Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.5.6
Why never Beat with a Stick?

This sutta is from Udānapāḷi, the selection of joyful exclamations uttered by the Buddha where various, mostly short suttas, relate an occurrence the Buddha encountered along with its background story. The Buddha regularly analysed the incident and realising the essence and significance behind this incident uttered some gathas. These concluding verses to each sutta are introduced with the following formula: “Atha kho bhagavā etamatthaṃ viditvā tāyaṃ velāyaṃ imaṃ udānaṃ udānesi.1 and thus the selection is called Udānapāḷi.

In this Daṇḍasutta2 some boys hurt, injure or kill (hananti) a snake, which was simply going about its business in search of food. Questioned by the Buddha why they did so, the boys replied that they were afraid of being bitten. Realising the delusion of the boys, the Buddha uttered these verses that desiring one's own happiness and safety by harassing other beings was a truly skillful deceit produced by ignorance:3ime attano sukhaṃ karissāmāti4 imaṃ paharantā5 nibbattaṭṭhāne6 dukkhaṃ anubhavissanti, aho avijjāya nikatikosallanti7.” By ignoring and acting against the pivotal principle, that all beings like to live, like to live in happiness and peace, and that all beings loathe suffering, happiness for oneself can never be achieved!

Killing and killing naturally are not the same and the kammic consequences vary. Different boys may perform the very same act - one boy, out of his desire to help a spider that has fallen in water may by taking him out of the water squeeze one part of the body as a consequence that spider may die; another boy may step on a spider unintentionally without even noticing it, as a consequence that spider may die; again another boy may playfully destroy a spider’s web and thus cause the spider’s death; while another boy may hurt and kill a spider aggressively.

Pāṇātipāto refers to deliberate, intentional destruction of the life of any sentient being. Different motivation resulting from greed, aggression or delusion may cause such an act and varying efforts have to be generated to perform it. Further will various kinds of motives manifest themselves in different kammic effects – killing may be spontaneous, out of the need to defend oneself, premeditated or well-planned out of greed or hatred, even with the intention to torture. For the act of killing - pāṇātipāto - to be accomplished and to produce kammic consequences the following five constituents have to be present: Tassa pañca sambhārā honti pāṇo, pāṇasaññitā, vadhakacittaṃ, upakkamo, tena maraṇanti. - A living being, consciousness of that living being, the intention to kill, undertaking the act and the death of that being.

The commentary8, with its detailed analysis, once more points to the respective underlying volition9 as the source from where heinous acts like killing or injuring another spring: Tasmiṃ pana pāṇe pāṇasaññino10 jīvitindriyupacchedakaupakkamasamuṭṭhāpikā11 kāyavacīdvārānaṃ aññataradvārappavattā12 vadhakacetanā13 pāṇātipāto. - Therefore “Killing living beings” results from the volition to kill by someone with full consciousness of that living being. This volition manifests itself through one or the other of the doors of body and speech and initiates action that leads to the approach and cutting off of the life faculty.

The meaning of ‘killing a living being’ in its final sense refers to the destruction of the life-faculty: Asādhāraṇesu14 pana pāṇassa atipāto15 pāṇātipāto, pāṇavadho pāṇaghāto16 ti vuttaṃ hoti. Pāṇoti cettha vohārato17 satto, paramatthato18 jīvitindriyaṃ. – Looking at the phrase in particular, when it is said: ‘the killing of a living being’ the phrase killing living beings means the slaughter of a living being, the destruction of a living being. And here a living being is, according to common sense, a being; in the ultimate sense it is the life-faculty.

In order to put one’s unhealthy, unwholesome intention into practise and actually kill a living being, different grades of effort have to be summoned. The kammic effects will manifest in respect to these efforts which correspond on one hand to the strength and size of the being killed if they are lacking moral criteria in the case of animals (guṇavirahitesu tiracchānagatādīsu pāṇesu) – the stronger and larger a being the more exertion is needed! On the other hand in case of humans, beings with moral quality and ethical standards (guṇavantesu manussādīsu) the kammic effects manifest according to the moral quality of the being to be killed: Sarīraguṇānaṃ pana samabhāve sati kilesānaṃ upakkamānañca mudutāya19 appasāvajjo, tibbatāya20 mahāsāvajjoti veditabbo. - When the size of the body and moral qualities (of the victim) are equal, it is less blameable when the defilements and attacks (of the killer) are less, and more blameable when the defilements and attacks are strong.

Referring to the next constituent of sammākammanta21, adinnādāna, the commentary likewise highlights the disruptive motivation that generates acts that misappropriate the rightful belongings of others by ways of theft, robbery, snatching, trickery, deception etc. Tasmiṃ pana parapariggahite21 parapariggahitasaññino tadādāyakaupakkamasamuṭṭhāpikā23 theyyacetanā adinnādānaṃ. – “Taking what is not given” is the volition to steal by being fully aware of this act of theft, and of the others' possession, that it belongs to another, which initiates action that leads to the approach and the act of stealing.

Adinnādāna is defined as: The carrying off of others' goods, stealing and robbery. Herein, “what is not given” is another's possession, which the other may use according to his wish without incurring punishment or censure. - Adinnassa ādānaṃ adinnādānaṃ, parassa haraṇaṃ theyyaṃ, corikāti vuttaṃ hoti. Tattha adinnanti parapariggahitaṃ, yattha paro yathākāmakāritaṃ24 āpajjanto25 adaṇḍāraho26 anupavajjo ca hoti.

The moral shame derived and kammic effects to be expected depend on the value of the stolen object, the higher its value, the more blameworthy the deed. In respect to theft of objects with the same value the act becomes more blameworthy according to the moral standard of the deprived; the higher the moral standard the greater the consequences: Vatthusamatte27 sati guṇādhikānaṃ28 santake vatthusmiṃ mahāsāvajjaṃ. Taṃ taṃ guṇādhikaṃ upādāya tato tato hīnaguṇassa santake vatthusmiṃ appasāvajjaṃ. – In case of equal value of the objects, the act is more blamable when the object belongs to one of supreme virtue, and less blameworthy when the object belongs to one who’s moral qualities are inferior.

For an act of theft to be accomplished, likewise, the following five constituents have to be present: Tassa pañca sambhārā honti parapariggahitaṃ, parapariggahitasaññitā, theyyacittaṃ, upakkamo, tena haraṇanti. - another's possession, consciousness that it is another's possession, the intention to steal, the approach and the act of theft itself.29
[1] See sutta and translation

[2] Refer also to a similar occurrence in the same area presented in lesson 3.6.4: Kumārakasuttaṃ - Result of Ignorance - in the next chapter

[3] Daṇḍasuttavaṇṇanā, Udāna-aṭṭhakathā

[4] attano sukhaṃ karissāmāti: “we will achieve happiness!”

[5] paharantā: paharanti (prp.): striking

[6] nibbattaṭṭhāne: nibbattati (pp.) + aṭṭhāne: springing up, being produced + another place

[7] nikatikosallanti: nikati + kosallaṃ + ti: “fraud, deceit + skillfulness, proficiency”

[8] For example: Sīlakkhandhavaggaṭṭhakathā, Brahmajālasuttavaṇṇanā, Paribbājakakathāvaṇṇanā, Cūḷasīlavaṇṇanā

[9] See also the respective references at lesson 3.4.5 – Upālisuttaṃ

[10] pāṇasaññino: pāṇa + saññino: being + being conscious, aware off

[11] jīvitindriyupacchedakaupakkamasamuṭṭhāpikā: jīvita + indriya + upacchedaka + upakkama +samuṭṭhāpikā: life + faculty + cutting off + approaching, undertaking, attack + causing to arise, occasioning

[12] aññataradvārappavattā: aññatara + dvāra + p + pavattā: another + doors + proceeding, resulting

[13] vadhakacetanā: vadhaka + cetanā: murderous + volition

[14] asādhāraṇo: special, peculiar, unique

[15] atipāto: destruction, slaying

[16] pāṇaghāto: pāṇa + ghāto: being + slaughter, destruction

[17] vohāro: common use, ordinary usage

[18] paramattha: ultimate meaning, truth

[19] mudutā: softness, mildness

[20] tibbo: keen, eager, extensive

[21] For commentary’s reference of the third constutuent, kāmesumicchācārā see lesson 3.5.8 Methunasuttaṃ

[22] parapariggahite: para + pariggaṇhati (pp.): other + taken, seized

[23] tadādāyakaupakkamasamuṭṭhāpikā: tadā + adāyaka + upakkama + samuṭṭhāpikā: here, at that instance + the one who takes + approaching, undertaking + causing to arise, occasioning

[24] yathākāmakāritaṃ: yathā + kāma + kāritaṃ: as, how + desire + acting

[25] āpajjanto: entering upon, undertaking

[26] adaṇḍāraho: a + daṇḍa +āraho: not + stick + worthy of

[27] vatthusamatte: vatthu + samatte: object, matter + equality, likeness

[28] guṇādhikānaṃ: guṇa + ādhikā: qualities + exceeding, superior

[29] For Musāvādā veramaṇī--sikkhāpadaṃ and its commentarial explanation compare the chapter on sammāvācā: 3.4.7 Tiracchānakathāsuttaṃ; 3.4.9 Kosambiyasuttaṃ; for - kāmesumicchācārā (abrahmacariyā) veramaṇī-sikkhāpadaṃ see 3.5.8 Methunasuttaṃ and on - surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī-sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi see introduction to 3.6.5 Siṅgālasuttaṃ - The Buddha’s advice to Laypeople.

Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.5.6

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Last modified: Thursday, 28 December 2023, 10:41 AM