Aṇguttara Nikāya

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III. Tika Nipāta
V. Cūḷa Vagga

The Book of the Threes

Sutta 43

Attha-Vasa Suttaṃ

Conveying the Objective

Translated from the Pāḷi
Michael M. Olds



Translator's Introduction

Woodward makes the distinction between 'experience' and 'Dhamma' a matter of understanding the spirit (attha) and the letter (Dhamma) of a given dissertation.

Bhk. Bodhi footnotes [n 403]: 'Mp explains "experiences the meaning" (attha-paṭisaṃvedī) as "experiences with knowledge the explanation of the meaning (or commentary) ... and "experiences the Dhamma of the canonical text" ... However while the two terms are often paired, the precise distinction between attha and dhamma is not clearly drawn in the Nikāyas. ... Attha can signify meaning, benefit, good, and goal; dhamma can signify the teaching, the system of practice, the nature of things, and the truth pointed to by the teaching. Thus the contrast between dhamma and attha can be seen as that between the formulated teaching and its meaning, between the practice and its goal, and between the teaching and the benefit it brings.' ... and this does not cover all the possibilities!

The translations of both Bhk. Bodhi and Woodward put the emphasis on the evaluation of the teacher and the student against the understanding of these two terms.

This translation is being made to alter the emphasis from that of self-evaluation and other evaluation against the understanding of the two terms attha and dhamma, to the idea that the basic message is that teaching should be a living experience of a real communication between two individuals, not a matter of delivering a memorized speech (however well understood, or likely to be understood) to an audience.

In other words, in the best case, one should not flip between delivering a dissertation thinking that if nothing else, teaching is good because one learns one's self, or that teaching is good because someone else may learn something one has learned, but that it is the sharing of an experience of mutually understanding something as the teaching is being given, in the here and now, in this seen thing.

Then, with this in mind, it is necessary, before giving a talk, to evaluate one's ability to re-live the experience as one is delivering one's talk and to create this experience in the audience.

This sutta relates closely to the next (if they are in fact separate suttas), where the case is the less than ideal case. So the two together would be heard as: "Ideally it is this way; it will do if it is this other way." This, at least, is how I hear it and tell it.

Los Altos,
Sunday, January 26, 2014 4:38 AM



[1][pts][bodh] I Hear Tell:

Once upon a time the Lucky Man, Sāvatthī-town residing.

It was there, then, that one time he said this to the beggars gathered round:


and the beggars responding "Bhante!",
Bhagava said this:

"Ideally,[1] beggars,
there are these three objectives[2] to bear in mind[3]
when giving a dissertation on Dhamma.

What three?

That he who gives the dissertation on Dhamma
has the experience of the objective himself[4] and
the experience of Dhamma himself.[5]

That he who hears the Dhamma
has the experience of the objective himself and
the experience of the Dhamma himself.

That both the one who gives the dissertation on Dhamma
and the one who hears the Dhamma
have the experience of the objective for themselves and
the experience of the Dhamma for themselves.

These are the three objectives, beggars,
which properly should be born in mind
when giving a dissertation on Dhamma."


[1] Alam. properly, fit for, 'befitting' enough for,

[2] Atthavase. 'bent-on-attainments'

[3] Sampassa-mānena. 'own-see-in mind'

[4] Attha-paṭisaṇvedī. 'objective-reflect-own-experience'.

[5] Dhamma-paṭisaṇvedī 'Dhamma-reflect-own-experience'.



AN 3.43-Woodward
AN 3.44-Woodward
AN 2.40-Woodward
AN 3.43, n403; 44; AN 2.40 Bodhi, The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha.


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