Khuddaka Nikaya

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Canto XVIII. Psalms of Fourty Verses


Canto XVIII.
Psalms of Fourty Verses

Kassapa the Great

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

Public Domain



Our Master had already arisen, and was turning the Wheel of the Norm, and staying at Rājagaha, when at the brahmin village of Mahā-tittha in Magadha, this Thera was reborn as Pippali-mānava, the son of the chief wife of Kapila the brahmin. Four years later Bhaddā Kapilānī was reborn of the chief wife of the Kosiya-gotta brahmin at Sāgalā in the kingdom of Madda.[2] Now Pippali-mānava, refused to marry. 'While you live,' he told his parents, 'I will take care of you: afterwards I shall leave the world.' But to appease his mother he had a statue made of a beautiful maiden, dressed in crimson and ornaments, and showed it her saying: 'Mother, if I find anyone like this, I will lead the domestic life.' His mother was a clever lady, and sent brahmins forth, with the statue, on that quest. They came to Sāgalā, and setting the statue by the river's edge, sat down apart. Now Bhaddā's nurse, who had bathed her charge, and gone down again for her own bath, saw the statue, and thinking: 'What! is my [360] young lady so ill bred?' slapped it on the cheek, and discovered it was not Bhadda, but a gold statue. The brahmins accosted her, inquiring about her mistress, and she brought them to the house of Kosiyagotta, where they were made welcome. And they sent word to Kapila:

'We have got the maiden; do you act accordingly.' But Pippali-mānava and Bhaddā, being both unwilling to marry, wrote secretly each to the other, thus - He: 'Bhadda!' and she: 'Sir!' 'May you obtain a ménage suitable to your birth and fortune. I shall leave the world. Do not act so as to regret hereafter.' Now the two letter-bearers met, questioned each other, read the letters, and said: 'Look at the work of these children!' Throwing away the letters in the forest, they wrote others and took them. So the marriage was celebrated. But the wedded pair spent the night separated by a chain of flowers. And when Pippali-mānava's parents died, he and Bhadda decided one day, after they had dined and talked together, to renounce the world.

And they got out yellow raiment from their wardrobes, and cut off each other's hair, slung bowls from their shoulder, passed out through their weeping servants, to all of whom they gave their freedom, and departed together, Pippali-mānava walking in front.

And looking back, he thought: 'Here is Bhaddā Kapilānī, a woman worth the whole of India, walking at my heels. Someone seeing us will think: "These have renounced the world, but cannot do without each other." So, falsely accusing us, they may incur danger of purgatory.' And he told Bhadda this, and she agreed that a woman must needs be a hindrance to the male recluse. So they settled, at the cross roads, that he should go right and she left. Then the earth, though it could bear all Sineru, trembled at the weight of such virtue.[3] And the supreme Buddha, seated in the fragrant chamber of the great vihāra in the Bamboo Wood, knew what the earthquake signified, and gathering eighty chief Theras [361] together, he walked three leagues on the road, and seated himself at the foot of the Bahuputtaka Banyan,[4] between Rājagaha and Nālandā. And though he was clad in a ragged robe, the Buddha-rays shone forth from him and darted to and fro, and the tree took on different colours. Then Kassapa the Great[5] perceived: 'This will be our Master, through whom I have left the world.' And bending low, he said: 'The lord, the Exalted One, is my Master! I am his disciple.' And the Exalted One said: 'Sit, Kassapa, and I will show thee thine inheritance.' And in three homilies he gave him ordination. So they returned to Rājagaha, Kassapa exchanging his new robe for the Master's old one,[6] and with humility and zeal determining to practise the thirteen dhutangas.[7] And on the eighth day thereafter he won arahantship with thorough grasp of the spirit and letter of the Norm. Him the Master pronounced chief among those who undertook the extra austerities. And he, by way of showing the charm of detachment, told his experiences, in admonishing the brethren, thus:


On seeing bhikkhus mingling with crowds, and frequenting laymen's houses:

[1051] Walk not where many folk would make thee chief.
Dizzy the mind becomes,[8] and hard to win
Is concentrated thought. And he who knows:
'Ill bodes the company of many folk,'
Will keep himself aloof from haunt of crowds.

[362] [1052] Go not, 0 sage, to hearths of citizens.
Who[9] greedy seeks to taste life's feast entire,
Neglects the good that brings true happiness.

[1053] A treacherous bog it is, this patronage
Of bows and gifts and treats from wealthy folk.
'Tis like a fine dart, bedded in the flesh,
For erring human hard to extricate.


An exhortation to bhikkhus to practice content respecting the four necessaries of life:

[1054] Down from my mountain-lodge[10] I came one day
And made my round for alms about the streets.
A leper there I saw eating his meal,
[And as was meet, that he might have achance,[11]]
In [silent] courtesy I halted at his side.

[1055] He with his hand all leprous and diseased
Put in my bowl a morsel; as he threw,
A finger, mortifying, broke and fell.

[1056] Leaning against a wall I ate my share,
Nor at the time nor after felt disgust.

[1057] For only he who taketh as they come
The scraps of food, medicine from excrement,[12]
The couch beneath the tree, the patchwork robe,
Stands as a man in north, south, east, or west.


When he was asked, in his latter years: 'How is your reverence able at your time of life day after day to climb the hills?

[1058] Where some do perish as they climb the rocks,
Heir of the Buddha,[13] mindful, self-possessed,
[363] By forces of the spirit fortified,
Doth Kassapa ascend the mountain brow.

[1059] Returning from the daily round for alms,
Kassapa mounts some craggy coign and sits
In meditation rapt, nor clutching aught,
For far from him hath he put fear and dread.

[1060] Returning from the daily round for alms,
Kassapa mounts some craggy coign and sits
In meditation rapt, nor clutching aught,
For he 'mong those that burn is cool and still.

[1061] Returning from the daily round for alms,
Kassapa mounts some craggy coign and sits
In meditation rapt, nor clutching aught,
His task is done, and he is sane, immune.


On being asked further: 'But why does your reverence at your time of life dwell in the mountain-jungle? Is not the Bamboo Grove, or others like it pleasant to you? he replied:

[1062] Those upland glades delightful to the soul,
Where the kareri spreads its wildering wreaths,[14] Where sound the trumpet-calls of elephants:
Those are the braes wherein my soul delights.

[364] [1063] Those rocky heights with hue of dark blue clouds,
Where lies embosomed many a shining tarn
Of crystal-clear, cool waters, and whose slopes
The 'herds of Indra' cover and bedeck:
Those are the braes wherein my soul delights.[15]

[1064] Like serried battlements of blue-black cloud,
Like pinnacles on stately castle built,
Re-echoing to the cries of jungle folk:
Those are the braes wherein my soul delights.

[1065] Fair uplands rain-refreshed, and resonant
With crested creatures' cries antiphonal,
Lone heights where silent Rishis oft resort:
Those are the braes wherein my soul delights.

[1066] Here is enough for me who fain would dwell
In meditation rapt, mindful and tense.
Here is enough for me, who fain would seek
The highest good, a brother filled with zeal.

[1067] Here is enough for me, who fain would dwell
In happy ease, a brother filled with zeal.
Here is enough for me who give myself
To studious toil, so am I filled with zeal.

[1068] Clad with the azure bloom of flax, blue-flecked
As sky in autumn; quick with crowds
Of all their varied winged populace:
Such are the braes wherein my soul delights.

[1069] Free from the crowds of citizens below,
But thronged with flocks of many winged things,
The home of herding creatures of the wild:
Such are the braes wherein my soul delights.

[1070] Crags[16] where clear waters lie, a rocky world,
Haunted by black-faced apes and timid deer,
Where 'neath bright blossoms run the silver streams:
Such are the braes wherein my soul delights.

[365] [1071] For that which brings me exquisite delight
Is not the strains of string and pipe and drum,[17]
But when, with intellect well poised, intent,
I gain the perfect vision of the Norm.


When admonishing bhikkhus delighting in secular activities and greedy as to gifts of things needful for life, he said:

[1072] Let not a brother occupy himself
With busy works; let him keep clear of folk,
Nor strive [to copy nor to emulate].
Who greedy seeks to taste life's feast entire,
Neglects the good that brings true happiness.[18]

[1073] Let not a brother occupy himself
With busy works; let him keep clear of this
That nowise tendeth to his real good;
The body toils and suffers weariness,
And thus afflicted he attains no calm.


The following verses were spoken to admonish on certain occasions:

[1074] By mere repeating with a muttering lip,[19]
We see not e'en ourselves for what we are;
And so, stiff-necked, we go about and deem:
'A better man am I than he, than they!'

[1075] No better, truly, is the fool, and yet
He deems himself to be the better man.
But him, poor creature of a stiff-necked mind,
Commend not they who truly understand.

[366] [1076] Who is not exercised about himself,
In this way or in that:[20] - 'the better man
Am I'; 'no better, I'; or 'I am worse,'
Or yet again 'I am as good as he' -

[1077] He who doth really know, and speaketh truth,[21]
Whose heart in righteousness is well composed,
And holdeth fast the saint's serenity,[22]
Him do they praise, who truly understand.

[1078] He who among his fellow-brethren wins
No reverence, is far from the good Norm
As is the firmament far from the earth.[23]

[1079] But they who well have planted modesty
And eke discretion alway in their heart,
They in the holy life do richly thrive;
For them rebirths are ever at an end.

[1080] A brother who, though clad in patchwork robe,
Is of a puffed-up and unsteady mind,
As 'twere a monkey in a lion's hide,
No glory from his gear august doth gain.

[1081] But who, with uninflated, steadfast mind,
Is prudent, with his senses well controlled,
He shineth glorious in a patchwork robe,
As lion in the sombre mountain cave.


On witnessing the gods of the Brahmā world doing obeisance to the Venerable Sāriputta, and marking how the Venerable Kappina smiled:

[1082] See how they stand, those thronging deities Of mystic potency and glorious,
Ten times a thousand, all of Brahma's heaven,

[367] [1083] Around our valiant Captain of the Norm,
Great son of Sārī, calm and rapt in thought,
Acclaiming him with clasped hands upraised: -

[1084] 'Hail thou, humanity's aristocrat!
Glory to thee, 0 thou supremest man!
Lo! past our thinking are thy ranging thoughts;

[1085] 0 wondrous are th' Enlightened of the world![24]
Their intuition, how profoundly deep,
Beyond the powers to which we testify,
Though we be skilled as archer splitting hairs!'[25]

[1086] Then, seeing Sariputta thus adored
By hosts divine, saint most adorable,
A smile stole o'er the face of Kappina.[26]


The Thera's 'lion's roar' concerning himself:

[1087] In the whole field of Buddha's following,
Saving alone the mighty Master's self,
I stand the foremost in ascetic ways;
No man doth practise them so far as I.

[1088] The Master hath my fealty and love,[27]
And all the Buddha's ordinance is done.
Low have I laid the heavy load I bore,
Cause for rebirth is found in me no more.

[1089] For never thought for raiment, nor for food,
Nor where to rest doth the great mind affect,
Immeasurable, of our Gotama,
[368] No more than spotless lotus-blossom takes
A mark from water;[28] to self-sacrifice[29]
Continually prone, he from the sphere
Threefold[30] of new becoming is detached.

[1090] The neck of him is like the fourfold tower
Of mindfulness set up; yea, the great Seer
Hath faith and confidence for hands; above,
The brow of him is insight; nobly wise,
He ever walketh in cool blessedness.


[1] The legend, in their former and their last lives, of Mahā-Kassapa and his wife (see Sisters, p. 47 ff.), itself fit subject for a poem, is too long to reproduce in full, and is here greatly condensed. It follows very closely the version given in the Commentary on the Ang. Nik., i. 23. Under Vipassi-Buddha they were a brahmin couple, with but one cloak between them for outdoor wear. This Kassapa presented to the Buddha. They were husband and wife in many rebirths.

[2] Cf. Jāt. v. (No. 531), 283, 289; vi. (No. 545), 280.

[3] The second of the eight causes of earthquakes in Dialogues, ii. 144.

[4] I.e., of the Many Sons; presumably (with its Cetiya) a votive tree for parents praying for offspring.

[5] Here the name he is known by suddenly appears. It was presumably that of his gens.

[6] One gathers that the Buddha wore the ragged robe intentionally. The episode is described in charming detail, but is omitted for brevity.

[7] See p. 317, n. 2.

[8] Vimano, vikāribhūtacitto (Cy.).

[9] Cf. verse 124, and CCXXIX., verses 494, 495.

[10] Pabbatasenāisanattā (Commentary). Quoted in the Milinda, ii. 830.

[11] A chance of winning the distinction of ministering to an arahant (so the Commentary).

[12] Gomuttaparibhāvitaharitakādi (Cy.).

[13] Cf. XVIII.

[14] The kareri is called in Childers' Dictionary - I do not know on what authority; it is apparently not in Sanskrit literature - the Capparis trifoliata tree. It gave the name to a pavilion, or manṇḍala-māla, in the Jeta Grove at Sāvatthī (Dialogues, ii. 4; Udāna, iii. 8). From the expression above, karerimāla-vitatā, I am much tempted to see in the plant the musk rose-tree (Rosa moechata) of Nepal and the North-Western Himalayas, which is still known in some dialects as karer, and is thus described in Dietrich Brandis's Indian Trees (London, 1906): 'A thorny shrub climbing to the tops of lofty trees, flowering branches hanging down in rich festoons. Flowers, white, ... in large compound terminal corymbs. Found at a height of from two to eleven thousand feet. Nearly allied to the Rosa sempervirens of the Mediterranean region.' Could the 'caper' tree be described as making a glade mālāvitatā, 'enwebbed' or 'festooned with wreaths,' as well as a climbing rose?

[15] = XIII., Vaccha of the Woods.

[16] = CXIII., Vaccha of the Woods and CCXL., verse 601, Sankicca.

[17] Lit., the five kinds of musical instruments; = verse 398.

[18] Cf. verses 494, 1052.

[19] 0ṭṭhapahatamattena, sajjhāyakaraṇavasena (Commentary). Cf. Majjh. Nik., i. 164.

[20] Vidhāsu. Nine such modes of self-conceit are documented in Vibhanga, p. 389. Cf. Bud. Psy., Ī 1116; Ang. Nik., iii. 359.

[21] The Commentary reads, not tathāvādiṃ, but tathā tādiṃ: iṭṭhādis i tādi-bhāvappattiyā. The former reading is less forced.

[22] Arahattaphalasamāpattisamāpajjanena . . . (Commentary).

[23] = verse 278.

[24] Buddhdnaṃ: Cf. Dialogues, ii. 2; Itivuttaka, Ī 68.

[25] A phrase elsewhere associated with Sāriputta's intellectual powers. See his brother's verse, XL.

[26] Kappina the Great. Cf. CCXXXV. We have seen this tribute of the gods produce the same effect on the Master. Cf. CCXLII., verses 629, 680.

[27] = verse 1050 and passim.

[28] Cf. verse 701; also the preceding verses in that poem with the concluding similes above.

[29] Nikkhamma.

[30] The three planes of existence: kāma-bhava, or -loka, rūpa-bhava, arūpa-bhava. See Compendium, p. 186.


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