Equality or control in a relationship?- samānā sāmikaṃ abhibhuyya vatteyyanti

Dear Venerables and Dhamma friends,
Reading the Womens’ Samyutta SN37 I came across this phrases:

…samānā sāmikaṃ abhibhuyya vatteyyanti - may I master my husband SN37.32

…sāmikaṃ pasayha agāraṃ ajjhāvasatī- has her husband under her thumb/control SN37.26

Elsewhere this is reversed for men. So I’m not trying to start a conversation about gender here. From my reading the Buddha is pretty equal in this Samyutta.

It’s actually the word samāna in SN37.32 I’m trying to understand in this context. Can you please give your thoughts within this context.

On reading the Pāli, I thought it was a nice nod to a husband a wife living with equal power/control/‘thumbage’ with the word sāmana being equal/same/similar. Yet both Bhikkhu Bodhi and Bhante @Sujato haven’t translated it this way so I’m thinking this is my poor reading of the Pāli.

Random aside: Do people outside of Australia say ‘under her/his thumb?’

Thank and mettā


It seems a common saying in west coast usa. Though “has him/her wrapped around his/her little finger” seems about as common. Nuance is a bit different. :slight_smile:


Have a look at the whole phrase:

Patirūpe kule jāyitvā, patirūpaṃ kulaṃ gantvā, asapatti agāraṃ ajjhāvasantī puttavatī samānā sāmikaṃ abhibhuyya vatteyyanti*

Note that there’s a series of terms, each of which has the verb at the end (bolded).

So samānā applies, not as an adjective in the sense of “even”, but as a verb (present passive participle in plural) for puttavatī (“with children”).

Hence my rendering “having had children”.


Thanks Bhante,
I’d picked out all the other verbs :frowning:
I was taking puttavatī to be a compound with a verb. My little offline lookup tool was telling me strange things for vata
Still learning :slight_smile:


Oh, okay. here it is a possessive suffix: “having” or “endowed with”.


Same with the A.P. de Zoysa Sinhalese translation, even though samānā does mean equal in Sinhalese -probably a pali loan word!

I think these suttas a depiction of how the Buddha would just comment on the dynamics of society and relationships at the time, quite uninvolved in many ways. He’s not judging what he’s describing, or condoning certain types of behaviour (they certainly aren’t commandments, or saying what acceptable-unacceptable). But he has the skill of drawing out what is wholesome or at least what is helpful, to avoid suffering in those settings. For instance he say Sila (morality) is a strength to women, and this can help stop domination by men (depending on the factors favouring each party, one party may come to dominate the other, which is common on most relationships). He also says in the Parabhava sutta that if a man or a woman who is immoral ‘heads the household’ this will lead to decline.

I think the Dhamma is beyond ‘petty’ gender, though degeneration of the Dhamma may have led it to that too. Oppressive parenting can lead to submission. Permissive parenting with little or no boundaries, can leads to oppressive personalities. It’s hard to get the balance right. Even few have a degree of reflectiveness to know what effect their parenting skills are having on their children, and a lot might be due to kamma. Then the partner maybe submissive, forcing the woman to ‘look after another child’ or vice versa. The roles might also change, when with prolonged practice internal ‘blocks’ are lifted and personalities shine through.

There’s a lot to be said for ‘doing the right thing, as best as you know how’, as it is nearly impossible to determine outcomes, but if you do that it will head in the right direction hopefully, on the long run. Staying with the not-knowing is important and in any case, not a matter of choice.

with metta