Khuddaka Nikāya

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Canto X.
Psalms of Ten Verses



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

Public Domain

[Pali] [than] [olen]


He was reborn in this Buddha-age, after the Exalted One had passed away, as the youngest brother of the King Dhammāsoka. And King Asoka, in the 218th year after that Passing Away, having united all India in one empire, and made his own younger brother Tissa viceregent, enlisted Tissa's friendship for the Sāsana by a single stratagem.[1]

Now the prince, while hunting, was so impressed at the sight of the Greek Thera, Mahā Dhammarakkhita,[2] seated under a tree, that he also longed to live so in the forest. When he had seen the Thera's supernormal powers, he [252] returned to the palace and told the king he wished to leave the world. Asoka could not in any way dissuade him. Longing for the happiness of the recluse, he uttered these verses:

[537] If there be none in front, nor none behind
Be found, is one alone and in the woods
Exceeding pleasant doth his life become.[3]

[538] Come then! alone I'll get me hence and go
To lead the forest-life the Buddha praised,[4]
And taste the welfare which the brother knows,
Who dwells alone with concentrated mind.

[539] Yea, swiftly and alone, bound to my quest,[5]
I'll to the jungle that I love, the haunt
Of wanton elephants, the source and means
Of thrilling zest to each ascetic soul.[6]

[540] In Cool Wood's flowery glades cool waters lie,[7]
Within the hollows of the hills; and there
I'll bathe my limbs when hot and tired, and there
At large in ample solitude I'll roam. (540)

[541] [253] Lone and unmated in the lovely woods,
When shall I come to rest, work wrought, heart cleansed?

[542] 0 that I might win through, who am so fain!
I only may achieve the task; herein
None for his fellow-man can aught avail.[8]

[543] I'll bind my spirit's armour on, and so
The jungle will I enter, that from thence
I'll not come forth until Nibbāna's won.[9]

[544] I'll seat me on the mountain-top, the while
The wind blows cool and fragrant on my brow,
And burst the baffling mists of ignorance.

[545] Then on the flower-carpet of the wood,
Anon in the cool cavern of the cliff,
Blest in the bliss of Liberty I'll take
Mine ease on thee, old Fastness o' the Crag.[10]

[546] Lo! I am he whose purpose is fulfilled.
And rounded as the moon on fifteenth day.
Destroyed all deadly canker, sane, immune,
I know rebirth comes ne'er again for me.


[1] This is told in the Mahāvaɱsa, ch. v., ver. 154 160. Ibid., 161-172, is a metrical parallel to Dhammapāla's prose account in the following paragraph, which is slightly condensed.

[2] Yonaka-Mahā-Dhammarakkhitathera. This Thera, not elsewhere called Greek, is mentioned, Mahāvaɱsa, loc. cit.; Dīpavaɱsa. viii. 8; Sāmantapāsādika, pp. 314, 317.

[3] I was inclined, before gaining access to the Commentary, to see in these lines the sentiment of Sutta-Nipāta, verse 645 (iii., 9, 52).

To him for whom there's nothing in the world
Either before or after or between-
Nothing at all to take or to possess. ...

But the Commentary's brief comment reveals, not the detachment of the arahant, but the longing of the court dignitary to be rid of the perpetual attendance of courtiers, retainers, soldiers, etc., ever before and behind and around, sycophantic, or slaves of etiquette, and perhaps traitorous, or at least backbiting. The name adopted by, or fastened on Prince Tissa, Ekavihāriya, means Lone-dweller.

[4] Vinaya Texts, ii 812, 813 Cf. Bud. Suttas, p. 210 ff.; Sutta-Nipāta, verses 34-74, etc.

[5] Atthavasī, 'in submission to the business of a recluse' (Cy.).

[6] Yogi-pīti-karaɱ.

[7] The wood contains six pools, writes Dhammapāla.

[8] The beautiful poem reads better uninterrupted by prose; but Dhammapāla gives it in three sections. Section 2 describes Tissa's burst of delighted energy after his ordination, Asoka having conducted both him and his son-in-law (and nephew), Aggibrahmā, to the Vihāra with great pomp and ceremony (a last ordeal for Tissa's tastes!).

[9] Lit., until the āsavas are destroyed.

[10] Giribbājā, the 'mountain stronghold' near Rājagaha. The ruined fortifications, miles in circumference, are still extant, and are the most ancient stone buildings yet found in India. The 'newer' Rājagaha is said to have been chiefly the work of King Bimbisāra, the Buddha's contemporary (Buddhist India, p. 87).

The last section is the dying utterance of Tissa ('Lone-dweller'). He is related to have gone with his instructor (Dhammarakkhita) to the Kalinga country, a great and noted forest tract (cf. Majjh., i. 378) on the east coast, south of Rājagaha. There Asoka built for him the Vihāra of Bhojaka-Giri. In Kalinga are the Asoka inscriptions of Dhauli and Jaugada (Cunningham, Corp. Inscr. Ind., i. 15 ff.).


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