Are there really two meanings for sampayojeti?

The root yuj (i.e. “yoke”) is very fertile in Pali, as befits a culture where the chariot and plowing are so prominent. One fairly rare form it takes is the term sampayojeti. Here, if the prefixes may be read literally, it reads as a double-emphatic, “tightly bound up with”. The PTS dictionary, following the commentary, gives it two meanings: to associate with, and to quarrel. It does seem a little odd for it to take on such opposing meanings, so let’s see if this is really justified.

We find a very clear meaning in MN 93, where it refers to the “mating” of a mare and a donkey.

In Kd 20 it refers to some bad monks who have intimate relations with some nuns. Presumably it’s not sex, as then they would all be expelled, but is probably a more generic term. It could be physical, or simply “overly close association”.

A similar sense is said regarding monks getting too familiar with laypeople at Pvr 17.

In Kd 11 there’s a list of things that a monk who is undergoing probation for various disciplinary offences should adhere to. This includes sampayojeti with the monks. Here, the commentary says it means “argue”. However, the other items in this list are all things that a monk may normally do, but are prohibited while under probation. I think it makes better sense to read this is a similar sense, as saying that a monk under probation should not get overly familiar with his fellow monks.

At SN 11.24 we have the story of two monks who were sampayojeti, but one of them transgressed against the other, and they had a falling out. Again, the commentary says “argue”, but this seems unnecessary. In fact, the verses at the end speak of not losing ones’s friends, so it seems that here, too, the sense should be read as “in a close relation with”. The fact that the relation led to such a falling out suggests that it was not entirely healthy.

Finally, MN 77 speaks of monks who, having been sampayojeti with fellow monks, disrobe. Here, too, it seems unnecessary to read as “having argued with the other monks”, but instead “even though they were close friends with the other monks”.

The striking thing is that, in each case, the sampayoga heralds some kind of unfortunate outcome. This is in stark contrast with the very positive portrayal of “friendship” (mittatā) in the EBTs.

It thus seems that we should reject both the neutral sense of “association” and the sense of “argues” entirely. It means “overly attached”, “having overly familiar relations”, “unhealthily close to”.


Maybe the arguing resulted from “overly close association.” But if that’s the case, the emphasis should still be on the association rather than the arguing IMO.

So I agree with Bhante that it seems better to go with one meaning that’s consistent with the literal meaning of the term in every context, rather than have a confounding opposite definition in a few cases.

[quote=“sujato, post:1, topic:4560”]
The root yuj (i.e. “yoke”) is very fertile in Pali, as befits a culture where the chariot and plowing are so prominent
[/quote]Very interesting!

The Sanskrit word “yoga” is also derived from this same root, as you know, being fluent (I think/assume?) in Pāli.

A while ago I was very surprised to also see it in Pāli literature in the Yogasuttāni of AN 4.10 & SN 45.172. In these two suttāni it seems to be used in the sense that the word yoga is contemporaneously used in certain Hindu and Mahāyāna discourses, that is, it seems to be used in the sense of being “yoked” to something, perhaps even “attached” (with all the negative implications the word “attached” has in Buddhism). It is interesting, that although “yoga” is being used in the same general sense of meaning that it has in contemporary Hindu and Mahāyāna discourses, it is being framed here exclusively in the negative. It does not seem to be a “good thing” at all, in the Pāli Yogasuttāni, to be “yoked”. This is in contrast with “yoga-discourse” in non-Pāli religious traditions, where “yoking/yokedness/yoga” is seen as a prominent feature of progress on the path, rather than a hinderance.

My apologies if this post is not highly relevant to your OP. It is just something that came to mind while reading your post.

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Yoga and its derivatives are used in a wide variety of senses, some negative, some positive. To be “devoted” or “committed” to a cause or practice is to be anuyutta, and engagement in spiritual practice, especially meditation, is encouraged with the common phrase yogo karaṇīyo (“You should do yoga!”, but actually meaning “you should do meditation”). On the other hand, the “fetters” binding us to samsara are samyojana.


Yoga is one of the most ambiguous terms in Indian languages afaik, it’s a bit like the word dhamma — the dictionary pages for each are apparently several pages long!

From the non-Buddhist traditions I’ve studied I’d also add that yoga refers to the practice and the resultant state (able to be verb-like or noun-like).

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Something about getting involved in the other’s business. Equally going into business with a friend is often looked down upon! In my experience there is a healthy distance after which people start having cravings, aversions and projecting their expectations on the other person.

Loving-kindness, sympathy/empathy, appreciative joy are best used with a mind of equanimity IMO -in this journey to Nibbana, that is.

Having said that (each one protecting themselves) there is a lot that can be done within those safeguards.

With metta