Majjhima Nikāya

The Middle Length Sayings

Kakacūpama Suttaṃ

21. Discourse on the Parable of the Saw

Thus have I heard:

At one time the Lord was staying near Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove in Anāthapiṇḍika's monastery. Now at that time the venerable Moliyaphagguna lived too closely associated with the nuns. While the venerable Moliyaphagguna was living associated thus with the nuns, if any monk face to face with the venerable Moliyaphagguna spoke dispraise of those nuns, then the venerable Moliyaphagguna was angry, displeased, and made a legal question. And if some monk face to face with those nuns spoke dispraise of the venerable Moliyaphagguna, then those nuns were angry, displeased, and made a legal question. It was in this way that the venerable Moliyaphagguna was living associated with nuns.

Then a certain monk approached the Lord; having approached, having greeted the Lord, he sat down at a respectful distance. As he was sitting down at a respectful distance, this monk spoke thus to the Lord:

“Lord, the venerable Moliyaphagguna lives too closely associated with nuns. It is thus, Lord, that the venerable Moliyaphagguna lives associated with the nuns:

If any monk face to face with the venerable Moliyaphagguna, speaks in dispraise of the nuns the venerable Moliyaphagguna is angry, displeased and makes a legal question; or if some monk, face to face with the nuns, speaks dispraise of the venerable Moliyaphagguna, these nuns are angry, displeased and make a legal question. It is thus, Lord, that the venerable Moliyaphagguna lives associated with nuns.”

Then the Lord addressed this monk, saying:

“Come you, monk, summon the monk Moliyaphagguna on my behalf, saying:

‘The Lord is summoning you, Phagguna.’”

“Very well, Lord,” and this monk, having answered the Lord in assent, approached the venerable Moliyaphagguna and having approached, spoke thus to the venerable Moliyaphagguna:

“The Lord is summoning you, Phagguna.”

“Very well, your reverence,” and the venerable Moliyaphagguna, having answered this monk in assent, approached the Lord; having approached, having greeted the Lord, he sat down at a respectful distance.

The Lord spoke thus to the venerable Moliyaphagguna as he was sitting down at a respectful distance:

“Is it true, as is said, that you, Phagguna, are living too closely associated with nuns? So that if some monk, face to face with you, speaks in dispraise of the nuns you are angry, displeased and make a legal question; or if some monk, face to face with the nuns, speaks dispraise of you, these nuns are angry, displeased and make a legal question? Is it true, as is said, that you, Phagguna are living associated with the nuns thus?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“But did not you, Phagguna, the son of a respectable family, go forth from home into homelessness out of faith?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“But this is not suitable in you, Phagguna, a son of a respectable family who has gone forth from home into homelessness out of faith, that you should live too closely associated with nuns. Wherefore, Phagguna, even if anyone face to face with you should speak dispraise of those nuns, even so should you, Phagguna, get rid of those which are worldly desires, those which are worldly thoughts; and you, Phagguna, should train yourself thus:

‘Neither will my mind become perverted, nor will I utter an evil speech, but kindly and compassionate will I dwell with a mind of friendliness and void of hatred.’

It is thus that you must train yourself, Phagguna.

Wherefore, Phagguna, even if anyone face to face with you should give a blow with the hand to these nuns, should give a blow with a clod of earth, should give a blow with a stick, should give a blow with a weapon, even then, Phagguna, should you train yourself thus:

‘Neither will my mind become perverted, nor will I utter an evil speech, but kindly and compassionate will I dwell with a mind of friendliness and void of hatred.’

It is thus that you must train yourself, Phagguna.

Wherefore, Phagguna, even if anyone face to face with you should speak dispraise of those nuns, even so should you, Phagguna, get rid of those which are worldly desires, those which are worldly thoughts; and you, Phagguna, should train yourself thus:

‘Neither will my mind become perverted, nor will I utter an evil speech, but kindly and compassionate will I dwell with a mind of friendliness and void of hatred.’

It is thus that you must train yourself, Phagguna.

Wherefore, Phagguna, even if anyone face to face with you should give a blow with the hand to these nuns, should give a blow with a clod of earth, should give a blow with a stick, should give a blow with a weapon, even then, Phagguna, should you train yourself thus:

‘Neither will my mind become perverted, nor will I utter an evil speech, but kindly and compassionate will I dwell with a mind of friendliness and void of hatred.’

It is thus that you must train yourself, Phagguna.”

Then the Lord addressed the monks, saying:

“Monks, my monks at one time were indeed accomplished in mind. Then I, monks, addressed the monks, saying:

‘Now I, monks, partake of a meal at one session. Partaking of a meal at one session, I, monks, am aware of good health and of being without illness and of buoyancy and strength and living in comfort. Come you too, monks, partake of a meal at one session; partaking of a meal at one session you too, monks, will be aware of good health and of being without illness and of buoyancy and strength and living in comfort.’

There was nothing to be done by me, monks, by way of instruction to those monks; all that was to be done by me, monks, was the production of mindfulness among those monks.

Monks, even as on level ground at crossroads a chariot is standing harnessed with thoroughbreds, the goad hanging handy; and a skilled groom, a charioteer of horses to be tamed, having mounted it, having taken the reins in his left hand, having taken the goad in his right, might drive up and down where and how he likes; even so, monks, there was nothing to be done by me by way of instruction to those monks; all that was to be done by me, monks, was the production of mindfulness among those monks.

Wherefore, monks, do you get rid of what is unskilled, make exertion among things that are skilled—so will you too come to growth, development, maturity in this Dhamma and discipline.

Monks, close to some village or little town, a great sal-wood may be overgrown with creepers, but some man might approach it desiring its good, desiring its welfare, desiring its security from bonds; he, having cut off those sal-tree sprouts which are bent and crushed by the strength (of the creepers), would carry them out (of the wood) and would thoroughly clear the inside of the wood. But he would tend properly those sal-tree sprouts which are straight and well grown. Thus, monks, after a time this sal-tree wood would come to growth, development, maturity.

Even so, do you, monks, get rid of what is unskilled, make exertion among things that are skilled—so will you too come to growth, development, maturity in this Dhamma and discipline.

Once upon a time, monks, in this very Sāvatthī, there was a lady householder named Vedehikā. Monks, a lovely reputation had gone forth thus about the lady Vedehikā:

“The lady householder Vedehikā is gentle, she is meek, she is tranquil.”

Now, monks, the lady householder Vedehikā had a slave woman, named Kāḷi, who was clever, diligent, a careful worker. Then, monks, it occurred to the slave woman Kāḷi:

‘A lovely reputation has gone forth about my mistress thus:

“The lady householder Vedehikā is gentle, she is meek, she is tranquil.”

Now does my mistress have an inward ill-temper that she does not show, or does she not have one? Or is it that my mistress, because I do my work so carefully, whether she has an inward ill-temper or not, does not show it? Suppose now that I should test the mistress?’ Then, monks, the slave woman Kāḷi got up late next day.

Then, monks, the lady householder Vedehikā spoke thus to the slave woman Kāḷi:

‘Well now, Kāḷi.’

‘What is it, mistress?’

‘Now why did you get up late today?’

‘That's nothing, mistress.’

‘That's nothing indeed, bad slave—you got up late today,’ and angry, displeased, she frowned. Then, monks, it occurred to the woman slave Kāḷi:

‘Whether my mistress has an inward ill-temper or not, she does not show it. Is it because my work is so careful that my mistress, whether she has an inward ill-temper or not, does not show it? Suppose that I were to test the mistress even further?’

Then, monks, the woman slave Kāḷi got up later the next day.

Then, monks, the lady householder Vedehikā spoke thus to the slave woman Kāḷi:

‘Well now, Kāḷi.’

‘What is it, mistress?’

‘Now why did you get up late today?’

‘That's nothing, mistress.’

‘That's nothing indeed, bad slave—you got up late today,’ and angry, displeased, she spoke a word of displeasure. Then it occurred to the slave woman Kāḷi:

‘Whether my mistress has an inward ill-temper or not, she does not show it. Is it because my work is so careful that my mistress, whether she has an inward ill-temper or not, does not show it? Suppose I were to test the mistress even further?’

Then, monks, the slave woman Kāḷi got up even later the next day.

Then, monks, the lady householder Vedehikā spoke thus to the slave-woman Kāḷi:

‘Well now, Kāḷi’

‘What is it, mistress?’

‘Now why did you get up late today?’

‘That's nothing, mistress.’

‘That's nothing indeed, bad slave—you got up late today,’ and angry, displeased, having seized the pin for securing the bolt (of a door) she gave her a blow on the head, which cracked her head.

Then, monks, the slave woman Kāḷi, her head broken and streaming with blood, spread it about among the neighbours, saying:

‘See, sirs, the deed of the gentle one; see, sirs, the deed of the meek one; see, sire, the deed of the tranquil one. How can she, saying to her only slave woman, ‘You got up late today,’ angry, displeased, having seized the pin for securing the bolt (of a door), give a blow on the head and crack the head?’

And then, monks, after a time an evil reputation went forth about this lady householder Vedehikā:

“The lady householder Vedehikā is violent, she is not meek, she is not tranquil.”

Even so, monks, some monk here is very gentle, very meek, very tranquil so long as disagreeable ways of speech do not assail him. But when disagreeable ways of speech assail the monk, it is then that he is to be called gentle, is to be called meek, is to be called tranquil.

I, monks, do not call that monk easy to speak to who is easy to speak to about robe-material, almsfood, lodgings, medicines for the sick, who falls into suavity. What is the reason for this? It is, monks, that this monk, not getting robe-material, almsfood, lodgings, medicines for the sick, is not easy to speak to, does not fall into suavity.

Monks, whatever monk, respecting only Dhamma, revering Dhamma, honouring Dhamma, comes to be easy to speak to, falls into suavity—him do I call easy to speak to.

Wherefore, monks, thinking:

Respecting only Dhamma, revering Dhamma, honouring Dhamma, we will become easy to speak to, we will fall into suavity, thus must you train yourselves, monks.

There are, monks, these five ways of speaking in which others when speaking to you might speak:

At a right time or at a wrong time; according to fact or not according to fact; gently or harshly; on what is connected with the goal or on what is not connected with the goal; with a mind of friendliness or full of hatred.

Monks, when speaking to others you might speak at a right time or at a wrong time; monks, when speaking to others you might speak according to fact or not according to fact monks, when speaking to others you might speak gently or harshly; monks, when speaking to others you might speak about what is connected with the goal or about what is not connected with the goal; monks, when speaking to others you might speak with minds of friendliness or full of hatred.

Herein, monks, you should train yourselves thus:

‘Neither will our minds become perverted nor will we utter an evil speech, but kindly and compassionate will we dwell, with a mind of friendliness, void of hatred; and we will dwell having suffused that person with a mind of friendliness; and, beginning with him, we will dwell having suffused the whole world with a mind of friendliness that is far-reaching, widespread, immeasurable, without enmity, without malevolence.’

This is how you must train yourselves, monks.

Monks, as a man might come along bringing a shovel and basket, and might speak thus:

‘I will make this great earth not earth’; so he digs here and there, tosses it here and there, spits here and there, stales here and there, thinking:

‘You are becoming not-earth, you are becoming not-earth.’

What do you think about this, monks? Could that man make this great earth not earth?

“No, Lord. What is the reason for this? It is that this great earth, Lord, is deep, it is immeasurable, it is not easy to make it not-earth before that man would be worn out and defeated.”

“Even so, monks, are these five ways of speaking in which others when speaking to you might speak:

At a right time or at a wrong time; according to fact or not according to fact; gently or harshly; on what is connected with the goal or on what is not connected with the goal; with a mind of friendliness or full of hatred.

Monks, when speaking to others you might speak at a right time or at a wrong time; monks, when speaking to others you might speak according to fact or not according to fact monks, when speaking to others you might speak gently or harshly; monks, when speaking to others you might speak about what is connected with the goal or about what is not connected with the goal; monks, when speaking to others you might speak with minds of friendliness or full of hatred. Herein, monks, you should train yourselves thus:

‘Neither will our minds become perverted nor will we utter an evil speech, but kindly and compassionate will we dwell, with a mind of friendliness, void of hatred; and we will dwell having suffused that person with a mind of friendliness; and, beginning with him, we will dwell having suffused the whole world with a mind of friendliness that is far-reaching, widespread, immeasurable, without enmity, without malevolence.’

This is how you must train yourselves, monks.

Monks, as a man might come along bringing lac or yellow or dark green or crimson, and might speak thus:

‘I will delineate material shapes in this space, I will make material shapes appear.’

What do you think about this, monks? Could that man delineate a material shape in this space, could he make material shapes appear?”

“No, Lord. What is the reason for this? It is, Lord, that this space is without shape, it is viewless. It is not easy to delineate a material shape there, to make material shapes appear before that man would be worn out and defeated.”

“Even so, monks, are these five ways of speaking in which others when speaking to you might speak:

At a right time or at a wrong time; according to fact or not according to fact; gently or harshly; on what is connected with the goal or on what is not connected with the goal; with a mind of friendliness or full of hatred.

Monks, when speaking to others you might speak at a right time or at a wrong time; monks, when speaking to others you might speak according to fact or not according to fact monks, when speaking to others you might speak gently or harshly; monks, when speaking to others you might speak about what is connected with the goal or about what is not connected with the goal; monks, when speaking to others you might speak with minds of friendliness or full of hatred. Herein, monks, you should train yourselves thus:

‘Neither will our minds become perverted nor will we utter an evil speech, but kindly and compassionate will we dwell, with a mind of friendliness, void of hatred; and we will dwell having suffused that person with a mind of friendliness; and, beginning with him, we will dwell having suffused the whole world with a mind of friendliness that is far-reaching, widespread, immeasurable, without enmity, without malevolence.’

This is how you must train yourselves, monks.

Monks, as a man might come along bringing a burning grass-torch and might speak thus:

‘I, with this burning grass-torch will set fire to the river Ganges, I will make it scorch up.’

What do you think about this, monks? Could that man, with the burning grass-torch set fire to the river Ganges and make it scorch up?”

“No, Lord. What is the reason for this? It is, Lord, that the river Ganges is deep, it is immeasurable. It is not easy to set fire to it with a burning grass-torch and make it scorch up before that man would be worn out and defeated.”

“Even so, monks, are these five ways of speaking in which others when speaking to you might speak:

At a right time or at a wrong time; according to fact or not according to fact; gently or harshly; on what is connected with the goal or on what is not connected with the goal; with a mind of friendliness or full of hatred.

Monks, when speaking to others you might speak at a right time or at a wrong time; monks, when speaking to others you might speak according to fact or not according to fact monks, when speaking to others you might speak gently or harshly; monks, when speaking to others you might speak about what is connected with the goal or about what is not connected with the goal; monks, when speaking to others you might speak with minds of friendliness or full of hatred. Herein, monks, you should train yourselves thus:

‘Neither will our minds become perverted nor will we utter an evil speech, but kindly and compassionate will we dwell, with a mind of friendliness, void of hatred; and we will dwell having suffused that person with a mind of friendliness; and, beginning with him, we will dwell having suffused the whole world with a mind of friendliness that is far-reaching, widespread, immeasurable, without enmity, without malevolence.’

This is how you must train yourselves, monks.

Monks, it is like a catskin bag that is cured, well cured, cured all over, and is supple, silky, with no hisses, no purrs. Then a man might come along bringing a piece of wood or a potsherd and might speak thus:

‘I, with a piece of wood or a potsherd will get a hiss, will get a purr out of this catskin bag that is cured, well cured, cured all over, and is supple, silky, with no hisses, no purrs.’

What do you think about this, monks? Could that man with a piece of wood or a potsherd get a hiss, get a purr out of that catskin bag that is cured, well cured, cured all over, and is supple, silky, with no hisses, no purrs?”

“No, Lord. What is the reason for this? It is, Lord, that that catskin bag is cured, well cured, cured all over, and is supple, silky, with no hisses, no purrs. It is not easy, with a piece of wood or with a potsherd, to get a hiss out of it or to get a purr, before that man would be worn out and defeated.”

“Even so, monks, are these five ways of speaking in which others when speaking to you might speak:

At a right time or at a wrong time; according to fact or not according to fact; gently or harshly; on what is connected with the goal or on what is not connected with the goal; with a mind of friendliness or full of hatred.

Monks, when speaking to others you might speak at a right time or at a wrong time; monks, when speaking to others you might speak according to fact or not according to fact monks, when speaking to others you might speak gently or harshly; monks, when speaking to others you might speak about what is connected with the goal or about what is not connected with the goal; monks, when speaking to others you might speak with minds of friendliness or full of hatred. Herein, monks, you should train yourselves thus:

‘Neither will our minds become perverted nor will we utter an evil speech, but kindly and compassionate will we dwell, with a mind of friendliness, void of hatred; and we will dwell having suffused that person with a mind of friendliness; and, beginning with him, we will dwell having suffused the whole world with a mind of friendliness that is far-reaching, widespread, immeasurable, without enmity, without malevolence.’

This is how you must train yourselves, monks.

Monks, as low-down thieves might carve one limb from limb with a double-handled saw, yet even then whoever sets his mind at enmity, he, for this reason, is not a doer of my teaching. Herein, monks, you should train yourselves thus:

‘Neither will our minds become perverted nor will we utter an evil speech, but kindly and compassionate will we dwell, with a mind of friendliness, void of hatred; and we will dwell having suffused that person with a mind of friendliness; and, beginning with him, we will dwell having suffused the whole world with a mind of friendliness that is far-reaching, widespread, immeasurable, without enmity, without malevolence.’

This is how you must train yourselves, monks.

If you, monks, were to attend repeatedly to this exhortation on the Parable of the Saw, would you, monks, see any way of speech, subtle or gross, that you could not endure?”

“No, Lord.”

“Wherefore, monks, consider repeatedly this exhortation on the Parable of the Saw; for a long time it will be for your welfare and happiness.”

Thus spoke the Lord. Delighted, these monks rejoiced in what the Lord had said.

Discourse on the Parable of the Saw: The First