Ong Yong Peng wrote:
> Dear Nina, Rene and friends,
> 1. bhava (m.) the state of existence.
> Previously, you have written:
> bhava is birth and this pertains to the foregoing: .. no reproach
> in respect to birth.
> bhava~nhi? I can't figure out what form the word takes. And, how do I
> put it nicely into the sentence? Can I put it this way...
Dear Ong Peng and friends,
Allow me to muddy the water further. I would like to suggest that, when
we speak of the important word
bhava, there is no single right translation, but a variety of
possibilities. This ties in with your post of the other
day, which I'll respond to here.
Dear Rene: Can you kindly elaborate on the usage of hoti/honti slightly?
Thank you.-- Ong Peng
Well, Iíll do my best. There was a problem with my last message (a font,
I think)óÝsorry! I hope itís cleared up now, as itís enought to deal
with the content of what weíre discussing without worrying about weird
Because the subject is quite big, this message is in the form of brief
points. I rely for much material here on C.A.F. Rhys-Davids book ìTo
Become or not to Become.î I hope this message is not too long!
First of all, letís note that hoti is the contracted form of bhavati.
The (b) is dropped, and ava > o.
(1) The difference in meaning between ìto beî and ìto becomeî may be
great or little, depending on the context. For example, there is not
much difference between ìIt is dawnî and ìIt is becoming dawnî (it is
dawning); more between ìI am enlightenedî and ìI am becoming
enlightened,î or ìThe night is darkî and ìThe night is becoming darkî
and so on. Also, sometimes the difference in translating can depend on
the view of the translator. So, when we look at modern translations of
bhavati/hoti, (i) sometimes we see ìbe/beingî (ii) sometimes
ìbecome/becomingî (iii) sometimes itís left out altogether, and (iv)
sometimes another word is used in its place..
(2) Pali has another perfectly good root, ìas,î which means ìbe/beingî
(not dynamic ìbecomingî). Knowing this, before translating bhavati, we
should first ask, ìWhy did the reciter/writer not use atthi if he wanted
ìbe/beingî? The situation is complex., though, because sometimes
bhavati/hoti DOES only mean be/being, and not becoming.
(3) The general nature of Buddhism is not static, but presents a dynamic
method of going from ignorance to enlightenment. Here is a section from
the Sama~n~naphala Sutta (DN 2), which depicts the recluse on his
spiritual journey. First we have a radical reworking with ìbecomeî:
43. ìAnd how, O King, does the bhikkhu become perfect in morality?
Having become one who gives up murder, Your Majesty, he recoils from the
destruction of life. He lays down cudgel and sword, and becomes one who
lives with consideration, who is helpful and compassionate to all living
beings. Thus the bhikkhu becomes [perfected] as regards these virtues.
The Walshe version: 43. ìAnd how, Sire, is a monk perfected in morality?
Abandoning the taking of life, he dwells refraining from taking life,
without stick or sword, scrupulous, compassionate, trembling for the
welfare of all living beings. Thus he is accomplished in morality.î
(4) Similar to point (3), in Buddhism there is nothing static. All is
anicca. There is no atthi from moment to moment. This is another reason
to consider ìbecomeî in translating bhavati.
(5) The Pali and Sanskrit languages evolved. We see that one word can
sometimes have different shades of meaning depending whether itís early,
classical, or late (Sutta-nipata - Abhidhamma - Tikas, etc.) Bhavati is
one of these words with different usages that changed through time (next
(6) Mrs. R-Davids thinks there was ìa preoccupation with the idea of
Becoming and with the word for it... at the time just before the birth
of Buddhism.î (P.41) Her argument is that we find a proliferation of
bhu-forms in the Upanishads and in Asokaís edicts, where as-forms
ìhardly ever occur.î On the other hand, as-forms predominate in the
ìTat tvam asiî is a notable exception. This Indian concept is closely
intertwined with the notion of the ìselfî within, immanent deity, that
is identified with Brahman. When Buddha overthrew the notion of the
ìself,î he also overthrew the notion of ìatthi.î Imagine what a
difference it makes to say, ìTat tvam bhavasiî! (Of course, this is not
truly Buddhist either, unless we define tat as nibbana/su~n~nataa, etc.)
Mrs. RD continues: ìThe [new] mandate was that man has it in his very
nature, by becoming more, to become ultimately That Most Who he
potentially is, and that this was independant of the performance of
RD even redefines ìdevaî in this sense of becoming ìmore.î For her
Devaa (e.g. MN 90, 100) does not mean ìgodsî but ìmen in another world,î
that is, ìmen in a more.î
(7) An entirely separate issue is the translation of bhavati in
connection with rebirth. Later in the tradition this was unquestionably
one of its meanings. But do translators sometimes translate bhavati as
ìbecomes (is) rebornî when simply ìbecomesî is enough? Note that
uppajjati was also available. This important question, I believe, should
be looked into more closely (I would be interested if someone knows a
study on this). For example, there are serious differences in how we
translate the following:
bhavoghaóthe flood of rebirth (PTS) --OR-- the flood of becoming?
bhavaasavaóthe outflow/inflow of existence --OR-- the outflow/inflow of
bhavesanaaólonging for rebirth --OR-- longing for becoming?
bhavata.nhaaócraving for rebirth --OR-- craving for becoming? etc.
Well, thanks for your patience. I hope this didnít muddy the waters TOO
much but was helpful.
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