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Samyutta Nikaya
Sacca Saṁyutta

56.45 Vāla Sutta
Splitting Hair

Which is more difficult, the splitting of a hair into several strands from a distance, or realizing the Four Noble Truths?

In those days the Buddha was living in the city of Vesālī, at the Great Wood, in the hall with the peaked roof.

One day Venerable Ānanda wore his robe in the morning, took his bowl and double-layered robe and entered the city of Vesālī for alms. He saw several Licchavi youths practicing archery. They were shooting arrows from a distance through a small keyhole, shot after shot without missing.

When he saw this he thought, “These Licchavi youths really are trained, so well trained, that they shoot arrows from a distance through a small keyhole, shot after shot without missing.”

Then Ānanda wandered for alms in Vesālī. After the meal, on his return from alms round, he went to the Buddha, bowed respectfully, sat down to one side, and told him what he saw and thought.

“What do you think, Ānanda? Which is harder and more challenging: to shoot arrows from a distance through a small keyhole, shot after shot without missing? Or to take a horsehair split into hundred strands and penetrate one tip with another tip?”

“It’s more difficult and challenging, bhante, to take a horsehair split into hundred strands and penetrate one tip with another tip.”

“Still, Ānanda, those who truly penetrate suffering, the origin of suffering, the end of suffering, and the path that leads to the end of suffering, penetrate something tougher than that.

“Therefore, monks, you should make an effort to understand: ‘This is suffering.’ You should make an effort to understand: ‘This is the origin of suffering.’ You should make an effort to understand: ‘This is the end of suffering.’ You should make an effort to understand: ‘This is the path that leads to the end of suffering.’”

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Saṁyutta Nikāya 56.45 Vāla Sutta: Splitting Hair

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