May 21, 2018; revised May 23, 2018; November 19, 2021
1. “Na Cētanākaranīya Sutta” is the correct name of the sutta, NOT “Cētanākaranīya Sutta” as it entitled at several websites including the Sutta Central website: “Cetanākaraṇīyasutta (AN 11.2)“. The English translation there is entitled accordingly and erroneously: “Making a Wish”.
- Cetana is what one intends or wishes; karaniya means “what one should do”, and “na” means “not”. What the sutta is teaching is “Just by wishing such and such one will not get to Nibbāna“.
- The correct title appears in the Pāli/Sinhala Buddha Jayanthi Tipiṭaka Series XXIII, Angutttara Nikāya (Part 6, p.586).
- Therefore, the English title of the sutta should be something like “Making a Wish Will Not Work”.
2. It is a fairly short sutta. So, I decided to translate the full sutta and put it side-by-side with the Pāli version, so that one can see how it is translated.
- As mentioned above, there is no point in just chanting or repeating to oneself, “May I be free of this, May I be that”, etc.
- One needs to map out what needs to be done to stop future suffering and follow that path. There are no easy solutions like sitting down in a quiet place and just chanting or even meditating, even though that should be a part of the whole process.
- This step-by-step process is summarized clearly in the sutta.
- I have put in bold every other verse, so it would be easier to match the English and Pāli verses.
3. The path to Nibbāna is not a straight step-by-step process in a linear fashion. Rather, a given person cycles through the steps over and over until the Arahant phala moment is attained.
- One starts with mundane sila, and can get to early stages of samādhi even without hearing about Tilakkhana. One cannot proceed beyond that with just sila, which is on shaky grounds until one comprehends Tilakkhana.
- Once one starts comprehending Tilakkhana (and becomes a Sōtapanna/Sōtapanna Anugāmi), one’s sila (moral conduct) will become unbreakable: It is called Ariyakānta sila.
- That is when one really gets into the Noble Eightfold Path.
4. In other words, there are two paths: One starts on the mundane path and with the comprehension of Tilakkhana, one switches over to the Noble Path; see, “Buddha Dhamma – In a Chart“.
- Only a Sammāsambuddha or a pacceka Buddha can figure out (or comprehend) Tilakkhana, by themselves; all others have to learn Tilakkhana from an Ariya.
5. Another key thing to note is that there is no mention about the need to attain jhānā.
Jhanas are a special kind of samādhi. It is good to cultivate jhānā, but they are not necessary to attain magga phala.
And there are an innumerable types of samādhi; one gets to Ariya samādhi (conducive to attain Nibbāna) with the comprehension of Tilakkhana.
6. Key words:
- Avippatisāra (විපිලිසර බව in Sinhala): One’s mind is normally agitated. It tends to go everywhere. This is why it is hard for most people to comprehend Dhamma. When one really focus on maintaining moral conduct (sila) and stays away from dasa akusala, this agitation of the mind will gradually diminish, and one will be able to concentrate on a given concept for longer times.
- pāmojja (සතුට or ප්රමෝදය in Sinhala): Happiness or tranquility of mind is the closest English translation. This is below the “joyful state of mind” or pīti (ප්රීති in Sinhala).
- passambhati/passaddha: calming down (lightness) of the physical body (කායික සැහැල්ලුව).
- nibbindati: get weary of, unsatisfied with (කලකිරීම).
- virajjāti (related to virāga): absence of cravings.
- vimutti: becomes free of suffering, final release (විමුක්ති ).