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

[Pali] [olen] [than]


He was reborn in this Buddha-Age as the son of the brahmin, Bhaggava,[1] who was chaplain to the King of Kosala. On the night of his birth all the armour in the town shone.[2] The King's state armour too, so that he, seeing it as he lay in bed, could get no sleep, but was nervous and alarmed. The chaplain that night consulted the stars and concluded that his son was born in the conjunction of the thieves' constellation.[3] At dawn he waited on the king and asked if he had slept well. 'How could I have slept well, teacher?' replied the King, 'my armour was lit up all night. Now what can that presage?' [319] 'Fear not, your majesty, in my house a child is born. Through his influence the armour in the whole town was lit up.' 'What then will he become, teacher?' 'The child will become a thief.' 'Single-handed, or leader of a gang?' 'Single-handed, sire.' 'Had we not better kill him?' 'If single-handed, he can be held in check.'

Now because he was born vexing the King's mind he was named Hiṅsaka. But afterwards when what was seen was seen no more, he became known as Ahiṅsaka.[4] Through former Karma he had the strength of seven elephants. And while he studied under the first teacher at Takkasilā, he respectfully waited on the latter and his wife, so that he was frequently with them at meals and so forth. But the other brahmin youths could not endure him,[5] and at length brought about discord between him and the brahmin teacher, persuading the latter against him. Because of his pupil's great strength, the brahmin devised a stratagem for his ruin, and said: 'Ahiṅsaka, you have now finished as my pupil: give me my honorarium.' 'Very good, teacher, how will you have it?' 'Bring me a thousand human right-hand fingers.' For he expected that Ahiṅsaka would for shame bring one only, and could then be punished. Thereat Ahiṅsaka's long heaped-up ruthlessness came to the front, and girding on armour, he went to the Jālini forest,[6] in Kosala, and from a cliff near the high road watched the passers-by, and rushing down smote off their fingers and hung them on a tree, till the vultures and crows had stripped the bones of flesh. Then making a garland of the fingerbones, he hung it round his shoulders as if decked for sacrifice. From that time he was called Fingerwreathed (Angulimāla). And when through his deeds the road became tabu, he entered the villages, and these became deserted. Then the King proclaimed: 'Let [320] a strong force come that we may quickly take the bandit.' And Angulimāla's mother, of the Mantāni brahmins,[7] said to her husband: 'Our son is a thief and committing this and that. Send for him, bid him to stop doing these things.' But he replied: 'I have nought to do with sons of that sort; let the King do as he will.' Then she in love, took provisions and set out, saying: 'I will bring my son and stop him.'

The Exalted One thought: 'If she comes to him, Angulimāla will kill her to make up his thousand fingers. This is his last birth. If I do not go there might be great loss. I will speak to him.' So after his meal he travelled the thirty leagues along the road, and warning off cowherds and the like, approached the Jālini Wood. Now Angulimāla had just seen his mother, and was reckoning on her finger to make up his number, when the Exalted One showed himself between them. Then said the son: 'Why should I kill my mother for a finger? Let my mother live! Let me rather go for that recluse's finger.' And drawing his sword he stalked the Exalted One. Then the Exalted One exerted such magic power that, even though he was walking at his usual pace, Angulimāla could not, even running, overtake him, but panting, pouring sweat, unable to lift his feet, stood like a stake and cried: 'Stop, friar!' The Exalted One said: 'Tho' I walk, yet have I stopped, and do you, Angulimāla, stop!' Then the thief thought: 'They speak the truth, these Sakiyan friars, yet he says he has stopped, whereas it is I who have stopped. What can he mean?' So he asked

[866.] Thou who art walking, friar, dost say:
'Lo! I have stopped!'
And me thou tellest, who have stopped,
I have not stopped!
I ask thee, friar, what is the meaning of thy words?
How sayest thou that thou hast stopped, but I have not?

[321] Then the Exalted One replied:

[867.] Yea, I have stopped, Angulimāla, evermore,
Towards all living things renouncing violence;
Thou holdest not thy hand against thy fellow-men,
Therefore 'tis I have stopped, but thou still goest on.

Thereat Angulimāla, as the Exalted One stood there revealing his true virtue, remembered what he had heard rumoured about him and, his insight reaching maturity, rapture pervaded his being, like a sheet of water spreading over the whole earth. And saying to himself, 'Great is this lion's roar. This can be none other, methinks, than the Samana Gotama; to help me the Exalted One is come hither!' he said: -

[868.] 0 long is it since mighty sage by me revered,
A friar, to this forest great, hath found his way!
Lo! I will readily forego a thousand crimes,
Hearing the righteous doctrine in this verse of thine.

[869.] And so[8] the bandit doffed[9] his armour and his sword
And threw them down a cliff, into a pit, a chasm.
Before the Welcome One, low worshipping, the thief
Straightway besought the Buddha's leave to be enrolled.

[870.] Thereat the Buddha, mighty Sage most pitiful,
Master of all the world and eke of all the gods,
Spake then these words to him, saying: 'Yea, COME, BHIKKHU!'
And e'en thereby to him was bhikkhu - status given.

[871.] He who in former days a wastrel living,
In later day no more so spends his time,
He goeth o'er the world a radiance shedding,
As when the moon comes free in clouded sky.

[872.] To whomsoe'er the ill deeds he hath wrought,
By a good life are closed up and sealed,[10]
He goeth o'er the world a radiance shedding
As when the moon comes free in clouded sky.

[873.] Surely a brother who in youth doth give
Himself to live within the Buddha's Rule,
He goeth o'er the world a radiance shedding
As when the moon comes free in cloudy sky.

Thus abiding in the joy and ease of emancipation, he went into the town for alms. And men threw, here a clod, and there a stick at him, hitting him on the head, so that he came back to the vihāra with broken bowl[11] and sought the Master. The latter admonished him saying: 'Suffer it, brahmin, you have to suffer it. The result of your actions, for which you might have been roasted for centuries in purgatory, you are feeling now in this life.' Then the Thera, summoning up a heart of love for all beings without distinction,[12] said:

[874.] O let my foes but hear the Norm as told to me,
And hearing join with me to keep the Buddha's Rule!
O let my foes but minister to men of peace,
Who e'en have taken to their hearts that holy Norm!

[875.] 0 let my foes from time to time but hear that Norm
From them who tell of gentleness, and who commend
Affection, and to what they hear, their actions suit!

[323] [876.] For such a foe would verily not work me harm,
Nor any other creature wheresoever found.
He would himself attain the peace inffable,
And thus attaining cherish all both bad and good.[13]

[877.] The[14] conduit-makers lead the stream,
Fletchers coerce the arrow shaft,
The joiners mould the wooden plank,
The self 'tis that the pious tame.

[878.]Some creatures are subdued by force,
Some by the hook, and some by whips;
But I by such an One was tamed
Who needed neither staff nor sword.

[879.] Innocens! such the name I bear,[15]
While Noxious in the past was I;
To-day most truly am I named,
For now I hurt not any man.

[824] [880 .] Once an obnoxious bandit I,
Known by my name of Finger-wreathed,
Till toiling mid the awful flood,
I refuge in the Buddha found.

[61.] Once were my hands imbrued with blood;
Known was my name as Finger-wreathed.
O see the Refuge I have found,
With every craving[16] rooted out!

[882.] Me who had wrought such direful deeds,
Fast going to my place of doom,
Me all that doing's aftermath
Hath touched e'en here-and freed from debt
Now take I my allotted share.[17]

[883.] 'Tis a fool's part heedless to waste his life:-
Such are the folk who will not understand.
He who is wise doth foster earnestness
As he were watching o'er his chiefest wealth.

[884.] Give not yourselves to wastage in your lives,
Nor be familiar with delights of sense.
He who doth strenuously meditate,
His shall it be to win the bliss supreme.

[885.] O welcome[18] this that came nor came amiss!
O goodly was the counsel given to me!
'Mong divers doctrines mooted among men,
Of all 'twas sure the Best I sought and found.

[886.] O welcome this that came nor came amiss!
0 goodly was the counsel given to me!
The threefold wisdom have I made mine own,
And all the Buddha's ordinance is done.

[887.] Deep in the wild beneath some forest tree,
Or in the mountain cave, is't here, is't there,
So have I stood and let my throbbing heart

[325] [888.] Transported beat. Happy I seek my rest,
Happy I rise, happy I pass the day,
Escaped from snare of evil - ah! behold
The Master's sweet compassion shown to me!

[889.] A child born of good brahmin stock was I;
Of pure and high descent this side and that.
This day the Welcome One doth call me son,[19]
The Master, yea, the Sovereign of the Norm.

[890.] Gone is all craving, nowhere have I hold.
Guarded the gates, and well controlled the sense.
Of this world's misery spewing forth the root,
From every poison-taint am I immune.[20]

[891.] The Master hath my fealty and love,
And all the Buddha's ordinance is done.
Low have I laid the heavy load I bore:
Cause for rebirth is found in me no more.[21]


[1] Not identifiable with the Bhaggava, at whose hermitage the Prince Siddhattha first studied after his renunciation. See Sisters, p. 2.

[2] I have given this quaint legend - invented to explain a nickname? - in full, as affording a means of comparing the scholastic journalism of Buddhaghosa (Commentary on Majjhima Niküya, 'Sutta 86') and of Dhammapāla. 'The two narratives differ in details, and are probably mutually independent and approximately contemporaneous. The story was a popular one; it occurs in the Avadāna-Šaṭaka (No. 27), and is referred to (Milinda, ii. 355). Dhammapada, verses 173, 422, refer to it, but the Commentary and that on Jātaka V., No. 537, both refer to Buddhaghosa's account. Was the babe brother to Jenta, CCXVIII?

[3] On this 'brahmin art,' cf. Dialogues, i. 16 f., 20 f. I do not know which star or stars are meant.

[4] Our nearest equivalents are Nocens and Innocens, the latter once a favourite Christian name. Dr. Neumann's Wagnerian 'Friedreich,' etc., is wider of the mark. According to Pap. Sūd., he was named Ahiṅsaka, or Abhiṅsaka, from the first.

[5] In the Majjhima Nikāya Commentary they were 'aliens' (bāhirakā).

[6] 'Snare Wood.'

[7] Cf. IV

[8] According to the Commentaries, the bandit speaks these words then and there. At verse 871 begins Angulimāla's song of triumph as arahant.

[9] Anvākāsi (Pap. Sūd., anvākāri) paraphrased as khipi, chaḍḍesi.

[10] Pithīyati the Commentary connects with the closing of a door.

[11] The Majjhima Nikāya gives a more coloured picture: 'With broken head and flowing blood, cut and crushed.' In the Dhammapada Commentary, iii., 169, he is represented as dying after uttering these verses.

[12] Cf. I., pp. 4, 5, n. 1.

[13] Tasa-thāvare: in Childers 'feeble-strong,' but admittedly a term of doubtful meaning. Dhammapāla has 'all beings.' Buddhsghosa says: Tasā are called sataṇhā., thāvarā, nittaṇhā (having craving and the opposite).

Dr. Neumann, who in these three gāthās takes disā to mean, not 'foes,' as do both Commentaries, but the quarters of the firmament (disā, disāyo), lets himself go in an invocation to die Lüfte, entirely in the style and words of the German Romantic poets of the last century. The result is lovelier as poetry, if not after Thera-precedent, as observed by the Commentators he derides. The Thera's regret is that the men, 'relatives of his many victims,' do not know how changed he is, nor the virtues of that which has changed him.

[14] See XIX. The metre in [878] reverts to the śloka. The Thera, having uttered the foregoing for his own protection (Buddhaghosa), and to deliver others from evil (Dhammapāla), now declares his own accomplished work.

[15] 'I bear' accords better with our Commentary, which gives Hiɱsākā as the Thera's original name, and Ahiɱsaka as that given him on his conversion. Buddhaghosa's version is perhaps more plausible. Cf. p. 319, n. 1. It must, too, be remembered that his record was spotless till he tried to pay his college fee.

[16] Bhavanetti, 'guide to rebirth' = taṇhā. See verse 604, n. 1.

[17] See verse 789.

[18] Pilinda-Vaccha's verse (IX.)

[19] The Dhammapada Commentary relates (iii. 170) that when Angulimāla passed away, and the Master heard of it, he said: 'My son, bhikkhus, has reached Parinibbāna.' 'Lord, has he so reached who did kill so many people?' 'Yea, he did evil when he had not one virtuous friend, but when he found one, he strove earnestly, wherefore his evildoing is closed up by good.'

[20] Cf. CXVI.

[21] = verses 604, 792.




Majjhima Nikāya, 'Sutta 86'
Jātaka V., No. 537,


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