Dhamma Verses

11. The Chapter about Old Age

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One must seek the light

Women under the care of Visākhā partook of strong drink while on their way to listen to the Buddha; when they arrived they were possessed by Māra and started laughing and dancing; the Buddha, through his miraculous powers, sobered them up, and then spoke this verse.

146. Ko nu hāso, kim-ānando, niccaṁ pajjalite sati,
andhakārena onaddhā, padīpaṁ na gavesatha?

Why this laughter, why this joy, when
the world is constantly burning,
when enveloped by this darkness,
do you still not seek for a light?

The body is unstable

Jīvaka’s sister Sirimā was a courtesan in Rājagaha who attained stream-entry and used to provide alms for the monks, but soon she died; the Buddha asked for her body to be left outside to rot, and although men would pay good money for her before, nobody would take her later, even for free; the Buddha spoke about her in this verse.

147. Passa cittakataṁ bimbaṁ, arukāyaṁ samussitaṁ,
āturaṁ bahusaṅkappaṁ, yassa natthi dhuvaṁ ṭhiti.

See this beautified manikin,
a heap of sores that is raised up,
sick, imagined in many ways,
which has nothing stable or firm.

The end of life is death

The elderly nun Uttarā still walked on almsround at the age of one hundred and twenty years; while walking one day she met the Buddha, but stumbled and fell down; the Buddha spoke this verse warning of her coming death.

148. Parijiṇṇam-idaṁ rūpaṁ, roganīḷaṁ pabhaṅguraṁ,
bhijjati pūtisandeho, maraṇantaṁ hi jīvitaṁ.

This body is worn out, a nest
of disease, perishing, putrid,
the putrid body will come to
destruction, for life ends in death.

Why delight in bones

Some monks attained absorption and thinking they had Awakened they went to see the Buddha; the Buddha sent them to the charnel ground, and when they saw female corpses they realised they still had lust; the Buddha then gave them this teaching.

149. Yānimāni apatthāni alāpūneva sārade
kāpotakāni aṭṭhīni, tāni disvāna kā rati?

Like discarded white gourds
thrown away in autumn
are these grey bones; seeing
them, why is there delight?

What lies hidden in the body

The Buddha caused Ven. Rūpanandā, who was proud of her beauty, to see an image of a very beautiful woman quickly go through the stages of life, die, and be eaten by animals, and she gained insight into the nature of the body; the Buddha then spoke this verse.

150. Aṭṭhīnaṁ nagaraṁ kataṁ,
yattha jarā ca maccu ca,
māno makkho ca ohito.

This fortress is made out of bones,
plastered over with flesh and blood,
but hidden within lie old age,
death, also conceit and anger.

The Dhamma does not grow old

King Pasenadi’s wife Queen Mallikā died and was eventually reborn in Tusita Heaven; later the Buddha went on almsround, was invited by the King, and sat in his chariot hall, where he explained to the King that he shouldn’t grieve, for all beings must die, and there he spoke this verse.

151. Jīranti ve rājarathā sucittā,
atho sarīram-pi jaraṁ upeti,
satañ-ca Dhammo na jaraṁ upeti,
santo have sabbhi pavedayanti.

Royal chariots will decay,
and the body also decays,
but the Dhamma does not decay,
the good pass it on to the good.

Growing old but not wise

The monk Lāḷudāyi was always reciting the wrong verses – dirges at weddings, and joyful verses at funerals, and so on; the Buddha explained that he did the very same in a past life and spoke this verse.

152. Appassutāyaṁ puriso balivaddo va jīrati,
maṁsāni tassa vaḍḍhanti, paññā tassa na vaḍḍhati.

The person of little learning
increases in age like an ox,
for although his flesh does increase,
his wisdom does not increase.

The end of craving

After he had defeated Māra at the foot of the Bodhi tree, the Bodhisatta, in the three watches of the night, attained insight into his previous existences, the rising and falling away of beings according to their intentional actions, and dependent origination, which led to his Awakening, at which point he spoke these exalted utterances.

153. Anekajātisaṁsāraṁ sandhāvissaṁ anibbisaṁ
gahakārakaṁ gavesanto: dukkhā jāti punappunaṁ.

Through the round of births and deaths
I have wandered without finding
the housebuilder I was seeking:
born and suffering once again.

154. Gahakāraka diṭṭhosi! Puna gehaṁ na kāhasi:
sabbā te phāsukā bhaggā, gahakūṭaṁ visaṅkhitaṁ,
visaṅkhāragataṁ cittaṁ, taṇhānaṁ khayam-ajjhagā.

O housebuilder, now you are seen!
You will not build the house again:
all your rafters have been broken,
and the ridgepole has been destroyed,
my mind has reached the unconditioned,
and craving’s end has been achieved.

Profiting in neither way

The wealthy youth Mahādhana took to drink and squandered both his own and his wife’s money and ended up a beggar; the Buddha explained that if he had applied himself as a layman he would have been amongst the chief treasurers; and if he had become a monk he would have attained the paths and fruits; and then he spoke this verse about him.

155. Acaritvā brahmacariyaṁ, aladdhā yobbane dhanaṁ,
jiṇṇakoñcā ca jhāyanti khīṇamacche va pallale.

Not having lived the holy life,
not having gained wealth in their youth,
they waste away like the herons
in a small lake devoid of fish.

156. Acaritvā brahmacariyaṁ aladdhā yobbane dhanaṁ
senti cāpātikhittā va, purāṇāni anutthunaṁ.

Not having lived the holy life,
not having gained wealth in their youth,
they lie like shafts shot from a bow,
wailing about things in the past.

Jarāvaggo Ekādasamo
The Chapter about Old Age, the Eleventh