Khuddaka Nikāya

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Canto I.
Psalms of Single Verses


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


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He was reborn in this Buddha-age at a hamlet near Sāvatthī, in a poor family. Grown up, he earned his living in the fields, furnished with a little sickle, plough, and spade. Now one day when King Pasenadi of Kosala was bestowing a great offering on the Exalted One and the Order, he went, taking milk and butter, along with men who were taking woodwork. Seeing the attentions and honours paid to the Brethren and Sisters, he thought: These Sākiyan recluses live in sheltered lodgings and in delicate robes-what if I too were now to leave the world?' And he approached a certain great Thera and made known his intention. The Thera out of compassion admitted him, and sent him into the forest with an exercise. But in solitude he pined and wavered, and departed to his native village. Then as he went along he saw the peasants ploughing the fields in soiled garments, covered with dust blown by hot winds. And he thought: 'Truly these fellows earn their living in great misery!' And feeling anxious, his insight approaching maturity, he set himself to do the exercises that had been given him, going to the roots of a tree, and biding in seclusion. Thus he finally won arahantship. Thereafter, to celebrate his own emancipation from the ills of life, he broke forth into this psalm:

[43] Well rid, well rid, O excellently rid
Am I from these three crooked tasks and tools,
Rid o' my reaping with your sickles, rid
Of trudging after ploughs, and rid's my back
Of bending o'er these wretched little spades.
[48] Though they be ever here, ay, ever here,
Enough of them, I say, for me, enough!
Go meditate, Sumaṅgala, ay, go
And meditate, Sumaṅgala, and bide
Earnest and diligent, Sumaṅgala![1]


[1] This curious and racy verse runs into four lines of text, is of no assignable metre or symmetry, and would seem to represent a Walt-Whitmanesque effort of a peasant bhikkhu to turn out rough-hewn the utterance of his emotions. As such, it is of striking interest, and is paralleled in homeliness and verve by the verse of Muttā (Sisters, Ps. xi.), herself of humble circumstances, rejoicing to be rid of her special trio of crooked things-husband, quern, and churn.


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