Pali to English Translation

Now let us translate a few sentences adopted from the suttas containing declined forms of feminine nouns. These sentences will also serve as a revision for all the noun forms learnt so far, and help us to develop our skills in understanding / translating the suttas.

Please note that henceforth we will be using the following abbreviations for denoting the type of word, gender, number, case, etc. :
(m) – masculine noun,
(f) – feminine noun,
(n) – neuter noun,
(adj) – adjective,
(pron) – pronoun,
(ind) – indeclinable,
(v) – verb,
(num) – number,
(comp) – compound,
(s) – singular,
(p) – plural,
(nom) – nominative case,
(acc) – accusative case,
(inst) – instrumental case,
(dat) – dative case,
(abl) – ablative case,
(gen) – genitive case,
(loc) – locative case,
(voc) – vocative case


1. Bhikkhu rattiyā paṭhamaṃ yāmaṃ caṅkamena nisajjāya āvaraṇīyehi dhammehi cittaṃ parisodheti.

Audio for Sentence 1
  • bhikkhu (m, nom. s) = a monk,
  • ratti (f) = night,
  • rattiyā (gen. s) = of the night,
  • paṭhama (adj) = first,
  • yāma (m) = a watch of the night, 1/3 of a night;
  • paṭhamaṃ yāmaṃ (acc. s) = in the first watch of the night,
  • caṅkama (m) = walking up and down,
  • caṅkamena (inst. s) = by walking up and down,
  • nisajjā (f) = sitting down,
  • nisajjāya (inst. s) = by sitting down,
  • āvaraṇa (n) = hindrance, obstruction, screen,
  • āvaraṇīya (adj) = obstructive
  • dhamma (m) = thing, quality, object of mind, mental state
  • āvaraṇīyehi dhammehi (abl. p) = (away) from obstructive mental states
    (ablative case is used to indicate separation, removal, turning away from)
  • citta (n) = mind,
  • cittaṃ (acc. s) = mind,
  • parisodheti (v) = cleanses, purifies

Translation : In the first watch of the night, a bhikkhu purifies his mind of obstructive mental states by sitting and walking up & down.

• The night (day and night is considered to be of 12 hours each) is divided into 3 watches (periods); first watch – dusk to 10 pm, second watch – 10 pm to 2 am and third watch – 2 am to dawn
caṅkama and nisajjā in the above sentence refer to walking and sitting meditation, respectively. These are two of the four postures (iriyāpatha) mentioned in the suttas – sitting, standing, walking and lying down.
• The above sentence is a part of standard description on the cultivation of wakefulness – jāgariyānuyoga.

Please note the words – ‘paṭhamaṃ yāmaṃ’ in accusative case, which are used to indicate time. As we have learnt in the usage of cases, the usual role of locative case is to denote place and time. However, in suttas we frequently come across instrumental and accusative cases indicating time.
There are a few more examples of such a usage of accusative case in the sentences below.


2. Idha, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako saddho hoti, saddahati tathāgatassa bodhiṃ.

Audio for Sentence 2
  • idha (ind) = here,
  • bhikkhave (voc. p) = O monks!
  • ariya (adj) = noble,
  • sāvaka (m) = disciple,
  • ariyasāvaka (comp) = a noble disciple,
  • ariyasāvako (nom. s) = a noble disciple,
  • saddha (adj) = a person of faith / belief / trust / confidence, devoted;
  • saddho (nom. s) = devoted, confident;
  • hoti (v) = is,
  • saddahati (v) = has faith / confidence, trusts;
  • tathāgata (m) = the Buddha,
  • tathāgatassa (gen. s) = of the Buddha,
  • bodhi (f) = enlightenment, awakening;
  • bodhiṃ (acc. s) = enlightenment, awakening;

Translation : O monks! Here a noble disciple is a devoted / confident, (who) trusts in the awakening / enlightenment of the Buddha.


3. Bhikkhu evaṃ maraṇassatiṃ bhāveti …

Audio for Sentence 3
  • bhikkhu (m, nom. s) = a monk,
  • evaṃ (ind) = thus, in this way / manner,
  • maraṇa (n) = death,
  • sati (f) = mindfulness, memory;
  • maraṇassati (comp) = mindfulness of death, recollection of death, meditation on death,
  • maraṇassatiṃ (acc. s) = mindfulness of death,
  • bhāveti (v) = cultivates, develops;

Translation : A bhikkhu develops mindfulness of death in this way –

Maraṇassati can be literally translated as mindfulness of / about death. However, as it features in the list of 10 annusati or recollections, maraṇassati is also translated as ‘recollection of death’. Alternate translations are ‘contemplation / thought of death’, ‘meditation on death’.


4. So gāmaṃ vā nigamaṃ vā piṇḍāya pavisati arakkhitena kāyena arakkhitāya vācāya arakkhitena cittena anupaṭṭhitāya satiyā asaṃvutehi indriyehi.

Audio for Sentence 4
  • so (pron, nom s) = he
  • gāmaṃ (m, acc. s) = a village,
  • (ind) = or
  • nigamaṃ (m, acc. s) = a town,
  • piṇḍa (m) = lump of food, alms;
  • piṇḍāya (dat. s) = for alms,
  • pavisati (v) = enters,
  • rakkhita (adj) = protected, guarded,
  • arakkhita (adj) = unprotected, unguarded;
  • arakkhitena (adj, m, inst. s) = with unguarded …
  • arakkhitāya (adj, f, inst. s) = with unguarded …
  • kāya (m) = body,
  • kāyena (m, inst. s) = with body
  • arakkhitena kāyena = with unguarded body,
  • vācā (f) = speech,
  • vācāya (f, inst. s) = with speech,
  • arakkhitāya vācāya = with unguarded speech,
  • citta (n) = mind,
  • cittena (n, inst. s) = with mind,
  • arakkhitena cittena = with unguarded mind,
  • upaṭṭhita (adj) = present, existing, ready, in attendance;
  • anupaṭṭhia (adj) = not present, not in attendance;
  • anupaṭṭhitāya (adj, f, inst. s) = with … not present,
  • sati (f) = mindfulness,
  • satiyā (f, inst. s) = with mindfulness,
  • anupaṭṭhitāya satiyā = with mindfulness not present / in attendance which can be translated as – without mindfulness (being established),
  • saṃvuta (adj) = restrained, controlled, guarded;
  • asaṃvuta (adj) = unrestrained, uncontrolled, unguarded;
  • indriya (n) = sense faculty,
  • indriyehi (n, inst. p) = with sense faculties,
  • asaṃvutehi indriyehi = with unrestrained sense faculties

Translation : He enters a village or a town for alms, with unguarded body, unguarded speech, unguarded mind, with unrestrained sense faculties, without establishing mindfulness (without mindfulness being established).

• Please note the use of ‘a’ at the beginning of a word for making into an opposite / negative word. E.g., rakkhita – arakkhita, saṃvuta – asaṃvuta
• Another point to note is the declined form of adjective ‘arakkhita’. It takes up the form ‘arakkhitena’ with masculine (kāyena) and neuter (cittena) nouns, but becomes ‘arakkhitāya’ alongside feminine noun (vācāya). We will learn about this property of adjectives in our coming Units.


5. So tameva gāmaṃ vā nigamaṃ vā piṇḍāya pavisati rakkhiteneva kāyena rakkhitāya vācāya rakkhitena cittena upaṭṭhitāya satiyā saṃvutehi indriyehi.

Audio for Sentence 5
  • tameva = taṃ + eva,
  • taṃ (pron, acc. s) = that,
  • eva (ind) = emphatic particle,
  • tameva gāmaṃ = the same village, that village itself (which was referred to in the previous sentence)
  • rakkhiteneva kāyena = with guarded body,
  • rakkhitāya vācāya = with guarded speech,
  • rakkhitena cittena = with guarded mind,
  • upaṭṭhitāya satiyā = with mindfulness present / in attendance / established,
  • saṃvutehi indriyehi = with restrained sense faculties
    (all other words are covered in the previous sentence)

Translation : He enters the same village or a town for alms, with guarded body, guarded speech, guarded mind, with restrained sense faculties, with mindfulness being established.


6. Ekaṃ samayaṃ bhagavā sāvatthiyaṃ viharati jetavane anāthapiṇḍikassa ārāme.

Audio for Sentence 6
  • eka (num) = one,
  • samaya (m) = time,
  • ekaṃ samayaṃ (acc. s) = at one time, on one occasion
  • bhagavā (nom. s) = the Blessed one, the Buddha,
  • sāvatthi (proper noun, f) = the city of Savatthi,
  • sāvatthiyaṃ (loc. s) = in / at Savatthi,
  • viharati (v) = lives, dwells,
  • jetavana (proper noun, n) = Jeta’s grove (name of the place)
  • jetavane (loc. s) = in / at Jeta’s grove,
  • anāthapiṇḍika (proper noun, m) = the lay supporter called Anathapindika
  • anāthapiṇḍikassa (gen. s) = of Anathapindika
  • ārāma (m) = a park, monastery;
  • ārāme (loc. s) = in the park / monastery.

Translation : At one time / on one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthi in Jeta’s grove in Anāthapindika’s monastery.

• Please note that the accusative cases ‘ekaṃ samayaṃ’ are used denoting time.
• The verb ‘viharati’ which is a present tense form, is used to indicate a past event. Some grammarians call it as ‘historical present tense’. This verb – viharati – (indicating past) and such an opening sentence – Ekaṃ samayaṃ bhagavā … viharati … – occurs very frequently in the suttas.


7. Ekaṃ samayaṃ bhagavā bārāṇasiyaṃ viharati isipatane migadāye.

Audio for Sentence 7
  • bārāṇasī (proper noun, f) = city of Benaras / Varanasi
  • bārāṇasiyaṃ (loc. s) = at Varanasi,
  • isipatana (proper noun, m) = a place called Isipatana,
  • isipatane (loc. s) = at Isipatana,
  • migadāya (m) = deer park,
  • migadāye (loc. s) = in the deer park

Translation : On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Varanasi at Isipatana, Deer Park (or – in the Deer Park at Isipatana).


8. Catasso imā, bhikkhave, dhātuyo. Katamā catasso? Pathavīdhātu, āpodhātu, tejodhātu, vāyodhātu – imā kho, bhikkhave, catasso dhātuyo.

Audio for Sentence 8
  • catasso (num, f, nom. s) = four,
  • imā (pron, f) = these,
  • bhikkhave (m, voc. p) = O bhikkhus!
  • dhātu (f) = element,
  • dhātuyo (nom. p) = elements,
  • katama (pron) = which,
  • katamā (f, nom. p) = which,
  • pathavī / paṭhavī (f) = the earth,
  • āpo (m) = water, liquid;
  • teja / tejo (m) = heat, radiance;
  • vāyo (m) = wind, air;
  • pathavīdhātu (nom. s) = the earth element,
  • āpodhātu (nom. s) = the water element,
  • tejodhātu (nom. s) = the heat element,
  • vāyodhātu (nom. s) = the air element,
  • kho (ind) = indeed, surely, then, now (it an affirmative particle which may be left out while translating)

Translation : O monks! There are these four elements. Which four? The earth element, the water element, the heat element, the air / wind element. O monks! These are the four elements.

• Please Note the pattern of the above sutta. Many suttas from Anguttara Nikaya follow this pattern :
- At the beginning of the sutta, the Buddha makes a statement, usually involving a number. E.g. There are four types of people / five faculties / seven factors of awakening … etc.
- Then follows a question : which four / five / seven?
- The types are then enumerated, sometimes explained in detail
- The last sentence summerises the types (this sentence is similar to the opening sentence of the sutta)


9. Ekaṃ samayaṃ bhagavā kosalesu viharati sundarikāya nadiyā tīre.

Audio for Sentence 9
  • kosala (proper noun, m) = a country / region called Kosala, a Kosalan (an inhabitant of the region called Kosala),
  • kosalesu (loc. p) = among the Kosalans,
  • sundarikā (proper noun, f) = name of a river, Sundarika;
  • nadī (f) = river,
  • sundarikāya nadiyā (gen. s) = of the river Sundarika,
  • tīra (n) = shore, bank;
  • tīre (loc. s) = on the bank (of the river)

Translation : On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling among the kosalans (in the region of kosala) on the bank of the river Sundarikā.


10. “Gacchati pana bhavaṃ gotamo bāhukaṃ nadiṃ sināyitun”ti?

Audio for Sentence 10
  • gacchati (v) = goes,
  • pana (ind) = and, but;
  • bhavaṃ (m, nom. s) = (polite word used in a dialogue, equivalent to ‘sir’), honourable;
  • gotamo (m, nom. s) = Gotama (the Buddha as known by the name of his clan)
  • bāhukā (proper noun, f) = the river Bahuka,
  • bāhukaṃ nadiṃ (acc. s) = to the river Bahuka,
  • sināyitunti = sināyituṃ + ti
  • sināyituṃ = to bathe
  • ti = shortened form of iti, indicates quotation marks / quotes (”)

Translation : “But does Veneral Gotama go to the Bāhukā river to bathe?"

• Please note the usage of ‘ti’, indicating quotation mark (”). We will learn in detail about such usage of ‘ti’ and certain sound changes associated with it, at the end of this Unit.


11. Bāhukāya pana nadiyā bahujano pāpakammaṃ kataṃ pavāheti.

Audio for Sentence 11
  • pana (ind) = and, but;
  • bāhukāya nadiyā (f, inst. s) = by / through the river Bahuka,
  • bahujano (m, nom. s) = a mass / group of persons, people;
  • pāpakammaṃ (n, acc. s) = evil action, bad deeds
  • kata (adj) = done, performed, made;
  • kataṃ (adj, acc. s) = done, performed, made;
  • pavāheti (v) = makes to flow, causes to carry away, removes, washes away

Translation : And / but many people wash away evil actions done (by them) in the Bāhukā river.

• The Pali sentence uses instrumental case – ‘bāhukāya nadiyā’ – as the river acts as a means (instrument) for washing away evil deeds.
• The word ‘bahujana’ is a collective noun. As the subject is nominative singular – bahujano – the verb too is singular – pavāheti. However, while translating into English, we consider ‘people’ as plural and translate the verb accordingly.


12. Ekaṃ samayaṃ bhagavā uruvelāyaṃ viharati najjā nerañjarāya tīre bodhirukkhmūle paṭhamābhisambuddho.

Audio for Sentence 12
  • uruvelā (proper noun, f) = name of a place – Uruvela,
  • uruvelāyaṃ (loc. s) = in / at Uruvela,
  • najjā = nadiyā (gen. s) of the river
  • nerañjarā (proper noun, f) = the river Neranjara,
  • najjā nerañjarāya (gen. s) of the river Neranjara,
  • tīre (loc. s) = on the bank,
  • rukkhmūla (n) = root of a tree
  • rukkhmūle (loc. s) = at the root / foot of a tree, under a tree,
  • bodhirukkhmūle (loc. s) = at the foot of (under) Bodhi tree,
  • paṭhama (adj) = first, former;
  • abhisambuddha (adj) = awakened, perfectly enlightened,
  • paṭhamābhisambuddho (nom. s) = newly awakened, recently enlightened

Translation : On one occasion, the Blessed One – newly awakened – was dwelling at Uruvelā, on the bank of river Neranjarā, under the Bodhi tree (at the foot of the Bodhi tree).

• In the above line, the word ‘nadiyā’ has become ‘najjā’. It is an example of ‘sound change’ in Pali words. We will learn about a few ‘sound changes’ later in our course.

Last modified: Thursday, 13 June 2024, 8:40 PM