These words begin the final chapter of the Sutta Nipata, and the final chapter of my translation project. Yesterday I finished! I’ve now translated all of the early Suttas from Pali.
I knew that this chapter would be an emotional moment for me, as I have loved this passage for a long time. But I never really understood it till now.
The setting is that a group of sixteen very devoted brahmins have come on a long journey to see the Buddha. They were sent by their teacher Bāvari, who could not go himself due to his old age. At the end, Pingiya, himself an elderly sage, is discussing with his teacher Bāvari about their experiences.
Pingiya is so moved, he declares that he will “keep on reciting” these teachings. Yet none of the translations I have consulted quite capture the force of his statement.
As a brahmin elder, Pingiya’s life has been devoted to his teaching, and to the ongoing recitation of his sacred scriptures. When speaking of this, the Pali texts use the word anugāyati. Here, the prefix anu- carries the force of “continuing, ongoing”. The idea is that the brahmins of the present maintain the recitation made by the legendary sages of old. It’s the inverse of the term anussuta from the Dhammacakkappavattana, which means the “hearing from another” of what has been maintained in recitation.
Thus Pingiya is not merely speaking in praise of these verses, he is saying that he will establish a recitation lineage to preserve them. The passage, perhaps uniquely, shows how a trained brahmin scholar considered the Buddha as a unique voice to be preserved as were the sages of old.
More than that, he dismisses his previous learning as the mere “testament of hearsay” (itihītihaṁ). The Buddha is not just added to the pantheon of sages, he supplants them.
I think it’s easy to take our heritage for granted, to think of scripture as a means of preserving ideas. But this chapter reveals with rare vulnerability the emotional depths that motivate this. Pingiya was not just “preserving scripture”, he was keeping alive the “way to the beyond”.
Bāvari asks him how he could bear to be separated from the teacher he loves. Pingiya says that he stays close to the Buddha always in his mind. And through this, they point the path to the need and the means for Buddhist devotion in ages to come.
We cannot stay with the Buddha, and we cannot ask him our pressing questions. Yet because of Pingiya, and countless others like him, the “Way to the Beyond” has been passed down, and we can still hear its song.
And that is why all of this matters. I am so honored to have been able to serve the Dhamma, and so grateful to the Buddhist community who have supported me always. It has been a long, beautiful, road.
Thank you everyone, and may you too find the way to the beyond.