Anguttara Nikaya


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Aŋguttara-Nikāya
III. Tikanipāta
III. Puggala Vagga

The Numbers Bag
The Book of Threes

III. People

Sutta 28

Gūthabhāṇī Suttaṃ

Dung-tongue

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds

 


 

[21][pts][bodh] I hear tell:

Once upon a time Bhagava, Savatthi-town residing,
Anathapindika's Jeta Grove.

Three me'bhikkhus, are men known to be in the world.

What three?

The dung-talker,
the flower-talker,
the honey-talker.[1]

And what, beggars, is the dung-talking man?

Here beggars, a man,
enters the assembly hall,
or enters a court,
or within the midst of his family,
or within the midst of the guild,
or within the midst of the king's court,
brought for questioning as an eye-witness:

"Go on then, good man, as you know, so tell."

He, not knowing, says:
"I know."
knowing he says:
"I know not."
not having seen, he says:
"I have seen."
having seen, he says:
"I have not seen."

Thus for himself or for another or
for insignificant material gain
he knowingly speaks falsehood.

This is the description, beggars, of the man who is a dung-talker.

And what, beggars, is the flower-talking man?

Here beggars, a man,
enters the assembly hall,
or enters a court,
or within the midst of his family,
or within the midst of the guild,
or within the midst of the king's court,
brought for questioning as an eye-witness:

"Go on then, good man, as you know, so tell."

He, not knowing, says:
"I know not."
knowing he says:
"I know."
not having seen, he says:
"I have not seen."
having seen, he says:
"I have seen."

Thus neither for himself or for another or
for insignificant material gain
does he knowingly speak falsehood.

This is the description, beggars, of the man who is a flower-talker.

And what, beggars, is the honey-talking man?

Here, beggars, a man letting go of rough speech,[2]
disengages from rough speech.

Whatsoever talk has clarity,
pleases the ear,
is lovely, stirring the heart,
is of the people,
enjoyed by the multitude,
delighting the multitude,
such talk as this is his talk.

This is the description, beggars, of the man who is a honey-talker.

These then, beggars, are the three men to be known in the world.

 


[1] Gūtha-bhāṇi. See note at Woodward AN 3.28 n1. This seems a contortion to avoid the use of the word 'shit'. But note no apparent conflict in the Pali with the explanation for 'honey-tongued.' I.e., the word was not considered harsh, harmful, unpleasant to the ear, disagreeable, unable to touch the heart, incourteous, or not delightful or pleasant to the ear of the common person.
This is not an easy expression to translate here. What is needed for bhāṇi, in terms of context is the word 'testimony'. The literal translation is simply 'speaking'. In this case 'tongued' works for all three but misses the context, 'testimony' works but is awkword in use with the descriptive adjective. In English, disregarding context, we have common phrases for all three: Foul-mouthed [jive-talk, shit-mouthed, dirty-mouthed], flowery speech, honey-tongued. In the case where 'testimony' is the context, Woodward's 'tricky-tongued', works for the first, but his 'fair-spoken' and 'honey-tongued' for the latter two do not work well.

[2] Hewn with an axe!

 


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