Laughable Suttas - Bring some joy!

Just wanted to share a hilarious translation that I just saw by Bhante Sujato SN10.3

Now at that time the native spirits Shaggy and Spiky were passing by not far from the Buddha.

So Shaggy said to Spiky,

“That’s an ascetic.”

“That’s no ascetic, he’s a faker!

I’ll soon find out whether he’s an ascetic or a faker.”

Sorry if this topic is not useful. But it is for me. I’m still laughing. LOL! :rofl:


Using the Pali lookup, Bhante’s translations seem quite reasonable. Checking on other translations to languages I’m familiar with I see that they’ve all stayed close to the Pali, as in Spanish " el yakkha Khara y el yakkha Suciloma", with yakkha = demon, khara = rough, harsh, hard etc and suciloma = having hair like needles.

I wonder if it would have sounded funny in Pali 2000 years ago; it’s possible that demons with rough hard hair or hair like needles would have been more frightening than funny, but I assume that yakkhas were a pretty benign type of demon. … & I am enjoying the humour (thank you). As well as the beneficial teaching the Buddha gives the demons:

“Greed and hate come from here;
from here spring discontent, desire, and terror;
here’s where the mind’s thoughts originate,
like a crow let loose by boys.


Another terrible outcome of translating Names.
Like Kumārakassapa to Kassapa the Prince
This is worst than that.
Why would Names of people, villages and cities should be translated?
I don’t get the point.
Translation of my name would be something like,
Preacher of Ambrosia. Sounds nice though.


:smile: I could see this as a basis for a Buddhist comic strip… the misadventures of Shaggy and Spiky… :joy::upside_down_face::laughing:


I got another funny one. Now the Buddha himself being funny SN10.12:

At one time the Buddha was staying near Āḷavī in the haunt of the native spirit Āḷavaka.

Then the native spirit Āḷavaka went up to the Buddha, and said to him: “Get out, ascetic!”

Saying, “All right, sir,” the Buddha went out.

“Get in, ascetic!”

Saying, “All right, sir,” the Buddha went in.

And for a second time the native spirit Āḷavaka said to the Buddha, “Get out, ascetic!”

Saying, “All right, sir,” the Buddha went out.

“Get in, ascetic!”

Saying, “All right, sir,” the Buddha went in.

And for a third time the native spirit Āḷavaka said to the Buddha, “Get out, ascetic!”

Saying, “All right, sir,” the Buddha went out.

“Get in, ascetic!”

Saying, “All right, sir,” the Buddha went in.

And for a fourth time the native spirit Āḷavaka said to the Buddha,

“Get out, ascetic!”

“No, sir, I won’t get out. Do whatever you have to do.”

I know I should focus more on the fact that the Buddha is so down to earth and compassionate. But seriously these section on yakkha is terribly funny indeed :rofl:

Usually this kind of humor or silly things pops up during my meditation. Perhaps the joy from this one can suppress the hindrances and takes me into samadhi. Who knows :joy:

Is there any other suttas that are laughable? How if anyone bump into one, please post it here. I think I should change the title of this thread accordingly.


Have some saddhā on the Buddha, when you read, then you perhaps would not find it funny.
(This is not about the translation problems)

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The first time I laughed for joy when reading the suttas was reading MN1.

MN1:172-194.26: Because he has understood that relishing is the root of suffering,
MN1:172-194.27: and that rebirth comes from continued existence; whoever has come to be gets old and dies.
MN1:172-194.28: That’s why the Realized One—with the ending, fading away, cessation, giving up, and letting go of all cravings—has awakened to the supreme perfect Awakening, I say.”
MN1:172-194.30: That is what the Buddha said.
MN1:172-194.31: But the mendicants were not happy with what the Buddha said.

And after reading this, I simply could not turn away. And I could not turn away because I did not understand what was so funny. So I read and read and read.

One day I read this:

SN12.23:3.11: You should say: ‘Joy.’
SN12.23:3.12: I say that joy has a vital condition.
SN12.23:3.13: And what is it?
SN12.23:3.14: You should say: ‘Faith.’
SN12.23:3.15: I say that faith has a vital condition.
SN12.23:4.1: And what is it?
SN12.23:4.2: You should say: ‘Suffering.’

And that explained my joy.



Why not translate names? At the time then these words did mean something to people. And if a name has a translatable meaning this makes it easier for us today to relate to the events and people in the suttas in a similar way than people did back then. It makes the whole thing more vivid and brings it closer to us.

Some of the names also describe character traits of those people and may have been a sort of nickname, so it is quite nice to see these aspects too. With just a Pali word we wouldn’t know.

Exactly so! :grinning: :heart:


I just realized the text says “The mendicants were not happy!” I wonder how their reaction was. Perplexed? Sad? With shoulder hunched? How was the Buddha’s reaction? I think he intentionally spoke about this topic because the group of mendicants think highly about themselves. Perhaps they think they were enlightened and boasting about that MN1:

They perceive extinguishment as extinguishment. But then they identify with extinguishment, they identify regarding extinguishment, they identify as extinguishment, they identify that ‘extinguishment is mine’, they take pleasure in extinguishment. Why is that? Because they haven’t completely understood it, I say.

Surely as you stated they didn’t understand suffering completely, thus perceiving extinguishment as mine, which in turn means they have no faith and joy at all during that talk. All this time, I didn’t really get the importance of MN1, but now I’m starting to see its importance :pray:t2:

Grasping the story behind a sutta is a nice thing indeed. It is as if you were there and that can make you comprehend something that you might not. Joyful story turns into knowledge! Joy is a powerful factor indeed AN5.26:

Firstly, the Teacher or a respected spiritual companion teaches Dhamma to a mendicant. That mendicant feels inspired by the meaning and the teaching in that Dhamma, no matter how the Teacher or a respected spiritual companion teaches it. Feeling inspired, joy springs up. Being joyful, rapture springs up. When the mind is full of rapture, the body becomes tranquil. When the body is tranquil, one feels bliss. And when blissful, the mind becomes immersed in samādhi. This is the first opportunity for freedom. If a mendicant stays diligent, keen, and resolute at this time, their mind is freed, their defilements are ended, and they arrive at the supreme sanctuary.


Hello Majjhima #1. :wink:

Yes that is actually the “punch line” that made me laugh out loud even harder. All the other suttas ended with happy and amazed mendicants. It rather does pull the carpet out from underneath, does it not?


I laughed and laughed at this as well :joy: turning reality on it’s head - going completely against the stream - the Buddha held nothing back - freedom means relinquishing all those things that one thought were self and that brought happiness… No, indeed , “they were not happy” :joy:


I still laugh out loud when I get to this line in MN101 :rofl:


According to the commentaries your argument is correct.
But commentators have done the same mistake.

Sub-commentaries tried to convince us about Names of bhikkus from Polonnaru era(1200 CE may be) has a behind story. There was a Bhikkhu named Moggallana, Perhaps, he was named after Moggallana maharahat thero. But they say a story similar to the Moggallana thero from EBT. I think they did the same to Buddhagosha thero, they used Moggaliputta theros story to say bout Buddhagosha thero.
I already mentioned in this forum about the commentaries on this issue. They translated names of villages and cities which made it difficult to find actual places with archeological and geographical data.


It’s certainly possible that they did. But it’s also possible that they didn’t. In Sri Lanka, many place names (and names of people) can be picked apart to give a meaning. But when I ask people if they think of that meaning when they hear the name, they always tell me, no, we always think of it just as a name.

My personal preference is that names be given in Pali with a meaning after translated set off by commas if it is significant. But thereafter the Pali would be used. In the case of Suciloma, the name clearly has significance, but for people familiar with the suttas, their name really is Suciloma. I also really doubt that to the original listeners that their would have been any humor in this particular story at all. It’s a horror story, not a humorous one.


It’s the same in Anglo-English. Place names (like Mangrove Mountain, London, Killcare) and family names Butcher, Wainwright, Clarke, Driver with endless others are the same. The people who bear them nowadays just consider them as names, but back somewhere in the past the names were adopted because of their meanings. We don’t generally have the expertise to know exactly when meaning morphed into name, so we can’t really be too purist about things. I think it’s nice to juggle the jokes around a bit.


Ahhhhhh! Is your point of view: all the mendicants that heard it were actually fully enlightened, thus ‘they were not happy’ meaning neutral towards what the Buddha said? LOL! This point of view is even more funny :rofl:


I’m happy to see you enjoying yourself :smiley:
My perspective is that the mendicants who were listening, were all enthusiastic and wanted to become enlightened… and then, when they heard and finally realised what effort it would take, were challenged, daunted and no longer so happy about what lay ahead in the practice … :astonished: :flushed:


Back to the original topic, there’s a lot of Pali Canon material that may be taken as humorous or ironic; some essays and even a small book explore this topic. On googling humor in the Pali Canon several of them come up (but if anyone’s algorithm fails to supply them simply send me a message & I’ll happily post some links).

Here’s one of my favorite passages, which IMHO cannot be read solemnly without missing the whole point. It appears in the origin story to a major rule for monastics - a phrase hilariously exaggerating the impact of a group of monks’ inconsiderate behavior. Sangh 6 (on building huts)

(Best to read it in context, but just in case you feel unsure, the sentence that I have in mind appears at 1.1.7)

Other passages that give me a smile include the Buddha embarrassing an arrogant debator who had claimed that he would thrash the Buddha & make him sweat (and other bragging phrases similar to wrestlers’ pre-fight TV promos). After soundly defeating the man, the Buddha actually opened his robe and showed off his lack of sweat, contrasting to his opponent covered in sweat, a bit of theatre that must’ve brought howls of laughter from the crowd. Anyone know the citation?

(Edited for typos)


I believe it’s MN 35:

In the same way, when pursued, pressed, and grilled by me on your own doctrine, you turn out to be void, hollow, and mistaken. But it was you who stated before the assembly of Vesālī: ‘If I was to take them on in debate, I don’t see any ascetic or brahmin—leader of an order or a community, or the teacher of a community, even one who claims to be a perfected one, a fully awakened Buddha—who would not shake and rock and tremble, sweating from the armpits. Even if I took on an insentient post in debate, it would shake and rock and tremble. How much more then a human being!’ But sweat is pouring from your forehead; it’s soaked through your robe and drips on the ground. While I now have no sweat on my body.” So the Buddha revealed his golden body to the assembly. When this was said, Saccaka sat silent, embarrassed, shoulders drooping, downcast, depressed, with nothing to say.


Over the top reaction. This scene can be made into a sitcom :joy: MN82:

Then Raṭṭhapāla’s former wives each clasped his feet and said, “What are they like, lord, the nymphs for whom you lead the spiritual life?”

“Sisters, I don’t lead the spiritual life for the sake of nymphs.”

Saying, “Our lord Raṭṭhapāla refers to us as sisters!” they fainted right away.

I remember another one with Jain ascetics, where Nigantha claims to be all knowing, so any bad luck that happens to him is considered to be an intentional act. Anyone knows which sutta is this?