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Saɱyutta Nikāya
I. Sagātha Vagga
10. Yakkha-Saɱyutta

The Book of the Kindred Sayings
I. Kindred Sayings with Verses
10. The Yakkha Suttas

Sutta 5

Sānu Suttaɱ


Translated by Mrs. Rhys Davids
Assisted by Sūriyagoḍa Sumangala Thera
Copyright The Pali Text Society. Public Domain.




The Exalted One was once staying near Sāvatthī, at the Jeta Grove,
in Anāthapiṇḍika's Park.

[267] Now on that occasion Sānu,[1]
the child of a certain lay adherent,
was possessed by a yakkha.

And the mother, making lamentation in that hour,
uttered the verses: —

"To me[2] one of the holy men was he —
So, have I heard, the holy men do say[3]
Yet lo! the sight that meets mine eyes to-day:
With Sānu demons make their [cruel] sport.
On fourteenth day and on the fifteenth day,
And on the eighth of either half the month
I've kept the feast, firm in the precepts eight,
The extra-fasts,[4] learnt from the holy men.
Yet lo! the sight that meets my eyes to-day: —
With Sānu demons make their cruel sport."

[The Demon (in possession of Sānu)[5]: —]

"On fourteenth day and on the fifteenth day,
And on the eighth of either half the month
[268] Who keep the feast, firm in the precepts eight,
The extra-fasts; who lead the higher life,
With such the demons make no cruel sport.
Our wise and clever Sānu thou shouldst tell: —
This is the word that Yakkhas [venerate]: —
Do nought of evil open or concealed;
If evil thou now doest or wilt do,
Thou'lt not escape from pain and misery,
Though thou spring up[6] and run in headlong flight."[7]

[Sānu (coming to himself):—]

"Mother, they weep for the dead, or the living they may not see.
But for him, 0 mother, who lives, who is here, why mournest thou me?"

[The Mother :—]

"They mourn for son who lieth dead, or him
Who is alive, but whom they no more see,
And him they mourn, who though he did renounce
The world, my son, doth hither come again,
For though he live again, yet is he dead.[8]
Drawn forth from burning embers,[9] 0 my dear,
Dost thou on embers wish to fall again?
Cast up from hellish regions, 0 my dear,
Dost thou desire to fall into the abyss?
Run thou thy course; my blessing take with thee.
[269] To whom give we occasion for offence?
The goods from burning house brought safely forth,
Dost thou desire that they should burn again?"


[1] The story in this little drama-sutta is given briefly in the Comy. on Sānu's gāthā (Pss. of the Brethren, XLIV.), and more fully in the Dhp. Comy. on ver. 326 (iv, 18 f.) and in our Comy. Sānu, whose pious mother had placed him in the Order as a child, leads a model career till he suffers a normal relapse and recrudescence of worldly longing. In distress and dishevelment he visits his mother and confesses his distracted condition. She prepares food to comfort him, but his previous mother, who had been a Yakkha, was now a daughter of the gods and honoured exceedingly by them because of her late son's piety. Anxious not to lose credit and to 'save his soul,' she intervenes and 'possesses' him, so that he falls in an epileptic fit. The mother takes him on her knees, with embraces and lamentation. The ex-mother 'in' the son warns her of her son's parlous state; the son revives and wonders; the mother admonishes.

[2] Is this so ahu? The four lines are in Burmese MSS. only, and B. takes no notice.

[3] The arahant was just a holy man to the average layman. (Cf. Pss. of the Sisters, 130.) The line seems to resemble a ballad refrain, not always very pertinent.

[4] These 2-1/2 lines occur in Pss. of the Sisters, p. 31. She now refers to her own piety as meeting, no less than her son's, with unfair reward.

[5] On this power ascribed to Yakkhas, Pisāchas, etc., cf. Washburn Hopkins's Religions of India, p. 415: — 'Associated with Skanda (the Saivite battle-god) are the spirits, or 'mothers,' who afflict people. ... As in other lands, people are 'possessed' by evil spirits called graha's: seizers (our Pali has gahito, seized). ... The mothers are witches and live in cross-roads, cemeteries, and mountains. They may be of Dravidian origin ...' He refers to several passages in the Anugītā (Mahābhārata).

[6] Uppaccā.

[7] See Udāna, VI, 4; Pss. of the Sisters, vers. 247, 248.

[8] Dhammapāla quotes S. ii, 271: — 'This is death that one should reject the training and turn away to lower things.'

[9] Cf. Points of Controversy, p. 127, on the Gokulika theory of life.

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