On the Āmagandha Sutta, or the Discourse on Carrion: a few small and quite probably wrong observations

Sutta Nipata 2.2 is a dialogue on whether eating meat is a like consuming carrion. As a vegetarian since my teen years, I’m kind of disappointed that it doesn’t make a case for vegetarianism. But oh well, my job is to translate the text, not impose my views on it.

The key term is āmagandha, which would appear to mean “raw stench”. The context makes it clear that it is something that is eaten, and Ven Bodhi’s “carrion” works well.

The verses are addressed to a certain “Kassapa” and it would make sense if it were the well-known disciple of that name, or one of the many other Kassapas. However the concluding verses depict the text as spoken by a Buddha, and the commentary confirms that Buddha Kassapa is meant. More likely the concluding verses were added to give more weight to the words of one of the Kassapas.

The concluding verses are a bit strange in form, and hard to parse.

It also uses the word durannaya (“hard to trace”) of the Buddha, although the same word is used in a negative sense of the impure above. I’m really not sure what is going on here.

Verse 4 has the unique phrase ajjhenakujja (ajjhenakutta found in Mahasangiti edition on SuttaCentral seems to be a mistake.) Both Norman and Bodhi follow the commentaries in rendering this as “useless studies”. It seems out of place, though, in a verse that starts with murder and brigandage. It directly follows nikativañcanāni “cheating and fraud”.

Ajjhena means, rather than studies as we think of it, the reciting of scripture. Often enough, even in modern Buddhist lands, the lines between textual recitation and casting spells is thin indeed. The meaning of kujja is literally “crooked” rather than “useless”.

I think what is meant here is “casting crooked spells”, i.e. black magic. Compare with the European arts of black magic, where you deliberately “bend” a scripture to make it dark: reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards, for example.


You have changed your rendering of āmagandha in a few other suttas to “carrion”, thereby removing the notion of “stench” that had been there before. gandha being “smell”, I can’t quite see why you do this. Could you explain please?

You’ve also replaced “stench of decay” by “carrion” in one segment of DN 19, but it still occurs in a few more segments.

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I’ll make it consistent throughout.

It seems clear from the usage that it is something that can be eaten, so it can’t be “stench”, more like “stinky-flesh”. But the exact sense may vary per context, so I’ll adapt it a bit.


Well, I’m convinced! :pray:


But did I put a spell on you? How would you ever know???


I’ve removed a sentence saying that the Buddha was referred to as an “expert in the hymns”. I misread the syntax. It’s an unusual line, as it has a sentence break in the middle of the line of verse. Thanks @Modernupasaka for pointing this out.

Akkhāsi naṁ vedayi mantapāragū
He explained it to him. The master of hymns understood it.


Glad I could be of some help Bhante :innocent: :pray: