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Canto XIX. Psalms of Fifty Verses


Canto XIX.
Psalms of Fifty Verses


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

Public Domain



Reborn in this Buddha-age at Rājagaha in an actor's family, he acquired proficiency at theatres suited to clansmen,[1] and became well known all over India as leader of a company of actors. With a company of five hundred women and with great dramatic splendour he attended festivals in village, township and royal residence, and won much fame and favour. Now when he had been giving performances at Rājagaha[2] with his usual success, his ripening insight prompted him to visit the Master. And seated at one side, he said: 'I have heard it said, your reverence, by teachers and their teachers, when speaking of actors, that the actor who, on the stage, counterfeiting truth, amuses and delights his audience, will be reborn after death among the gods of laughter. What does the Exalted One say on this point?' Thrice the Exalted One rejected the question, saying: 'Ask me not of this, director.' But when asked the fourth time, ho said: 'Director, those persons who induce sensual, misanthropic, or mentally confused states in others and cause them to lose earnestness, will after death be reborn in purgatory. But if he thinks as you have heard, then his opinion is wrong. And the fate of one who thus holds wrong opinions is to be reborn either in purgatory, or as an animal.' Thereupon Tālapuṭa wept. 'Said I not to [370] you, director, "Aek me not concerning this?"' 'Not for this reason, your reverence, do I weep, that the Exalted One has thus spoken concerning the future state, but because older actors have deceived me, saying that an actor holding a public performance is reborn in a happy life.'

Then Talaputa listened to the Master's teaching, and receiving faith, was ordained, and after due study won arahantship. Thereafter, showing in varied detail how he had restrained and chastened his heart to deeper understanding, he uttered these verses:


[1091] When shall I come to dwell in mountain caves,
Now here, now there, unmated [with desire],
And with the vision gained
Into impermanence
Of all that into being doth become -
Yea, this for me, e'en this, when shall it come to be?[3]

[1092] O when shall I, who wear the patchwork cloak,
Be a true saint of yellow robe,
Without a thought of what is 'mine';
And from all cravings purified,
With lust and hate, yea, and illusions slain,
So to the wild woods gone, in bliss abide?

[1093] O when shall I, who see and know that this
My person,[4] nest of dying and disease,
Oppressed by age and death,
Is all impermanent,
Dwell free from fear lonely within the woods -
Yea, when shall these things be?

[371] [1094] O when shall I with insight's whetted sword
Have cut it down, this creeper of Desire,[5]
With all its tendrils twining far and strong,
Breeder of many fears,
Bearer of pain and woe -
Yea, even this! when shall it come to be?

[1095] O when shall I have power to draw the blade
Of insight, fiery splendour of the Saints,
And swiftly shatter Māra and his host,
While in the victor's posture seated still -[6]
Yea, when shall these things come to be?

[1096] O when may I in pious companies
Be seen among all such as hold the Norm
In reverence, given to noble toil
With them who see the heart of things,
With masters over sense -
Yea, when shall these things come to be?

[1097] O when will slackness, hunger, thirst,
No more distress me, nor the wind, the heat,
Insects and creeping things wreak scathe on him.
Who on the Fastness of the Crag[7]
Doth mind his own high needs -
Yea, when shall this thing come to be?

[1098] O when shall I with thought composed -, intent,
And clarity of insight come to touch
That which the mighty Seer understood -
The Four, the Ariyan Truths,
So passing difficult to see -
Yea, even this, when shall this come to be?

[372] [1099] O when shall I, yoked to the avenues of calm.
With deeper vision see the things of sense
Innumerable - sights and sounds,
Odours and tastes and tangibles,
And all the inner objects of the mind
As things ablaze and burning -[8]
Yea, when cometh this for me?

[1100] O when shall I abide [unmoved] -
Because of speech abusive not downcast,
Nor when, again, my praise is sung,
Be fillöd with complacency -[9]
When cometh this for me?

[1101] 0 when as so much firewood, bindweed, straw,
Shall I esteem the factors of my life,[10]
With all the countless, objects known by sense,[11]
Internal or without,
Judging them all alike -
[Hollow, impermanent][12] - yea, this for me, () when?

[1102] O when will [break above my head]
The purple storm-cloud of the rains,
And with fresh torrents drench my raiment in the woods,
Wherein I wend my way
Along the Path the Seers have trod before -
Yea, when shall this thing come to be?

[373] [1103] O when shall I, hearing the call adown the woods
Of crested, twice-born[13] peacock [as I lie
At rest] within the bosom of the hill,
Arise and summon thought and will
To win th' Ambrosial -
Yea, when shall this come to be?

[1104] O when shall I, by spiritual powers upborne,
Cross over Gangā, Yamunā,[14] Saraswtī
Unsinking, yea, float o'er the awful mouth
Of hell-flung ocean waters -
Yea, when shall this come to be?

[1105] 0 when, like elephant in battle charging,
Shall I break through desire for joys of sense,
And to rapt contemplation given,
Shun all the marks of outward loveliness -
Yea, when shall these things come to be?

[1106] O when, like some insolvent pauper pressed
By many a dun discovering hidden store,
Shall I be filled with joy,
In that I have attained
The [refuge of] the mighty Master's Rule?
Yea, when shall this thing come to be?


[1107] Tis many years since thou, my heart, didst urge:
'Come now, enough of this house-life for thee!'
See then! I've left the world. Wherefore, O heart,
Dost lack devotion to thy task?

[374] [1108] Have I not, 0 my heart, been urged by thee:
'On Fastness of the Crag
Bright-plumaged passengers of air,
Greeting great Indra's thunder with their cries,
Do give him joy who ponders in the wood.[16]

[1109] In social circle friends beloved and kin,
The joys of games, of art, delights of sense
Ail have I put away to come to this.
Well then, O heart, art thou not pleased with me?

[1110] 'Twas only for myself I acted thus,
For no one else [made I this sacrifice].
Why then lament when comes the time to arm?
This life is all a-quake! - so I beheld.[17]
And I renounced the world and chose the Ambrosial Way.

[1111] Hath he not said - who sayeth all things well,
The best of beings,[18] great Physician,
Tamer and driver of the sons of men -
Unsteady is the heart like [jigging] ape,[19]
So hardly may that heart,
With passions not o'ercome, be held in check.

[1112] For varied, sweet, entrancing are desires of sense,
Wherein the ignorant majority
Entangled lie. They do but wish for ill
Who seek to live again,
Led by their heart to perish in the Pit.

[375] [1113] 'There in the jungle ringing with the cries
Of peacock and of heron wilt thou dwell,
By panthers and by tigers owned as chief.[20]
And for thy body cast off care;
Miss not thine hour, thine aim!'[21] So wast thou wont, my heart, to urge on me.

[1114] 'Create, develop[22] thou the Ecstasies,
The fivefold moral Forces and the Powers,
The seven Wings of Wisdom
And the four Grades of concentrated will;[23] Touch thou the Triple Lore
Within the Buddha's Rule': -
So wast thou wont, my heart, to urge on me.

[1115] 'Create, develop in thy life the Path
Whereby thou mayest win Ambrosia -
The way of progress and egress,
Founded upon the ending of all Ill,
Eightfold, purging from all that doth defile': -
So wast thou wont, my heart, to urge on me.

[1116] 'This mind and body shouldst thou scrutinize
And hold as "ill"; and all the source of ill
Do thou put far from thee;
Yea, here and now make thou an end of ill! -
So wast thou wont, my heart, to urge on me.

[1117] 'And understand that transiency is ill,
Is empty, without soul, is bane and bale;
Restrain thy mind's discursive vagrancies': -
So wast thou wont, my heart, to urge on me.

Apostrophized. Meaning to shorten. Here to exist without his prior fame and fortune. "He's missed out on the householder's enjoyment..." ITI 91

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

[376] [1118] 'Shaven, unsightly, and apostrophized[24]
When come for alms, with skull-like bowl in hand[25]
Among the citizens,
Do thou now give thyself
Wholly to carry out the Master's Word, the Seer's -
So wast thou wont, my heart, to Urge on me.

[1119] 'Walk thou well-disciplined within the streets,
With mind unfettered by the sense-desires
Of them that live therein.
Be like the moon a fortnight old in cloudless sky:'[26] -
So wast thou wont, my heart, to urge on me.

[1120] 'He who in forest dwells and lives by alms,
Who haunts the field of death, wears patchwork robe,
Refrains from lying down,[27]
He ever finds the true ascetic joy': -
So wast thou wont, my heart to urge on me.

[1121] 'As one who, having planted trees, seeks fruit,
Dost thou now, finding none, desire to cutv
Thy tree down at the root?' -
Such was the parable thou mad'st, my heart,
When thou the unstable and th' impermanent
Didst urge on me.

[1122] Thou unseen thing that knowest from afar,[28]
Rising in single file, no more thy word
Will I obey. For thy sense-born desires
Lead but to woe, to bitter fruit, to brooding fear.
Henceforth toward Nibbāna's peace alone
I'll set my face and walk.

[377] [1123] I did not leave the world when out of luck,
Nor as a shameless joke, nor from a whim,
Nor was I banished in disgrace,
Nor seeking livelihood,
When I did give consent, my heart, to thee.

[1124] 'Good men do praise small needs and much content,
Yea, and renouncing of hypocrisy,
And the assuaging of all pain': -
Thus didst thou, 0 my heart, exhort me then.
Now go'st thou back to all thy former loves.

[1125] Craving and ignorance and loves and hates,
And things of beauty, all the pleasant thrills
And charm of sensuous joys: - these have I vomited,
Nor may I strive to come once more to things thus spurned.

[1126] Where'er my life has fallen, 0 my heart,
Thy word have I obeyed.
In many births thou'st not been vexed with me.
And this is all thy gratitude: -
This individual compound self,
With all the suffering wrought by thee
A-down the long, long æons of my life.

[378] [1127] Tis thou, 0 heart, dost make us what we are.
Thou makest, we become. A brahmin now,
Then are we nobles, yea, a king, a seer,[29]
Burgess one day, and serf the next are we,
Or e'en a deity - and all
In virtue of thine agency alone;

[1128] Through thee alone have we been Asuras,
Thou working, have we been through hellish doom;
Again, one day, in realm of beasts reborn,
Or Petas, by thine agency alone.

[1129] Nay now, thou shalt not dupe me as of old
Time after time, again, ever again,
Like mountebank showing his little masque;[30]
Thou playest guileful tricks with me,
As with a lunatic.[31] Tell me, my heart, wherein am I at fault?

[1130] Once roamed this heart a-field, a wanderer,
Wherever will or whim or pleasure led.
To-day that heart I'll hold in thorough check,
As trainer's hook the savage elephant.[32]

[1131] To me the Master did insist[33]: - this world
Was transient, temporal, without a soul.
Now, heart, leap forward in the Conqueror's Rule,
And bear me o'er the great forbidding floods.[34]

[1132] For thee, O heart, things are not as of yore.[35]
'Twill not suffice that I within thy power
Fall back to live once more.
[379] Gone forth am I 'neath the Great Master's Rule.
Men such as I now am no forfeit will endure.

[1133] Mountains and seas, the rivers, earth itself,
The quarters four, the intervening points,
The nadir, yea, and all the heavens above[36]: -
Three planes of being[37] each impermanent
And all of them forlorn -
Where canst thou then, my heart, find ease and rest?

[1134] Since I've the goal so firm, so sure, 0 heart,[38]
What wilt thou do [to make me turn]?
No more be't mine, my heart, to follow thee.
None, in good sooth, would touch a bag
That opened at both ends. Fie! then,
On that full thing flowing with issues nine.[39]

[1135] 0 [thou wilt love the life], be't on the crest
Of caverned cliffs, where herd boar and gazelle,
Or in fair open glade, or in the depths
Of forest freshened by new rain - 'tis there
Lies joy for thee to cavern-cottage gone.[40]

[1136] Fair-plumed, fair-crested passengers of air
With deep blue throats and many-hued of wing,
Give greeting to the muttering thundercloud
With cries melodious, manifold; 'tis they
Will give thee joy whiles thou art musing there.

[380] [1137] And when the god rains on the four-inch grass,[41]
And on the cloud-like crests of budding woods,
Within the mountain's heart I'll seated be
Immobile as a lopped-off bough,[42] and soft
As cotton down my rocky couch shall seem.

[1138] Thus will I do e'en as a master should.
Whate'er is got, be it enough for me.
And like a tireless tanner dressing hides,[43]
I'll make thee soft as catskin finely dressed.

[1139] Thus will I do e'en as a master should.
Whate'er is got, be it enough for me.
I'll lead thee in my power by force of will,[44]
Like a fierce elephant by skilled mahout.

[1140] With thee at length well tamed and steadfast grown,
Like trainer with a steed well purged of vice,
Then can I tread the Path of happy fate,
Haunted by them whose hearts are guarded well.

[1141] And to the object thou shouldst think upon
I'll bind thee by the power that training gives,
As elephant by strong cord bound to post.
So when I have thee guarded well, and trained
By clarity of thought, thou shalt become
Unleaning on all forms of future life.

[1142] When by the aid of insight thou bast dammed
Thine errant course, by study hast restrained,
[381] Turned it along the avenue [of truth],[45] So thou canst see how all things do become: -
Rise into being and are then dispersed -
Then shalt thou be the [child and] heir of Him:
Knower and Teacher of the Things Supreme.

[1143] On the fourfold hallucination set,[46]
As village lout didst drive me, 0 my heart.[47] Come now and follow him, the Merciful,
Great Seer for whom all bonds and chains are broke.

[1144] Like creature of the wild roaming at large
In the fair flowering jungle, so thou too
Hast gone up on the lovely cloud-wreathed crest.
There on the mountain, where no crowd can come,
Shalt find thy joy, 0 heart, for never doubt
But thou shalt surely win to the Beyond.[48]

[1145] They who remain subservient to thy will,
Male or female, enjoy what thou dost give,
Delight in ever coming back to be: -
Unknowing, in the wake of Māra's power,
These all, O heart, retainers are of thee.[49]


[1] Kulānurūpesu naccaṭṭhānesu.

[2] Nagaravasīnaŋ samajjaŋ dassetvāā.

[3] The metre of the text is Triṣṭubh throughout. In trying to reproduce the wistful yearning of the opening, I have had the 'Choric Song' of Tennyson's 'Lotus-Eaters' in mind. Ekākiyo = ekeko.

[4] Kāyo, literally, group, including not body only, but the mental groups (Commentary). 'Nest': cf. Itivuttaka, Ī 43.

[5] Taṇhā-latā. A favourite simile in the Canon. Cf. verse 761.

[6] The whole line is implicit In the word sīhāsane 'in 'he lion's seat,' or 'on a throne.' Commentary: thirāsane aparājitapallanke.

[7] Giribbaja. See CCXXXIV., 545, n.

[8] Cf. Sitters, verses 200, 351. The Commentary, in sampling the 'things of sense,' specifies, among 'inner objects,' things as pleasant and as painful; but they include also concrete perceptions (as distinct from each mode of sensation), images, ideas, etc.

[9] This was a great step for one of Tālapuṭa's art to surmount.

[10] Khandhe.

[11] Dhamme. Commentary: rūpadhamme.

[12] Aniccaāivasena c'eva asārādi-upamānavasena (Commentary).

[13] Dvija a generic name for oviparous creatures, 'born of the mother and of an egg' (Commentary).

[14] Cf. p. 159. See also Additions, etc.

[15] 'Now, having shown the course of his thoughts before he renounoed the world, he, being in the Order, shows in what ways he admonished his heart so as to attain' (Commentary).

[16] I.e., to study (Commentary).

[17] Cf. Sisters, p. 188, verses 200, 201.

[18] Lit., of bipeds. Cf. Sisters, verse 432. Dr. Neumann cites one other instance: Epigraphia indica, iii., p. 3131, 6.

[19] See Ps. CXXIII.

[20] Because of the exercise of universal love' [mettā{brahma) vihāratāya] (Commentary).

[21] Mā virādhaya is the text in the Commentary, and the comment mā virādhehi, 'miss not this moment so hard to win.' Cf. verse 403.

[22] For bhāvehi the Commentary gives 'cause to arise, make to grow.'

[23] The numbers are given in the Commentary. The last refer to the four Iddhipādas. Cf. Compendium, p. 180, d, e, f, c, and above, verse 437.

[24] Dhammapāla, reading also abhisāpam-āgato, refers to Itvuttaka, Ī 91. His Commentary on that work has abhlāpo ti akkoso.

[25] Cf. p. 113, n. 1.

[26] Cf. verse 306.

[27] Cf. verse 856.

[28] Cf. Dh'pada, ver. 37; Comy., i. 304. The latter work is largely in literal agreement with our Commentary on this and the next phrase. Consciousness has no visible properties, and cannot move in space the width of a spider's thread, but knows its object without such contact. Again, it is a series of units of mental life arising singly. 'Two, three consciousnesses do not arise together. One ceases, another rises.' It is just possible that what the Pali suggests to us - 'Thou formless, lonely traveller afar! - may be nearer what Tālapuṭa meant than the psychological interpretation of the scholastics. Nevertheless, when the lines elsewhere suggest romance to the latter, they do not stifle it. Anyway, the characteristic Buddhist difference is interesting.

[29] In rāja-d-isi the d is inserted to link the two words (Cy.).

Additions etc. "V and c are often confused not only in Singhalese, but also in Burmese, on palm-leaf. In Sutta-Nipāta, verse 162 f., between -cāraṇo and -vāraṇo Fausböll chose the former. What, then, is a cāraṇikaŋ? The Commentary itself is obscure: abhinhako carakārahaŋ viya mano-dassento carakārahaŋ purisaŋ tantaŋ-bhavaŋ dassento. I should be glad to have light thrown on carakārahaŋ and tantaŋ-bhavaŋ. In Sanskrit cāraṇo is a strolling player, hence my rendering. If correct, it is a very likely simile for one with Tālapuṭa's traditional antecedents to have used.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

[30] Reading cāraṇikaŋ. See Additions, etc.

[31] Cf. verse 931; JPTS, 1889, p. 203.

[32] See LXXVII., p. 76.

[33] Adhiṭṭhāhi, an uncommon use of this word.

[34] Of Saŋsāra (Commentary).

[35] Cf. verses 126, 280.

[36] Disā ti devalokā (Commentary).

[37] Cf. verse 1089.

[38] The Commentary reads: Dhitipparan ti dhiti-parāyanaŋ paraŋ maŋ thirabhāve ṭhitaŋ ... maŋ cāletuŋ na sakkhissasī ti attho. This seems preferable to reading 'fie!' again here, and 'fie!' again in the same gāthā.

[39] Reading with the Commentary ubhato. This otherwise unintelligible line then falls into its place in quaint but pointed contrast to the figure of the body. Cf. verses 279, 1151.

[40] An attempt to reproduce the Pali alliteration - guhāgehagato.

[41] 'Resembling a crimson blanket' (Commentary) reminds us of our clover-fields.

[42] Lit., 'like a log without appurtenances' (Commentary). Cf. LXII.

[43] Cf. this simile in Majjh. Nik., i. 128. The Commentary rends, for taŋ taŋ karissāmṁ, nahanta-kassāmi.

[44] Viriyena.

[45] Pathe is paraphrased by vipassanāvīthiyaŋ.

[46] I.e., holding the impermanent as permanent, and the ugly (asubhaŋ), the painful, the soulless, as beautiful, pleasant, and having a soul respectively. The last illusion, in the Br. MS. Comy. is either worded unusually - attani attā ti ('in one's 'self' a 'soul'), or the scribe has omitted the an from anattani ('in the soul-less a soul').

[47] Gāmaṇḍalaŋ. The Commentary first reads gāmandalaŋ, then, in commenting, gāmantalaŋ, but explains this to mean gāmandarakaŋ - 'my good heart, thou draggest (parikaḍḍhasi) me around, hither and thither as if I were a (stupid) village-lad.' Dr. Neumann reads for gā, go.

[48] Lit.: 'Thou shalt beyond-become, look down upon or become superior to.' Commentary: 'Thou shalt stand firm by the ruin of (thy) saŋsara.'

[49] The last verse, as well as 1143, would fit better if placed a little further back in the poem.


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