Some questions about spelling in the Mettasutta

The Mettasutta as represented on SuttaCentral has quite a few alternative readings in its Pali text (Mahāsaṅgīti; Snp 1.8 or Kp 9).

In addition to that there are still a few more differences found in other versions of the text as chanted in different monasteries.

I am wondering which of the versions represents correct Pali. Can some of the D&D folks help out? Bhante @sujato? Ajahn @brahmali? Other Pali experts?

These are some of the incidents (I don’t include those passages that are already as alternative readings in the text at Snp 1.8):

  1. Verse 1 line 2

    Yanta santaṁ (SC)
    Yanta santaṁ (other text)

  2. Verse 2 line 4

    kulesvananugiddho (SC)
    kulesuananugiddho (other text)

  3. Verse 3 lines 1 / 2:

    Na ca khuddamācare kiñci,
    Yena viññū pare upavadeyyuṁ; (SC)
    (line break after kiñci)

    Na ca khuddamācare
    kiñci yena viññū pare upavadeyyuṁ;
    (other text)
    (line break before kiñci)

  4. Verse 7 lines 2 / 3:

    Mātā yathā niyaṁputta—​
    Māyusā ekaputtamanurakkhe; (SC)

    Mātā yathā niyaṁputta—​
    Āyusā ekaputtamanurakkhe;
    (other text)

    (“M” one time at the end of a word, one time at the beginning of the next word)

  5. Verse 8 line 1

    Mettañca sabbalokasmi (SC)
    Mettañca sabbalokasmi (other text)

  6. Verse 10, lines 1 / 2

    Diṭṭhiñca anupaggamma,
    Sīlavā dassanena sampanno; (SC)
    (line break before sīlavā)

    Diṭṭhiñca anupaggamma sīlavā,
    dassanena sampanno;
    (other text)
    (line break after sīlavā)

Any help would be greatly appreciated! :grin:

Just as a note, when referring to editions, better to name it for what it is, the Mahasangiti edition. We just host it.

I suspect the Mahasangiti version is abbreviated metri causa. Yantaṁ sounds more coherent to me.

This arises because Pali doesn’t like two vowels next to each other. If read as separate words, kulesu ananugiddho reads better, but if it is a single compound, kulesvananugiddho is more technically correct. But neither is wrong.

Here the Mahasangiti is preferable, the other is not metrical.

That’s a bad mistake. The Mahasangiti version is wrong. It says the mother “Should not protect her only child with her life”! Note too the commentary here has tañca ekaputtameva āyusā anurakkhe, which decisively rules out the Mahasangiti reading. It really is a puzzling error.

Mahasangiti is correct, the other is unmetrical.

The only difference that really matters here is the odd reading of niyaṁ puttaṁ / āyusā ….


Thank you very much!

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I was feeling that it can easily happen that the “m” just shifts over to the other word, especially when someone doesn’t know the language very well. Note that in the next but one line it also starts with a word beginning with “m”, so this sounds quite parallel, like an alliteration, and may have misled the reading.

Mātā yathā niyaṁputta—​
Māyusā ekaputtamanurakkhe;
Evampi sabbabhūtesu,
Mānasaṁ bhāvaye aparimāṇaṁ.

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There is still another one:

Mettañca sabbalokasmi (Mahasangiti)
Mettañca sabbalokasmi (other text)

Probably it’s the same as with the other case here, that it is just a minor difference that doesn’t really matter.

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Indeed. The word breaks would not have been written in the original, so it would have been something like:

mātā yathā niyaṁputtamāyusā ekaputtamanurakkhe

With the spelling either m or . These kinds of issues are very frequent in the manuscripts, and Pali scholars handle them as a matter of course. Which is why it is odd to find such a serious error, especially in such a famous text.

In this case, the correct form is sabbalokasmiṁ (locative singular) and the shortened form is used metri causa.


Can we correct this in the Mahasangiti on SC? Probably we just have to keep the texts as they are, even if there are mistakes…