Where does 'dust' come from?

I am quite fond of Ajahn Thanissaro’s translation of SN6.1: The Ayacana Sutta, particularly the passage that reads,

Lord, let the Blessed One teach the Dhamma! Let the One-Well-Gone teach the Dhamma! There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.

This passage in Pali is: “desetu, bhante, bhagavā dhammaṃ, desetu sugato dhammaṃ. santi sattā apparajakkhajātikā, assavanatā dhammassa parihāyanti. bhavissanti dhammassa aññātāro.”

My guess is that dust is translated from apparajakkha which means ‘little defilement’, but that doesn’t necessarily explain why it is translated as dust in the first place (other than that it sounds cool).

The same goes for the story of Nāḷāgiri the elephant when he “[takes] the dust of the Lord’s feet with his trunk”, the Pali being, “atha kho nāḷāgiri hatthī soṇḍāya bhagavato pādapaṃsūni gahetvā uparimuddhani ākiritvā paṭikuṭiyova.”

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According to the PTS dicitonary, it’s actually the oposite: a literal meaning of raja is ‘dust’ while the figurative meaning is ‘defilement’:

Rajo (rajas) & Raja (nt.) [raj, see rajati & rañjati. Vedic rajaḥ meaning: (a) space, as region of mist & cloud, similar to antarīksa, (b) a kind of (shiny) metal (cp. rajata); see Zimmer, Altind. Leben 55]. A Forms. Both rajo & rajaŋ occur as noun & acc. sg., e. g. rajo at D II.19; Sn 207, 334; Dhs 617; rajaŋ at Sn 275; It 83; once (in verse) rajo occurs as m, viz. Sn 662. The other cases are formed from the a – stem only, e. g. rajassa Sn 406; pl. rajāni Sn 517, 974. In compn we find both forms, viz. (1) rajas either in visarga form rajah, as (a) rajo – , (b) raja – and © rajā – (stressed), or in s – form (d) rajas – ; (2) raja – , appearing apostrophied as (e) raj – . B Meanings. (1) (lit.) dust, dirt; usually wet, staining dust D II.19 (tiṇa+); Sn 662=PvA 116 (sukhumo rajo paṭivātaŋ khitto); It 83; Dhs 617 (dhūmo+). adj. rāja˚: in sa˚ & a˚ vāta Vin II.209; Vism 31. The meaning “pollen” [Sk. raja, m.] may be seen in “raja – missakaŋ rasaŋ” at DhA I.375. <-> 2. (fig.) stain, dirt, defilement, impurity. Thus taken conventionally by the P. commentators as the 3 – fold blemish of man’s character: rāga, dosa, moha, e. g. Nd1 505; SnA 255; DhA III.485; or as kilesa – raja at SnA 479. – Sn 207 (niketā jāyate rajo), 334, 665 (rajaŋ ākirasi, metaph.), 974 (pañca rajāni loke, viz. the excitement caused by the 5 bāhirāni āyatanāni Nd1 505. Also in stanza rāgo rajo na ca pana reṇu vuccati (with dosa & moha the same) Nd1 505=Nd2 590 (slightly diff.)=J I.117=Vism 388, cp. Divy 491 with interesting variation. – adj. raja˚ in two phrases apagata˚ VvA 236 & vigata˚ Nd1 505 ≈ free from defilement. – On raja in similes see J.P.T.S. 1907, 126. Cp. vi˚. – C. Compounds. (a) rajo – : ˚jalla dust and (wet) dirt, muddy dirt D II.18; Vin III.70; J IV.322; V.241; Miln 133, 195, 258, 410; SnA 248, 291. – jallika living in dirty mud, designation of a class of ascetics M I.281; J I.390. – dhātu “dust – element” (doubtful trsln) D I.54, which DA I.163 explns as “raja – okiṇṇa – ṭṭhānāni,” i. e. dusty places. Dial. trsl. “places where dust accumulates,” Franke, Dīgha p. 57 as “Staubiges” but rightly sees a deeper, speculative meaning in the expression (Sānkhya doctrine of rajas?). – mala dust & dirt J I.24. – vajalla [this expression is difficult to explain. It may simply be a condensed phrase rajo ‘va jalla, or a redupl. cpd. rajo+avajalla, which was spelt raj – ovajalla for ava˚ because of rajo, or represents a contamination of raj – avajalla and raj – ojalla, or it is a metric diaeresis of rajo – jalla] dust and dirt Dh 141 (=kaddama – limpan’ ākārena sarīre sannicita – rajo DhA III.77). – haraṇa dirt – taking, cleaning; wet rag, floor – cloth, duster Vin II.291; A IV.376; J I.117; DhA I.245. – (b) raja – : – reṇu dirt and dust J IV.362; – vaḍḍhana indulgence in or increase of defilement Th 2, 343 (“fleshly lusts” trsl.); ThA 240 (=rāga – raj’ ādi – saŋvaḍḍhana). – © rajā – : ˚patha dusty place, dustiness, dust – hole D I.62, 250; S II.219; DA I.180 (here taken metaphorically: rāga – raj’ ādīnaŋ uṭṭhāna – ṭṭhānaŋ). – (d) rajas – : ˚sira with dusty head Sn 980; J IV.184, 362, 371. See pankadanta. – (e) raj – : – ˚agga a heap of dust, dirt J V.187 (=rajakkhandha C.); fig.=kilesa Pug 65, 68 (here perhaps nt. of a distorted rajakkha? So Kern, Toev. s. v.). – ˚upavāhana taking away the dust (or dirt) Sn 391, 392.

I don’t know the word in the elephant tale. Is it pādapaṃsūni? I only recognize the pada (foot) part.

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i believe it’s about the word rajakkha

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The dust in their eyes by avijja.

avijjā: ignorance

dukkha: unpleasant, painful, causing misery

What’s the avijja?

avijja is

The dukkha truly not distinguish.

the cause of dukkha truly not distinguish.

the extinction of dukkha truly not distinguish.

“the way that leads to destruction of dukkha” truly not distinguish.

In this article I use the Google translator.
You can also inconvenient to read.

Imagine a light that is naturally shining but covered with dust, it is the dust that covers the light from being luminous.

The dust are obstructions created by oneself via kamma (by mind/body/speech), blocking one from seeing.
AN 6.86 (Obstructions):

Endowed with these six qualities, a person is incapable of alighting on the lawfulness, the rightness of skillful mental qualities even when listening to the true Dhamma. Which six?

He is endowed with a [present] kamma obstruction, a defilement obstruction, a result-of-[past]-kamma obstruction; he lacks conviction, has no desire [to listen], and has dull discernment.

Dear Brenna

Many thanks for your topic.

I would like to share Suttas relating to “dust - rajo”.

(1) Culapanthaka Vatthu

Culapanthaka sat on looking at the sun, and while rubbing that piece of cloth muttered the words (rajoharanam rajoharanam).

As he went on rubbing that piece of cloth it became soiled. And as sequel he thought: “This piece of cloth was very clean, but because of me it has changed its original form and has become soiled.”

Thus he reflected on the thought that constituted things indeed are impermanent, he fixed his mind on the decay and destruction and intensified his spiritual insight.

(2) Erakapattanāgarājavatthu

chadvārādhippatī rājāti yo channaṃ dvārānaṃ adhippati, ekadvārepi rūpādīhi anabhibhūto, ayaṃ rājā nāma.
Rajjamāno rajjissaroti yo pana tesu ārammaṇesu rajjati, so rajjamāno rajjissaro nāma.
Arajjanti arajjamāno pana virajo nāma hoti.
Rajjanti rajjamāno bāloti vuccatīti.

  1. He who controls the six senses is a ruler.
  2. One who is overwhelmed by the mist of moral.
    defilements is not to be called a ruler; he who is free from craving is called a ruler.
  3. The ruler who is free from craving is free from moral defilements.
  4. A person who hankers after sensual pleasures is called a fool.
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