Khemāsuttaṁ (SN 44.1)
The Discourse about Khemā

A Pāli and English line by line (interlinear) version of a discourse and its commentary in which Khemā, one of the Buddha’s senior nuns disciples, gives a teaching to King Pasenadi which earned her the title of foremost in great wisdom (together with extensive annotation).

edited and translated by
Ānandajoti Bhikkhu

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Texts and Preface

The Discourse to Khemā

Introduction at Toraṇavatthu

Khemā Therī answers the Quesitons

The Buddha answers the Quesitons

Conclusion

 

Texts

BJT: Sri Lankan edition, from the Buddha Jayanti Tripitaka Series, Volume XVI (Colombo, 1981/2519, reprinted with corrections 2005).

Thai: Thai edition, as found on Budsir for Windows CD-ROM (version 2.0, Bangkok, 1996).

ChS: Burmese edition, as found on the Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana CD-ROM (version 3, Igatpuri, no date, but = 1999).

PTS: European edition, Saṃyutta-Nikāya Part IV, ed. M. Leon Feer, (Oxford, 1894, reprinted 1990).

 

Preface

According to the commentary on the foremost nun disciples of the Buddha, AA 1.5.2.01 it is through this discourse that the nun Khemā was appointed to the position of foremost amongst those who have great wisdom, making her the female equivalent of Ven. Sāriputta.

The discourse is indeed profound, and in one interesting aspect departs from other discourses that contain the same teaching. Normally in the commentaries in the question about the position of the tathāgata after death, the word is defined like this:

tathāgato ti satto; Many examples, but see the comm. to MN 63. 02
the tathāgata (here) means a being.

This would give the question: Does a being exist (not exist, both exist and not exist, neither exist nor not exist) after death? These are four question of a sequence which sometimes includes a total of ten profound questions.03

Here, however, the text makes it clear the question is being asked about the Realised One himself, and not about beings in general:

“Evam-eva kho, Mahārāja, yena rūpena Tathāgataṁ paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya,
“Just so, Great King, through knowing whatever bodily form a Realised One can be known by,

taṁ rūpaṁ Tathāgatassa pahīnaṁ ucchinnamūlaṁ tālāvatthukataṁ,
that form the Realised One has abandoned, cut off at the root, made a palm stump,

anabhāvakataṁ āyatiṁ anuppādadhammaṁ.
made unviable, so that by nature it is unable to rise again in the future.

And the commentary concurs:

‘Taṁ rūpaṁ Tathāgatassa pahīnan,’-ti
‘That form the Tathāgata has abandoned,’ means

taṁ vuttappakārarūpaṁ samudayappahānena sabbaññu-Tathāgatassa pahīnaṁ.
through abandoning the arising of that form said to be prepared, the omniscient Tathāgata has abandoned (form).

Because of this we must see the meaning of these question in two ways: one as a question about beings in general, which cannot be said to exist (not exist, both exist and not exist, neither exist nor not exist) after death because there is no underlying something that has continual existence in human life, only conditionally arisen phenomena.

On the other hand in this context we cannot say the Realised One exists (not exists, both exists and not exists, neither exists nor not exists) after death because the state of Nibbāna is unincluded in the categories of existence altogether, as is anyone who has attained Liberation. Indeed, this is the definition of Liberation, to be free from renewed existence.

So the discourse throws new light on our understanding of these difficult questions, and rightly Arahat Khemā was placed at the foremost levels of great wisdom, through her profound understanding of these deep questions and her exposition of their meaning, which is later confirmed when the King, who is asking the questions, asks the very same questions of the Buddha himself and gets the same replies..

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu,
September, 2014


Khemāsuttaṁ PTS: Khemātherī.04
The Discourse about Khemā (SN 44.1)

Introduction in Toraṇavatthu

Ekaṁ samayaṁ Bhagavā Sāvatthiyaṁ viharati
At one time the Gracious One was dwelling near Sāvatthī

Jetavane Anāthapiṇḍikassa ārāme.
at Anāthapiṇḍika’s grounds in Jeta’s Wood.

Tena kho pana samayena Khemā bhikkhunī,
Then at that time the nun Khemā,

Kosalesu cārikaṁ caramānā,
while walking gradually through Kosala on walking tour,

antarā ca Sāvatthiṁ antarā ca Sāketaṁ,
between Sāvatthī and Sāketa,

Toraṇavatthusmiṁ vāsaṁ upagatā hoti. RTE omits: vāsaṁ upagatā hoti. Atha kho Rājā Pasenadi Kosalo Sāketā Sāvatthiṁ gacchanto antarā ca Sāketaṁ antarā ca Sāvatthiṁ Toraṇavatthusmiṁ.05
had reached and was dwelling in Toraṇavatthu.

Atha kho Rājā Pasenadi Kosalo Sāketā Sāvatthiṁ gacchanto
Then the Kosalan King Pasenadi was going to Sāvatthī from Sāketa

antarā ca Sāketaṁ antarā ca Sāvatthiṁ
and was between Sāvatthī and Sāketa

Toraṇavatthusmiṁ ekarattivāsaṁ upagacchi.
and had reached and was dwelling in Toraṇavatthu for a night.

Atha kho Rājā Pasenadi Kosalo aññataraṁ purisaṁ āmantesi:
Then the Kosalan King Pasenadi addressed a certain man,

“Ehi tvaṁ, ambho purisa, Toraṇavatthusmiṁ
saying: “Please go, dear Sir, and in Toraṇavatthu

tathārūpaṁ samaṇaṁ vā brāhmaṇaṁ vā jāna
see if there would be a suitable and knowledgeable ascetic or brāhmaṇa

yam-ahaṁ ajja payirupāseyyan.”-ti PTS: payirūpāseyyanti; and similarly throughout.06
I can pay homage to today.”

“Evaṁ, Devā,” ti kho so puriso, Rañño Pasenadissa Kosalassa paṭissutvā,
“Yes, your Majesty”, said that man, and after replying to the Kosalan King Pasenadi,

kevalakappaṁ Toraṇavatthuṁ PTS: Toraṇavatthusmiṁ.07 āhiṇḍanto BJT: anvāhiṇḍanto.08 nāddasa
and wandering through the whole of Toraṇavatthu, he did not find

tathārūpaṁ samaṇaṁ vā brāhmaṇaṁ vā
a suitable and knowledgeable ascetic or brāhmaṇa

yaṁ Rājā Pasenadi Kosalo payirupāseyya.
that the Kosalan King Pasenadi could pay homage to.

Addasā kho so puriso Khemaṁ bhikkhuniṁ
(But) the man did see that the nun Khemā

Toraṇavatthusmiṁ vāsaṁ upagataṁ.
had reached and was dwelling in Toraṇavatthu.

Disvāna, yena Rājā BJT omits: Rājā.09 Pasenadi Kosalo tenupasaṅkami,
Having seen (her), he approached the Kosalan King Pasenadi,

upasaṅkamitvā Rājānaṁ Pasenadiṁ Kosalaṁ PTS: Pasenadi-Kosalaṁ.10 etad-avoca:
and after approaching he said this to the Kosalan King Pasenadi:

“Natthi kho, Deva, Toraṇavatthusmiṁ
“There is not, your Majesty, in Toraṇavatthu

tathārūpo samaṇo vā brāhmaṇo vā yaṁ devo payirupāseyya.
a suitable and knowledgeable ascetic or brāhmaṇa your Majesty can pay homage to today.

Atthi ca kho, deva, Khemā nāma bhikkhunī,
But there is, your Majesty, the nun named Khemā,

tassa Bhagavato sāvikā Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa,
who is a disciple of the Gracious One, the Worthy One, the Perfect Sambuddha,

tassā kho pana Ayyāya BJT: panayyāya.11 evaṁ kalyāṇo kittisaddo abbhuggato:
and about this Noble Lady this beautiful report has gone round:

‘Paṇḍitā, viyattā RTE: byattā.12 medhāvinī bahussutā cittakathā RTE, PTS: cittakathī.13 kalyāṇapaṭibhānā.’ ti
‘She is wise, learned, intelligent, a beautiful orator and extemporary speaker.’

Taṁ devo payirupāsatū.” ti
Your Majesty can pay homage to her.”

Khemā Therī answers the Questions

Atha kho Rājā Pasenadi Kosalo yena Khemā bhikkhunī tenupasaṅkami,
Then the Kosalan King Pasenadi approached the nun Khemā,

upasaṅkamitvā Khemaṁ bhikkhuniṁ abhivādetvā, ekamantaṁ nisīdi.
and after approaching and worshipping the nun Khemā, he sat down on one side.

Ekamantaṁ nisinno kho Rājā Pasenadi Kosalo
While sitting on one side the Kosalan King Pasenadi

Khemaṁ bhikkhuniṁ etad-avoca:
said this to the nun Khemā:

“Kiṁ nu kho, Ayye, hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ti BJT: param-maraṇā ti; and similarly throughout.14
“How is it, Noble Lady, does the Realised One exist after death?”

“Abyākataṁ SHB, PTS: Avyākataṁ; and similarly throughout.15 kho BJT omits: kho.16 etaṁ, Mahārāja, Bhagavatā:
“This has not been answered, Great King, by the Gracious One:

‘Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ” ti
‘Does the Realised One exist after death?’ ”

“Kiṁ pan’ Ayye, na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ti
“But how is it, Noble Lady, does the Realised One not exist after death?”

“Etam-pi PTS: Tam pi.17 kho, Mahārāja, abyākataṁ Bhagavatā:
“This has not been answered, Great King, by the Gracious One:

‘Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ” ti
‘Does the Realised One not exist after death?’ ”

“Kiṁ nu kho, Ayye, hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ti
“How is it, Noble Lady, does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?”

“Abyākataṁ kho etaṁ, Mahārāja, Bhagavatā:
“This has not been answered, Great King, by the Gracious One:

‘Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ” ti
‘Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’ ”

“Kiṁ pan’ Ayye, neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā.” ti
“But how is it, Noble Lady, does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?”

“Etam-pi kho, Mahārāja, abyākataṁ Bhagavatā:
“This has not been answered, Great King, by the Gracious One:

‘Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ” ti
‘Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’ ”

“ ‘Kiṁ nu kho, Ayye, hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti
“ ‘How is it, Noble Lady, does the Realised One exist after death?’

– iti puṭṭhā samānā,
– when there is this question,

‘Abyākataṁ kho etaṁ, Mahārāja, Bhagavatā:
° you say: ‘This has not been answered, Great King, by the Gracious One:

“Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ’ ti vadesi.
“Does the Realised One exist after death?” ’

‘Kiṁ pan’ Ayye, na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti
‘But how is it, Noble Lady, does the Realised One not exist after death?’

– iti puṭṭhā samānā,
– when there is this question,

‘Etam-pi kho, Mahārāja, abyākataṁ Bhagavatā:
° you say: ‘This has not been answered, Great King, by the Gracious One:

“Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ’ ti vadesi.
“Does the Realised One not exist after death?” ’

‘Kiṁ nu kho, Ayye, hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti
‘How is it, Noble Lady, does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’

– iti puṭṭhā samānā,
– when there is this question,

‘Abyākataṁ kho etaṁ, Mahārāja, Bhagavatā:
° you say: ‘This has not been answered, Great King, by the Gracious One:

“Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ’ ti vadesi.
“Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?” ’

‘Kiṁ pan’ Ayye, PTS: Kiṁ nu kho; which is out of pattern with its own readings above.18 neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti
‘How is it, Noble Lady, does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’

– iti puṭṭhā samānā,
– when there is this question,

‘Etam-pi kho, Mahārāja, abyākataṁ Bhagavatā:
° you say: ‘This has not been answered, Great King, by the Gracious One:

“Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ’ ti vadesi.
“Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?” ’

Ko nu ko Ayye hetu ko paccayo yenetaṁ SHB, PTS: yena taṁ.19 abyākataṁ Bhagavatā?” ti
What is the cause, Noble Lady, what is the reason, why does the Gracious One not answer this?”

“Tena hi, Mahārāja, tañ-ñevettha paṭipucchissāmi,
“Now then, Great King, here I will ask you something in return,

yathā te khameyya tathā naṁ byākareyyāsi.
as you see fit, so you should answer.

Taṁ kiṁ maññasi, Mahārāja,
What do you think, Great King,

atthi te koci gaṇako vā muddiko vā saṅkhāyako vā
do you have a mathematician, or a calculator or an accountant

yo pahoti Gaṅgāya vālukaṁ SHB, RTE read: vālik- throughout.20 gaṇetuṁ,
who is able to count the (amount of) sand in the Ganges,

ettakā vālukā iti vā,
(saying): there is this much sand,

ettakāni vālukasatāni iti vā,
or there are so many hundreds of (grains of) sand,

ettakāni vālukasahassāni iti vā,
or there are so many thousands of (grains of) sand,

ettakāni vālukasatasahassāni iti vā?” ti
or there are so many hundreds of thousands of (grains of) sand?”

“No hetaṁ, Ayye.”
“Certainly not, Noble Lady.”

“Atthi pana te koci gaṇako vā muddiko vā saṅkhāyako vā
“But do you have a mathematician, or a calculator or an accountant

yo pahoti mahāsamudde udakaṁ gaṇetuṁ, SHB, PTS: manituṁ.21
who is able to measure the water in the great ocean,

ettakāni udakāḷhakāni iti BJT: ti; and similarly throughout.22 vā,
(saying): there are this many gallons of water,

ettakāni udakāḷhakasatāni iti vā,
or there are this many hundreds of gallons of water,

ettakāni udakāḷhakasahassāni iti vā,
or there are this many thousands of gallons of water,

ettakāni udakāḷhakasatasahassāni iti vā?” ti
or there are this many hundreds of thousands of gallons of water?”

“No hetaṁ, Ayye.
“Certainly not, Noble Lady.

Taṁ kissa hetu?
What is the cause of that?

Mah’ Āyye, samuddo gambhīro appameyyo duppariyogāho.” ti BJT: appariyogāho ti; and similarly throughout.23
Great is the ocean, Noble Lady, deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom.”

“Evam-eva kho, Mahārāja,
“Just so, Great King,

yena rūpena ChS: rūpe.24 Tathāgataṁ paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya,
through knowing whatever bodily form a Realised One can be known by,

taṁ rūpaṁ PTS omits: Tathāgataṁ paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya taṁ rūpaṁ; also in the repetition below.25 Tathāgatassa pahīnaṁ ucchinnamūlaṁ tālāvatthukataṁ,
that form the Realised One has abandoned, cut off at the root, made a palm stump,

anabhāvakataṁ RTE: anabhāvaṅgataṁ; similarly throughout; ChS: anabhāvaṅkataṁ; similarly throughout.26 āyatiṁ anuppādadhammaṁ. PTS: anuppādakataṁ.27
made unviable, so that by nature it is unable to rise again in the future.

Rūpasaṅkhāya vimutto SHB, RTE: Rūpasaṅkhyā vimutto kho; similarly throughout.28 kho, Mahārāja, Tathāgato,
The Realised One, Great King, is free from being considered as bodily form,

gambhīro appameyyo duppariyogāho, BJT: appariyogāho.29 seyyathā pi mahāsamuddo. RTE: mahārāja mahāsamuddo kho; similarly throughout.30
he is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the great ocean.

‘Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti.
‘Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’ does not apply.

 

Yāya vedanāya Tathāgataṁ paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya,
Through knowing whatever feeling a Realised One can be known by,

sā vedanā Tathāgatassa pahīnā ucchinnamūlā tālāvatthukatā,
that feeling the Realised One has abandoned, cut off at the root, made a palm stump,

anabhāvakatā āyatiṁ anuppādadhammā.
made unviable, so that by nature it is unable to rise again in the future.

Vedanāsaṅkhāya vimutto kho, ChS omits: kho.31 Mahārāja, Tathāgato,
The Realised One, Great King, is free from being considered as feeling,

gambhīro appameyyo duppariyogāho, BJT from here on writes: duppariyogāho; against its earlier: appariyogāho.32 seyyathā pi mahāsamuddo.
he is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the great ocean.

‘Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti.
‘Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’ does not apply.

 

Yāya saññāya Tathāgataṁ paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya,
Through knowing whatever perception a Realised One can be known by,

sā saññā Tathāgatassa pahīnā ucchinnamūlā tālāvatthukatā,
that perception the Realised One has abandoned, cut off at the root, made a palm stump,

anabhāvakatā āyatiṁ anuppādadhammā.
made unviable, so that by nature it is unable to rise again in the future.

Saññāsaṅkhāya vimutto kho, ChS omits: kho.33 Mahārāja, Tathāgato,
The Realised One, Great King, is free from being considered as perception,

gambhīro appameyyo duppariyogāho, seyyathā pi mahāsamuddo.
he is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the great ocean.

‘Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti.
‘Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’ does not apply.

 

Yehi saṅkhārehi Tathāgataṁ paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya,
Through knowing whatever (volitional) processes a Realised One can be known by,

te saṅkhārā Tathāgatassa pahīnā ucchinnamūlā tālāvatthukatā,
those (volitional) processes the Realised One has abandoned, cut off at the root, made a palm stump,

anabhāvakatā āyatiṁ anuppādadhammā.
made unviable, so that by nature it is unable to rise again in the future.

Saṅkhārāsaṅkhāya vimutto kho, RTE: Saṅkhārāsaṅkhyā vimutto kho; similarly throughout.34 Mahārāja, Tathāgato
The Realised One, Great King, is free from being considered as (volitional) processes,

gambhīro appameyyo duppariyogāho, seyyathā pi mahāsamuddo.
he is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the great ocean.

‘Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti.
‘Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’ does not apply.

 

Yena viññāṇena ChS: viññāṇe.35 Tathāgataṁ paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya,
Through knowing whatever consciousness a Realised One can be known by,

taṁ viññāṇaṁ Tathāgatassa pahīnaṁ ucchinnamūlaṁ tālāvatthukataṁ,
that consciousness the Realised One has abandoned, cut off at the root, made a palm stump,

anabhāvakataṁ āyatiṁ anuppādadhammaṁ.
made unviable, so that by nature it is unable to rise again in the future.

Viññāṇasaṅkhāya vimutto kho, Mahārāja, Tathāgato,
The Realised One, Great King, is free from being considered as consciousness,

gambhīro appameyyo duppariyogāho, BJT: appariyogāho; being very inconsistent in its readings. 36 seyyathā pi mahāsamuddo.
he is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the great ocean.

‘Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti.” ti Required, but omitted in all editions. In the repetition below BJT alone has it.37
‘Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’ does not apply.”

 

Atha kho Rājā Pasenadi Kosalo,
Then the Kosalan King Pasenadi,

Khemāya bhikkhuniyā bhāsitaṁ abhinanditvā anumoditvā,
after greatly rejoicing and gladly receiving this word of the nun Khemā,

uṭṭhāyāsanā Khemaṁ bhikkhuniṁ abhivādetvā padakkhiṇaṁ katvā pakkāmi.
having worshipped and circumambulated the nun Khemā, departed.

 

King Pasenadi meets the Buddha

Atha kho Rājā Pasenadi Kosalo
Then the Kosalan King Pasenadi

aparena samayena yena Bhagavā tenupasaṅkami,
at another time approached the Gracious One,

upasaṅkamitvā Bhagavantaṁ abhivādetvā, ekamantaṁ nisīdi.
and after approaching and worshipping the Gracious One, he sat down on one side.

Ekamantaṁ nisinno kho Rājā Pasenadi Kosalo Bhagavantaṁ etad-avoca:
While sitting on one side the Kosalan King Pasenadi said this to the Gracious One:

“Kiṁ nu kho, Bhante, hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ti
“How is it, reverend Sir, does the Realised One exist after death?”

“Abyākataṁ kho etaṁ, Mahārāja, mayā:
“This has not been answered, Great King, by me:

‘Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ” ti
‘Does the Realised One exist after death?’ ”

“Kiṁ pana, Bhante, na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ti
“But how is it, reverend Sir, does the Realised One not exist after death?”

“Etam-pi kho, BJT: natthi kho, here.38 Mahārāja, abyākataṁ mayā:
“This has not been answered, Great King, by me:

‘Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ” ti
‘Does the Realised One not exist after death?’ ”

“Kiṁ nu kho, Bhante, hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ti
“How is it, reverend Sir, does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?”

“Abyākataṁ kho etaṁ, Mahārāja, mayā:
“This has not been answered, Great King, by me:

‘Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ” ti
‘Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’ ”

“Kiṁ pana, Bhante, neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ti
“But how is it, reverend Sir, does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?”

“Etam-pi kho, Mahārāja, abyākataṁ mayā:
“This has not been answered, Great King, by me:

‘Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ” ti
‘Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’ ”

“ ‘Kiṁ nu kho, Bhante, hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti
“ ‘How is it, reverend Sir, does the Realised One exist after death?’

– iti puṭṭhā samānā,
– when there is this question,

‘Abyākataṁ kho etaṁ, Mahārāja, mayā:
° you say: ‘This has not been answered, Great King, by me:

“Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ti vadesi.
“Does the Realised One exist after death?”

‘Kiṁ pana, Bhante, na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti
‘But how is it, reverend Sir, does the Realised One not exist after death?’

– iti puṭṭhā samānā,
– when there is this question,

“Etam-pi kho, Mahārāja, abyākataṁ mayā:
° you say: ‘This has not been answered, Great King, by me:

“Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ti vadesi.
“Does the Realised One not exist after death?”

‘Kiṁ nu kho, Bhante, hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti
‘How is it, reverend Sir, does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’

– iti puṭṭhā samānā,
– when there is this question,

‘Abyākataṁ kho etaṁ, Mahārāja, mayā:
° you say: ‘This has not been answered, Great King, by me:

“Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ’ ti vadesi.
“Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?” ’

‘Kiṁ pana, Bhante, neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti
‘How is it, reverend Sir, does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’

– iti puṭṭhā samānā,
– when there is this question,

‘Abyākataṁ kho etaṁ, Mahārāja, mayā: BJT: Natthi kho, Mahārāja, Abyākataṁ mayā; PTS: Taṁ pi kho, Mahārāja, Abyākataṁ mayā.39
° you say: ‘This has not been answered, Great King, by me:

“Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?” ti vadesi.
“Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?”

Ko nu kho, Bhante, hetu ko paccayo yenetaṁ PTS: yena taṁ.40 abyākataṁ Bhagavatā?” ti
What is the cause, reverend Sir, what is the reason, why does the Gracious One not answer this?”

 

“Tena hi, Mahārāja, tañ-ñevettha paṭipucchissāmi,
“Now then, Great King, here I will ask you something in return,

yathā te khameyya tathā naṁ byākareyyāsi.
as you see fit, so you should answer.

Taṁ kiṁ maññasi, Mahārāja,
What do you think, Great King,

atthi te koci gaṇako vā muddiko vā saṅkhāyako vā
do you have a mathematician, or a calculator or an accountant

yo pahoti Gaṅgāya vālukaṁ PTS: vālukiṁ in the repetition, vālukaṁ in the interview with Khemā.41 gaṇetuṁ,
who is able to count the (amount of) sand in the Ganges,

ettakā vālukā iti vā,
(saying): there is this much sand,

ettakāni vālukasatāni iti vā,
or there are so many hundreds of (grains of) sand,

ettakāni vālukasahassāni iti vā,
or there are so many thousands of (grains of) sand,

ettakāni vālukasatasahassāni iti vā?” ti
or there are so many hundreds of thousands of (grains of) sand?”

“No hetaṁ, Bhante.”
“Certainly not, reverend Sir.”

“Atthi pana te koci gaṇako vā muddiko vā saṅkhāyako vā
“But do you have a mathematician, or a calculator or an accountant

yo pahoti mahāsamudde udakaṁ gaṇetuṁ, BJT, PTS: paṇetuṁ, here manituṁ above. 42
who is able to measure the water in the great ocean,

ettakāni udakāḷhakāni iti vā,
(saying): there are this many gallons of water,

ettakāni udakāḷhakasatāni iti vā,
or there are this many hundreds of gallons of water,

ettakāni udakāḷhakasahassāni iti vā,
or there are this many thousands of gallons of water,

ettakāni udakāḷhakasatasahassāni iti vā?” ti
or there are this many hundreds of thousands of gallons of water?”

“No hetaṁ, Bhante.
“Certainly not, reverend Sir.

Taṁ kissa hetu?
What is the cause of that?

Mahā, Bhante, samuddo gambhīro appameyyo duppariyogāho.” ti BJT: appariyogāho ti.43
Great is the ocean, reverend Sir, deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom.”

“Evam-eva kho, Mahārāja, yena rūpena Tathāgataṁ paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya,
“Just so, Great King, through knowing whatever bodily form a Realised One can be known by,

taṁ rūpaṁ PTS omits: Tathāgataṁ paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya taṁ rūpaṁ; here includes above.44 Tathāgatassa pahīnaṁ ucchinnamūlaṁ tālāvatthukataṁ,
that form the Realised One has abandoned, cut off at the root, made a palm stump,

anabhāvakataṁ PTS: anabhāvagataṁ, here anabhāvakataṁ above.45 āyatiṁ anuppādadhammaṁ.
made unviable, so that by nature it is unable to rise again in the future.

Rūpasaṅkhāya vimutto kho, Mahārāja, Tathāgato,
The Realised One, Great King, is free from being considered as bodily form,

gambhīro appameyyo duppariyogāho, seyyathā pi mahāsamuddo.
he is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the great ocean.

‘Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti.
‘Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’ does not apply.

Yāya vedanāya Tathāgataṁ paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya,
Through knowing whatever feeling a Realised One can be known by,

sā vedanā Tathāgatassa pahīnā ucchinnamūlā tālāvatthukatā,
that feeling the Realised One has abandoned, cut off at the root, made a palm stump,

anabhāvakatā āyatiṁ anuppādadhammā.
made unviable, so that by nature it is unable to rise again in the future.

Vedanāsaṅkhāya vimutto kho, Mahārāja, Tathāgato,
The Realised One, Great King, is free from being considered as feeling,

gambhīro appameyyo duppariyogāho, seyyathā pi mahāsamuddo.
he is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the great ocean.

‘Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti.
‘Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’ does not apply.

Yāya saññāya Tathāgataṁ paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya,
Through knowing whatever perception a Realised One can be known by,

Sā saññā Tathāgatassa pahīnā ucchinnamūlā tālāvatthukatā,
that perception the Realised One has abandoned, cut off at the root, made a palm stump,

anabhāvakatā āyatiṁ anuppādadhammā.
made unviable, so that by nature it is unable to rise again in the future.

Saññāsaṅkhāya vimutto kho, Mahārāja, Tathāgato,
The Realised One, Great King, is free from being considered as perception,

gambhīro appameyyo duppariyogāho, seyyathā pi mahāsamuddo.
he is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the great ocean.

‘Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti.
‘Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’ does not apply.
Yehi saṅkhārehi Tathāgataṁ paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya,
Through knowing whatever (volitional) processes a Realised One can be known by,

te saṅkhārā Tathāgatassa pahīnā ucchinnamūlā tālāvatthukatā,
those (volitional) processes the Realised One has abandoned, cut off at the root, made a palm stump,

anabhāvakatā āyatiṁ anuppādadhammā.
made unviable, so that by nature it is unable to rise again in the future.

Saṅkhārāsaṅkhāya vimutto kho, Mahārāja, Tathāgato
The Realised One, Great King, is free from being considered as (volitional) processes,

gambhīro appameyyo duppariyogāho, seyyathā pi mahāsamuddo.
he is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the great ocean.

‘Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti.
‘Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’ does not apply.

 

Yena viññāṇena Tathāgataṁ paññāpayamāno paññāpeyya,
Through knowing whatever consciousness a Realised One can be known by,

taṁ viññāṇaṁ Tathāgatassa pahīnaṁ ucchinnamūlaṁ tālāvatthukataṁ,
that consciousness the Realised One has abandoned, cut off at the root, made a palm stump,

anabhāvakataṁ āyatiṁ anuppādadhammaṁ.
made unviable, so that by nature it is unable to rise again in the future.

Viññāṇasaṅkhāya vimutto kho, Mahārāja, Tathāgato,
The Realised One, Great King, is free from being considered as consciousness,

gambhīro appameyyo duppariyogāho, seyyathā pi mahāsamuddo. BJT: samuddo.46
he is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the great ocean.

‘Hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Hoti ca na ca hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti,
‘Does the Realised One exist and not exist after death?’ does not apply,

‘Neva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā?’ ti pi na upeti.” ti
‘Does the Realised One neither exist nor not exist after death?’ does not apply.”

 

The Conclusion

“Acchariyaṁ, Bhante, abbhutaṁ, Bhante,
“It is wonderful, reverend Sir, it is marvellous, reverend Sir,

yatra hi nāma Satthu ceva PTS: Satthuno.47 Sāvikāya ca
in as much as the Teacher and the Disciple

atthena attho byañjanena PTS: vyañjanena; and similarly throughout.48 byañjanaṁ saṁsandissati,
agree in the meaning with the meaning and in the letter with the letter,

samessati, na virodhayissati RTE: vihāyissati.49 yad-idaṁ aggapadasmiṁ.
concur, do not contradict, that is to say, in regard to the highest matter.

Ekam-idāhaṁ, Bhante, samayaṁ Khemaṁ bhikkhuniṁ upasaṅkamitvā,
On one occasion, reverend Sir, after approaching the nun Khemā,

etam-atthaṁ apucchiṁ, BJT: āpucchiṁ.50
I asked about this matter,

sā pi me Ayyā etehi padehi etehi byañjanehi etam-atthaṁ byākāsi,
and the Noble Lady answered this matter for me with this meaning, with this letter,

seyyathā pi Bhagavā.
just as the Gracious One did.

Acchariyaṁ, Bhante, abbhutaṁ, Bhante,
It is wonderful, reverend Sir, it is marvellous, reverend Sir,

yatra hi nāma Satthu ceva PTS omits: ceva here; reads Satthu against Satthuno above.51 sāvikāya ca
in as much as the Teacher and the Disciple

atthena attho byañjanena byañjanaṁ saṁsandissati,
agree in the meaning with the meaning and in the letter with the letter,

samessati, na virodhayissati yad-idaṁ aggapadasmiṁ.
concur, do not contradict, that is to say, in regard to the highest matter.

Handa dāni BJT: Handa ca dāni.52 mayaṁ, Bhante, gacchāma,
And now, reverend Sir, we shall go,

bahukiccā mayaṁ bahukaraṇīyā.” ti
as we have many duties, and there is much which ought to be done.”

“Yassa dāni tvaṁ, Mahārāja, kālaṁ maññasī.” ti
“Now is the time, Great King, for whatever you are thinking.”

Atha kho Rājā Pasenadi Kosalo, Bhagavato bhāsitaṁ abhinanditvā anumoditvā,
The Kosalan King Pasenadi, after greatly rejoicing and gladly receiving this word of the Gracious One,

uṭṭhāyāsanā Bhagavantaṁ abhivādetvā padakkhiṇaṁ katvā, pakkāmī ti.
having worshipped and circumambulated the Gracious One, departed.