Khuddaka Nikāya

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Canto I.
Psalms of Single Verses


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

Public Domain



Reborn in this Buddha-age of wealthy parents at Sāvatthī, he married and named his son Singāla(ka), himself becoming known as Singāla's father. At a later time he threw off domestic ties, and left the world for the Order. The Exalted One, contemplating his inclinations, gave him the meditative exercise of the idea of a skeleton. Taking it he dwelt among the Sākiyans at Suṅsumāragira, in the [23] Bhesakalā Wood.[2] Now in that wood a woodland sprite, judging that the Thera would soon grasp the fruition he laboured after, uttered this verse:

[18] Lo! in the forest of Bhesakalā
A brother dwells, heir of the Buddha's grace,
Suffusing through and through this earthy frame
With thought intent, austere, of skeleton.[3]
Beshrew me, if he do not swiftly drive
All passion of the senses clean away!

Hearing that verse the brother thought 'this fairy said this to me to call forth effort,' and willing unfaltering endeavour, he developed insight and attained arahantship. Thereafter he recalled the fairy's words, and breathed forth that very verse as the confession of his anna.


[1] In the Commentary Singālaka-pitā. The name means 'jackal.'

[2] This town (see Windisch, Māra u. Buddha, p. 150) and wood have hitherto been found in association, not with the Sākiyans, but with the Bhaggas (JPTS, 1888, pp. 63, 98). Either, therefore, there was more than one wood of this name, or the Bhaggas, whose locality seems doubtful, were a section of the Sākiyas. Cf. ver. 1208.

[3] Kevalaṅ atthisaññāya aphari pathaviṅ imaṅ. Dr. Neumann sees in this line an allusion to the passage in Saṅy. Nik., ii. 178 ff., and referred to by Sumedhā (Sisters, p. 173):

'And bear in mind that tumulus of bones
By creatures piled who wander through the world.
Remember the great cairn of one man's bones
From one æon alone, equal to Vipula.'

Dhaminapala, on the other hand, ignores any such allusion and interprets the line as referring to the mode of asubha-saññā, or the kasiṇa called 'meditative exercise of bones' (atthika-bhāvanā). Pathavī, usually applied to the extended world, he explains as atta-bhāva-pathavī, that extended or earthy attribute of the individual called, in the Nikāyas, ajjhattika-pathavīdhātu (personal extended element). That it is never called simply pathavī (the extended, or earth) may incline the critic to dissent from the Cominentarial tradition. And yet why should the latter have let slip this good exegetical opportunity, had the mountain of bones been indeed implied'? 'Having by the "bones-notion" wholly suffused his own or all beings' organism with the thought "'Tis bone!" and making that the basis of jhāna, he will put away all sensuous passion by the Non-Returner's Path ...' so runs the Commentary.


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