PSALMS OF THE BRETHREN
Canto XXI. Poem of Seventy-One Verses
Poems of Seventy-One Verses
'The Great Nipāta'
Translated from the Pali by Mrs. C.A.F. Rhys Davids.
Reborn in this Buddha-age at Sāvatthī in a brahmin family, he was named Vaŋgīsa, and was taught the three Vedas. And he won favour as a teacher by tapping on skulls with his finger-nail, and discovering thereby where their former occupants were reborn. The brahmins saw in this a means of gain, and taking Vaŋgīsa, toured about in villages, townships and royal residences. And for three years Vaŋgīsa, had skulls brought to him and divined. Persuading the people to believe in him, he won fees of 100 and even 1000 (? kahāpaṇas). And the brahmins took him about wherever they chose to go. Now he heard of the Master's virtues, and wished to visit him, but the brahmins objected, saying: 'Gotama the recluse will pervert you by his craftiness.' But Vaŋgīsa heeded them not and went, seating himself at one side. The Master seeing him asked: 'Vaŋgīsa,, do you know any art or craft?' 'Yes, Master Gotama, I know the skull-spell. By that, tapping  on a skull with my finger-nail, have I, for three years past ascertained where rebirth has taken place.' The Master let him be shown the skulls of individuals reborn in purgatory, as man, as god, and of one who had passed utterly away. Divining concerning all but the last, of that he could make nothing. Then the Master: 'Art not able, Vaŋgīsa?' 'Let me make quite sure, said Vaŋgīsa, and he turned it round again and again till the sweat stood on his brow - for how will he know the going of the arahant? And he stood there silent and shamed. 'Art tired, Vaŋgīsa?' 'Ay, Master Gotama, I cannot find out where this one has been reborn. If you know, tell it.' 'Vaŋgīsa, both this I know, and I know more than this:
He who of every creature knoweth well
Whence they decease and where they come to be,
Enlightened, well come, freed from every tie:
- Him call I brahmin.
Whose destiny nor angel, god, nor man
Doth know, the arahant, sane and immune:
- Him call I brahmin.'
Then said Vaŋgīsa: 'Well then, Master Gotama, give me this hidden lore.' And doing obeisance, he seated himself as the Master's pupil. But the Master said: 'Let us give you the marks of a recluse.' Then Vaŋgīsa thought: 'I must at all costs learn this spell.' And he said to his fellow-brahmins: 'Do not think it amiss if I take orders. When I have learned this spell, I shall be first in all India, and that will bring you good fortune.' So he asked for ordination, and the Exalted One commanded Nigrodhakappa Thera, who stood near, to ordain Vaŋgīsa. The Thera did so, and then saying: 'You must first learn the accessories of the spell,' gave him the exercise of the thirty-two constituents of the body, and one on insight. Rehearsing the former, he established the latter faculty. And when brahmins came to ask whether he had acquired  the art, he replied: 'What art-acquiring? Go ye hence; I have no more to do with you.' The brahmins said: 'There! he too has got into the power of Gotama the recluse, perverted by craftiness. What have we to do with you as teacher?' And they went away. But Vaŋgīsa realized arahantship.
As arahant, he went to the Master's presence and magnified him in scores of verses, comparing him to the moon, the sun, space, ocean, mountains, the lion, the elephant. Him the Master, seated in conclave, pronounced foremost in facility of speech. But what he said in verse, both before and after he became arahant, was collected and recorded by Ānanda and the other Theras at the Council as follows:
Spoken when a novice, after having been affected by the sight of many gaily dressed women, who had approached the Vihāra, a feeling which he suppressed:
 Were highborn warriors, mighty archers, trained
In champion bow-craft, such as never flee,
To scatter thousand arrows round about. ...
Spoken when suppressing his own feelings, aversion, and bo forth:
 I who have given up dislikes and dotings
In all that stirs the lay imagination,
May not make anywhere a haunt for lusting.
He who from jungly vice hath gained the open,
From lusting free, 'tis he is truly Bhikkhu.
 In all that makes for life the folk cleave ever
To what is seen and heard and touched and thought.
 Who here, desires suppressing, unaffected,
Adhereth nowhere, him [the wise] call Saint.
 Who cleave to views mistaken eight and sixty,
Their nature of the common average sort,
They're fixed in courses evil and unrighteous.
But whoso to no sect whate'er doth go,
Nor clutcheth at blown straws [of vain opinion], A genuine bhikkhu he all men may know.
Spoken when suppressing his own behaviour in connection with his facility of speech:
 By self-deceit deceived this generation,
Destroyed by vanity, is doomed to woe.
For many an age reborn in purgatory
Will folk destroyed by pride lament their doom.
One day as a novice he attended the venerable Ānanda, whom one of the King's ministers had bidden to visit him. There they were surrounded by women highly adorned, who, saluting the Thera and asking questions, heard him preach the Norm. But Vaŋgīsa was excited and moved with desire. Then he, being a well-bred man of faith and integrity, thought: 'This my emotion growing is unsuitable for my present and future good.' And seated as he was, he confessed his state to the Thera, saying:
And the venerable Ãnanda replied:
Spoken after the Exalted One had taught tho Sutta on 'Things Well-spoken' in praise of the Master:
 Whoso can speak a word whereby
He works no torment to himself,
Nor causeth harm to fellow men -
That word is spoken well.
 Pleasant the word that one should speak.
Speech that is grateful to the ear,
That lays not hold of others' faults:
Sweet is that word to hear.
 That which th'Awakened speaks, the sure
Safe guide to make Nibbāna ours,
To put a lasting end to Ill -
That is the Word Supreme.
Spoken in praise of Sariputta:
 With insight into mysteries deep,
And richly dowered with learned lore,
Expert in paths both true and false,
The son of Sārī, greatly wise,
Teacheth the bhikkhus in the Norm.
 And while he teaches, they who hear
His honeyed speech, in tones they love
Of voice enchanting, musical,
With ravished ears, transported hearts,
Delighted list his every word.
Spoken after the Exalted One had discoursed in the Pavāraṇā (Valediction or Dismissal) Suttanta:
 To-day, at full moon, for full purity
Five hundred brethren are together come.
They all have cut their fetters and their bonds;
Seers who are free from rebirth and from ill.
 And as a king who ruleth all the world,
Surrounded by his councillors of state,
Toureth around his empire everywhere,
Driving throughout the lands that end in sea,
Spoken in praise of the Exalted One, who had been delivering a religious discourse to the brethren bearing upon Nibbana:
 They hearken to the Norm's abundant flow,
Imparted by the Very Buddha blest,
O wondrous fair the All-Enlightened shines,
With all the Band of Brethren seated round.
Then the Exalted One asked: 'How now, Vaŋgīsa, have you composed these verses beforehand, or did they occur to you just on the present occasion?' 'They occurred to me just now,' replied Vaŋgīsa. ['Well then, let some more such verses occur to you.' 'Even so, lord ' - and Vaŋgīsa spoke further his praises:]
  Lo! now in truths so well revealed, for trifling
What place is there 'mong them who learn his Lore?
Hence zealously within that Master's System
Let each man train, and while he trains adore.
Spoken in praise of the venerable Thera Aññā-Kondaññā:
 All that the Master's follower can win,
If he fulfil the training of the Rule -
All this Kondaññā step by step hath won
By study strenuous and diligent.
Spoken in praise of the venerable Moggallāna the Great, before the Exalted One, when the former discerned that the hearts of the 500 arahants, gathered together at Black Rock on Rishis' Hill at Rājagaha, were emancipated and free from the conditions for rebirth:
 So do they wait upon that perfect Saint,
Who hath transcended all the power of ill,
And perfected on every hand his work -
So wait upon and honour Gotama.
Spoken in praise of the Exalted One, luminous by his own beauty and glory, when surrounded by the Order and the laity at the Gaggarā Lotus-lake, at Campā:
Spoken when reflecting, as a new-made arahant, on his experiences and on the Master:
 0 surely for the weal of many folk
The advent is of Them-who-Thus-are-Come! -
Of women and of men who keep their Rule.
 Such were the doctrines uttered thus, and I,
I saw them e'en as they were shown to me;
And now salvation have I surely won,
And all the Buddha's ordinance is done.
When inquiring as to whether his tutor had passed wholly away at death:
 Of this disciple, Sākyan, all desirous
Are we to know the fate, thou Seer of all;
Attent the ear of everyone to hear it: -
Thou art our Master and thou art supreme.
  Do thou but sever from us all our doubting,
Tell thou me, amplest Wisdom, make it known:
Hath he indeed his life's long round completed?
Speak to us in our midst, O Seer of all,
As Sakka thousand-eyed in heavenly hall.
 Bonds that here bind us, pathways of illusion,
Factors of ignorance, stations of doubt: -
Whate'er they be, confronted by the Master,
By Him-who-Thus hath-Come, they cease to be,
For among men the Eye Supreme is he.
 For if, i'faith, some Man the world's corruptions
Sweep not away, as wind the lowering clouds,
The world were shrouded wholly in thick darkness,
And e'en the brighter minds would lose their light.
 Swiftly send forth thy voice in all its beauty,
O thou most beauteous; even as the swan,
With rich and mellow tones well modulated,
Lifts up its neck in measured trumpeting,
And we will hearken all, our hearts sincere.
 Gone from his ways all future birth and dying;
And him who shook them off without remainder,
Him now constraining will I cause to speak.
For average folk fail to fulfil their wishes,
But saints perform whatever they devise.
  Well have we learnt how thou canst answer,
Whose insight straight to heart of things dost go,
Not vainly do we stand, once more saluting.
O baffle not, thou infinite in wisdom,
Who [Kappa's destiny] dost surely know.
[The Exalted One.]
 All craving as to life of mind and body
He severed here below, and crossed the stream
Of craving flowing long deep-bedded in him,
Passed utterly beyond both birth and death.
(Thus spake the Exalted One, best in the Five.)
 He of the Kappas saw the source
Of grasping, O Exalted One!
Ah! truly he hath passed beyond
The realm of Death so hard to cross.
Thus verily did the venerable Brother Vaŋgīsa utter his psalm.
 The same story is told of Migasira, also a brahmin of Kosala (CLI), and is probably another bifurcated legend. In the Saɱyutta-Nikāya, the 8th Book is entirely devoted to such of Vaŋgīsa's improvisations as are contained in the following xii sections, together with prose episodes followed, in outline only, by our Commentary. The remaining verses (1263-78) are contained in the Sutta-Nipāta (verses 343-58), as are also verses (1227)-(1230).
 Sutta-Nipāta, verses 643, 644.
 Kāḷato lāmakabhāvato (Cy.). Mārapakkhato. Saɱy. Cy.
"Why not a shield?" because beating down arrows with a staff (the art is also done with a sword, or even by hand) is more difficult so the comparison becomes that much more vivid. Mrs. Rhys Davids will not have seen Chinese kung-fu movies in which this skill is frequently to be seen.
 This difficult passage is thus interpreted by the Commentary, with this explanation: 'A man taking a staff' (why not a shield?) 'can beat down a series of arrows, but every woman shoots five at once (assailing each sense), and is therefore more dangerous.' 'Truths' (dhammesu) mean doctrine generally, but especially the thirty-seven bodhipakkhiyā dhammā. Cf. Compendium, p. 179 f.
 Samukhā (Commentary).
 According to the Commentary, vehāsaɱ = devalokanissitaɱ; jagato-gadhaɱ = lokikaɱ.
 Reading mutantā = pariññā (Commentary).
 Upadhīsu, or substrates. The Commentary names only the five khandhas, but elsewhere three other categories are named (Dhammapada, verse 418; S.B.E., x., p. 94): - kāmā (sensuous desires), kilesā (vices, sins; cf. p. 78, n. i.), and kamma.
 Gadhitāse. Commentary: paṭibandhacittā.
 Paṭighe. Commentary: ghaṭṭaniye, phoṭṭhabbe (things to be struck, touched). It is of interest that Dhammapāla quotes the 'Sāratthapakāsinī' (Saɱyutta Commentary by Buddhaghosa): Sāratthapakāsiniyaɱ paṭighasaddena gandharasā gahitā, etc.
 Usually the speculative opinions described in Dialogues, i., 'Brahmajgla-Suttanta,' are referred to as sixty-two. Here, says the Commentary, the Pali (i.e., text) is not exact as to a little more or less. The Saɱy. Cy. has atha saṭṭhinissitā: atha cha ārammaṇānissitā.
 Cf. Jāt. i. 259: adhammasmiɱ niviṭṭho.
 Padulla- occurs, I believe, in no other work. Cf. Böthlingk and Roth: s.v. dul. The Commentary has duṭṭhullagāhī; Saɱy.: -bhāṇi.
 Dabbo. Commentary, dabbajātiko (see Ang. Nik., i. 354),[?] piṇḍito. The latter word is used, in the Jātaka Commentary (vol. ii., p. 439 of text), to interpret bindussaro, the rich or full voice of the bird. The Anguttara Cy. interprets by piṇḍita-jātiko; Saɱy. Cy. by dubbajātiko paṇḍito (sic). Anyway, I do not see justification for dragging in the Thera Dabba (V.), as does Dr. Neumann.
 Gotamagottassa Bhagavato sāvakattā attānaɱ Gotamagottaɱ katvā ālapati (Commentary).
 In its original sense of consciousness. 'Highest': sammā.
 Dhammadaso. In the Saɱy. Nik. 'Norm-lover,' Dhammarato.
 Cf. Sutta Nipāta, verse 520. and its context.
 Nibbāpanaɱ, a causing-to-go-out (of this fire or fever of passion). Later exegesis dwelt perhaps less on this sense of Nibbāna than on a going-out in the sense of departure or escape (Compendium, p. 168); yet see above, verse 691.
 = Sutta-Nipāta, verse 340 f.
 Ascribed also to Sister Abhirūpa-Nandā, but, in her Psalm, inspired by the Buddha (Sisters, p. 23). 'Steeled,' ekaggaɱ; lit., one-pointed; 'study,' etc.: see things as transient, involving ill, soulless.
 Saɱy. Nik., i. 188; Sutta Nip., ver. 450 f.: 'To be well spoken, speech must not only be such, but also righteous, lovely, and true.' Vaŋgīsa thereupon announces a wish to express himself. The Master consents, and Vaŋgīsa, standing before him, embellishes the prose Sutta as verse.
 Here both Buddhaghqsa and Dhammapāla agree verbatim: esa porāṇo dhammo cariyāpaveṇi; idham eva hi porāṇānaɱ āciṇṇaɱ na te (Dh'pāla: yan te na) alikaɱ bhāsiɱsu. See also Additions, etc.
Siskin. A small song-bird.
 A meeting terminating the rainy season, when confession was invited. See Vinaya Texts, i. 825 ff. The Master (in the Suttanta, Saɱy. Nik., i. 189) invites complaints against himself, and Sāriputta, on behalf of the others, gives him a clean bill, then receives the same himself.
 In our text palāpo, or babbler; in Burmese manuscripts of text and Commentary palāso, phalāso. Pālaso, having leaves, not fruit, means presumably 'sterile.' Both Commentaries, ours and the Sārattha-pakāsinī, explain by tuccho anto, sārarahito, dussīlo (empty, deprived of pith, morally bad).
 The seventh of the Buddhas. The Nikāyas take only these into account in the past.
 The Commentary quotes only the question and answer. The rest I take from the Saɱy. Nik. Dhammapāla only adds that the Master wished to show Vaŋgīsa's gift to the brethren.
 One might render this clause - asitaɱ va bhāgaso pavibhajja[ɱ] - as Dr. Neumann does, by 'as a sickle having divided off by sections' (or sheaves), but (1) I hesitate to liken the Saviour of the Buddhists, for them, to a sickle; (2) both Commentaries agree that asitaɱ is, as in other gāthās, e.g. (1184), anissitaɱ (independent, himself needing nothing). I have taken asita as meaning dhāta (cf. Jātaka Commentary, vol. ii.,.p. 247, text, opposed to chāta, lacking). The main emphasis is on the Teacher's passing on to others what he has gained.
 Lit., that ambrosia being declared.
 Both Com. have diṭṭhiṭṭhānānaɱ viññāṇāṭṭhānāṇaɱ vā.
 Vivekānaɱ, of the detachments -namely, three: of body, of mihd, and that involved in Nibbāna.
 Kāveyyamattā. Wrongly translated by me elsewhere. Without the Commentary I had imagined Vaŋgīsa as having been a troubadour, a naṭa or mime, like Tālapuṭa (CCLXII.). Imagination and a rhetorical facility he had, but one need not substitute a new legend for the old tradition. The term occurs again in Saɱy. Nik., i. 110, where the Buddha, sitting, suppressing the pain arising from a splinter in his foot, Māra inquires why he sits apart with drooping head: Is he feeling 'blithered' or worried, kāveyyamatto, or only sleepy? The Commentary has 'as he were thinking of what he had to say, crazy by reason of what he had to do.' Both Commentaries here have kāveyyana-kabba-(ous: -kavyā-) kārakena mattā, mānitā, sambhāvitā, garukodayaɱ āpannā. Vaŋgīsa's story explains the choice of the term.
 Lit., seers of what is included in the order - i.e., of the world, physical and moral. The Commentary emphasizes only the latter - sampattiniyāmaɱ, the order by which to achieve (saintly) success.
 Nigrodha-Kappa Thera. This episode is also given in the Sutta-Nipāta, verse 342 ff. (S.B.E., x., p. 67 ff.).
 For chetvā read chettā, as Oldenberg suggests. The Commentary paraphrases by chedako: 'cutter-off of doubts.'
 A Vihāra at the chetiya (pre-Buddhistic shrine), so called, at Āḷavī, a town on the Ganges, 12 yojanas from Benares, 30 from Sāvatthī.
 Because he habitually sat in the shade of a banyan (nigrodha), and there, too, became arahant (Commentary).
 I.e., Nibbāna, as that which does not crumble. He is addressing the Buddha by this title (Commentary).
 Lit., to the devae.
 For nibbuto understand nivuto (Commentary).
 Jānaɱ for jānantaɱ. Buddhist and Jain suttaa constantly link these two verbs.
 Our Comy. reads also hi and va.
 Paroparaɱ. Cf. Sutta-Nipāta, p. 59, n. 2, with p. 193, n. Our Commentary condenses the paraphrase of that Commentary: [lokuttara-] lokiyavasena sundaraɱ [asundaraɱ] dūre santikaɱ vā ariya-dhamman ti.
 Lit., 'rain the heard thing' - i.e., speech.
 Our Commentary, unlike the text, has nibbāyi so anupādiseso.
 The interpolated references to the Buddha loquitur are by the Compilers, says the Commentary. I do not understand pañca-settho here any more than did the Commentators. The allusion in the Sutta-Nipāta Commentary is obviously inaccurate. The Buddha was not one of the five, nor a brahmin in the social sense. Our Commentary suggests the Five Indriyas or the Five Precepts, both inapposite here. Dr. Neumann's five divisions of Middle Country and four quarters of barbarians has a more plausible sweep of world-laudation but is, I think, without precedent. Conceivably, the original reading was simply some such compound as puma-settho. chief of men. The metre now turns to ślokas.
 Lit., Brahmin, but used in its original sense: holy, excellent.
 Nigrodha-Kappa is, of course, the 'son.' 'Men' is lit. bipeds. The last verse is not in the Sutta-Nipāta. The term devadevaɱ suggests a later source.