MN 139, Part 1: How to Not-Conflict

Playing around with different translations for the sutta title. Parsing Pāli for fun and profit…

Greetings, Friendlies!

Chewing on MN 139 – Araṇavibhaṅga Sutta for this month’s CPP homework.

No surprise, out of the gate I found myself dissatisfied with the translation of the title.

(Side Note: this straw may finally compel the camel to sign up for the Oxford Center For Buddhist Studies’ Online Pāli Course. It would be more fun to engage with friends; want to join me?)

Bhikkhu Sujato translates the title “The Analysis of Non-Conflict“. Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli (1993) uses “The Exposition of Non-Conflict“. Suddhāso Bhikkhu (2016) uses “Analysis of Non-Conflict“.

All three of these seem awkward to me. It may be that “analysis of” is a term used in a particular way in the Theravada tradition, and in the context of the Sutta Central website, it makes perfect sense. But when I read the sutta, the sense I have is more an “explanation” than an “analysis”. Reasonable people can disagree.

In the last bit of the sutta (we’ll cover content in another part) Gotama enjoins his listeners to pay attention to their use of language, to use language that will best communicate given the context (language/culture) of their interlocutors.

I particularly like, “How to Not-Conflict”. Though “On Not-Conflict” or “On Avoiding Conflict” may be less slangy. Edit: Could it be as simple as “Explaining Not-Conflict”?

Your thoughts? (And, more importantly, wanna OCBS Pāli with me?)

(PS: Part 2, a synopsis of the sutta, is here.)

7 replies on “MN 139, Part 1: How to Not-Conflict”

Shannon, I love that your interest in Pali is fueled partly by the captioning of suttas. Captioning, like translation, is an art unto itself. You’ve reminded me of a general provision that I used in what I authored. “The captions of articles and sections are inserted only for convenience and are in no way to be construed as defining or modifying the text to which they refer.” Like you, I prefer captions that speak to me. For example, I call the 5 Precepts “My 5 Vows to Society.” Bravo for wanting to study Pali. Go, Girl!

Liked by 1 person

Hello! There’s an extraordinary book by Douglas Hofstadter (Surfaces and Essences, a “fundamental shannon philosophy book) in which he discusses interpretation versus translation. He has told a story that included some mood-setting… you’re in an airport and there are some little sparrows or other LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) flitting around in the space and you’re sort of amazed at them being in the vast human industrial complex.

Some time after telling the story he circles back to it and explains that in the French edition of the book, they replaced the airport with the Parisian underground.

Americans, in general, tend to fly, or understand the experience of flying, much more, shall we say, “natively”. It’s in our TV shows and books and media, much less so urban underground transport.

For the French, it is the Parisian metro that is much more native. At least when the book was written, the airport experience was not nearly so ubiquitous an experience for a French citizen.

So, although the two “translations”, written by the same author, use “very different” examples, they each evoked the same sense… a non-foreign image of small birds flitting around in an expansive, industrial “human” space where the birds seem to not belong.

Completely changed my understanding of what it meant to “translate”.

In another note, I love the lawyerly language. :)))

And! 5 Vows to Society! That’s wonderful, too.

Always a treat to hear/read/see you. :)))

Liked by 1 person

No, thank you. I don’t want to OBCS PALI with you, but thanks for asking.

I was thinking “The Exploration of Non-Conflict”.

Love you bunches.

Liked by 1 person

Hi Shannon,
i don’t know why this page didn’t let me finish my reflections and I don’t have another mail address ….
Be well


Oh no, Mario! I’m disappointed to miss out on your thoughts. FYI, this comment came through just fine… Lovely to hear from you, in any and all cases. :)


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