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Saŋyutta Nikaya
Nidāna Vagga
20. Opamma Saŋyutta

Sutta 5

Satti Suttaṃ

The Sharp Tempered Sword

Translated from the Pali by Michael Olds



[1][rhyc][than] I HEAR TELL
Once upon a time Bhagava, Savatthi-town revisiting, Jeta-woods, Anathapindika's Park.

[2]There then The Lucky Man, said this:

In the same way, beggars, as if of a sharp tempered[1] sword,
there came along some person saying:

"I will clutch this sharp-tempered sword
with bare hands
and twisting it back,
twisting it around,
twist it off[2]!"

[3] Well what do you think about that, beggars?

Would that man be able
to clutch that sharp-tempered sword
with bare hands
and distort,
turn back it's point and
dull it's edge?[3]

'Not likely, broke-tooth!

How come?

Before such a one as that, broke tooth,
a person clutching that sharp tempered sword
with bare hands
could bend it's point back on the safeguard,
turn it's edge onto itself,
twist it around,[4]
he would reach exhaustion,
come to destruction,
be cut to pieces.'

Even so, of such a one, beggars,
a non-human thinking to overthrow the heart of a beggar
who has developed,
made a big thing of,
made a vehicle of,
made a habit of,
built up,
well set going
the heart's release through Friendly Vibrations,
even there and then that non-human
would reach exhaustion,
come to destruction,
be cut to pieces.

[6] Wherefore, beggars, train yourselves this way:

Let us develop,
make a big thing of,
make a vehicle of,
make a habit of,
build up,
well set going
the heart's release through Friendly Vibrations.

This is the way to train yourselves beggars.


[1] Tiṇhaphalā. [tiṇha+phalā] phala >phāla, molten iron.

[2] Patiḷeṇissāmi, patikoṭṭessāmi, pativaṭṭessāmī. I cannot find the first in whole or part in any of the Dictionaries. Mrs. Rhys Davids footnotes stating that the commentary: "... explains these three acts as hitting the blade on the point so as to fold it double, and hitting it on the side of the blade so as to fold it (lengthwise), and curling it round as if it were spun cottan yarn." I am guessing the terms mean approximately what the commentator says. The first looks like 'twisting back on 'the refuge' [> ? leṇa] which I take to mean the hilt-guard and so fold lengthwise. The second, referencing the dictionaries [Koṭṭeti 1. to beat, smash, crush, pound > kūṭa] looks more like 'break' than fold, and more like 'render harmless' (as in take the edge off, blunt, de-horn) than break, but using 'crush' could mean fold. The last one I have seen in what is likely the intended meaning portrayed in Chinese Kung-Fu movies where a man with supernormal impenatrability is struck on the arm by the enemy sword which then without injuring him wraps itself around his arm like a coiled bracelet or a snake grasped by the head. [Alternativly this is shown being done with the sword, rather than the arm. In still another version the sword is grasped by the man's bare hands and twisted-round as in twerling a piece of cloth.] The startled enemy is then relieved of his 'weapon' and dealt with according to the script. Could it be 'distort'? I alter the order of the terms and translate freely. What is essential to remember is that the 'satti' as well as being a symbol we are familiar with because of it's use by Freud, is a symbol often used for The Dhamma — 'The Sword of Truth' — and especially for 'sati'. Remember! What we are dealing with here is the effort to cultivate 'penetrating knowledge and release'.

[3] Here the order I have used for the three terms is: 3,1,2.

[4] Here I have used the original order. 1,2,3. Snap fingers.

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