Khuddaka Nikāya

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Canto X.
Psalms of Ten Verses

Kappina the Great

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

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Reborn before our Master's birth in the border country at a town named Kukkuṭa (Cock), in a rāja's family, he was named Kappina. At his father's death he succeeded, as rāja Kappina the Great. He, to extend his knowledge, would send men of a morning out of the four gates to the cross-roads, bidding them arrest passing scholars and tell him. Now by that time our Master had come into the world, and was dwelling at Sāvatthī. And traders of that town brought goods to Kukkuṭa and disposed of them. Then saying, 'Let us see the king,' they took gifts and announced themselves. The king accepted their gifts, saluting them, and asked whence they came, and what their country and king were like, and what sort of religion (dhamma) was theirs? 'Sire,' they replied to the last question, 'we are not able to tell you with unwashen mouths.' The king sent for a gold ewer of water, and they, with cleansed mouths and hands at salute, said: 'Sire, in our country the Treasure of a Buddha has arisen.' At the one word 'Buddha,' rapture suffused the king's whole body. '"Buddha," say you, friends?' And he made them tell him thrice that infinite word, giving them 100,000 pieces. They told him also of the Treasure of the Norm and of the Order, and he trebled his gift, and forthwith renounced the world, his ministers doing likewise. Now they set forth [to find the Exalted One] and came to the Ganges. There they made a determination by the power of truth,[1] saying: 'If [there be] a Master, a Buddha Supreme, let not even a hoof of these horses be wetted!' Then they crossed on the surface of the full river, and so crossed yet another river, coming thirdly to [255] the great river, Candabhāga,[2] which they crossed in like manner.

The Master, too, who on that day had risen at dawn, and, filled with great compassion, surveyed the world, discerning that 'to-day Kappina the Great has renounced his kingdom, and comes with a great following to enter the Order; 'tis fit I go far to meet him,' first went with a company of bhikkhus to Sāvatthī for alms, then went himself through the air to the banks of the Candabhāga, and sat down cross-legged under a great banyan facing the landing-stage of the ford,[3] sending forth the Buddha-rays. Kappina and his men saw the rays darting to and fro, and said: 'We are come on account of the Master, and lo! here He is!' And they drew near, prostrating themselves. Then the Master taught them the Norm, so that they were all established in arahantship, and asked to become recluses. The Master said, 'Come, bhikkhus!' and this was their sanction and their ordination. Then he took them back with him through the air to the Jetavana.

One day the Exalted One asked whether Kappina taught the Norm to the bhikkhus? They said that he lived inactively, enjoying his happiness. Kappina, when sent for, admitted this was true, and was told: 'Brahmin![4] do not so; from to-day teach the Norm to them that have arrived.' Kappina assented, worshipping, and by his very first discourse established a thousand recluses in arahantship.

[256] Wherefore the Master assigned him the foremost rank among those who taught the Brethren.[5]

Now one day the Thera taught the Sisters as follows:

[547] Can ye but see that which is coming ere it come,[6]
And mark such business as will benefit or harm,
Nor foes nor friends, howe'er they seek, will find a rift.

[548] The man by whom the breathing exercise
With self-control is to perfection brought,
Practised with method as the Buddha taught,
He casts a radiant sheen about the world,
As doth the moon emerging free from cloud.

[549] Lo! now the mind of me is white indeed,[7] Expanded beyond measure, practised well,
Its nature understood, and strenuous;
Shedding a radiance on every side.

[550] 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.[8]

[551] Wisdom is arbiter of what is heard.
Wisdom doth nourish honourable fame.
With wisdom in his company a man
Even in pain and sorrow findeth joys.

[552] Here is a fact that's not of yesterday;
Tis not abnormal nor anomalous:
'Where ye are being born, ye also die.'
What have we there save what is natural?

[553] [257] For after being born we do but lead
A life that is a dying hour by hour.
Whoe'er are born in that same life they die -
Such is the nature of all living things.

[554] That brings no good to the dead which is good for the living.
Mourning the dead is no honour nor purification,[9]
Nor is it praised by the wise, by recluses and brahmins.

[555] Mourning vexes the eye and the body, wasteth
Comeliness, strength [of body and mind] and intelligence.
If he be blithesome, all the four quarters become
Cordial well-wishers, e'en if his lot be not happy.

[556] Wherefore let laymen desire to receive in their family
None but them that are wise and discreet and much learned.
They by the power of their wisdom accomplish their business,
E'en as a boat doth effect a crossing o'er the full river.[10]


4. Kings (2 Kings) 1.10: And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.

p.p. explains it all — p.p.

[1] Saccādhiṭṭhāna, for the more usual saccakiriyā. Cf. Jāt., i. Nos. 20, 35. Cf. 2 Kings, i. 10.

[2] If this be the Chenab (the Akesines of the Greeks), the geography of Dhammapāla is impossible; but if for Ganges we substitute Sindhu (the Indus), then Kappina, coming from the extreme north-west (Kukkuṭa is an unknown locality), would have the Indus and the Vitasta (Jelum) for his first and second rivers. In Jāt., iv. 180, the Buddha is said to have gone 2,000 yojanas to meet him. This is commentarial legend. From Sāvatthī to the Chenab, before it flows into the Indus, is, as the crow (or a Buddha) flies, roughly 600 miles (?).

[3] Uttaraṇatitthassābhimukhaṭṭhāne, which seems to render the mystic feat rather superfluous.

[4] The Buddha occasionally addresses his arahants thus - e.g., Angulimāla (Majjh., ii. 104; cf. Ps. CCLV.). Brāhmana = holy, or excellent man. By social class, Kappina was a Khattiya.

[5] Ang., i. 27.

[6] Paṭigacca: puretaraɱ yeva (Cy.).

[7] Odātaɱ. When the Buddha (Saɱy., ii. 284) points out Kappina to the bhikkhus to praise him, he says: 'Do you see that alight little white (odātakaɱ) man with the prominent nose coming along?' referring probably only to his complexion. Cf. p. 3, n. 1; and verse 972.

[8] = ver. 499

[9] I do not pretend to have solved the difficulties here. Even Dhammapāla seems to evade them. He reads, for na lokyaɱ, na sokyaɱ, and paraphrases this by na visuddhi. I follow him, as the only way to make the passage intelligible.

[10] Kappina was one of the twelve 'Great' Theras; his verses, however, are, for the most part, more gnomic saws of popular philosophy than genuine Dhamma, such as was fitted for members of the Order, whom he is said to have been addressing. They would have fitted an early Greek, or any pagan. And it was not possible to get poetry out of them. Dr. Neumann succeeds here and there, but only by departing from the original. The change of metre is merely to indicate a corresponding change in the Pali.


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