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Pali Canon - Dhaniya Sutta

by Sangharakshita

Dhaniya seminar - 1980 convention, Padmaloka

Tape one, side one
S: All right! We're going to be spending the next three mornings on the Dhaniya Sutta, and, as
you no doubt can see, this 'Dhaniya' Sutta comes from the Sutta Nipata, which is a quite early
collection of discourses and teachings, mainly in verse. So, as usual, we are going to go
through the text verse by verse, and discuss each verse quite exhaustively, and even allow
ourselves to digress a little into areas which are connected with, or, as it were, grow out of,
what we are studying in the verse itself. So maybe Suvajri can start reading the first verse.
Suvajri: (clears throat) How do you pronounce his name?
S: Dhaniya. Dhaniya.
Suvajri: 'I've boiled my broth, I've drawn the milk',
Thus spake the herdsman Dhaniya,
'I dwell with mates beside Mahi,
Roofed is my hut, the fire burns bright
So if thou wish, rain, deva, rain!'
Shall I stop there?
S: Mm. So Dhaniya is speaking. Dhaniya is described as a herdsman. (pause) He's described
as 'gopa' in the text, which means 'one who possesses' or 'one who owns cows'. And it is quite
important to understand this, because in the Buddha's day, and for quite a few centuries
earlier, wealth was reckoned in terms or the number of cows that you owned. And this is all a
semi-pastoral economy, you could say. For instance, if you read the Upanishads, the Hindu
scriptures which pre-date the Buddha - many of them pre-date - in some of these Upanishads
you find the Brahmins demanding as a reward, a thousand cows for answering a certain
question or performing a certain sacrifice - so they wouldn't say 'a thousand guineas; or 'a
thousand dollars', they would say 'a thousand cows', because wealth was reckoned in terms or
cows. So a wealthy [2]
person was one who possessed lots of cows; so if you had lots of cows you were wealthy. So
Dhaniya represents this sort of person. He's quite well off, and living with his companions
beside the river Mahi; the day's work is done; the rice has been boiled. [For the sake of the
rhyme, as you will see later on, the translation that we are using reads - 'I've boiled my broth',
but actually it is ' ' which is, 'I've boiled my rice'.] So 'I've boiled my rice, I've drawn the milk'
- that is to say, the meal for the evening is ready; the day's work is done; because what is the
main work of the cowherd? It's to milk the cows. They're usually milked twice a day, in the
morning and in the evening. So the food has been cooked; the food is ready; the day's work is
done, 'thus spake the herdsman, Dhaniya; 'I dwell with my mates - with my companions -
beside the river Mahi. Roofed is my hut - there's a good, strong, a secure, tight roof, the fire is
burning brightly, even if it rains, I don't care! - 'So if thou wish, rain, deva, rain!' The deva is
the rain, because in the Indian idiom, just as we say, 'It rains', in Pali they say, 'The deva
rains', 'the god rains'. It's not to be taken too literally. So what is the sort of picture here? The
picture that is drawn, is one of, so to speak, worldly complacency. He's all right! Everything
is going well for him. He's got food; he's got wealth in fact; he's got his companions; he's
living securely, snugly, on the banks of the river Mahi; his roof is well thatched; his fire is
burning bright; he doesn't care if it rains! What does that suggest? He's not caring if it rains?
What does it suggest about him? What does he think? What does he think his position is?
Udaya: He feels secure.
S: He feels secure. His position, he thinks, is one of complete security. He's got nothing to
worry about. You could say he's the sort of Indian 'Everyman'. He thinks he's got [3]
everything. He's got nothing to worry about. He can keep out the rain, so to speak. He is
secure from disturbances. He secures himself from everything unpleasant and difficult - 'the
rain' can't come in it's much more than the rain, it's any outside interference; he's quite secure;
he's quite safe, against all those things, and obviously, this is the state of mind of the average,
ordinary, successful person. He's in a sort of shell, as it were, and he thinks that within that
shell he's quite safe, quite secure. So, in this opening verse you get this sort of vivid picture of
this sort of person. In a way, there is nothing wrong with it; he's not a bad man; he's certainly
not an evil man; you could probably say he is a good man, but he is limited, he doesn't see
very far. He doesn't know what his situation really is. So this is Dhaniya, and it's interesting
also, perhaps, that the picture is drawn by Dhaniya in his own words, which makes it more
vivid. As we go through this little sutta, which is, of course, in poetic form, we'll see it is
more and more like a ballad, say, like one of the old Scottish ballads, where you get different
people speaking, first one and then the other. So he says 'I've boiled my broth, I've drawn the
milk' / Thus spake the herdsman Dhaniya, / I dwell with mates beside Mahi, / Roofed is my
hut, the fire burns bright:/ So if thou wish, rain, deva, rain)' - 'What have I got to worry about;
I'm all right; I'm quite safe and secure and snug; I've got it all worked out! 'So, to Dhaniya,
comes the Buddha! Here is this unsuspecting Dhaniya, this complacent, rather nice person,
living in this sort of way, unsuspectingly thinking he's got it all sorted out, but along comes
the Buddha! The Buddha is sort of wandering from place to place, and presumably he [4]
overhears this rather boastful utterance of Dhaniya. Maybe he's standing outside the door, just
waiting to knock or to enter. He can't be begging for food, not according to the orthodox
Theravada idea, because, presumably, it's the evening time - though it could be; the morning
time, I suppose, but it seems more likely that it's the evening time - one can boil rice and milk
cows in the morning, but the feeling of the whole thing seems to be more that it's the evening
- so, perhaps the Buddha has been walking all day, and perhaps, towards the end of the day
it's just getting dark, he sees the homestead on the banks of the river Mahi, so he decides to
seek shelter there for the night, so just as he is standing outside the door, he hears Dhaniya
speaking in this sort of way. Then what does the Buddha say? Let's hear his verse.
Purna: The Master
'I've foiled my wrath, I've fertile mind',
Thus spake the master in reply,
'I dwell one night beside Mahi,
Open my hut, cooled down my fire:
So if thou wish, rain, deva, rain!'
S: The first thing to notice is the sort of parallelism. The translator has very cleverly
reproduced the words in the original, Dhaniya says, 'I've boiled my, broth', the Master says
'I've foiled my wrath' (laughter). You see? In Pali it's (looking up Pali text) 'for 'I've boiled my
rice', and (Pause) - for the Buddha's utterance it's, 'my mood is blessed', which means, I've
stilled', or if you like, 'foiled my anger, my resentment.' So, 'I've fertile mind'. (Pause) The
Buddha says - 'Thus spake the Master in reply,/ 'I dwell one night beside Mahi,/ Open my hut,
cooled down my fire:/ [5] So if thou wish, rain, deva, rain!' - so a completely different
attitude! It's as though the Buddha almost opposes what Dhaniya says, or what Dhaniya
thinks, not agrees with it. So Dhaniya's emphasis is, as it were, material; material well-being,
material security - 'I've boiled my broth, I've drawn the milk.' The Buddha says, 'I've foiled my
wrath, I've fertile mind'. It's as though the Buddha is not running down Dhaniya's broth, well,
in the morning probably he'll get a share of it, (chuckles) by way of alms; he's got nothing
against Dhaniya milking his cows, but there's something further than that, there is a stage
further which is the psychological and spiritual beyond the material, beyond the economic.
Not that the material and economic is decried, they have their place, they're the basis of
existence but everyone, so to speak, must go further than that, there is such a thing as
cultivation of the; mind. So the Buddha is indicating that. 'I've. Foiled my wrath' Why do you
think the Buddha especially mentions wrath here? Do you think there is any reason for that?
(Pause) He's speaking to Dhaniya. Now why should he not say, 'I've foiled my greed'? (Let's
take it that the compiler is not just looking for a rhyme.) Or why not, 'I've overcome my fear' -
why 'wrath'?
Megha: Is it because Dhaniya is saying 'Roofed is my hut', so he is keeping out the weather,
which could be the wrathful weather?
S: Yes, but why that?
Anjali: Is it that he is so secure (Pause) potentially wrathful to other people who are going to
want to ...
S: Ah! Yes. The potentiality for wrath is there. You often find this. People seem very friendly,
very kindly, very obliging, but that is very often because things are going all right (6) all the
material desires and physical needs are satisfied. They are not really in a positive mental state,
they are in a state of gratification, and if you take away those gratifications from them there
can be a great change of mood. So this is why the Buddha says, 'I've foiled my wrath.' The
Buddha is saying, 'You may seem to be a very agreeable, pleasant sort of person. You may
not be very angry; you may be very affable but that is not a freedom from anger. You haven't
really overcome wrath, you are merely in the state of being satisfied. Things are going your
way, ...

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