A wrongly directed spike of rice or barley

It runs as follows (from SN 45.9):

“seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, sālisūkaṃ vā yavasūkaṃ vā micchāpaṇihitaṃ hatthena vā pādena vā akkantaṃ hatthaṃ vā pādaṃ vā bhindissati, lohitaṃ vā uppādessatīti — netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati…
Bhikkhus, suppose a spike of rice or a spike of barley were wrongly directed and were pressed upon by the hand or the foot. That it could pierce the hand or the foot and draw blood: this is impossible…

evameva kho, bhikkhave, so vata bhikkhu micchāpaṇihitāya diṭṭhiyā micchāpaṇihitāya maggabhāvanāya avijjaṃ bhindissati, vijjaṃ uppādessati, nibbānaṃ sacchikarissatīti — netaṃ ṭhānaṃ vijjati.
So too, bhikkhus, that a bhikkhu with a wrongly directed view, with a wrongly directed development of the path, could pierce ignorance, arouse true knowledge, and realize Nibbāna: this is impossible.

Here, the fact that the spike might pierce a limb and draw blood is considered a positive thing. Anyone knows why?

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The way I understand it for now:

  • If I call ‘example’ the part of the simile that is not about Dhamma.
  • And ‘teaching’ the part of the simile that is about Dhamma.

The example is demonstrating the possibility or impossibility of ‘piercing’, based on rightly or wrongly ‘directing’ the spike.

The aspect of the example that I bring to the teaching is this cause-effect relationship (directing - piercing), not the positivism or moral value of what is being pierced (which is negative for the limb and positive for ignorance).


Yeah, that’s my interpretation as well. If we personify defilements, i.e. anger, ignorance as something we need to destroy, then “drawing blood” with right view is necessary to accomplish the mission. We’re drawing blood from the enemy, not from the good guys.

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I think this simile is very down to earth…

Here’s some rice “spikes”:

And here’s some barley spikes:

So I would consider the impossibility here to be caused by the very constitution of the barley or rice spikes (it doesn’t have a strong core that could be hel in anyway) .

Just as wrong view doesn’t contain enough widsdom to pierce ignorance…


I think the spikes can actually draw blood, particularly if they are sun-dried after the reaping. And even though they are very weak if touched with an angle, they are quite strong when the pressure is parallel to the length of the spike; hence the importance of their direction or orientation.

I did help to harvest hay a few times, and I remember that it can be quite painful sometimes! :face_with_head_bandage:


Of course, we can always interpret it like that, but my point is that generally, the similes are crafted in a non-confusing way.

I wonder if the same simile is found in sanskrit in Hindu or Jain scriptures, which might help understand it


Right @Yasoja,

I’m happy to see practice triumph over theory yet again :D.

Have a pleasant day!

my point is that generally, the similes are crafted in a non-confusing way

I would speculate that it was probably either a medicinal practice or a religious ritual of some sort