Re: [Pali] (pali) 'samma'
>The Ven. Henepola Gunaratana in _Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness_
> Some local Russian translators, inspired by this English inexact
> equivalent, have gone as far as to translate 'sammaa' with Russian
> I have never seen another alternative in English translations, though
> obviously 'sammaa' also implies 'perfect'.
> Currently I consider translating the elements of Eightfold Path
> as 'perfect' ones. What would you suggest?
translates them all as 'skilful'. This may seem unliteral (as
there is another word, kusala, for that meaning, but as Gunaratana
is (to me anyhow) a master at striking the right tone and
getting nuances to work in English, it might be worth considering
some Russian equivalent along those lines.
- To add my 2-cent worth: in Chinese the word samma is zheng4 (which can mean
right, correct or upright), as oppose to xie2 (which means evil). There is
no one single character in chinese for perfect. The closest is shi2 quan2
shi2 mei2, which is not suitable for a oral/religious/philosophical use. The
next closest will be zhen2 shang4 mei3 as given in confucius teaching, but
will not fit into the buddhist context.
According to my buddhist studies in chinese, the word zheng4 (right) should
not be understood as the opposite extreme of xie2 (evil, or wrong). It has
to be understood in the context of the Middle Way, or zhong1.
Therefore, I think context is important to the understanding of buddhist
terms, especially the background the Buddha taught (in this case) the Noble
Eightfold Path. Additional information such as what samma means in Pali will
be helpful, but right understanding and explanation of dhamma is more
important than the word itself.
From: evelyn chew
Date: Thursday, July 26, 2001 5:50 PM
>heard a talk by Ven S Dhammika who told us that samma in the 8-fold path is
>used to mean 'right' but he prefers it to mean 'perfect'.
>when i look at the homage - namo tassa.... - i guess samma sambuddha would
>mean the highest (more perfect than perfect - if there's such a thing)
>Common sense is instinct. Enough of it is genius. - GB Shaw
>>From: Thiele Everett <Thiele.Everett@...>
>>Subject: [Pali] (pali) 'samma'
>>Date: Wed, 25 Jul 101 19:09:28 +0200 (MET DST)
>> > how about discussing the Pali word SAMMA?
>>I'm interested in discussing this word. Care to
- heard a talk by Ven S Dhammika who told us that samma in the 8-fold path is
used to mean 'right' but he prefers it to mean 'perfect'.
when i look at the homage - namo tassa.... - i guess samma sambuddha would
mean the highest (more perfect than perfect - if there's such a thing)
Common sense is instinct. Enough of it is genius. - GB Shaw
>From: Thiele Everett <Thiele.Everett@...>_________________________________________________________________
>Subject: [Pali] (pali) 'samma'
>Date: Wed, 25 Jul 101 19:09:28 +0200 (MET DST)
> > how about discussing the Pali word SAMMA?
>I'm interested in discussing this word. Care to
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- Sammaa and micchaa are very common Pali terms, and there really is no
mystery about them.
The real meaning of the Pali term sammaa (Sanskrit samyak) is "right" in
the sense of "proper", and is usually glossed in the commentaries by
hetunå (with (good) cause, reasonable, etc.and thus, by extension,
perhaps "factual"), ~naayena (in the right/correct manner, etc.) and
avipariita.m (unequivocal, incontravertible).
This sense is also illustrated by its opposite, micchaa (Sanskrit
mithyaa), which means "wrong", or "incorrect".
So sammaadi.t.thi is "right/correct" view, i.e. seeing things properly
(and as they really are--yathaabhuuta.m), as opposed to micchaadi.t.thi,
"wrong/incorrect" view, i.e. not seeing things properly (or as they
- Hi Peter,
Welcome aboard this cyber ship. We are very honoured by your joining us with a
succinct and authoritative definition of sammaa.
[Those who are new should know that Peter wrote "Divine Revelation in Pali Buddhism"
published in 1986. Besides his growing number of academic appointments, he has
translated the commentaries on the Petavatthu and trhe Vimaanavatthu for the Pali
I read "Divine Revelation" about a decade ago, quite stimulated by it, especially
after reading the reviews by Paul Harrison (Numen 24, 2, 1987) and Charles Hallisey
(JIABS 11,1, 1988). Too bad these journals are not found in Singapore (let me know
if otherwise, please).
[Peter discuss terms relateed to sammaa in chapter 2 of his book.]
Peter Masefield wrote:
> Sammaa and micchaa are very common Pali terms, and there really is no
> mystery about them.
> The real meaning of the Pali term sammaa (Sanskrit samyak) is "right" in
> the sense of "proper", and is usually glossed in the commentaries by
> hetunå (with (good) cause, reasonable, etc.and thus, by extension,
> perhaps "factual"), ~naayena (in the right/correct manner, etc.) and
> avipariita.m (unequivocal, incontravertible).
> This sense is also illustrated by its opposite, micchaa (Sanskrit
> mithyaa), which means "wrong", or "incorrect".
> So sammaadi.t.thi is "right/correct" view, i.e. seeing things properly
> (and as they really are--yathaabhuuta.m), as opposed to micchaadi.t.thi,
> "wrong/incorrect" view, i.e. not seeing things properly (or as they
> really are).
> Peter Masefield.
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- Welcome to the group, Prof. and thanks for your profound definition of
From: Peter Masefield
Date: Friday, July 27, 2001 9:30 AM
>Sammaa and micchaa are very common Pali terms, and there really is no
>mystery about them.
>The real meaning of the Pali term sammaa (Sanskrit samyak) is "right" in
>the sense of "proper", and is usually glossed in the commentaries by
>hetunå (with (good) cause, reasonable, etc.and thus, by extension,
>perhaps "factual"), ~naayena (in the right/correct manner, etc.) and
>avipariita.m (unequivocal, incontravertible).
>This sense is also illustrated by its opposite, micchaa (Sanskrit
>mithyaa), which means "wrong", or "incorrect".
>So sammaadi.t.thi is "right/correct" view, i.e. seeing things properly
>(and as they really are--yathaabhuuta.m), as opposed to micchaadi.t.thi,
>"wrong/incorrect" view, i.e. not seeing things properly (or as they
- --- In Pali@y..., Piya Tan <libris@s...> wrote:
> Those who are new should know that Peter wrote "Divine Revelationin Pali Buddhism"
That's certainly an eyebrow-raising title! :-)
Would either of you care to give a 1-line summary of where exactly we
find Divine revelation in Pali Buddhism?
- Derek Cameron wrote:
> "Divine Revelation in Pali Buddhism"Yes, isn't it; but it is, after all, only a title and, at that, one not chosen by
> That's certainly an eyebrow-raising title! :-)
its author, though all too many reviewers have concerned themselves solely with
reviewing the title, rather than the contents of the book.
The book is simply the publication of a doctoral thesis, submitted under the title
of "Thus they once heard--oral initiation in the Pali Nikayas", published over 25
years ago, when young scholars had to accept titles that publishers deemed
> Would either of you care to give a 1-line summary of where exactly weWhy a "1-line summary" ? Why not buy the book and read it--it only costs $14.00
> find Divine revelation in Pali Buddhism?
from Amazon--and then form your own considered opinion ?
But if you can bear with a rather longer summary, here is the one which appears on
the book jacket:
"This work seeks to show that the earliest texts of the Pali Canon, compiled by the
Buddhas contemporaries immediately following his death, reveal that in his own day
the Buddha and his mission were regarded quite differently to the manner in which
they are presented today. For far from being seen as one teaching a means to
liberation open to all to follow, he was instead regarded - as is still the typical
Indian guru - as one imparting liberating teachings only to those few whom he deemed
capable of benefiting therefrom.
Such teachings were imparted through an oral progressive revelation, culminating in
a vision of the goal, nirvana, being communicated to the convert, as a result of
which the latter was not only severed from his past karma, both good and bad, but
also spiritually reborn onto the supermundane path which, since it prevented further
accumulation of karma, guaranteed attainment of liberation from rebirth.
To those deemed incapable of such attainment, a totally different teaching was
given, encouraging the accumulation of good karma through cultic acts of charity to
the Buddha and his chosen few, who now claimed to represent the true seat of the
Vedic sacrifice and to be those through whom that sacrifice could alone acquire
As the above extract demonstrates, the word "divine" denotes simply nibbaana, and I
think all will agree that there are numerous instances in the texts in which the
Buddha is portrayed as revealing nibbaana to his converts.
- Peter Masefield wrote:
PM> Such teachings were imparted through an oral progressive
PM> revelation, culminating in a vision of the goal, nirvana, being
PM> communicated to the convert, as a result of which the latter was
PM> not only severed from his past karma, both good and bad, but also
PM> spiritually reborn onto the supermundane path which, since it
PM> prevented further accumulation of karma, guaranteed attainment of
PM> liberation from rebirth.
Does it imply that "oral initiation" suttas, especially those after
monks were enlightened, are actually deliberately designed
step-by-step instructions on investigating sankharas, and reading them
as analytical treatises with unnecessary repetitions means missing the
whole point of suttas?
- Peter, it's a great thesis, but I live in Canada and the structure of
both taxes and shipping charges mean that it's uneconomic to order
books one at a time. I'll have to wait until there are several I want
- "Äìèò?èé Èâàõíåíêî (Dimitry Ivakhnenko)" wrote:
> Peter Masefield wrote:I am sorry to say that I do not entirely understand the question. The oral
> PM> Such teachings were imparted through an oral progressive
> PM> revelation, culminating in a vision of the goal, nirvana, being
> PM> communicated to the convert, as a result of which the latter was
> PM> not only severed from his past karma, both good and bad, but also
> PM> spiritually reborn onto the supermundane path which, since it
> PM> prevented further accumulation of karma, guaranteed attainment of
> PM> liberation from rebirth.
> Does it imply that "oral initiation" suttas, especially those after
> monks were enlightened, are actually deliberately designed
> step-by-step instructions on investigating sankharas, and reading them
> as analytical treatises with unnecessary repetitions means missing the
> whole point of suttas?
revelation, known as the anupubbikathaa, is constantly documented throughout the
Nikaayas, though it should be added that many of the early editions of these texts,
and their translations, by the Pali Text Society are so highly abbreviated, that
this point frequently becomes lost on the casual reader.
Typical is the case of Suppabuddha who, as a leper, could never have beccome a monk.
I will let the Udaana passage speak for itself:
And Suppabuddha the leper saw, even from afar, that great body of people who had
congregated together and, upon seeing them, this occurred to him: Without doubt,
some food, either hard or soft, is being distributed here. Suppose I were now to
approach that great body of people. I reckon that I might obtain some food, either
hand or soft, here.
Then Suppabuddha the leper approached that great body of people. And Suppabuddha
the leper then saw the Lord seated teaching Dhamma, surrounded by a great assembly
and, upon seeing them, this occurred to him: No food, either hard nor soft, is
being distributed here. The recluse Gotama is this, teaching Dhamma amidst an
assembly. Suppose I, too, were to hear Dhamma, whereupon he, there and then,
seated himself to one side, thinking that he, too, would hear Dhamma.
Then the Lord  embraced and attended to, with his (own) mind, the mind of that
that all-inclusive assembly, wondering whether there were, in the present case,
anyone capable of perceiving Dhamma. And the Lord saw Suppabuddha the leper seated
amidst that assembly and, upon seeing him, this occurred to him: This one is, in
the present case, one capable of perceiving Dhamma. (So) for Suppabuddha the
leper, he talked a progressive talk, that is to say, talk on almsgiving, talk on
morality, talk on heaven; he made manifest the peril, the degradation, the
corruption, of sense-desires, the advantage associated with (their) renunciation.
When the Lord knew Suppabuddha the leper to be of ready heart, of malleable heart,
with a heart devoid of the hindrances, of uplifted heart, of devout heart, then did
he make manifest that which is the Dhamma-teaching of the Buddhas they have
themselves discovered, viz. dukkha, uprising, cessation (and the) path. Moreover,
just as they say a cleaned cloth from which the black specks have departed might
properly accept the dye, even so did there arise to Suppabuddha the leper, still on
that same seat, the dustless, stainless Dhammacakkhu, viz. that whatever is of a
nature to uprise, all that is of a nature to cease.
Then Suppabuddha the leper, as one who had seen Dhamma, reached Dhamma, fathomed
Dhamma, become completely immersed in Dhamma, as one who had crossed over doubt, one
for whom inquisitive talk had disappeared, one who had reached confidence, one not
conditional upon another where the Teachers Teaching is concerned, arose from his
seat and approached the Lord; and, having approached, he greeted the Lord and then
seated himself to one side. And, so seated to one side, Suppabuddha the leper said
this to the Lord:
It is a marvel, Lord, it is a marvel, Lord. Moreover, just as, Lord, one might
set upright that which had been turned upside down, or reveal that which had been
hidden, or identify the path to one who had got lost, or bring an oil-lamp into the
dimness so that those with eyes would see sight-objects, even so has this Dhamma
been made manifest in countless ways by the Lord. This same I, Lord, goes to the
Lord as refuge, to the Dhamma and to the order of monks; may the Lord accept me as a
layfollower such that: Beginning with today, whilst furnished with lifes breath, I
be one gone (thereto) as refuge .
Then Suppabuddha the leper, as one who had had (Dhamma) indicated to him, who had
been made to take it up, who had been made keen and who had been made to bristle
with excitement with Dhamma-talk by the Lord, having rejoiced at that spoken by the
Lord, and shown his appreciation, arose from his seat, greeted the Lord,
circumambulated him by the right and then departed, whereupon a cow with a year-old
calf collided with Suppabuddha the leper, not long after he had departed, and
deprived him of his life.
When the monks subsequently enquire as to Suppabuddha's fate, the Buddha replies:
Wise, monks, was Suppabuddha the leper; he practised that Dhamma that accords with
Dhamma. And he was not one to vex me on the basis of Dhamma. Suppabuddha the
leper, monks, through the complete exhaustion of three fetters, is a sotåpanna, one
not liable to the Downfall, one who is assured, one whose final recourse is
In other words, Suppabuddha had become, through this single Dhamma-talk, a
sotaapanna, and thus a member of the third jewel, or aiyasa"ngha.
Now, a good many monks were members also of this sa"ngha, as were many laymen and
devas; and one must always remember, when reading the texts, to consider whether the
sutta in question, including those dealing with the sa"nkhaaras, was delivered to
those who had already been enlightened by means of such a progressive talk, or to
people in general.
I hope I may have answered the question. If not, please be a little more specific.
>> Peter Masefield wrote:PM> I am sorry to say that I do not entirely understand the question. The oral
PM> revelation, known as the anupubbikathaa, is constantly documented throughout the
PM> Nikaayas, though it should be added that many of the early editions of these texts,
PM> and their translations, by the Pali Text Society are so highly abbreviated, that
PM> this point frequently becomes lost on the casual reader.
Sorry am I for insufficient clarity of my question. Thank you very
much for your detailed description of anupubbikathaa (oral revelation).
As you have pointed out, the discourses were gelivered in different
manner to people in general, and to those who had already been enlightened
by means of such a progressive talk. Accordingly the results were
different, from attaining the level of stream-winner, or in another
terms, arising of the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye "Whatever is subject
to origination is all subject to cessation," as in case of
Suppabuddha, to full release from fermentation/effluents.
The latter cases are of special interest, since they embody the attainment
of the ultimate goal of Buddhist path. However reading the
suttas after which numerous monks were enlightened, like
Anatta-lakkhana, Aditta-pariyaya, or Chachakka, the casual reader
finds just some kind of philosophical dispute, and hardly progresses
an inch further on the Path. The compilers and translators, apparently
finding repetitions to be tiresome and uninteresting, just leave them
So we may ask a question: how exactly the listeners attained full
release from aasavas (fermentation/affluents), and what was the purpose
of the repetitions.
Some people may answer that full release was due to the personal
powers of Tathagata and that repetitions were used for memorizing of
the suttas. However such answers don't stand up to careful
examination: the suttas for attaining full or partial release have
characteristic patterns, and it is certain elements of them which are
Investigating the famous Anatta-lakkhana sutta, or less known but more
detailed Chachakka sutta, we find that Buddha guided his disciples in
experiential exploration of khandhas (aggregates of clinging/becoming)
and salayatana (six senses). Apparently the advanced diciples, while
these suttas were given, were able to connect words of Buddha with
their personal experience. So when Buddha asked:
"How do you consider, monks -- Is form constant or inconstant?"
the monks were able to investigate their experience and give the
appropriate answer. The usual translation of 'ta.m ki.m ma~n~natha' as
'what do you think' gives the impression of theoretical discussion,
however the words went deeper.
So we can ask ourselves, can we read such suttas on a deeper level,
investigating the experience? And if we can do so at least with more
detailed suttas, such as Chachakka, will it give us a real progress on
- "Äìèò?èé Èâàõíåíêî (Dimitry Ivakhnenko)" wrote:
> So we may ask a question: how exactly the listeners attained fullIn the third chapter of my book, I give textual references for five distinct ways in which
> release from aasavas (fermentation/affluents)
this seems to have taken place:
(1) by hearing a further discourse (e.g. Vin I 13f);
(2) by being exhorted with Dhamma-talk (e.g. Vin I 181f);
(3) by receiving an exhortation in brief (Vin I 18);
(4) by a teaching involving the four verbs of sandasseti, samaadapeti, samuttejeti, and
sampaha.mseti (e.g. D II 42)
(5) by reviewing Dhamma heard (e.g. M I 501).
In addition, I append tables citing occassions upon which various individuals (a) received
the Dhammacakkhu via an anupubbikathaa; and (b) attained arahantship through a further
- Peter Masefield wrote:
PM> In the third chapter of my book, I give textual references for five distinct ways in which
PM> this seems to have taken place:
Currently your valuable book is unavailable for me, however I may
consider buying it in the future.
PM> (5) by reviewing Dhamma heard (e.g. M I 501).
The excerpt from this Magandiya sutta is available at
PM> In addition, I append tables citing occassions upon which various individuals (a) received
PM> the Dhammacakkhu via an anupubbikathaa; and (b) attained arahantship through a further
PM> oral tecahing.
So far I have found ten instances of (b) with oral teaching included
in the sutta:
Mahaapu.n.nama MN 3.1.9 (109) III.15 (available at metta.lk)
Chachakka MN 3.5.6 (148) III.280 (available on the net)
Ti.msamatta SN 2.4.3 II.187
Anatta-lakkhana SN 22.59 III.66 (available)
Khemaka SN 3.1.7 III.126
Aaditta SN 35.28 IV.19 (available)
Aggikkhandhopama AN 7.7.8 IV.128
Dvayatanupassana Snp III.12 139 (available)
Pañcavaggiyakathaa Vin 1.6 I.7
Uruvelapaa.tihaariyakathaa Vin 1.12 I.24
- I say it ain't right
There are two problems connected with translating sammaa as "right":
The first is that here in the West this word has been taken from its
origins as a carpenters term for an upright or perpendicular angle, a
right angle, or Upright, and made into a term standing for power and
authority: "righteous" (or, as "correct" it means "the only correct"
or as "propper" it means the rest is impropper) and "with the right
to". The use as Upright is not heard at all, and that would be the
meaning that was needed, at least for the elements of the Magga,
although it would be awkward elsewhere. But that is not how, even, I
see the elements of the Magga, that is to say as being the upright
ways of things; I see them rather as the ways that work in a system
designed to accomplish something. This will become apparent if you
examine the structure of the individual elements. They are not stated
in terms of static states, they are stated in terms that will be
interpreted differently by different individuals at different stages
of progress. So what is needed is not a term that describes an
So the second is that this is a term that must be used as to describe
a conditional state of things, not an absolutely correct
position. "Right" allows only for any other alternative to
be "wrong", and that is not what is being said in most cases where
samma is being used, it is simply saying that this is the best for
those going This Way, second best is not necessarily wrong, and
certainly not wrong for those who are going that way. Samma ditthi is
the point of view you adopt in order to overcome views of self and
existence, once those have been overcome, samma ditthi too must be
abandoned as just one of the limitless ways of seeing things. (All
views are to be let go.) Remember the simile of the raft.If right
were right and wrong were wrong, then right view would be right for
the Arahant as well as for the student, and that is not the case. It
needs to be a word that stands for "best under these conditions".
I think that reliance on the fact that Pali is the root (or close to
it) of all IndoEuropean languages, as has been said, is a good
justification for seeking in the etymology of the word for the best
translation. From summa then, we have (at least) two alternatives:
the terms "high" (I suppose we could say "top") and "consummate"
depending on how closely you want to stick to the sound of the root.
Both these terms allow for understanding the thing it is conditioning
to be conditionally the best, and yet allow for that which is second
best to not necessarily be wrong, just not the highest, or the best
in this case.
My preference is for High, because that word fits all round, as
in. . . ahum. . . sammasamadhi = high getting high, or
sammasambuddhassa=the high #1 wide awakened one.
As for miccha, it breaks down (me>wee) into "small-stuff"; so you
could say "low", which is my preference. PED has, as well
as "wrong", "contrary".
By the way, a Google search reveals 500 plus references to Buddhology
and several universities and other institutions that offer degrees in
the science (many of them in Asia) (I have no idea what it is all
about). That fellow was a tad on the blunt side, for sure, and did
not consider his audience, but I believe a close look will reveal
that it was he that was being attacked and that there was a bit of
the pack mentality going on here. Not exactly something to be proud
Please understand, I must be off, it is not right that I should
linger where I have taken a stand against the owner of the list! I do
it wishing only that you not neglect to wish well even to your
enemies. This not being you, yourself, who then may they be but
suchas suchas you?
best to you all!
My next actions will be to resign from the list.
Bye bye, adios or better yet Ni banna!
- Generally, I believe that the word sammaa can be appropriately
translated into several English terms. To me, however, it is more
important to understand the meaning of "right" view than to enter a
hot debate as to whether "right" is right.
I have also pointed out in an earlier mail that the context in which
doctrine fit in is comparatively more important. I did mention that
"right" does not mean that only what the Buddha taught are "holy" and
good while the rest are evil and wrong. That's certainly not the
buddhist approach. The word "right" has to be understood in the
context of the Middle Path, in its effect of the eradication of
At times, the selection of words for English translation can be
disputable. This list is certainly open for members to post their
opinions for discussion and consideration, but the tone used has to
be friendly and non-agressive.