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2017/2/18 Jayarava'sRaves:TranslatingPi"Asuata"

TranslatingPi"Asuata"

My Pi reading group is starting off this year by


lookingattheCasuatasutta(MN121).There's
quite a lot of commentary on this text, a number
of translations and commentaries, but even before
we began to read the text we discovered a
quandary in the word asuata, which only
occurs in this sutta. amoli and Bodhi (2001)
translate the word as "nonvoidness" but I don't
Svatth thinkthismakessense.
(lookingeast)

As analogues of the Sanskrit


adjective nya (empty) and the abstract noun from it nyat (emptiness), we find the
Pi sua and suat. However in addition, and in the title of the text no less, we find
another Pi form suato or suata, which is not found in Sanskrit dictionaries, though
some counterparts are found in Sanskrit Buddhist texts. This form is often glossed over in
translations as "emptiness", presumably because it is so similar to the abstract noun that the
translatorsdon'tnoticethedifference.

Ibeginwritingthis,itisnotatallcleartomehowasuataderivesandhowtotranslateit.
InthisessayIwillsurveytheusesofthetermsuatoandtrytoestablishhowitoughttobe
translated in order to shed light on the word asuata. My sources are the
Pi Nikyas and Ahakaths (or commentaries), the counterparts of
theCasuata preserved in Chinese(M 190) and Tibetan
(D.291),plusafewSanskritfragments.

TheCasuatasutta

Thepassagethatalertedustothisproblemcomesearlyoninthetext.InPliitgoes:

Seyyathpi, nanda, aya migramtupsdo suo hatthigavassa


vaavena, suo jtarparajatena, suo itthipurisasanniptena atthi
c'ev'idaasuatayadidabhikkhusaghapaiccaekatta

Beforeattemptingtotranslatethis,letmebreakprocedurebygivingthegistofwhatitsays.
Thisisthefirstpartofananalogydesignedtoillustrateaprocedureforgraduallyemptying
the mind of sense impressions and thoughts with the goal of attaining
thesuatsamdhi"integrationofemptiness"orsuatvihra"abodeofemptiness".These
seem to be equivalent to savedayitanirodhasampatti or "the attainment of the cessation
of perceptions and sensations" and thus also with nibbna. This very important and
interesting state I describe as "consciousness without content". One is alive and aware, but
thereisnocontenttoone'sexperience.Theancientshadnoconceptofarestingstatenetwork
in the brain, so they struggled to make sense of this state. I imagine, for example, that
something similar gave rise to the Vedic idea that Brahman could described
assaccidnandaorbeing(sat), consciousness (cit) and bliss (nanda). Dwelling in the state
ofemptinessoneexperiencesonlybeing,consciousnessandbliss.Thosewhowriteaboutthis
statetendtoassertthatitdoesgetanybetterthanthis.

Inthisillustrationoftheprocess,theBuddhaandnandaaresittinghavingadiscussionina
palaceorperhapsonaterrace(upsda),intheeasternpartofSvath(whichplacesitnear
theriverthatformedtheeasternboundaryoftheoldcity).Thispalaceformerlybelongedto
someone who is almost always known as Migra's Mother (migramt). Her name was

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ViskhandshewasactuallyMigra'swife(thatstoryisoutlinedintheDOPN).Inanycase
itappearsthatthepalaceisgivenovertothebhikkhusaghafortheiruse.

TheBuddhapointsoutthatthethingsonewouldnormallyfindinsuchaplace,i.e.livestock,
wealth, and people etc., are absent, but instead only the the bhikkhusagha is present.
Buddhaghosa points out in his commentary that this refers to the bhikkhus as a corporate
entity, not to the individual bhikkhus. This example of the palace and the bhikkhus is an
analogy for the ascetic meditating in the wilderness (araa). The ascetic notices that their
mind is empty of the sights and sounds of the village and its inhabitants, and all that is
presentisperceptionsofthewildernesswhichhaveasortofuniformity.Theperturbationsof
the mind caused by village life are absent, and only the perturbations due to the wilderness
arepresent.

The question is, how do we translate asuata and ekatta? Some comments on how to
translate ekatta can be found in Schmithausen (1981: 2334, n. 122). I concur with
Schmithausen's argument for treating ekatta not as Sanskrit ekatv "oneness, unity", but
as ektman "having a single nature" or "uniform". Buddhaghosa seems also to agree with
SchmithausenatMNA4.151inhisglossonbhikkhusaghapaiccti.InfactItakeittobe
anadverbialneuter.Thisessaywillfocusonasuatabeginningbylookingattheapparent
source,suato.

Suato

PEDoffersthefollowingdefinition:

Suata(adj.)[i.e.theabl.suatousedasadj.nom.]void,empty,devoidof
lusts,evildispositions,andkarma,butespeciallyofsoul,ego.

Here "adj. nom." means "an adjective in the nominative". The to suffix is one way to
indicate the ablative case. PED argues that suato is an ablative of sua (empty) that has
been treated as a masculine noun and declined accordingly. This would make asuata an
adjectiveintheaccusative,goingpresumablywithbhikkhusagha,and/orekatta.

AlsoPEDsv.suadefinesthewordinitsneuterformsua "abl. to from the point of


viewofthe'Empty'".Suggestingthatsuatocanstillhaveanablativesensemean"fromthe
point of view of someone dwelling in emptiness". As we will see below this is apparent in
somecontextsasthewordusuallyoccurswithaverbofseeing.

The primary sense of the ablative is from where or when an action proceeds, sabbato
gacchanti"theycamefromallsides" psd oloketi "he looks out from the palace". Very
often this relationship is conveyed in English with the preposition from. In the precepts we
abstain from certain types of action, and the actions are in the ablative case, i.e. pisunya
vcyaveraman"abstainingfromspeechwhichisslanderous".Theconceptofseparation(as
in "apart from") is also conveyed by the ablative case. It is also used to indicate cause or
reasonforanaction,e.g.slatonapasasanti"theypraisehimforhisvirtue".Andjustto
complicatemattersthecasesaresomewhatflexibleinMiddleIndiclanguages,sotheablative
sometimesmergeswithandcanbeusedtoconveyaninstrumentalsense(with,by,through).

Butwhyisanablativetreatedasanominative?Inordertotrytounderstandhowthismight
have come about let us begin with a survey the use of suato in the Nikyas. It doesn't
occurthatoften,sowecanbecomprehensive.

OccurrencesintheNikyas

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DNiii.219Aparepitayosamdhsuatosamdhi,animittosamdhi,appaihitosamdhi.

Furthermore there are three samdhis: empty samdhi, signless samdhi and
desirelesssamdhi.

This is from the Sangti Sutta (DN 33) which is a long list of numerical lists. Walsh (486)
translatessuatosamdhias"concentrationonemptiness"(i.e.heappearstoignorethecase
endings). Now the three words heresuato, animitto, appaihitoall appear to be the
sameformsowecanusefullylookattheothertwotoseeiftheyshedlightonthederivation.
The etymology of nimitta is given by PED as uncertain, though possibly related to
m'measure'butPEDalsotellsusthatthegenderisneuter.Sv.nimittainBHSDitisalso
neuter.Butifnimitta is neuter then it should not form a nominative singular in o, but in
a. Is nimitto therefore another ablative in to, possible from nimita (past participle)
fromnim?I'mnotsure.

If suato and nimitto are ablatives then suato samdhi might be "the samdhi [that
comes]from[being]empty".Whichisadmittedlyawkward.

By contrast paihita is very clearly a past participle from paidahati (pa+nidh) "to put
forth, put down to, apply, direct, intend aspire to, long for, pray for." We can
understand apaihita as a bahuvrhi, "without longing", as opposed to a karmadhraya
"undesired". Unfortunately this breaks up the pattern. So it looks like each word, though
superficiallysimilar,mightderivethetoendingviaadifferentroute.

AvariationonthisoccursatSNiv.360intheSuatasamdhiSutta(SN43:4):

Katamoca,bhikkhave,asakhatagmimaggo?Suatosamdhi,animitto
samdhi,appaihitosamdhi.

Andwhat,bhikkhus,isthepathleadingtotheunconditioned?Theempty
samdhi,signlesssamdhianddesirelesssamdhi.

Here Bodhi (2000: 1373) translated suato as "emptiness", i.e. as though he is translating
theabstractnounsuat.However,thefemininenounsuatcannottakeanoending, so
somethingiswrongwiththis.

MN i.302 "Savedayitanirodhasampattiy vuhita panyye, bhikkhu kati phass


phusant" ti? "Savedayitanirodhasampattiy vuhita kho, vuso viskha,
bhikkhu tayo phass phusanti suato phasso, animitto phasso, appaihito
phasso"ti.

However, lady, rousing from the attainment of cessation of perceptions and


sensations what feelings do those bhikkhus come into contact with? Friend
Viskha, those bhikkhus come into contact with three sensations on rousing
fromtheattainmentofcessationofperceptionandexperience,namelycontact
from/with that which is empty, contact from/with that which is signless, and
contactfrom/withthatwhichisdesireless.

This is from a discussion between Dhammadin and her former husband, Viskha, in
the Cavedalla Sutta (MN 44). This is a very interesting passage about going into and
emerging from cessation and the way that experience fades out and in. The question is
literally "What contacts do they contact?" Phasso is in the masculine nominative singular.
Heresuatoasablativecase,perhapsoverlappingwiththeinstrumentalmaymakesenseand
I'vehedgemytranslationtoindicatethis.amoliandBodhiagaintranslatesuato as the

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abstract"voidness"(2001:400).ThispassagerecursatSNiv.294wheresuatoistranslated
byBodhias"emptiness"

MN i.435. So yadeva tattha hoti rpagata vedangata sagata sakhragata


viagata te dhamme aniccato dukkhato rogato gaato sallato aghato bdhato
paratopalokatosuatoanattatosamanupassati.

One regards as impermanent, disappointing, a disease, a tumour, an arrow, a


calamity, an affliction, as other, as disintegrating, as empty (suato), and as
unsubstantial anything that is connected with form (rpagata), sensations,
perceptions,volitions,andcognitions.

Thewaysthatoneshouldregarddhammasareall ablatives in to. And the context suggests


we read them as meaning "as". So that te dhamme suato samanupassati should mean "he
regards those dhammas as empty". Here suato cannot be construed as the abstract
"emptiness". An important point here is that the cognitive action is taking place in a state
ofjhna.

Perhaps here we can take te dhamme aniccato samanupassati to mean "he regards
these dhammas from the point of view of impermanence"? We might argue, for example,
that if anicca was an adjective here, then it would take the plural, annice, to go with the
noun dhamme in the plural. Therefore aniccato which is singular is not an adjective and is
notdescribingthedhammas,butisindicatingfromwhencetheverbofseeingproceeds.Thus
thiscouldbeseeasanexampleofsuatohavinganablativesense.

This passage is reflected in the Sayutta Nikya. At SN iii.167 the question is asked to
whatdhammasavirtuousmonkshouldpayattention.Theansweris:

Slavat...bhikkhunpacupdnakkhandhaniccato...suatoyonisomanasi
ktabb.

Avirtuousmonkshouldpayattentiontothefiveunderlyingapparatusof
experienceasimpermanent...asempty...etc.

Again Bodhi reads the text as saying that the khandhas should be
seen as impermanent... as "empty" (2000: 970). Here the word pacupdnakkhandh is a
nominative plural and Bodhi is tacitly reading aniccato as a nominative singular and the
sentence as a simple apposition. Note that here also the verb is one in which one regards or
pays attention to the khandhas. Buddhaghosa glosses sattasuatahena suato (SNA
2.333)i.e."withthemeaningof'emptyofabeing'".

There is a Sanskrit fragment that parallels this (Thanks to Dhvan for pointing this out to
me):

(ani)tyatadukhataunyataant[m]atomanasikarttavy. (Anlayo 2013:


11)

[Something]...shouldbeattendedtoasemptyetc.

This passage recurs at AN ii.128 and AN iv.423, where is is again associated with the
cultivation of jhna and AN ii.129 associated with the brahmavihras. Here the one who
does these practices has a pleasant rebirth that is not shared with worldings (Aya,
bhikkhave,upapattiasdhraputhujjanehi.).

FinallythewordoccursintheSuttanipataSn1119(mentionedinthePEDdefinition
ofsua):

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"Suatolokaavekkhassu,mogharjasadsato
Attnudihihacca,evamaccutarosiy
Evalokaavekkhanta,maccurjnapassat"ti.

Viewtheworldasempty,Mogharja,alwaysmindful
Havingdestroyedselfvew,onemaycrossoverdeath
TheKingofDeathdoesnotseetheonewhoviewstheworldthisway.

(MytranslationmoreorlessfollowsK.RNormanhere).

Norman was the leading authority on MiddleIndic languages and particularly in his
translationoftheSuttanipatapaid close attention to the meaning of every word. So the fact
that he reads suato loka as "the world as empty" is significant. However, he does not
discuss this choice in detail in his notes, but instead refers readers to E.J. Thomas (1951:
218)whosimplysaysthatsuataisanadjectivemeaning"void".Notethatherelokais an
accusative singular and the verb once again involves seeing. Here, as above, I'm inclined to
take the ablative as representing a point of view. To me this suggests seeing the
worldfromthepointofviewofthesuatavihra(asinthePEDdefinitioncitedabove).

So the modern translators seem undecided on how to translate suato. Depending on


unknown factors, since it is never discussed, suato can represent the abstract (though the
morphology is all wrong for this) and be translated as "voidness, emptiness" or it can
represent the adjective and be translated as "void, empty", sometimes with the sense of "as
empty".Incombinationwithverbsofseeingitcanbethoughtofas"fromtheemptypointof
view". In order to understand how ancient Theravda commentators might have understood
thewordwecanlookattheglossesintheAhakaths.

Commentarialglosses

DNA3.1003.Maggasamdhipanargdhisuatattsuato,rganimittdnaabhv
animitto,rgapaidhidnaabhvappaihitoti

Howeverthesamdhiofthepathisempty(suato) because of the emptiness


(suatatt) of passion etc, is signless from the nonexistence of signs of
passionetc,isdesirelessfromthenonexistenceofdesireforpassionetc.

Here the abstract noun suatatta (suatatt is the ablative of cause) is telling. It points
quitestronglytoBuddhaghosaconstructingthissentencewithsuatomeaning"empty".The
samdhi under discussion lacks rga, dosa, and moha or attraction, aversion, and confusion
and lacking these is said to be empty (suato) giving it the quality of emptiness
(suatatta).

MNA 2.366/ SNA 3.97 suato phassotidayo saguenpi rammaenpi kathetabb.


saguena tva suat nma phalasampatti, tya sahajta phassa sandhya
suatophassotivutta.animittpaihitesupiesevanayo.rammaenapananibbna
rgdhi suatt sua nma, rganimittdna abhv animitta,
rgadosamohappaidhna abhv appaihita. Suata nibbna rammaa
katv uppannaphalasampattiya phasso suato nma. animittpaihitesupi eseva
nayo.

Takingupthephrase"emptycontact"(suatophasso),itshouldbeexplained
accordingitsownqualities(saguena)andaccordingtoitsbasis(rammaa).
According to its own qualities, it is the attainment of the fruit called
emptiness (suat). Coinciding with that [emptiness], contact with

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reference to it, is called contact that is empty. Animitta and apaihita are
inferredinthesameway.

However,accordingtoitsbasis,nibbnais named empty (sua), because


of emptiness of attraction (rga) etc [named] signless because of the absence
of signs of attraction etc, and desireless because of the absence of desire for
attraction, aversion, and ignorance. Having made a case that nibbna is
emptiness, the attainment of the arisen fruit is called "contact that is
empty".Animittaandapaihitaareinferredinthesameway.

This section of commentary is looking at MN i.302 mentioned above. The subject is what
someonewhohasattainedthecessationofperceptionsandsensationscomesintocontactwith
when they rouse themselves (vuhita) from the attainment. For them contact is empty or
absent. In Buddhaghosa's view their attainment is nibbna and they don't experience the
world the way ordinary people do any more. Contact for them is empty, signless and
desireless. Here Buddhaghosa uses sua and suato synonymously and suat as a
synonym for nibbna. Again we see words like suato and suat being used to indicate
absence.

A short gloss is found at MNA 3.146: nissattahena suato "with the meaning without a
being (nissatta)." Another as ANA 2.334 sattasuatahena suato, "with the meaning of
emptiness of a being", confirming that nissatta should be read as "without a being" rather
than with PED "powerless". The sense here is that empty means the absence of a being
(satta).

Buddhaghosa,then,ismoreconsistentintreatingsuatoassynonymouswithsuo,and
bothasmeaning"emptyof[something]"orthattheobjectisabsent.

SanskritUdnavarga

We'veseenonefragmentthatusestheSanskritequivalentofsuato, i.e. unyata. Skilling


(1981: 226) gives a more substantial example. He notices that in
the Udnavarga (a Dharmapada text) there is a series of verses that are counterparts to the
PliDhammapadavs277279,whencethewellknowntripletsabbesakhranicc, sabbe
sakhr dukkh, and sabbe dhamm anatt. Compare the Udnavarga (Uv 12. 58 first
linesonly)

anitysarvasaskrprajaypayateyad...[5]
dukhsarvasaskrprajaypayateyad...[6]
unyatasarvasaskrprajaypayateyad...[7]
sarvadharmantmnaprajaypayateyad...[8]|

Whenheseeswithinsightallconstructsasimpermanent...
Whenheseeswithinsightallconstructsasdisappointing...
Whenheseeswithinsightallconstructsasempty...
Whenheseeswithinsightallexperiencesasinsubstantial...

ComparetheDhp277wherethefirstlineissabbesakhranicctiyadpayapassati.
Here "that which is seen" is given as a nominal sentence followed by the quotative particle.
In Pi sabba is a separate word, declined as a pronoun (nominative plural), whereas in
Sanskrit sarva is undeclined and compounded with the noun it qualifies, though there is no
changeinmeaninginthisdifference.IntheUv12.5andUv12.6,whatisseenwithinsight,
e.g.anitysarvasaskr,isintheaccusativeplural,makingitthepatientoftheverbof
seeing. Note that word order is not important here, so the fact that the two parts of the
apposition, e.g. anitym and sarvasaskr are not the same order as in Pi,
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i.e. sakhr and anicc is not significant. As Dhvan pointed out in an email, in Bernard's
edition of the Udnavarga on Sutta Central, Uv 12.6 begins dukha hi
sarvasaskr with dukha in the singular. Dhvan suggests that we treat this as nominal,
as in the Pi, "When one sees with wisdom all constructions indeed are disappointing...".
However saskra is masculine and the ending is unequivocally accusative plural. So
perhaps"Whenoneseeswithinsightalltheconstructionsthatareindeeddisappointing..."?

Now in Uv 12.7 the Sanskrit word is unyata (with nyata given as an alternate
reading) = Pi suato. One way to explain the short u might be that this is a loan word
from Middle Indic which has not been fully assimilated to Sanskrit morphology rules that
demandalongi.e. nyata. Despite grammatical problems with Uv 12.8 (see below) the
general outline here seems to be that all constructs are identified with a series of qualities,
particularly: impermanence, disappointment, and insubstantiality. So we expect 12.7 to fit
thispattern.Weexpectunyatatobejustliketheotheradjectives:anitya,dukha,antman.
Butitisn't.Whichevercasewetakeunyatatobe,(ablativeandnominativearepossible)it
simply does not fit the pattern because it is singular and the noun it is describing is plural
(thoughcf.theBernardEd.ofUv12.6whichissingular).Adjectivestakethecase,number
and gender of the noun they describe predicates have to at least be in the same case. To
qualify sarvasaskr we expect unyata. It appears that something has gone wrong in
addingthislinetothetext.

Lastly in 12.8 the grammar is mangled. Perhaps echoing the MiddleIndic syntax,
here sarvadharm antmna are in the nominative plural (matching the Pi
equivalent sabbe dhamm anatt ti). In Sanskrit grammar this would make them the agents
oftheverb,whichwouldbenonsense.Piavoidsthisbyaddingthequotativeparticle.The
correctgrammar,matching12.5,6wouldbesarvadharmantmana. This error might be
scribal a missing anusvra and an incorrectly lengthened vowel are certainly common
scribal errors, but that they would make the exact mistakes in two consecutive words that
wouldaccuratelychangethemtobethesame(wrong)caseseemsunlikely.

Unfortunately this Sanskrit example does nothing to clarify the situation. Nor does Skilling
add any comment on this point, indeed he talks as if the text has nyat instead. The
grammatical mistake in 12.8 makes us doubt the text. But clearly the person who added the
verse at Uv 12.7 understood the sentence to be the same form as 12.5,6 and likely 12.8 as
well (error notwithstanding). The only way I can see to make sense of this is to
treat nyata as indeclinable. It does not change case to match the noun because it cannot.
Butthisisfarfromsatisfactorybecauseitconflictswithwhatwealreadyknow.

HavingmoreorlessexhaustedtherelevantIndiclanguagesources,wecannowturntothe
versionsoftheCasuataSuttapreservedinChineseandTibetan.

TheChineseText

TheClasuataSuttahasacounterpartintheChineseMadhyamgama, i.e. M 190


TheLesserEmptinessStra.TheparallelpassageinChineseis:


(T1737a910)

nanda,itislikethispalaceofMigarasmotheris
emptyofelephantshorsescattlesheepmoney
ricegrainmaleandfemaleslaveshoweveritisnonempty
ofonlythebhikusagha

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Thecharacterforbothemptyandemptinessis,howeverwealsoseeheretheuseof
which can also just mean "empty, emptiness", but which might also mean "empty and
without".WhereourPlitexthasasuatatheChinesehaswhichwewouldexpectto
mean "nonemptiness" and reflect Sanskrit anyat. But the lack of clear information
oninflexionsinChineseleavesconsiderableroomfordoubt.SkillingnotesthattheChinese
and Tibetan versions are closer to each other than either is to the Pi, so next (with a little
helpfrommyfriends)wecannowlookatthelastsourceonthelist,theTibetanversionof
theCasuataSutta.

TheTibetanText

AmongsttheveryfewTibetantranslationsofNikya/gamatextsarethetwonyattexts
(Skilling 1994, 1997 also Deg vol. 71: 250a.1253b.2). My thanks to Joy Vriens and
Maitiu O'Ceileachair for help with understanding the Tibetan. The parallel passage in the
Tibetanis(thoughseeSkilling1994criticaleditionforvariantreadings):

kun dga' bo 'di lta ste | dper na ridags 'dzin gyi ma'i kha bza 'di glapo
cheda|rtada|balada|lugda|byagagda|phaggisstozinor
da|'bruda|'gronbuda|gsergyisstola|branda|branmoda|las
byed pa da | zo as 'tsho ba dag da | skyes pa da | budmedda | khye'u
da|bumodaggisstoya'dina'diltaste|dgeslogidge'dunkhona'am
|delaskhaciglabrtennasmistopayayoddo||(Skilling1994:150)

MgraMother'sMansionisemptyofelephants,horses,cows,sheep,roosters,
and pigs. It is empty of wealth, grain, money and gold. It is empty of man
servantsandmaidservants,ofworkersanddependants,ofmenandwomen,of
boysandgirls.Butwithregardtoonethingthereisnonemptiness,thatis,the
communityofmonksalone.(Skilling2007:234)

ComparethetranslationofthelastsentencefoundinSkilling(1997:349)"thereisstillthe
assemblyofmonks,orwhateverdependsuponit,thatisnotabsent".

Skilling explains, "here the Pi has paicca ekattam, the Tibetan has kha cig la breten nas,
suggesting *prattya ekatyam, with the Buddhist Sanskrit ekatya [Pi ekacca "someone,
anyone" BHSD] where one would rather expect ekatvaperhaps a wrong Sanskritisation"
(1997:349350).ThisleaveSkillingatalossforatranslation,butasIhavealreadypointed
out above, Schmithausen argues convincingly that Pi ekatta reflects
SanskritektmanwhichwouldIthinkwouldsolveSkilling'sproblem.Inanote(1997:349,
n.49)offersatentativereconstructionoftheSanskrit

dgeslogidge'dum=bhikusaghakhona'am=evavdelaskhacig
=tatoekatyalabrtennas=prattyamistopa=anyaya=api(ca,
tu)yoddo=asti.

i.e.asticaeva[ida]aunyatatobhikusaghaprattyaekatya.

C.f.Piatthic'ev'idaasuatayadidabhikkhusaghapaicca
ekatta

Despite this, the Tibetan translator has evidently read an adjective here which he translates
as mi sto pa suggesting that his Sanskrit text had anya at this point. Seemingly the
unknown Sanskrit translator understood his text to be using an adjective. Unfortunately no
Sanskrit ms. of this text survives to enable crosschecking. Sanskrit anya would be
consistentwiththeChinese.

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The only thing we can take from this is a stronger sense that, contra amoli and Bodhi
(2001)theabstractof"nonvoidness"senseisnotintendedhere.

Discussion

Now I have to attempt to summarise a great deal of information that is often contradictory.
Before looking at asuata we need to state again that sua means "empty", and in this
context something that is referred to as sua is absent. So when the Buddha says to
nanda, aya migramtupsdo suo hatthigavassavaavena "this mansion of Migra's
Mother's is empty of elephants etc.", he means that there are no livestock present, no
livestocktobeseen.Contrarilyifsomethingis asuata then we can take this to mean that
somethingisnotabsentorpresent.

Thereseemtwomostlikelywaystoarriveatthemorphologicalformasuata.Firstlywe
can take suata it as an accusative singular of the abstract noun suat. Various
translatorsdotreatsuatoas"emptiness".Butassometextspointout,theword suat in
this context really applies only to the attainment of the goal, i.e. to nibbna. In this
view asuat would mean something like "presence" (an abstraction from
"present").Howevertheabstract"presence"doesnotquitefitthecontext.

Secondly we can derive suata from the ablative suato. It seems that this word was
originallycombinedwithverbsmeaningtosee,i.e.paorconsideri.e.manasik with the
senseof"as"dhammsuatopassati"toseedhammasasempty"or"toseedhammasfrom
the empty point of view" or a point of view that is empty of defilements or perhaps,
accordingtoBuddhaghosa,emptyofabeing.Thewordsuatowas then lexicalised, that is
tosayitwastreatedasawordinitsownrightratherthanadeclinedform,withthemeaning
"emptyabsent"andtreatedasanominativesingularwithanaccusativesingularinsuata.
(WhichIadmitismoreorlesswhatPEDsays,butnowweknowwhyitsaysthatandthatit
is correct which is a bonus where the PED is concerned). The two derivations produce the
sameaccusativesingular,suata.

The etymological meaning of asuata would be "nonemptiness" or "notempty" and as


farasIknoweverytranslatorhasoptedforsomethingalongtheselines.HoweverIsuggest
wecanbeabitlazyaboutthiskindofmorphologyinPli.Wedon'talwaysthinkaboutwhat
the word really means. A negated term often has a positive value and need not be slavishly
translated as notX or withoutX. In this case asuata clearly refers to
something present (in contrast to absent) or visible or something along these lines. To insist
on using a word that preserves the Pi morphology is no more sensible than preserving the
Pi syntax (a practice dubbed "Buddhist Hybrid English" by Theologian Paul Griffiths). I
thinkwehavetotranslatethewordas"present"or"presence".

Comingbacktothepassageunderconsideration,theBuddhapointsouttonandafirstwhat
is absent and then what is present. What is present at the mansion are only bhikkhus, and
because there are only bhikkhus they have a sort of uniformity (ekatta = ektman) when
consideredwithrespecttowhatonewouldexpecttofindinamansion,includinglivestock,
people,andwealth.AsaboveIthinkwehavetotakeekattaasanadverbialaccusative.

However, as my friend Sarah has pointed out, ida is a neuter pronoun. Later
when asuata is replaced in the same sentence structure by the feminine noun in the
nominativecasedarathamatttheassociatedpronounchangestoayawhichisalsofeminine
nominative. This suggests that the word asuata is a neuter nominative in this sentence
and the only way we can think of this happening is if it is an adjective or adjectival
compound that is forced to change gender to fit a noun or pronoun,

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2017/2/18 Jayarava'sRaves:TranslatingPi"Asuata"

i.e. a bahuvrhi compound asuat meaning "without emptiness". So, despite


everything,idaasuatamustmean"thispresence".

ThusIwouldarguethatoursentenceoughttobetranslatedthisway:

Seyyathpi, nanda, aya migramtupsdo suo hatthigavassa


vaavena, suo jtarparajatena, suo itthipurisasanniptena atthi
c'ev'ida asuata yadida bhikkhusagha paicca
ekatta evameva kho, nanda, bhikkhu amanasikaritv gmasaa,
amanasikaritv manussasaa, araasaa paicca manasi
karotiekatta.

nanda, just as livestock, wealth, and people are absent from this palace of
Migra's Mother and there is only this presence, uniformly dependent on the
community of monks just so, nanda, a monk doesn't pay attention to
perception of the village, or people, but uniformly pays attention to the
perceptionoftheforest.

Note that in the last phrase manasi karoti ekatta the ekatta naturally functions as an
adverbofthemainverbmanasikarotitomean"uniformlypayingattention".

Afewlineson,thebhikkhuwhoappliesthispracticecomestounderstand

Iti yahi kho tattha na hoti tena ta sua samanupassati, ya pana tattha
avasihahotita"santamidaatth"ti

Thus, that which is not there (tattha na hoti) he perceives that as absent
(sua) however that which remains (avasiha) is there (tattha) and he
knows"thereisthispresent"(santamidaattthi).

We can see the practice as like progressively applying a set of filters on experience, so that
whatweareawareofisgraduallydiminisheduntilweareawareofnothing,orthereisjust
absence. It's not that the world ceases to exist, but that we narrow our world of
perceptiondownuntilnothingispresentingitselftoourconsciousmind.Nothingdisturbsthe
mind,nothingdisturbsthedeepequanimityofbeinginthisstate.Andthis,thetextstellus,
iswhatNibbnaislike.

~~oOo~~

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