a collection of
Buddhist Wisdom Verses

19: Bhāsanavaggo
Speech

Jā 98 Kūṭavāṇijajātakaṁ
The Fraudulent Merchant

Deception

A merchant named Superwise tries to cheat his partner (named Wise) by having his Father pose as a Tree-Deva. Wise sets fire to the tree, and out scampers the Father.

358. Sādhu kho Paṇḍito nāma, na tveva Atipaṇḍito,
Good is the name Wise, but not (the name of) Superwise,

Atipaṇḍitena puttena, manamhi upakūḷito. Text, BJT: upakūlito; the reading is not sure, but according to PED the verb in Sanskrit is √kūḍ; Thai: upakuṭṭhito; I do not find this word listed, but perhaps it would mean: [I am well-nigh] boiled; taking it from kuṭṭhita.01
Through (my foolish) son Superwise, I am well-nigh roasted.

Jā 331 Kokālikajātakaṁ
Kokālika

Correct and Timely Speech

A young cuckoo is being fostered by a crow It is common for a cuckoo to lay their eggs in a crow's nest and for the crow to foster the babe who then heaves the other eggs out of the nest; cuckoos do this with other birds too. 02 but gives his identity away when he cries out. The crow kills him and throws him out of the nest.

359. Yo ve kāle asampatte, ativelaṁ pabhāsati,
He who talks for too long at the wrong time,

Evaṁ so nihato seti, kokilāyi va atrajo.
Like the cuckoo's fledgling, is (quickly) destroyed.

360. Na hi satthaṁ sunisitaṁ, visaṁ halāhalām-iva, Thai: halāhalam-m-iva; I don't understand this form, a similar one occurs below in the variants for uragaṁ iva; I believe the correct reading here should be: halāhalaṁ iva. 03
Not a sharpened sword, nor deadly poison,

Evaṁ nikaṭṭhe pāteti vācā dubbhāsitā yathā.
Destroys quite as quickly Comm: Nikaṭṭhe ti tasmiṁ yeva khaṇe appamattake kāle. 04 as badly spoken words.

361. Tasmā kāle akāle vā vācaṁ rakkheyya Paṇḍito,
Therefore the Wise One will protect his words at the right and wrong time,

Nātivelaṁ pabhāseyya, api attasamamhi vā.
And will not talk too long, even to one equal to himself.

362. Yo ca kāle mitaṁ bhāse matipubbo Vicakkhaṇo,
The Wise One, who will speak at the right time and in a measured way, having thought aforehand,

Sabbe amitte tarati, BJT, ChS, Thai: ādeti; having received [all his enemies]? 05 Supaṇṇo uragaṁ iva.
Overcomes all his foes, like the Supaṇṇa (overcomes) the snake. Supaṇṇas are bird-like creatures, whose traditional enemies are the snakes (nāga). 06

SN 1.6.9 Tudubrahmasuttaṁ
The High Divinity Tudu

The Dangers of Wrong Speech

The High Divinity Tudu approaches Ven. Kokālika and advises him to have respect for the two Chief Disciples, but he is rebuked by the Venerable who is intent on blaming them.

363. Purisassa hi jātassa, kuṭhārī jāyate mukhe,
When a man is born, a hatchet arises in his mouth,

Yāya chindati attānaṁ bālo, dubbhāsitaṁ bhaṇaṁ.
With that the fool cuts himself up, speaking what is badly spoken.

364. Yo nindīyaṁ pasaṁsati,
He who praises the blameworthy,

Taṁ vā nindati yo pasaṁsiyo,
And he who blames the praiseworthy,

Vicināti mukhena so kaliṁ,
Piles up bad fortune with his mouth,

Kalinā tena sukhaṁ na vindati.
Because of that bad fortune he finds no happiness.

SN 1.8.5 Subhāsitasuttaṁ
Well Spoken

The Qualities of Good Speech

The Buddha explains the four qualities that make for good speech, and summarises them with a verse, which is followed by another improvised by Ven. Vaṅgīsa, who was considered the foremost disciple in extemporary composition.

365. Subhāsitaṁ uttamam-āhu santo,
What is well spoken is supreme, say the good,

Dhammaṁ bhaṇe nādhammaṁ – taṁ dutiyaṁ,
Speak on Dhamma, not on what is not Dhamma – that is the second,

Piyaṁ bhaṇe nāppiyaṁ – taṁ tatiyaṁ,
Speak what is pleasant, not what is unpleasant – that is the third,

Saccaṁ bhaṇe nālikaṁ – taṁ catutthaṁ.
Speak what is the truth, not what is lies – that is the fourth.

366. Tam-eva vācaṁ bhāseyya yāyattānaṁ na tāpaye,
He should only speak a (good) word which will not cause him torment,

Pare ca na vihiṁseyya – sā ve vācā subhāsitā.
And does no harm to another – those words are truly well spoken.

Jā 88 Sārambhajātakaṁ
Bodhisatta Sārambha

Speaking Kindly

A bull wishes to repay his master and has him wage a bet he can draw a 100 wagons. But when the time comes the master scolds him, and he doesn't make an effort. Later the master speaks kindly and the bull draws the wagons, earning his master a fortune.

367. Kalyāṇim-eva muñceyya, na hi muñceyya pāpikaṁ,
He should speak Comm. paraphrases with katheyya. 07 good (words), he should not speak bad (words),

Mokkho kalyāṇiyā sādhu, mutvā tappati Text, BJT: tapati; but this gives the wrong meaning: [but after speaking wickedly] he shines? Evidently even if we write tapati, we must interpret it as tappati. 08 pāpikaṁ.
He who has spoken well is good, but after speaking badly he suffers.

Jā 537 Mahāsutasomajātakaṁ
Bodhisatta Sutasoma

Truth is the Sweetest Thing

The Bodhisatta gives and keeps his word to return to a man-eating King, who is threatening to eat him. In part of the dialogue which follows the Bodhisatta preaches on the virtue of keeping to one's word.

368. Ye kecime atthi rasā Pathavyā,
Whatever the tastes there are on this Earth,

Saccaṁ tesaṁ sādhutaraṁ rasānaṁ,
Truth is the sweetest (and the best) of tastes.

Sacce ṭhitā samaṇabrāhmaṇā ca,
Ascetics and brāhmaṇas who are steady in the truth,

Taranti jātimaraṇassa pāraṁ.
Cross to the further side of birth and death.

SN 1.8.5 Subhāsitasuttaṁ
Well Spoken

Truth is Immortal

Ven. Vaṅgīsa speaks another verse inspired by a teaching of the Buddha about truth.

369. Saccaṁ ve amatā vācā, esa Dhammo sanantano,
Truth (consists of) immortal words, this (good) Dhamma is eternal,

Sacce atthe ca Dhamme ca, āhu santo patiṭṭhitā.
(Well) established is truth, goodness and Dhamma, say those who are good.

Jā 320 Succajajātakaṁ
An Easy Gift

Only Promise what can be Done

A Queen asks the King if the mountain they see ahead were made of gold would he give her some. He says he would not.

370. Yaṁ hi kayirā taṁ hi vade, yaṁ na kayirā na taṁ vade,
When it can be done then speak up, when it cannot be done speak not,

Akarontaṁ bhāsamānaṁ parijānanti Paṇḍitā.
Not doing (after promising) the Wise Ones know is speaking (falsely). Comm: akarontaṁ kevalaṁ musā bhāsamānaṁ parijānanti paṇḍitā. 09

Jā 499 Sivijātakaṁ
The Bodhisatta King Sivi

Keeping One's Promises

King Sivi is very generous and resolves to give even his body parts away if asked. Sakka decides to test him and dressed as a brāhman asks for his eye to which the King agrees; the townsfolk try to persuade him to change his mind, and this is part of his reply.

371. Yo ve Dassan-ti vatvāna, adāne kurute mano,
He who, having said: I will give, makes up his mind not to give,

Bhūmyā so patitaṁ pāsaṁ gīvāyaṁ paṭimuñcati.
Fastens his (own) neck in a snare that has fallen down on the ground.

372. Yo ve Dassan-ti vatvāna, adāne kurute mano,
He who, having said: I will give, makes his mind up not to give,

Pāpā pāpataro hoti, sampatto Yamasādhanaṁ.
Is the most wicked of the wicked, he has fallen into Yama's armies. Yama is the Lord of the Nether Regions. This is the explanation given in the comm: Sampatto Yamasādhanan-ti yamassa āṇāpavattiṭṭhānaṁ ussadanirayaṁ esa patto yeva nāma hoti; falls into the sādhana of Yama means falls into what is known as Yama's sphere of influence, the prominent hell. I cannot see how sādhana can have this meaning, and SED, in part, gives the following definition: military forces, army or portion of an army for the word, which must be what is intended here. 10

Jā 422 Cetiyajātakaṁ
The Land of Cetiya

The Results of Lying

Despite being warned of the dire consequences a King of old, desiring to raise a younger brother above an older one, tells a lie, and not only looses his magical powers, but is swallowed up by the Earth when he repeats it.

373. Aḷikaṁ bhāsamānassa apakkamanti devatā,
When speaking a lie the gods depart and go away,

Pūtikañ-ca mukhaṁ vā ti, sakaṭṭhānā ca dhaṁsati,
The mouth becomes putrid, and he destroys his own position,

Yo jānaṁ pucchito pañhaṁ aññathā naṁ viyākare.
(This happens to) he who, knowingly, when asked a question answers with what is not the case.

374. Akāle vassati tassa, kāle tassa na vassati,
It rains for him at the wrong time, and doesn't rain at the right time,

Yo jānaṁ pucchito pañhaṁ aññathā naṁ viyākare.
(This happens to) he who, knowingly, when asked a question answers with what is not the case.

375. Jivhā tassa dvidhā hoti, uragasseva Disampati,
The one with a forked tongue, I.e. someone who speaks crookedly. 11 Lord of the Directions, is likened to a snake,

Yo jānaṁ pucchito pañhaṁ, aññathā naṁ viyākare.
(This happens to) he who, knowingly, when asked a question answers with what is not the case.

376. Jivhā tassa na bhavati, macchasseva Disampati,
The one who has not a tongue, I.e. someone who doesn't speak when he should. 12 Lord of the Directions, is likened to a fish,

Yo jānaṁ pucchito pañhaṁ, aññathā naṁ viyākare.
(This happens to) he who, knowingly, when asked a question answers with what is not the case.

377. Thiyo na All texts: va; I believe this is the correct reading, but it gives an unacceptable meaning, so I have changed it to the negative, which correlates exactly with what is said below anyway: To him there will be no children. 13 tassa jāyanti, na pumā jāyare kule,
To him females will not be born, no males will be born in his family,

Yo jānaṁ pucchito pañhaṁ, aññathā naṁ viyākare.
(This happens to) he who, knowingly, when asked a question answers with what is not the case.

378. Puttā tassa na bhavanti, pakkamanti disodisaṁ,
To him there will be no children, (or) they will move away in every direction,

Yo jānaṁ pucchito pañhaṁ, aññathā naṁ viyākare.
(This happens to) he who, knowingly, when asked a question answers with what is not the case.

Dhp 176 Ciñcamāṇavikāvatthu
Ciñca Māṇavikā

The Liar is capable of all Wrong-Doing

Ciñca Māṇavikā falsely accuses the Buddha of impregnating her. The gods help reveal the lie, and Ciñca falls into the Avīci hell.

379. Ekaṁ dhammaṁ atītassa, musāvādissa jantuno,
For the person transgressing one thing, that of speaking falsely,

Vitiṇṇaparalokassa, natthi pāpaṁ akāriyaṁ.
Who has abandoned the next world, Paraphrase: who has forgotten about retribution. 14 there is no wickedness left undone.