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Khettūpama Suttaṃ

(S.iv.314)

The Simile of the Fields

359. At one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Nāḷandā in the mango grove of Pāvārika. Then the headman Asibandhakaputta approached the Blessed One; have approached, he paid homage to the Blessed One and sat down at one side. Sitting at one side the headman Asibandhakaputta said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, does the Blessed One dwell compassionate to all living beings?”

“It is so, headman, the Tathāgata dwells compassionate to all living beings.”

“Then why, venerable sir, does the Blessed One teach one person thoroughly, but does not teach another thoroughly?” [315]

“Then, headman, I will ask you a counter-question. Please reply however you see fit. What do you think, headman, here a farmer has three fields — one is excellent, one is average, and one is inferior, rough, salty, with poor soil. What do you think, headman, if that farmer wished to sow seeds, which would he sow first; the excellent field, the average field, or the inferior field, rough, salty, with poor soil?”

“A farmer wishing to sow seed would sow seed in the excellent field first. Having sown seed there, he would then sow seed in the average field. He might or might not sow seed in the inferior field, rough, salty, with poor soil. What is the reason for that? At least it might be fodder for the cattle.”

“The excellent field, headman, is like my monks and nuns. To them I teach the Dhamma — good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, correct in meaning and phrasing, I explain the complete and perfectly pure holy life. What is the reason for that? Headman, they dwell with me as their island (dīpa), shelter (leṇā), protection (tāṇa), and refuge (saraṇā).¹

“The average field, headman, is like my male and female lay supporters. To them I teach the Dhamma — good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, correct in meaning and phrasing, I explain the complete and perfectly pure holy life. What is the reason for that? Headman, they dwell with me as their island, shelter, protection, and refuge.

“The inferior field, rough, salty, with poor soil, headman, [316] is like the recluses, priests, and wanderers of other views (aññatitthiyā). To them I teach the Dhamma — good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, correct in meaning and phrasing, I explain the complete and perfectly pure holy life. What is the reason for that? Headman, Perhaps if they understand even one word (pada) it will be for their welfare and happiness for a long time.

“It is as if, headman, a man had three water-jars — one without cracks that holds water perfectly without leaking; one without cracks that holds water, but with some leakage; and one with cracks that loses water, and leaks. What do you think, headman, if a man wished to store water, in which water storage jar would he store water first; the one without cracks that holds water perfectly, without leaking; one without cracks, that holds water, but with some leakage; or one with cracks, that loses water, and leaks?”

“Venerable sir, a man wishing to store water would first store it in the water-jar without cracks that holds water without leaking. Having stored water in that one, he would store water in the water-jar without cracks that holds water, but with some leakage. Having stored water in that water-jar he might or might not store water in the water-jar with cracks that loses water, and leaks. What is the reason for that? At least it could be used for washing goods.”

“Headman, the water-jar without cracks, that holds water perfectly without leaking is like my monks and nuns. To them I teach the Dhamma — good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, correct in meaning and phrasing, I explain the complete and perfectly pure holy life. What is the reason for that? Headman, they dwell with me as their island, shelter, protection, and refuge.

“Headman, the water-jar without cracks that holds water, but with some leakage is like my male and female lay supporters. To them I teach the Dhamma — good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, correct in meaning and phrasing, I explain the complete and perfectly pure holy life. What is the reason for that? Headman, they dwell with me as their island, shelter, protection, and refuge.

“Headman, the water-jar with cracks, that loses water and leaks is like the recluses, priests, and wanderers of other views. To them I teach the Dhamma — good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, correct in meaning and phrasing, I explain the complete and perfectly pure holy life. What is the reason for that? Headman, Perhaps if they understand even one word it will be for their welfare and happiness for a long time.”

When this was said, the headman Asibandhakaputta said to the Blessed One: “It is wonderful, venerable sir, it is marvellous, venerable sir! It is as if, venerable sir, someone had set upright what had been overturned, revealed what was hidden, pointed out the path to one who was lost, brought a light into the darkness so that those with eyes can see. Thus, venerable sir, the Blessed One has explained the Dhamma in various ways. I go for refuge to the Blessed One, to the Dhamma, and to the Saṅgha. May the Blessed One regard me as a disciple who has taken refuge from today for as long as I shall live.”

Notes:

1.  Island and refuge are very similar, as are shelter (a cave) and protection.