May 21, 2018; revised May 23, 2018; November 19, 2021; July 23, 2022
1. “Na Cētanākaranīya Sutta” is the correct name of the sutta, NOT “Cētanākaranīya Sutta,” as it is entitled on several websites, including the Sutta Central website: “Cetanākaraṇīya Sutta (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.” The sutta is the teaching: “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 must map out what must 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 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 repeatedly until the Arahant phala moment is attained.
- One starts with mundane sila and can get to the early stages of samādhi 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 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 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 of 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 innumerable types of samādhi; one gets to Ariya samādhi (conducive to attaining Nibbāna) with the comprehension of Tilakkhana.
- 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 focuses 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.
- 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 ).