Aṇguttara Nikāya

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Aṇguttara Nikāya
Āghāta Vagga

The Book of Fives

Sutta 169

Khippa-Nisanti Suttaṃ


Translated from the Pāḷi
Michael M. Olds



[1][pts] I Hear Tell:

This occurred in Sāvatthī

There then, Old Man Ānanda approached Old Man Sāriputta and drew near.

Having drawn near, he gave greetings and well-wishes.

Having exchanged greetings and well-wishes, he took a seat to one side.

Seated to one side, then, Old Man Ānanda said this to Old Man Sāriputta:

2. "Now then, friend Sāriputta,
how does a beggar become quick-witted
and expert at things,
well-grasp the grasped,
grasp much,
and not lose memory of the grasped?"

"Friend Ānanda has heard much,
then let this matter be made clear by him."

"In that case, friend Sāriputta give ear,
study well in mind,
I will speak!"

"Even so, friend' said Old Man Sāriputta to Old Man Ānanda in response."

And Old Man Ānanda said this:

3. "Here, friend Sāriputta, a beggar is expert[1] at intents[2],
expert at Dhamma,[3]
expert at root meanings[4]
expert in the letter[5]
expert in what comes before and what comes after[6].

This, friend Sāriputta, is how a beggar,
becomes quick-witted
and expert at things,
well-grasps the grasped,
grasps much,
and does not lose memory of the grasped."

"How snappy friend!

How extraordinary friend!

How well set up is this here by Old Man Ānanda.

And we hold that these five things are possessed by Old Man Ānanda:

Old Man Ānanda is expert at intents,
expert at Dhamma,
expert at root meanings
expert in the letter
expert in what comes before
and what comes after.


[1] Kusala. Usually translated 'skill'.

[2] Attha. Here usually found in the expression 'the spirit and the letter,' being opposed to Vyañjana, below. However translated, the idea is understanding the meaning intended by the speaker, as opposed to the other possible meanings found in an expression. For this it is necessary also to have a firm grasp of the other items in this list.

[3] Dhamma. Hare translates here as 'things'; Bhk. Bodhi as 'Dhamma'. I think 'Dhamma' is required here. Things understood through the lens of the Dhamma are quickly understood and well organized.

[4] Nirutti. This is usually the super-power of understanding the derivation or roots of words and expressions. Intuitive etymology.

[5] Vyañjana. The ability to put ideas into precise, concise phraseology.

[6] Pubbāpara. Literally 'before/after'. The ability to put things in their proper order. In Gotama's system that usually comes to putting things in a progressive order from the least important or encompassing to the most important or encompassing, or into the order in which a sequence of actions must be performed to be effective, or into a sequence which forms a coherent or significant picture.



Of Related Interest:

AN 8.52


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