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Consummate, High, Best, Upright, Right


The Eighth Lesson
The 10th Lesson
[MN 9]

Pāḷi MO Hare Horner Punnaji Bodhi Nanamoli Rhys Davids (Mrs)Rhys Davids Thanissaro Walshe Woodward
sammā High, Consummate, Best right perfect Harmonious right, correct, perfectly fully, completely; right(ly) right right right Right right


Pāḷi MO Hare Horner Punnaji Bodhi Nanamoli Rhys Davids (Mrs)Rhys Davids Thanissaro Walshe Woodward
micchā Mixed up, contrary, low wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong



Pāḷi Text Society
Pāḷi English Dictionary
Edited by T. W. Rhys Davids and William Stede

Sammā2: [Vedic samyac (=samyak) & samī.s "connected, in one"; see under saṅ-] thoroughly, properly, rightly; in the right way, as it ought to be, best, perfectly (opp. micchā) D I.12; Vin I.12;...Usually as -*,... especially in connection with constituents of the eightfold Aryan Path, where it is contrasted with micchā;...

-akkhāta well preached
-añña perfect knowledge Vin I.183; S I.4;
IV.128;... -ggata...who has wandered rightly, perfect M I.66; who has attained the highest point, an Arahant D I.55; S I.76; A I.269; IV.226; V.265; J III.305;...
-ppajana having right knowledge...
-ppaññā right knowledge, true wisdom Vin I.14;...
-ppadhānaright exertion...four D II.120; M III.296; explained M II.11...

-ājīva right living, right means of livelihood, right occupation Vin I.10; S V.421, etc.; formula D II.312; (adj.) living in the right way M I.42; A II.89.
-kammanta right conduct, right behaviour Vin I.10; S V.421 etc.; definition D II.312;...behaving in the right way M I.42; A II.89.
-ñaṇa right knowledge, enlightenment, results from right concentration D II.217; A I.292; adj. M I.42.
-ñāṅ in possessing the right insight A II.89, 222.
-dassana right views Vism 605. -diṭṭhi right views, right belief, the first stage of the noble eightfold path, consists in the knowledge of the four truths D II.311; its essence is knowledge..comprises the knowledge of the absence of all permanent Being and the reality of universal conditioned Becoming S II.17; III.135; and of the impermanence of the 5 Khandhas S III.51=IV.142; and of Sīla, of causation and of the destruction of the Āsavas M I.46-55; how obtained M I.294; two degrees of M III.72; supremely important A I.30-2 292 sq.;...
-vācā right speech Vin I.10;...D II.312;...
-vāyāma right effort Vin I.10;...definition D II.312; adj. M I.42; A II.89.
-vimutta right emancipation A I.292;
-vimuttithe same D II.217; A II.196, 222; (adj.) M I.42; A II.89.
-sankappa right resolve, right intention...Vin I.10;...definition D II.312; (adj.) M I.42; A II.89.
-sati right memory, right mindfulness, self-possession Vin I.10;...definition D II.313; (adj.) M I.42; A II.89.
-samādhi right concentration, the last stage of the noble eightfold path Vin I.10;...definition D II.313; adj. M I.12; A II.89.
-samBuddha perfectly enlightened, a universal Buddha Vin I.5; D I.49;...

Micchā (adv.) [Sanskrit mithyā, cp. Vedic mithah. interchanging, separate, opposite, contrary (opp. sa*yak together: see samma); mithū wrongly; see also mithu] wrongly, in a wrong way, wrong-, false Sn 438 (laddho yaso), 815 (paṭipajjati leads a wrong course of life, almost syn. with anariyaṃ. Illustrated by "pāṇaṃ hanati, adinnaṃ ādiyati, sandhiṃ chindati, nillopaṃ harati, ekāgārikaṃ karoti, paripanthe tiṭṭhati, paradāraṃ gacchati, musā bhaṇati" at Nd1 144); VbhA 513 (-ñāṇa, -vimutti). -micchā- often in same combinations as sammā-, with which contrasted, e. g. with the 8 parts of (an-) ariya-magga, viz. -diṭṭhi (wrong) views (D III.52, 70 sq., 76, 111, 246, 269, 287, 290, Dh 167, 316 sq.; Pug 39; Vism 469 (def.) PvA 27, 42, 54, 67; cp. -ka one who holds wrong views D III.45, 48, 264; Vism 426)...



A Dictionary of the Pāḷi Language
Robert Caesar Childers

Sammā. Fully, thoroughly, accurately, rightly, properly, well, really, truly.



It just ain't right

There are two problems connected with translating sammā as "right":

The first is that here in the West this word has been taken from its origins as a carpenters term for an upright or perpendicular angle, a right angle, or Upright, and made into a term standing for power and authority: "righteous" (or, as "correct" it means "the only correct") and "with the right to". The use as Upright is not heard at all, and that would be the meaning that was needed, at least for the elements of the Magga, although it would be awkward elsewhere. But that is not how, even, the elements of the Magga are best to be characterized, that is to say as being the upright ways of things in the world. The Magga, upon examination is a path constructed of not-doings. It is difficult to characterize something not done as the upright way of doing something. The behaviors suggested by the Magga are rather the ways that work in a system designed to accomplish something. Again, this will become apparent if you examine the structure of the individual elements. They are not stated in terms of static states, they are stated in terms that will be interpreted differently by different individuals at different stages of progress. So what is needed is not a term that describes an absolute.

So the second is that this is a term that must be used as to describe a conditional state of things, not an absolutely correct position. "Right" allows only for any other alternative to be "wrong", and that is not what is being said in most cases where sammā is being used, it is simply saying that this is the best for those going This Way, second best is not necessarily wrong, and certainly not wrong for those who are going that way. Sammā diṭṭhi is the point of view you adopt in order to overcome views of self and existence, once those have been overcome, sammā diṭṭhi too must be abandoned as just one of the limitless ways of seeing things — to hang on to it would be wrong, then what do you call it?

All views are to be let go. Remember the simile of the raft. If right were right and wrong were wrong, then right view would be right for the Arahant as well as for the student, and that is not the case. It needs to be a word that stands for "best under these conditions".

Reliance on the fact that Pāḷi is the root (or close to it) of all IndoEuropean languages, is a good justification for seeking in the etymology of the word for the best translation. From sammā, then we go to summa > sum > summit and from there we have (at least) two alternatives: the terms "high" (I suppose we could say "top") and "consummate" depending on how closely you want to stick to the root.

Both these terms allow for understanding the thing it is conditioning to be conditionally the best, and yet allow for that which is second best to not necessarily be wrong, just not the highest, or the best in this case.

As for miccha, it breaks down (me & wee) into "small-stuff"; so you could say "low", or 'contrary' both of which are used here. PED has, as well as "wrong", "contrary".

Note also with regard to this issue: Dakkhiṇa ... From same root *deks are Latin dexter ... and Gr. δεξιτερός; cp. also Goth. taihswa (right hand), Ohg. zeso and zesawa. ... 1. right (opp. vāma left), with a tinge of the auspicious, lucky and prominent:
padakkhiṇa to the right (as in on the right-hand side) but also
2. "(prominent) with the right," i. e. skilful, clever, quick in learning ... 3. lucky, auspicious, turning out well or favourable ... so in so far as the word 'right' has evolved from the usefulness of the right hand to right-handed peoples, sammā is not the right word.

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