ekāyano maggo

= the path leading towards (only) one destination, the direct path.

This expression is sometimes rendered as 'the one and only way', with reference to the four satipaṭṭhānas. The disadvantage of this choice is that it fails to match the following characteristics of a well-taught teaching, when it is made in front of people who may not be fully convinced of the accuracy and efficiency of the original Buddha's teaching, as underlined at AN 3.73: 'Na ceva nāma sadhammukkaṃsanā bhavissati, na ca paradhammāpasādanā' (without praise in the name of one's own Dhamma, nor deprecation of another's Dhamma), because the use of this terminology, which sounds overly proud and self-righteous, may well foster doubt in such persons rather than dispelling it. Let us look for alternate renderings.

Contextual analysis: at MN 12, the expression occurs six times to describe an individual coming 'by a path going in one way only and directed to' a certain destination (a charcoal pit, a cesspit, a tree, a mansion, a pond), so that an observer would be able to say: 'This person so behaves, so conducts himself, has taken such a path, that he will come to this same' destination. The interpretation as 'the one and only way' does not fit properly in this context, since the person might come from any side, following an infinite variety of ways (so that he is not following 'the one and only way' to that destination), rather the important point is that he walks in such a way that he is going only towards that destination (so that he is following a 'path leading towards only one destination').

Moreover, in the context of the exposition of the satipaṭṭhānas, where the expression chiefly occurs, it can be understood in the light of a characteristic of a proper assertion of the Dhamma mentioned elsewhere in various suttas, as for example at the conclusion of MN 103: 'in such a way that nothing which provides a ground for censure can be legitimately deduced from the assertion'; so a proper assertion of the Dhamma should lead only towards one destination: blamelessness and right view. Bearing this in mind, rather than interpreting the expression 'ekāyano maggo' applied to the four satipaṭṭhānas as meaning to impose them unilaterally in the face of the world as a monopolistic way of salvation, it seems more skillful to interpret it as stressing the fact that they lead to "nothing but the purification of beings, the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, the disappearance of pain and affliction, the attainment of the right way, the realization of Nibbāna."

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