Khuddaka Nikāya

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Canto VIII.
Psalms of Eight Verses

Kaccā[ya]na the Great

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

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Reborn in this Buddha-age at Ujjenī, in the family of the chaplain of King Caṇḍapajjota, he learned the three Vedas as he grew, and succeeded, at his father's death, to the post of chaplain. And he was known by his gens name of Kaccāna.[1] Now the king heard of the Buddha's advert, and said: 'Teacher, do you go and bring the Master hither.' He, with a party of seven, went to the Master, who taught him the Norm with such effect that at the end of the lesson, he, with his seven attendants, were established in arahantship with thorough grasp of letter and meaning. Then the Master, saying, 'Come, bhikkhus!' stretched forth his hand, and they forthwith were as Theras of a century of rain-seasons, hair of two fingers' length cut off, and equipped with bowl and robes.

Then the Thera, having successfully accomplished his own salvation, invited the Master on the king's behalf:

'Lord, the King Pajjota desires to worship at your feet and hear the Norm.' The Master said: 'Do you, bhikkhu, go [239] yourself; by your mission, too, will the king be satisfied.' He, thus bidden, went with the seven, satisfied the king's desire, established him in the faith,[2] and returned to the Master.

One day many bhikkhus, having put aside their duties, and finding pleasure in worldly activities and in society, were leading desultory lives. The Thera thereupon admonished them in two verses, and in the next six admonished the king:

[494] Let not a brother occupy himself
With busy works, let him keep clear of folk,
Nor strive [to copy nor to emulate].
Who greedy seeks to taste life's feast entire,
Neglects the good that brings true happiness.

[495] A treacherous bog it is, this patronage
Of bows and gifts and treats from wealthy folk.
'Tis like a fine dart bedded in the flesh,
For erring human hard to extricate.[3]

(To the King.)

[496] Not evil are the actions of a man
Because of what another [saith or doth];
'Tis of himself he must from wrong abstain,
Of their own acts the offspring mortals be.[4]

[497] No speech of others makes a man a thief,
No speech of others makes a man a sage;
And what we know at heart we really are,
That do the gods who know our hearts know too.[5]

[498] People can never really understand
That we are here but for a little spell.
But they who grasp this truth indeed,
Suffer all strife and quarrels to abate.[6]

[499] The wise man is alive, and he alone,
Although his wealth be utterly destroyed;
And if the man of wealth do wisdom lack,
For all his wealth he doth not truly live.

(To the King consulting him about a dream.)[7]

Things of all sorts by way of ear we hear;
Things of all sorts by way of eye we see;
And for the wise and strong it is not fit
All to neglect as things unseen, unheard.

[501] Let him as seeing be as he were blind,
Let him as hearing be as he were deaf,
Let him, in wisdom versed, be as one dumb,
And let the man of strength be as the weak;
But let the thing of genuine good arise: -
Be that for him the nesting-place of thought.[8]


[1] He was one of the eleven or twelve 'Great' Theras (Vin. Texts, ii. 317, 359), and the teacher of Soṇa-Kuṭikanna (CCVIII.). In the Vinaya and Nikāyas, the name usually appears as Kaccāna. So, too, the Cy. The king is met with in Jāt., v. 133; Dhammapada Commentary, i. 192 ff.; and as Pajjota in Vinaya Texts, ii. 186. See also Kathāsaritsāgara, i. 102.

[2] Sāsane.

[3] = verses 124, and 1052 f.

[4] Majjh., iii. 203; Ang., iii. 72.

[5] The Commentary reads attā ca naɱ yathāvedīti naɱ sattaɱ taasa attā cittaɱ yathā ayaɱ parisuddho aparisuddho cīti yathāvato avedi jānāti. The devas are then credited — i.e., the purer gods — with knowing the thoughts of others.

[6] = verse 275.

[7] The king's dream is not told. He is only said to have gone next day to the Thera and told it 'in the order in which he had seen it.' The oracular reply may not have proved satisfying, but it is quite in keeping with the 'Great Sīla' of Dialogues, i. 17(4). The chaplain was largely an astrologer and dream interpreter; the Sākiya-samaṇa was concerned with the bed-rock realities of waking life and moral law.

[8] The last six lines we quoted in Milinda, ii. 282 f. My own rendering is guided by the high import attaching to attha (good) through the 'Psalms,' and by Dhammapāla. The latter, it is true, is no adequate guide. He omits any reference to 'in wisdom versed' (see Milinda, ii. 288, n. 1), and makes no attempt to paraphrase the curious mata-sāyikaɱ except by mataka-sāyikaɱ. Preceding this word he has passetha = passitvā. The whole poem seems to be a patchwork of annexed gnomic proverbs from the current popular philosophy, annexed like much of Saɱyutta I. and the Jātakas by the Canon, and only essentially in sympathy with the Buddhist teaching.


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