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Buddhist Wisdom Verses
Dhp 331-3 Māravatthu
The Good Things in Life
The Buddha is reflecting on whether it is possible for Kings to rule the world with justice. Māra, finding this out, comes to the wrong conclusion, and tries to tempt him. The Buddha explains what is truly good.
63. Atthamhi jātamhi sukhā sahāyā,
In the arising of able companions there is good,
Tuṭṭhī sukhā yā itarītarena,
Being content with anything whatsoever is good,
Puññaṁ sukhaṁ jīvitasaṅkhayamhi,
At the destruction of life merit is good,
Sabbassa dukkhassa sukhaṁ pahāṇaṁ.
The abandoning of all suffering is good.
64. Sukhā matteyyatā loke, atho petteyyatā sukhā,
Filial piety for one's Mother is good in the world, and filial piety for one's Father is good,
Sukhā sāmaññatā loke, atho brahmaññatā sukhā.
Respect for ascetics is good in the world, and respect for (true) brāhmaṇas Comm: bāhitapāpesu Buddhapaccekabuddhasāvakesu; towards those who have put aside wickedness, (like) Awakened Ones, Independent Awakened Ones and Disciples.01 is good.
65. Sukhaṁ yāva jarā sīlaṁ, sukhā saddhā patiṭṭhitā,
(Maintaining) virtue till old age is good, the establishing of faith is good,
Sukho paññāya paṭilābho, pāpānaṁ akaraṇaṁ Text: pāpassākaraṇaṁ; singular form in sandhi. 02 sukhaṁ.
The acquisition of wisdom is good, the non-doing of wicked things is good.
Dhp 194 Sambahulabhikkhuvatthu
The monks discuss what is the true good in the world, some say ruling, some say love, some say food. The Buddha explains what is truly good.
66. Sukho Buddhānam-uppādo, sukhā Saddhammadesanā,
The arising of the Awakened Ones is good, the teaching of the True Dhamma is good,
Sukhā Saṅghassa sāmaggī, samaggānaṁ tapo sukho.
The harmony of the Community is good, and devotion to unity is good.
Dhp 290 Attanopubbakammavatthu
Deeds Formerly Done by Oneself
Renouncing the Lesser Good for the Greater
The Bodhisatta's son meets some paccekabuddhas and attains Awakening and later dies. His father, when he finds out honours his grave. Afterwards when reborn the Bodhisatta attains Awakening and he is greatly honoured in a similar way.
67. Mattāsukhapariccāgā, passe ce vipulaṁ sukhaṁ,
If, with the renunciation of a small good, he might see a great good, Comm: uḷāraṁ sukhaṁ nibbānasukhaṁ vuccati; a lofty good, the goodness of Emancipation is what is meant. 03
Caje mattāsukhaṁ Dhīro, sampassaṁ vipulaṁ sukhaṁ.
The Wise One should renounce that little good, seeing the good that is great.
Dhp 204 Pasenadikosalavatthu
King Pasenadi of Kosala
The Greatest Things
King Pasenadi is always overeating and suffering for it. The Buddha has the King's nephew learn and recite a verse which reminds the King to be moderate. Later the King is cured and tells him about his good fortune. The Buddha recites the following verse.
68. Ārogyaparamā lābhā, santuṭṭhi paramaṁ dhanaṁ,
Good health is the greatest gain, contentment is the greatest wealth,
Vissāsā paramā ñāti, Nibbānaṁ paramaṁ sukhaṁ.
Trust is the greatest of relations, Emancipation is the greatest good.
SN 1.1.73 Vittasuttaṁ This verse also occurs in Ālavakasuttaṁ, Sn 1.10. 04
Four Great Things
A God comes to the Buddha and asks four questions to which these are the replies.
69. Saddhīdha vittaṁ purisassa seṭṭhaṁ,
Faith is a person's greatest wealth here,
Dhammo suciṇṇo sukham-āvahāti,
The Dhamma, when accomplished, brings happiness,
Saccaṁ have sādutaraṁ rasānaṁ,
Truth is surely is the sweetest of tastes,
Paññājīviṁ Thai: Paññājīvī; Being one living wisely. 05 jīvitam-āhu seṭṭhaṁ
Living a wise life they say is the greatest.
Dhp 182 Erakapattanāgarājavatthu
The Nāga King Erakapatta
The Rare Things
A monk in the time of Buddha Kassapa dies and is reborn as a nāga. Eventually he hears that a new Buddha has arisen in the world, and goes and asks why he cannot attain rebirth as a human even after so long a time. This is the Buddha's reply.
70. Kiccho manussapaṭilābho, kicchaṁ maccāna' jīvitaṁ,
(It is) rare to acquire (birth as a) human, rare is the life of mortals,
Kicchaṁ Saddhammasavanaṁ, kiccho Buddhānam-uppādo.
(It is) rare to hear the True Dhamma, rare the arising of the Awakened Ones.
SN 1.1.51 Jarāsuttaṁ
Four More Good Things
A God asks the Buddha four questions and gets the following replies.
71. Sīlaṁ yāva jarā sādhu, saddhā sādhu patiṭṭhitā,
Until it fades virtue is good, faith is good when established,
Paññā narānaṁ ratanaṁ, puññaṁ corehi dūharaṁ.
Wisdom is the people's treasure, it is hard for merit to be carried off by thieves.
Dhp 223 Uttarā-Upāsikāvatthu
The Laywoman Uttarā
Overcoming Defilements with their Opposites
A wife hires a courtesan to look after her husband's needs, while she serves the Buddha and his monks. The courtesan gets angry and tries to burn her with boiling ghee, but the power of loving-kindness stops it burning.
72. Akkodhena jine kodhaṁ, asādhuṁ sādhunā jine,
By non-anger one should overcome anger, by virtue one should overcome lack of virtue,
Jine kadariyaṁ dānena, saccenālikavādinaṁ.
One should overcome miserliness by generosity, by truth lying speech.
Dhp 354 Sakkapañhavatthu
The Dhamma Surpasses All
The Gods have four questions which none of them is able to answer, they therefore go to the Buddha with their questions and this is his reply.
73. Sabbadānaṁ Dhammadānaṁ jināti,
The gift of the Dhamma surpasses all other gifts,
Sabbaṁ rasaṁ Dhammaraso jināti,
The taste of the Dhamma surpasses all other tastes,
Sabbaṁ ratiṁ Dhammaratiṁ jināti,
The love of the Dhamma surpasses all other loves,
Taṇhakkhayo sabbadukkhaṁ jināti.
The destruction of craving overcomes We see here how the range of meaning found in one Pāḷi word cannot always be maintained in English and there is sometimes a need to vary the translation in order to make good sense. 06 all suffering.
Jā 537 Mahāsutasomajātakaṁ
Various Reciprical Duties
The Bodhisatta converts a man-eating King and brings him home, but the people do not feel safe. The Bodhisatta admonishes them with these verses.
74. Na so Rājā yo ajeyyaṁ jināti,
A King does not overcome one who is not to be overcome, Comm: ajeyyā nāma Mātāpitaro; one not to be overcome means Mother or Father. 07
Na so sakhā yo sakhāraṁ jināti,
A friend does not overcome he who is one of his friends,
Na sā bhariyā yā patino vibheti, ChS, Thai: patino na vibheti; should not not be afraid of her husband; (cf. the following line for the use of the double negative); the reading is against the metre. 08
A wife should not be afraid of he who is her husband,
Na te puttā ye na bharanti jiṇṇaṁ.
Those who are children should support those who are aged. Lit: Those who are children should not not support those who are aged; this sentence involves a double negative, which is normal in Pāḷi but not acceptable in English grammar. 09
75. Na sā sabhā yattha na santi santo,
That is not an assembly-hall wherein the good Comm: santo ti paṇḍitā. 10 are not found,
Na te santo ye na bhaṇanti Dhammaṁ;
They are not good who do not talk about Dhamma;
Rāgañ-ca dosañ-ca pahāya mohaṁ,
Having put away passion, hatred and delusion,
Dhammaṁ bhaṇanto va bhavanti santo.
The good are surely talking about the Dhamma (to others).
Dhp 251 Pañca-upāsakavatthu
The Five Lay Followers
The Great Defilements
While the Buddha is preaching the Dhamma, of five lay followers one falls asleep, another scratches the earth, one shakes a tree, another looks at the sky and only one listens attentively. The Buddha explains they were a snake, an earthworm, a monkey, an astrologer and a student of the Vedas in their previous births and behave accordingly now.
76. Natthi rāgasamo aggi, natthi dosasamo gaho,
There is no fire like passion, there is nothing that takes a hold like hatred,
Natthi mohasamaṁ jālaṁ, natthi taṇhāsamā nadī.
There is no snare like delusion, there is no flood Nadī means a river, but in the simile it must mean or imply a river in spate. 11 like craving.
SN 1.3.2 Purisasuttaṁ
Three Roots of Evil
King Pasenadi asks what things when they arise are unbeneficial, unsatisfactory and uncomfortable.
77. Lobho doso ca moho ca, purisaṁ pāpacetasaṁ,
* Greed, hatred and delusion, when they arise within him,
Hiṁsanti attasambhūtā, tacasāraṁ va samphalaṁ.
Destroy the person with bad thoughts, just as the fruit (destroys) the reed. This refers to reeds like the bamboo which are destroyed when they fruit. 12
Dhp 60 Aññatarapurisavatthu
A Certain Man
The Long Journey in Saṁsāra
King Pasenadi is overcome with desire for another man's wife and seeks to have him killed. During the night he wakes to the sound of four people screaming. The Buddha explains they were adulterers in their previous lives and did no good deeds.
78. Dīghā jāgarato ratti, dīghaṁ santassa yojanaṁ,
Long is the night for one who is awake, long is a league for one who is tired,
Dīgho bālānaṁ saṁsāro Saddhammaṁ avijānataṁ.
Long is the round of births and deaths It is hard to find one word in English that corresponds to the word saṁsāra in Pāḷi, so a phrase must be used. 13 for the fools who do not know the True Dhamma.
Dhp 155 Mahādhanaseṭṭhiputtavatthu
The Son of the Merchant Mahādhana
Profiting in Neither Way
A wealthy youth takes to drink and squanders both his own and his wife's money and ends up a beggar. The Buddha explains that if he had applied himself as a layman he would have been amongst the chief treasurers; and if he had become a monk he would have attained the paths and fruits.
79. Acaritvā brahmacariyaṁ, aladdhā yobbane dhanaṁ,
Not having lived the spiritual life, not having gained wealth in their youth,
Jiṇṇakoñcā ca jhāyanti khīṇamacche va pallale.
They waste away like the herons in a small lake devoid of fish.
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last updated: February 2011