SN 1.80 Pajjota Sutta: Source of Light

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SN 1.80 Pajjota Sutta: Source of Light

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Jul 18, 2014 5:56 am

SN 1.80 [SN i 44 <SN i 101>] Pajjota Sutta: Source of Light
Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi


http://suttacentral.net/en/sn1.80

"What is the source of light in the world?
What in the world is the wakeful one?
What are the colleagues of those living by work?
What is one’s course of movement?

“What nurtures both the slack and active
Just as a mother nurtures her child?
The creatures who dwell on the earth—
By what do they sustain their life?”

“Wisdom is the source of light in the world;
Mindfulness, in the world, is the wakeful one;
Cattle are the colleagues of those living by work;
One’s course of movement is the furrow. [139]

“Rain nurtures both the slack and active
Just as a mother nurtures her child.
Those creatures who dwell on the earth
Sustain their life by rain.”

Note

[139] I interpret pāda c, in both the question and the reply, with the aid of Spk, which paraphrases only the reply: Gāvo kamme sajīvānan ti kammena saha jīvantānaṃ gāvo va kamme kammasahāyā kammadutiyakā nāma honti; “For those who live together with work, cattle are called the work-companions, the work-partners, in work; for the work of ploughing, etc., is accomplished along with a team of cattle.”

In pāda d, sītassa (Ee2: sīta ’ssa) should be resolved sītaṃ assa. Spk takes assa to refer to “the mass of beings” (or of people: sattakāyassa) and explains iriyāpatha, “the course of movement” (or “mode of deportment”), as the means of livelihood (jīvitavutti); it glosses sīta (furrow) with naṅgala (plough). The purport is that the activity of ploughing is the essential means for sustaining human life.

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Sam Vara
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Re: SN 1.80 Pajjota Sutta: Source of Light

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Jul 18, 2014 9:03 am

This is a really interesting one. At first, I thought that it was marred by an obvious anti-climax: it starts with two qualities recommended by the Buddha (the indriya of mindfulness and wisdom) and then descends to commonplace features of material existence. Cattle, ploughing, and rain.

Why is it like this, when the obvious trope (and one often favoured by the Buddha in other contexts) is to move from the commonplace and make a point about the holy life, often through a comparison or by punning?

It could, I suppose, be a garbled version - a early transcriber missing the point with a literal rendering. Or there could be a dhamma-related symbolism that we have lost in the rain, ploughing and cattle. My mind can happily provide a mass of similes in terms of "ploughing a straight furrow", the universal refreshment of Dhamma, etc. Bhikkhu Bodhi's version does not give any clues, though.

Alternatively, it could be a form of praise for these vital processes. Farming is important as it sustains all human culture and even the holy life. Certainly, rain is a beautiful thing, especially in India. Cattle are fine animals. And ploughing has a certain nobility and dignity to it.

Finally, it could be intended bathos on the Buddha's part. If one is not mindful, if one does not cultivate wisdom, then one is condemned to a dependency on material circumstances which are uncertain (rain), bovinely stupid (cattle) and painful (ploughing). This is a way of showing what can be transcended.

Whichever interpretation I ponder, I get a strong sense of how far away we are from this life of farming and physical labour and the immediacy of our dependence upon the material elements.

I would love to hear others' ideas about this Sutta. Many thanks, Mike.

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Re: SN 1.80 Pajjota Sutta: Source of Light

Post by santa100 » Fri Jul 18, 2014 1:31 pm

SN 1.80 belongs to the first samyutta, Devata-samyutta (connected discourses with the Devas). So the Buddha simply replied to the Devas' inquiry according to the order of their questions.

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Re: SN 1.80 Pajjota Sutta: Source of Light

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Jul 18, 2014 6:48 pm

Hi Sam,

Yes, it's an interesting sutta. These short verse suttas certainly reward careful, thoughtful, reading.

:anjali:
Mike

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daverupa
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Re: SN 1.80 Pajjota Sutta: Source of Light

Post by daverupa » Fri Jul 18, 2014 7:38 pm

There's a chance that the common samana poetry that comprises much of the Sutta Nipata also found its way into the Sagatha Vagga. I expect this is an example.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Kim OHara
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Re: SN 1.80 Pajjota Sutta: Source of Light

Post by Kim OHara » Fri Jul 18, 2014 10:49 pm

Sam Vara wrote:Whichever interpretation I ponder, I get a strong sense of how far away we are from this life of farming and physical labour and the immediacy of our dependence upon the material elements.
That struck me, too. Of course, some of us are further than others. I grew up on a farm and I'm still very aware of the weather and the seasons, though not dependent on them.

On another point: "slack" is a word that I haven't heard used in this way for years. I suspect a new translation might use "lazy".

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: SN 1.80 Pajjota Sutta: Source of Light

Post by yikeren » Sat Jul 19, 2014 7:00 am

Sam Vera wrote:

This is a really interesting one. At first, I thought that it was marred by an obvious anti-climax: it starts with two qualities recommended by the Buddha (the indriya of mindfulness and wisdom) and then descends to commonplace features of material existence. Cattle, ploughing, and rain.
My thoughts:
If the 2 qualities are mindfulness and wisdom, then "cattle" (whose nature is work) is "Right Effort", the colleagues for one ploughing/working towards the FNT. The last line in the first stanza highlighted the Path by "furrow".

The last stanza is about compassion and loving kindness a quality required as much as rain (highlighted by the second line about the caring in a mother child relationship).

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Sam Vara
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Re: SN 1.80 Pajjota Sutta: Source of Light

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Jul 19, 2014 11:17 am

Kim OHara wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:Whichever interpretation I ponder, I get a strong sense of how far away we are from this life of farming and physical labour and the immediacy of our dependence upon the material elements.
That struck me, too. Of course, some of us are further than others. I grew up on a farm and I'm still very aware of the weather and the seasons, though not dependent on them.

On another point: "slack" is a word that I haven't heard used in this way for years. I suspect a new translation might use "lazy".

:namaste:
Kim
Good point. Now you mention it, "slack" does sound archaic, but it might be an echo of the Sona Sutta, where the loose or slack strings of a musical instrument (vina) are used to illustrate insufficient effort.
"In the same way, Sona, over-aroused persistence leads to restlessness, overly slack persistence leads to laziness.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Than you to all who have contributed - I find this sharing of ideas around interpretation to be fascinating and helpful.

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