Dhamma Verses

Bālavaggo
5. The Chapter about Fools

The long journey in births and deaths

King Pasenadi was overcome with desire for another man’s wife and sought to have him killed; during the night he woke to the sound of four people screaming; the Buddha explained they were adulterers in their previous lives and did no good deeds, and then he spoke this verse.

60. Dīghā jāgarato ratti, dīghaṁ santassa yojanaṁ,
dīgho bālānaṁ saṁsāro Saddhammaṁ avijānataṁ.

Long is the night for one awake,
long is a league for one tired,
long is the round of births and deaths
for fools who know not True Dhamma.

No friendship with fools

A faithless pupil of Ven. Mahākassapa, after numerous other acts of deceit, tricked a supporter into giving him food and drinks which he said were needed by the elder; after being rebuked he burned down the elder’s hut, ran away and was later reborn in Avīci, the relentless hell; the Buddha then gave this advice.

61. Carañ-ce nādhigaccheyya seyyaṁ sadisam-attano,
ekacariyaṁ daḷhaṁ kayirā: natthi bāle sahāyatā.

If while roaming one cannot find
one better or same as oneself,
one should resolve to go alone:
there can be no friendship with fools.

There is no real ownership

The millionaire miser Ānanda was reborn in great poverty and distress, and had to beg for his meals; he returned to his previous home, but was thrown out by his son; the Buddha then asked Ānanda to show his son where he buried his gold, and his son converted; the Buddha then spoke this verse.

62. “Puttā matthi, dhanam-matthi,” iti bālo vihaññati,
attā hi attano natthi, kuto puttā, kuto dhanaṁ?

“Sons are mine, and riches are mine,”
so the fool suffers vexation,
when even self is not his own,
how then sons, and how then riches?

The fool who knows he’s a fool

Two thieves went to listen to the Dhamma; one of them attained a stage of Awakening, the other managed to undo a knot in someone’s clothes and steal some pennies; when this was reported to the Buddha he spoke this verse in explanation.

63. Yo bālo maññati bālyaṁ, paṇḍito vāpi tena so,
bālo ca paṇḍitamānī, sa ve bālo ti vuccati.

The fool who knows his foolishness,
is at least wise in that matter,
the fool who’s proud of his wisdom,
is said to be a fool indeed.

Fools cannot learn

Ven. Udāyi lived with the Buddha, but when questioned by visiting monks it was found he did not know even the fundamentals of the teaching; they told this to the Buddha, who spoke this verse.

64. Yāvajīvam-pi ce bālo paṇḍitaṁ payirupāsati,
na so Dhammaṁ vijānāti, dabbī sūparasaṁ yathā.

Even if a fool attends on
a wise man for his whole life long,
he does not learn Dhamma, just as
spoon learns not the taste of curry.

The wise can easily learn

The thirty youths from Pāṭheyyaka were amongst the Buddha’s first converts; later he taught them about the impossibility of knowing the beginning of the rounds of births and deaths, and they immediately became Arahats; the Buddha spoke this verse about them.

65. Muhuttam-api ce viññū paṇḍitaṁ payirupāsati,
khippaṁ Dhammaṁ vijānāti, jivhā sūparasaṁ yathā.

If a perceptive man attends
on a wise man for a second,
he quickly learns Dhamma, just as
the tongue learns the taste of curry.

Fools are their own worst enemy

The leper Suppabuddha heard the Dhamma and attained stream-entry, but was killed by a cow soon after, and was reborn in Heaven; the Buddha explained that together with three others, he had killed a cow in a previous existence, and that the cow had vowed revenge; the Buddha then spoke this verse.

66. Caranti bālā dummedhā amitteneva attanā,
karontā pāpakaṁ kammaṁ, yaṁ hoti kaṭukapphalaṁ.

Stupid fools live having
themselves as their own foes,
committing wicked deeds,
which produce bitter fruit.

Deeds that are not well done

The Buddha warned a farmer regarding a thousand gold coins dropped by a thief in his field; the farmer covered them over and continued ploughing; some people investigating the robbery traced the thieves to his field and uncovered the coins and he was arrested; the Buddha affirmed the farmer’s innocence and spoke this verse.

67. Na taṁ kammaṁ kataṁ sādhu, yaṁ katvā anutappati,
yassa assumukho rodaṁ, vipākaṁ paṭisevati.

That deed is not at all well done,
which, having done, one has regret,
for which he has tears on his face,
as the result follows him round.

Deeds that are well done

The flower seller Sumana delivered flowers to the King each day, but one day when he saw the Buddha he sprinkled the flowers over him, and they remained in the air around the Buddha and the whole city came out to see the spectacle; the Buddha predicted Sumana would never go to the lower worlds again and one day would become a Paccekabuddha, and spoke this verse in praise of his action.

68. Tañ-ca kammaṁ kataṁ sādhu, yaṁ katvā nānutappati,
yassa patīto sumano, vipākaṁ paṭisevati.

But that deed is truly well done,
which, having done, one has no regret,
about which he is pleased and happy,
as the result follows him round.

The ripening of wickedness

A cousin of the nun Ven. Uppalavaṇṇā hid in her forest dwelling and raped her when she returned; later the earth swallowed him up and he was reborn in Avīci, the relentless hell; the Buddha then gave this teaching.

69. Madhuvā maññati bālo, yāva pāpaṁ na paccati,
yadā ca paccati pāpaṁ, bālo dukkhaṁ nigacchati.

The fool thinks it sweet, as long as
the wicked deed does not ripen,
but when the wicked deed ripens,
the fool undergoes suffering.

Ascetism is useless without Dhamma

For many years the naked ascetic Jambuka ate excrement and slept on the floor yet convinced his devotees that he only ate food from a grass-tip and never slept, until the Buddha confronted him with his deceit; Jambuka repented, ordained and soon became an Arahat; the Buddha spoke this verse to Jambuka’s devotees.

70. Māse māse kusaggena bālo bhuñjetha bhojanaṁ,
na so saṅkhātadhammānaṁ kalaṁ agghati soḷasiṁ.

From month to month the fool may eat
food with the tip of kusa-grass,
but he’s not worth a sixteenth part
of those who have mastered Dhamma.

Deeds do not ripen at once

A man burned down the hut of a Paccekabuddha and eventually was reborn as a snake-ghost, burning for the whole length of his long body, as was seen by Ven. Moggallāna; the Buddha confirmed the story, and gave this teaching.

71. Na hi pāpaṁ kataṁ kammaṁ, sajju khīraṁ va muccati,
ḍahantaṁ bālam-anveti, bhasmacchanno va pāvako.

A wicked deed that has been done,
like milk, does not turn all at once,
smouldering, it follows the fool,
like a fire covered with ashes.

Learning only hurts a fool

A young man learned the art of stone-throwing, but used it to kill a Paccekabuddha; he was reborn in Avīci, the hell of relentless suffering, and later as a ghost whose head was constantly crushed by sixty-thousand sledgehammers; the Buddha explained what happens to fools who gain knowledge with this verse.

72. Yāvad-eva anatthāya ñattaṁ bālassa jāyati,
hanti bālassa sukkaṁsaṁ, muddham-assa vipātayaṁ.

Learning arises for a fool
only to his disadvantage,
it destroys the fool’s good fortune,
it will destroy his very head.

A bad person wishes for preeminence

The householder Citta sought to give alms to the two chief Disciples, but the jealous resident monk Ven. Sudhamma felt offended and refused to attend; the Buddha admonished him with these verses and he soon became an Arahat.

73. Asataṁ bhāvanam-iccheyya, purekkhārañ-ca bhikkhusu,
āvāsesu ca issariyaṁ, pūjā parakulesu ca:

The bad man may wish for respect,
and status amongst monastics,
control in the living quarters,
worship amongst good families:

74. “Mameva kata’ maññantu gihī pabbajitā ubho,
mameva ativasā assu, kiccākiccesu kismici”,
iti bālassa saṅkappo, icchā māno ca vaḍḍhati.

“Householders and renunciants
should both think this was done by me,
let them all be under my sway,
in all to be done and not done”,
so does the fool think, meanwhile
his desires and conceit increase.

One should not delight in honour or gain

The seven year old boy Tissa ordained under Ven. Sāriputta, and later, spurning gains and the attentions of his relatives, retired into solitude, and quickly became an Arahat; the Buddha spoke this verse about him.

75. Aññā hi lābhūpanisā, aññā Nibbānagāminī,
evam-etaṁ abhiññāya bhikkhu Buddhassa sāvako
sakkāraṁ nābhinandeyya, vivekam-anubrūhaye.

For the means to gains is one thing,
the way to Nibbāna another,
thus knowing this the disciple
of the Buddha should not delight
in honours, but practise alone.

Bālavaggo Pañcamo
The Chapter about Fools, the Fifth