing out, ahiṃsā saṃyamo damo does refer to the going forth! This does indeed make sense to me. :eye:

And thank you also for your analysis of the second part of the verse. :pray:


I checked translations in Buddha Jayani Tepitaka and A. P. Soyza translations (Sinhalese) are not clear.

English translation by Ven. Bhikku Bodhi is also not clear about the meaning of the verses.
Ven. Sujoto’s translation on the other hand,
I am not sure that shows what are the three things.
I think both Ven. Sujato and Ven. Bodhi translated the verse by following the commentaries (?).

Translating line by line is not giving the meaning.
Bhante @sujato,
I would be most grateful if you could share your thoughts.

The virtuous recommend giving,
Sabbhi dānaṃ upaññattaṃ,

harmlessness, restraint, and taming;
ahiṃsā saṃyamo damo;

looking after your mother and father,
Mātāpitu upaṭṭhānaṃ,

and peaceful spiritual practitioners.
santānaṃ brahmacārinaṃ.

These are the things recommended by the good,
Sataṃ etāni ṭhānāni,

which the astute should cultivate.
yāni sevetha paṇḍito;

A noble one, having vision,
Ariyo dassanasampanno,

will enjoy a world of grace.”
sa lokaṃ bhajate sivan”ti. (Ven. Sujato)


That’s exactly what got me stuck.

Ven. Nyanatiloka (German) has it similar to what Bhante Sujato has; here too the “three things” are not obvious.

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Yes, indeed the verse is a little tricky to parse, and I agree with both of you, it would be better to construe it in such a way as to make the intent clearer.

Ven Amatabhani’s point is well taken: it is quite common in verse for the parts of a sentence to be out of conventional order, and for repeated phrases to be omitted. Indeed, the commentary supports this, at least in the case of the service for parents:

Idaṃ mātāpituupaṭṭhānaṃ sabbhi upaññātanti evamettha attho daṭṭhabbo.
“This service for parents is recommended by the virtuous”: that is how it should be interpreted.

But I’m still not entirely sure of the intent.

First the grammatical basics. In Sabbhi dānaṃ upaññattaṃ, upaññattaṃ is past participle (“is recommended”), dāna is neuter, presumably nominative. That means that it is a passive construction, with sabbhi read as instrumental (comm. is silent, but it reads sappurisa and paṇḍita as instrumental): “Giving is recommended by the virtuous”.

Now, let us assume that the words sabbhi upaññattaṃ should be distributed across the three lines. The problem is that santānaṃ brahmacārinaṃ (dative/genitive plural) is tacked on at the end, and it is possible to construe them with any of the three cases.

  1. Santānaṃ brahmacārinaṃ dānaṃ sabbhi upaññattaṃ
    Giving to peaceful spiritual practitioners is recommended by the virtuous
  2. Santānaṃ brahmacārinaṃ ahiṃsā saṃyamo damo sabbhi upaññattaṃ
    For peaceful spiritual practitioners, harmlessness, restraint, and self-control are recommended by the virtuous.
  3. Mātāpitu santānaṃ brahmacārinaṃ upaṭṭhānaṃ sabbhi upaññattaṃ
    Taking care of parents and peaceful spiritual practitioners is recommended by the virtuous

It seems to me that all these make sense both grammatically and doctrinally. Ven Bodhi (note 404 in Numerical Discourses) suggests that either case one or three would work, but it seems to me that case 2 works at least as well. Let us consider each case.

In the first case, the main text just says “generosity”, while the interpretation specifies it is generosity to renunciants. This is possible, but it does rather restrict the meaning. Note that the Chinese parallel at EA2 47 has 自知 有布施, which is the same as the first line of the Pali, i.e. the Chinese translator did not specify that dāna applied only to renunciants. Atthakatha and Tika are silent on this point.

In the second case, the inclusion of santānaṃ brahmacārinaṃ obviates the need for the implied pabbajjā in this line, which is good. It does shift the sense slightly, though, as the prose is saying that pabbajjā itself is good, while the verse is recommending good practices for a renunciant.

Finally, in the third case, there are a number of features that link mātāpitu and santānaṃ brahmacārinaṃ: they are in dative/genitive; they are on adjacent lines; and service to both parties is commended elsewhere in the suttas. None of these definitively connect the two phrases, but there does seem to be an affinity.

What do you think? I am currently inclined to more or less keep my original reading, perhaps tweaking it for clarity:

Giving is commended by the virtuous,
as are harmlessness, restraint, and taming,
and also looking after your parents
and peaceful spiritual practitioners.


Thanks for taking the time, Bhante. Your new proposition is definitely clearer! Still, we have to “imply” the going forth in the second line. But that’s probably not that uncommon in verse in Pali.

Maybe it is an audacious undertaking to embark into a sutta translation with no better knowledge of Pali than what I have. I am just hoping it will grow along the way; and I don’t want to wait and postpone my project, since life is short, as the suttas tell us all the time… Therefore I am very grateful for your help, Venerables!


Perhaps we could say:

Giving is commended by the virtuous,
as is a life of harmlessness, restraint, and taming,
and also looking after your parents
and peaceful spiritual practitioners.

On the one hand, we want the verse to be clear; on the other hand, we don’t want it to be overly definitive where the original is not. It is probably true to say that the connection between these three items and renunciation are clearer in the Pali than they would be to a modern reader.


Since the commentary is not clear about the sutta, we can suspect that the translation or interpretation was like this for a long time.

I agree that this has few possibilities, but since
Santānaṃ brahmacārinaṃ is constructed as catutti (vibhatti) it represents a meaning to peaceful spiritual practitioners more in the sutta (my guess).
Thats why I put it first way.

First, the verse is a summary of the formar passage of the sutta. That is the common way to construct suttas in whole tepitaka. I believe these were used to memorize suttas when there were no written scripts. On the other hand we have to make it clear why the sutta is catagorized in Tika Nipāta. In that case pointing three points is important.
With these points we can draw into a conclution that the sutta should represent three facts that are commended by the virtuous.

Normally the blessed one summarizes facts in many different ways (Pariyāya lakkhaṇaṃ). We can assume this sutta represents the path to nibbāna. The buddha explained how one could look after his parents.
On top of all the other facts why looking after mother and father comes?
The reason we can see that they are so important in a kammic way and ethical point of view. It is a part of secular wrong view to believe that there is no kammic reward taking care of mother and father.

There’s no meaning in giving, sacrifice, or offerings. There’s no fruit or result of good and bad deeds. There’s no afterlife. There’s no obligation to mother and father. No beings are reborn spontaneously. And there’s no ascetic or brahmin who is well attained and practiced, and who describes the afterlife after realizing it with their own insight.
‘natthi dinnaṃ, natthi yiṭṭhaṃ, natthi hutaṃ, natthi sukatadukkaṭānaṃ kammānaṃ phalaṃ vipāko, natthi ayaṃ loko, natthi paroloko, natthi mātā, natthi pitā, natthi sattā opapātikā, natthi loke samaṇabrāhmaṇā sammaggatā sammāpaṭipannā ye imañca lokaṃ parañca lokaṃ sayaṃ abhiññā sacchikatvā pavedenti (MN 76).

And also killing them would be an anantariya kamma where one would definitely end up in hell.
Therefore taking care of them is important. Then in anguttara, duka, samacittavagga explains how to take them care of by helping them to develop sadhha sīla cāga etc.

But you have done enough, more than enough, to repay them if you encourage, settle, and ground unfaithful parents in faith, unethical parents in ethical conduct, stingy parents in generosity, or ignorant parents in wisdom. AN 2.33.

So the best way to do that is developing those qualities oneself first. As stated in Sallekhasutta that is the only way to do so.

Truly, if you’re not tamed, trained, and extinguished you can’t tame, train, and extinguish someone else.
So vata, cunda, attanā adanto avinīto aparinibbuto paraṃ damessati vinessati parinibbāpessatīti netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati.

But if you’re tamed, trained, and extinguished you can tame, train, and extinguish someone else.
So vata, cunda, attanā danto vinīto parinibbuto paraṃ damessati vinessati parinibbāpessatīti ṭhānametaṃ vijjati Sllekhasutta.

In that sense this is the very reason to go forth which includes stated characteristics in the verse.
With those characteristics it represents eight fold path just by three things; giving, ordination, taking care of mother and father.

Then in the second verse there should be the final result which should rather be nibbāna.
As srated above Siva means sheltering, a safe place or nibbāna
Therefore we can come to a conclution that siva in the second verse is Nibbāna. Hope it is not necessary to explain how those three qualities ahiṃsā saṃyamo damo fall in here representing eight fold path.

For all these reasons I think pointing out three points in the verse is the best outcome that we can have rather than keeping complicated one.
(Hope this doesn’t sound like babbling :upside_down_face:)
Bhante @sujato, I would like to know your ideas about these too.
And what is your opinion about second verse?


This is a very good point, Venerable Amatabhani. I have actually been wondering why looking after one’s parents comes as the third item here. There is often—or most of the time—an increasing order in these sets of items, so I was really wondering why looking after one’s parents should be the highest. But as you rightly point out, if we define “looking after one’s parents” as establishing them in faith, ethical conduct, generosity, and wisdom the whole thing gets a different taste.

But with this definition of “looking after” comes also the question: What does it mean to “look after” the peaceful spiritual practitioners? Bhante @sujato, would this point more to solution 1 or 2 of your above list, rather than 3?

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As this solution seems reasonable we end up with 2 possiblilies with sabbamitta’s reasoning.

Regardless, whether solution one or two that we choose to explain the sutta, it would be useful keeping three points separated (somehow!).

I was writting previous post when your points came up.
Bhante, thank you so much for your kind consideration. :slightly_smiling_face:

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