Buddhist Wisdom Verses

16: Vāyāmavaggo

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Never give up Hope

Jā 539 Mahājanakajātakaṁ

A King, while enjoying the royal festivities, reflects on how he strove when he was lost in the ocean, never giving up hope of claiming his throne.

301. Vāyametheva Puriso, na nibbindeyya Paṇḍito,
Passāmi vohaṁ attānaṁ yathā icchaṁ tathā ahu.

A Wise Person should endeavour,
Never wearying, this I see,
He is one who has good desire.

302. Vāyametheva Puriso, na nibbindeyya Paṇḍito,
Passāmi vohaṁ attānaṁ, udakā thalam-ubbhataṁ.

A Wise Person should endeavour,
Never wearying, this I see,
Like one pulled from water to land.

303. Dukkhūpanīto pi Naro Sapañño,
Āsaṁ na chindeyya sukhāgamāya,
Bahū hi phassā ahitā hitā ca,
Avitakkitā Maccum-upabbajanti.

The Wise Person brought into suffering,
Will not cut off his hope of happiness,
There are many contacts, both good and bad,
But without a thought they go to meet Death.

Wrong-Doing and the Well-done

SN 1.2.8 Tāyanasuttaṁ

This is the teaching of the Devaputta Tāyana, which was confirmed by the Buddha, and recommended to the monks.

304. Kayirā ce kayirāthenaṁ, daḷham-enaṁ parakkame,
Sithilo hi paribbājo bhiyyo ākirate rajaṁ.

If he would do what should be done,
He should be firm in his effort,
For the wanderer who is lax
Creates lots of impurity.

305. Akataṁ dukkataṁ seyyo, pacchā tappati dukkataṁ,
Katañ-ca sukataṁ seyyo, yaṁ katvā nānutappati.

Better undone is wrong-doing,
Wrong-doing one later regrets.
Better done is what is well-done,
Which when done one does not regret.

The Need to Act Today

MN 131 Bhaddekarattasuttaṁ

One of the verses spoken by the Buddha that were later analysed by the Buddha and, in separate discourses, by three of his monks.

306. Ajjeva kiccam-ātappaṁ, ko jaññā? maraṇaṁ suve,
Na hi no saṅgaraṁ tena mahāsenena Maccunā.

Today exertion should be made,
Who knows? maybe death tomorrow,
There is no bribing of Death and
His great armies with promises.

Shunning the Indolent

Iti 78 Dhātusosandanasuttaṁ

The Buddha teaches how like attracts like: if one mixes with the indolent one becomes lazy; if one mixes with the energetic, one will make a good effort.

307. Parittaṁ dārum-āruyha yathā sīde mahaṇṇave,
Evaṁ kusītam-āgamma sādhujīvī pi sīdati,
Tasmā taṁ parivajjeyya kusītaṁ hīnavīriyaṁ.

Like one who is on a small raft
Risks sinking in the great ocean,
So owing to the indolent
The one who lives well risks sinking,
Therefore shun the indolent one
That one who has no energy.

Doing one’s Duties on Time

Jā 71 Varaṇajātakaṁ

A brāhman student sleeps under a tree when he is supposed to be collecting wood. Being woken up he quickly climbs the tree and grabs some green wood. The following day the cook cannot cook with it, everyone is delayed, and they miss their lunch.

308. Yo pubbe karaṇīyāni, pacchā so kātum-icchati,
Varuṇakaṭṭhabhañjo va, sa pacchā anutappati.

One who in the past had duties,
And later still hasn’t done them,
Like the one who broke the tree branch
He will regret it in the future.

He who Does his Duty

DN 31 Sigālasuttaṁ

More advice to Sigāla on how to put aside his comfort and do his duty.

309. Atisītaṁ ati-uṇhaṁ, atisāyam-idaṁ ahu,
Iti vissaṭṭhakammante, atthā accenti, māṇave.

It is too cold, it is too hot,
It is too late, is what they say,
Speaking like this, they leave off work,
Until the chance has passed them by.

310. Yodha sītañ-ca uṇhañ-ca tiṇā bhiyyo na maññati,
Karaṁ purisakiccāni, sa pacchā na vihāyati.

The person who gives no more thought
To cold and to heat than to grass,
The person who does his duty,
Does not undergo loss later.

Taking one’s Opportunity

Jā 49 Nakkhattajātakaṁ

A marriage has been arranged, but an angry ascetic prevents one party from going, saying it is not auspicious. When they go the next day the girl has already been married off to another.

311. Nakkhattaṁ paṭimānentaṁ attho bālaṁ upaccagā,
Attho atthassa nakkhattaṁ, kiṁ karissanti tārakā?

While waiting on your lucky stars
Good things will pass the foolish by,
Goodness itself is fortunate,
What can constellations achieve?

Rags to Riches

Jā 4 Cullaseṭṭhijātakaṁ

A young man, starting with a dead mouse, is careful in his trading and in making friends, and so by and by he makes his fortune.

312. Appakena pi medhāvī pābhatena Vicakkhaṇo,
Samuṭṭhāpeti attānaṁ, aṇuṁ aggiṁ va sandhamaṁ.

Even with a little, a Wise One,
By virtue of a good present,
Can raise himself up much higher,
Like a small wind can raise a fire.

Fortune sides with the Meritorious

Jā 284 Sirijātakaṁ

A wood-collector has the chance of good luck, but looses it to an elephant-trainer, who by evening is raised to King of the country.

313. Yaṁ ussukā saṅgharanti alakkhikā bahuṁ dhanaṁ,
Sippavanto asippā ca, lakkhī va tāni bhuñjare.

Whatever effort the unlucky
Make in accumulating wealth,
Endowed with a craft or without,
The fortunate ones will enjoy.

314. Sabbattha katapuññassa, aticcaññeva pāṇino,
Uppajjanti bahū bhogā, appanāyatanesu pi.

For the one who has great merit,
Overcomes all other people,
And great riches arise, even
When making but little effort.

Acting without Consideration

Jā 152 Sigālajātakaṁ

A pack of lions, wanting to avenge the insult on their sister, pounce on what looks like a jackal, but it is in fact only a reflection. They all die apart from the Bodhisatta who understands the situation and speaks these words.

315. Asamekkhitakammantaṁ turitābhinipātinaṁ,
Tāni kammāni tappenti, uṇhaṁ vajjhohitaṁ mukhe.

Those who undertake work without
Consideration fall away,
They regret those works, like they would
Something hot crammed into the mouth.

Inconsiderate and Considerate Action

Jā 505 Somanassajātakaṁ

A false ascetic is scolded by a Prince for his loose ways. The ascetic lies to the King and tries to get the Prince killed, but he defends himself successfully before retiring to the Himālayas.

316. Anisamma kataṁ kammaṁ, anavatthāya cintitaṁ,
Bhesajjasseva vebhaṅgo, vipāko hoti pāpako.

Deeds done inconsiderately,
Without balanced, measured thinking,
As with a failure in treatment,
The result is bound to be bad.

317. Nisamma ca kataṁ kammaṁ, sammāvatthāya cintitaṁ,
Bhesajjasseva sampatti, vipāko hoti bhadrako.

A deed done considerately,
With good and balanced thinking,
As with success in treatment,
The result is bound to be good.