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


He was reborn in this Buddha-age at Sāvatthī, in the family of a lay-follower, after the father had left his home. The mother, naming him Sānu, brought him when he was seven years old to the bhikkhus for ordination, deeming she would thus ensure for him supreme happiness. Now Sānu, the Novice became very learned, a teacher of doctrine, and practised in the jhāna of love, being beloved by gods and men. And as we know from the Sānu-Sutta (Saɱyutta Nikāya, i. 208) his mother, in his previous birth, was a Yakkha.[1] Now as time went on Sānu lost his intellectual discernment and grew distraught, and longed to go a-roaming. Then his previous mother perceived this, and warned his human mother saying: 'Your son has a fancy to roam, wherefore bid him rouse himself. Tell him what the Yakkhas say:

Do nought of evil, open or concealed,
If evil thou now doest or wilt do,
Thou'lt not escape from ill, e'en though thou flee.

[49] Thus saying, the Yakkha-mother disappeared. But when the human mother heard, she was overwhelmed with grief. Then Sānu the novice, taking his robe and bowl, set out early and came to his mother. At sight of her sorrow he said: 'Mother, why do you weep?' When she told him why, he said this verse:

[44] Mother, they weep for the dead, or the living they may not see.
But for him, O mother, who lives, who is here, why mournest thou me?

His mother answered him from the Suttas, "This is death, O bhikkhus, that one should reject the training and turn again to lower things,'[3] and with this verse:

They mourn for son who lieth dead, or him
Who is alive but whom they no more see.
And him they mourn, who though he did renounce
The world, my son, doth hither come again,
For though he live again, yet is he dead.
Drawn forth from burning embers, O my dear,
Dost thou on embers wish to fall again?

When he heard her, anguish seized on Sānu the Novice, and making firm his insight, he soon won arahantship. And thereupon thinking, 'My victory is due to that verse,' he repeated it as his psalm.[4]


[1] The Yakkhas, denizens of the jungle, and man-eaters; conceivably the legendary survivors of aboriginals, but, as here, invested with more than human intuition.

[2] Saɱy., i. 209; Udāna, v. 4 ; Sisters, verses 246, 247.

[3] Saɱy., ii. 271; Sisters, verses 246, 247; the verse is from Saɱy. i. 209.

[4] The Dhammapada Commentary, discussing verse 826, has, as its subject, Sānu and his mother. His own question was the penultimate, though not the proximate, cause of his victory.


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