MN 122 – Translation Comparison

Greetings, Friendlies!

This month’s homework for the Bodhi College CPP is MN 122, The Longer/Greater Discourse on Emptiness.

As previously, I’ve compiled a spreadsheet comparing translations between Sujato, Ñanamoli, and Ṭhānissaro:

Exciting stuff.


The sutta is not divided into chapters but seems to discuss 9(ish) different things:

  1. Mendicants should not allow themselves to be caught up in socializing.
  2. Perseverance when the mind is troubled in meditation.
  3. Awareness in different postures.
  4. Awareness when speaking and thinking.
  5. Awareness of susceptibility to the Five Chords of Sense Pleasure (Kāmaguṇa).
  6. Observing the Five Aggregates (Khandhas) rise and fall and the resultant Anattā.
  7. When to follow after a teacher.
  8. The undoing of teachers (ācariya), students (antevāsī), and “those who live the holy life” (brahmacārī) (ie, disciples of Gotama?).
  9. Treating teachers and disciples as friends.

My Thoughts

  • The sutta doesn’t seem to be that much about Emptiness (suññatā).
  • I was surprised to find myself assenting to the list of things to talk/think or avoid talking/thinking about. I don’t believe we should _never_ talk about these things, only that we should do it with intentionality. At a house party recently (those are a thing again?!?) I watched how unintentional focus on these topics was unpleasant. And it seems to me that for some people it is even causing harm to their mental health.
  • I particularly enjoyed the bit at the end, about how he, Gotama, would not “Mollycoddle” Ānanda. “I shall not mollycoddle you like a potter with their damp, unfired pots. I shall speak, correcting you again and again, pressing you again and again. The core will stand the test.” (Sujato’s translation)

246 words!

2 replies on “MN 122 – Translation Comparison”

Thanks so much for this, Shannon. Yes, it seemed to me that MN121 spoke much more specifically to voidness than MN122. As for the list, yes, it is rather all-encompassing. I am not sure I could do it. There are many things happening in the world and I was brought up in an environment where world events were discussed around the dinner table. Not having taken any vows, not living a monastic life, I am not sure I could withdraw from the world to that extent, or that it would even be a good thing. Most of us live in democracies where our rulers are elected. My upbringing tells me that it is my responsibility to know what the issues are and who to vote for, for instance. What do you think? (Not sure if this is going just to you or back to the group.) Warmly Patty


Liked by 1 person

Dear Patty, hello! So nice to see you out here in the internet. :)

Yes; I agree. As I said, I don’t think we should never talk/think about these things. But I notice that for many people the news has gotten so loud that they cannot hear themselves anymore.

Certainly in my family, which is ideologically polarized, it can help to put those topics aside at times to reconnect with the care we feel for each other as individuals.

Maybe a guideline that is more modern, like keeping these topics off our social media feeds, where they are prone to intense polarization? I think the thing is recognizing what/when it is skillful to engage with these topics. Never isn’t skillful. But neither, it seems to me, is Always.

But you probably have a much better idea of the effect of this mass-papañca on mental health. What say you?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s