Buddhist Wisdom Verses

9: Kataññutāvaggo

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Faithfulness in Friendship

Jā 429 Mahāsukajātakaṁ

Sakka, to try the contentment of a parrot, dries up the tree he lives on, all the other birds desert it but the parrot stays on. Sakka, taking the form of a goose, engaged in this dialogue.

160. “Dumo yadā hoti phalūpapanno
Bhuñjanti naṁ vihagā sampatantā.
Khīṇan-ti ñatvāna dumaṁ phalaccaye,
Disodisaṁ yanti tato vihaṅgamā.

“When a tree is possessed of fruit
Birds of the air will eat from it.
But when they know: It has perished,
That flock of birds will flee from there.

161. Cara cārikaṁ Lohitatuṇḍa mā mari,
Kiṁ tvaṁ suva sukkhadumamhi jhāyasi?
Tad-iṅgha maṁ brūhi, Vasantasannibha,
Kasmā suva sukkhadumaṁ na riñcasi?”

Depart from here, but do not die,
Why waste away in this old tree?
Please tell this to me, O parrot,
Why not abandon this old tree?”

162. “Ye ve sakhīnaṁ sakhāro bhavanti,
Pāṇaccaye dukkhasukhesu Haṁsa,
Khīṇaṁ akhīṇan-ti na taṁ jahanti,
Santo sataṁ Dhammam-anussarantā.

“We are comradely with comrades,
For just as long as the breath lasts,
Whether perished or not perished
I surely will not give it up,
So thinks the virtuous, mindful one.

163. Sohaṁ sataṁ aññatarosmi Haṁsa,
Ñātī ca me hoti sakhā ca rukkho.
Taṁ nussahe jīvikattho pahātuṁ,
Khīṇan-ti ñatvāna, na hesa Dhammo.”

I too am one who is mindful,
The tree is like a friend to me.
Although I know it has perished,
I’m unable to give it up.”

Faithfulness in Friendship

Jā 430 Cullasukajātakaṁ

Sakka, to try the contentment of a parrot, dries up the tree he lives on, all the other birds desert it but the parrot stays on. Sakka, taking the form of a goose, engaged in this dialogue.

164. “Santi rukkhā haritapattā, dumā nekaphalā bahū,
Kasmā nu sukkhe koḷāpe suvassa nirato mano?”

“There are many green trees,
Trees which have many fruits,
Why in this dry old tree
Does your mind find delight?”

165. “Phalassa upabhuñjimhā nekavassagaṇe bahū,
Aphalam-pi viditvāna sāva metti yathā pure.”

“For many years the birds
Ate many of the fruits,
I know it is fruitless,
But still I love the tree.”

166. “Sukkhañ-ca rukkhaṁ koḷāpaṁ, opattam-aphalaṁ dumaṁ,
Ohāya sakuṇā yanti, kiṁ dosaṁ passase dija?”

“This dried-up tree is dead,
Having no leaves or fruit,
The birds have now departed,
What wrong, Bird, do you see?”

167. “Ye phalatthā sambhajanti, aphalo ti jahanti naṁ,
Attatthapaññā dummedhā, te honti pakkhapātino.”

“They who loved it for fruit,
Fruitless abandon it,
Wise only in selfishness,
They abandoned their friend.”

Understanding Consequences

Jā 44 Makasajātakaṁ

To rid his father of a mosquito that has landed on his head a son takes an axe and slaughters both the mosquito and his father with one blow.

168. Seyyo amitto matiyā upeto
Na tveva mitto mativippahīno,
Makasaṁ vadhissan-ti hi eḷamūgo
Putto pitū abbhidā uttamaṅgaṁ.

Better a foe endowed with wisdom
Than a friend lacking in wisdom,
Thinking to kill a mosquito,
The Son did break his Father’s head.

Qualities Esteemed in the World

Jā 522 Sarabhaṅgajātakaṁ

Sakka asks the Bodhisatta for a definition of the Good Person.

169. Yo ve kataññū katavedi Dhīro,
Kalyāṇamitto daḷhabhattī ca hoti,
Dukhitassa sakkacca karoti kiccaṁ,
Tathāvidhaṁ Sappurisaṁ vadanti.

The one who is grateful and kind,
The friend who has firm devotion,
Respectfully does his duty,
Therefore he’s called a Good Person.

The Qualities of a Good Person

SN 1.11.11 Vatapadasuttaṁ

The Buddha explains that Sakka, the Lord of the Gods, received his position after undertaking seven vows, which are outlined here.

170. Mātāpettibharaṁ jantuṁ, kule jeṭṭhāpacāyinaṁ,
Saṇhaṁ sakhilasambhāsaṁ, pesuṇeyyappahāyinaṁ,

171. Maccheravinaye yuttaṁ, saccaṁ, kodhābhibhuṁ naraṁ:
Taṁ ve Devā Tāvatiṁsā āhu Sappuriso iti.

The one who supports his parents,
And is respectful to elders,
Who is gentle, kindly in speech,
Who abandons slanderous speech,

Who restrains all his selfishness,
Who is truthful, and without anger,
Of him the Tāvatiṁsa Gods say:
That truly is a Good Person.

Greed brings Dire Consequences

Jā 72 Sīlavanāgarājajātakaṁ

A forester, lost in the forest, is saved by the Bodhisatta, a King of the Elephants. Later he returns and asks for the Bodhisatta’s tusks, which he readily gives. But not satisfied he returns again and demands the roots of the tusks. While leaving the earth opens up and swallows him.

172. Akataññussa posassa niccaṁ vivaradassino,
Sabbañ-ce pathaviṁ dajjā, neva naṁ abhirādhaye.

The ungrateful man is always
On the look-out for an opening,
But even given the whole world,
He still wouldn’t be satisfied.

The Power of Truth

Jā 73 Saccaṁkirajātakaṁ

The Bodhisatta saves a wicked prince who, when later he has ascended the throne, seeing him in the capital, has him flogged and taken out for execution. The Bodhisatta doesn’t get upset but repeats this verse. The people set him free, and kill the wicked King instead.

173. Saccaṁ kir-evam-āhaṁsu narā ekacciyā idha:
Kaṭṭhaṁ niplavitaṁ seyyo na tvevekacciyo naro.

This truth it seems is known
By many people here:
A log is much better
Than many people here.

Unexpected Consequences

Jā 150 Sañjīvajātakaṁ

The Bodhisatta teaches a brahmin youth a spell for restoring life to the dead. Thoughtlessly the youth uses it on a tiger who then kills and eats him.

174. Asantaṁ yo pagaṇhāti, asantañ-cūpasevati,
Tam-eva ghāsaṁ kurute, vyaggho Sañjīvako yathā.

He who favours the bad,
And mixes with the bad,
Makes fodder of himself,
Just like Sañjīvaka,
Who revived a tiger.

The Reward for Good Actions

Jā 302 Mahā-assārohajātakaṁ

A royalist treats with kindness a great horseman who has been defeated in battle, not knowing it is the King himself. The great horseman tells him if he comes to the city he will receive his reward. One day the man comes and the King gives him half his kingdom.

175. Saṁyogasambhogavisesadassanaṁ
Anariyadhammesu saṭhesu nassati,
Katañ-ca Ariyesu ca añjasesu,
Mahapphalaṁ hoti aṇum-pi tādisu.

Whatever good he sees in living together
Goes to waste on the ignoble and treacherous,
But whatever is done along the Noble way,
Even if it is a small thing, it will have great fruit.

176. Yo pubbe katakalyāṇo, akā loke sudukkaraṁ,
Pacchā kayirā na vā kayirā, accantaṁ pūjanāraho.

He who has done good in the past,
Who has done what is difficult,
Later, doing or not doing,
Is worthy of veneration.

Deeds are Seeds

Jā 445 Nigrodhajātakaṁ

Three boys receive an education, two rich, one poor, whose fees are paid for by the first of the boys. Later the poor boy finds out how to become King, but bestows it on his benefactor, and the second boy becomes the Commander-in-Chief. Later the latter abuses and disowns him, but the King, the Bodhisatta, rebukes the Commander-in-Chief, and utters these verses.

177. Yathā pi bījam-aggimhi ḍayhati na virūhati,
Evaṁ kataṁ asappurise nassatī na virūhati.

Just as a seed burned in a fire
Does not produce a fruit,
What is done for the bad person
Does not produce good fruit.

178. Kataññumhi ca posamhi, sīlavante ariyavuttine,
Sukhette viya bījāni, kataṁ tamhi na nassati.

But for the one who is grateful,
Virtuous, of noble conduct,
What is done for these, like good seeds,
Will produce good fruit in return.

The Reciprocity of Deeds

Jā 90 Akataññujātakaṁ

A merchant sends a caravan to Sāvatthī and is helped by Anāthapiṇḍika; later the latter sends a caravan back to the merchant, but they are rebuked; when they come again to Sāvatthī and are robbed they are left with no one to help them.

179. Yo pubbe katakalyāṇo katattho nāvabujjhati,
Pacchā kicce samuppanne kattāraṁ nādhigacchati.

He who doesn’t acknowledge a good deed
That was done in the past,
When a need arises in the future
Finds no one comes to help.

Remembering Service Rendered

Jā 409 Daḷhadhammajātakaṁ

An elephant renders great service to the King, but once grown old is neglected and scorned. The Bodhisatta admonishes the King with these verses.

180. Yo pubbe katakalyāṇo katattho nāvabujjhati,
Atthā tassa palujjanti, ye honti abhipatthitā.

He who does not acknowledge deeds
That were done in the past,
Whatever his gains, so desired,
They will surely decrease.

181. Yo pubbe katakalyāṇo katattho-m-anubujjhati,
Atthā tassa pavaḍḍhanti, ye honti abhipatthitā.

He who does acknowledge good deeds
That were done in the past,
Whatever his gains, so desired,
They will surely increase.

Who to Follow?

AN 3.26 Sevitabbasuttaṁ

The Buddha explains to the monks the three types of person in the world and what their attitude should be towards them, and summarises the teaching with a verse.

182. Nihiyati puriso nihīnasevī,
Na ca hāyetha kadāci tulyasevī,
Seṭṭham-upanamaṁ udeti khippaṁ,
Tasmā attanŏ uttariṁ bhajetha.

People are brought low by mixing with the lowly,
By mixing with equals they are never brought down,
By inclining to the best they quickly rise up,
Therefore they should mix with those better than themselves.

Abandoning an Ingrate

Jā 308 Javasakuṇajātakaṁ

A bird helps a lion by removing a bone stuck in its throat, but when asked to requite he haughtily refuses.

183. Akataññum-akattāraṁ, katass’ appaṭikārakaṁ,
Yasmiṁ kataññutā natthi, niratthā tassa sevanā.

An ingrate who does not requite
Whatever has been done for him,
There is no point mixing with those
In whom gratitude is not found.

184. Yassa sammukhaciṇṇena mittadhammo na labbhati,
Anusūyam-anakkosaṁ, saṇikaṁ tamhā apakkame.

From that one in whom friendliness
Is habitually lacking,
Without jealousy or insult,
He should gently, quickly depart.