Anguttara Nikaya

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Aŋguttara Nikāya
V. Dhammika Vagga

The Book of the Gradual Sayings
The Book of the Sixes
Chapter V: Dhammika

Nāga Suttaɱ

Sutta 43

The Elephant[1]

Translated from the Pali by E.M. Hare.

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[1] Thus have I heard:

Once, when the Exalted One dwelt near Sāvatthī,
at Jeta Grove,
in Anāthapiṇḍika's Park,
he robed early and,
with cloak and bowl,
entered Sāvatthī for alms.

And having gone his round in Sāvatthī,
on his return,
after his meal,
he said to the venerable Ānanda:

'Let us go, Ānanda,
to Migāra's mother's terraced house
in East Park,
where, when we are come,
we will spend the noontide.'

'Yes, lord,'replied the venerable Ānanda;
and the Exalted One went there with him.

Then in the evening the Exalted One,
risen from solitude,
said to him:

'Come, Ānanda,
we will go to the bathing-place[2]
and bathe our limbs.'

'Yes, lord,' he replied;
and they went there together.

And when he had bathed and come out,
the Exalted One stood in a single garment,
drying himself.[3]

Now at that time Seta,
an elephant of rajah Pasenadi of Kosala,
came out of the bathing-place
to the sound of many drums
and all kinds of music;
and folk about,
marvelling[4] at the sight,

'What a beauty, sirs, is the rajah's elephant;
what a picture;
what a treat for the eye;
what a body he has!

The elephant, sirs,
is indeed an elephant!'[5]

[244] And when this had been said,
the venerable Udāyin[6] spoke thus to the Exalted One:

'Lord, do folk say:

The elephant is indeed an elephant,
only on seeing the huge, gross bulk of an elephant,
or do they say it
on seeing other gross, bulky things?

Folk say it, Udāyin,
when they see the huge, gross bulk of an elephant;
they say it, too,
when they see a huge horse
or a bull
or a snake
or a tree;
they say:

The nāga,
indeed is a nāga!"

even when they see a huge man
with a gross, fat body.

But I declare, Udāyin,
that in the deva-world
with its Māras and Brahmās,
and on earth with its recluses,
godly men,
devas and men -
he who commits no enormity[7]
in deed,
or thought,
he is a nāga.'

It is marvellous and amazing, lord -
I mean these noble words of the Exalted One:

"I declare that in the deva-world
or on earth
he who commits no enormity
in deed,
or thought,
he is a nāga.

'And now, lord,
I will give thanks in verse
for the Exalted One's noble words:

A man and very[8] Buddha he, self-tamed,
Composed, who treads the deathless path, serene
In joy, transcending all; whom men adore,
Whom devas laud-thus have I heard of him,
The Arahant.[9] All fetters he hath left,
From jungle to Nibbāna[10] come, his joy
lives in renouncing worldly lusts; as gold
From quarried quartz, that naga outshines all;
As Himalay[11] o'er other crags-whose name
Is Truth o'ertops all nāgas so yclept.
[245] Lo! I will limn this naga-elephant,
Who no enormity commits; Mildness
And harmlessness his forefeet are, his hinder
Austerity and godly life; be-trunked
With faith, white-tusked with equanimity,
His neck is mindfulness, his head is insight;
Each Dhamma-thought's a test;[12] and Dhamma's garner[13]
His belly is, his tail is solitude.
Rapt muser, calm, well self-composed, whose breath
Is zest[14]-that nāga walks composed, composed
He stands, composed he lies, composed he sits,
A nāga e'er controlled - for he is perfect.
Blameless he feeds, nor feeds on foolishness;
Ration and robe he gets and shuns the hoard;
He snappeth every tie, bonds fine and coarse;
He goes where'er he will, he goes care-free.
See how the lovely lotus, water-born,
Sweet-scented, ne'er by water is defiled:[15]
The Buddha, born as very[16] man, puts by
The world and by the world is undefiled,
As lily by the water of the lake.
As blazing fire goes out thro' want of fuel,
And men, of ashes,[17] say: "The fire's gone out!" -
This is a parable of rare presage,[18]
[246] Taught by wise men-great nāgas by a nāga
Are recognized when by a nāga[19] taught -
Lust-freed, hate-freed, delusion-freed, stainless,[20]
This nāga, body-freed, shall "go out"[21] freed.'


[1] Nāgo, elephant, serpent and fairy-demon; a phenomenon, prodigy.

[2] Pubbakoṭṭhaka; see n. at K.S. v, 195; but it can hardly refer to a gateway here, but simply an enclosure (precinct).

[3] All this recurs at M. i, 161; cf. also S. i, 8; below, Ī 62.

[4] Api'ssu.

[5] Nāgo vata bho nāgo.

[6] Comy. Kāl'Udāyin; see Brethr. 287 (the verses recur there, Thag. 689-704); O.S. I, 20, Comy. explains that 500 monks accompanied the Buddha.

[7] Āguɱ na karoti, taɱ nāgo The poet is less crude in Th. 693; na hi āguɱ karoti so. Cf. Sn. 522.

[8] Sam-buddha.

[9] Arahato. Brethr. 'I, an arahant.'

[10] S.e. and Thag. vanā nibbanaɱ āgataɱ.

[11] Text himavā'ññe, S.e. maññe, Comy. so, with v.l. 'v'aññe with Thag., which is no doubt correct; In Sinhalese script v, c and m are somewhat similar.

[12] Vīmaɱsā dhamma-cintanā. Comy. likens this to the elephant feeling with his trunk; vīmaɱsā, investigation, is one of the four Iddhipādas; see V, Ī 67.

[13] Text reads samātapo, v.l. samācāpo; but Comy. and S.e. samāvāpo, explaining: kucchi yeva samāvāpo, samāvāpo nāma samāvāpana-ṭṭhānaɱ. P.E.D. omits, but the compound seams to occur in Skt.; see Macdonell's Dict. s.v. \/Ḥvap. At M. i, 451 we have samavāpaka, a store-room; Thag. reads samāvāso.

[14] Assāsa-rato. Comy. refers this to the assāsa-passāsa exercises; see K.S. v, 257 ff.

"The teacher said: 'My friend, they have taught you about the worlds, but I shall tell you this; and as water does not cling to a lotus leaf, so no evil deed clings to one who knows it.'"
S.B.E.: Max Müller: Khāndogya Upanishad: IV: Khanda 14
"He who, casting off (all) attachment, performs actions dedicating them to Brahman, is not tainted by sin, as the lotus-leaf (is not tainted) by water."
The Bhagavadgītā, V., S.B.E. 8, pg 64.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

[15] Cf. Sn. 547; A. ii, 39; Chān. Up. S.B.E. i, 67; Bhag. Gītā, 5,10.

[16] Su-jāto; see P.E.D. s.v. su as to its use as sam-.

[17] Text and S.e. sankhāresūpasantesu, but Thag. with our v.l. angāresu ca santesu, which I follow.

[18] The text reads atth'assāyaɱ viññāpanī for atthassāyaɱ; cf. D. i, 114; M. ii, 260.

[19] Text misprints nāyena for nāgena.

[20] Cf. above VI, Ī 37.

[21] Comy., S.e. and Thag. parinibbissati. The thera is here no doubt prophesying, so above I take attha as presage.

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