Book XIX. The Righteous, Dhammaṭṭha Vagga

XIX. 3. Not therefore is a Man praised for his much Speaking Parallels: Udāna, iv. 7: 43; Thera-Gāthā Commentary, Ixviii. Text: N iii. 384-386.01

259. Not therefore is a man versed in the Law...

This religious instruction was given by the Teacher while he was in residence at Jetavana with reference to Elder One-verse, Ekuddāna, an Arahat. {3.384}

The story goes that Elder Ekuddāna dwelt quite alone in a certain forest-grove and that he knew but this one Solemn Utterance:

To the monk of lofty thoughts, heedful, training himself in the ways of silence,
To such a monk, tranquil and ever mindful, sorrows come not.

On Fast-days Elder Ekuddāna himself alone sounded the call to attend the preaching of the Law and uttered this Stanza, whereupon the deities shouted applause with a noise like that of the earth splitting open. Now it so happened that on a certain Fast-day two monks versed in the Tipiṭaka came to his place of abode, attended by a retinue of five hundred monks each. When he saw them, his heart was filled with joy, and he said to them, “You have done well to come here; to-day {3.385} we will listen to the Law.” “But, brother, there [30.142] are no persons here to listen to the Law.” “Yes, there are. Reverend Sirs; on a day when the Law is expounded, this forest-grove is filled with the noise of the shouts of applause of the deities.”

One of the Elders recited the Law and the other expounded the Law, but not even a single deity gave applause. Said the Elders, “Brother, you said to us, ‘On a day when the Law is expounded, the deities in this forest-grove give applause with a loud noise;’ what does this mean?” “Brethren, on other days there has been just such a noise; I do not know what is the matter to-day.” “Well then, brother, you just preach the Law.” Elder Ekuddāna took the fan, and sitting in his seat, pronounced that one Stanza. The deities shouted applause with a loud noise.

Now the twice five hundred attending monks were highly offended at the deities and said, “The deities in this forest-grove show respect of persons in giving applause. Though monks versed in the Tipiṭaka uttered so much of the Law, they gave not so much as a world of approval; but just because a certain old Elder recited a single Stanza, they shouted applause with a loud noise.” And going to the monastery, they reported the incident to the Teacher. {3.386} Said the Teacher, “Monks, I call not him versed in the Law who knows or utters much of the Law; but whosoever masters even a single Stanza and clearly understands the Truths, such a man is verily and indeed versed in the Law.” So saying, he pronounced the following Stanza,

259. Not therefore is a man versed in the Law for his much speaking.
But he that hears ever so little, and evidences his perception of the Law by his acts,
He is indeed versed in the Law, for he fails not to heed the Law.