Na Cēta­nākara­nīya Sutta

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.


“For a person engaged in moral conduct (sila), and is thus moral and virtuous, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May I be able to act with a calm mind.” Agitation of the mind does not arise in a person engaged in sila and is virtuous.

“For a person free from an agitated mind, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May happiness arises in me.” Happiness (tranquility) arises naturally in a person free from agitation of the mind.

“For a  person with happiness (tranquility of mind), there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May joy arises in me.” Joy arises in a person with a peaceful mind.

“For a joyful person, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May I feel lightness in the body.” A joyful person attains bodily lightness (passaddhi).

“For a person with bodily lightness, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May I experience sukha.” A person with bodily lightness experiences sukha.

“For a person experiencing sukha, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May my mind get to samādhi.” Naturally, the mind of a person experiencing sukha gets to samādhi.

“For a person who gets to samādhi, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May I know and see the true nature of things in this world (yathābhūta ñāna or comprehension of Tilakkhana).” A person who gets to samādhi will see the true nature of this world. (Here, it is assumed that one has learned Tilakkhana from an Ariya; see #3 and #4 below).

“For a person with yathābhūta ñāna, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May I not be attracted to temptations in this world (virāga). ” A person who knows and sees things as they are will be naturally dispassionate towards things in this world.

“For a person who thus naturally dispassionate, there is no need to wish (cetanā):  “May I be free of cravings for things in this world.”  A person who is dispassionate through understanding the real nature of things will be free of cravings.

“For a  person who is free of cravings, there is no need to wish (cetanā): “May I realize the knowledge of the final release from all suffering (vimutti­ñāṇadas­sana).” A  person who is free of cravings will attain the final release from all suffering.

“In this way, bhikkhus, freedom from cravings (dispassion) has released from all suffering as its reward, Disenchantment has dispassion as its reward,  yathābhūta ñāna has, disenchantment as its reward, samādhi has yathābhūta ñāna as its reward, sukha has samādhi as its reward, bodily lightness (passaddhi) has sukha as its reward, joy has bodily lightness as its reward. A calm mind has joy as its reward, freedom from an agitated mind has a calm mind as its reward, and moral conduct has freedom from an agitated mind as its reward.

“In this way, dhamma qualities cultivated and fulfilled will lead to more dhamma qualities in the Noble Path in  getting from this shore to the Far shore (Nibbāna).”


Sīlavato, bhikkhave, sīla­sam­pannassa na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘avippaṭisāro me uppajjatū’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ sīlavato sīla­sam­pannassa avippaṭisāro uppajjāti.

Avippa­ṭisārissa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘pāmojjaṃ me uppajjatū’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ avippa­ṭisārissa pāmojjaṃ uppajjāti.

Pamuditassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘pīti me uppajjatū’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ pamuditassa pīti uppajjāti.

Pītimanassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘kāyo me passambhatū’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ pītimanassa kāyo passambhati.

Passad­dha­kāyassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘sukhaṃ vediyāmī’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vediyati.

Sukhino, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘cittaṃ me samādhiyatū’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati.

Samāhitassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘yathābhūtaṃ jānāmi passāmī’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ samāhito yathābhūtaṃ jānāti passati.

Yathābhūtaṃ, bhikkhave, jānato passato na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘nibbindāmī’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ yathābhūtaṃ jānaṃ passaṃ nibbindati.

Nibbinnassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘virajjāmī’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ nibbinno virajjāti.

Virattassa, bhikkhave, na cetanāya karaṇīyaṃ: ‘vimutti­ñāṇadas­sanaṃ sacchikaromī’ti. Dhammatā esā, bhikkhave, yaṃ viratto vimutti­ñāṇadas­sanaṃ sacchikaroti.

Iti kho, bhikkhave, virāgo vimutti­ñāṇadas­sanat­tho vimutti­ñāṇadas­sanā­nisaṃso, nibbidā virāgatthā virāgānisaṃsā, yathā­bhūta­ñāṇadas­sanaṃ nibbidatthaṃ nibbi­dā­nisaṃ­saṃ, samādhi yathā­bhūta­ñāṇadas­sanat­tho yathā­bhūta­ñāṇadas­sanā­nisaṃso, sukhaṃ samādhatthaṃ samā­dhā­nisaṃ­saṃ, passaddhi sukhatthā sukhānisaṃsā, pīti passaddhatthā passad­dhā­nisaṃsā, pāmojjaṃ pītatthaṃ pītānisaṃsaṃ, avippaṭisāro pāmojjattho pāmojjānisaṃso, kusalāni sīlāni avippa­ṭisārat­thāni avippa­ṭisārā­nisaṃ­sāni. Iti kho, bhikkhave, dhammā dhamme abhisandenti, dhammā dhamme paripūrenti apārā pāraṃ gamanāyā”ti.

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.

6. Keywords:

  • 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/passaddhacalming 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 ).


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