The Psycho-semantic Structure of the Word kṣānti (Ch. Jen)

The Psycho-semantic Structure of the Word kṣānti(Ch. Jen)

Sungtaek Cho (趙 性 澤)

Professor, Department of Comparative Studies, State University of New York


1. Introduction

2.1. “Unrelated” meanings of kṣānti

2.2. The polysemy of khanti;a new way of

understanding its diversity of meanings

2.3. khanti, a psychological complex

2.4. Various Psychological modes of khanti

3.1. Khanti as “liking” or “preference” or “intentionality”

3.2. khanti as “determining factor”

3.3. Khanti as “choice power” (khanti-bala)

3.4. khanti as “wisdom” (khanti-ñāṇa)

3.5. Khanti as “marga”

4. Kṣānti in the Mahāyāna Soteriology

The Psycho-semantic Structure

of the Word kṣānti (Ch. Jen)

1. Introduction

The anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti is one of the forms of enlightenment assuring avinivartanīya, or the non-retrogression stage of the bodhisattva. This is a key concept needed to understand the soteriology of Mahayana Buddhism. The set phrase anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti is, semantically, composed of two different parts: anutpattika-dharma and kṣānti. The former, meaning “non-arising of dharma,” contains the central Mahayana tenet of “the emptiness of dharma” ; the latter, which is derived from the verbal root “kṣam,” meaning “to forgive,” “to be tolerant,” or “to endure suffering,” is commonly translated as “patience” or “forbearance.” Thus, a possible translation of the phrase, anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti would be “patience in the [acceptance of] non-arising of dharma.” Yet, anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti has nothing to do with “patience” in the context of Mahayana soteriology. The attainment of anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti, usually accompanied by a prediction of future Buddhahood given by the Buddha himself, is the ultimate goal, indicating that one will realize in the near future the ultimate truth of Buddhism. The key to understand this important concept in Mahayana soteriology lies in the proper understanding of the word “kṣānti.” Many translators of Buddhist texts simply assume that “kṣānti” refers to “patience,” and their renderings become descriptive terms which are aimed at conveying the proper contextual meanings while holding back the meaning “patience.” However, an investigation of the earlier usages of kṣānti in Buddhist texts will show no relation to the word “patience.” Earlier Buddhist texts, namely the Suttanipāta, use kṣānti as if it had no sense of virtue, such as patience, in its meaning. Rather, as a Buddhist technical term, it denoted an attentive “intentionality,” or various modes of such mental states.

In order to understand the concept anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti properlyI would like to examine thevarious meanings of “kṣānti” in Buddhist texts written in Pāli as well as Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese. I will explore the possibility of understanding the diversity of meanings of a single word, based on the “polysemous” analysis of the word. By doing so, I will discuss how in Mahayana Buddhism the concept of “kṣānti” was incorporated into its soteriological theory, its cultic practices and the hierarchy of its religious community. Also, I will examine how another Buddhist tradition, the Abhidharma, developed “kṣānti into a philosophical technical term defining a type of cognitive function. I will discuss how the fundamental differences in their philosophies are illustrated, explicitly as well as implicitly, in terms of their different understanding of “kṣānti.”

2.1. “Unrelated” meanings of kṣānti

Most translators assume that the various usages of the word kṣānti are secondary meanings derived from the ‘primary’ sense, ‘patience.’ Because of this, they have sought to find the possible metaphorical relationship between the primary sense and a specific usage of the word in a given context. They presuppose, consciously or unconsciously, the historical development of the meaning of kṣānti. In addition, they seem to ignore the fact that the so called “unrelated” usages of the word, without the sense of ‘patience,’ were already found in the earlier Buddhist texts in Pāli.

Having noticed that kṣānti (P. khanti) was used with “unrelated” meanings in Pāli texts, some scholars tried to challenge the long misunderstanding of kṣānti. They argued that it had been a unique-historical development of the doctrine of Sarvāstivādin or Mahayana traditions. Some of their work is informative enough to show us a new way of understanding the word, especially the research of Professors P. V. Bapat and Hajime Sakurabe, which I will review here.

Having noticed that the Pāli word khanti is used in two different senses : (1) liking, mental inclination, disposition, view or sight, and (2) forbearance, patience, endurance, capacity to bear etc., Professor P. V. Bapat challenged the translation of the Sanskrit word kṣānti as merely “patience” etc.. He argues as follows :

Even where the sense of “liking,” “view,” “inclination” appears to be more natural and resonable, the interpretation of forbearance or patience is attributed by several scholars. But these are some ‘leftouts’ even in Buddhist Sanskrit where the Pali word khanti is not rendered by kṣānti but kānti, liking.

He thus considers the “mechanical” use of kṣānti instead of kānti to be incorrect. He provides the evidence for his argument in the following passages:

In Bodhisattva-bhūmi (p. 33 Dutt’s edition) there is a verse in the last quarter of which we read : dṛṣṭe śrute kāntim a-samprakurvan : having no liking for what is seen or heard. This exactly corresponds to diṭṭhe sute hhantim (sic. for khantim) a-kubbamāno (Sn. 897). …Here is used as an equivalent of Pāli khanti. The use of aspirated kha, tha, pha, bha in Pāli-Prakrit for un-aspirated ka, ta, pa, ba respectively in Sanskrit is not unknown.

Essentially, his argument is based on the same approach as N. A. Jayawickrama and Sasaki H. Genjung, in that since philologically the Pāli word khanti can be sanskritized into either kānti or kṣānti, the mechanical use of the Sanskrit word kṣānti is not correct. His argument may be supported by some Chinese translations of the equivalent passages, as in the Chinese it was translated into (pu) ai, meaning ‘(not) loving,’ of which the Sanskrit equivalent form could be kanti. However, his argument is not substantiated in other examples. For instance, it is hardly believable that the kṣānti in dharma-jñāna-kṣānti etc., which is one of the most important concepts in Sarvāstivāda soteriology, is completely wrong for kanti. There is no textual evidence that kanti was ever used instead of kṣānti in Sanskrit texts, except in the Bodhisattvabhūmi, where the Sanskrit is not correct in many places. Even Yaśomitra, when commenting on passages where the word kṣānti occurs, kept silent while only providing ruci as the synonym for kṣānti, which is already found so frequently in the commentarial works in Pāli Buddhist texts. However, over all, Bapat’s article must be considered an important contribution to Buddhist studies. After all, he makes it clear that the word khanti (Sk. kṣānti) had meanings other than ‘patience’ etc., which had gone almost unnoticed by other contemporary Buddhist scholars.

Going one step further, Prof. Sakurabe, a famous Abhidharma scholar in Japan, examined the original sense of the word kṣānti. He also agrees that “…in Pāli canon apparently coexist both senses of the word khanti, ‘patience’ [<kṣam] and ‘willing to,’ ‘desire’ [<kam].” However, disagreeing that the second sense of Pāli word khanti could be derived from kam, he calls our attention to a compound word ditthi-nijjhana-kkhanti. He says :

Doubled consonant-kkh proves that khanti here is derived not from kam, but from kṣam ; an ideomatic(sic) use of nijjhānaṃ khamati (S ⅲ 225 ; Mⅰ133, 480), too, evinc it.

Philologically, his argument makes sense. But unfortunately, we can find a passage, “… khantiṃ diṭṭhiṃ ruciṃ mutiṃ pekkhaṃ dhamma-nijjhāna-khantiṃ” (Vbh 325 ; VM 371 ; M ⅱ 218), in which ‘single k’ shows us that his philological argument is not enough to prove his position, even though his point that khanti is not derived from kam must be correct. At any rate, based on the presupposition that the two senses of khanti must come from the same etymological origin, he disputes that khanti bears the meaning ‘liking’ or ‘desire.’ This rendering is mostly based on the assumption that khanti and kanti might be a homonymic confusion. Based on the Abhidharmakośa and its commentary by Yaśomitra, he feels that the Pāli word khanti means “intellectual implication,” as opposed ti “liking” or “desire,” as is generally assumed. He concludes that:

Here we can see close relations between those words as dṛṣṭi, kṣānti, saṃtirāṇa, (upa-)nidhyāna, rocana (a fellow derivative from ruc with ruci), āloka and jñāna, to all of which the intellectual implication is common. The word kṣānti in the compound anutpattikadharmakṣānti, too, should be understood in this connection.

However, he fails to answer the question of why khanti came to have such an intellectual implication.

In spite of both scholars’ inspiring suggestions, they failed to spot every variety of the “unrelated” usages occurring in the Pāli canon, partly because of their arbitrary, as well as limited, sources. In addition, they failed to explain how the “unrelated” usages were related to the primary meaning, ‘patience.’ Through my investigation of the occurrences of khanti in the Pāli canon, I have found that khanti has various meanings, rather than only two, as most scholars have assumed.

Therefore, in the following I attempt, first, to illustrate all the meanings of khanti in Pāli literature ; and second, to explore the possible ways of understanding the diversity of meanings of a single word, based on the “polysemy” understanding of that word. In doing so, I have created a new approach, quite different from what has been done so far by other scholars. I would therefore like to briefly explain my approach, which is based upon the belief that one single word came to have multiple meanings, not necessarily through history, but more likely synchronically, a process I call “polysemy.”

2.2. The polysemy of khanti;a new way of

understanding its diversity of meanings

Literally, “polysemy” means ‘diversity of meanings.’ In this paper, however, it means more than that. Probably the most important factor in “polysemy” is to accept the ‘diversity of meanings’ of a single word as a natural phenomenon in human language. It is a modern linguistic term that, when a word with several uses or meanings is examined, provides a way of accounting for many-to one mapping of function to form. Thus, it refers to “a grouping of related but distinctive senses of a single lexical item ; often there is an observable direction to the relationship between these senses, one being more central than, or prior to, others”.

It is beyond doubt that the Pāli word khanti is a typical “polysemy” word. However, this does not mean that this linguistic approach can be applied mechanically to the understanding of a Buddhist word. As we will see, the Buddhist use of language, especially in the case of khanti, provides unusual complications.

I presuppose that in order to understand the word khanti properly, every occurrence in the texts should be taken seriously. In other words, we have to accept that every occurrence in the texts is reasonable. It is not justifiable to make the general assumption that the various usages of the word are related, regardless of the context, nor to mechanically assume that the primary sense of the word is ‘patience.’ As aforementioned, such assumptions have been quite problematic in the past. Instead, what I think we have to do first is to take every occurrence seriously in the context, without any preoccupation with the meaning. The semantic relationship between the contextual meaning and the primary one can only be looked at after having taken this first step. With this in mind, I have taken every occurrence of the word in Pāli texts seriously. As a result of this, I have found that in Buddhist texts, the multi-meanings of kṣānti (P. khanti) were used from earlier times and yet these meanings were not, as generally assumed, historical ones but rather synchronic ones. However, the fact that the multi-meanings are synchronic or show ‘polysemy,’ does not necessarily exclude any possibility of a historical development to the Buddhist usage of the word. On the contrary, we should note that the usage of the word was dynamically and even radically developed throughout the history of Buddhist doctrine. Nevertheless, what is meant by “synchronic” is that the various meanings other than ‘patience,’ found in later Sanskrit Buddhist texts, were already found in the earliest Buddhist texts, such as Suttanipāta and Theragāthā and Therīgāthā. This makes evident the antiquity of the “unrelated” usage of the word khanti in Buddhist texts.

In fact, polysemy words are not rare in any language. Rather, it is one of the universal features of human speech. For illustration, I would like to consider for a moment the two senses of “cardinal” in English. The word can refer to both priests and to number. If they are not homonyms, which they are not, how can we understand these two apparently unrelated meanings? These two words have a common origin in a Latin word which meant “hinge.” Cardinals were priests on whom the rest of the church hinged, and cardinal numbers were the numbers on which the rest of the number system hinged. At one point, the relationship was a clear synchronic fact­not just a historical one, like the current relationship between the two English senses. The same approach, I believe, can be applied to understanding the various meanings of khanti (Sk. kṣānti) in Buddhist texts. This approach will not just give us some references by which to understand the “unrelated” usages of khanti but it will also give us a very significant hint as to the Buddhist psychology of earlier times.

If the “unrelated meanings” of khanti were, as we have mentioned, neither “historically developed,” nor related metaphorically to the meaning of “patience,” then how can we understand this use of language? In other words, what is the “hinge” on which the ordinary sense, as well as the technical ones can be connected?

Having investigated all of the occurrences of the word khanti in the Pāli Tripiṭaka, I found one important thing about the usage of the word in Buddhist texts. I found that the various “unrelated” meanings of khanti, such as ‘choice,’ ‘liking,’ ‘preference,’ ‘approval,’ or ‘ability’ (to comprehend etc.) do not just refer to the action denoted by each of them. They also refer to the mental state or the psychology underlying those actions. For instance, the word khanti in the passage of the Suttanipāta, “… nave knantiṃ na kubbaye [should not show a liking for the new],” cannot be simply understood as “enjoying,” or “being pleased with” (a new) object. Rather, it is more reasonable to understand the word as “putting one’s mind near the object,” or “directing one’s mind towards the object”­none other than the mental state or the psychology underlying “liking.” This will become clearer if we remember that Yaśomitra offered upanidhyāna, “put down near” as a synonym of kṣānti, in his commentary on Abhidharmakośa. As we will see in detail later, the other usages of khanti with “unrelated” meanings can also be understood in the same way : “directing one’s mind towards an object,” either external or internal, commonly underlies them. The question then becomes : how did the word khanti, meaning ‘patience’ or ‘endurance,’ become a psychological term denoting “directing one’s mind etc..” In regard to this question, one can only speculate. Buddhists from earliest times may have believed that the psychological property of “directing mind etc.” was the key factor of “being patient.” In other words, “being patient,” the opposite of an emotion like “anger,” was not merely “suppressing anger,” but more positively, “redirecting the mental state of ‘anger’ to another mental state such as ‘friendliness’ (maitrī, P. mettā) or equanimity (upekṣā).

This “redirecting” or “directing” is recognized as a central meaning in all of the various usages of khanti in Pāli texts. And from this central meaning various other meanings are derived, spreading in many directions. Therefore, though it seems natural that those various meanings, radiating from one central meaning, look “unrelated” to each other, we must consider the underlying psychological property central to each. Once we posit “redirecting” or “directing” as the center of the various meanings of khanti, we can easily understand not only how an “unrelated” meaning is related to the primary sense of khanti, but also how one meaning was transformed into another.

The psycho-semantic structure of the various usages of khanti is not only an example of the unique use of language by Buddhists, something which has gone unnoticed by many Buddhist scholars, it is also evidence of how intuitive and subtle was the ancient Buddhists understanding of the human mind. In the following discussion of the “polysemy” of the word khanti, I would like to avoid the historical sense and discuss through semantic logic how the word came to have the multi-meanings in the Buddhist context.

2.3. khanti, a psychological complex

On the subject of the “unrelated” usages of khanti, Rhys Davids in his Pā1i English dictionary, defines khanti as : “…in scholastic (i.e., Abhidhamma) language [it occurs] frequent in combination diṭṭhi khanti ruci” and “In dogmatic language… in combination diṭṭhi, khanti, ruci [each of which means, respectively,] one’s own views, indulgence and pleasure (=will), i.e., one’s intellectual, emotional, volitional sphere etc..” In at least two points he misunderstands the word khanti in Pāli literature. Firstly, those three combined words are not found in only “scholastic” or “doctrinal” texts, but also, as we will see, in many other “non-scholastic” ones, such as Sutta or Vinaya texts. Secondly, he speaks as if those three words referred to the three different spheres of human mental activities, and as if khanti could only refer to something “emotional.” However, this is not substantiated anywhere. Throughout Abhidhamma, commentarial, and other canonical texts, the three words do not just refer to their three mental activities. Instead, they are used as synonyms, or glossaries, complementary to each other. Moreover, we have to remember that in Yaśomitra’s Sphuṭārthā-Abhidharmakośa-vyākhyā, the word kṣamate, the verb form of kṣānti, is substituted by rocate, which could not possibly mean something “emotional” in this context. Here also, rocate and kṣamate can have no other meaning than ‘to recognize.’ In this sense, Oldenberg’s renderings of the triad, ‘belief,’ ‘opinion,’ and ‘persuasion’ are more reliable in understanding the three terms synonymously.

As I am unable to rely on the dictionary in defining the meaning of khanti for the purpose of this papaer, I would like to postulate some working hypotheses regarding ‘various meanings denoted by the various usages of khanti’ as a ‘psychological complex.’ I fell this is necessary because, as aforementioned, khanti apparently denotes in various contexts, various psychological modes. All of these modes are, nevertheless, commonly “radiated” from the central meaning, “redirecting” or “directing” underlying the psychology of ‘being patient.’

In Pā1i Tipiṭakam Concordance by E. M. Hare and K. R. Norman 97 occurrences of the word “khanti” are listed. As a purely hypothetical model for understanding the multi-meanings, or polysemy, of khanti as a whole, I classified them into the following three categories. : (1) khanti as opposite to “anger” etc.­19 occurrences ; (2) khanti as an “asceticism”­11 occurrences ; and (3) khanti as various psychological modes such as religious piety, intentionality, choice, ability, liking, preference or approval etc.­59 occurrences.

This classification does not assume any historical development of the meaning of khanti. And, also, these classifications are not mutually exclusive. In fact, each of the categories is blurred into the others and one occurrence may belong to more than one category. Nevertheless, this classification is useful, not only because it provides us with a visible formational structure for understanding the complicated “polysemous” development of the word, but also because each category provides us with an internal logical nexus, from one usage to another, so that we might comprehend how the occurrences in one category were developed to the ones in another category.

We might say that the first two categories are of the ordinary, or primary sense of khanti. Namely, we usually translate their usages as “patience,” “forbearance,” etc., which is the virtuous mental state mentioned as one of the Perfections (pāramitā). Although there is no difficulty in understanding the occurrences of the word, khanti (Sk. kṣānti) in categories (1) and (2), I have distinguished between them because even though they both refer to a virtuous mental state, the are not identical in their psychological modes nor their mental functions. The former one is always described as the opposite of krodha (anger), dveṣa (animosity), pratigha (repugnance) and vyāpadā (malice). Thus, as Har Dayal states, “it is defined as freedom from anger and excitement (akopanā, akṣobhanatā) and as the habit of enduring and pardoning injuries and insults (par-āpakārasya marṣaṇam).” On the other hand, the latter one is the “patient endurance of pain and hardship (duḥkhādhivāsana).” From this latter usage of khanti, where if functions as a very special spirit toward a higher state of mind, we can predict the occurrences in the third category.

The third category deals with the so called “unrelated” senses, ones with no relation to the meaning “patience.” Strikingly enough, these “unrelated” usages amount to over 50 percent of the entire occurrences in the Pāli Tripiṭaka. Moreover, as we will see, they occur through the whole texts of Pāli canon, from the earliest to the latest, and from Sutta and Vinaya to Abhidhamma and other commentary works. This seems to be enough evidence to prove the “polysemy thesis” of the word khanti. In my work, I will mainly discuss the occurrences of the last category.

2.4. Various Psychological modes of khanti

For the reason of structuring discussion, I classified the various psychological modes of khanti into five groups, according to psychological functions as well as contextual meanings. These are : (1)’liking’ ; (2)’determining factor’ ; (3)’choice power’ ; (4)’wisdom’;(5)’marga’ (path).

The semantic relationship among these five modes is much more complicated than we might expect. Because, in some cases, when one usage of the word, khanti, having been derived from the primary meaning, comes to have a ‘new’ meaning. Then it also becomes a central one from which other ‘new’ meanings are derived, forming a pattern almost like a ‘spider web.’ Even if this is the case, however, the underlying psychological property in khanti of ‘directing’ is still common in those various modes. In order to avoid the confusion, I would like to present a general survey of the way in which the various modes can be characterized before analyzing those occurrences in texts.

(1) khanti as ‘liking’ : This use of khanti will give us an opportunity to reconsider our ordinary experience of ‘liking’. What is meant by ‘liking’? Does it merely denote any ‘pleasure’ or ‘delightedness’ of mind? Rather, should it not denote “putting our mind near to a object.” Or, in other words, “to direct our mind toward the object arisen at the present moment, and try to keep holding it as if it were real?” In this sense, even if I titled this use of khanti as ‘liking,’ to follow conventional English translation, one could hardly say that ‘liking’ is exactly the correct translation. So, I will suggest another one.

(2) khanti as a ‘determining factor’ : We will see that Buddhists understood khanti as not only a mental state preparing one to understand Buddhist teaching, but also, by analogy, as a determining factor distinguishing one religion from another, one belief from another, or dhamma from non-dhamma etc.. Here also, we can see how khanti is characterized as the psychological property of “directing.” In other words, one’s mental, intellectual, or emotional attitude can be determined by which direction his mind is inclined towards ; for example, whether his mind is directed towards dhamma or non-dhamma.

(3) khanti as ‘choice power’ (khanti-bala)

What is another psychological aspect of “redirecting” one mental state to another? It is : “to abandon one thing to choose another.” As we will see, khanti is this very mental function, or power for “abandoning zeal for sensual desire and choosing renunciation” (kāmacchandassa pahīnattā nekkhammaṁ khantīti’ khantibalam), or “abandoning all defilements to choose the Arhant Path” (sabbakilesānaṁ pahīnatta arahattamaggo khantīti khantibalam).

(4) khanti as ‘wisdom’ (khanti-ñāṇa)

khanti, then comes to mean more than just “to choose another by abandoning one thing,” more and more it becomes “the intellectual choice to recognize truth.” Khanti, in this sense, is resonant especially of the kṣānti in the Sarvāstivāda doctrine, which asserted that kṣānti, a type of knowledge (jñāna ; P. ñāṇa), is the knowledge to investigate (saṃtīraṇa) dharma, or more precisely, one preceding moment of saṃtīraṇa. That is, with more elaboration, that the Sarvāstivādins considered the kṣānti to have a mental force capable of both destroying the mental defilements that obstruct the pure knowledge, as well as to give rise to pure knowledge. The former mental force of kṣānti is no different from khanti as a choice power, in the sense of abandoning, while the latter is no different from the khanti as wisdom (khantiñāṇa).

(5) Khanti as marga

It is a quite natural consequence, from those various usages we have seen so far, that khanti finally becomes an important concept in the Buddhist soteriology. Thus, khanti, in this context, is used as a more specific term, concerning the attainment of right knowledge, as seen in this example :

When a bhikkhu sees all formations (saṅkhāra) as impermanent (aniccato), it is possible that he shall make a choice in conformity [with actuality], and making a choice in conformity [with actuality] (anulomikāya khantiyā samannāgato) it is possible that he shall enter upon the certainty of rightness, (sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamissati) and by entering upon the certainty of rightness it is possible that he shall realize the fruit of stream-entry or the fruit of once-return or the fruit of non-return or the fruit of arhatship.

If followings, we will discuss each of these five modes of psychological complex, denoted by the word ‘khanti’.

3.1. Khanti as “liking” or “preference” or


Sn. 897

Yā kāc’ imā sammutiyo puthujjā, sabbā va etā na upeti vidvā, anūpayo so upayam kim eyya diṭṭhe sute khantim akubbamāno.


Whatever opinions are commonplace, with none of these indeed does a man who knows get involved.

Why should a man who is without involvement become involved, when he shows no preference for what is seen and heard?

Sn. 944

Purāṇam nābhinandeyya, nave khantiṃ na kubbaye hīyamāne na soceyya, ākāsaṃ na sito siya.


He should not take delight in the old ; he should not show a liking for the new. When (something) is diminishing he should not grieve ; he should not be attached to (an object of) fascination.

These two verses mention the ascetic life of the Buddhist sage (muni), who would not pay attention to any phenomenal things. The “khantim” in both verses must syntactically be an object of the verbs, “akubbamāno” and “na kubbaye,” respectively. Semantically, the two “khanti(m)” translate as “something” that one should not do. Thus, the two lines in which “khanti(m)” appears read as, “do not make any khanti.” In this sense, the current use of “patience” and “forbearance,” which are the primary translations of khanti, is far removed from its original meaning. Although commentaries do exist that provide information and helpful hints in understanding “khanti,” such as Pj Ⅱ 558.5 “…khantim akubbamāno ti … pemam akronto” and the synonyms “diṭṭhi, ruci, laddhi, ajjhāsaya” provided for khanti in Culla-Niddesa 165, these are only helpful in understanding the lines in that particular context. They do not explain how the word khanti came to have such a meaning in those contexts. Accordingly, many translators of the Sn. seem to have been guided by these commentaries. Fausboll translates Sn. 897d as “he who is not pleased with what has been seen and heard.” Neumann translates the same passage thusly : “Beim Sehen und Hören angehalten nimmer.” Chalmers translates the same passage thusly : “when phenomena of sense appeal to them no more.” E. H. Hare translates the same passage thusly : “why gives accord to things of sight and ear?” While these translations have not failed to convey the idea of the text properly, they seemed to have failed in conveying the word itself.

Thus the question still remains : What is the meaning of khanti in the Sn.? With the aid of only the contextual usage and its etymological meaning, it seems almost impossible to determine the exact meaning of this particular khanti. However, various Abhidharma texts may provide helpful hints, or clues, in determining the meaning of this word.

In the seventh chapter, “On Knowledge,” of Abhidharmakośabhāṣya, Vasubandhu discusses the various functions of wisdom (prajñā), which is one of the forty-six “Concomitant Mental Faculties” (citta-samprayukta-saṃskāra). According to his interpretation, jñāna (knowledge) is the ability to cognitively comprehend the Four Noble Truths, niścitam (decision), while kṣānti has the nature of investigation (santīraṇātmakatva) and, therefore, it can functionally be regarded as dṛṣṭi. As we discussed before, kṣānti is a synonym of upanidhyāna, meaning “putting down (the object) near (one’s mind),” or, directing one’s mind toward (a mental) object. In addition, another great Abhidharmist Saṅghabhadra presents a more detailed explanation of this in his Shun Cheng li lun (Nyāyānusāra śāstra).

Kṣānti (Ch. jen) gives rise to “investigation” and “enjoyment of mind.” It is not included in the function of jñāna, for its psychological function affects [the religious practitioner] more stronger than jñāna in preparation for [the Enlightenment].

As stated above, kṣānti is clearly a term used to denote a certain type of mental function. In order to avoid confusion, however, the lines of Yaśomitra and Saṅghabhadra must be sutdied carefully. According to them, kṣānti itself is not santīraṇa (investigation), which immediately follows the moment of kṣānti. In other words, kṣānti is just a preceding moment of santīraṇa. This is related to the Theravāda Abhidhamma theory of “the process of perception” (Vithi-citta-uppāda), which is well known for the famous “mango” simile popularized by Buddhaghosa. The process of perception, according to Theravāda Abhidhamma, can be summarized as follows, in which the functions arise, in due order, for one moment each :

[From the 4th moment to the 8th moment]

Awareness (āvajjana)[in the fourth moment]

Seeing (dassana), respectively

Hearing (savana)

Smelling (ghāyana)[in the fifth moment]

Tasting (sāyana)

Touching (phuṣana)

Receiving (sampaṭicchana)[in the sixth moment]

Investigating (santīraṇa)[in the sixth moment]

Determining (voṭṭhappana)[in the eighth moment]

Keeping in mind the phrase, “diṭṭe sute khantim akubbamāno” of Sn. 897, and the point made that “kṣānti (P. khanti) is a preceding moment of investigation (santīraṇa), the khanti in the Sn. can then be said to be in its functional process of mental perception corresponding to the sixth moment, ‘receiving’ (sampaṭicchana). In other words, “making khanti for what is seen” means “receiving ‘what is seen’ as an object into the mind.” This is attested by another phrase, “nave khantim na kubbaye” [should not show a liking for the new] in Sn. 944. Because in the phrase, “the new” (nava) is referring to the five skandhas arising just now (Nava vuccanti paccuppannā rūpā vedanā saññā saṁkhārā viññāṇam. Paccuppanne saṃkhāre taṇhāvasena khantiṃ na kareyya…). Therefore “liking for the new” means “directing out mind towards a new object arising presently.” This is made clearer in the “mango” simile. The time of stretching out his hand and taking the mango is as that of the resultant mind-element receiving the object (sampaṭicchana) ; the time of taking it and squeezing it is as that of the resultant element of mind-cognition examining the object (santīraṇa). As illustrated in the simile, the moment of ‘receiving object’ (sampaṭicchana) is not the moment of enjoying or being pleased with the external object, i.e., ‘liking’ or ‘delightedness’ (kānti), but the moment of putting one’s mind near to the external object. In the same way, the phrase in question, “diṭṭe sute khantim akubbamāno,” can be understood literally as “not making any (attentive) intentionality to what it seen or heard.” Therefore, the khanti in the Sn. is neither “a virtuous act,” such as “patience,” nor “any pleasure or delight of mind.” Rather, it is a mental state of an (attentive) intentionality [towards an external object]. However, if we consider the khanti, only in the contexts of the two verses, “liking” or “preference” can also convey the meaning properly. But, even if this is the case, what we still have to keep in mind is that “liking” is a correct translation only in the sense of the psychology underlying “liking.”

The “mind-body” theory by Professor John Searle, a modern philosopher, can be used to support the aforementioned speculation. According to Professor Searle, such mental states as “forgiveness,” “acceptance,” or “aspiration” can all be characterized as “intentionality,” which is “that property of many mental states and events by which they are directed at or about or of objects and states of affairs in the world.”

3.2. khanti as “determining factor”

The following verses from Aṅgulimāla Sutta shows us incisively how khanti was used with the meaning, “directing.”

[Thag. 875 ; M ⅱ 105, Aṅgulimāla Sutta]

874 : disā hi me dhammakathaṃ suṇantu, disā hi me yuñjantu buddhasāsane, disā hi me te manusse bhajantu ye dhammam eva-ādapayanti santo

875 : disā hi me khantivādānaṃ avirodhappasaṃsinaṃ sunaṇtu dhammaṃ kālena tañ ca anuvidhīyantu.

876 : na hi jātu so mamaṃ hiṃse aññaṃ vā pana kañcinam, pappuyya paramaṃ santiṃ rakkheyya tasathāvare

877 : udakam hi nayanti nettikā, usukārā namayanti tejanaṃ, dārum namyanti tacchakā, attānaṃ damayanti paṇḍitā

878 : daṇḍen’ eke damayanti aṅkusehi kasāhi ca ; adaṇḍena asatthena ahaṃ danto ‘mhi tādinā.


874 : Let even my enemies hear a discourse on the doctrine ; let even my enemies apply themselves to the Buddha’s teaching ; let even my enemies consort with those men who, being good, cause (other) to accept the doctrine.

875 : Let my enemies hear dhamma in proper time from those who speak about khanti and praise gentleness and let them act in conformity with the dhamma.

876 : Because he (Arahat) would not harm me or anyone else ; he would attain to the highest peace ; he would protect creatures moving and unmoving.

877 : Because canal-makers lead water, arrow-makers bend the bow, carpenters bend wood, wise men tame the self.

878 : Some tame with a stick, or hooks, or whips. I was tamed by the Venerable one without stick, without sword.

First of all, we need to note the passage in verse no. 875, “let them act in conformity with dhamma.” If I interpret it with more detail in the context of the previous phrase of verse 874, it will read : “having heard about ‘khanti and the gentleness’ [of mind toward dhamma], they will act, by the ‘khanti and the gentleness,’ in conformity with dhamma.” Moreover, as seen in the last line of the verse 874, those who speak about ‘khanti’ are not only themselves endowed with ‘khanti,’ but also cause others to accept dhamma (dhammam eva ādapayanti). In this sense, what is referred to by the metaphor of “canal-maker (nettika)” etc., in the verse 877, is clear enough. As canal-makers lead water naturally and gently, Arhat has not only already tamed himself but by speaking about ‘khanti and the gentleness,’ he also tames ordinary beings and lets them act in conformity with dhamma. Thus, ‘khanti and the gentleness’ has double references. One is [to teach dhamma] gently without violence, and the other one is to tame one’s own being and other beings in conformity with dhamma. Therefore, it is a quite natural use of language for the two words ‘khanti’ and ‘soracca’ (gentleness) to appear together. Although they convey seemingly different metaphorical images, because ‘khanti’ usually denotes something hard, like “steadfast” or “firmness,” together they create a single meaning through the context. This is true in the sense that in order to direct or redirect, or to cause something to bend (namati) without breaking it, the object and one who bends it should be soft and gentle. In fact, the image of softening the mind in order to abandon defilements is very prevalent in Buddhist texts that mention the Path to attain enlightenment. In order to understand this “soft image” of khanti, the followings Sutta will be helpful. We will notice that khanti, as a compound word, is combined with the word “soracca” meaning “gentleness” or “meekness” and is very frequently found in combined words with khanti.

[A ⅳ 45 ; D ⅲ 61 ; A ⅱ 68 ; ⅲ 46]

Katamo ca brāhmaṇa dakkhiṇeyyaggi?

Idha brāhmaṇa ye te samaṇabrāhmaṇa madappāmāda paṭiviratā khantisoracce nivitthā ekam attānaṃ damenti ekam attānaṃ samenti ekam attānaṃ parinibbāpenti.


What is, Brahman, the fire of the gift-worthy?

Consider, Brahman, those recluses and godly men who abstain from pride and indolence, who bears things patiently and meekly [or settled in khantisoracca], each taming self, each calming self, each perfecting self.

Here, in defining the religious mendicant, the key words are : “muda-ppamādā paṭiviratā” and “khantisoracce niviṭṭhā,” both of which lead the mendicant successively to the state of “taming self, etc..” The proper reading of this passage is to consider it as a temporal sequence : having abstained from … (paṭiviratā), settle oneself to … (niviṭṭhā). Even if only for the sake of logical coherence, this must be understood as “from one stage to another stage.” Thus, in this passage, khantisoracca is referred to as the counter part of “mada-ppamāda.” The meaning of mada-ppamāda (Sk. mada-pramāda) could mean, “intoxication of sensual pleasure.” Thus, the passage in question would read : “having renounced from” [the life style of] intoxication of sensual pleasure, the mendicant settles himself in the state of “khantisoracca.” So, if it were not for the sentence : “taming self … etc.,” to understand “khantisoracce niviṭṭhā,” the translation of, “(keep mind) patiently from (sensual pleasure)” would not be incorrect.

But, if we consider the syntactic relationship between “mada-ppamāda paṭiviratā khantisoracce niviṭṭhā” and “ekam attānaṃ damenti,” those passage must be understood as “one who renounced from the sensual pleasure and now settles himself in the state of khantisoracca is the one who tames well his own self….” Thus, in this instance, khantisoracca must be understood as not merely “to endure oneself from sensual pleasure” but also “to put one’s mind firmly (niviṭṭha) toward taming his own self, etc..”

From these two occurrences, we can now begin to understand why Buddhaghosa gave the word khanti as a synonym of Arhatship. And again, the khanti power of redirecting a mental state is not always toward Buddhist teaching. Sometimes, it also refers to a mental state “directed the wrong way” towards the non-Buddhist teaching. This is clearly shown when Buddha explains to Vaccha why it is difficult for him to understand Buddhism. The English word, “intentionality” or “[religious] piety” might be the proper translation of khanti in this context.

[M.Ⅰ 487]

Alaṃ hi te Vaccha aññāṇāya … so tayā dujjāno aññadiṭṭhikena aññakhantikena aññarucikena aññatrayogena aññathācariyakena.


You ought to be at a loss, Vaccha … it is hard for you who are of another view another intentionality, another objective, of a different observance, and under different teacher.

With these four differences, the different view, objective, observance, and teacher, an intentionality towards another direction makes it difficult for Vaccha to understand Buddhism. Both the lack of intentionality, as well as an intentionality oriented in a different direction, exist as obstacles that must be overcome in order to understand the truth.

With the exception of the khanti and ruci, the other three obstacles listed above are all shared by those who share a common religion. In other words, whose in the same religion all share the same views, observances, and teacher(s). But the “intentionality” and “objective” can belong to the psychological properties of the individual only ; it cannot be shared with others. Because of this psychological attribute, khanti will become an increasingly important concept in Buddhist marga. This individuality of khanti is clearly shown in the following passage.

In addressing the issue of the existence of two different religions, Buddhism and Jainism, Buddha enumerated a different list. However, this new list also included “khanti”.

[M.Ⅱ. 218]

Evaṁ vutte ahaṁ bhikkhave, te Nigaṇṭhe etad avocaṁ : Pañca kho ime, āvuso Nigaṇṭhā, dhammā diṭṭhe va dhamme dvidhā vipākā, Katame pañca? … Saddhā ruci anussavo ākāraparivitakko ditthi-nijjhāna-khanti.


When this had been said I, monks, spoke thus to those Jains: “These five conditions here-now, reverend Jains, have a two-fold result. What five?” Faith, inclination, tradition, consideration of reasons, and the intentionality of views and understanding.

A different khanti is not only an obstacle to understanding Buddhism, but also a determining factor of different religions. One may possess a pious intentionality, but if it is directed in a different way, it will lead one to a different conclusion Thus, the khanti can be seen as a factor in determining different ways of practicing a religion, or in forming a completely different religion. The passages of Mahāniddesa, commenting on Sn 781, clearly shows this character of khanti. What is indicated in this use of khanti is that a wrongly directed intentionality could evoke a religious prejudice or, collectively, an antagonism among religions.

Sn. 781

Sakam hi ditthim katham accayeyya chandānunīto ruciyā niviṭṭho? sayaṃ samattāni pakubbamāno : yathā hi janeyya, tatha vadeyya.


How could anyone overcome his very own view, (when he is) led on by desire, entrenched in his own inclination, fulfilling those (wrong views) himself? For as he knows, so would he speak.

Nd. 1. 64

Sakam hi ditthim katham accayeyyā ti. Ye te titthiyā Sudariṃ paribbājikam hantvā, samaṇānaṃ sakyaputtiyānaṃ avaṇṇam pakāsayitvā, evaṃ etaṃ lābhaṃ yasaṃ sakkārasammānaṃ paccāharissama ti evamditthikā evamkhantikā evamrucikā evamladdhikā evamajjhasayā evamadhippāyā…

In commenting upon “…sakaṃ diṭṭhim” (one’s own view) the commentator gives an example of “being entrenched in one’s own view”. He refers to well-known episode of Sundari, who was killed by heretics. What misguided the heretics to murder Sundari was noting but their own view directed the wrong way. The commentator was clearly aware that the word khanti would be one of the most proper words which could denote such psychology. Therefore, khanti, in this case, must be understood as [wrongly directed] “intentionality” or “religious piety,” entrenched in one’s own view. Another aspect that one must note here is the passage, “evaṃdiṭṭhikā evamkhantikā evamrucikā evaṃladdhikā evamajjhasayā evamadhippāya.” Through Pāli canon, we so often encounter a cluster of words such as diṭṭhi, ruci, khanti etc.. Even though there are variations in the numbers listed, the three items, diṭṭhi, ruci, khanti, appear in every case. The following passages are the contexts where the combination of diṭṭhi, ruci, khanti etc. occur.

How do we distinguish dhamma from non-dhamma when two monks contend with each other? For this matter, Mahāpajāpati the Gotamī spoke to the Buddha as follows :

[Ⅴ.ⅰ355 : Mahavagga Ⅹ]


It is said, Lord, that the monks of Kosambi … [to contending with other monks about eighteen points] … are coming to Sāvatthī. How am I, Lord, to behave in regard to these monks?

Well then, do you, Gotami, hear dhamma on both sides ; having heard dhamma on both sides, choose the views and the approval and the persuasion and the creed of those monks who are the speakers of dhamma. (…ye tattha bhikkhū dhammavādino tesam ditthiñ ca khantiñ ca ruciñ as ādāyan ca rocehi), ….

As mentioned here clearly, the four psychological modalities, diṭṭhi, khanti, ruci, and ādāya are the crucial criteria to distinguish dhamma from non-dhamma. Buddhists from earlier times noticed that even among monks sharing the same religious teaching (dhamma), and behavior code (vinaya), each monk could have a different psychological attitude toward their institutionalized system, as exemplified by Buddha, Dhamma and Saṅgha. Of these four, the three modalities, diṭṭhi, khanti, and ruci, are used very frequently in combination. As I mentioned earlier, Rhys Davids understood the triad, respectively, as “one’s views, indulgence and pleasure (=will), i.e., one’s intellectual, emotional and volitional sphere.” However, the psychological spheres of these three terms are not as clear, as Davids assumed. First of all, as we saw before, each one shares all of the “three psychological spheres” without any exclusion. Khanti, for example, is being used in all three of the spheres according to its context. It is more likely that the triad diṭṭhi, ruci, khanti, sometimes combined with other terms, is a set phrase of complementary terms which denotes one’s overall mental attitude, including all three psychological spheres, towards a religious teaching. Because of this character of ‘being complementary each other,’ the triad is always used together. When used for denoting one’s mental attitude the words never appear independently. If the three terms indicated the different three spheres, as Rhys Davids understood it, there would have to be a case where one person shares only one or two elements of the triad with other people. However, we cannot find such a case.

Thus, this triad is sometimes considered to be the major criterion for judging one’s religious piety in Buddhism. Buddhist Vinaya explains explicitly who can be ordained and who should not be and in what conditions one can be granted probation for four months. During these four months, if one fails in following matters he should not be ordained :

[Vin.ⅰ 70~71]

puna ca paraṃ bhikkhave aññatitthyapubbo yassa titthāyatanā saṃkanto hoti, tassa satthuno tassa diṭṭhiyā tassa khantiyā tassa ruciyā tassa ādāyassa avaṇṇe bhaññamaṇe kupito hoti anattamano anabhiraddho, budddhassa vā dhammassa vā saṃghassa vā avaṇṇe bhaññamāne attamano hoti udaggo abhiraddho, yassa vā pana titthāyatanā saṃkanto hoti, tassa satthuno tassa diṭṭhiyā tassa khantiyā tassa ruciyā tassa ādāyassa vāṇṇe bhaññamane attamano hoti udaggo abhiraddho, buddhassa vā dhammassa va saṃghassa vā vaṇṇe bhaññamāne kupito hoti anattamano anabhiraddho, ….


And again, monks, a former member of another sect becomes angry, displeased, dissatisfied if dispraise is being spoken of the teacher, the view, the approval (khanti), the persuasion, the creed of that fold of a sect form which he has came over ; he becomes pleased, elated, satisfied if dispraise is being spoken of the Buddha or of Dhamma or the Saṅgha ; or else he becomes pleased, elated, satisfied if praise is being spoken of the teacher, the view, the approval (khanti), the persuasion, the creed of that fold of a sect from which he has came over ; he becomes angry, displeased, dissatisfied if praise is being spoken of the Buddha or of Dhamma or the Saṅgha ; ….

Here, cleary, as the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha is mentioned as the institution of Buddhist religion, the teacher, views, the approval (khanti), the persuasion (ruci), and the creed (ādāya) are mentioned as a fold of another religion. Thus, only the one who has abandoned these five folds of another religion, could be ordained as Buddhist monks. Here, also as aforementioned, the three lists, teacher, views, and creed, collectively belong to a religious institution, while the other two, “ruci” and “khanti” belong to individual psychology. In order to accept Buddhist views etc., one has to redirect his mind to the Buddha’s teaching. As will be discussed later, “ruci” and “khanti” have a common psychological quality, that implies, turning the mind to a certain object. Before the mental state of “liking an object” occurs, his mind should first be turned to the object. With this connection, it might possible to translate the “ruci” (liking) of this passage into “persuasion”.

There are two other contexts where the triad, diṭṭhi, khanti and ruci in combination appear as a psychological complex : (1) “telling a conscious lie” (sampajānamusāvāda) and (2) “the schism of Sangha.” (saṅghabheda)

[Ⅴ.ⅳ2~3 : Suttavibhaṅga, pācittiya, expiation ; Ⅴⅲ 93 : Suttavibhanga, pārājika]


There are seven ways to tell a conscious lie


1. Before one has lied he knows that he is going to lie.

2. While lying he knows that he is lying.

3. Having lied he knows that he lied.

[In addition, with regard to the psychological modes of telling a lie :]

4. by misrepresenting (vinidhāya) one’s view (diṭṭhi)

5. by misrepresenting one’s approval (khanti)

6. by misrepresenting one’s pleasure (ruci)

7. by misrepresenting one’s intention (bhāva)

Here the four psychological modes are added to the three tenses of the verb bhaṇati. They are added on to the three modes of the verb bhaṇati, thus making seven constituents. Therefore, each of the four psychological modes is said to be the very motive when one tells a conscious lie. In other words, if one tells a conscious lie, it means that he misrepresented (vinidhāya) his diṭṭhi or khanti or ruci etc.. This use of the triad demonstrates well the psychological character of the triad as a whole, as well as khanti. The word sampajāna, meaning “attentive,” “considerate,” “deliberate” or “mindful,” implies that the mental state of misrepresenting khanti, or “telling a conscious lie”, is not an inattentive or careless act. Rather, it comes from the state of having one’s mind having entirely directed towards a certain object. Thus, “misrepresenting khanti etc.,” should be understood as a mental state, entrenched in wrong intentionality, aimed at attaining a certain purpose.

Therefore, in the case of schism of Community (Saṅghabheda), the triad is mentioned as the main psychological motive underlying most purposeful vicious actions that make one “doomed to the downfall.” The following story is mentioned in Ⅴ.ⅲ175 : When Devadatta proceeded with a schism in the Saṅgha, some monks who follow him were said to be as “those following him by taking up his ‘diṭṭhi,’ ‘khanti’ and ‘ruci’ (anuvattakā ‘ti, yaṃdiṭṭhiko hoti yaṃkhantiko yaṃruciko te pi taṃdiṭṭhikā honti taṃkhantikā taṃrucikā).” Another passage, which probably indicates the same meaning appears in the same text as follows : those monks following Devadatta defend him and say that “… this monk, adopting our desire and objectives, gives expression to them ; he knows that what he says for us seems also good to us.” (… eso bhikkhu amhākañc’eso bhikkhu chandañ ca ruciñ ca ādāya voharati, jānāti no bhāsati, amhākaṃ p’etaṃ khamatīti). As seen in these passages, diṭṭhi, khanti, and ruci etc. are shared by those people who agree upon the schism ; this triad is the very factor which distinguishes the schismatic monks from the others in the Community.

In general, a schismatic in Saṅgha is said to be “… doomed to the Downfall, to Niraya Hell, remaining there for an aeon, incurable.” If the condemnation is not for misrepresenting ditthi, khanti, ruci, etc., however, it is not “incurable.”

V.ⅱ 205~206 (Cullavagga)

Katamo pana bhante saṃghabhedako na apayiko na nerayiko na kappaṭṭho na atekiccho ‘ti.

Idh’ Upāli bhikkhu adhammaṃ dhammo ‘ti dīpeti tasmiṃ dhammadiṭṭhi bhede dhammadiṭṭhi avinidhāya ditthim avinidhāyakhantim avinidhāya rucim avinidhāya bhavām … ayam pi kho Upāli samghabhedako na āpāyiko na nerayiko na kappatthao na atekiccho.


[Upāli asks the Buddha]

“But which schismatic in Saṅgha, Lord, is not doomed to the Downfall, to Niraya Hell, remaining there for an aeon, not incurable?”

“This is a case, Upāli, where a monk explains non-dhamma as dhamma ; if he has the view that in this (explanation) there is dhamma, if he has the view that in schism there is dhamma, yet not misrepresenting ditthi, misrepresenting khanti, misrepresenting ruci, misrepresenting bhāva, … , even this schismatic in the Saṅgha, Upāli, is not doomed to the Downfall, to Niraya Hell, remaining there for an aeon, not incurable.

According to the passage above, there are two necessary conditions for the possibility of “curing schismatic monk.” The first is to recognize that there is dhamma in Saṅgha as well as in schism. Secondly, he must not have misrepresented khanti etc.. Even though these two conditions appear independent, they are in fact the same, because if one’s mind is directed firmly in the wrong direction, it is impossible to recognize that there is dhamma also in Saṅgha. In other words, to recognize the existence of dhamma in both parties means that his mind could be redirected towards dhamma in Saṅgha. Therefore, the crucial distinction between “curable” and “incurable” lies in whether his vicious action, such as schism, is resulted from his misrepresenting khanti or not.

As we have seen, the occurrences of khanti sometimes combined with diṭṭhi and ruci, are the determining factors in whether one could understand Buddha’s teaching (in the case of Vaccha, Mⅰ487); distinguish one religion from another (Mⅱ218 ; the case of the heretics killing Sundari, Nd.1. 64) ; distinguish dhamma from non-dhamma (the case of Kosambi monks, Ⅴ.ⅰ355), and whether a schismatic monk could be “curable” or not. All of these usages are based on the psychological property of “directing” underlying the word Khanti. Depending upon which direction one’s mind is directed, his intellectual, emotional and volitional attitudes toward a religion, are determined. In this sense, we might predict that khanti will become a more an more important concept in the Buddhist path.

At the conclusion of this chapter on “khanti as the determining factor,” I would like to examine the Āḷavaka Sutta, which contains some very significant hints for the usage of khanti in Pāli texts.

[Sn. 188~189 (Sⅰ215) : from Āḷavaka Sutta]

[Yakkha Āḷavaka asked Buddha. What in this world is the best wealth for a man? What, when well practiced, brings happiness? What indeed is the sweetest of flavours? Living in what way do they say one’s life best? Having answered to each of his questions, Buddha finally gives him conclusion :]

Sn. 188

Yass’ ete caturo dhammā saddhassa gharamesino saccam dhammo dhiti cāgo, sa ve pecca na socati.

* saccam dama dhiti cāgo (Sⅰ215)

Sn. 189

Iṃgha aññe pi pucchassu puthū samaṇabrāhmaṇe, yadi saccā dama cāgā khantyā bhiyyo ‘dha vijjati


Sn. 188

Whatever faithful house-holder has there four righteous things (dhamma): sacca dhamma dhiti cāga,

* sacca dama dhiti cāga (Sⅰ215)

he indeed does not grieve when he has passed away

Sn. 189

Come now, ask others too, many ascetics and brahmans, if anything is found in this world greater than sacca dama cāga khanti

The four dharmas which should be kept by faithful house-holder are enumerated in Sn.188 as “sacca dhamma dhiti cāga,” but in Sn. 189, these lists are rendered into “sacca dama cāga khanti.” Since the latter verse in the context is a refrain of the preceding verse, these lists should be same, and would certainly be natural in the context of the Sutta. In the same Sutta, appearing in Sⅰ215, line Sn. 188 reads “saccaṃ damo dhiti cāgo” for the line of Sn. 188, and “sacca dama cāgo khantya” for Sn. 189. Although, when we follow the reading of Sⅰ215, it is possible to consider “dama” as a homonym of “dhamma,” how do we account for the fact that “dhiti” was rendered into “khanti” in both texts? I presume that early Buddhists considered both words, “dhiti” and “khanti” to be synonymous, at least in this context. If this is the case, “dhiti” must be an important word in understanding the early usage of “khanti.”

Moreover, the meaning of “dhiti” in Pāli Buddhist text fits well with various usages of “khanti”, except when the khanti is used to mean “patience”. If we consider the meaning of Sanskrit verbal root “dhṛ” from which “dhṛti,” the Sanskrit equivalent of the Pāli word “dhiti” came, this point will be especially clear. In addition to the meanings, “to hold,” or “to bear,” “dhṛ” has another meaning : “to direct (our attention or mind)” or “to fix or resolve upon.” This will immediately remind us the psychological property of “directing or redirecting one’s mind towards,” which underlies every meaning of khanti. This can not be an incidental fact. Also, in Pāli Buddhist texts, thepsychology underlying theword, “dhiti” signifies almost the same thing as “khanti.” “Dhiti,” in Pāli texts, means “energy,” “courage,” or “resolution” and in Nd1. 44 and Pv. A 131, it is used to indicate “wisdom,” which is another important usage of khanti to be discussed later.

3.3. Khanti as “choice power” (khanti-bala)

[Ps ⅱ 171]

Katamam khantibalaṁ?

Kāmacchandassa pahīnattā nekkhammaṁ khantīti khantibalaṁ;

byāpādassa pahīnattā abyāpādo khantīti khantibalaṁ ;

thīnaṁiddhassa pahīnattā ālokasaññā khantīti khantibalaṁ ;

uddhaccassa pahīnattā avikkhepo khantīti khantibalaṁ ;

vcikicchāya pahīnattā dhammavavatthānaṁ khantīti khantibalaṁ ;

avijjāya pahīnattā ñānam khantīti khantibalaṁ ;

aratiyā pahīnattā pāmojjaṁ khantīti’ khantibalaṁ ;

nīvarnānaṁ pahīnattā pathamajjhānaṁ khantīti’ khantibalaṁ ;

sabbakilesānaṁ pahīnattā arahattamaggo khantīti’ khantibalaṁ.

Here, khanti is considered to be the power, to direct one’s mind toward higher spiritual stage by abandoning lower one. It is the power of “abandoning (pahīnattā) ‘zeal for sensual desire’ (kāmacchanda) and choosing (khanti) renunciation (nekkhamma), or ‘abandoning (pahīnattā) all defilements’ (sabbakilesa) and ‘choosing (khanti) the Arhant Path’ (arahattamagga).” This power of “abandoning one thing and choosing another” can be called identical in its psychological properties with that of the “directing” power of khanti. In this context however, khanti cannot yet be called “wisdom” nor an “intellectual ‘choice.'” Neither is it yet a recognition in a specific moment along the path, like the kṣānti stage in the four “wholesome roots (kuśalamūlāni)” of the Sarvāstivāda doctrine, or the “anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti” of Mahayana. It is more likely a religious piety, or an aspiration to abandon worldly things and move toward the supra mundane one. However, this psychological character of khanti must have greatly influenced the formation of the concept kṣānti in Sarvāstivāda doctrine. This is because the mental function of kṣānti, as a type of ‘knowledge’ (jñāna), is to help one abandon defilements which obstruct the pure ‘knowledge’, as well as give rise to pure or correct ‘knowledge’. Therefore, from this usage of khanti we know more clearly that religious aspiration is as a fundamental factor underlying the “intellectual” character of kṣānti in the Sarvāstivāda doctrine. Usually, scholars agree that religious aspiration is an element of the stage of kṣānti needed to advance to the stage of laukikāgra dharma, which is the highest truth of the mundane. But, they felt that the “aspiration” involved in that stage only indicated “patience.” They usually assumed this because the laukikāgra dharma stage would be very difficult to attain, thus requiring an extraordinary amount of “patience.” Therefore, this preceding stage has been named “kṣānti” or, the stage of patience. However, if we consider the usage of khanti in the passage above, their assumption cannot be substantiated. Even though it is undeniable that one must possess as unusual amount of patience in order to arrive at such a high stage, we have to consider a more fundamental function of kṣānti in the path. This function is that of abandoning the defilements that obstruct the pure knowledge. Therefore, the khanti in the Pāli usage, “abandoning and choosing”, must be regarded as another important concept to understand the kṣānti of the Sarvāstivāda school.

The following passage will show us that khanti signified an intellectual “choice” to recognize truth. However, the “choice” here is not as “intellectual” as will be found in the next chapter, “khanti as wisdom” (khanti-ñāṇa). It is similar to samyakdṛṣṭi

(P. sammādiṭṭhi) of the Noble Eight fold paths. Thus, it can be said to be a semantic ‘nexus’ between the khanti as ‘choice,’ and as ‘wisdom’.


Katamo ca sattānaṁ āsayo?

1) sassato loko ti vā, asassato loko ti vā ;

2) antavā loko ti vā, anatavā loko ti vā ;

3) taṁ jīvaṁ taṁ sarīran ti vā, aññaṁ jīvaṁ aññaṁ sarīran ti vā ;

4) hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā ti vā, na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā ti vā ; hoti ca na hoti ca Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇa ti vā, n’eva hoti na na hoti Tathāgato paraṁ maraṇā’ ti vā.

… ete vā pana ubho ante anupagamma idappaccayatāpaticcasamuppannesu dhammesu anulomikā khanti patiladdhā hoti ; yathābhūtaṁ vā ñāṇam ….


What is [ordinary] beings’ bias?

1) The world is eternal or The world is not eternal ;

2) The world is finite or The world is not finite ;

3) The soul and the body are the same or The soul is one, the body another ;

4) Tathāgata is after death or Tathāgata is not after death ; Tathāgata both ‘is’ and ‘is not’ after death or Tathāgata neither ‘is’ nor ‘is not’ after death.

… Or else, avoiding two these extremes, they either choose in conformity [with supra mundane knowledge] with respect to ideas dependently arisen through specific conditionality or they acquire correct knowledge.

While Ñāṇamoli translates “anulomikā khanti patiladdhā hoti” into “choose conformity [with supra mundane knowledge],” which is quite proper translation in this context, we need to explain how the word ‘khanti’ can be used to mean ‘choice.’ Especially in this context, the passage states that in order to avoiding the two extremes, one must either “choose in conformity with supra mundane knowledge, or acquire correct knowledge.” This means that practitioner, when he has not yet acquired the correct knowledge, should accept and believe in the Buddhist doctrine. This reminds us of the well-known issues on the Noble Eight fold paths. The first stage of the Path is “right view” (samyakdṛṣṭi/sammādiṭṭhi). The problem for a practitioner suffering in ignorance (avidyā) is how to get the “right view.” Thus, to avoid this problem, some texts and commentaries either postulated another stage : ‘right knowledge’ after the eighth stage, ‘right concentration’ (samyaksamādhi), or changed the orders of the stages by putting the ‘right view’ after the eighth stage. All of these efforts stem from the question of how a practitioner, who is still in the state of ignorance, can gain the ‘right view.’

In any case, it is fairly safe to say that ‘right view’ (sammādiṭṭhi) has a double reference, including both initial faith in the Buddha (saddhā ; Sk. śradhā) and the final liberating insight (pañña ; Sk. prajñā). Significantly the line above, “choose in conformity with the supra mundane…,” also means the “initial faith in Buddha.” Thus, the idea of this passage is clear. That is that a practitioner who still has “wrong views” or “doubt,” must avert his wrong views and direct his mind to the Buddha’s teaching in order to have faith in Buddha’s teaching.

3.4. khanti as “wisdom” (khanti-ñāṇa)


Kathaṁ viditattā paññā khantiñāṇaṁ? Rūpaṁ aniccato viditaṁ, rūpaṁ dukkhato viditaṁ, rūpaṁ anattato viditaṁ ; yaṁ yaṁ viditaṁ, taṁ taṁ khamatīti viditattā paññā khantiñāṇam.


Ǫ. How is it that understanding (paññā) due to what is recognized (viditattā) is “knowledge as choice” (khanti-ñāṇaṁ)?

Ans. Matter (rūpa) is recognized as ‘impermanent,’ recognized as ‘suffering,’ recognized as ‘non-self’ : whatever is recognized, that he chooses (khamati), thus understanding (pañña) due to what is recognized (viditattā) is “knowledge as choice” (khanti-ñāṇa).

Here it is mentioned that the cognitive function of khanti to recognize the five constantly changing aggregates (pañcaskandha) as impermanent (aniccato), suffering (dukkhato), and non-self (anattato). Thus, the function of khanti as wisdom, or perhaps ‘intellectual choice’ is to understand properly what it is that is perceived by one’s sensory organs, and one’s mental faculties. However, in this context, it is not clear at how khanti could have such a function. The passage, “whatever is recognized, that the chooses” (yaṁ yaṃ viditaṁ, taṁ taṁ khamatīti) is the key to understanding this function of khanti properly. The word khamati, which is the verb form of khanti, was often used with the meaning “to choose,” in Pāli commentarial works. In PsA 450, for example, there is passage commenting upon “khamati” that reads, “tassa yogissa khamati ruccati” (that meditator has that choice, that preference), which reminds us that in Yaśomitra’s vyākhyā, the word kṣamate is replaced by rocate. In the context, rocate=kṣamate can have no other meaning than “to recognize.” As is well known, the original sense of the etymological root, “ruc” is ‘light’ or ‘bright’ which implies some intellectual faculty. The following passage will show the function of khanti as wisdom more specifically :

[Vbh. 325 ; VM. 371]

Tattha katamā cintāmaya paññā? … rupaṁ aniccan ti va, vedanā aniccan ti vā, saññā aniccā ti vā, saṁkhārā aniccā ti vā viññānaṁ aniccan ti vā, evarūpiṁ anulomikaṁ khatiṁ diṭṭhiṁ ruciṁ mutiṁ pekkhaṁ dhammanijjhānakhantiṁ parato assutvā paṭilabhati : ayaṁ vuccati cintāmayā paññā.


What is ‘wisdom by means of thinking?’ … Matter is impermanent ; feeling is impermanent ; perception is impermanent ; mental concomitants is impermanent ; consciousness is impermanent ; that which is similar, in conformity, ability (to comprehend), view, choice, opinion, seeing, ability to apprehend these states, is acquired without (by) hearing from others. This is called ‘wisdom by means of thinking.’

Here, ‘anulomikaṁ khantiṁ diṭṭhiṁ ruciṁ mutiṁ pekkhaṁ dhammanijjhānakhantiṁ’ is referred to as ‘wisdom’ (paññā/prajñā), a type of knowledge (jñāna). P. A. Thittila translates “khanti” into “‘ability’ (to comprehend)” and “dhammanijjhānakhanti” into “ability to apprehend to these states.” In his works on Visuddhimagga, however, Ñāṇamoli translated it differently, especially the underlined passage :

[VM. 371/trans. 483]

… any preference, view, choice, opinion, judgment, liking for pondering over things, … (in conformity with truth) … is of such kind as to conform with [the axioms] “matter is impermanent etc.”

From this, we see the discrepancy between the two translations. Ñāṇamoli was clearly aware of the semantic difference between dhamma-nijjhāna-kkhanti and dhamma-nijjhāna-khanti, while P. A. Thittila read dhamma-nijjhāna-kkhanti for dhamma-nijjhāna-khanti. In fact, even though many scholars have considered the latter reading a misreading of the former, both occur side by side throughout the Pāli texts. Since our task is to seek out the exact meanings of khanti in various contexts, this difference is much more significant than most scholars have considered it to be.

The single ‘k’ in the latter reading proves that khanti, here, might be derived not from verb root “kṣam” in Sk. but rather from “kam.” On the other hand, the former passage employs the doubled consonant­kkh, surely proving that it is derived from “kṣam” and not from “kam.” Thus, faithfully following the manuscript reading, Ñāṇamoli translated the compound word, “dhammanijjhānakhanti” as “liking pondering upon things (dhamma) and the single word,” “khanti” as “preference.” P. A. Thittila, however, having considered “…khanti” in the compound word as a misreading of “…kkhanti,” translated it similarly in both occurrences offering “ability (to comprehend)” for “khanti” and “ability (to apprehend) these states” for “dhammanijjhānakhanti.”

Even if we consider its Sanskrit equivalent term, dharma-nidhyāna-kṣānti, it is beyond doubt that this passage should be read as “…kkhanti.” Still, however, there are several cases in Sanskrit texts where kanti was used instead of kṣanti for khanti in Pāli. Therefore, it is evident that this compound word, whether it reads as “…kkhanti” or “…khanti,” should not be used independently to define the meaning khanti. Nevertheless, as we have ween before, G. H. Sasaki and H. Sakurabe took only arbitrarily one or the other of the readings to prove their hypothesis.

Instead of taking this occurrence independently, we need to examine it in the context. The passage in question can be rephrased as follows : “Any preference, view, choice, opinion, judgment, liking for pondering over things (khantiṁ diṭṭhiṁ ruciṁ mutiṁ pekkhaṁ dhammanijjhānakhantim) is of such as to conform (anulomikam) with the truth such as [the axioms], ‘matter is impermanent’… etc..” So, we might consider that the set phrase, “khantiṁ diṭṭhiṁ ruciṁ mutiṁ pekkhaṁ” construes the following word “dhammanijjhānakhanti.” Thus the whole passage can be interpreted as “Conforming his preference, view, choice, opinion, or judgment to the truth,” such as ‘the impermanence of all existence (sabbam aniccam),’ one ponders upon the real nature of all things (dhammanijjhānakhanti). Therefore, in this sense, khanti, diṭṭhi, ruci, etc. are the state of mind of being dedicated to the understanding of Buddha’s teaching (sutamayāpaññā) or the understanding attained from contemplating upon the teaching in meditation (cintāmayāpaññā). In other words, at the very moment when one’s preference, choice, judgment etc., are in conformity with truth, either from hearing the teaching or from contemplating upon it, it can be said that one has attained wisdom. Therefore, it is crucial that in order to attain the ‘correct knowledge’ one has to conform or, we may say, “direct” his khanti etc. to the truth taught by Buddha. Not everyone can attain the “understanding” (paññā), even if they listen to Buddha’s teaching. Unless his khanti, or mind in general, is ready to “direct” towards what he listens to or what he contemplates, it will be very difficult for him to understand the truth.

3.5. Khanti as “marga”

[Theragāthā 1029]

Khantyā chandikato hoti, ussahitvā tuleti tam, samaye so padahati ajjhattam susamāhito


Because of the [pious] intentionality he is eager ; having made an effort he weighs it ; at the right time he exerts himself, well concentrated inside.

This very old source proves that in earlier times the word khanti it self was not merely understood as having or retaining any virtuous quality itself such as “patience” or “forbearance.” Rather, it played a neutral role, free from any qualities of virtue. This verse shows us a gradual sequence from “khanti,” to “chanda,” to “ussahati,” to “tuleti,” to “padahati,” and so on. What makes one’s mind “eager” (chanda)? As we will see in the following occurrences, it is no other than ‘faith’ [in the teaching] (saddha), including ‘desire to listen’ (sotaṁ odahati) dhamma and more importantly ‘to direct one’s mind towards the dhamma taught’ ; then the ‘eager’ is born (sati chando jāyati). In the sense that one’s mind is fully dedicated to listen to and understand dhamma, I translated khanti in the passage above into “[pious] intentionality.” Thus, not everyone attains the correct knowledge (sammāñāṇa), even if they hear the teaching of Buddha. To do so, their mind must be ‘directed towards’ dhamma or, we may say, ‘with [pious] intentionality.’ Similarly, but in more detail, the sequential procedure toward the realization of the highest truth, by means of wisdom, is mentioned in other texts as follows.

M.Ⅰ. 480.


And how, monks, does the attainment of profound knowledge (aññārādhana) come by means of a gradual training (anupubbasikhka), gradual doing (anupubbakiriya), a gradual course (anupubbapaṭipada)? As to this, one who has faith (saddhājāto), draws close [to teacher] (upasaṅkamati), sits down near (payirupāsati), lends ear (sotaṁ odahati), hears dhamma (dhammaṁ suṇāti), remembers (dhatānam), tests the meaning (atthaṁ upaparikkhati) [while testing the meaning] the dhammas are approved of (dhammanijjhānam khamanti) ; eager is born (sati chando jāyati) … he realizes the highest truth itself, penetrating it by means of wisdom….

It is worthwhile to note here that the khanti, as used above, leads the practitioner only to the attainment of the realization of the highest truth but not yet to the final enlightenment. This usage of the cognitive function of khanti is concerned with a specific moment or stage. In other words, unlike the aforementioned usages, concerned with a general [pious] intentionality to “hearing dhamma” and “understanding dhamma,” khanti as used above is posited in the process of cognitive activities such as investigating the meaning, approving it, and finally attaining the highest truth. While the Eight fold path is a list of guiding principles which one can practice, step by step, leading to the attainment of correct knowledge, the gradual course described above is rather a cognitive, or psychological, process to be experienced along the Path. So, khanti is considered to have a particular function in a particular moment, throughout the entire process. In this sense, this use of khanti is related to the kṣānti in the darśana mārga (the Path of insight) of the Sarvāstivāda School. The Sarvāstivāda School also limits the role of kṣānti as one momentary stage in the darśana mārga. The cognitive function of khanti, similar to kṣānti in darśana mārga, is clearly expounded in the following passages :

[Ps.ⅱ 236 ; A.ⅲ 441~442, no. 98~101]

(Bhagavā etad avocad)

So vata Bhikkhave bhikkhu kañci saṅkhāraṁ niccato samanupassanto anulomikāya khantiyā samannāgato bhavissatīti n’etaṁ ṭhānaṁ vijjati, ‘anulomikāya khantiyā asamannāgato sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamissatīti’ n’etaṁ ṭhānaṁ vijjati, ‘sammattaniyāmaṁ anokkamamāno sotāpattiphalaṁ vā sakadāgamiphalaṁ vā anāgāmiphalaṁ vā arahattaphalaṁ vā sacchikarissatīti’ n’etam ṭhānaṁ vijjati.

So vata Bhikkhave bhikkhu sabbasaṅkhāre aniccato samanupassanto anulomikāya khantiya samannagato bhavissatiti thanam etam vijjati, ‘anulomikaya khantiyā samannāgato sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamissatīti’ ṭhānaṁ etaṁ vijjati, ‘sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamamāno sotāpattiphalaṁ vā sakadāgāmiphalaṁ vā anāgāmiphalaṁ vā arahattaphalaṁ vā sacchikarissatīti’ ṭhānaṁ etaṁ vijjati.


(The Lord said this:)

Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu sees any mental formation as permanent it is not possible that the shall make a choice in conformity [with actuality], and without making a choice in conformity [with actuality] it is not possible that he shall enter upon the certainty of rightness, and without entering upon the certainty of rightness it is not possible that he shall realize the fruit of stream-entry or the fruit of once-return or the fruit of non-return or the fruit of arhatship.


Bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu sees any mental formation as impermanent it is possible that he shall make a choice in conformity [with actuality], and making a choice in conformity [with actuality] it is possible that he shall enter upon the certainty of rightness, and by entering upon the certainty of rightness it is possible that he shall realize the fruit of stream-entry or the fruit of once-return or the fruit of non-return or the fruit of arhatship.

In these two passages, we can see a “consecutive causal relationship” between the stages along the Path, especially in the Seeing of the Path (darśana mārga). If one has the wrong view (perverted view), he can not make “choice” (khanti) in conformity with the Four Noble Truths. If this is the case, one is not entering into the certainty of rightness (sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamissati) and because of this, it is not possible to realize the fruit of the sainthood, such as Stream-winner etc.. From this, we might confirm that the psychological or intellectual character of khanti belongs not to the category of “knowledge” (jñāna/ñāṇa) in a strict sense, but rather to the category of “view,” a more broadly intellectual stance towards a certain knowledge. In other words, having heard the teaching, one should keep the khanti in conformity with the truth, or what he was heard of been taught. In this way, he could gain the “certainty of the knowledge”.

Here, the phrase, sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamissati (entering upon the certainty of rightness) is comparable to that of samyaktva niyāma avakrānti in the Sarvāstivāda doctrine. According to Akbh., “the patience (dharmajñānakṣānti) is the entry into niyāma, for it is the entry into the certitude (niyāma) of the acquisition of absolute good or samyaktva. (sa iva ca niyāma avakrāntir ity ucyate / samyakvtaniyāma avakramaṇāt).” Further, and more elaborately, it continues on the theme of samyaktvaniyāma stating that : “entering into this absolute determination of acquisition of samyaktva is arriving, the taking possession of (prāpti). Once this possession arises, the ascetic is an Aryan.” (tatra niyamo niyāma ekāntībhāvaḥ / tasya abhigamanam avakramaṇam / tasyāṁ ca utpanna ayām āryapudgala ucyate) Soteriologically, the phrases, “sammattaniyāmaṁ okkamissati” and samyakvtaniyāma avakrānti seem to have the same function. Because both of them lead a practitioner to the entry into the sagely path of pure wisdom, or, in other words, the Path of Insight into the Four Noble Truths. However, if we compare the context where the two phrases occur, we can find a significant difference between them. What ensures “entering into the certainty of rightness” is not same in both traditions : dharmajñāna kṣānti in Sarvāstivāda and amulomiki khanti in Theravāda. As we see in Akbh., the former emphasizes the intellectual or cognitive character of kṣānti. The latter one, however, as the word anulomiki (agreeable) indicates, denotes a religious piety such as the faith in Buddha’s teaching. This difference might be another instance of the distinct characteristics of the two major Buddhist schools.

The following Sutta will show us clearly what is denoted by anulomiki khanti in Pāli texts.

[A. ⅲ 437]

Chahi bhikkhave dhammehi samannāgato suṇanto pi saddhammaṁ abhabbo niyāmaṁ okkamituṁ kusalesu dhammesu sammattaṁ. Katamehi chahi? Tathāgatappavedite dhammavinaye desiyamāne

1) na sussūsati,

2) na sotaṁ odahati,

3) na aññācittaṁ upaṭṭhapeti

4) anatthaṁ ganhāti

5) atthaṁ riñcati,

6) ananulomikāya khantiyā samannāgato hoti.

… Chahi bhikkhave dhammehi samannāgato suṇanto pi saddhammaṁ bhabbo niyāmam okkamitum kusalesu dhammesu sammattaṁ. Katamehi chahi? Tathāgatappavedite dhammavinaye desiyamane,

[But the converse holds…]


Bhikkhus, cumbered by these six conditions, though one may listen to Saddhamma, be can not become one to enter the certainty of rightness. When the Dhamma-displine declared by the Tathagata is taught,

1) he has no desire to listen

2) no desire to incline the ear

3) no desire to apply a heart of understanding

4) he grasps the profitless (anattham)

5) rejects the profitable (attham)

6) makes no choice in conformity [with actuality]

Bhikkhus, cumbered by these six….

[But the converse holds…]

Even though this phrase contains a few of the same passages as other aforementioned occurrences of khanti, it gives us a different impression. The six conditions, mentioned above, are neither sequential, nor cumulative steps in the Path. Rather, the former five conditions are the psychological contents of the last one. The former five conditions constitute the mental state of “making no choice in conformity [with actuality]”, which is the mental attitude that prevents us from entering upon the certainty of rightness. Here, the sequential, causal relationship is not necessary. Therefore, in order to understand dhamma properly, or “to enter the certainty of rightness,” one should “make choice in conformity [with actuality].” It is a mental state demonstrating nothing but one’s attitude towards dhamma such as “has desire to listen,” has desire to apply a heart of understanding” and “grasps the profitable (attham).” In this sense, the usage of khanti in this phrase is similar to the kṣāntis mentioned in the Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra. The passage runs as follows :

O Ānanda, … all those beings, through the seeing of that Bodhi-tree, never turn away, namely, from the highest perfect knowledge. And they obtain three kinds of kṣānti, namely, ghoṣānugā, anulomikī and anutpattika dharma kṣānti through the power of the former prayers of the same Tathāgatha Amitāyus… without failure and without flaw.

Only in this passage are the meanings of both kṣāntis, ghoṣānugā and anulomikī, are not clear. However, if we consider the meaning of khanti in Pāli text along with those in this passage, they can be understood as an aspiration “to listen to dharma as taught by Buddha” and “to have an agreeable attitude towards the teachings of Buddha,” respectively. As implied in these usages, the kṣānti in Mahayana Buddhism does not have the cognitive function of the Savāstivāda school, instead it has more in common with that of the previous Sutta where khanti is understood as a “pious intentionality of faith toward/in the teaching of Buddha.” However, G. H. Sasaki, in commenting upon the kṣānti in the same passage, misunderstood anulomikī kṣānti as “meaning to penetrate into the truth of non-self.” It might be helpful for him to consult “anulomikī khanti” in Pāli context, which yields : “choice in conformity [with supra mundane knowledge]” as interpreted by Ñāṇamoli.

In the meantime, another thing to note about the previous Sutta is that the khanti is considered to be a preceding moment or stage to enter the certainty of rightness. As we have seen in various occurrences, not every usage of khanti, in Pāli texts, is considered to be a “mārga moment,” or the required preceding moment to bring up a certain resultant fruit in next moment. Thus, even though it is unclear whether the khanti in the Sutta above refers to a momentary stage, it is still reasonable to consider that this use of khanti may influence the concept of kṣānti in the Sarvāstivāda School, where kṣānti is always considered to function in giving rise to “correct knowledge”.

4. Kṣānti in the Mahāyāna Soteriology

Since we have made important points that support various positions in the discussion of the many usages of khanti in Pāli Canon, there seems to be no specific conclusion to be made here. So, I would like to explain how this research on the Pāli usages of khanti may contribute to the understanding of the usages in the later two schools, Sarvāstivāda and Mahayana, but especially of the Prajñāpāramitā literature.

First, khanti was used with various meanings, regardless of the text strata in Pāli Canon. This means that, from very early times, Buddhists noticed a special psychological property which underlay the mental state of “being patient.” Also, they understood the common psychological property underlying “various mental activities,” such as “liking,” “preference,” and “choice.” All of these can be characterized as “intentionality,” or “directing one’s mind toward an object.” This must be due to the unique use of language of Buddhists. Even though the multi-meanings of a single word, i.e. “polysemy,” is not rare in human language, the Pāli word khanti is one of the few examples where various meanings derived from a single word are related to each other in their psychological qualities.

Second, from the usages of khanti, we can confirm that kṣānti, in Sanskrit, and jen, in Chinese translation, have meanings other than “patience.” This is especially true of the kṣānti in “anutpattikadharmakṣānti” (Ch. wu sheng fa jen), and “dharmajñānakṣānti” etc.. Another interesting thing regarding this topic is that in the earliest translations of Mahayana Sutras (T244 ; T225 ; T624 by Lokakṣema, T553 by Chi Ch’ien), the “anutpattikadharmakṣānti” was translated into “delightfulness in non-arising of dharma,” as if it had not been kṣānti, but kānti, in the original text. This fact proves that neither the meaning “patience” not the “cognitive” function, as found in the Sarvāstivāda doctrine, were necessary in forming the compound word, anutpattikadharmakṣānti. This indicates that the Mahayana usage of kṣānti is more closely akin to the Theravāda, than to the Sarvāstivāda, where the “cognitive” function is dominant over any other function. Also, this indicates, philologically, that there might have been homonymic confusion between khanti and kānti in Indic languages during the time when Lokakṣema and Chi Ch’ien were active, around the second to the third century C. E.

Third, the technical senses of kṣānti found in Sarvāstivāda and Mahayana are not a unique-historical development through the doctrines of the two later Buddhist schools. This does not mean, however, that the technical senses of the two schools come directly from the Theravāda. Rather, what I would like to emphasize is that the technical senses cannot be understood properly without understanding the various usages of khanti in Theravāda texts. However, it was in the Sarvāstivāda doctrine that those usages found in Theravāda texts were theoretically elaborated as a particular concept. On the other hand, it might have been through the Mahayana movement that the usage of khanti in Theravāda as “religious piety,” was more emphasized than ever and was elaborated as a fundamental religious experience.

In many Mahayana Sutras, the phrase “having heard the teaching of Buddha, many bodhisattvas and Śrāvakas attained anutpattika dharma kṣānti “frequently appears. This seems to refer to their fundamental religious experiences. While chanting the names of many Buddhas, praising the virtues of the Buddhas, and reciting sutras, they experience the emptiness of existence in various samādhi (trance), or actually experience the manifestation of Buddha or Buddhas while in a trance (pratyutpanna-buddha-saṃmukha-avasthita-samādhi). This was most likely the typical religious activity of the early Mahayanists. Thus, kṣānti is used in describing their religious experience with typical Mahayanistic interpretations. So here, the kṣānti indicates a “pious intentionality” aimed at achieving the state of anutpattikadharmakṣānti, where “nothing has been born or created in this world and things are seen yathābhūtam from the point of view of absolute knowledge, they are nirvana itself, are not at all subject to birth-and-death.” Even though it is not elaborated as much as in Mahayana doctrine, the following verses form Therīgāthā well demonstrates the usage of khanti as a fundamental basis of religious aspirations toward enlightenment.

[Therīgāthā 521~522]

So hetu so pabhavo taṃ mūlaṃ satthu sāsane khanti taṃ paṭhamasamodhānaṃ taṃ dhammaratāya nibbānaṃ

Evaṃ kathenti ye saddahanti vacanam anomapaññassa nibbindanti bhavagate nibbinditvā virajjantī ti


That was the cause, that the origin, that the root [of enlightenment] ; that very intentionality toward the teaching, that first meeting, that was quenching for one delighting in the dhamma.

So they say who have faith in the utterance of the one who has perfect wisdom ; they are disgusted with existence ; being disgusted with it they are disinterested (in it).

As seen here, the religious intentionality includes not only a positive attitude towards dhamma, but also as an agreeable attitude to the teacher preaching the dhamma. As the commentary of this verse mentions, the khanti is a pious intentionality, the desire to understand the dhamma as taught by the teacher. (sā va sāsane khantī, sā c’eva idha satthu sāsane-dhamme-nijjhāna-kkhati … tad eva satthu sāsane-dhamme abiratāya pariyosāne nibbānan ti phalūpacārena kāranam vadati). Moreover, as we have seen before in the verse of Theragāthā 1092, it produce an “eagerness” (chanda) to advance to a higher stage until enlightenment is attained. This concept, in addition to the mind being delighted in the dhamma, is the main cause of enlightenment. It seems beyond question that khanti in such contexts, having a religious flavor different form the Sarvāstivādin’s philosophical tone, is more closely related to the concept of kṣānti in Mahayana soteriology.

From this point of view, the kṣānti here must be understood differently than when used in the Sarvāstivāda context. In the Sarvāstivāda school, the kṣānti was a cognition functioning momentarily in the course of completing darśana mārga. While Mahayana, the kṣānti is an independent, final notion, as far as its spiritual value is concerned, indicating that one will realize, soon in the future, the ultimate truth of Buddhism.

無生法忍의 忍(kṣānti)에 대한 의미론적 연구

無生法忍(anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti)은 보살이 不退轉位에 이르기 위해 반드시 획득해야 할 중요한 한 깨달음일 뿐, 아니라 붓다의 受記와도 직접 관련이 있는 아주 중요한 개념이다. 이 술어는 일반적으로 ‘法의 無生을 忍하는 것’으로 이해되고 있다. 여기서 법의 무생이란 대승의 空사상을 일컫는 것으로, 반야경 등에서는 핵심적 주제이다. 그러나 문제는 ‘忍(kṣānti)’을 어떻게 이해해야 할 것인지에 대해서는 별다른 정설이 없다.

일반적으로 아비다르마에서 ‘忍’이 종종 ‘慧’의 한 작용인 ‘認可’나 ‘決擇’의 뜻으로 주석되어 있는 것을 그대로 받아들여, ‘~의 무생’을 ‘~을 認可하여 받아들이는 것’으로 이해하고 있다.

이때 문제가 되는 것은, 어떻게 ‘참는다’라는 뜻의 ‘忍’이 ‘認可’나 ‘決擇’의 뜻으로 쓰일 수 있는지, 지금까지 아무런 설명이 없다는 것이다. 일부 학자들은 소품반야 등을 인용하여, “법의 무생이란 놀랍고 두려운 것이기 때문에 불퇴전보살이 되기 위해서는 이를 ‘참고 견뎌야 한다.’”는 뜻에서 ‘忍’이란 말을 썼다고 한다. 그러나 이것 또한 별로 설득력 있는 설명은 아니다.

본 연구는 ‘忍’이란 말이 초기 팔리불교 경전에서부터 산스크리트로 된 아비다르마 논서, 그리고 한역 경전 등에서 어떤 뜻으로 사용되었으며, 이런 여러 多意的 용례를 가능케 하는 kṣānti라는 단어가 가진 의미의 내적 구조를 밝히고 있다.

본 연구는 ‘참는다’를 그 기본 의미로 가진 한 단어가, 어떻게 ‘좋아한다’, ‘認可 決定한다’ 등의 전혀 다른 의미로 轉移되는가를, 초기 불교 문헌을 비롯하여 산스크리트 문헌, 한역 문헌을 총망라해서 연구 조사하고 있다.

kṣānti는 ‘참다’, ‘인내하다’ 등을 뜻하는 동사 어근 ‘kṣam’에서 파생한 명사형으로, 주로 한역 불전에서 ‘忍’ 혹은 ‘忍辱’ 등으로 번역되고 있다. 六波羅蜜이나 十波羅蜜의 하나로서의 ‘인욕’은 본래의 뜻과 일치하고 있어 별 다른 의문이 생기지 않는다. 그러나 대승불교의 수행론이나 보살 계위에서 중요한 위치를 차지하는 ‘無生法忍(anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti)’이라든지, 부파불교에서의 수행론인 見道(darśana mārga)에서의 法類智忍(dharma-jñāna-kṣānti) 등의 8忍, 그리고 慧의 한 작용인 忍可 決定으로서의 忍 등은, ‘忍(kṣānti)’의 본래 뜻인 ‘참다’, ‘인내하다’라는 의미로서는 적절하게 이해되지 않는다.

서양의 불교학자들도 이러한 문제를 인식하여 ‘kṣānti’를 번역하는 데 어려움을 겪었던 것 같다. 예를 들면, Max Müller는 ‘resignation’으로, Sylvain Levi는 ‘acquescence’로 번역하고 있으며, 서양인은 아니지만 영어로 많은 저술을 낸 D.T. Suzuki는 ‘kṣānti’를 ‘recognition’이라고 번역하였다.

한편, Ñāṇamoli, K. R. Norman, I. B. Horner 등은 이를 ‘preference’, ‘approval’, ‘choice’ 등으로 번역했다.

이러한 번역에서 드러나듯이, 일군의 학자들은 ‘kṣānti’를 번역하면서 가능한 한 ‘참다’라는 본래의 의미를 살리려고 했고, 그러다 보니 문맥 속에서의 ‘kṣānti’의 의미를 충분히 살리지 못했다. 그리고 다른 한편의 학자들은 문맥의 의미에 충실한 번역을 함으로써 ‘참다’라는 본래의 의미와는 거리가 먼 번역을 하고 말았다.

한편, 일본 학자들 중에서도 ‘kṣānti’ 및 그 譯語인 ‘忍’의 특수한 용례에 관심을 가진 학자들이 있었다. 그 대표적인 사람이 Sasaki Genjung과 Sakurabe Hajime이다. Sasaki Genjung은 한역 의족경에서 팔리의 ‘khanti’가 ‘愛’로 번역되어 있는 것에 착안하여 산스크리트 경전의 ‘kṣānti’는 ‘좋아한다’ 등을 뜻하는 ‘kanti’로 되어야 맞는데, 과거 경전 편찬자들이 잘못 산스크리트화한 것이라고 다소 엉뚱한 주장을 하였다. 이에 대해 Sakurabe는 정확하게 Sasaki Genjung을 비판하고 있으나, 그 역시 ‘kṣānti’나 ‘忍’이 문맥상에서는 ‘愛’라든지 ‘樂’ 등의 의미로 쓰일 수 있음을 인정하고 있다. 그러나 어떻게 해서 ‘참다’라는 의미가 ‘좋아하다’, 혹은 아비달마 등에서 慧의 작용인 ‘認可 決定’의 의미로 전이될 수 있는지에 대해서는 언급하지 않고 있다.

이 점은 과거 譯經家들이나 註釋家들에 있어서도 마찬가지이다. 팔리 경전인 Sutta-Nipāta 일부를 漢譯한 義足經에서 ‘khanti(Sk. kṣānti)’를 ‘愛’로 번역했음은 앞에서 밝힌 바와 같고, 小品般若經의 고본 중 하나인 道行般若經을 번역한 支婁迦讖은 무생법인을 번역하면서 ‘無所從生法樂’이라고 하여 ‘忍’을 ‘樂’으로 번역하고 있다. 또한 衆賢도 그의 順正理論에서 ‘忍’을 慧의 한 작용으로 설명하고 있으나 어떻게 그 의미가 전이되는지에 대해서는 침묵하고 있다. 그것은 Sphuṭārtha-Abhidhamakośa-vyākhyā를 지은 Yaśomitra의 경우도 마찬가지이다.

일반적으로 한 단어가 불교 경전에서 다의적 혹은 전문 용어로 쓰이는 것은 그 단어에서 파생된 은유적․비유적 용법에서 비롯된다고 보는 것이 학계의 관례이다. 그런데 ‘kṣānti’의 경우는 여러 다른 용례들이 반드시 ‘참는다’라는 뜻에서 파생되어 비유적․은유적으로 쓰인 것도 아닐 뿐더러, 후일 아비다르마 논서나 대승경전에서 쓰이는 다양한 용례들이 이미 팔리 경전에서부터 나타나며, 그것도 가장 초기의 경전이라고 일컬어지는 Sutta-Nipāta에서 나타나고 있다. Sutta-Nipāta 제897게 및 944게에 ‘참는다’와는 다른 용례로 이미 쓰이고 있었던 것이다.

이것은 상당히 초기부터 ‘kṣānti’가 ‘참는다’라는 뜻 이외에 ‘좋아한다’, ‘선택한다’, ‘받아들인다’라는 뜻으로 쓰였으며, Thera-gāthā 등의 초기 경전에서도 아비다르마 논서 등에서 나타나는 ‘慧’의 한 작용으로서 ‘認可’, ‘決擇’ 등의 의미로 쓰이고 있는 것을 볼 수 있다.

최근 언어학에서의 큰 성과 중 하나는 의미론에 있어서의 ‘polysemy(多意)’이론이다. 이 이론에 따르면, 단어의 의미는 반드시 한 의미에서 비유적․은유적으로 파생되어 사용되는 것이 아니라, 동시에 여러 다의적 의미로 쓰일 수 있다는 것이다. 이 이론은 불교 문헌에서 ‘kṣānti’의 다의적 용례가 초기 불교부터 시대적 구분이 없이 나타나는 것과 일치한다. 지금까지 서구나 일본 불교학계에서 ‘kṣānti’의 다의적 의미를 적절하게 설명하지 못했던 것은, 첫째는 팔리 경전을 비롯한 광범위한 불교 문헌에서 나타나는 모든 종류의 다양한 용례들을 조사하지 않았고, 둘째는 ‘kṣānti’의 다양한 의미는 후대에 나타난 역사적 산물이라고 그릇된 가정을 했기 때문이다.

따라서 본 연구자는 다양한 용례를 두고 후대의 산물이라고 가정하는 그릇된 역사적 관점을 떠나, 다양한 의미가 동시적으로 쓰일 수 있는 것이 인류의 자연스러운 언어 사용의 한 방식임을 이해하는 ‘polysemy’이론에 입각해서 ‘kṣānti’의 다양한 의미를 이해하고, 그 다양한 의미에 어떠한 내적 연관이나 구조가 있는지 살펴보고 있다.

지금까지 불교학계에서 일반적으로 받아들이고 있는 바, 무생법인의 ‘忍’은 衆賢 등 아비달마 논사들의 주석을 바탕으로 이해해 왔다. 그러나, 현재까지 해 온 본 연구자의 팔리 경전에서의 연구 결과에 따르면, 무생법인의 ‘忍’은 초기 팔리 경전에서 자주 사용되는 용례 중의 하나인 ‘志向함’의 의미에 더 가까운 것이 아닌가 본다.