Kumma Sutta: The Tortoise

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Introduction

The Kumma Sutta uses metaphor to show how the Dhamma is a protection against the mindlessness that arises from unrestrained desire and the peace and happiness that develops directly through restraint. [1]

These short sutta shows the importance of restraint in the Dhamma. The Four Noble Truths show that all manner of disappointment and suffering arises from craving and clinging. It is mindful restraint that brings the ability to recognize and abandon craving and clinging. It is the refined mindfulness of the Eightfold Path that provides the framework for developing restraint of a self-referential ego-personality and brings a calm and peaceful life.

Bringing to cessation grasping after objects, events, views, and ideas develops a gentleness and lasting peace to life as life occurs, free of the distraction caused by an insatiable self-referential ego-personality.

Kumma Sutta: The Tortoise

Samyutta Nikaya 35.199

“Once there was a tortoise foraging for food. A jackal was also foraging nearby. The tortoise noticed the Jackal and withdrew into its shell. The jackal also noticed the tortoise and went to the tortoise, hovering around and thinking ‘as soon as the tortoise comes out of its shell I will eat it.’ The tortoise remained in its protective shell and the jackal eventually lost interest and looked elsewhere for a meal.

“Just as a jackal hovers around hoping for a meal, Mara [2] hovers continuously hoping to create confusion, delusion, and disappointment by contact with the eye, or the ear, or the nose, or the tongue, or the body, or through the intellect.

“On seeing form with the eye, or hearing a sound with the ear, or smelling an aroma with the nose, or tasting a flavor with the tongue, or a tactile sensation with the body, if you have no restraint at these senses unskillful qualities such as geed, aversion, or deluded thinking will arise and suffering will follow. Guard the senses with restraint.

“Do not crave for or cling to any thought, or idea, or mental fabrication without restraint. If you have no restraint with regards to thoughts, ideas, or mental fabrications, unskillful qualities such as geed, aversion, or deluded thinking will arise and suffering will follow. Guard the senses with restraint. Guard your thinking with restraint.

“When you abide with the six-sense base well-guarded, Mara (confusion, delusion, and disappointment) has no opportunity for further distraction and will lose interest just as the jackal lost interest with the tortoise.

“Like a tortoise well-protected in its shell, a wise disciple, restrained, independent, harmless to all, free from ill-will, is totally unbound.

End of Sutta

  1. Wisdom Of Restraint
  2. Mara and Metaphor

My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.

I have made contextual edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.

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