Apr 26

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The Kūṭadanta Sutta, Dīgha Nikāya – Prof. T.W. Rhys Davids

On True Sacrifice – A Discourse from the Dīgha Nikāya

Whoever put this Sutta together must have been deeply imbued with a spirit of subtle irony that plays no less a part in the Suttas than it does in so many of the Jātakas. I have already called attention to the great importance of the right understanding of early Buddhist teaching, of a constant appreciation of this sort of subtle humour. Hitherto, it has been (so far as I am aware) entirely overlooked in the Suttas. Every one recognizes it in the Jātaka tales, though. The humour is not at all intended to raise a laugh, scarcely even a smile.

The aroma of it pervades the whole of the exposition. It is none the less delightful because of the very serious earnestness of the narrator. The ethical point at issue, however, is apt to be lost sight of precisely because of that earnestness. And just as a joke may be explained but the point of it spoil in the process, so in the attempt to write about this irony (much more delicate than any joke), one runs great danger of smothering it under the explanatory words. The attempt, nevertheless, must be made.


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