physician or arrow-remover?

Explore the ancient language of the Tipitaka and Theravāda commentaries

Moderator: Mahavihara moderator

Post Reply
JohnK
Posts: 635
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 11:06 pm
Location: Tetons, Wyoming, USA

physician or arrow-remover?

Post by JohnK » Mon Jun 25, 2018 9:59 pm

In reading Thanissaro's translation of the Sutta Nipata, specifically the Sela Sutta, Sn3:7, I noticed that the Buddha describes himself as "an arrow remover unexcelled." Knowing that arrows/darts have been used as similes for dukkha, I liked that description, but I wondered how others have translated the phrase. I see that Bhikkhu Boddhi's translation says "the unsurpassed surgeon," and his translation of the sutta in his MN collection (MN 92) says "the supreme physician."
So, I am wondering if the Pali phrase actually points to the removal of arrows/darts or if the Pali phrase is closer to the more general physician/surgeon.
Anybody know?
Thanks!
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

User avatar
salayatananirodha
Posts: 147
Joined: Tue Jun 19, 2018 1:34 am

Re: physician or arrow-remover?

Post by salayatananirodha » Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:19 pm

This is from Venerable Thanissaro's translation of MN 63:

"It's just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a brahman, a merchant, or a worker.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me... until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short... until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored... until I know his home village, town, or city... until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow... until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated... until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.' The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him.

I don't know much about ancient Indian medicine, but it's clear from this simile that, whether you call Lord Buddha a physician or a surgeon, he is an arrow remover.
16. 'In what has the world originated?' — so said the Yakkha Hemavata, — 'with what is the world intimate? by what is the world afflicted, after having grasped at what?' (167)

17. 'In six the world has originated, O Hemavata,' — so said Bhagavat, — 'with six it is intimate, by six the world is afflicted, after having grasped at six.' (168)

- Hemavatasutta


links:
https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/index.htm
http://thaiforestwisdom.org/canonical-texts/
http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://www.dhammatalks.org/index.html

JohnK
Posts: 635
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 11:06 pm
Location: Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Re: physician or arrow-remover?

Post by JohnK » Tue Jun 26, 2018 3:28 am

salayatananirodha wrote:
Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:19 pm
...whether you call Lord Buddha a physician or a surgeon, he is an arrow remover.
Yes agreed.
My question is whether according to the Pali Sela Sutta (or perhaps anywhere else in the Pali Canon) he refers to himself as an arrow remover (as Thanissaro's translation suggests) or if rather he refers to himself as a physician/surgeon (as Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation suggests -- and as Sujato's at Sutta Central suggests -- I just checked that one); that is, did Thanissaro take some poetic license in translation by utilizing the arrow simile where it was not clearly indicated by the Pali -- no judgement here, just curious.
Reason to ask beyond curiosity: I am interested in right speech, and I might want to say that the Buddha literally refers to himself as an arrow remover, but I don't want to say that if it is more an artifact of translation.
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

User avatar
salayatananirodha
Posts: 147
Joined: Tue Jun 19, 2018 1:34 am

Re: physician or arrow-remover?

Post by salayatananirodha » Tue Jun 26, 2018 5:34 am

Well, I compared translations here obo.genaud.net/dhamma-vinaya/thom/mn/mn.063.thom.htm, and all of the English translations render it arrow. You may toggle through them to verify.
I understand what you're saying, but the simile of the arrow is one of the most recurrent similes in the early canon. You could also compare it to abhaya sutta of the majjhima nikaya in which the buddha compares himself to a parent reaching into their child's throat to retrieve a pebble. Repetitive details are hallmarks of real Buddha word, as they render it near impossible to mistranslate, in my opinion.
16. 'In what has the world originated?' — so said the Yakkha Hemavata, — 'with what is the world intimate? by what is the world afflicted, after having grasped at what?' (167)

17. 'In six the world has originated, O Hemavata,' — so said Bhagavat, — 'with six it is intimate, by six the world is afflicted, after having grasped at six.' (168)

- Hemavatasutta


links:
https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/index.htm
http://thaiforestwisdom.org/canonical-texts/
http://seeingthroughthenet.net/
https://www.dhammatalks.org/index.html

User avatar
pitakele
Posts: 84
Joined: Wed May 30, 2018 11:27 pm

Re: physician or arrow-remover?

Post by pitakele » Tue Jun 26, 2018 6:38 am

In Itivutaka 100, 'The Dhamma Offering', Buddha describes himself as both a physician and surgeon
Bhikkhus, I am a brahmin, ever accessible to entreaties, open-handed, one bearing his last body, an unsurpassed physician and surgeon.

Ahamasmi, bhikkhave, brāhmaṇo yācayogo sadā payatapāṇi antimadehadharo anuttaro bhisakko sallakatto.

https://suttacentral.net/iti100/en/ireland
Ven. Sujāto has discussed the term sallakatta at length and concludes 'translating as “arrow extracting doctor” if literalness is desired, or “field surgeon” for more idiomatic general use.'

https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/do ... darts/4269
now here = nowhere

JohnK
Posts: 635
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 11:06 pm
Location: Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Re: physician or arrow-remover?

Post by JohnK » Tue Jun 26, 2018 3:41 pm

pitakele wrote:
Tue Jun 26, 2018 6:38 am
Ven. Sujāto has discussed the term sallakatta at length and concludes 'translating as “arrow extracting doctor” if literalness is desired, or “field surgeon” for more idiomatic general use.'

https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/do ... darts/4269
Thank you for that (also thanks salayatananirodha for engaging in this).
(And it's nice to see that Ven. Sujato also thought the subject was worth some investigation.)
Interesting that there was likely a particular medical specialty that included removing arrows -- so the term does not merely refer to the simile, nor on the other hand to an overgeneralized physician.
To close my curiosity loop, I now have to figure out how to check that sallakatta is the word used in the Sela Sutta (which started this whole thing -- always something to learn!).
Thanks again. :anjali:
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

User avatar
pitakele
Posts: 84
Joined: Wed May 30, 2018 11:27 pm

Re: physician or arrow-remover?

Post by pitakele » Tue Jun 26, 2018 4:02 pm

JohnK wrote:
Tue Jun 26, 2018 3:41 pm

To close my curiosity loop, I now have to figure out how to check that sallakatta is the word used in the Sela Sutta (which started this whole thing -- always something to learn!).
Yes, it is sallakatta
I, brahmin, am awakened,
The unexcelled surgeon.

Sohaṃ brāhmaṇa sambuddho,
sallakatto anuttaro.

https://suttacentral.net/snp3.7/en/mills-sujato
.
now here = nowhere

JohnK
Posts: 635
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 11:06 pm
Location: Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Re: physician or arrow-remover?

Post by JohnK » Tue Jun 26, 2018 4:22 pm

:anjali:
(I managed to find it by comparing the Pali sutta to an English translation.)
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests