3.6.6 Introduction to Siṅgālasuttaṃ - The Buddha’s advice to Laypeople -part two

Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.6.6
Siṅgālasuttaṃ
The Buddha’s advice to Laypeople (part two)

Idamavoca bhagavā. Idaṃ vatvāna sugato athāparaṃ etadavoca satthā1 –

‘‘Mātāpitā disā pubbā, ācariyā dakkhiṇā disā;

Puttadārā disā pacchā, mittāmaccā ca uttarā.

Dāsakammakarā heṭṭhā, uddhaṃ samaṇabrāhmaṇā;

Etā disā namasseyya, alamatto2 kule gihī.

Paṇḍito sīlasampanno, saṇho ca paṭibhānavā3;

Nivātavutti4 atthaddho5, tādiso labhate yasaṃ.

Uṭṭhānako analaso, āpadāsu na vedhati;

Acchinnavutti6 medhāvī, tādiso labhate yasaṃ.

Saṅgāhako mittakaro, vadaññū vītamaccharo7;

Netā vinetā anunetā, tādiso labhate yasaṃ.

Dānañca peyyavajjañca, atthacariyā ca yā idha;

Samānattatā8 ca dhammesu, tattha tattha yathārahaṃ9;

Ete kho saṅgahā loke, rathassāṇīva10 yāyato.

……

 

Thus spoke the Bhagavā. After the Sugato had revealed this, the teacher added further:

“Mother and father (should be understood) as the east; teachers as the south;

Wife and children as the west; friends and colleagues as the north.

Servants and workers are below; ascetics and Brahmins dwell above;

This is the proper mode an ideal clansman should venerate the directions.

A wise one, well established in Sīla, benign and of ready wit,

Of humble conduct, intelligent thus improves his good repute.

Of early rising and industrious, he does not get unsettled by distress

Of impeccable conduct, ingenious thus improves his good repute.

Full of sympathy; upholding friendship, affable and bountiful

He guides, steers and gives council, thus improves his good repute.

Distributing gifts, of kind speech and of supportive conduct,

He maintains impartiality properly in all respect.

Based on such sympathy the world rotates, like any wheel around its axle turns.

 

While the previous selection with the quotation from this Siṅgālasutta in the last lesson focussed on the aspect of avoiding the unwholesome - vārittaṃ, this selection as its second part highlights the aspect of cārittaṃ: embracing the wholesome through positive, beneficial company and actions.

The text first revisits the sutta’s opening, the situation where the Buddha encountered Siṅgālako performing his matutinal practices of paying respect to the six directions - chaddisāpaṭicchādanakaṇḍaṃ - and takes his opportunity to investigate these from the perspective of an ariyasāvako. The Buddha modifies: ‘One’s mother and father should be understood as the eastern quarter - puratthimā disā mātāpitaro veditabbā -; one’s teachers as the southern quarter - dakkhiṇā disā ācariyā veditabbā -; one’s wife and children as the west - pacchimā disā puttadārā veditabbā -; one’s friends and companions as the north - uttarā disā mittāmaccā veditabbā-; one’s servants (and employees) as the nadir - heṭṭhimā disā dāsakammakarā veditabbā - and ascetics and Brahmins as the zenith – uparimā disā samaṇabrāhmaṇā veditabbā’.

The explanation of the commentary highlights with an interesting play of words: ‘One’s mother and father should be understood as the eastern quarter because they are the first supporters’ – ‘pubbupakāritāya11 puratthimā disāti veditabbā’ -; ‘one’s teachers as the southern quarter because they are worthy of offerings’ -  ‘dakkhiṇeyyatāya dakkhiṇā disāti’ -; ‘one’s wife and children as the west because they follow behind’ – ‘anubandhanavasena12 pacchimā13 disāti’ -; ‘one’s friends and companions as the north because they help to cross suffering and difficulties’ – ‘nissāya te te dukkhavisese14 uttarati, tasmā uttarā disāti’  -; ‘one’s servants (and employees) as the nadir because they ‘stand at one’s feet’ (below)’ – ‘pādamūle patiṭṭhānavasena heṭṭhimā disāti’ – and ‘ascetics and Brahmins as the zenith because they classify higher through their moral virtues’ – ‘guṇehi upari ṭhitabhāvena uparimā disāti veditabbā’.

By unfolding and developing these ‘directions’ in accordance to the wholesome practices and demands for an ariyasāvako the Buddha describes a set of healthy virtues. If they were performed by the majority of mankind social life would nourish peace and harmony throughout!

Whether related to children, parents, husband or wife, workers and employees, friends and ascetics - the base of all recommendations is deep sympathy and goodwill that aim at the wellbeing of others. The prevailing attitude is expressed in the usage of the verb - anukampanti – which literally means to ‘shake, tremble along with’: to sympathize, to have pity, being filled with benevolence and compassion. Even so some of these guidelines may appear dubious to a modern15, sceptical and reformist citizen at a first glance16, closer, unbiased scrutiny will uncover profound desire to devotion, compassion and empathy towards one’s neighbourhood, surroundings and environment. This profound yearning to do good  provides a base for a spirit of salubrious social evolvement, peace and harmony.

By the end of the discourse Siṅgālaka pays his respects to the Buddha, praises the detailed and enlightening explanation and requests to be accepted as lay-follower.17 As a result of the avoidance of these fourteen evils, by paying proper respect to the six directions in the mode an Arian disciple would do, Siṅgālaka was not only to live a comfortable life in this world and the next, but also after the breaking of the body he would, after death rise to the pleasant spheres and the heavenly fields: - ……‘‘Yato kho, gahapatiputta, ariyasāvakassa, so evaṃ cuddasa pāpakāpagato chaddisāpaṭicchādī ubholokavijayāya paṭipanno hoti. Tassa ayañceva loko āraddho hoti paro ca loko. So kāyassa bhedā paraṃ maraṇā sugatiṃ saggaṃ lokaṃ upapajjati.

May Siṅgālaka and the advice given to him by the Buddha shine forth as a true model for more and more people of today’s troubled world – may peace and harmony prevail in the world of today!


[1] The selected verses conclude the sutta

[2] alamatto: alam + atto: enough + full, complete: competent. Alamattoti puttadārabharaṇaṃ katvā agāraṃ ajjhāvasanasamattho – ‘Competent’ is having provided proper support for wife and children being able to live in a house.

[3] paṭibhānavā: paṭi + bhānavā: intelligent, possessed with ready wit

[4] nivātavutti: ni + vāta + vutti: without + wind + conduct: of humble behaviour

[5] atthaddho: not stupid, intelligent

[6] acchinnavutti: acchinna + vutti: removed + conduct: of impeccable conduct. Acchinnavuttīti nirantarakaraṇavasena akhaṇḍavutti – ‘of impeccable conduct’ is on account of his actions without interstice it is unbroken conduct.

[7] vītamaccharo: vīta + maccharo: free + miserliness

[8] These mentioned qualities: dāna, peyyavajja, atthacariyā, samānattatā, are the four sangaha-vatthūni: characteristics of sympathy and amiability

[9] yathārahaṃ: properly, duly

[10] rathassāṇīva: rathassa + āṇī + va: wheel + axle + thus: Rathassāṇīva yāyatoti yathā āṇiyā satiyeva ratho yāti, asati na yāti, evaṃ imesu saṅgahesu satiyeva loko vattati, asati na vattati. Tena vuttaṃ – ‘‘ete kho saṅgahā loke, rathassāṇīva yāyato’’ti. – ‘Any wheel around its axle turns’: Just like wheel turns round its axle and without its axle cannot turn, likewise on base of sympathy the world rotates, without it cannot rotate. Therefore it is said: “Based on such sympathy the world rotates, like any wheel around its axle turns”.

[11] pubbupakāritāya:  pubba + upakāri + tāya: foremost + benefactor, helper

[12] anubandhanavasena: anubandhana + vasena: what follows + on account of

[13] pacchimā: last, behind; western; lowest

[14] nissāya te te dukkhavisese uttarati: on account of them, leaning on them one he crosses, overcomes and discriminates suffering

[15] The guidance for parents to find their son a suitable wife: ‘patirūpena dārena saṃyojenti’ – is highlighted by the commentary: ‘Patirūpenāti kulasīlarūpādīhi anurūpena’ – suitable in accordance to the family, their morality, representation and so forth’ – This may sound especially dubious to today’s observers, taking into account the dominating importance given to male offspring, neglecting female descendant, the misuse of ‘dowry’ in India of today and so forth. Still it is the guiding line the benevolence expressed in: anukampanti!

[16] Interesting for example to see the different commentarial explanations of ‘being faithful’ for the husband: Anaticariyāyāti taṃ atikkamitvā bahi aññāya itthiyā saddhiṃ paricaranto taṃ aticarati nāma, tathā akaraṇena. ‘By not being unfaithful to her’: He is unfaithful to her if he oversteps the boundaries outside and gets engaged with another woman, he refrains from this.

‘Being faithful’ for the wife is defined as: Anaticārinīti sāmikaṃ muñcitvā aññaṃ manasāpi na pattheti. ‘By not being unfaithful to him’: Aside from her husband (lit.: having freed him) she doesn’t desire anyone else, even mentally.

[17] ‘‘abhikkantaṃ, bhante! Abhikkantaṃ, bhante! Seyyathāpi, bhante, nikkujjitaṃ vā ukkujjeyya, paṭicchannaṃ vā vivareyya, mūḷhassa vā maggaṃ ācikkheyya, andhakāre vā telapajjotaṃ dhāreyya ‘cakkhumanto rūpāni dakkhantī’ti. Evamevaṃ bhagavatā anekapariyāyena dhammo pakāsito. Esāhaṃ, bhante, bhagavantaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi dhammañca bhikkhusaṃghañca. Upāsakaṃ maṃ bhagavā dhāretu, ajjatagge pāṇupetaṃ saraṇaṃ gata’’nti. For the explanation, translation and vocabulary of this standard formula see 1.4.8

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Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.6.6

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Last modified: Wednesday, 22 February 2017, 1:54 PM