Patisambhidamagga: mahanama on reality


I quote something that ven. Dhammanando wrote many years ago:
He translates Mahanama who is commenting on a phrase in the Patisambhidamagga :

(from the Saddhammappakaasinii, Su––akathaa-va.n.nanaa)

Tattha ‘jaata.m ruupan’ ti paccuppanna.m ruupa.m.

Here [i.e. in the passage he is commenting on] ‘born [or ‘arisen’] materiality’ is the materiality [existing in] the present.

[elsewhere he explains that it refers to materiality at the moment of stasis — thiti — in between arising and dissolution]


‘Sabhaavena su––an’ ti ettha saya.m bhaavo sabhaavo, sayameva uppaado’ ti attho.

‘Empty regarding individual essence’: here individual essence is ‘essence by itself’; arising just of itself is the meaning.

[Here Mahanama appears to take ’empty regarding sabhaava’ as being denial of a false conception of sabhaava, namely a sabhaava which is its own cause. The 199 dhammas lack such a sabhaava]


Sato vaa bhaavo sabhaavo, attatoyeva uppaado’ ti attho. Paccayaayattavuttittaa paccaya.m vinaa sayameva bhaavo, attato eva vaa bhaavo etasmi.m natthiiti sabhaavena su––a.m, sayameva bhaavena, attato eva vaa bhaavena su––anti vutta.m hoti.

Or, individual essence is own essence; arising solely by itself. Because of existence in dependence on conditions there is in it no essence by itself or essence of its own, thus it is ’empty regarding individual essence’. What is meant is that it is empty of essence by itself or of its own essence.

[This is simply the corollary to the first gloss, being the denial of a sabhaava that is not dependent on other conditions]


Atha vaa sakassa bhaavo sabhaavo. Pathaviidhaatuaadiisu hi anekesu ruupaaruupadhammesu ekeko dhammo para.m upaadaaya sako naama. ‘bhaavo’ ti ca dhammapariyaayavacanameta.m. Ekassa ca dhammassa a––o bhaavasan.khaato dhammo natthi, tasmaa sakassa a––ena bhaavena su––a.m, sako a––ena bhaavena su––oti attho. Tena ekassa dhammassa ekasabhaavataa vuttaa hoti.

Or else it is the essence that it itself has; for each single dhamma among the various dhammas beginning with the earth principle is itself, and ‘essence’ is a figurative term for dhamma; and each single dhamma does not have any other dhamma called an ‘essence’, therefore it is empty of any essence other than itself: the meaning is that it itself is empty of another essence. Hence what is meant is that a single dhamma has a single individual essence.

[If I understand this correctly, any given dhamma is empty of the sabhaavas that would characterize other dhammas, but is not empty of whatever makes it what it is. Karuna, for example, is empty of the quality of promoting cruelty but is not empty of the quality of allaying suffering]


Atha vaa ‘sabhaavena su––an’ ti su––asabhaaveneva su––a.m. Ki.m vutta.m hoti? Su––asu––ataaya eva su––a.m, na a––aahi pariyaayasu––ataahi su–– anti vutta.m hoti.

Or alternatively ’empty regarding individual essence’ is to be taken as empty through having emptiness as its individual essence. What is meant? What is meant is empty owing to emptiness-as-emptiness and not empty according to some other implicated emptiness.

[‘Emptiness-as-emptiness’ is the first of the 25 emptinesses, described thus: “Eye is empty of self or what belongs to self, or of what is permanent or stable or eternal or not subject to change. Ear…nose…tongue…body…mind is empty of self or what belongs to self, or of what is permanent or stable or eternal or not subject to change.” The reference is to the nature common to all dhammas, as opposed to the specific nature that makes a dhamma whatever it is. ‘Implicated emptiness’ refers to the fact that every dhamma is by its nature empty of any characteristic that would make it something other than what it is. E.g. “Past formations are empty of future and presently arisen formations. Future formations are empty of past formations…etc.”]


Sace pana keci vadeyyu.m “sako bhaavo sabhaavo, tena sabhaavena su–– an” ti. Ki.m vutta.m hoti? Bhaavoti dhammo, so para.m upaadaaya sapadena visesito sabhaavo naama hoti. Dhammassa kassaci avijjamaanattaa “jaata.m ruupa.m sabhaavena su––an” ti ruupassa avijjamaanataa vuttaa hotiiti.

But if someone should say: “Own essence is individual essence; it is empty of that individual essence. What is meant? A dhamma is called an ‘essence’; that [essence] is distinguished by the prefix ‘individual’ in comparison with any other and is thus called ‘individual essence’. Because of the non-existence of any dhamma whatever it is the non-existence of materiality that is expressed by the words ‘born materiality is empty regarding individual essence’.”

[Mahanama does not specify whom he has in mind who might say such a thing. The claim as it stands is not clearly attributable to any Buddhist school that I know of. However, the anonymous author of the ‘Clarifier of the Meanings of Knotty Terms in the Path of Discrimination’ (Patisambhidaamaggamuulaganthipadatthavannanaa) expands on the above, adding the words ‘in the highest sense’ (paramatthato). So if he is right, then the wrong interpretation would appear to be a Mahayanic one, namely, that owing to emptiness of sabhaava, in the highest sense dhammas do not exist]


Eva.m sati “jaata.m ruupan” tivacanena virujjhati. Na hi uppaadarahita.m jaata.m naama hoti. Nibbaana–hi uppaadarahita.m, ta.m jaata.m naama na hoti, jaatijaraamara.naani ca uppaadarahitaani jaataani naama na honti. Tenevettha “jaataa jaati sabhaavena su––aa, jaata.m sabhaavena su––an” ti eva.m anuddharitvaa bhavameva avasaana.m katvaa niddi.t.tha.m.

[snip Nyanamoli’s trans. as it doesn’t seem to make any sense. I’ll post a new translation when I have time. Or perhaps someone else would like to have a go at it]


Yadi uppaadarahitassaapi “jaatan” tivacana.m yujjeyya, “jaataa jaati, jaata.m jaraamara.nan” ti vattabba.m bhaveyya. Yasmaa uppaadarahitesu jaatijaraamara.nesu “jaatan” tivacana.m na vutta.m, tasmaa “sabhaavena su––a.m avijjamaanan” ti vacana.m avijjamaanassa uppaadarahitattaa “jaatan” tivacanena virujjhati.



Avijjamaanassa ca “su––an” tivacana.m he.t.thaa vuttena lokavacanena ca bhagavato vacanena ca –aayasaddaganthavacanena ca virujjhati, anekaahi ca yuttiihi virujjhati, tasmaa ta.m vacana.m kacavaramiva cha.d.ditabba.m.

And the word ’empty’ for what is non-existent contradicts both worldly usage and the Blessed One’s usage above, and also the words of the books of logic and linguistics; and it contradicts many logical arguments. Therefore that assertion should be discarded like rubbish.

“Ya.m, bhikkhave, atthisammata.m loke pa.n.ditaana.m, ahampi ta.m atthiiti vadaami. Ya.m, bhikkhave, natthisammata.m loke pa.n.ditaana.m, ahampi ta.m natthiiti vadaami. Ki–ca, bhikkhave, atthisammata.m loke pa.n.ditaana.m, yamaha.m atthiiti vadaami? Ruupa.m, bhikkhave, anicca.m dukkha.m vipari.naamadhamma.m atthisammata.m loke pa.n.ditaana.m, ahampi ta.m atthiiti vadaamii” tiaadiihi anekehi buddhavacanappamaa.nehi.

In many passages in the Buddha-word such as this: “Bhikkhus, what sages in the world say is not, of that too I say that it is not; what sages in the world say is, of that too I say that it is….Sages in the world say of impermanent, painful and changeable materiality that it is, and I too say of it that it is.”

Anekaahi ca yuttiihi dhammaa vijjamaanaa evaati ni.t.thamettha gantabba.m.

And in many logical arguments [it is demonstrable that] dhammas exist in their own moments. Thus should this [abovementioned assertion] be refuted.

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