The standard description of Wrong Thought (micchāsaṅkappo) in Pali is

Katamo ca, bhikkhave, micchāsaṅkappo? Kāmasaṅkappo, ­byāpā­da­saṅkappo, vihiṃ­sāsaṅ­kappo—ayaṃ, bhikkhave, micchāsaṅkappo. (from MN 117)

The translation says:

“And what, bhikkhus, is wrong intention? The intention of sensual desire, the intention of ill will, and the intention of cruelty: this is wrong intention.

I have problems understanding the difference between byāpā­da­ (~ ill will) and vihiṃ­sā (~ cruelty). I know that vihiṃ­sā means something like "wishing someone harm". But I didn't find where the word byāpā­da­ comes from and in what quality the meaning of it is different from vihiṃ­sā. Can someone please help me out?

5 Answers 5


To help understand the differences between the two words, let’s try to understand the meaning of the words independently. Vyäpäda is ill will. It is a stronger word than patigha. Because of kamachanda, “dosa” or long-lasting hateful situations arise. In the present day Sinhala language, we say ‘dvesa’ for the term ‘dosa’. This long-lasting hateful situation, at its extreme brings out the second of the five hindrances, ‘Vyäpäda’. We can break this word into “vaya”+”pada”. “Vaya” means decline even in native Sinhala. and “Pada” means walk towards. Thus ‘Vyäpäda’ means one is on a path of (moral) decline. kamachanda and Vyäpäda are the main reasons that we suffer. By disciplining ourselves through speech and bodily actions we can remove any thoughts of extreme greed and hate as they come to the mind.

Vihimsa can be said as cruelty and harmfulness. Its opposite is harmlessness (avihimsa). The following Pali phrase in short means MOLEST NONE…. It’s full meaning is… “He who seeks his own happiness by harming others who also desire to have happiness will not find happiness hereafter.

”Sukha kamani bhutani yo dandena VIHIMSATI
Attano sukham esano pecca so na labhate sukham.

If we take ‘Sankappo’ to mean thoughts, then… Nekkhamma-sankappo is ‘thoughts of renunciation’, i.e., thoughts to cultivate when being at ease in quiet, solitary places.

Avyäpäda -sankappo is ‘thoughts of non-anger, non-hatred’: We don’t have to keep thinking about our own bad points or the bad points of others and let these thoughts of ill-will fester.

Avihinsa-saakappo is ‘thoughts of not doing harm’, not creating trouble or doing harm to ourselves and others. i.e., This also entails not thinking about our own shortcomings, which would depress us; if we think about our own shortcomings, it’ll spread to that of others shortcomings too. For this reason, the wise would lift their thoughts to the level of goodness so that they project love and good will for themselves, and in turn feel love and good will for others too.


my understanding of Pali is that byāpā­da­ means anger, where vihiṃ­sā means wishing for someone's destruction. Such as, you feel angry (byāpā­da­) when you are insulted by a customer service person at a business you are visiting. And wishing for that customer service person to be fired for it, is vihiṃ­sā.

This further beg some questions, can one have vihiṃ­sā without byāpā­da? and why Buddha did not explicitly include vihiṃ­sā in the hindrances? What about slaughtering animals for food, that might be a case of vihiṃ­sā without byāpā­da?


'Byāpāda' might mean: 'to walk against'

Byāpāda [fr. vy+ā+pad]


Vy˚ is the semi -- vowel (i. e. half -- consonantic) form of vi˚ before following a & ā (vya˚, vyā), very rarely ū & o. The prefix vi˚ is very unstable, and a variety of forms are also attached to vy˚, which, after the manner of all consonant -- combns in Pāḷi, may apart from its regular form vy˚ appear either as contracted to vv˚ (written v˚), like vagga (for vyagga), vaya (for vyaya), vosita (=vyosita), *vvūha (=vyūha, appearing as ˚bhūha), or diaeretic as viy˚ (in poetry) or veyy˚ (popular), e. g. viyañjana, viyārambha, viyāyata; or veyvañjanika, veyyākaraṇa, veyyāyika. It further appears as by˚ (like byaggha, byañjana, byappatha, byamha, byāpanna, byābādha etc.). In a few cases vya˚ represents (a diaeretic) vi˚, as in vyamhita & vyasanna; and vyā˚=vi˚ in vyārosa.

(c) vi˚ occurs also as distributive (repetitional) prefix in reduplication compounds (here closely resembling paṭi˚ and the negative a˚), like cuṇṇa -- vicuṇṇa piecemeal, chidda -- vicchidda holes upon holes, vaṭṭa -- vivaṭṭa, etc. -- Contracted forms are vy˚ (=viy˚ before vowels) and vo˚ (=vi+ ava); the guṇa & vriddhi form is ve˚.

  1. denoting the reverse of the simple verb, or loss, difference, opposite, reverse, as expressed by un -- or dis -- , e. g. ˚asana mis -- fortune, ˚kaṭika unclean, ˚kappa change round, ˚kāra per -- turbation, dis -- tortion, ˚kāla wrong time, ˚tatha un -- truth, ˚dhūma smoke -- less, ˚patti corruption, ˚parīta dubious, ˚ppaṭipanna on the wrong track, ˚bhava non -- existence (or as 4 "more" bhava, i. e. wealth), ˚mati doubt, ˚mānana dis -- respect, ˚yoga separation, ˚raja fault -- less, ˚rata abs -- taining, ˚rūpa un -- sightly, ˚vaṭa unveiled, ˚vaṇṇeti defame, ˚vāda dis -- pute, ˚sama uneven, ˚ssandati overflow, ˚ssarita for -- gotten, ˚siṭṭha distinguished, ˚sesa difference, distinction. --

Pada (nt.) [Ved. pad, pād (m.) foot, and also pāda; pada (nt.) step.

Often, examining the dictionary meaning of words is not clear. Instead, it is most useful to examine how words are used in context. There is an excellent website called 'Sutta Central' where a word can be placed in the search function and all of the suttas appear where in which that word is used. Then click on 'languages' & find the english translation (but only when the english translation appears at the top of the list).


Then at that time many young boys who were between Sāvatthī and Jeta’s Wood were attacking a snake with a stick. Then the Gracious One, having dressed in the morning time, after picking up his bowl and robe, was entering Sāvatthī for alms. The Gracious One saw those many young boys between Sāvatthī and Jeta’s Wood attacking a snake with a stick. Then the Gracious One, having understood the significance of it, on that occasion uttered this exalted utterance:

“He who, while seeking happiness for himself, harms with a stick (yo daṇḍena vihiṃsati) Other beings who desire happiness, will not find happiness after passing away.

“He who, while seeking happiness for himself, does not harm with a stick Other beings who desire happiness, will find happiness after passing away.”

Therefore, vihiṃ­sā appears to be about inflicting harm & injury upon another person while byāpā­da­ appears to refer to mental thoughts of ill-will (but not necessarily the additional step of inflicting harm upon the object of ill-will).

  • That is a neat etymological explanation; but I'm uncertain how the "ā" fits in the middle between "vi" and "pad".
    – ChrisW
    Apr 5, 2017 at 10:03
  • Thanks Chris. I don't know either. I just did my best to research. Regards Apr 5, 2017 at 10:21
  • 1
    Try this link: suttacentral.net/define/%C4%81 Apr 5, 2017 at 11:06
  • Thank you, yes. The PTS dictionary defines the prefix "a" but I didn't see there a separate definition for "ā".
    – ChrisW
    Apr 5, 2017 at 11:10

First, byāpā­da­ is one of the five hindrances while vihiṃsā is one of the twenty secondary afflictions exposed in the Abhidharma. Byāpā­da­ is also one of the three mental non-virtuous actions, along with covetousness (abhijjha), etc. Studying the Abhidharma gives you an idea of what vihiṃsā is but says nothing of byāpā­da­. To grasp at the meaning of byāpā­da­, one must study other texts such as those explaining samatha, the access levels, the actual jhanas, etc.

On the glossary of Pali terms, it says that byāpā­da­ is:

  • One of the ten fetters. One of the five orambhāgiya. It is connected to what is lower, and it is totally abandoned by a non-returner (anāgāmī).
  • One of the three mental non-virtuous actions.
  • Synonymous with aversion (dosa), as stated in AN 3.67.

It is also:

  • One of the five hindrances [to cultivating concentration]

Tsongkhapa's Vision of Reality says:

The achievement of quiesence also entails the subsiding of the five hindrances of (1) sensual desire, (2) malice (vyapada), etc. [And] malice entails hatred toward sentient beings.


The factor of pleasure counters the hindrance of malice (vyapada).

Aversion is wanting things to not be the way they are and pushing them away. Vyapada (Tib. gnod sems) is an escalation of that into wishing harm to someone or something that is in the way of us getting what we want. It hinders concentration. Because ill-will is to be understood in this context of cultivating samatha, etc. one has to remember how to oppose it in this context.

Regarding harmfulness (vihiṃsā, Tib. rnam par 'tshe ba), the Compendium of Knowledge says:

QUESTION: What is harmfulness?
RESPONSE: It is involved with anger. It is non-benevolence, non-compassion and non-mercy. It has the function of harming others.


An unmerciful wish to harm other sentient beings. Involving anger, it is a lack of compassion as in wanting to harm or to cause others to harm, or in taking delight when seeing or hearing of harm to sentient beings. It has the function of harming others.

Geshe Tenzin Tenphel says:

Harmfulness is the opposite to the non-harmfulness (Tib. rnam par mi ‘tshe ba) that is included in the eleven virtuous mental factors. The Compendium of Knowledge says that it is “non-benevolence,” “noncompassion,” and “non-mercy.” This particular state of mind is the opposite to non-harmfulness which thinks “If I do such-and-such to him it will hurt him just as if it were done to me it would hurt me. Therefore, I will not do it.” Harmfulness, on the other hand, understands that something will harm the other person and deliberately wishes him harm.


Vyāpāda: 'ill-will', is a synonym of dosa see: mūla it is one of the 5 hindrances nīvarana and one of the 10 mental chains samyojana.


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