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As a refreshingly normal and boring day dawns, I discuss a couple of points in the Sammāparibbājanīyasutta

This poem at Snp 2.13 gives a direct and didactic exposition of the conduct of a mendicant who would “rightly wander”, i.e. live in a way that is suitable for a n ascetic.

The first verse by the Buddha says that they would be rid of maṅgala. I’ve translated this word in the sutta of that name as “blessing”, as has Ven Bodhi, and he keeps it consistent here. Norman has “omen”. The basic idea is that maṅgala is a sign or portent, especially of good things (avamaṅgala is “ill-omen”).

i feel that keeping the consistent rendering “blessing” makes Ven Bodhi’s rendering clumsy:

“When he was uprooted [concern with] blessings,
with portents, dreams, and lucky signs,
when he has abandoned the defects of blessings,
that bhikkhu would properly wander in the world.

It’s a little tricky to get the sense across, because we have a very different relation with such things. In those days—and still in much of the world today—omens and portents were a very real part of life. To convey this, I’m choosing a less literal rendering. Also note that the three terms in the second line are exactly the same as those used in the famous Dīgha passage on portents.

“When they’re rid of superstitions
about celestial portents, dreams, or bodily marks;
with the stain of superstitions left behind,
they’d rightly wander the world.

In verse 8, a mendicant is praised who is not prideful at praise nor upset at abuse. The line on abuse has an unusual term sandhiyetha. Norman, cited by Bodhi, offers an explanation that derives it from “reflect” and so “resent”. Which is a stretch.

Neither notice the passage at AN 3.132:3.2 where we find sandhiyatimeva used in exactly the same context, of the response of someone when abused. There Bodhi has “remains on friendly terms”, I have the more literal “stay in touch”. The root is evidently the familiar sandhi in the sense of “connection”.

But this yields the opposite of the required sense: “even when reviled they don’t stay in touch.” Such cases are not unprecedented in Pali, especially in verse, for the na or initial a- can easily be lost of confused. I don’t have a specific solution, but I assume there must be textual corruption here. If this is the case, it must predate the commentary.

Though reviled, they’d still stay in touch.

Another idiom I find to be poorly represented in the translations, and this is a more general point, is the word bhava. These days ven Bodhi rather consistently renders it with the literal “existence”, but this conveys an often misleading or confusing impression:

Having abandoned greed and existence

I know what it means, but I’m really not sure how anyone not familiar with the Buddhist theory of rebirth would understand it; probably wrongly is my guess.

Bhava means “existence”, and is normally used in the sense of a “life”, i.e. a state into which one is reborn. Used by itself in a didactic way such as this, however, it has the pregnant meaning of “craving for a new life”. What it means is that a mendicant is not practicing for the sake of gaining a heavenly rebirth or some such.

It’s a term that must be rendered per context. Here I have:

When greed and craving to live again have been given up,

In verse 14 we find the phrase:

Dhammesu vasī pāragū anejo

Both Norman and Bodhi construe this according to the commentary. Or they do in syntax at least; Norman renders dhammā as “mental phenomena” and Bodhi as “things”, neither of which capture the commentary’s “four noble truths”, i.e. “principles”.

But I suspect that the sense is, rather, the “things of the world” or “wordly conditions”, i.e. lokadhammā. And the three terms all apply to it.

This makes the sense similar to the second-last verse of the Mangala Sutta, (Phuṭṭhassa lokadhammehi, cittaṁ yassa na kampati; Asokaṁ virajaṁ khemaṁ).

I’d translate something like:

among worldly things they are master, gone beyond, unperturbed,

Well, that’s about it. Most of the rest of the poem is reasonably clear, or in difficult cases the reading has has been well settled by the great scholars who have gone before me, making my job so easy and pleasant. I’ve tried to render the lines with a little more grace and transparency, without affecting the sense too much.

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