The Buddha’s Social Action Sutra

Get up!
Sit up!

What’s your need for sleep?
And what sleep is there for the afflicted,
pierced by the arrow, oppressed?

Get up!
Sit up!

Train firmly for the sake of peace,
Don’t let the king of death,
— seeing you heedless —
deceive you, bring you under his sway.

That is the translation, with some formatting adjustments, from Thannisaro Bhikkhu via Access to Insight (click the link for the last two verses).

The original looks like this:

Uṭṭhahatha nasīdatha ko attho supitena vo,
Āturānaṃ bhi kā niddā sallaviddhāna ruppataṃ.

Uṭṭhahatha nisīdatha daḷhaṃ sikkhatha santiyā,
Mā vo pamatte viññāya
Maccurājā amosayitthavasānuhe.

I found this tonight browsing the Access to Insight subject list, under samvegga, or spiritual urgency. Pretty good stuff (maybe not on a late, sleepless night, but otherwise, excellent). Someone might worry: ‘what does this really say about social action?’ I would respond that anyone dilligently training for peace in this world is going to be doing so in a very social manner. Currently not only is there an abundance of violence brought to us each and every day, but there is also the other side of mārā, pleasureful indulgences and distractions. Both are to be avoided in one’s training, often ‘counteracted’ being the more appropriate term. I like to think of the ninja, carefully avoiding, counteracting, or otherwise skillfully ‘using’ the attack of an aggressor.

Let your mind be like a ninja. Don’t just sit there!

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  • arunlikhati


  • Tomo

    I have always liked these two verses and I love it when you cite a bit of Pali! One question, though. Where did you get the reading amosayitthavasānuhe, though? At least this should be separated into amosayittha and vasānuhe but what are amosayittha (aorist 2nd person pl. but of what verb?) and anuhe (acc. pl. agreeing with vo pamatte but what is anuha?), I wonder? The PTS text reads amohayittha vasānuge (from moheti and vasa-anuga), which is straightforward and is in line with the translation above.

  • Doug

    Neat sutta, Justin, but as you note, it’s not really about *social* action. It’s about “cross[ing] over the attachment to which [you] remain tied” and “remov[ing] your own sorrow”. That is, it’s about personal development on the Path.

    I’d be interested to know some real examples of social action in the suttas, since this seems something of a blind spot.