A Study of the Uraga Verses

 

1: Placing

The Uraga verses do not appear in the Pāḷi Dhammapada, but they do occur in the three major parallels to that collection; in Pāḷi, however, the verses have been preserved in the Suttanipāta, the fifth collection in the present Khuddakanikāya. The Pāḷi Dhammapada is the second collection in the same Nikāya. Although many of the texts in the Suttanipāta are found to have parallels in Sanskrit (and also in Chinese and Tibetan translations), there is no sign that this collection as such ever existed outside of the Theravāda tradition.01

When we examine the placing of the Uraga verses in the various versions, we find the situation is very revealing: in the Pāḷi they form the first sutta of the first vagga of the Suttanipāta; in Patna they appear as the last vargga of the Dharmapada; in the Gāndhārī they come at the end of the Bhikhuvaga; and in Udānavarga they occur in two places - at the end of Puṣpavarga, and at the end of Bhikṣuvarga. It is true that there are two verses after the Uraga Verses in the Bhikṣuvarga, but that would only seem to indicate that those verses have been added to the collection even later that the Uraga Verses.02

From this it is clear that the verses must have originally been preserved as a separate collection and then added in to already existing collections. This would seem to indicate that the material only came to light at quite a late stage. In the Patna, Gāndhārī, and Udānavarga, they have been added on at the end of the relevant chapters; while in the Pāḷi they are found at the beginning of a separate collection. Whether this collection existed before the Uraga Verses were added in at the beginning, or whether a redactor made the collection all at one time is impossible to answer on the evidence available.03 The choice of exactly where the verses could best be fitted in must have been made by the redactors and reciters who were passing the material on in the various schools.

That two groups have seen fit to include the material in their Dharmapada Bhikṣuvargas is no surprise as the word bhikṣu appears in each of the verses, and, as I have shown in the Study of the Dhammapada Collection, one of the ways material was collected was through keyword collocation.

On the other hand, that the verses must have been established as a separate collection is shown by the Pāḷi gathering them into a Uragasutta on the one hand, and the Patna redactors, despite having a Bhikṣuvarggaḥ in their Dharmapada, which might have attracted them, have instead formed an entirely new chapter out of them.

 

2: Contents

I now present tables showing in abstract how the verses in the four versions relate to each other. They are accompanied by notes to highlight the most important aspects that this presentation brings out.

 

1: Pāli Uragasuttaṁ (beginning of Suttanipāta)

 

Pāḷi

Patna

Gāndhārī

Udānavarga

 

1-1

402

82

32.63

1-2

404

83bcd

32.56bcd

1-3

410

84

32.74

1-4

 

83acd & 85bcd

32.71

1-5

398

81

18.21

1-6

 

 

 

1-7

 

 

32.77

1-8

411

86

 

1-9

412

87

32.55

1-10

 

 

 

1-11

 

 

 

1-12

 

 

 

1-13

 

 

 

1-14

414bcd

88acd

32.80

1-15

414acd

88bcd

32.79acd

1-16

413

89

32.78

1-17

 

90

32.76

 

17

9

11

11

 

 

2: Patna Uragavarggaḥ (conclusion of the Dharmapada)

 

Pāḷi

Patna

Gāndhārī

Udānavarga

 

1-5

398

81

18.21

 

399

 

32.62

 

400

 

32.63

 

401

 

32.64

1-1

402

82

32.63bcd

 

403

 

32.65

1-2

404

83bcd

32.56 = 18.21A

 

405

 

32.57 = 18.21B

 

406

 

32.58 = 18.21C

 

407

 

 

 

408

83

32.59

 

409

 

 

1-3

410

84

32.74

1-8

411

86

 

1-9

412

87

32.55

1-16

413

89

32.78

1-15acd & 1-14bcd

414

 

32.80

 

9

17

8

15

 

 

3: Gāndhārī Bhikhuvaga (conclusion of the chapter)

 

Pāḷi

Patna

Gāndhārī

Udānavarga

 

1-5

398

81

18.21

1-1

402

82

32.63bcd

1-4acd 1-2bcd

404bcd

83

18.21D

1-3

410

84

32.74

1-4bcd

 

85

32.68bcd

1-8

411

86

 

1-9

412

87

32.55

1-14acd 1-15bcd

 

88

32.80

1-16

413

89

32.78

1-17

 

90

 

32.76

10

7

10

9

 

 

4: Udānavarga Puṣpavarga & Bhikṣuvarga (conclusion of both chapters)

 

Pāḷi

Patna

Gāndhārī

Udānavarga

 

1-5

398

81

18.21 Puṣpavarga

 

 

Pāḷi

Patna

Gāndhārī

Udānavarga

 

1-9

412

87

32.55 Bhikṣuvarga

1-2

404

 

32.56 = 18.21A

 

405

 

32.57 = 18.21B

 

406

 

32.58 = 18.21C

 

408

 

32.59 = 18.21D

 

 

 

32.60 = 18.21E

 

 

 

32.61 = 18.21F

 

399

 

32.62

 

400

 

32.63

 

401

 

32.64

 

403

 

32.65

 

 

 

32.66

 

 

 

32.67

 

 

 

32.68

 

 

 

32.69

 

406

 

32.70

1-4

408

83acd 85bcd

32.71

 

 

 

32.72

 

 

 

32.73

1-3

410

84

32.74

 

 

 

32.75

1-17

 

90

32.76

1-7

 

 

32.77

1-16acd 1-14bcd

 

 

32.78

1-15acd 1-14bcd

414

 

32.79

1-14

 

88

32.80

 

10

14

6

27 (33)

 

 

3: Summary

When we examine the tables above, it is clear that the Gāndhārī collection has preserved the verses in a comparatively primitive state. The other versions each show that their redactor(s) have expanded the material available to them through substitution series, and possibly through interpolation also.

The Uraga verses are a collection of verses having the same concluding simile, comparing the way a bhikkhu leaves off various defilements and attachments to the way a snake sloughs its skin. The fact that defilements are often enumerated in lists in the teaching probably enticed the redactors to engage in expanding their material by substituting keywords in the verses.

The series employed are different in each of the collections: Pāḷi has vītalobho, –rāgo, –doso, and –moho; Patna has the sequence: rāgaṁ, doṣaṁ, mohaṁ, krodhaṁ, mānaṁ; and in the Udānavarga it is: rāgam, dveṣam, moham, mānam, lobham, tṣṇāṁ. The disimilarity seems to indicate that these series have arisen independently of each other.

If we take the Gāndhārī collection as representative of the original collection of verses, we can see that the substitution series has resulted in a 66% increase in the number of verses in the Pāḷi and Patna versions; and about three times the number of verses in the Udānavarga (more or less, depending on whether we count the verses in the Puṣpavarga).