Khuddaka Nikāya

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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 in the country of the Kurus, in the township of Thullakoṭṭhika, as the son of a councillor named Raṭṭhapāla,[1]and was called by his family name. Brought up in a large establishment of retainers, he was united, when adolescent, to a suitable wife, and enjoyed a prosperity resembling that of the devas. Now the Exalted One, touring in the Kuru country, came to Thullakoṭṭhika, and Raṭṭhapāla went to hear him teach. Receiving faith, he with great difficulty obtained his parents' leave to renounce the world. Going to the Master, he received ordination from a bhikkhu at the Master's command, and studying diligently developed insight and won arahantship. Thereupon he obtained permission to visit his parents, and went to Thullakoṭṭhika, going from house to house for alms. At his father's house he obtained rancid gruel, but ate it as if it were ambrosia. Invited by his father, he went next day to his home. And [303] when the ladies in fine array asked him: 'What are the celestial nymphs like, my lord, for whose sake you live the holy life?' he taught them the Norm in connection with impermanence, etc., repulsing their insinuating conduct:

[769] Behold the tricked-out puppet-shape, a mass
Of sores, a congeries diseased, and full
Of many purposes and plans, and yet
In whom there is no power to persist![2] (769)

[770] Behold the tricked-out form, bejewelled, ringed,
Sheathèd in bones and skinny envelope,
By help of gear made fine and fair to see!

[771] Feet dyed with lac, with rouge the lips besmeared:
All good enough for dull wit of a fool,
But not for him who seeketh the Beyond!

[772] The locks in eightfold plait, eyes fringed with black:
All good enough for dull wit of a fool,
But not for him who seeketh the Beyond!

[773] Like a collyrium-pot,[3] brand new, embossed,
The body foul within is bravely decked:
All good enough for dull wit of a fool,
But not for him who seeketh the Beyond.

[774] The trapper set his snare. The deer came not
Against the net.[4] We've eaten of the bait -
Let's go![5] the while deer trappers make lament.

[775] Snapt is the hunter's snare! The deer came not
Against the net. We've eaten of the bait -
Let's go; the while deer catchers weep and wail.

Raṭṭhapāla thereupon went through the air[6] to the Antelope Park of King Koravya, and seated himself on a stone slab. Now the Thera's father had had bolts put on [304] his seven doors, and had sent men to prevent him from getting out, and to take off his yellow robes and clothe him in white.[7] Hence the Thera's going through the air. Then the king, hearing where he was seated, went to him, and with courteous greeting asked him thus: 'Master Raṭṭhapāla, in this world men renounce it for some kind of misfortune - illness, loss of king, wealth or family. But you who have suffered no such thing, why have you left the world?' Then the Thera replied: 'The world passes away, is transient; the world is without refuge or providence; the world has no stronghold; the world is wanting and destitute, dissatisfied, the slave of craving.' Thus showing his separate condition, he recited a parallel in verse :

[776] Men[8] of much wealth I see in the world:-
Riches acquiring they err in not giving.
Make out of greed a great hoard of their wealth,
Yea, hankering yet after ever more pleasures.

[777] The king having forcibly conquered the earth,
To the shore of the ocean, holding the land
This side of the sea, may yet all unsatisfied
Hanker after the further side also.

[778] See where both king and full many another man
Nursing their cravings come to their dying.
Paupers becoming,[9] they put off this body,
For never content lies in pleasures of this world.

[779] Kinsfolk bewail him with tresses dishevelled,
Crying: 'Alas! would our kin were immortal!'[10]
Him in his shroud envelopt they bear away;
Raising a pyre they forthwith cremate him.

[305] [780] He lies a-burning, by forks being prodded,
Clad in one garment, stripped of all riches.
Never to one who is dying are kinsfolk
Refuge, nor friends, nay, nor even neighbours.

[781] His wealth is annexed by his heirs, but the being[11]
Goeth according to all his past actions.
Never doth wealth follow after the dying,
Nor children, nor wife, nor wealth, nor a kingdom.

[782] Never is long life gotten through riches,
Nor is old age ever banished by property.
Brief is this life, all the sages have told us;
Transient it is, and essentially changing.

[783] All feel the Touch,[12] both the poor and the wealthy;
Touched is the wise man no less than the fool.
But the fool, smitten down by his folly, lies prostrate;
The wise man, when feeling the Touch, never trembles.

[784] Wherefore far better than riches is wisdom,
Whereby we arrive even here at the terminus.
For from not reaching the goal[13] the dull-minded
Work wicked deeds in delusion, reborn
In spheres whether high or whether of no account.[14]

[785] Cometh a man to the womb and in other worlds
Findeth rebirth, being caught in Saṅsāra,
Round sempiternal of livings consecutive;
Him one of little wit follows believing,
Cometh to birth both here and in other worlds.

[786] E'en as a thief who is taken in burglary,
By his own act is condemned as a criminal,[15]
[306] So is the race, after death, in another world,
By its own doing condemned as a criminal.

[787] For by the charm, sweet and diverse, of sense-desire,
One way or other the mind is unbalanced;
And seeing the evil in sensuous pleasures,
Therefore, O King, have I gone all forsaking.

[788] Fall as fruit from the tree all the sons of men,
Youthful and aged, when breaks down the body,
This too seeing, O King, have I gone forth.
Better the safe, sure life of religion.

[789] Full of high confidence[16] I left the world
And joined the Order of the Conqueror.
Blameless my going forth has been, and free
From debt I live on my allotted share.[17]

[790] Looking on sense-desires as fire alight.
On gold and silver as a [noxious] knife,
[On life] from entry in the womb as ill,
And on the fearsome peril of the hells: -

[791] Seeing, I say, great evils everywhere,
Thereat was I with anguish sore beset.
Then to me, pierced and wounded as I was,
Came fourfold victory: o'er sense-desires,
O'er rebirth, error, ignorance, VICTORY![18]

[792] The Master hath my fealty and love,[19]
And all the Buddha's bidding hath been done.
Low have I laid the heavy load I bore,
Cause for rebirth is found in me no more.

[307] [793] The Good for which I bade the world farewell,
And left the home to dwell where home was not,
That highest Good have I accomplishèd,
And every bond and fetter is destroyed.[20]

Then the Thera, having thus taught the Norm to King Koravya, went back to the Master. And He thereafter, in the assembly of the Ariyans, declared Raṭṭhapāla foremost of those who had left the world through faith.[21]


[1] Because he was wealthy enough to prop up a bankrupt kingdom (Commentary). This legend is more fully told in Majjhima, vol. ii., No. 82. It reappears also in the Vinaya Texts and the Jātaka (vol. i., No. 14). See hereon Mr. W. Lupton's discussion, prefacing his edition and translation of the 'Raṭṭhapāla Sutta,' JRAS, 1894, p. 769 ff. I have largely profited by Mr. Lupton's translation of the verses. Dhammapāla's brief résumé is given in full.

[2] Cf. verse 1020 f.

[3] Here Mr. Lupton has somewhat missed the point.

[4] Nāsādā = na sanghaṭṭesi (Commentary).

[5] Or, 'we go.'

[6] The older chronicle in the Majjhima Nikāya does not mention this feat of the Thera's, nor the father's measures

[7] The layman's colour.

[8] The metre, till verse 789, is in the Triṣṭubh (Vedic) metre, of the 5 + 5 feet variety.

[9] I.e., in their wishes (Commentary).

[10] Paraphrased by aho vata (lengthened metri cauisā, 'gāthā- sukhattaṅ') amhākaṅ ñāti amarā siyan (! siyun) ti.

[11] Satto.

[12] Paraphrased by aniṭṭhaphassaṅ pāpunanti.

[13] Anadhigataniṭṭhattā (Commentary).

[14] Bhavābhavesu. This curious term is so paraphrased: mahantā mahanteau bhaveau.

[15] Quite literally: is ruined (haññati), as being of evil nature.

[16] This is the dominant note in the Pali term saddhā, 'faith.' Cf. Dr. Neumann's Zuversicht, rather than Glaube. The śloka metre re-enters here. In the Majjh. the poem ends with (788).

[17] Cf. Sisters, verse 110.

[18] Expansion of sampatto āsavakkhayaṅ.

[19] =verses 604, 605, 687.

[20] = verse 136.

[21] Ang. Nik., i. 24.


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