Khuddaka Nikaya

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Canto II. Psalms of Two Verses


Canto II.
Psalms of Two Verses


Translated from the Pali by Mrs. C.A.F. Rhys Davids.

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Reborn in this Buddha-age at Sāvatthī as a citizen's son, he was named Datta.[1] And when, in his domestic [113] life, he transgressed through ignorance, then discovered his offence, anguish seized him so that he left the world. Distressed at his deeds, he adopted a course of austerity, and dwelt on the bank of the Ganges, making himself a tent of palm-leaves. Hence he became known as Gangā-tīriya (Ganges-sider). And he resolved to speak to no one. So he kept silence for a whole year. In the second year, a woman of the village where he sought alms, wishing to find out whether he was dumb, spilt milk as she filled his bowl. And he let fall the words: 'Enough, sister.' But in the third year, after strenuous effort, he won arahantship. Thereupon he declared aññā by word of mouth, extolling his past procedure in these verses:

[127] On Ganga's shore three palm-tree leaves I took
And made my hut; my bowl like funeral pot
Wherewith men sprinkle milk upon a corpse;
My cloak from refuse of the dust-heap culled.[2]

[128] Two years, from one rain-season till the next,
I [there abode], nor spake a word save once.
So till the third year passed-then the long night
Of gloom asunder burst [and broke in light].


[1] = Donatus. His story-how he came to take his mother and his sister as his wives, not knowing his relation to either-is told in the Chronicle to the Sisters' Psalms, pp. 112, 115. The allusion here to his incest is so delicately or vaguely worded that it needs the explanation afforded by the Sister-chronicle. The Pali is as follows: Gharāvāsaɱ vasanto agamaniyaṭṭhānabhāvaɱ ajānitvā vītikkamaɱ katvā puna āgamaniyaṭṭhānabhāvaɱ ñatvā.

[2] On such austerities, see Vinaya Texts, iii. 89. The bowl here is not a skull (chavasīsaɱ, but is described in the Commentary as matānaɱ khirāsecanakuṇḍa sadiso, 'like a milk-sprinkling pot for the dead' - a sort of memento mori (cf. Neumann). It is just possible that the text was originally chavasīsena me patto, aa the idiom runs in the Vinaya, but such skull-bowls were forbidden. There is greater sobriety and dignity in the austerities of this Indian OEdipus than in the brutal self-mutilation of the Greek king.


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