Dhamma Verses

12. The Chapter about the Self

One should guard oneself well

Prince Bodhi invited the Buddha for the first meal in his new palace, and put down cloth thinking if the Buddha stepped on it he would be blessed with children; the Buddha refused to walk on it, and explained that Prince Bodhi would be without children because of a past life in which he failed to protect himself by keeping precepts during any of the three periods of his life, and he then gave the teaching in this verse.

157. Attānañ-ce piyaṁ jaññā rakkheyya naṁ surakkhitaṁ,
tiṇṇam-aññataraṁ yāmaṁ paṭijaggeyya paṇḍito.

If one regards oneself as dear
one should guard oneself well, during
one of three watches of the night
the wise person should stay alert.

Only the wise should advise

Ven. Upananda preached well but was a greedy monk who always took the biggest offering, one day he swindled two monks out of a blanket, and the Buddha explained that one should train oneself before preaching to others, and summarised his teaching with this verse.

158. Attānam-eva paṭhamaṁ patirūpe nivesaye,
athaññam-anusāseyya, na kilisseyya paṇḍito.

First one should establish oneself
in what is suitable, then one
can advise another, the wise one
should not have any defilement.

Train another only when well-trained oneself

Ven. Padhānika Tissa took five hundred monks with him and went to the forest; at night he urged them three times to put forth effort, but he himself went to sleep; the monks, being worn out, made no progress; the Buddha spoke this verse about the elder.

159. Attānañ-ce tathā kayirā yathaññam-anusāsati,
sudanto vata dametha, attā hi kira duddamo.

He should do as he would advise
another to do, then being
well-trained, he could train another,
for self is difficult to train.

The self when trained is a true friend

A woman took ordination unaware that she was pregnant; when the child was born King Pasenadi offered to bring him up, and he became known as Kumāra Kassapa; later he ordained and became an Arahat; he also helped his Mother give up her affection for him and attain insight; the Buddha then spoke this verse.

160. Attā hi attano nātho, ko hi nātho paro siyā?
Attanā va sudantena nāthaṁ labhati dullabhaṁ.

For the self is the friend of self,
for what other friend would there be?
When the self has been well-trained, one
finds a friend that is hard to find.

Wickedness arises from oneself

The householder Mahā Kāla listened to an all-night Dhamma teaching at Jetavana, but in the morning was beaten to death by people who mistook him for a thief; the Buddha explained that he had caused the unjust death of another in a previous life, and his bad deed had caught up with him, and gave the teaching in this verse.

161. Attanā va kataṁ pāpaṁ, attajaṁ attasambhavaṁ,
abhimatthati dummedhaṁ vajiraṁ vasmamayaṁ maṇiṁ.

That wickedness done by oneself,
born and arising in oneself,
crushes the one who is stupid,
as diamond a rock-jewel.

A lack of virtue is worse than an enemy

Devadatta sought to kill the Buddha and take over the running of the Saṅgha; the Buddha explained that he also tried to kill him in other existences, but it all worked to Devadatta’s downfall, and then he spoke this verse about him.

162. Yassa accantadussīlyaṁ māluvā Sālam-ivotataṁ
karoti so tathattānaṁ yathā naṁ icchatī diso.

The one who lacks virtue,
like deadly creeper on tree,
makes himself just as his
foe wishes him to be.

Good is hard to do

Devadatta caused a split in the Saṅgha and informed Ven. Ānanda, who related it to the Buddha; the Buddha explained how easy it is to do what is wrong, and summarised the teaching with this verse.

163. Sukarāni asādhūni, attano ahitāni ca,
yaṁ ve hitañ-ca sādhuñ-ca taṁ ve paramadukkaraṁ.

Easily done are things not good,
unbeneficial for oneself,
but that which is beneficial
is exceedingly hard to do.

Reviling the Noble bears unpleasant fruit

Ven. Kāla was a good preacher but sought to prevent his supporter from listening to the Buddha, thinking she would abandon him; she went to listen anyway, and he followed her, thinking to persuade the Buddha not to teach deep teachings to her; the Buddha rebuked him and spoke this verse.

164. Yo sāsanaṁ arahataṁ Ariyānaṁ Dhammajīvinaṁ
paṭikkosati dummedho diṭṭhiṁ nissāya pāpikaṁ,
phalāni kaṭṭhakasseva attaghaññāya phallati.

Whoever reviles the worthy teaching
of the Noble Ones who live by Dhamma,
that stupid one, depending on wrong views,
like the bamboo when it bears fruit,
brings about his own destruction.

Purity and impurity come from oneself

The householder Culla Kāla listened to an all-night Dhamma preaching at Jetavana, but in the morning was beaten by people who mistook him for a thief; some courtesans interceded and they let him go; this was reported to the Buddha who gave the teaching in this verse.

165. Attanā va kataṁ pāpaṁ, attanā saṅkilissati,
attanā akataṁ pāpaṁ, attanā va visujjhati,
suddhī asuddhī paccattaṁ, nāñño aññaṁ visodhaye.

By self is a wicked deed done,
by self is one defiled, by self
is a wicked deed left undone,
by oneself is one purified,
purity and impurity
come from oneself, for no one can
purify another person.

Do not neglect one’s own good

When Ven. Attadattha heard the Buddha declare his intention to finally pass away in four months time, rather than attend on the Buddha, he went to the forest to practice the teaching; the Buddha lauded him and said this is how one truly honours him, and spoke this verse.

166. Atta-d-atthaṁ paratthena bahunā pi na hāpaye;
atta-d-attham-abhiññāya sa-d-atthapasuto siyā.

One should not neglect one’s own good
for another’s, however great;
knowing what is good for oneself
one should be intent on that good.

Attavaggo Dvādasamo
The Chapter about the Self, the Twelfth