Anguttara Nikaya

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The Book of the
Gradual Sayings

The Book of the Threes

Sutta 78

Sīlabbata Suttaɱ

Ethical Practices

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds


[76.1][pts][than] I HEAR TELL

Once upon a time Old Man, Ananda, Vesali-town revisiting,
Great Woods,
The Chamber of the Pinicaled Ceiling.

There then, he drew near to The Lucky Man.

Drawing near,
giving greeting,
he took a seat to one side.

Seated to one side then
the Lucky Man said this
to Old Man, Ananda:

"Are then, Ānanda,
all ethical practices,
holy persuits[1]
practiced with dilligence

"But there is not in this case, bhante, only one outcome."

"Well then Ānanda, divide this into parts."

"When there is then, bhante,
ethical practice,
holy persuit
practiced with dilligence
where hollow[2] things increase
solid things dwindle away
then such ethical practice,
holy persuit
practiced with dilligence
is fruitless.[3]

But when there is, bhante,
ethical practice,
holy persuit
practiced with dilligence
where hollow things dwindle away
solid things increase
then such ethical practice,
holy persuit
practiced with dilligence
is fruitful."

The Master approved
this saying of Old Man Ānanda.

There then Old Man Ānanda
thinking: "the Master approves,"
rose up
and keeping the Lucky Man to his right[4]
took his leave,
giving salutation.

There then, the Lucky Man,
not long after Old Man Ānanda took leave,
said this to the beggars there:

"A seeker, Begggars, is Ānanda
but it is not easy to come up with[5] his equal[6] in wisdom."


[1] Brahmacariya. 'Brahma-carryings-on'. A term which has given translators no end of hassle. It means living the holy life according to the highest standards of Brahmā. One has 'companions in the Brahmacariya.' It is frequently translated 'celebacy' but celebacy is only one aspect of this manner of living. Being able to say, at the end, that one has 'lived the Brahmacariya' is one of the knowledges of the Arahant. In this case the idea is that one has lived the life of the God Brahmā.

[2] akusalā and in the next kusalā. Usually translated 'unskillful and skillful', I have taken this to kucchita and then to kucchi.

[3] This must be understood, (so I believe) as meaning 'of pleasant, or positive, or beneficial "fruit"; not 'no fruit', for surely poorly conceived and practiced behavior has fruit ... just not of the desirable sort. Or perhaps we are to understand 'fruit' in the strict sense of that which directly results from one's intentions. So in the case of poor behavior done with the intent to create positive results, there is no [such] fruit.

[4] Abhivādetvā padakkhiṇaɱ katvā pakkāmi Not precisely circumambulating (per Bhk. Thanissaro), which means going all the way around, but departing keeping one's right side towards the master (teacher, king, emperor), even to the extent of walking backwards. I am not sure if this might also mean by way of the master's right side. I have only seen this in the case of a person sitting to the master's left departing to the master's right. I do not know how this is managed when a person is sitting to the master's right. Crossing in front to depart by the master's right might be taken as offensive. Taken as it is written it would allow one sitting to the right to depart by the master's left.

[5] Sulabharūpo. Well-got-form/manifestation. ?

[6] Samasamo. Same same.


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