Khuddaka Nikāya

[Home]  [Sutta Indexes]  [Glossology]  [Site Sub-Sections]




Canto XVI.
Psalms of Twenty Verses




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

Public Domain


He was reborn in this Buddha-age, before the Master's birth, at Sāvatthī, in a brahmin family, and named Telakāni. Matured as to antecedents, he wearied of worldly desires, and left the world as a wandering recluse. Seeking for emancipation of spirit, he toured about, thinking: 'Who is he in the world who has got beyond?' and asking questions of recluses and brahmins without receiving satisfaction. Meanwhile our Exalted One had arisen, and was rolling the Norm-Wheel, working the good of the world. Him one day Telakāni heard, and found faith, was ordained, and not long after won arahantship.

Sitting one day with bhikkhus, and remembering his own toiling and winning, he declared it all to them thus:

[747] Oh the long days I cast about in thought,
Ardent to find truth [that could set me free]![1]
No peace of mind I won, [but up and down
I fared,] asking of brahmin and recluse:

[748] [299] 'What man in all the world hath got beyond?
Who in the Ambrosial hath a foothold won?[2]
Whose doctrine can I to my bosom take,
Whereby the Highest[3] I may come to know?'

[749] Caught on a hook within, my spirit hung
E'en as a fish that swallows baited food.
Captured I lay, as Vepachitti once,
The Asura, in mighty Indra's toils.[4]

[750] I dragged my chains along, nor found release
From this [unending source of] grief and dole.
Is there no man on earth who can unloose
My bonds, and make me know Enlightenment?

[751] What brahmin, what recluse can tell me how
To break them off? Whose Norm can I accept,
Able to bear away old age and death?

[752] Behold this load! coil of perplexity
And doubt, the mortal force of it
Wearing the temper, stiffening the mind,
And lacerating with a vast desire,

[753] Fell offshoot from the bow of craving, due
To [forms of false opinion,] twice fifteen[5] -
Behold, I say, how mightily about
My breast this pressure crushes where it lies![6]

[754] The ruck of vain opinions[7] not put off
[300] But quickened by foud hopes and memories:[8]
By this transfixed I stagger to and fro,
And quiver as a leaf blown by the wind.

[755] 'Tis from within me that hath sprung the dart,[9]
Whence swiftly is consumed this self of me,[10]
Even this body with its sixfold field
Of contact, where it doth proceed alway.

[756] I see him not, that surgeon skilled, who can
Extract the dart and purge me of my doubts
By subtle probe, and not by other knife.[11]

[757] Can any one, without or knife or wound,
Leaving the members of me all unscathed,
Draw out this shaft that's stuck within my heart?

[758] Master of Dhamma, he, the Best,
Who can the venom's fever-scathe disperse,
Who, were I fallen in the deep, could show
A hand and[12] point where shallows sloped to land.

[759] Yea, in a pool it is that I am plunged,
A pit of dust and mire undrainable,
Extended wide with treacherous counterfeit,
Envy and overstrain,[13] torpor and sloth.

[760] [301] Thunder of thought distracted overhead,
And fettering wraiths of cloud about my path: -
The rush of lust-borne impulse and intent
Doth thither sweep me - to a sceptic's doom.[14]

[761] And everywhere the streams are flowing by,
And ever burgeoning the creeper stands -
Those streams whose strength avails to stop?
That creeper who can sever from its root?[15]

[762] Make thee[16] a dyke, good sir, to dam the streams;
See that the mind's strong current ruthlessly
Dash thee not hence like any log away!

[763] 'Twas even so for me who sought in fear,
On this side for the distant shore, when He,
The Master, followed by his saintly throng,

[764] He the true Refuge, and with insight armed,
Held out to me a stairway, strongly wrought,
And firm, made of the Norm's pure heart of oak,[17]
And to me toiling spake: 'Be not afraid!'

[765] I climbed up to the terrace where the mind
Alert and vigilant applies itself,[18]
Thence I could contemplate the sons of men
Delighting in that sense of 'I' and 'mine,'[19]
Wherein I once was wont to nurse conceits.

[766] And when I saw the Way, even the ship
On which to embark, and dwelt no more on Self,
'Twas then that I beheld Nibbāna's shore.[20]

[767] [302] The dart that sprang from self, offshoot of her
Who to becoming leads[21] - to stop all that
The perfect Path [the Ariyan] he taught.

[768] The knotted bonds long buried in my life,
Fixed up about me for so many years,
The Buddha loosed and cast them off from me,
And every poison canker purged away.


[1] So the Commentary, vimuttidhammaɱ, vimokkhadhammo.

[2] 'In this world among those who are acknowledged as religious teachers, who now has gone up to Nibbāna beyond Saṅsāra (i.e., consecutive livings and dyings)? Who is established in Nibbāna, in the path of emancipation?' (Commentary).

[3] Paramattha, the supreme good, or meaning.

[4] See Saɱy. Nik., i. 220, § 4.

[5] According to the Commentary, the 'twice fifteen' refers to the twenty forms (6 x 4) of sakkāyadiṭṭhi, or soul-speculation (Dh. S., § 1003 = Bud. Psy., p, 259), and the ten forms of micchādiṭṭhi (Vibhanga, p 392).

[6] I read with the Commentary bāḷhaɱ and tiṭṭhati.

[7] The word anudiṭṭhīnaɱ is paraphrased by anudiṭṭhīnaɱ ... sassatadiṭṭhi ādīnaɱ.

[8] The Commentary reads sankappa-paratejitaɱ ... micchāvitakkena parajane ... ussāhitaɱ. The other reading, sankappasara-tejitaɱ, seems more intelligible and less forced in construction. There is an approximate precedent in sarasankappā (Majjh. Nik., i. 458; Saɱy. Nik., iv. 76). Lit., the 'not putting off' is 'quickened.'

[9] Stress is laid in the Commentary on the wound being self-inflicted, much in the style of Christ's words: '... those things which ... come forth from the heart; ... they defile the man' (Matt. xv. 18).

[10] Māmakarɱ = mama santakaɱ attabhāvaɱ.

[11] 'Doubts,' as 'the dart,' are here said to typify the entire group of kilesas (lit., torments, cankers; cf. Bud. Psy., 327, n.). The probe, nānārajja, is paraphrased by esanī-salākā. Ahiṅsaɱ = abādhento.

[12] The Commentary reads pāṇiñ ca.

[13] Sārambha (cf. verse 752) is explained by karakuttariya-lakkhaṇo.

[14] The Commentary interprets vāhā vahanti as 'a rush of great waters bearing me to the doom-ocean.' Cf. Jāt., v. 888 f.; Dhp., ver. 339 f.

[15] These are standard similes for 'craving' (taṇhā). Cf. verse 1094.

[16] Karotha is 'make ye,' but one meets with this inflexion in the singular sense, such as the context demands.

[17] Lit., 'made of the pith of the Norm.'

[18] Satipaṭṭhāna-pāsādaɱ.

[19] Sakkāya, paraphrased as ahaɱ mamāti.

[20] Titthaɱ uttamaɱ - lit., best or supreme shore - paraphrased by 'the landing-place of the ambrosial great-beyond, called Nibbāna.'

[21] Taṇhā. See p. 292, n. 1. Pabhāvitaɱ = samuṭṭhitaɱ (Commentary).


Copyright Statement