For years I've been trying to find the source of a quote, but I've only been able to get so far.

The quote is "Like a fish in a puddle, what joy is there."

This seems to come from some verses titled, "Samantabhadra's Admonition to the Assembly".

My research indicates that it's part of the evening service for Pure Land schools of Buddhism. I've even found the Chinese for it.









I can read and understand Japanese, but Chinese is only half a guess for me since I'm only using my understanding of Japanese to read it. But, I'm having a hard time finding Japanese sources. Most of my searches pull up Chinese sources.

It seems it's from a sutra, but I don't which sutra it comes from. I have figured out that it's not from the Flower Garland Sutra (Avatamsaka Sutra), nor is it from the Lotus Sutra.

Could anyone help me out?

1 Answer 1


Absolutely. Sn 4.15 Attadanda Sutta:

"When embraced, the rod of violence breeds danger & fear:
Look at people quarreling. I will tell of how I experienced dismay.
Seeing people floundering like fish in small puddles,
competing with one another — as I saw this, fear came into me.

The world was entirely without substance.
All the directions were knocked out of line.
Wanting a haven for myself, I saw nothing that wasn't laid claim to. Seeing nothing in the end but competition, I felt discontent.
And then I saw an arrow here, so very hard to see, embedded in the heart.
Overcome by this arrow you run in all directions.
But simply on pulling it out you don't run, you don't sink.

In Pali this reads like a poem, 8 syllables per line. Sometimes the authorship is attributed to the Buddha himself. Apparently at one time the poem was a standard part of the ritual for new person joining the early Sangha.

The line you're interested in says something like "I saw people crowding like the fish in shallow puddle, getting in each other's way, this really had scared me."

  • I am aware of these verses. Thank you for sharing them. But this does not correspond to the lines I am interested in finding. The line I cite is an admonition to practice diligently because our lives are short and should not be squandered on trifling and unimportant things. Given that my lines are reportedly the words of Samantabhadra, I would expect it to be from a Mahayana source where such bodhisattvas make frequent appearances. As far as I am aware, is Samantabhadra mentioned at all in the Pali cannon?
    – A.Ellett
    May 13, 2020 at 1:52
  • Sorry, I thought you were looking for an early doctrinal source for the metaphor of fish in a small puddle. Didn't realize you were looking for the poem itself that you mentioned,
    – Andriy Volkov
    May 13, 2020 at 2:49
  • 1
    As this day has passed \ Our lives, too, come to an end \ Like fish in a shallow puddle \ Such is our joy \ O Great Assembly! \ Diligently we must strive \ To save ourselves as we would were our hair aflame \ Be mindful of impermanence!\ Beware of complacency!
    – Andriy Volkov
    May 13, 2020 at 2:51
  • That is indeed the translation I'm interested in. And I appreciate you pointing out a source for an early reference to the fish metaphor. That's worth an upvote alone.
    – A.Ellett
    May 13, 2020 at 16:26

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