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Having read translations of suttas in English and also in my native language, I noticed that every single one of them renders the phrase '(this or that person) etadahosi (quoted thought)' (but see the ETA footnote below) as 'then the following thought occurred to (this or that person)'. If I was left to my own devices (i.e. no easy access to the Commentaries - I have the texts, I'm more or less all right with Pali grammar, but my Pali vocabulary is not very good, making reading slow and skimming over Pali text in search of a topic an impossibility), I'd surely come to the conclusion that this construct means something akin to the modern slang 'then (this or that person) was like: ...'. In other words, the literal meaning seems to convey an outsider's perspective while the - assumedly canonical - translations give sort of an inside view of what happens in - or rather: to - the mind of the person in question.

So my question is: why is this particular translation chosen, apparently every time?

I assume, of course, that it is chosen because an explanation to this effect is found somewhere in the Commentaries, and in that case I'd also like to know where can I find it?

ETA: @ChrisW drew my attention to the fact that the original phrase is actually '(to this or that person) etadahosi', the person is not in nominative but in either dative or genitive.

ETA2: I ended up being convinced that the meaning is clear from the grammar alone and not coming from commentaries. The person to whom the thought occurs is in Dative (or Genitive - Dative is my bet, though), and that it is a thought that occurs to them is clear from the fact that a thought follows the construct. So I'm accepting the answer which draws my attention to the fact that the subject is not in nominative.

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    Not knowing Pali, I always assumed they wanted to put the person in the passive mode - it dawned on someone, someone did not think it out. Will wait for a real expert to answer though. – Andrei Volkov Nov 21 '17 at 17:49
  • @AndreiVolkov: I hesitated to mention this in the OQ because I did not want to trigger yet another 'free will in Buddhism' thread, but yes, this is to me the most important aspect of this particular translation, that it adds a statement of passivity wrt. thoughts arising (whereby 'etadahosi' literally means 'was thus', hence my attempt at 'was like'). If there is indeed some commentary leading to this particular choice of phrase, I expect it to be instructive wrt the general issue of free will as well. – Kryptozoon Nov 21 '17 at 18:17
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I'm not an expert (please consider this instead as an "exercise for the student" for someone to correct).

When it's used in a phrase like, "bhikkhūnaṃ etadahosi", isn't "bhikkhus" there in the plural genitive or plural dative case? Anyway, not nominative. So wouldn't you translate that as "of the bhikkhus", or, "to the bhikkhus"?

You say you translate 'etadahosi' literally as 'was thus' ... could it mean instead, "this was"?

Anyway, given that "bhikkhus" isn't nominative, maybe the most literal translation is, "this was, to the bhikkhus" ... or in other words, "this (thought or statement) occurred, to the bhikkhus".

If I look at other instances of etadahosi I see they too are preceded by a noun with the naṃ or ssa case endings.


Also it sometimes is translated as "they thought".

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    Indeed, other uses are 'tassa mayham, (vocative) etadahosi', which still could be either Dative or Genitive (of the empathic 'me', I assume: 'so 'ham' as mentioned e.g. in Warder, third edition page 29). It does indeed seem to suggest what you propose, but I'm wary of Pali when it puts noun cases to exotic uses. Maybe it's indeed as simple as that, 'it was to me thus: what if I go and visit this samana Gotama end-of-quote'. – Kryptozoon Nov 21 '17 at 19:29
  • Agreed. You use the genitive to convey "to it/to him/to them". Etadahosi is a contraction of the verb in the aorist and etad in the vocative (-a). So "to themselves the monks were saying"? – user698 Nov 21 '17 at 19:29
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    Ok, I feel justified being wary of Pali uses of noun cases. Can't figure out the meaning of etad being in the vocative. Would be simpler with nominative. – Kryptozoon Nov 21 '17 at 19:47
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    I think you might be right, actually. I'm banging around a bit and I'm finding etadahosi rendered with the space just as often as a single word (for the life of me I can't figure out why!). I'm revising my translation - "to the monks, it was this/thus" or maybe even "to the monks, this was". – user698 Nov 21 '17 at 19:52
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    @ChrisW: re: Latin cases. They have their basic meaning (accusative marks the object of action etc.), and they are used alone without prepoistions in those roles, but there aren't enough of them (nor enough prepositions) to cover all possible relationships, so cases and prepositions also pair up, e.g. 'in' + accusative shows target of motion, 'in' + ablative shows placement etc. Pali has no prepositions but still not enough cases, so it must task those few cases with very extended meanings. English has lost case markings for nouns so it created more prepositions (e.g. 'into' vs. 'in'). – Kryptozoon Nov 24 '17 at 19:46
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Because every context of etadahosi are before thought quote. After etadahosi always thought that end with "iti". If you see below search in CSCD search engine, the quotation start next of every etadahosi, and end at iti.

For below evidence link, I can't found a good CSCD online search engine, you may use below thai's tipitaka insteal. It is not quotation, but you can see each context and iti.

http://www.84000.org/tipitaka/pitaka_item/roman_seek.php?text=etadahosi&modeTY=1&book=1&bookZ=45

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