Sakuṇagghi suttaṃ: The Bird-Killer Sutta
(Samyutta Nikāya 126.96.36.199.372)
Translated by Christopher J. Ash
“Once, long ago, a hawk dived on a quail and seized it. As it was being carried away, the Quail lamented: ‘Oh! Such bad luck, and so little merit, that I wandered into fields not mine, into foreign territory. If I had moved within my own natural field, within my ancestral habitat, the hawk would certainly have a battle to fight.’
“‘What is your own natural field, your ancestral habitat, Quail?’ asked the hawk.
“‘There! A ploughed field with clods of earth.’
“Thereupon, Practitioners, the hawk – not haughty about its own strength, not broadcasting its own strength – let the quail loose, saying, ‘Go on, then, Quail. But even there you will not be free from me.’
“Then, Practitioners, the quail in its own ploughed field with its clods of earth, got up on a big clod of earth, and standing her ground, she said to the hawk: ‘Come and get me now, Hawk. Come on, Hawk.’
“And the hawk – not haughty about its own strength, not broadcasting its own strength – folded both wings to the side of its body and dived upon the quail with all its force. When the quail realised ‘The hawk is coming at me, full speed,’ she slipped down behind the clod. So, right there, Practitioners, the hawk struck its own chest hard. This is how it is for one who wanders out of their natural field, into foreign territory.
“Practitioners, don’t wander out of your natural field, into foreign territory. Māra gains access to a person who wanders outside their natural field, into foreign territory; he gains an object. Now, what is not your field; what is foreign territory? It is the five strands of sensual pleasure. Which five? Forms perceptible to the eye, sounds perceptible to the ear, smells perceptible to the nose, tastes perceptible to the tongue, and objects of touch perceptible to the body – all of which are wished for, desirable, lovable, agreeable, connected with lust, enticing. These are not the natural field, for a practitioner; this is a foreign territory.”
“So, wander, Practitioners, in what is your natural field, you own ancestral habitat. For a person who remains in their natural field, their own ancestral habitat, Māra does not gain access, does not gain an object. And what, for a practitioner, is their ancestral habitat? The four placements of mindfulness. Which four? Here, a practitioner dwells contemplating the body in the body – ardent, comprehending, and mindful, laying aside longing and distress about the world. She [likewise] dwells contemplating feeling-tones in the feeling-tones, mind-states in the mind-states, and the dynamics of experiencing in the dynamics of experiencing – ardent, comprehending, and mindful, laying aside longing and distress about the world. This, for a practitioner, is her natural field, her ancestral habitat.”
Copyright Christopher J. Ash, 2021