Dhamma Verses

Sahassavaggo
8. The Chapter about the Thousands

One useful word is better

A man worked all his life as a public executioner and later had deep regret about his actions; Ven. Sāriputta gave him just one teaching and he was reborn in Tusita Heaven; the monks wondered how this could be, and the Buddha spoke this verse to explain it.

100. Sahassam-api ce vācā anatthapadasaṁhitā,
ekaṁ atthapadaṁ seyyo yaṁ sutvā upasammati.

Though there are a thousand sayings
consisting of quite useless words,
better is just one useful word
hearing which one is brought to peace.

One useful verse is better

Bāhiya Dārucīriya obtained a short teaching from the Buddha, became an Arahat and died straight afterwards; the Buddha appointed him as foremost amongst those who were quick to grasp the Teaching, and when the monks doubted it, he taught them with this verse.

101. Sahassam-api ce gāthā anatthapadasaṁhitā,
ekaṁ gāthāpadaṁ seyyo yaṁ sutvā upasammati.

Though there are a thousand verses
consisting of quite useless words,
better is one word of a verse
hearing which one is brought to peace.

The one who conquers himself is supreme

Kuṇḍalakesī, who had previously killed her husband and joined the Wanderers and expertly defended their doctrines, was converted by Ven. Sāriputta with a simple teaching; the monks wondered how, and the Buddha spoke these verses to explain it.

102. Yo ce gāthāsataṁ bhāse anatthapadasaṁhitā,
ekaṁ Dhammapadaṁ seyyo, yaṁ sutvā upasammati.

One may speak a thousand verses
consisting of quite useless words,
better is one verse of Dhamma,
hearing which one is brought to peace.

103. Yo sahassaṁ sahassena saṅgāme mānuse jine,
ekañ-ca jeyya attānaṁ, sa ve saṅgāmajuttamo.

One may conquer a thousand men
a thousand times in a battle,
but having conquered one’s own self,
one would be supreme in battle.

The one who conquers self cannot be defeated

A brahmin admitted to earning his living through gambling, and the Buddha explained that gains in this way are no true gains, but those who overcame themselves are truly victorious, and then he gave him this teaching.

104.105. Attā have jitaṁ seyyo yā cāyaṁ itarā pajā,
attadantassa posassa, niccaṁ saññatacārino,
neva devo na gandhabbo, na Māro saha Brahmunā,
jitaṁ apajitaṁ kayirā tathārūpassa jantuno.

Conquest over self is better
than that over other people,
for the one who conquers himself,
who lives constantly well-restrained,
neither gods, nor gandhabbas, nor
Māra together with Brahmās,
can turn conquest into defeat
for a person who is like this.

Worshipping those worthy is better than alms

Ven. Sāriputta asked the Buddha to teach his uncle, who supported the Jainas, the true way to the Brahmā world; and this is the verse with which he taught them.

106. Māse māse sahassena yo yajetha sataṁ samaṁ;
ekañ-ca bhāvitattānaṁ muhuttam-api pūjaye –
sā yeva pūjanā seyyo yañ-ce vassasataṁ hutaṁ.

One might give alms impartially
with a thousand coins of money
month by month for a hundred years;
and one might worship someone with
developed self for a second –
that worship is surely better
than the hundred-year sacrifice.

Worshipping those worthy is better than sacrifice

Ven. Sāriputta asked the Buddha to teach his nephew, who slayed animals and tended the sacrificial fire, the true way to the Brahmā world, and the Buddha gave the teaching in this verse.

107. Yo ca vassasataṁ jantu aggiṁ paricare vane;
ekañ-ca bhāvitattānaṁ muhuttam-api pūjaye –
sā yeva pūjanā seyyo yañ-ce vassasataṁ hutaṁ.

One person might care for the fire
in the woods for a hundred years;
and one might worship someone with
developed self for a second –
that worship is surely better
than the hundred-year sacrifice.

Worshipping the upright is better
than alms or sacrifice

Ven. Sāriputta asked the Buddha to teach his friend, who offered animals in sacrifice, the true way to the Brahmā world, and the Buddha gave him this teaching.

108. Yaṁ kiñci yiṭṭhaṁ ca hutaṁ ca loke
saṁvaccharaṁ yajetha puññapekkho,
sabbam-pi taṁ na catubhāgam-eti –
abhivādanā ujjugatesu seyyo.

Whatever the alms or the sacrifice
one seeking merit may give for a year,
that is not a quarter of the merit –
better is the worship of the upright.

The benefits of worshipping elders

When the boy Dīghāyu was destined to die, the Buddha and the monks chanted protective verses for him and he lived on; the Buddha said long life is not the only thing a man received when he reverenced the elders, and then he taught them with this verse.

109. Abhivādanasīlissa niccaṁ vaddhāpacāyino,
cattāro dhammā vaḍḍhanti: āyu vaṇṇo sukhaṁ balaṁ.

For the one who is constantly
worshipping honourable elders,
four things increase: the length of life,
beauty and happiness and strength.

One day of virtuous living is better

Ven. Sāriputta’s nephew Saṅkicca ordained as a novice, and when thirty monks’ lives were threatened by five hundred thieves he converted the thieves and they ordained; when he heard about it, this is the teaching the Buddha gave.

110. Yo ca vassasataṁ jīve, dussīlo asamāhito,
ekāhaṁ jīvitaṁ seyyo, sīlavantassa jhāyino.

One might live for a hundred years,
unvirtuous and uncomposed,
but one day is better, for one
with virtue and meditation.

One day of wisdom is better

Ven. Khāṇu Koṇḍañña, sitting in meditation, was unmoved when five hundred thieves piled up their stolen goods all over him at night; the thieves, impressed with his equanimity, converted and were ordained; this is the teaching the Buddha gave on that occasion.

111. Yo ca vassasataṁ jīve, duppañño asamāhito,
ekāhaṁ jīvitaṁ seyyo, paññavantassa jhāyino.

One might live for a hundred years,
lacking in wisdom, uncomposed,
but one day is better, for one
with wisdom and meditation.

One day of striving is better

Ven. Sappadāsa was dissatisfied and thought to end his life, but became an Arahat with the razor at his windpipe; when questioned by the monks the Buddha explained that one who truly strives can attain Awakening in an instant, and he spoke this verse.

112. Yo ca vassasataṁ jīve, kusīto hīnavīriyo,
ekāhaṁ jīvitaṁ seyyo, viriyam-ārabhato daḷhaṁ.

One might live for a hundred years,
indolent, with less energy,
but one day is better, for one
with energy set up and firm.

Better to see rise and fall

Paṭācārā ran away from home with one of her slaves, had two children and lost them both, along with her husband, parents and brother in one day; she went mad and by and by approached the Buddha who, recognising she was ready for Awakening, taught her about the endless sorrow of births and deaths, and then spoke this verse hearing which she became an Arahat.

113. Yo ca vassasataṁ jīve apassaṁ udayabbayaṁ,
ekāhaṁ jīvitaṁ seyyo passato udayabbayaṁ.

One might live for a hundred years
without seeing rise and fall,
but a life of one day’s better
for the one seeing rise and fall.

Better to see the deathless

When Kisā Gotamī sought medicine for her dead son, the Buddha asked her to bring mustard seeds from a house that has never seen death; she learned during her quest that everyone dies, and the Buddha taught her further with this verse.

114. Yo ca vassasataṁ jīve apassaṁ amataṁ padaṁ,
ekāhaṁ jīvitaṁ seyyo passato amataṁ padaṁ.

One might live for a hundred years
without seeing the deathless state,
but a life of one day’s better
for one seeing the deathless state.

Better to see the supreme state

A good lay disciple, Bahuputtikā, was despised by her children and decided to ordain and was very resolute in her practice; the Buddha gave this teaching and she attained Awakening.

115. Yo ca vassasataṁ jīve apassaṁ dhammam-uttamaṁ,
ekāhaṁ jīvitaṁ seyyo passato dhammam-uttamaṁ.

One might live for a hundred years
without seeing the supreme state,
but a life of one day is better
for one seeing the supreme state.

Sahassavaggo Aṭṭhamo
The Chapter about the Thousands, the Eighth