One who delights in concord... but not concentration?

The Brahmins of Sāla (MN41) has consistently remained amongst my very favourite of the suttas although I’ve never been entirely sure why - it just makes me involuntarily glad.

Anyhow, this evening I came to read AN10.176, which is at core the same sutta, and spotted one detail I’d never really noticed before:

He speaks harshly; he utters such words as are rough, hard, hurtful to others, offensive to others, bordering on anger, unconducive to concentration. (MN41, Ven. Bodhi)


He engages in abusive speech. He speaks words that are harsh, cutting, bitter to others, abusive of others, provoking anger and destroying concentration. (AN10.176, Ven. Thanissaro)

In this sutta, 10 unwholesome actions are described, but in all the other descriptions only what constitutes purity-defiling behaviour is outlined, no result is given (within these descriptive sections, naturally the Buddha later goes on to say hell, or an animal womb and so on is on the horizon for one engaged in improper conduct).

Then further, when the 10 mirroring wholesome actions are given, nothing is mentioned of concentration:

Abandoning harsh speech, he abstains from harsh speech; he speaks such words as are gentle, pleasing to the ear, and loveable, as go to the heart, are courteous, desired by many, and agreeable to many. (MN41, Ven. Bodhi)


He speaks words that are soothing to the ear, that are affectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing & pleasing to people at large. (AN10.176, Ven. Thanissaro)

On casual examination, there thus seems to be two deviations from the given formula of these suttas (an anomalous inclusion of a consequence of poor behaviour and an inexact mirroring of wholesome / unwholesome properties) just to drive home how disruptive harsh speech is to the peacefulness of one’s mind.

Please feel free to correct, reflect or explain. :slight_smile:


Interesting point, and well observed. On the one hand, there’s no problem in theory with saying that rough speech disturbs the mind, while on the other hand, it doesn’t seem to exactly fit the parallel passages.

I have checked some parallels, and at SA 1039, a parallel for AN 10.176, we find that samādhi is, indeed, mentioned in the same context:


So it seems unlikely to be a corruption.


Yes, I’ve always found this interesting. I don’t think it should be interpreted to mean that this is the worst kind of unwholesome behaviour, and certainly not that it is the only form of unwholesome conduct that leads away from samādhi. It is obvious from the suttas that all defiled behaviour has a detrimental effect on meditation. I suspect what is meant here is that the immediate effect of harshness is very strong. A mind that is angry and in turmoil is particularly difficult to settle down and it can take a long time. But even if the mind is simply hard and uncaring, this is not compatible with deep meditation.


Loathe as I am to admit it, it would make sense here for samādhi to just have the simple sense of “stillness” or “peaceful mind”.


Hah! Finally he admits defeat. Sweet victory at last. :smiling_imp:

But I am not sure if it merely refers to lesser forms of stillness. If it did, samatha would seem to be a more appropriate word. It might be better to think of it as “leading away from samādhi.” In this sense it just means you are going in the opposite direction, not necessarily that you are blocking samādhi as such.


Enjoy the sweet taste of victory, venerable sir. :triumph: :cake:

While it lasts …


Are you saying it won’t last? How disappointing, this reality.


Many thanks Bhante & Ajahn.

Good point!

Yes, I, likewise, would find it basically impossible to draw to that conclusion. So, for me then, it’s just really a question of: is this just a funny peculiarity of no particular significance, or is there a more deliberate purpose for the point being stressed with regards to rough talk.

While the general point is of course very true, this explanation still leaves me feeling a little bit unresolved as the statements about harsh speech sit in a text that covers being a murderer (about which nothing is said beyond description of violent action). I’m not willing to run the experiment, but I definitely have a hypothesise about whether the peacefulness of my mind would be more disturbed by my killing someone, or speaking unkindly to them.

In turn, the best ideas that I’ve thus far been able to come up with is that perhaps 1) if a person is quite into being killy, chances are they’re not all that fussed about sitting down to meditate anyway, or 2) the real impact of harsh speech is all too easy to overlook or underestimate - one can’t really be especially casual about doing a bit of eg. stabbing, but harsh speech is just so ordinary and common that it might be fairly easy to dismiss or fail to recognise its significance 3) it is just a funny peculiarity of the text.

:laughing: :zipper_mouth: :muffled_sniggering: ooooh cake!

More seriously though, again thanks Ajahn for the clarification about samatha / samādhi because I immediately wondered about that implication.


I wonder if it was a personal instruction that found its way into other suttas by way of redaction.

1 Like

searching for “asamādhisaṃvatt”,
in the suttas it occurs in 5 places, all exactly the same sentence as the 2 you quoted. In Patis., there might be some explanation. Maybe someone can help with the translation of the sentence near the bolded keyword.

KN Paṭis, 1. mahāvaggo, 1. ñāṇakathā, 2. sīlamayañāṇaniddeso, para. 4 ⇒

katamaṃ taṃ sīlaṃ lābhapariyantaṃ? idhekacco lābhahetu lābhapaccayā lābhakāraṇā yathāsamādinnaṃ sikkhāpadaṃ vītikkamati — idaṃ taṃ sīlaṃ lābhapariyantaṃ. katamaṃ taṃ sīlaṃ yasapariyantaṃ? idhekacco yasahetu yasapaccayā yasakāraṇā yathāsamādinnaṃ sikkhāpadaṃ vītikkamati — idaṃ taṃ sīlaṃ yasapariyantaṃ. katamaṃ taṃ sīlaṃ ñātipariyantaṃ? idhekacco ñātihetu ñātipaccayā ñātikāraṇā yathāsamādinnaṃ sikkhāpadaṃ vītikkamati — idaṃ taṃ sīlaṃ ñātipariyantaṃ. katamaṃ taṃ sīlaṃ aṅgapariyantaṃ? idhekacco aṅgahetu aṅgapaccayā aṅgakāraṇā yathāsamādinnaṃ sikkhāpadaṃ vītikkamati — idaṃ taṃ sīlaṃ aṅgapariyantaṃ. katamaṃ taṃ sīlaṃ jīvitapariyantaṃ? idhekacco jīvitahetu jīvitapaccayā jīvitakāraṇā yathāsamādinnaṃ sikkhāpadaṃ vītikkamati — idaṃ taṃ sīlaṃ jīvitapariyantaṃ. evarūpāni sīlāni khaṇḍāni chiddāni sabalāni kammāsāni na bhujissāni na viññuppasatthāni parāmaṭṭhāni asamādhisaṃvattanikāni na avippaṭisāravatthukāni na pāmojjavatthukāni na pītivatthukāni na passaddhivatthukāni na sukhavatthukāni na samādhivatthukāni na yathābhūtañāṇadassanavatthukāni na ekantanibbidāya na virāgāya na nirodhāya na upasamāya na abhiññāya na sambodhāya na nibbānāya saṃvattanti — idaṃ taṃ sīlaṃ pariyantaṃ.

1 Like

That is really puzzling why it appears just with pharusa vaca and not the other types of wrong speech and wrong actions.

“pharusavāco hoti. yā sā vācā aṇḍakā kakkasā parakaṭukā parābhisajjanī kodhasāmantā asamādhisaṃvattanikā, tathārūpiṃ vācaṃ bhāsitā hoti.

Could it possibly mean the speaker who is using pharusa (abusive) speech destroys not his own concentration, but the person(s) he is abusing?


Really interesting! Hadn’t thought of that at all. It would certainly fit the seeming pattern of the rest of the sutta and eliminate what I’ve suggested looks to be an anomaly.

1 Like

I have met some people who during their upbringing were exposed to a kind of “harsh speech” that would be applied repeatedly and frequently, shaping the whole environment for them, identifying them with qualities generally regarded as very evil in their close social context (family), and at the same time invalidating their own perceptions and feelings. Like a kind of ever present poison creeping into their mind. And this would determine their way of seeing themselves and the world around them for the rest of their lives. Of course, this kind of verbal treatment usually would also go along with other kinds of destructive treatment they were exposed to. But just to say that being exposed to “harsh speech” does have a great impact!


Harsh abusive speech can destroy the mental health of some individuals. Children in particular are extremely sensitive to harsh speech. One should always speak gently and kindly to a child.


I used to be a computer gamer and among other genres I played first person shooter games including highly realistic things like Hitman etc. I can tell you that in my case having an argument in the real world tends to spoil my mood much more than killing all those people in the virtual world! Even worse is the kind of disturbance I tend to get whenever I stick to a point of view! :disappointed_relieved:

1 Like