AN4.184: good deeds that keep one safe or giving protection to those in fear?

There are some considerable differences between the Thanissaro and Sujato translations of AN4.184. Here‘s a passage in Thanissaro‘s that has puzzled me:

“Furthermore, there is the case of the person who has done what is good, has done what is skillful, has given protection to those in fear, and has not done what is evil, savage, or cruel.

In this context, what does giving protection to those in fear entail? It seems like a foreign body in the text.
Here‘s Sujato‘s translation:

Furthermore, it’s someone who hasn’t done bad, violent, and corrupt deeds, but has done good and skillful deeds that keep them safe.

Intuitively, this sounds more plausible, but I‘m open to differing opinions. The difference is probably down to some ambiguity in the Pali text, which would make correct interpretation all the more important.

It seems the term in question is katabhīruttāṇo, which would literally mean “done fearless protection”. The Pali doesn’t say for whom a protection has been made. So it could either be

  • a protection for others so they don’t need to fear cruel deeds from me,
  • a protection for myself so I don’t need to fear a bad rebirth.

But ultimately, both amount to the same, as is explained in the acrobat Sutta:

SN47.19:2.4: Looking after yourself, you look after others; and looking after others, you look after yourself.


Thank you! The passage makes a lot more sense to me now :smile:

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