We have so far seen many examples where the verb ‘atthi’ expresses the meaning ‘is’.
When we have a Pali sentence expressing negation (is not), the sentence may contain the words – na (= no / not) and atthi (= is). These two words frequently form a sandhi as : na + atthi = natthi
Thus, like atthi (= is) many Pali sentences contain the word natthi, to express the meaning – is not.
Pāsādasmiṃ bhūpālo natthi.
The king is not in the palace.
Taḷākamhi udakaṃ natthi.
There is no water in the lake. (Water is not there in the lake)
Yācakassa gehaṃ natthi. (√as + genitive)
The beggar does not have a house.
Let us study a few sentences from the Suttas, which contain the word ‘natthi’
1. Natthi kiccaṃ brāhmaṇassa, katakicco hi brāhmaṇo.
natthi = na + atthi,
kicca (neut) = work, duty;
brāhmaṇa (masc) = arahant,
kata = done,
hi = indeed, surely
katakicca (compound) = one who has done (completed) his work, an arahant
Translation : An arahant does not have any work (which is yet to be done), indeed an arahant is one who has completed his work.
2. Yadaniccaṃ dukkhaṃ vipariṇāmadhammaṃ natthi me tattha chando vā rāgo vā pemaṃ vā.
yadaniccaṃ = yaṃ + aniccaṃ,
yaṃ = that which,
anicca = impermanent,
dukkha = suffering, unsatisfactory;
vipariṇāma = change,
vipariṇāmadhamma = of the nature to change, changeable;
me (genitive) = my, mine, of me;
tattha = there, in that place, for / about that;
chanda = desire,
rāga = passion,
pema = love, affection
Translation : That which is impermanent, unsatisfactory, of the nature to (undergo) change, I do not have desire or passion or love for that.
I do not have desire, passion or affection for that which is inconstant, unsatisfactory and subject to change.
3. So ‘natthi me ajjhattaṃ rāgadosamoho’ti pajānāti.
ajjhattaṃ = within, inwardly;
rāga = passion, greed;
dosa = hatred, ill will;
moha = delusion
Translation : He knows thus – I do not have greed, hatred and delusion within me.
4. Natthi me saraṇaṃ aññaṃ, buddho me saraṇaṃ varaṃ … dhammo me … saṅgho me saraṇam varaṃ
saraṇa = refuge,
añña = other,
vara = excellent, supreme, ultimate
me (from pronoun ahaṃ - dative / genitive singular) = for / of me (my);
In the above sentence again an ‘atthi’ is missing, which we must consider while translating the sentence.
We can rewrite the sentence as :
me aññaṃ saraṇaṃ natthi, buddho me varaṃ saraṇaṃ (atthi).
Translation : For me there is no other refuge, the Buddha is my supreme refuge … Dhamma …. Sangha is my supreme refuge.
● Please note that in the above translation, the first part of the sentence
natthi me saraṇaṃ aññaṃ is translated considering me as a dative case :
me = for me
natthi me saraṇaṃ aññaṃ = for me there is no other refuge
while the second part of the sentence,
buddho me varaṃ saraṇaṃ (atthi) is translated considering me as
a genitive case, using √as + genitive formula
buddho me varaṃ saraṇaṃ (atthi) = the Buddha is my supreme refuge
- Either part of the sentence can be translated using for / of (dative/ genitive) based on individual choice.
Please note : Pali suttas have many such sentences where one or more words (including verbs) are not written. We must take into account such missing words while translating the suttas.
5. Akuppā me vimutti ayamantimā jāti natthidāni punabbhavo.
kuppa = unsteady, moving;
akuppa = steadfast, unshakeable;
vimutti = liberation,
ayamantimā = ayaṃ + antimā,
ayaṃ (pronoun) = this,
antima = last,
jāti = birth,
natthidāni = natthi + idāni,
idāni = now,
puna = again,
bhava = becoming, existence;
punabbhava = being born again, new existence, rebirth
Here too ‘atthi’ is missing, which we must consider while translating the sentence.
We can split and rewrite the sentence as :
me vimutti akuppā (atthi), ayaṃ antimā jāti (atthi), idāni punabbhavo natthi.
Translation : Unshakeable is my liberation, this is the last birth, now (on) there is no more becoming (existence).
● The above sentence is a recurrent quote from the suttas. It is one of expressions uttered by an arahant to declare their complete liberation.