Khuddaka Nikāya

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Canto VII.
Psalms of Seven Verses

Sopāka (2)

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

Public Domain



Reborn in this Buddha-age to a pariah's wife, he was called, according to his birth, Sopāka (pariah). Some say he was born in a trader's family. This is contradicted by the Apadāna text (pāḷiyā):

When to my last birth I had won,
Into Sopāka-womb I came.

Four months after birth he lost his father, and was maintained by his uncle. The latter, when Sopāka was seven years old, was bidden by his own ill-tempered son to kill the child. So he took him to the charnel-field, bound his hands, and tied him by the neck to a corpse, thinking, 'Let the jackals and others devour him,' for he was not able himself to kill the child, who had come to his last rebirth. The jackals and other creatures came, and the child at midnight cried:

O what the fate in store for me,
Or who to the orphan lone is kin!
In midst of dreadful deathfield bound,
Whom shall I find to be my friend?

The Master, at that hour surveying what fellow-men were redeemable,[2] saw the conditions of arahantship shining [234] within the child's heart, and drew his attention by emitting a glory, saying:

Come then, Sopaka, fear thou not;
Behold the Man-who-thus-hath-come!
I, even I, will bear thee o'er,
As moon comes safe from Rāhus jaws.

The boy by the Buddha's power broke his bonds, and at the end of the verse stood, a Stream-winner, before the Fragrant Chamber.[4] Now his mother sought him, and the uncle telling her nothing, she went to the Exalted One, thinking 'the Buddhas know all, past, future, and present.' The Master, as she came, hid the boy by iddhi, and to her saying, 'Lord, I cannot find my son, nevertheless the Exalted One knows what he is doing?' he replied:

Sons are no shelter nor father, nor any kinsfolk.
For one o'erta'en by death, bloodbond is no refuge, ...

so teaching her the Norm. She, hearing, became a Stream-winner, but the boy an arahant. Then the Exalted One withdrew iddhi, and she, overjoyed, beheld her son. Hearing he was arahant, she suffered him to leave the world, and went her way.[6]

Now he came and saluted the Master, as he was walking in the shade of the Fragrant Chamber, and followed him. And the Exalted One, desiring to grant him ordination, asked him the ten questions beginning: 'What is the one'?'[7] He, grasping the Master's intention, supplied the answers, 'All beings are sustained by food,' etc., by his omniscience. Whence the name of the 'Boy-Questions' arose. And the Master, satisfied in mind by his replies, ordained him. All this the Thera set forth in confessing aññā thus:

[480] [235] In the shade upon the terrace walking, lo! the Chief of men.
Thither went I, in His presence worshipping the Man of men.

[481] Draped my robe was on one shoulder, forth my clasped hands were stretched,
In the footsteps of the highest of all beings so I walked.

[482] Then He asked me questions, He so skilled in questions and so wise.
And unwavering, unaffrighted answered there the Master I.

[483] He The-thus-Come then commended how the questions answered were.
And the brethren-host surveying, to them made this matter known

[484] 'Fortunate are they of Anga, and of Magadha, from whom
Such as he procureth raiment, food and lodging, medicine
And the reverence that is seemly, yea, they're happy!' so He said.

[485] 'From to-day henceforth, Sopāka, come to see Me when thou wilt.
Our discourse alone, Sopāka, shall thine ordination be.'

[486] Seven were my years when to me ordination thus was given.
Now I bear the final body. Hail! fair Order of the Norm.[8]


[1] Dāyako, benefactor.

[2] Veneyya - lit, capable of being led.

[3] Cf. Sisters, ps. ii.

[4] The Buddha's apartments at the Jeta-Vihāra.

[5] Dhammapada, verses 288, 289; to Paṭācārā, cf. Sisters, p. 71.

[6] Cf. the similar episode in Yasa's legend (CXVII.).

[7] Khuddaka pāṭha. Cf. Sisters, p. 66.

[8] I have rendered these relatively crude and artless verses almost literally, not trying to recast them in English more aesthetically satisfying. If there be any truth in the tradition, they were composed by a boy of the people, of natural genius (for deep questions), but of no education. And the youth and lack of literary ability seem to be betrayed in the simply told Pali. There is a world of difference between it and the form and contents of such poems as, say, Migajāla's, Kosiya's, or those of the Kassapa brothers.


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