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Three translations of Bhikkhu Sujato say:

But Master Gotama, when a mendicant’s mind is freed like this, where are they reborn?

Evaṃ vimuttacitto pana, bho gotama, bhikkhu kuhiṃ upapajjatī ti?

‘They’re reborn’ doesn’t apply, Vaccha.

“Upapajjatīti kho, vaccha, na upeti”.

Well then, are they not reborn?

Tena hi, bho gotama, na upapajjatī ti?

They’re not reborn’ doesn’t apply, Vaccha.

“Na upapajjatīti kho, vaccha, na upeti”.

MN 72


Seeing this, a learned noble disciple becomes disillusioned with form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness.

Evaṃ passaṃ, bhikkhave, sutavā ariyasāvako rūpasmimpi nibbindati, vedanāyapi nibbindati, saññāyapi nibbindati, saṅkhāresupi nibbindati, viññāṇasmimpi nibbindati.

Being disillusioned they become dispassionate. Being dispassionate they’re freed. When freed, they know ‘it is freed’.

Nibbindaṃ virajjati; virāgā vimuccati. Vimuttasmiṃ vimuttamiti ñāṇaṃ hoti.

They understand: ‘Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed, what had to be done has been done, there is no return to any state of existence.’

‘Khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ, nāparaṃ itthattāyā’ti pajānātī”ti.

SN 22.59


The sage at peace is not reborn, does not grow old, and does not die. They are not shaken, and do not yearn.

Muni kho pana, bhikkhu, santo na jāyati, na jīyati, na mīyati, na kuppati, na piheti.

For they have nothing which would cause them to be reborn. Not being reborn, how could they grow old? Not growing old, how could they die? Not dying, how could they be shaken? Not shaking, for what could they yearn?

Tañhissa, bhikkhu, natthi yena jāyetha, ajāyamāno kiṃ jīyissati, ajīyamāno kiṃ mīyissati, amīyamāno kiṃ kuppissati, akuppamāno kissa pihessati?

MN 140

Why does MN 72 say "not reborn" does not apply to the freed mind (vimuttacitto) but SN 22.59 and MN 140 say "rebirth is ended" and the arahant is "not reborn"?

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    Apparently khina in khina jati means "has exhausted", so the phrase would literally mean "birth has exhausted" (not re-birth), meaning the samsaric tendency for sustaining the self that was born as a result of 11th link of Dependent Origination has exhausted itself, ran to its end and disbanded.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 12:01
  • Isn't MN 72 more literally asking where the Bhikkhu (or "a Bhikkhu") is reborn (not the freed mind)? So the title should be (more literally) "Why is a Bhikkhu with a freed mind etc.", and the text "does not apply to the Bhikkhu".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 13:59

3 Answers 3

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Well then, are they not reborn?

Tena hi, bho gotama, na upapajjatī ti?

‘They’re not reborn’ doesn’t apply, Vaccha.

I would suggest it has to do with the way this question is formulated. It's not about rebirth having ended but about pointing to a person because of the use of the word 'they'.

Talking about a 'they', 'him', 'her' doesn't apply anymore. So, the question is wrongly put.

That's my take on it.

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    IMO the pronoun "they" isn't in the Pali (though a subject may be implicit when a verb is used). I think the Pali says, more literally, "And in this way freed, friend Gotama, [a/the] monk to where is reborn?" and "Then, friend Gotama, not reborn?" I think the subject is assumed to be bhikkhu i.e. the mendicant.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 13:52
  • On a different note, I've always thought it would be much more meaningful to translate it as "Comrade Gotama" ;)))
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 14:28
  • @AndreiVolkov Why so? "Comrade" implies to me a strict equality of social rank (see also Why should one not address a venerable as friend?), though also helper or ally.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 14:40
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    @AndreiVolkov I imagine that "the wanderer Vacchagotta" wasn't a bhikkhu? The introduction to MN 72 doesn't have the usual formal reverences. I think bhikkhus referred to each other as friends -- until The Blessed One's Final Exhortation with "And, Ananda, whereas now the bhikkhus address one another as 'friend,' let it not be so.... But yes I don't quite get the formality, e.g. a French child says "vous" to a school teacher (or any adult), but "tu" to a parent (or God).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 16:03
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    ... and an adult says tu to friends and to their social equals, or tu to everyone only if they're like, veterans of 1968. I guess it's just convention (which was why I asked about it -- to understand a reason). But then again, people (you too) mention doing prostrations, so...
    – ChrisW
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 16:05
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We can think of karma as sowing the seeds of rebirth: every karmic act is part of a cycle of dependencies that causes its own return. It makes sense to talk about these seeds coming to fruition (leading to return), and it makes sense to talk about these seeds being extinguished (not leading to return). But a freed mind does not sow these seeds. There is nothing planted that can return or be extinguished, so it makes no sense to use these terms.

To be a bit silly about it, it's like asking a woman whether her dog has fleas. She can say yes or no, sure. But if she doesn't have a dog, well… How could she say whether the dog she doesn't have has fleas? The liberated mind is that woman without a dog.

Err… no offense to dog owners.

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MN 72 later says:

“But Vaccha, suppose they were to ask you: ‘This fire burning in front of you: what does it depend on to burn?’ How would you answer?”

“I would answer like this: ‘This fire burning in front of me burns in dependence on grass and logs as fuel.’”

“Suppose that fire burning in front of you was extinguished. Would you know: ‘This fire in front of me is extinguished’?”

“Yes, I would, Master Gotama.”

“But Vaccha, suppose they were to ask you: ‘This fire in front of you that is extinguished: in what direction did it go—east, south, west, or north?’ How would you answer?”

“It doesn’t apply, Master Gotama. The fire depended on grass and logs as fuel. When that runs out, and no more fuel is added, the fire is reckoned to have become extinguished due to lack of fuel.”

Although the word "upapajjatī" does not appear to literally mean "reborn" (refer to this topic), when the word "upapajjatī" is most often used in the suttas, it refers to "a being" ("satta") or "beings" ("sattanam") faring on according to their kamma, as follows:

With clairvoyance that is purified and superhuman, I saw beings (satte) passing away and being reborn (upapajjamāne) — inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, in a good place or a bad place. I understood how beings are reborn (upapannā) according to their deeds: ‘These dear beings did bad things by way of body, speech, and mind. They spoke ill of the noble ones; they had wrong view; and they chose to act out of that wrong view. When their body breaks up, after death, they’re reborn (upapannā) in a place of loss, a bad place, the underworld, hell. These dear beings, however, did good things by way of body, speech, and mind. They never spoke ill of the noble ones; they had right view; and they chose to act out of that right view. When their body breaks up, after death, they’re reborn (upapannā) in a good place, a heavenly realm.’ And so, with clairvoyance that is purified and superhuman, I saw beings passing away and being reborn — inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, in a good place or a bad place. I understood how beings are reborn (upapajjamāne) according to their deeds.

MN 4

In other words, it appears the word "upapajjatī", particularly with its prefix of "upa" (meaning "close" or "nearness"), must always be a dependent phenomena (such as a future state of being depending on a former state of being/kamma).

Therefore, for an Arahant, both free from the notion/view of being "a being" and free from any dependent conditions, the idea "not reborn" does not apply.

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