As with a stone a raw clay pot

I’m slightly confused by the temporal position of Snp3.2. Most of the sutta seems to be set before the Buddha’s awakening, yet Mara’s closing words indicate he is fully enlightened.

Does the following mark the transition point into emancipation?

Your serried squadrons, which the world
with all its gods cannot defeat,
Now I’ll break with wisdom sharp,
as with a stone a raw clay pot.

The rendition here leaves room for uncertainty as it uses the future tense.


Thanks for calling attention to this really interesting sutta.

So it’s a dramatization of the battle between Mara and the Bodhisattva at the time of his awakening and it’s filled with battle terms and metaphors. And yet, there really isn’t an armed conflict - instead there are these two metaphors of breaking the pot and the crow giving up on the stone that it took as a lump of fat.

Yaṃ te taṃ nappasahati,
Senaṃ loko sadevako;
Taṃ te paññāya bhecchāmi,
Āmaṃ pattaṃva asmanā.

[Argh! Just spent 20 minutes trying to get this into quotes but for some reason can’t get SC to understand that I want to quote the selected text. :frowning: I am sooo incompetent at this!!!]

The pali manuscripts of the two lines you quote are a mess, and the PTS edition actually has gacchāmi (I go, present tense) for bhecchāmi (I will smash), but in the apparatus it prefers bhañjāmi ( I break, present tense).

I can’t see that “I go with a stone” makes any sense, so I think the sense of break is a safe bet. But we don’t need to make it a future tense. So yes, it does seem like that is the point in this poem.

Why a metaphor of breaking a pot? I like that it is an unfired pot. It suggests that all of Mara’s armies - our defilements - are half-baked. :slight_smile:

I also like the simile of the crow and the stone - I find it psychologically right on - the defilement just gives up when I finally realize that the object is not what I thought.

Also, up above, what is Muñja grass and what is the significance for battle?

Also, it seems as though in this poem the Buddha is saying that the ascetic practices were beneficial in attaining awakening - in contrast with MN36, for instance. So what’s up here?


Munja grass was the material of choice for baskets and roofs back in time.

Another important grass type was the kusha/kusa, aka dharba. It was the material of choice for meditation seats back in the time of Buddha. It’s important to notice that Buddha and his disciples appreciated a least comfortable seat for their meditation.


But I wonder what the significance was for going into battle. If it was kusha grass then maybe it would be referring to meditation - though that seems to be a modern joke (doing battle on the cushion).

This line seems to be a critical juncture - where the speaker/Buddha suddenly becomes very determined.

Esa muñjaṃ parihare,
Dhiratthu mama jīvitaṃ;
Saṅgāme me mataṃ seyyo,
Yañce jīve parājito.

As though I’m weaving muñja-grass,
proclaiming no retreat: shame upon life
defeated here—better to die in battle now
than choose to live on in defeat.

“Proclaiming no retreat” is definitely not in the Pali, so I’m guessing that is inserted by the translator to help explain it. K.R. Norman has (quoting Horner?) "I wear muñja grass [ i.e. I challenge you, I come for battle]

Oh! I just needed to search for it and it’s right in the definition. How helpful this new-fangled internet site is!

“Warriors wore belts made from muñja grass to indicate that they were prepared to fight to the death.”