Mahāgovinda sutta (DN 19)

I‘m translating Mahāgovinda sutta (DN 19) and came across the part where Mahāgovinda wants to go into seclusion for four months. He had a place for him to be built:

“Atha kho, bho, mahāgovindo brāhmaṇo puratthimena nagarassa navaṃ sandhāgāraṃ kārāpetvā vassike cattāro māse paṭisallīyi…”

There is here a word sandhāgāra, whose meaning seems not quite clear. Agāra is obviously house, hut, living place, but what is sandha? It is translated differently, as “town hall”, “rest-house” or “lodging”. Venerable @Sujato translated it as “meeting hall”, but for someone who wants to be in seclusion, meeting hall wouldn’t be the best possible place, isn’t it?

I’m interested in your opinion on the meaning of this Pali word. Thanks in advance for any comment.

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Buddha Jayanti tipitaka sinhalese version has the word, Santhāgāra not sandhāgāra (BJT Diganikaya I, pg 362.) The meaning of the word Santhāgāra; [Sk. sansthāgāra] a council hall, a mote hall (PTS dictionary).

Addasā kho āyasmā ānando sambahule licchavikumārake santhāgāre upāsanaṃ karonte, dūratova sukhumena tāḷacchiggaḷena asanaṃ atipātente, poṅkhānupoṅkhaṃ avirādhitaṃ

He saw several Licchavi youths practicing archery. They were shooting arrows from a distance through a small keyhole, shot after shot without missing (Ven. Sujato).
(Ven. Sujato missed the word. ) Vāla Sutta SN 56.45
santhāgāre - In the training hall (Ven. Bhikku Bodhi)

santhāgāra in the sutta seems to be a school.

tathā hime abhiññātā abhiññātā licchavī santhāgāre sannisinnā sannipatitā anekapariyāyena buddhassa vaṇṇaṃ bhāsanti, dhammassa vaṇṇaṃ bhāsanti, saṅghassa vaṇṇaṃ bhāsanti. (Besajjakkhanda)
Sīhasutta also shows us the same; a meeting hall.

Tena kho pana samayena cātumeyyakā sakyā santhāgāre sannipatitā honti kenacideva karaṇīyena. MN 67

Here the word used in a meaning of a meeting hall and this seems to be a place where educated people met and discussed their views and shared their knowladge.
Translating the word to meeting hall is correct. However, being secluded in a meeting hall is not possible.

Therefore, the word here used with a meaning of some kind of a temple as in Kandaraka Sutta.

He has a new temple built to the east of the city. He shaves off his hair and beard, dresses in a rough antelope hide, and smears his body with ghee and oil. Scratching his back with antlers, he enters the temple with his chief queen and the brahmin high priest.
So puratthimena nagarassa navaṃ santhāgāraṃ kārāpetvā kesamassuṃ ohāretvā kharājinaṃ nivāsetvā sappitelena kāyaṃ abbhañjitvā magavisāṇena piṭṭhiṃ kaṇḍuvamāno navaṃ santhāgāraṃ pavisati saddhiṃ mahesiyā brāhmaṇena ca purohitena (MN 51).
MN 94: Ghoṭamukha Sutta also shares the same passage.

The temple here is a place built to carry out offerings and sacrifices such as assamedha, purisamedha.

Assamedhaṃ purisamedhaṃ, sammāpāsaṃ vājapeyyaṃ niraggaḷaṃ;
Mahāyaññā mahārambhā , na te honti mahapphalā.

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Dear Venerable, many thanks for you elaborate answer. I’m using Digital Pali Reader and in this case it doesn’t indicate discrepancy between Burmese and Sri Lankan version of the Pali Canon. I need to have that in mind for some future cases and check elsewhere.

I’m glad we agreed that “meeting hall” seems not adequate in this context. But to me “temple” also can’t apply, for the same reason of not being secluded place.

On further exploration, I think the commentary here is helpful:

“Navaṃ sandhāgāraṃ kāretvāti rattiṭṭhānadivāṭṭhānacaṅkamanasampannaṃ vassike cattāro māse vasanakkhamaṃ bahi naḷaparikkhittaṃ vicittaṃ āvasathaṃ kāretvā.”

And the key word would be “naḷa + parikkhittaṃ”, which could be translated “encircled by the reed”. This fits well with another word from the PED I found: saṇṭha = a reed (used for bow – strings) M i.429.

Therefore, I conclude it is about a hut made of reed, as a permanent stay and with the path for walking meditation, as indicated in the commentary.

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Going with the commentary is much better in this case. I wanted to check that, but had no time.
Thanks for pointing out the commentary.

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I’m not sure that’s what the commentary means. If I understand it correctly, it’s not that the residence is made of reeds, but that the whole site (i.e., the daytime and nighttime resting places and the walking meditation path) are encircled by reeds.


I’m not sure either. Just speculating about all the possibilities.

santhāgāranti jhānamanasikārena bahi visaṭavitakkavūpasamanena cittassa santhambhanaṃ agāraṃ, jhānasālanti attho

cittassa santhambhanaṃ agāraṃ
Hanging the mind on to the object (jhānārammana)
Agāra is obviously house, hut, living place.

jhānasālanti attho
Means a meditation hut(?)

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