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


His story has been recorded above[1] Now those verses he spoke in the Master's lifetime, himself not yet arahant, touching the governance of the six powers (five senses and mind). But these verses he uttered after the Master had passed away, and when his own passing away was at hand. And in them he declared the future of bhikkhus under a perverted Norm.

Now the first stanza was placed by the Compilers.

[920] These be the thoughts that came to a Brother,
Seated beneath the great forest's[2] fair blossoms,
Lone and aloof, in deep contemplation: -

[921] How is the conduct of the Brethren changed
Since when the Sovereign of the world, the Man
Supreme, was yet abiding on the earth!

[922] Raiment to shield from chilly winds, to hide
What should be hid, enough, no more, they sought,
Enjoyed contentedly whatever came.

[923] Whether the food was excellent or poor,
Whether 'twas much or little, they partook
To keep life going, free from greedy whims.

[924] [332] The requisites for men as living things,
And medicine too as means to live: - for these
Not fervently they cared, as care they did
How to destroy the poisons of the mind.

[925] In the deep forests 'neath the shade of trees,
In caverns, in the bosom of the rocks,
Detachment studying and developing: -
So lived they making that their instant quest.

[926] Of lowly, humble soul and frugal ways,
Gentle of heart, pliant and apt in mind,
Of gracious manner, speech not scurrilous,
Intent on good [for others and for self].[3]

[927] Pleasant and lovely therefore in their lives: -
Their goings, their enjoyments, their pursuits, -
Like the smooth tenour of a stream of oil.

[928] For them every intoxicant was dead,
Mighty in Jhāna they, mighty for good:
Now are those Elders wholly passed away.
Few now-a-days there be like unto them.

[929] From dearth of good conditions and insight,
The Conqueror's Rule, compact of all that's best
In plan and mode, crumbles and wears away.

[930] Bad the conditions and corrupt the age,
Wherein e'en they, who for the life detached
Had made good start, and to the higher things
That yet remain [might follow on], - e'en they

[931] From the swift growth of all that doth corrupt,
Do influence for evil many folk.
Methinks they juggle with [the consciences
Of] fools as devils sport with the insane.

[932] By the corruptions overcome, such men, -
Pursuing here and there what doth corrupt,
As one who calleth loud what he hath got, -[4]

[933] [333] They quarrel 'mongst themselves, forsaking quite
The blessed Norm, and, after errors gone,
Do ween: - Lo! this is better, this is best.

[934] They who have turned their back on wealth and wife
And child, and left their home, if they but get
Spoon-alms, will do things that beseem them not.

[935] They eat until they are replete, then down
They lie supine, and when awake, discourse
Concerning matters which the Master blamed.[5]

[936] All arts and handicrafts they highly rate
And practise: - such are bhikkhus' duties deemed,
The while from inner conquest they abstain.

[937] And clay and oil and powder for the bath,
Water and food and lodging they present
To laymen, in the hope of richer alms;

[938] Yea, toothsticks also and kapiṭṭha fruit,[6]
Petals of flowers to chew, and curries choice,
Mangoes[7] and cocoanut, myrobalan.

[939] In drug-purveying they as doctors be,[8]
In business matters like the laity,
Like courtezans do they parade their gear,
And play the lord like any noble squire.

[940] [334] Adulterators they, tricksters and cheats,
Unscrupulous, by many stratagems,
In things of this world freely they indulge,

[941] Pursuing ways and methods fit for fraud,
Seeking a livelihood[9] by cunning craft,
They draw together plenteous store of wealth.

[942] To settle business is the Chapter called,
Not in the interests of the holy Norm.
And when they preach to others, 'tis but gain
That is their motive not the good of men.

[943] Many there be without the Order's fold
Who brawl and quarrel o'er the Order's gains:
Insolent spirits they, all unashamed
To live on offerings to others given.

[944] Some too there are who lacking piety,
Though with head shaved, and with the yellow robe,
Yearn all the while to be revered,
And hanker after favours, treats, and gifts.

[945] Thus when so much as now is fallen away,
No easy thing it is, as it was then,
Either to touch and win the unattained,
Or to hold fast what hath been touched and won.

[946] As one who shoeless walks in thorny brake,
Calling up heedfulness at every step,
So should the sage in township make his tour.

[947] Remembering the saints of other days,
And recollecting how it was they lived,
E'en though to-day be but the after-time,
He may yet win the Ambrosial Way of Peace.

[948] Thus in the sal-wood spake the good Friar,
Well-trained and practised as to his faculties.
Then to the Saint came the Peace of the Passing-
Came to the Seer for whom was no rebirth.



[2] In the great wood of sāl trees (Commentary, 948). There was a 'Mahavana' at Kapilavatthu, at Vesālī, and on the Nerañjara in Magadha. Pārāpariya was a Sāvatthī Thera; hence one cannot identify the wood.

[3] So the Commentary. Ver. 926-8 show the Ariyavaɱsapaṭipadā.

[4] The three foregoing gāthās are full of difficulties, which, for me, are not always made intelligible by the Commentary, Upaṭṭhita-vivekīya is suvisuddhasīlacārā pi samānā. Sesadhammakā is, lit. 'remainder-of-Norm-ish.' 'Consciences' is interpolated. For sayaɱgahe, etc., sasangāme is suggested, as the battle-cry of Māra, captain of the kilesas. These, standing for evil or sin in general are greed, hate, dullness, conceit, error, perplexity, sloth, distraction, impudence, imprudence. Dr. Neumann cites only the first, over-simplifying the evil conditions.

[5] Abstemiousness, lying on the side only, and avoidance of certain topics belonged to a bhikkhu's duties. Cf. Bud. Psy., p. 858; Dialogues, i. 245 (for 'heroes,' understand 'champions, athletes'); Ang. Nik., i. 114; Bud. Suttas, 227.

[6] Apparently a kind of apple. Cf. Milinda, i. 202. Identified in Childers's Dictionary as Feronia elephantum.

[7] Mangoes, the Commentary says, typify many fruits, such as citrons, cocoanuts, etc.

[8] The practice of medicine and surgery for gain is disallowed for bhikkhus (Dialogues, i. 25 f.).

[9] Jīvikattha (where Dr. Neumann's rendering is ingenious, if strained) is paraphrased by jīvikappayojanā; ājīvahetukā.


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