Reply To: post on Niddesa (Brief Description) of Paṭicca Samuppāda


Yes. I think reading the thread at Sutta Central you quoted at the beginning is a good idea. I think I have seen it before, but I will reread it to refresh my memory. But a few critical points:

1. We must always keep in mind that the Pali words in the Tipiaka was written with the Sinhala alphabet over 2000 years ago.

2. Then the European (mainly British) scholars did two things: (i) Translated it to English with the help of Sinhalese, (ii) also wrote the Pali words with the English alphabet (example: AN 4.49: Vipallāsasutta—Mahāsaṅgīti Tipiṭaka Buddhavasse 2500 ( These Pali texts were composed by the “Pali Text Society” in the 1800s; they are pretty reliable. On the other hand, the English translations at Sutta Central, in general, have many errors.

3. While doing the actual translation, they also used Mahayana texts. Remember that they had no idea about Buddha saying not to use Sanskrit. Most Mahayana texts were in Sanskrit. That is where most of the confusion came from. 

  • There is no Pali word “anitya.” It is a Sanskrit word. There is no “anicca” in Sanskrit; it is a Pali word. But nowadays, they think both words mean the same!! The word “anitya” does not appear even once in the Tipitaka.

4. I have written about “san” in many posts: “What is “San”? Meaning of Sansāra (or Saṃsāra).”

  • These are critical issues to sort out. 
  • One should spend a good chunk of time reading the posts I recommended, especially if there are questions. Feel free to ask specific questions. It is a waste of time to keep rewriting the same stuff!

Tobias asked: 

“It’s correct that the saṃ- in saṃsāra and the saṅ- in saṅkhyā are one and the same verbal prefix. But from their sharing of the same prefix it doesn’t follow that the meaning of saṃsāra can be derived from the meaning of saṅkhyā.

We wouldn’t say, for example, that the meaning of ‘transport’ can be inferred from the meaning of ‘transgender’, or that the meaning of ‘confetti’ can shed light on the meaning of ‘community’ just because the two items in each pair happen to share the same Latin prefixes.”


The saṃ- in saṃsāra and the saṅ- in saṅkhyā are one and the same verbal prefix. However, one has to use common sense. Of course, we wouldn’t say, for example, that the meaning of ‘transport’ can be inferred from the meaning of ‘transgender.’ Such comparisons are made by foolish people whom the Buddha called “padaparama,” those who try to engage in debates instead of trying to understand meanings based on the context. 

I explained that in the post “What is “San”? Meaning of Sansāra (or Saṃsāra)” as follows:

1. A key Pāli word, which has been hidden for thousands of years, is “saṅ” (commonly pronounced like son). In Pāli/Sinhala languages, it is pronounced as  “සන්” (saṅ) or “සං” (“sang” with an “ng” sound at the end like in “song.”) “Saṅ” is the term for “good and bad things we acquire” through our moral/immoral deeds.

  • Understanding this root allows one to easily see the meanings of many important Pāli words without looking for roots in Sanskrit.

2. There is a reason for calling what we “acquire or add” to be “saṅ.” In Pāli and Sinhala, the word for numbers is “sankhyā,” and sankhyā = “saṅ” + “khyā,” meaning add and subtract. Addition and subtraction involve sankhyā.  

  • From this, “saṅ” suggests “acquiring or adding (to this world, or to stay in the rebirth process).” 
  • In the same way, “khyā” implies “removal or subtraction.”
Saṅ – Adding/Helping Lengthen the Rebirth Process

3. Therefore, “saṅ” indicates things we do to lengthen our saṃsāric (or saṃsāric) journey. See below for examples.

  • The word “saṃsāra” comes from “saṅ” + “sāra” where “sāra” means “good” or “beneficial.” Thus, one is trapped in the rebirth process because of the wrong view that “living in this world is beneficial.”
  • These “saṅ” are nothing else but dasa akusala (that lead to rebirth in the apāyā) and also puñña kamma (that lead to rebirths in the “good realms”); see “Kusala and Akusala Kamma, Punna and Pāpa Kamma.”
  • One may wonder why “saṅ” includes moral deeds or puñña kamma. That is because they also lead to rebirths (“add” to the saṃsāric journey).
  • However, one MUST do puñña kamma to avoid rebirth in the apāyā.

The bottom line is the following: How do you understand Buddha Dhamma better?

  • Just follow that, whichever it is. Each person needs to make that decision. This is what I kept repeating at Dhamma Wheel. The human mind is capable of understanding logic and reason.
  • That is what the Buddha advised the Kalamas in the “Kesamutti Sutta (AN 3.65).”
  • For example, do you understand “sankhara” better in which way? By reading the thread that Tobias provided (“Explaining sankhāra=“choices” ) OR by reading my posts like Saṅkhāra – An Introduction (with chart #7)? Stick with the version that makes sense to you.
  • I will be happy to answer specific questions.