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  • Ideal Solitude

    An Expositionof the

    Bhaddekaratta Sutta


    Bhikkhu nanda

    The Wheel Publication No. 188

    1973 Buddhist Publication SocietyKandy, Sri Lanka



  • 1973 Buddhist Publication SocietyKandy, Sri Lanka

    First Edition 1973Second Printing 1984

    Access to Insight Edition



  • Unto them that stand mid-stream so said the Venerable Kappa,When the frightful floods flow forthTo them in Decay and Death forlornAn island, sire, may you proclaimAn island which none else excelsYea, such an isle pray tell me sire.

    Sn v.1092

  • Contents



    I. Bhaddekaratta Sutta

    II. An Excerpt from Mahkaccna-bhaddekaratta Sutta

    III. Notes to the Bhaddekaratta Sutta

    End Notes


    A A guttara NikyaAA A guttara Nikya CommentaryD Dgha NikyaDhp DhammapadaDhpA Dhammapada CommentaryIti ItivuttakaM Majjhima NikyaMA Majjhima Nikya CommentaryMAA Majjhima Nikya k (Burmese ed.)Nd1 Mah-NiddesaNdA Niddesa CommentaryNettiA Nettippakaraa CommentaryS Sayutta NikyaSA Sayutta Nikya CommentarySn Sutta NiptaThag TheragthThig ThergthUd Udna

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    Bhaddekaratta Sutta

    The Bhaddekaratta Sutta of the Majjhima Nikya (No. 131) consists of asummary (uddesa) in four verses and an exposition (vibha ga) dealing withsome doctrinal points of considerable psychological and ethical import. Thetheme set out by the Buddha in this discourse recurs in three others nanda-bhaddekaratta Sutta, Mahkaccna-bhaddekaratta Sutta, and Lomasaka giya-bhaddekaratta Sutta in which the disciples of these names figure prominently.These four consecutive suttas (Nos. 131-34) are thus made conspicuous amongthe discourses of the Majjhima Nikya and one can well infer that this bespeaks ofthe importance attached to their theme. That the theme was highly esteemed isclearly revealed by the framework of the two suttas, Mahkaccna-bhaddekarattaand Lomasaka giya-bhaddekaratta. In both, one finds a deity appearing before amonk and recommending to him the learning of the summary and exposition ofthe Bhaddekaratta, as follows:

    Monk, you learn the summary and exposition of theBhaddekaratta. Monk, you master the summary and exposition ofthe Bhaddekaratta. Monk, you bear in mind the summary andexposition of the Bhaddekaratta. Monk, the summary andexposition of the Bhaddekaratta is beneficial; it pertains to theelements of the Holy Life.

    The title: a puzzle

    Although the theme of these four discourses was thus held in high esteem,there is, unfortunately, a formidable obstacle to a proper appreciation of itssignificance. The title Bhaddekaratta, which is also the main key-word, remainsmore or less a puzzle. In none of the four suttas is the word commented upon,despite the fact that the venerables nanda and Mahkaccna also contribute tothe exposition of the theme. This is probably because the early disciples werealready familiar with the expression as such. Even the two monks Samiddhi andLomasaka giya, who confessed their ignorance of the summary and exposition ofthe Bhaddekaratta when questioned by the deities, have not thought it fit to getthis puzzling word clarified for us, when they later went to the Buddha forinstruction on the subject.

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    In the commentaries there is an attempt to explain the meaning ofbhaddekaratta, but some scholars have questioned the validity of the interpretationgiven in them. What these interpretations are, and on what grounds they are foundto be inadequate, can be gleaned from the following comments by I.B. Horner andthe venerable amoli:

    ISuttas 131-34 all have the term bhaddekaratta as part of their title;and this presents something of a puzzle. MA v.1 attempts anexplanation of this word by saying: vipassannuyoga-samanngatatt bhaddakassa (v.1, bhaddassa) ekarattasa, of onewho is happy (? auspicious) for one night because he is possessedof intentness of insight. Neumann renders the term byGlcksaligeinsam, lonely blissfulness. But ekatta is loneliness;ekaratta usually means for one night. But the Bhaddekarattasuttas do not appear to envisage withdrawal from thoughts of thepast, future, and present for so little as one night. On the contrary,the verses that form the mtik say that the person to be calledbhaddekaratta is he who abides ardently and unweariedly day andnight, that is surely, for some consecutive time lasting longer thanone night. I thought it best to translate only the first part of thebaffling compound, and have rendered bhadda by auspicious, notin its sense of betokening success but in that of prosperous,prospering. For the sage who comes to be at peace has prosperedby not following after the past, by not desiring the future to be suchor so, and by cultivating a right attitude to present things. Hisposition is not due to luck, a happy chance, or fortunes favors; it isdue to his own successful efforts, determined resolution, andshunning of indolence.

    I.B. Horner, Middle Length Sayings III,Introduction, pp.xxvi-xxvii

    II One who has one fortunate attachment(Introductory note:) There are four consecutive suttas in theMajjhima Nikya with the name Bhaddekaratta, each based on thesame verse. This term has elsewhere been translated by true saintand like phrases, which, however, quite miss the point. Thecommentary says only this: Bhaddekarattassa means of one whois fortunate (bhadda) in having one (eka) attachment (ratta orratti); this is because of his possessing application to insight. Thesubcommentary resolves the compound ekaratta (one-attachment)into ek ratti, and says only that bhaddekaratta means one whohas a fortunate single attachment (bhaddo ekaratto etassa); it is aterm for a person who is cultivating insight. The Mah Niddesa(commentary on Sn v.964) alludes to these suttas without throwing

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    any light on them. There appears to be no other mention of theterm elsewhere in the Canon and its commentaries.

    The Pli word ratta (adj.) or ratti (n.) in this instance is from theroot raj (rajati, rajjati: to take pleasure in; e.g., ettha me rajatimano: here my mind delights [Sn v.424]). So the bhaddekarattaappears as one who is applying himself invincibly, unshakably toknow and to study the present state as it occurs (see verse). Thisapplication or attachment is auspicious or fortunate because itleads to liberation. The much more common meaning of the Pliword ratti is night (Skt. rtra). But (neither the commentary norsubcommentary decides the point) if we attempt to interpret theterm bhaddekaratta as one who has a single auspicious night andthe commentarial passages accordingly (...[the word isunintelligible in the ms.]...grammatically possible), it is hard tomake satisfactory sense of the context. It might be supposed thatthe expression bhaddekaratta was a popular phrase taken over bythe Buddha and given a special sense by him, as was notinfrequently done, but there seems no reason to do so and there isno evidence for it in this case. It is more likely to be a term coinedby the Buddha himself to describe a certain aspect of development.Such terms are ukkhittapaligha (one who has lifted the bar [M22]), dihippatta (one who has attained vision [M 70]), andmany more.

    Venerable amoli, Translation of the MajjhimaNikya (unpublished)

    IIIIt is not clear precisely what bhaddekaratta (the name of foursuccessive suttas in the Majjhima Nikya) means. NettiA (p.203)says Eva patipanntt bhaddo ekaratto assti bhaddekaratta(MA v.3). MAA adds Ekratti ekaratto, bhaddo ekaratto etasstibhaddekaratta vipassana paribrhento puggalo; etenha vipas-sannuyogasamanngatatt (MA v.1) ta uddissa pavattiy panabhaddekarattasahacaranato bhaddekaratto; tenha bhagavBhaddekarattassa vo bhikkhave uddesaca vibha gaca desissmi(M III 187) ti (MAA 368). Netti k offers nothing. The onlyother mention, referring to these four suttas, is at Nd1 484, namelybhaddekarattavihra in an explanation of jgariynuyoga-pariyanto. The NdA has nothing enlightening.

    All these comments seem to take the ratt element as representingratti (night = Skt. rtri), and so the literal translation would thenbe one who has an auspicious one (i.e., entire) night (i.e., thenight spent as one entirely in insight) and the Burmese transcript

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    of the Majjhima Nikya gives the same sense to bhaddekaratta asto ahorattam (by day, by night) two lines higher. But theseexplanations are all grammatical and avoid the meaning. The termmight it has been suggested, but this is entirely speculative have been a popular one for, say, the Hindu Sivortri (the last nightof waning moon, and devoted by Brahmans to meditation), whichwas purposely given a new sense here by the Buddha, as he didwith many other current terms. (Ekarattivso at Sn 19 hasapparently no connection with this, being simply the opposite ofsamnavso at Sn 18.)

    An alternative derivation might be that ratt stands for ratto or rattifrom Vraj to desire, to lust: cf. dhamma-rga (A IV 423) ortathgatorajita ( 59), of the profitable craving and profitableconceit ( 506-7), though there is apparently no example of rttifrom this root in Pli (cf. Skt. rokti). This interpretation has beenadopted in the translation here as more trenchant (i.e.,attachment to insight, which leads to nonattachment), thoughneither seems quite safe, and the meaning remains unsettled.

    Venerable amoli: The Guide, pp.198-99, fn. 281

    A possible solution

    The Theranmo Sutta of the Sayutta Nikya (S II 282f.) gives the case of amonk who was a lone-dweller and who also recommended the same mode ofliving to others. As the title of the sutta (The Elder-named) suggests, he wasknown to his fellow monks simply as the Elder. Whether this was i