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Tiracchana-Katha Unskilful Talk by Bodhicarini Upasika Jayasili Jacquetta Gomes

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Tiracchana-Katha Unskilful Talk
By Bodhicarini Upasika Jayasili Jacquetta Gomes BGKT Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada) England UK
Updated 12th September 2015


Venerable Nyanaponika Maha Thera in his Buddhist Dictionary defines Tiracchana-Katha as “‘Low Talk’ literally ‘Beastly Talk’, is the name in the Sutta-texts for the following. ‘Talk about kings and robbers, ministers and armies, danger and war, eating and drinking, clothes and dwellings, garlands and scents, relations, chariots, villages and markets, towns and districts, women and heroes, street talks, talks by the well, talk about those departed in days gone by, tittle-tattle, talks about world and about sea, about gain and loss’.” (pages 222-223) He explains “In the commentaries 4 further kinds are enumerated, thus bringing the number to 32… namely: talk about sensuous enjoyment, self-mortification, eternity and self-annihilation.” (page 223)

The Pali Text Society’s Pali-English Dictionary defines Tiracchana-Katha as "animal talk," or “wrong or childish talk in general”.

The Tiracchana-Katha are listed as Appendix 1 of Venerable Ledi Sayadaw’s Magganga-Dipani: The Manual of The Constituents of the Noble Path.

1) Rajakatha - Talk about kings
2) Corakatha - Talk about robbers
3) Mahamatta katha - Talk about ministers of state
4) Senakatha - Talk about armies
5) Bhayakatha - Talk about dangers
6) Yuddhakatha - Talk about battles
7) Annakatha - Talk about food
8) Panakatha - Talk about drinks
9) Vatthakatha - Talk about clothing
10) Sayanakatha - Talk about dwellings
11) Malakatha - Talk about garlands
12) Gandhakatha - Talk about perfumes
13) Natikatha - Talk about relations
14) Yanakatha - Talk about vehicles
15) Gamakatha - Talk about villages
16) Nigamakatha -Talk about market towns
17) Nagarakatha - Talk about towns
18) Janapadakatha - Talk about districts
19) Itthikatha - Talk about women/men
20) Surakatha - Talk about heroes
21) Visakhakatha - Talk about streets
22) Kumbhatthanakatha - Talk about watering places
23) Pubbapeta-katha - Talk about relatives who have passed away
24) Nanattakatha - Tittle-tattle
25) Lokakkhayika katha - talk about the origin of the world
26) Samuddakkhayikakatha - Talk about the origin of the ocean
27) Itibhavabhava katha - Talk about Eternity belief
28) Itibhavabhava katha - Talk about annihilation belief
29) Itibhavabhava katha - Talk about worldly gain
30) Itibhavabhava katha - Talk about worldly loss
31) Itibhavabhava katha - Talk about self-indulgence
32) Itibhavabhava katha - Talk about self-mortification

These 32 kinds of talk obstruct fruition and rebirth in higher planes. Consequently these topics of conversation are inappropriate for Bhikkhus (Buddhist Monks).

Samyutta-Nikaya

In The Connected Discourses of the Buddha Chapter XII 56 Saccasamyutta Connected Discourses on the Truths 10 (10) Pointless Talk is translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi as:

Bhikkhus, do not engage in the various kinds of pointless talk, that is about kings, thieves, and ministers of state; talk about armies, dangers, and wars; talk about food, drink, garments and beds; talk about garlands and scents; talk about relations, vehicles, villages, towns, cities, and countries; talk about women and talk about heroes; street talk and talk by the well; talk about those departed in days gone by; rambling chitchat; speculation about the world and about the sea, talk about becoming this or that. For what reason? Because, Bhikkhus, this talk is unbeneficial, irrelevant to the fundamentals of the holy life, and does not lead to revulsion, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana.

When you talk, Bhikkhus, you should talk about: ‘This is suffering’; you should talk about: ‘This is the origin of suffering’; you should talk about: ‘This is the cessation of suffering’; you should talk about: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering’. For what reason? Because, Bhikkhus, this talk is beneficial, relevant to the fundamentals of the holy life, and leads to revulsion, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana.

Therefore Bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’ … an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way to the cessation of suffering.’ ” (page 1843)

In Note 379 to this Sutta, Bhikkhu Bodhi explains “Tirracchana is literally ‘animal talk’, but Saratthappakasini Samyutta Nikaya atthakatha [Commentary on the Samyutta Nikaya] explains it as talk that ‘runs horizontal’ (Tirracchanabhutam) to the paths leading to heaven and liberation. (page 1962)

Anguttara-Nikaya

The Book of the Gradual Sayings or More Numbered Suttas (Anguttara-Nikaya) Volume 5 The Book of the Tens includes two Suttas on this topic: Sutta 69 Topics of Talk and Sutta 93 View.

Sutta 69 Topics of Talk explains that a number of monks were indulging in aimless talk. Buddha asks them “Pray, monks, on what subjects were you conversing gathered together here, and what was the nature of the talk left unfinished by you?” The monks explained that they were engaging in pointless talk. (pages 86-87)

Buddha explains “Monks it is not seemly that ye clansmen who in faith have gone forth from the home to the homeless should indulge in such talk. There are these ten topics of talk…Talk about wanting little, about contentment, seclusion, solitude, energetic striving, virtue, concentration, insight, release, release by knowing and seeing. These, monks, are the ten topics of talk.” (page 87)

F. L. Woodward explains in a footnote that Tiracchana-Katha is “‘Talk not conducive to heaven, release and the Way’; generally translated ‘animal-talk’ (not of course about animals). ‘childish talk’; but I think the emphasis is on the idea of close to the ground ... as opposed to the upright human posture or, as in Sanskrit, ‘oblique, awry’.” (page 87)


Digha Nikaya

The Discourse on the All-Embracing Net of Views: The Brahmajala Sutta and its Commentaries
Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Bhikkhu Bodhi translates 1.17 of The Brahmajala Sutta as

“1.17 Whereas some ascetics and Brahmins, while living on the food offered by the faithful, engage in frivolous chatter, such as about kings, thieves, and ministers of state; talk about armies, dangers, and wars; talk about food, drink, garments and lodgings; talk about garlands and scents, talk about relations, vehicles, villages, towns, cities, and countries; talk about women and talk about heroes; street talk and talk by the well; talk about those departed in days gone by; rambling chit-chat; speculations about the world and about the sea, talk about gain and loss - the recluse Gotama abstains from such frivolous chatter.” (page 37)

His note to this verse explains:

“Tiracchana-Katha often rendered ‘animal talk’; however, the commentary explains it as ‘talk, which because it does not lead to emancipation, runs horizontal to the (upward leading) paths to heaven and liberation’ (aniyyani-katta saggamokkhamagganam tiracchanabhuta katha). An animal, tirracchana-gata is so-called because it moves horizontally with the earth, in contrast to man, who walks erect. But talk which moves horizontally is pointless or frivilous talk, not animal talk. Besides which, animals cannot speak.” (page 37)

The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya translated
by Maurice Walshe

Maurice Walshe translates Tiracchana-Katha as unedifiying conversation. His Note 33 to Sutta 1 Brahmajala Sutta explains “Tiracchana-Katha literally ‘animal-talk’. As animals walk parallel to the earth, so this kind of talk does not lead upward.” (page 538)

He translates three Suttas which include Tiracchana-Katha.

Sutta 1 Brahmajala Sutta: The Supreme Net: What the Teaching is Not

1.17 “Whereas some ascetics and Brahmins remain addicted to unedifying conversation as about kings, robbers, ministers, armies, dangers, wars, food, drink, clothes, beds, garlands, perfumes, relatives, carriages, villages, towns, and cities, countries, women, heroes, street- and well gossip, talk of the departed, desultory chat, speculations about land and sea [[[philosophical]] speculations of a materialist kind], talk about being and non-being [and profit and loss], the ascetic Gotama [[[Buddha]]] refrains from such conversation.” (pages 70-71)

Sutta 9 The Potapada Sutta: About Potthapada States of Consciousness

3. There Pottapada was sitting with his crowd of wanderers, all shouting and making a great commotion, indulging in various kinds of unedifying conversation such as about kings, robbers, ministers, armies, dangers, wars, food, drink, clothes, beds, garlands, perfumes, relatives, carriages, villages, towns, and cities, countries, women, heroes, street- and well gossip, talk of the departed, desultory chat, speculations about land and sea [[[philosophical]] speculations of a materialist kind], talk about being and non-being [and profit and loss]. (page 159)

Sutta 25 Udumbarika-Slhanada Sutta: The Great Lion’s Roar to the Udumbarikans

2. And just then Nigrodha was sitting in the midst of a large crowd of wanderers who were all shouting and screaming and making a great clamour, and indulging in various kinds of unedifying conversation about kings, robbers, ministers, armies, dangers, wars, food, drink, clothes, beds, garlands, perfumes, relatives, carriages, villages, towns, and cities, countries, women, heroes, street- and well gossip, talk of the departed, desultory chat, speculations about land and sea [[[philosophical]] speculations of a materialist kind], talk about being and non-being [and profit and loss]. (page 385)

Dialogues of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya
Translated by T. W. and Caroline Rhys Davids

In their footnote to Sutta 25 Udumbarika-Slhanada Sutta: The Great Lion’s Roar to the Udumbarikans T. W. and Caroline Rhys Davids explain: “Tiracchana-Katha, literally animal-talk, ... Brutish, brutal, beastly would all be literal, but very bad renderings… The phrase animal-talk is … untranslatable. Buddhagosa … says, not leading to heaven or emancipation. (pages 33-34)

Majjhima Nikaya

Bhikkhu Bodhi explains in Note 748 “Many translators render this expression as animal talk. However, Tirracchana means literally ‘going horizontally,’ and though this term is used as a designation for animals, Papancasudani [Commentary on the MajjhimaNikaya] explains that in the present context it means talk that goes ‘horizontally’ or ‘perpendicularly’ to the path leading to heaven and liberation.” (page 1279)

Bhikkhu Bodhi translates five Suttas which include Tiracchana-Katha.

Sutta 76 Sandaka Sutta To Sandaka

“Now on that occasion the wanderer Sandaka was seated with a large assembly of wanderers who were making an uproar, loudly and noisily talking many kinds of pointless talk, such as talk of kings ….” (page 618)

Similar descriptions of Tirracchana are given in Sutta 77 Mahasakuladayi Sutta: The Greater Discourse to Sakuludayin verse 4, Sutta 78 Samammandika Sutta: Samanamandikaputta verse 3, Sutta 79 Culasakuludayi Sutta: The Shorter Discourse to Sakuludayin verses 3-4, and Sutta 122 Mahasunnata Sutta: The Greater Discourse on Voidness verse 12.


Vinaya-Pitaka The Book of the Discipline

“Pacittiyas which contain material found it the Suttas are … No. LXXXV, whose stock enumeration of the various kinds of “low”, worldy’, ‘childish’ or intellectually inferior talk, occurs at several places in the Suttas.” (The Book of the Discipline (Vinaya-Pitaka) Volume III (Suttavibhanga) page xv)

The Book of the Discipline (Vinaya-Pitaka) Volume II (Suttavibhanga) Expiation (Pacittiya) XXI discusses Bhikkhus who give nuns an inferior talk of Tiracchana-Katha worldly talk. (pages 263-265)

The Book of the Discipline (Vinaya-Pitaka) Volume III (Suttavibhanga) Expiation (Pacittiya) LXXXV starts “at Savatthi in the Jeta Grove in Anathapindika’s monastery. Now at that time the group of six monks having entered a village at the wrong time, having sat down in a hall, talked a variety of worldly talk, that is to say talk of kings, talk of thieves, talk of great ministers … People looked down upon, criticised, spread it about saying: ‘ How can these recluses, sons of the Sakyans, having entered a village at the wrong time, having sat down in a hall, talk a variety of worldly talk, that is to say, talk of kings…? It is like householders who enjoy pleasures of the senses. (pages 82-83)

Buddha rebukes them “ How can you, foolish men, having entered a village at the wrong time … talk a variety of worldly talk, that is to say … talk of becoming and not becoming thus or thus? (page 83)

I. B. Horner’s footnotes explain Tiracchana-Katha literally animal talk, that is worldly, low, childish talk, gossip… There is a tendency at Sumangalavilasini [Commentary on the Digha Nikaya] to couple gehasitakatha, talk of worldly life, with Tiracchana-Katha. (page 82)

The Book of the Discipline (Vinaya-Pitaka) Volume IV (Mahavagga) V includes a story of six monks engaging in Tiracchana-Katha worldly talk and being rebuked by the Buddha. (pages 250-251)

Visudhimagga The Path of Purification/Purity

Visudhimagga explains that Tiracchana-Katha is an obstacle to meditation.

The BPS Buddhist Publication Society translation of Visudhimagga The Path of Purification states “Twenty-six kinds of ‘aimless (literally, animal) talk are given in the Suttas… which the commentary increases to thirty two.” (page 133)

“38. 3. speech: that included in the thirty-two kinds of aimless talk is unsuitable for it leads to the disappearance of the sign.” (page 133) This is the counterpart sign which arises together with access concentration in meditation.

The PTS Pali Text Society translation of Visudhimagga The Path of Purity translates this as “And that talk which is called among the thirty-two kinds of worldly talk is unsuitable, as leading to the disappearance of the sign.” (page 148)


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Translations of the Pali Texts

Available online at Google Books http://books.google.com

Dictionaries


Source

By Bodhicarini Upasika Jayasili Jacquetta Gomes BGKT Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada) England UK