"And to whom, worthless man, do you understand me to have taught the Dhamma like that? Haven't I, in many ways, said of dependently co-arisen consciousness, 'Apart from a requisite condition, there is no coming-into-play of consciousness'?  But you, through your own poor grasp, not only slander us but also dig yourself up [by the root] and produce much demerit for yourself. That will lead to your long-term harm & suffering."
-- Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta, MN 38
There are many suttas in the canon where the Buddha admonishes monks, and the above is a notable example.
The translations, at least to my eyes, come as particularly harsh: "worthless" (in Nanamoli/Bodhi, we read "misguided" instead of "worthless". I've also read "foolish" elsewhere) -- there was another reprimand from the Buddha, almost mean as I recall how I felt while reading it, but which I could not find again.
I've constantly felt troubled with these passages. I also look with very suspicious eyes the dribbling with "The buddha was harsh for their own good" (unless, if it is the Buddha himself justifying his harsh words, not we trying to excuse him and spare the texts). I find it troubling specially in light of:
- the very explicit right speech teachings, promoting the abandonment of harsh words.
- the difficulty of reconcile harsh "formations" in a mind free of defilements.
Are the other/older versions (say, chinese, pali and tibetan) of these passages evoking somewhat equivalent harsh emotions on a reader? Or is it a particularity of the english translations? (Or is it just me?)
Otherwise, were these harsh reprimands ever discussed (in books, commentaries, etc)?