Buddhist Wisdom Verses

5: Atthavaggo

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Seizing the Advantage

Jā 342 Vānarajātakaṁ

A crocodile, wishing to get a monkey’s heart for his wife, entices a monkey onto his back, but at the critical time, the monkey persuades him that he left his heart in a tree and escapes when land is approached.

80. Yo ca uppatitaṁ atthaṁ na khippam-anubujjhati,
Amittavasam-anveti, pacchā ca anutappati.

He who does not attend quickly
To the advantage that is present,
Goes under the power of foes,
He regrets it in the future.

81. Yo ca uppatitaṁ atthaṁ khippam-eva nibodhati,
Muccate sattusambādhā, na ca pacchānutappati.

He who does attend quickly
To the advantage that is present
Is set free from all enemies,
He has no regret in the future.

Not all Growth is Advantageous

Jā 370 Palāsajātakaṁ

A goose warns a tree-god that a banyan sapling that was taking hold in its home would eventually destroy it. The warning was ignored and the tree succumbed.

82. Na tassa vuddhi kusalappasatthā,
Yo vaḍḍhamāno ghasate patiṭṭhaṁ;
Tassūparodhaṁ parisaṅkamāno,
Patārayī mūlavadhāya Dhīro.

That growth is not praised by the virtuous,
Which, when grown, consumes what is prospering;
Suspecting it may be an obstacle,
The Wise try to destroy it at the root.

A Cheat is Cheated in Return

Jā 218 Kūṭavānijajātakaṁ

Someone stole some ploughshares and when questioned said that mice had taken them away; in return his accusor carried off the thief’s son and said a hawk had done it. This is the Bodhisatta’s comment and solution to the problem.

83. Saṭhassa sāṭheyyam-idaṁ sucintitaṁ,
Paccoḍḍitaṁ paṭikūṭassa kūṭaṁ,
Phālaṁ ce adeyyuṁ mūsikā,
Kasmā kumāraṁ kulalā no bhareyyuṁ?

This treachery is well devised, is well thought-out,
This fraudulence is but a snare laid in return,
If mice are able to carry off a ploughshare,
Why is it that a hawk can’t carry off a boy?

84. Kūṭassa hi santi kūṭakūṭā,
Bhavati cāpi nikatino nikatyā,
Dehi puttanaṭṭhaphālanaṭṭhassa phālaṁ,
Mā te puttam-ahāsi phālanaṭṭho.

There will be fraud upon fraud for the fraudulent,
There will be cheating in return for he who cheats,
The one who lost a child should give back the ploughshare,
The one who lost a ploughshare must give back the child.

Keeping Quiet

Jā 189 Sīhacammajātakaṁ

A merchant used to dress his donkey up like a lion to scare away the villagers while it was eating, until one time the donkey gave the game away.

85. Ciram-pi kho taṁ khādeyya gadrabho haritaṁ yavaṁ,
Pāruto sīhacammena, ravamāno va dūsayi.

For a long, long time the donkey
May have eaten grass and barley,
While disguised with a lion skin:
But he spoiled it all by braying.

More than Gentle Persuasion is Sometimes Necessary

Jā 426 Dīpijātakaṁ

A goat tries with kind words to persuade a panther not to attack and eat her; the panther however didn’t listen and got his prey.

86. Neva duṭṭhe nayo atthi na dhammo na subhāsitaṁ,
Nikkamaṁ duṭṭhe yuñjetha, so ca sabbhi na rañjati.

There is no reason or truth or well-spoken words in the wicked,
Endure the wicked, but in them the virtuous will take no delight.

A Limit to One’s Duties

Jā 223 Puṭabhattajātakaṁ

A queen is neglected by the King who lets her starve. To chastise the King the Bodhisatta spoke these verses, which led to the King repenting.

87. Namo namantassa, bhaje bhajantaṁ,
Kiccānukubbassa kareyya kiccaṁ,
Nānatthakāmassa kareyya atthaṁ,
Asambhajantam-pi na sambhajeyya.

Reverence to the reverent, honour the honourable,
She should do her duty to one doing his duty,
But she need not do good to one wishing her harm,
No one need love those who do not love in return.

88. Caje cajantaṁ vanathaṁ na kayirā,
Apetacittena na sambhajeyya.
Dvijo dumaṁ khīṇaphalan-ti ñatvā,
Aññaṁ samekkheyya mahā hi loko.

She should abandon the one who abandons her,
She need not love the one who is devoid of thought.
A bird, knowing that a tree is devoid of fruit,
Can seek out another tree in this great wide world.

The Necessity for Effort

Jā 539 Mahājanakajātakaṁ

The Bodhisatta is nearly lost at sea, but through his courageous and determined effort makes it to land again. Later he reflects on his success.

89. Acintitam-pi bhavati, cintitam-pi vinassati,
Na hi cintāmayā bhogā itthiyā purisassa vā.

Sometimes the unthought-of occurs,
And what is well thought-out will fail,
Happiness does not come through thought.

When Faculties Wane

Jā 164 Gijjhajātakaṁ

A vulture who had been stealing things in the city is captured and brought before the King, and the following dialogue takes place.

90. “Kin-nu gijjho yojanasataṁ kuṇapāni avekkhati,
Kasmā jālañ-ca pāsañ-ca āsajjā pi na bujjhasi?”

“Why, when a vulture sees corpses
More than a hundred leagues away,
Did you not see the net and snare?”

91. “Yadā parābhavo hoti poso jīvitasaṅkhaye,
Atha jālañ-ca pāsañ-ca āsajjā pi na bujjhati.”

“When a creature is in decline
And life is coming to an end,
He does not see the net and snare.”

Craving brings Suffering

Jā 100 Asātarūpajātakaṁ

The story is of Suppavāsā who carried her child for seven years and took seven days to bear him. Still she desired more children.

92. Asātaṁ sātarūpena, piyarūpena appiyaṁ,
Dukkhaṁ sukhassa rūpena, pamattam-ativattati.

The ugly having a beautiful form,
The unlovely having a lovely form,
The painful having the form of pleasure,
Will overcome the one who is heedless.


Jā 126 Asilakkhaṇajātakaṁ

Through a strategem a sneeze wins a bride and a kingdom for a prince, but a brahmin who sneezes loses his nose.

93. Tad-ev’ ekassa kalyāṇaṁ, tad-ev’ ekassa pāpakaṁ,
Tasmā sabbaṁ na kalyāṇaṁ, sabbaṁ cāpi na pāpakaṁ.

That which is good for one maybe
That which is bad for another,
There is nothing completely good,
There is nothing completely bad.

A Name is Just a Name

Jā 97 Nāmasiddhijātakaṁ

In the story a man called Wicked hates his name so he is advised to search for a new one. He comes across Life who had just died, Wealthy who was poor, and Guide who was lost in a forest. Then he realised a name is just a name, nothing more.

94. Jīvakañ-ca mataṁ disvā, Dhanapāliñ-ca duggataṁ,
Panthakañ-ca vane mūḷhaṁ, Pāpako puna-r-āgato.

Seeing Life lying dead,
Wealthy in poverty,
And Guide lost in the wood,
Wicked came home again.

The Impermanence of Desire

Jā 207 Assakajātakaṁ

A negligent queen gets reborn as a worm, and is made by the Bodhisatta to speak to her grieving King, who when he hears about her love for her new husband abandons his grief.

95. Navena sukhadukkhena porāṇaṁ apithīyati,
Tasmā Assakaraññā va kīṭo piyataro mamaṁ.

The pleasure and pain of past lives
Are forgotten in the new life,
Therefore a worm appears to me
Better than good King Assaka.

Lack of Insight

Sn 1.11 Vijayasuttaṁ

The Buddha describes the loathsomeness of the body and concludes the discourse with these verses.

96. Dipādako yaṁ asuci duggandho parihīrati,
Nānākuṇapaparipūro, vissavanto tato tato.

A person must take care
Of the impure body,
Which is full of corpses,
Oozing from here and there.

97. Etādisena kāyena yo maññe unnametave?
Paraṁ vā avajāneyya? Kim-aññatra adassanā.

Having such a body,
Who could be conceited?
Or disparage another?
Those with lack of insight.

Comparing Oneself with Others

Dhp 129 Chabbaggiyabhikkhuvatthu

The group of six monks chase off the group of seventeen monks and take their rooms. The Buddha lays down a rule and speaks the following verse.

98. Sabbe tasanti daṇḍassa, sabbe bhāyanti Maccuno,
Attānaṁ upamaṁ katvā, na haneyya na ghātaye.

Everyone trembles at the stick,
Everyone is in fear of death,
Comparing oneself with others,
One should not hurt or have them hurt.

The Desire for Happiness

Dhp 131 Sambahulakumārakavatthu

As the Buddha goes on his alms-round he sees a group of boys tormenting a snake for fun. He admonishes them with this verse.

99. Sukhakāmāni bhūtāni yo daṇḍena vihiṁsati,
Attano sukham-esāno, pecca so na labhate sukhaṁ.

One who harms with a stick beings
Who also desire happiness,
While seeking happiness himself,
Won’t find happiness after death.

Virtue and Learning

Jā 362 Sīlavīmaṁsajātakaṁ

The Bodhisatta wishes to find out which is more important, virtue or learning, and takes a coin a day from the King until on the third day he is arrested. He then understands which is most valued in the world.

100. Mogho jātī ca vaṇṇā ca, sīlam-eva kiruttamaṁ,
Sīlena anupetassa, sutenattho na vijjati.

Birth and beauty are delusions,
Virtue is supreme it is said,
For one unendowed with virtue,
There is no value in learning.

The First Hundred