> Please give me a hand....
> A sentence in the dutiya-aputtakasutta in Kosalasamyuttam in
>Datvaa ca pana pacchaa vippa.tisaarii ahosi--'varameta.m pi.n.dapaata.m
>daasaa vaa kammakaraa vaa bhu~njeyyun'ti.
> PTS's translation is : But afterwards he repented of his gift, saying:
>'It were better that the slaves and workmen had eaten it.'
> My question is how could we know 'vara.m eta.m' should translate as '
>it were better that.. ' ,but not ' this excellent (pi.n.dapaata.m, food)'?
>Is that a idiom? Ican't seem to find this kind of use in PED. If we should
>understand it in this way as soon as I see it?
As you suggest, the grammar of the passage would appear to allow two
"Would that the servants and workmen had eaten this excellent almsfood."
"It would be better if the servants and workmen had eaten this almsfood."
Comparing this passage with parallel constructions in which the meaning is
not ambiguous leads me to think the second translation to be the more
likely. Two examples:
Vara.m bhikkhave assutavaa puthujjano ima.m caatumahaabhuutika.m kaaya.m
attato upagaccheyya, na tveva citta.m.
(S ii 94, Assutava Sutta)
"It were better, monks, if the uninstructed commoner took this body
composed of the four great primaries as self, rather than the mind."
Vara.m te, moghapurisa, aasivisassa ghoravisassa mukhe an.gajaata.m
pakkhitta.m, na tveva maatugaamassa an.gajaate an.gajaata.m pakkhitta.m.
(Vin iii 20)
"It would be better for you, foolish man, if the male organ were inserted
into the mouth of a venomous snake than that it were inserted into the
organ of a female." [spoken to the unchaste monk Sudinna]
When used in such passages vara.m is always an indeclinable.