Like the Rhinoceros, or Like Its Horn? The Problem of Khaggavis??a Revisited


  • Dhivan Thomas Jones Open University



khaggavisāṇa, khaḍgaviṣāṇa, khaggavisāṇakappo, Khaggavisāṇa-sutta, solitude


The P?li expression khaggavis??akappo may either mean ‘like the rhinoceros’ or ‘like the horn of the rhinoceros’. It occurs in the refrain eko care khaggavis??akappo at the end of each stanza of the Khaggavis??a-sutta and its parallels, and the refrain has been translated by some as ‘one should wander alone like the rhinoceros’ but by some, including K. R. Norman, as ‘one should wander alone like the horn of the rhinoceros’. K. R. Norman has however set out his reasons for regarding ‘like the rhinoceros horn’ as the correct translation, and ‘like the rhinoceros’ as wrong. The present article critically discusses Norman’s reasons, concluding that the expression khaggavis??a may be regarded as a deliberately ambiguous compound meaning both the rhinoceros and its horn, or perhaps as a single expression meaning ‘rhinoceros’. The zoological facts are considered, as well as the difficult etymology of khaggavis??a, its contextual meaning, its meaning in Jain parallels, and its discussion in P?li commentaries. The article concludes that ‘like the rhinoceros’ is in fact a correct translation.


Allen, G. F. 1959. The Buddha’s Philosophy. London: George Allen and Unwin.

Andersen, D. and W. Stede, ed. 1913. Sutta-nip?ta. London: Pali Text Society.

Bautze, J. 1985. ‘The Problem of the Kha?ga (Rhinoceros Unicornis) in the Light of Archaeological Finds and Art’. In South Asian Archaeology 1983, vol. 1, edited by Janine Schotsmans and Maurizio Taddei, 405–433. Naples: Istituto universitario orientale.

Caillat, C. 2003. ‘Gleanings from a comparative reading of early canonical Buddhist and Jain texts’. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 26(1): 25–50.

Collins, S. 1992. Review Article: ‘Problems with Pacceka-buddhas’. Religion 22: 271–278.

Cone, M. 2001. A Dictionary of P?li (Vol. I). Oxford: Pali Text Society.

Edgerton, F. 1953. Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Fausbøll, V., ed. 1877–96. The J?taka together with its commentary. London: Pali Text Society.

Godakumbura, C., ed. 1954. Visuddhajanavil?sin? (Apad?na-a??hakath?). London: Pali Text Society.

Jacobi, H. 1879. The Kalpas?tra of Bhadrab?hu. Leipzig: Brockhaus.

Jamison, S. W. 1998. ‘Rhinoceros Toes, Manu V.17–18, and the Development of the Dharma System’. Journal of the American Oriental Society 118(2): 249–256.

Jayawickrama, N. 1977. ‘A Critical Analysis of the Sutta Nip?ta (part 3)’. Pali Buddhist Review 2(1): 14–41:

Jones, J. 1956. The Mah?vastu (Vol. III). London: Luzac.

Kloppenborg, R. 1974. The Pacceka-buddha: a Buddhist Ascetic. Leiden: Brill.

Kuiper, F. 1948. Proto-Munda Words in Sanskrit. Amsterdam: NV Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij.

Laurie, W. A., E. M. Lang and C.P. Groves. 1983. ‘Rhinoceros unicornis’. Mammalian Species 211: 1–6.

Leumann, E. 1883. Das Aupapâtika Sûtra erstes Upânga der Jaina. Leipzig.

Levman, Bryan. 2012. ‘What does the P?li phrase pahitatta mean?’ Thai International Journal of Buddhist Studies 3: 57–74.

Lilley, M., ed. 1925–1927. Apad?na (2 vols, with consecutive pagination). London: Pali Text Society.

Lüders, H. 1940. Philologica Indica.Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Lüders, H. 1942. ‘Von indischen Tieren’. Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 96: 23–81.

Mayrhofer, M. 1956. Kurzgefaßtes etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindischen (Vol. 1). Heidelberg: Carl Winter.

Mayrhofer, M. 1992. Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen (Vol. 1). Heidelberg: Carl Winter.

Monier-Williams, S. M. 1899. A Sanskrit-English Dictionary (new ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Norman, K. 1983. P?li Literature. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.

Norman, K. 1996. ‘Solitary as a rhinoceros horn’. Buddhist Studies Review 13(2): 133–142:

Norman, K. 2001. The Group of Discourses (2nd ed.). Oxford: Pali Text Society.

Norman, K. 2006. A Philolological Approach to Buddhism. Lancaster: Pali Text Society.

Nyanaponika. 1955. Sutta-nip?ta. Konstanz: Verlag Christiani.

Oldenberg, H. (ed.). 1879–83. Vinayapi?aka. London: Pali Text Society.

Rhys Davids, T. and J. E. Carpenter, eds. 1886–1932. Suma?galavil?sin? (D?ghanik?ya-a??hakath?) (3 vols). London: Pali Text Society.

Saddhatissa, H. (1985). The Sutta-nip?ta. London: Curzon.

Salomon, R. 1999. Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhara. London: The British Library.

Salomon, R. 2000. A G?ndh?r? Version of the Rhinoceros S?tra. University of Washington Press.

Senart, É. 1897. Le Mahâvastu (Vol. 3). Paris.

Smith, H., ed. 1916–18. Paramatthajotik? II (Sutta-nip?ta-a??hakath?) (3 vols). London: Pali Text Society.

Stede, W., ed. 1916. Cullaniddesa. London: Pali Text Society.

Steinthal, P., ed. 1885. Ud?na. London: Pali Text Society.

Subh?ti, W., ed. 1900. Abhidh?nappad?pik?. Colombo: Pali Text Society.

Thanissaro. (n.d.). Khaggavisana Sutta: A Rhinoceros. Retrieved 01 Sep 2013, from Access to Insight:

Trenckner, V. and R. Chalmers, eds. 1887–1902. Majjhimanik?ya (3 vols). London: Pali Text Society.

Trenckner, V., ed. 1880. Milindapañho. London: Pali Text Society.

von Hinüber, O. and K. R. Norman, eds. 1994. Dhammapada. Oxford: Pali Text Society.

Wiltshire, M. G. 1990. Ascetic Figures before and in Early Buddhism. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Wright, J. 2001. ‘The Gandhari Prakrit Version of the Rhinoceros S?tra’. Anusa?dh?n 18: 1–15.




How to Cite

Jones, D. T. (2015). Like the Rhinoceros, or Like Its Horn? The Problem of Khaggavis??a Revisited. Buddhist Studies Review, 31(2), 165-178.