[Home]  [Sutta Indexes]  [Glossology]  [Site Sub-Sections]



Points of Controversy
Subjects of Discourse

Appendix 6a
(V., 4, p. 177; VI., 1, p. 185; XIII., 4, p. 275.)

Niyama, Niyāma: 'Assurance.'

by Shwe Zan Aung and Mrs. Rhys Davids

Copyright The Pāḷi Text Society.



Niyama means 'fixity,' but niyāma is 'that which fixes.' The former is derived from ni - yam - ati, to fix; the latter from the causative: niyāmeti, to cause to be fixed. When the Path — i.e., a certain direction, course, tendency, profession, progressive system of a person's life — is called sammatta, or, contrariwise, micchatta-niyāma, both forms are understood in the causal sense. Thus the former 'path' inevitably establishes the state of exemption from apāya's (rebirth in misery), and the latter inevitably establishes purgatorial retribution after the next death. Niyāma, then, is that by which the Niyama (the fixed, or inevitable order of things) is established, or that by which fixity is brought about, or marked out in the order of things.[1] (With reference to the apparently indiscriminate use of niyama, niyāma — see p. 275, n. 1 — the Burmese are wont carelessly to write the former for the latter, because they always pronounce the a short and quick.[2])

Our choice of Assurance may seem to give an undue subjectivity to the pair of terms. It is true that it lends itself here to criticism. And we confess that the wish to get a term with the religious expressiveness that Assurance bears with it for readers nurtured in Christian tradition overbore our first thought of choosing certainty, fixity, fixed order. We may, however, add to our apology (1) that in XIX. 7, § 1, 'assurance' is opposed to 'doubt,' which is unquestionably subjective; (2) that both 'assurance' and the Greek plērophoria[3] have both an objective and a subjective import. 'Assurance' may mean a means or orderly arrangement through which we attain assured feeling, say, about our property. The Greek word is simply a 'full conveyance,' to wit, of news or evidence.

We should not therefore be far from the truth in considering our twin terms rendered by Assurance as the more subjective aspect of the Buddhist notion of course or destiny popularly and objectively expressed as Path (magga) — path good or bad: — the Way, narrow or broad, the Path, hodos, via, of Christian doctrine, 'the way of his saints,' 'the way of the evil man' of the Jewish doctrine (Prov. ii.8, 12)


[1] Cf. Buddhism, London, 1912, p. 119 f.

[2] Cf. English 'drummer,' which gives the sound of the short Indian a.

Romans XIV 5: One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
Colossians II 2, 1: For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;
2: That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
Thessalonians I 5: For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
Hebews VI 11: And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

[3] See Rom. xiv. 5; Col. ii. 2; 1 Thess. i. 5; Heb. vi. 11 — 'to the full assurance of hope to the end.'


Copyright Statement