Khuddaka Nikāya

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Canto XIV.
Psalms of Fourteen Verses


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

Public Domain



Reborn in this Buddha-age at Sāvatthī, in a family of caravan-leaders, he was named Godatta. After his father's death he arranged his estate, and taking 500 carts full of wares travelled about, maintaining himself by trading. One day an ox fell on the road while drawing its cart, and his men could not raise it, so he himself went and smote [282] it severely. Then the ox, incensed at his ruthlessness, assumed a human voice and said: 'Godatta, this long time have I unreservedly given my strength to draw your burdens, but to-day when I was unable and fell, you hurt me badly. Well then! Wherever henceforth you are reborn, may I be there as your enemy able to hurt you!' Godatta was thrilled at hearing this, and thought: 'What do I in this way of life who have thus hurt living things?' And he divested himself of all his property, and took orders under a certain great Thera, in due course attaining arahantship.

Now one day as he was abiding in the bliss of fruition, he discoursed to Ariyan groups, both lay and religious, on worldly wisdom:[1]

[659] E'en as the mettled brute of noble breed,
Yoked to his load, drawing his load along,
Though worn by burden past his powers, [unfair],
Breaks not away, revolting from his bonds,

[660] So they in whom, as water in the sea,
Wisdom abounds, despise not other men;
This among creatures is the Ariyan rule.[2]

[661] Living in time, come 'neath the power of time;
Subject to dread concerning future life,[3]
Men go their ways to pain and misery,
Yea, here below the sons of men do mourn.

[662] Elated by some pleasant hap, by ill
Depressed, the fools are smitten to and fro,[4]
Who nothing as it really is can see.

[663] But they who can escape the seamstress fell,[5]
'Twixt pain and pleasure holding Middle Way,
[283] They stand as any pillar at the gate.
Neither elated they, nor yet depressed.

[664] For not to gain or loss, to honour, fame,
To praise or blame, to pleasure or to pain -

[665] Where'er it be - do they take hold and cling,
No more than drop of dew to lotus-leaf.
Hale and serene are heroes everywhere,
And everywhere unconquered [bound to win].[6]

[666] Of him who rightly seeks and nought doth gain,
And him who gains but seeketh wrongfully,
Better is he who rightly sought and lost
Than he who gained by methods that were wrong.

[667] Of them who have repute, but scanty dower
Of wit, and them who know, but lack repute,
Better the wise men who do lack repute
Than great repute and men of little wit.

[668] Of praises by the unintelligent,
And blame and criticism by the wise,
Better the censure of th' intelligent
Than are the commendations of a fool.

[669] The pleasure born of sensuous desire,
The pain that comes from life detached, austere,
Better the pain that comes from life austere
Than pleasure born of sensuous desire.

[670] To live by wrong; for doing right to die,
Better 'twere thus to die than so to live.

[671] They who have put off sense-desire and wrath,
Peace in their heart regarding life to come,[7]
They walk the world from lust and craving free;
Likes and dislikes are not for such as these.

[672] The factors of enlightenment, the powers,
These have they studied and the forces too.
So winning perfect peace, as fires extinct,
They wholly pass away, sane and immune.


[1] Lokadhammā.

[2] It is interesting to contrast the protest of the Indian ox with that of the Hebrew ass of Balak. According to the Commentary, the gist of the 'Ariyan rule' is the sporting maxim that, whether we do or do not congratulate ourselves on our successes, we are not to belittle (avambhanaṅ) others when we fail. Herein, in either case, rich wisdom makes a man happy.

[3] More literally, subject to becoming and not becoming.

[4] Cf. CII.

[5] I.e., craving (taṇhā), who sews life on to life (Bud. Psy., p. 278).

[6] This last (metri causá) from the Commentary: anabhibhavaniyato.

[7] See ver. 661, n. 8.


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