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Translations of
English: imponderable,
Pali: Acinteyya
Glossary of Buddhism

Acinteyya (Pali) is a Buddhist term that is commonly translated as imponderable or incomprehensible. It is defined as "that which cannot or should not be thought, the unthinkable, incomprehensible, impenetrable, that which transcends the limits of thinking and over which therefore one should not ponder."[web 1]

In the Acintita Sutta, the Buddha identified four imponderables (acinteyya):[1][web 2]

  • The range of powers a Buddha develops as a result of becoming a Buddha.
  • The range of powers that one may obtain while absorbed in jhana.
  • The precise working out of the results of kamma.
  • Conjecture about the origin, etc., of the world.

Within the discourses[edit]

Acintita Sutta[edit]

The four imponderables are identified in the Acintita Sutta as follows:[1][web 3]

These four imponderables are not to be speculated about. Whoever speculates about them would go mad & experience vexation. Which four?
The Buddha-range of the Buddhas [i.e., the range of powers a Buddha develops as a result of becoming a Buddha]….
The jhana-range of one absorbed in jhana [i.e., the range of powers that one may obtain while absorbed in jhana]….
The results of kamma….
Speculation about [the first moment, purpose, etc., of] the cosmos is an imponderable that is not to be speculated about. Whoever speculates about these things would go mad & experience vexation.


The Buddha mentioned the first of the four imponderables in S.56.41:[web 1]

"Therefore, o monks, do not brood over the world as to whether it is eternal or temporal, limited or endless .... Such brooding, O monks, is senseless, has nothing to do with genuine pure conduct (s. ādibrahmacariyaka-sīla), does not lead to aversion, detachment, extinction, nor to peace, to full comprehension, enlightenment and Nibbāna, etc." (S.56.41).


Web references[edit]


  • Ajahn Sumedho (2002), The Four Noble Truths, Amaravati Publications 
  • Ajahn Sucitto (2010), Turning the Wheel of Truth: Commentary on the Buddha's First Teaching, Shambhala 
  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu (2000), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, Boston: Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-331-1 
  • Gethin, Rupert (1998), Foundations of Buddhism, Oxford University Press 
  • Moffitt, Phillip (2008), Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering, Rodale, Kindle Edition 
  • Nhat Hanh, Thich (1999), The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, Three River Press 
  • Rahula, Walpola (2007), What the Buddha Taught, Grove Press, Kindle Edition 
  • Trungpa, Chogyam (2009), The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation (edited by Judy Leif), Shambhala 
  • Tulku, Ringu (2005), Daring Steps Toward Fearlessness: The Three Vehicles of Tibetan Buddhism, Snow Lion