Sanyassa

Especially during the lifetime of Sri Rajneesh, a Hindu guru, the word sanyassa, resp. sanyassin frequently occured in western circles where one tried to follow one or other of the Indian dharmic systems.

In the true sense of the word, someone who sees him or herself free from wordly context, free from conventions, free from rules, is called a sanyassin. This appelation solely regards the followers of the Hindu dharma. In Buddhism this total freedom of it all merely occurs in tantric practices, and in that case the person is not a sanyassin but a tantri.

 

Caste

February 7, 2019

Although the Indian Government stipulated several years ago  that the word “caste” ought to be abolished, Government offices and the Indian media frequently use the word when speaking of a particular group of inhabitants.

Nevertheless the word “caste” has no exact pendant in Sanskrit. Instead we find the words “varna” and “jati”. “Varna” (colour) refers to the occupation of the person or persons: the segment of society that are potters or porters etc., and “jati” (birth) denotes a community, i.e. where one is born and the codes of conduct that are followed by this segment of society.

 

Cause and effect

Creation, says Hinduïsm, is the result of a cause. That is, the highest Hindu god, by the name of Krishna, Brahman, or any other name, causes himself, or itself, to manifest in different forms. Hence Hinduïsm speaks of “result-cause“. We first see the result, and on the basis of this we infer that which caused the result: result being the manifest, and cause is he who manifests. This in contrast to the Abrahamic assumption of cause (= God) and result or effect (= the universe).

In classical Sanskrit “result-cause”, in the Vedic-Hinduistic sense is given as phalam, result, or parināma, and
adihetu, first cause, or adikārana, first cause, i.e. the divine mind.

In contrast to this Buddhism rejects the notion of causation or creation in the absolute sense of the word, whether it be in the Hinduistic sense or the Abrahamic. There is no causation-creation of the universe, no causation-creation of beings. There is an ongoing cycle of matter and time in which cycle no ultimate cause, creation, or creator can or needs to be be discerned.
Here the component hetu, as in the Sanskrit adihetu where it carries the meaning of first cause, is considered a relative designation as in the Pāli-word hetu-paccaya: cause and condition(ing) when describing the cyclical wheel of life where one link causes another to act or react. (Pratyaya in Hybrid Sanskrit)
So also the Pāli-word vipāka, product / effect, needs to be understood in the ethical sense of the word, and not as an absolute. (Vipaksa in Hybrid Sanskrit) It stands for the product of karma-producing actions, and not as the effect of ultimate causation or creation.

Ksanti / khanti

ksanti
The illustration given has the Sanskrit word ksanti in classical Chinese script. Chinese Buddhism knows three forms of ksanti: ksanti that endures hatred, ksanti that endures physical hardship, and ksanti in pursuit of the Buddhist goal. We find this threefold ksanti in Soothill and Hodous’ “Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms” and they, as other Western translators, give “pursuing the Buddhist goal” as “pursuing the religious goal”. That’s how they were raised; beside religion you had the void.

Tolerance, says a 20th/21rst Cent. Indian writer, ought to be understood in its Latin form as tolerating the unavoidable, tolerating the perhaps even unwanted other.
Of course we find the word tolerance in health and medical circles as tolerance or intolerance to this or that medicine. In that case a purely physical process is meant, not a moral appreciation of the to be tolerated.

All three dictionaries, Soothill and Hodous (Chinese), Monier-Williams (classical Sanskrit), and Pāli Text Society (Pāli) mention the word “tolerance” when describing or translating the word ksanti (Sanskrit) or khanti (Pāli) — among other possible translations, that is.

The word tolerance however, does not apply. “Patient endurance” is a more common translation of ksanti/khanti but even this is not entirely satisfactory.

It is in Franklin Edgerton’s dictionary “Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit” that we find a fully satisfactory translation by the hand of the late Louis Finot, chronicler of the Societé Asiatique. Finot cites the Rāstrapālapariprcchā (RP 34,13-14) when giving the

“nāham … tesām … ānulomikām api ksāntim vadāmi, kutah punar buddhajnānam” as “I do not attribute to them even the intellectual receptivity that conforms (to continued religious development), still less Buddha-knowledge.”

In other words “patient endurance” is a satisfactory translation of the word ksanti/khanti, “receptivity” is even better. It presupposes a hearer who is prepared to listen with an open mind without preconceptions; i.e. s/he is receptive.
Even E. Buswell Jr. (trained in Korean Buddhism) and D.S. Lopez (trained in Himalayan philosophy) received ksanti from their masters as “Not to be overwhelmed by the profound nature of reality but instead to be receptive or acquiescent to it.”
Therefore, Mahāhāyanism throughout the Indian, Himalayan and Korean lands seems to be of the same opinion when it comes to the intrinsic meaning of ksanti. Moreover, they do not disagree with the Theravādan khanti as “patient endurance”.

Hinduïsm, that is, modern Hinduïsm sees (Skr.) ksanti in the yogic-meditative practice as the ability to abstraction.

Esoteric and exoteric

Somewhere mid-20th century a German nun (dasa-sil-mata in Srilankan parlance) undertook a voyage to Sarnath, the place where Buddha spoke his First Sermon, that is, his first official sermon. Impressed by the story of his life, and educated in translatory work Sister Vajira put herself to translating the Maha-parinibbana Sutta, the Teaching (sutta) on the last days of Buddha, how he died, how he spoke in the weeks prior to this event, and what happened afterwards.

The Maha-parinibbana Sutta is one of the texts that appears in the Pali Dīgha Nikaya, the Compendium (nikáya) containing the Longer (dīgha) Teachings.

Sister Vajira’s efforts have been put online by Thaníssaro bhikkhu (a bhikkhu is a fully ordained monk in the theravāda-tradition).
He provided a number of footnotes on difficult technical terms, but omitted a lemma on the “esoteric and exoteric” as Vajira — and by the way, a number of other translators among whom the Srilankan monk Pategáma Ñana-ráma — gave it.

In Vajira’s words the passage containing “esoteric and exoteric” runs as follows:

Thus spoke the Venerable Ānanda, but the Blessed One answered him, saying: “What more does the community of bhikkhus expect from me, Ānanda? I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ānanda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathágata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back.”

The Pali text runs as follows:
Desito Ānanda mayā dhammo anantaram abāhiram karitvā natthi
Ānanda tathāgatassa dhammesu acariyamutthi.

Anàntaram (my emphasis on the à) means “without end, exhaustive”.
Abāhiram must be interpreted in the sense of “the interior and the exterior”.

Therefore Buddha says that he taught his monks all there is to know about what goes on in our own body-mind complex, and he says that he taugt all there is to know about the world outside our body-mind complex.

To translate Abāhiram and the rest with the abbreviation “esoteric and exoteric” is totally besides the subject, especially when remembering that the Pali (= theravāda) tradition explicitely denies that Buddhism has anything esoteric, anything that could be called a hidden teaching or a concealed practice. To illustrate this point of view they cite the same given passage where Buddha says: “… there is nothing, Ānanda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathágata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back.”

Dharma

Especially in online references to the word “dharma” (Skr.) or “Dhamma” (Pāli) a number of editors see “dharma” and “religion” as interchangeable. This incorrect representation of “dharma” has in the 19th-20th century been introduced by western scholars-translators who were raised in the Christian or at least theïstic vocabulary. They were of good faith, but made a mistake as far as translation of the words dharma or dhamma go.
Somewhere in 2017 a commentator correctly stated that the Sanskrit dictionaries have no word for “religion”. In addition to that he surmised that the Western-Christian “religion” and the Arab “mazhab” were interchangeable.

This is incorrect. If we must compare at all, “dharma” and “mazhab” have more in common than “dharma” and “religion”. Mazhab, it is said, denotes a jurisprudence based on the Koran or the Hadith.
The ancient vedic word Dharma denotes a number of things, from “the natural order” over “as it should be” to, in Hinduïsm, “the established Law”.
Buddhism leaves this interpretation of dharma (or dhamma) as “the established Law” out of the list and rather replaces it with “the teachings of (the historical) Buddha.”

Some translate dharma and adharma as “valid resp. invalid ethical conduct”. In all cases the word dharma or dhamma is an untranslatable just als “allelujah” is an untranslatable.

There can be reverence (Skr. bhakti) in Buddhist practice, but there can be no “religion” in the sense of adherence to a revealed moral-philosophical system. Buddhism has no revelation. It rather leans on established knowledge or perception: things are the way we see them; things are not the way an unknown entity wills us to see them. The first is a manifestation of dharma; the latter a manifestation of religion.

Átappan; offering or offering of the self as non-Buddhist concept

In what is considered the oldest set of canonical texts, the Pali-canon of the theravāda or southern Buddhism (Hīnayāna), the compound “offering of the self” does not occur.
We find “offering”, i.e. anukula which is an offering of something for the well-being of the group / clan / family, or country.

In spite of that an early translator of the Pali canon speaks of ātappan as offering of the self. As such it appears in the Monier-Williams dictionary which will not be revised in the foreseable future.
These early translators, mainly brought together in Oxford where they established the Pali Text Society, considered what they encountered against the backdrop of their own Christian-inspired patterns of thinking and writing.
Later generations of translators, stationed in Sri Lanka and/or working for the Wisdom Library could leave the old patterns of thought behind and correctly translated the word ātappan (from Pali: ātappa, Skr.: ātāpya) as “dedicated”, “dedication”, “exertion”, and “exertion” has the Sanskrit root “tap“: giving out heat, practicing austerity.

Practicing austerity, the Christian-inspired says, is self-mortification or offering of self. The Hindu world may agree with this interpretation, but the Buddhist world does not. In the absence of abiding or enduring self it is impossible to chastise this self into submission. Here ātappa simply means putting an effort.

There’s another word that falls under the same category: uttaraná. The same early translators as mentioned above gave it as “saved” or “rescued” as in “saved by a savior”. However, uttaraná means “crossing”(the river), or “having crossed” (the river), i.e. “having arrived at the other shore” (of enlightenment.) “Saving” in the western sense of the word is not the appropriate translation.