Inspired from another question, I went looking for translations from the pali on suttacentral where pali experts have used the english word 'real.'

SN 22.85 as translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi

“But, friend, when the Tathagata is not apprehended by you as real and actual here in this very life, is it fitting for you to declare: ‘As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed is annihilated and perishes with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death’?”

However, Bikkhu Sujato translates SN 22.85

“In that case, Reverend Yamaka, since you don’t actually find the Realized One in the present life, is it appropriate to declare: ‘As I understand the Buddha’s teaching, a mendicant who has ended the defilements is annihilated and destroyed when their body breaks up, and doesn’t exist after death.’?”

While the original pali of SN 22.85 has:

“Ettha ca te, āvuso yamaka, diṭṭheva dhamme saccato thetato tathāgate anupalabbhiyamāne, kallaṁ nu te taṁ veyyākaraṇaṁ: Variant: thetato → tathato (sya-all, km) | tathāgate anupalabbhiyamāne → tathāgato anupalabbhiyamāno (sya-all, pts1ed); tathāgate anupalabbhamāne (?)‘tathāhaṁ bhagavatā dhammaṁ desitaṁ ājānāmi, yathā khīṇāsavo bhikkhu kāyassa bhedā ucchijjati vinassati, na hoti paraṁ maraṇā’”ti?

I think I've isolated the pali phrase in question as saccato thetato which I think breaks down like this:

Saccato (सत्यतः in sanskrit): This term conveys the idea of "truth" or "reality." In a philosophical context, it's used to describe something as genuine, actual, or true. In the passage provided, "saccato" is used to suggest that one does not apprehend or perceive the Tathagata (Buddha) as "true" or "real" in the present life as Yamaka perceived.

Thetato (स्थितिः in sanskrit): This term refers to "establishment" or "existence." It is used to indicate that something is established or exists in a certain way. In the passage, "thetato" is used to convey that the Tathagata (Buddha) is not established or perceived as existing in the present life in the way that Yamaka perceived.

Since I'm neither a pali or sanskrit expert and I know there are some accomplished language folks on this forum:

  1. Is saccato thetato the correct term under question in these two different english translations?
  2. Which is the better translation or is there another translation that should be preferred over what Bikkhu Bodhi/Sujato suggest?
  3. Are there other suttas that reference this term that could help with the translation and the meaning that is conveyed here?

Here is the search of the term on suttacentral.


1 Answer 1


It appears the Sujato translation omits a word.

  • tathāgate = Tathāgata as a

  • diṭṭheva = visible

  • dhamme = thing/reality/phenomena

  • saccato = true

  • thetato = reliable

  • an = not

  • upalabbhiyamāne = is found

Sujato + saccato thetato = actually

Bodhi + saccato thetato = real and actual

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