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Listed below are three translations of Akkosa Sutta provided in access to in access to insight

Which translation has the correct meaning?

The third translation is not far from the common ethics i.e., the virtue of temperance found in most major religions of the world, but what is presented in the first two translations goes beyond that.

Accommodating an angry man sheepishly, I mean responding to him/her kindly to calm them, does no good to the angry man because they will think that they were in the right when they are angry. The short story leading to the sutta's stanza does indicate that too.

As I understand it Bhikkhu Thanissaro's translation is missing the key part which is present in the two other translations "He who repays an angry man in kind Is worse than the angry man"...But I may be wrong.

Acharya Buddharakkhita translation

He who repays an angry man in kind Is worse than the angry man; Who does not repay anger in kind, He alone wins the battle hard to win.

......

Maurice O'Connell Walshe translations

If a man's abused and answers back, Of the two he shows himself the worse. He who does not answer back in kind, Celebrates a double victory.

......

Thanissaro Bhikkhu translations

You make things worse when you flare up at someone who's angry. Whoever doesn't flare up at someone who's angry wins a battle hard to win.

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Using the built-in dictionary I guess the word-by-word translation seems to be as follows:

Tasseva tena pāpiyo,
yo kuddhaṃ paṭikujjhati;
Kuddhaṃ appaṭikujjhanto,
saṅgāmaṃ jeti dujjayaṃ.

[Tasseva] [because of] [bad]
[anyone] [angered] [is angry in return]
[angry] [not getting angry in return]
[a battle] [conquers] [hard to conquer]

The Pali being verse is quite terse. Translators into English are almost required to add words to it to make it "clearer" or more grammatical in English, as such you get slightly different translations.

I think your interpretation ...

Accommodating an angry man sheepishly, I mean responding to him/her kindly to calm them

... is slightly wrong. For example if I offend you and you get angry then I might get "sheepish" and try to pacify you. But I don't think the Buddha is "sheepish", nor offensive. I wouldn't say he's even exactly reacting to the anger, the point of the lesson is that he isn't participating in whatever that little drama is playing out -- not offensive, not afraid, not angry ...

And this ...

He who repays an angry man in kind
Is worse than the angry man

... doesn't sound to me perfectly Buddhist (or perfectly enlightened). I think that comparing people is a characteristic of conceit (e.g. explained here). So of the three translations I'm more inclined to go with just, "You make things worse if", but even that's maybe introducing pronouns which didn't exist in the original?

And having accepted, "you make things worse", then why not take it a step a further and translate it, "you just make things worse for yourself", as Ven. Sujato did -- it's worse "for yourself" because, among things, as is being stated, the Buddha isn't taking any part of it. But, also as stated later, it's better for both if you don't.

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  • Thanks... I agree with you... The Buddha is not responding at all! That is exactly I think what makes the teaching different. .....A Cristian would probably say it lucks humility and expect the humble to say " I'm sorry Akkosa Bharadvaja for making you angry, etc" .... But therein lies the conceit you're looking for even deeper in apparent Humility.
    – Epic
    Mar 23 at 18:59
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The Sujato translation is:

When you get angry at an angry person

Tasseva tena pāpiyo,

you just make things worse for yourself.

yo kuddhaṃ paṭikujjhati;

When you don’t get angry at an angry person

Kuddhaṃ appaṭikujjhanto,

you win a battle hard to win.

saṅgāmaṃ jeti dujjayaṃ.

I have zero competence in translating Pali but my mere guess is:

Tasseva (3rd person pronoun in genitive case; genitive means having possession) tena (because of) pāpiyo (sinful)

One has a sin/sinful because of

yo (one who) kuddhaṃ (accusative case is object of the verb; is provoked; is angered) paṭikujjhati (verb; is angry in return; pati + kudh + ya);

one (yo) getting angry/provoked in return (paṭikujjhati; verb) towards anger/provocation (kuddhaṃ; object of the verb)

Kuddhaṃ appaṭikujjhanto,

When one (yo) is not angry/provoked in return (appaṭikujjhanto) towards anger/provocation (kuddhaṃ)

saṅgāmaṃ jeti dujjayaṃ

one wins a battle hard to win.

Note: for Sujato, possibly "tasseva" is in dative case, which implies "giving" or "making"; rather than genitive case, which implies "possessing".

While i cannot definitively translate the verse, my guess is the translation revolves around the 1st sentence: "Tasseva tena pāpiyo" and particularly who is the owner or maker of the "pāpiyo" ("sinful").

My guess is the person getting angry in return possesses the "pāpiyo" because it appears the "pāpiyo" ("sinful"), together with the "jeti" ("victory"), are the main subjects or outcomes of the entire verse.

Therefore, I merely guess the Acharya Buddharakkhita & Maurice O'Connell Walshe translations are the most accurate because the "pāpiyo" ("sinful") is possessed by "the person" ("tasseva") rather than possessed by Thanissaro's generalization of "things". But I could be wrong.

Often, our Soviet & European moderators are fluent with grammar and can assist, here.

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This seems very straightforward, I don't see what's to doubt here.

The Brahmin insults the Buddha. The Buddha stays calm and says, I don't accept your insults nor react to them, so they still belong to you, just like the food you serve to your guests belongs to you when they leave it untouched.

The verse says, when someone is angry and that makes you angry at them - you get in trouble, but if you don't get angry then you can win the battle.

It is to one's, therefore, disadvantage
when one gets angry at someone angry at them.
Not getting triggered by anger
one wins the battle difficult.

In that translation that you found confusing, I'm pretty sure "in kind" means "in the same way" (i.e. with anger) - not "with kindness".

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  • I understand "one wins a battle hard to win" as (one's battle with the experience and the consequence of anger caused by egocentrism), not (the battle with the other person).
    – ChrisW
    Mar 13 at 7:52
  • Agreed, this is explained in the final part of the verse, the battle hard to win is finding a win-win solution for both the sides.
    – Andrei Volkov
    Mar 13 at 23:23
  • The question is ... Is the verse implying that answering an angry man in any way is wrong? If it's saying that "don't fight anger with anger" then its straightforward or it it's saying like a Christian "calm the angry man by humility" then it is also common and straightforward, but it seems to go further.
    – Epic
    Mar 23 at 18:02
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I've read that, as i understand it, one shouldn't strike a Brahman and a Brahman [being struck] shouldn't let anger loose; that it is shameful to strike a Brahman and more shameful if being struck one was to let anger loose.

To me it seems parallel to the OP discourse and i think it's probably a reverberation of the same verse.

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