AN 5.209 (A iii 251)
Gītassara Sutta
— A melodic intonation —

This sutta has been largely overlooked by the various buddhist traditions: the Buddha explains why he does not allow the bhikkhus to perform any melodic chanting.

Note: info·bubbles on every Pali word



Pañc·ime, bhikkhave, ādīnavā āyatakena gīta·s·sarena dhammaṃ bhaṇantassa. Katame pañca?

There are, bhikkhus, these five drawbacks of reciting the Dhamma with a sustained melodic intonation. Which five?

Attanā·pi tasmiṃ sare sārajjati, pare·pi tasmiṃ sare sārajjanti, gahapati··pi ujjhāyanti:yath·eva mayaṃ gāyāma, evam·evaṃ kho samaṇā sakyaputtiyā gāyantīti, sarakuttim·pi nikāmayamānassa samādhissa bhaṅgo hoti, pacchimā janatā diṭṭhānugatiṃ āpajjati.

Oneself gets attached to that intonation, others get attached to that intonation, householders get angry: 'Those ascetics who are followers of the Sakyans' son sing in the same way that we do!',{1} there is a break in concentration for those striving [to produce] musicality, and the upcoming generations imitate what they see.

Ime kho, bhikkhave, pañca ādīnavā āyatakena gīta·s·sarena dhammaṃ bhaṇantassā·ti.

These, bhikkhus, are the five drawbacks of reciting the Dhamma with a sustained melodic intonation.

Bodhi leaf


1. householders get angry..: this sutta is actually an excerpt from the Cūḷavagga of the Vinaya Pitaka (Cv 249), where a certain group of six bhikkhus performs such a chanting and householders are described to have been annoyed in those terms (it is quite frequent in the Vinaya to find lay people criticizing monks for enjoying sensual pleasures). Having been reported the matter, the Buddha utters this sutta and then declares that doing so anyway would constitute a dukkaṭa offense (ie. of wrong-doing, a light offense). The Cūḷavagga then cites a case in which the Buddha states that he nevertheless allows recitation with an intonation (sara·bhañña).

Translation suggested by the webmaster,
with the support of Sister Upalavanna's translation.

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