Rhinoceros Horn Sutra


Rhinoceros Horn Sutra

The Rhinoceros Horn Sutra (Pāli: Khaggavisāna-sutta) is a very early Buddhist text advocating the merits of solitary asceticism for pursuing enlightenment (as opposed to practicing as a householder or in a community of monks or nuns).

The "Rhinoceros Horn Sutra" has long been identified, along with the "IAST|Aṭṭhakavagga" and "Pārāyanavagga" as one of the earliest texts found in the Pali Canon. (Salomon, pp. 15-16) This identification has been reinforced by the discovery of a version in the Gandharan Buddhist Texts, the oldest Buddhist (and, indeed, Indian) manuscripts extant. It also exists in a Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit version. The early date for the text along with its promoting of an extremely solitary way of life (as compared with the community-oriented Buddhist approach to monastic life) have led some scholars to suggest that it represents an example of a very early version of the Buddha's dharma practice.

The sutra consists of a series of verses which discuss both the perils of community life and the benefits of solitude, and almost all end with the admonition that seekers should wander alone like a rhinoceros horn. Note that the rhinoceros native to India, as opposed to the African rhino, has only one solitary horn, and hence is unique in that regard. The verses are somewhat variable between versions, as is the ordering of verses, suggesting a rich oral tradition that diverged regionally or by sect before being written down.

There is an ongoing dispute over whether the title, "sword-horn" sutra, is to be taken as a IAST|tatpuruṣa compound (a sword which is a horn) or as a bahuvrīhi compound (one who has a sword as a horn). In the former case, the title is rendered "The Rhinoceros Horn Sutra"; in the latter case, it is rendered, "The Rhinoceros Sutra." There is textual evidence to support either interpretation. (Salomon, pp. 11-12)

In the Pali Suttapitaka, this sutta is the third sutta in the Khuddaka Nikaya's Sutta Nipata's first chapter ("Uragavagga", or the "Snake Chapter," named after the chapter's first sutta), and thus can be referenced in the Pali canon as "Sn 1.3." For a complete translation of the Pali text, see Thanissaro (1997).

It remains one of the very purest and beautifully rendered scriptures that gives an example of the Buddha's dharma as practiced in the earliest period of the teachings, and as such it holds a place of special significance amongst those dedicated to practice as a way of life.

See also

* Gandharan Buddhist texts
* Timeline of Buddhism

References

* Salomon, Richard. "A Gāndhārī Version of the Rhinoceros Sutra: British Library IAST|Kharoṣṭhi Fragment 5B" Univ. of Washington Press: Seattle and London, 2000
* Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997). "Sutta Nipata I.3, Khaggavisana Sutta: A Rhinoceros Horn". Available at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/sutta/khuddaka/suttanipata/snp1-03.html


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