Dhamma Verses

Maggavaggo
20. The Chapter about the Path

The confounding of Māra

Five hundred monks were discussing the many paths they had trod while on walking tour when the Buddha asked them their topic of discussion; on finding out he advised them with these verses not to worry about those paths but to follow the best of paths.

273. Maggānaṭṭhaṅgiko seṭṭho, saccānaṁ caturo padā,
virāgo seṭṭho dhammānaṁ, dipadānañ-ca Cakkhumā.

The eightfold is the best of paths,
four principles the best of truths,
passionlessness the best of states,
the Visionary the best of men.

274. Eso va maggo natthañño, dassanassa visuddhiyā,
etaṁ hi tumhe paṭipajjatha, Mārassetaṁ pamohanaṁ.

This the path, there is no other,
for insight and for purity,
you should enter upon this path,
for the confounding of Māra.

275. Etaṁ hi tumhe paṭipannā dukkhassantaṁ karissatha,
akkhāto ve mayā maggo, aññāya sallasanthanaṁ.

Having entered upon this path
you make an end to suffering,
the path was declared by me, the
removal of darts by knowledge.

276. Tumhehi kiccaṁ ātappaṁ akkhātāro Tathāgatā,
paṭipannā pamokkhanti jhāyino Mārabandhanā.

Your duty is to have ardour
declare the Realised Ones, on
this path meditators will be
released from the bonds of Māra.

The first path to purity

Five hundred monks strove hard but were unable to attain Arahatship, so they approached the Buddha for further teaching; seeing into their past lives and knowing they had previously meditated on impermanence, the Buddha gave them this teaching, after hearing which, they became Arahats.

277. Sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā ti, yadā paññāya passati,
atha nibbindatī dukkhe – esa maggo visuddhiyā.

All conditions are impermanent,
when one sees this with deep wisdom,
then one grows tired of suffering,
this is the path to purity.

The second path to purity

Five hundred monks strove hard but were unable to attain Arahatship, so they approached the Buddha for further teaching; seeing into their past lives and knowing they had previously meditated on suffering, the Buddha gave them this teaching, after hearing which, they became Arahats.

278. Sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā ti, yadā paññāya passati,
atha nibbindatī dukkhe – esa maggo visuddhiyā.

All conditions are suffering,
when one sees this with deep wisdom,
then one grows tired of suffering,
this is the path to purity.

The third path to purity

Five hundred monks strove hard but were unable to attain Arahatship, so they approached the Buddha for further teaching; seeing into their past lives and knowing they had previously meditated on lack of self, the Buddha gave them this teaching, after hearing which, they became Arahats.

279. Sabbe dhammā anattā ti, yadā paññāya passati,
atha nibbindatī dukkhe – esa maggo visuddhiyā.

All components are without self,
when one sees this with deep wisdom,
then one grows tired of suffering,
this is the path to purity.

The lazy do not find wisdom

Five hundred monks were given a meditation subject and went to the forest to practice, but one of them dropped out straight away; later the diligent monks became Arahats and were invited to a meal; the lazy monk fell during the night and broke his thigh and the others missed their meal; the Buddha explained they were delayed in a previous life by the same person, and then spoke this verse.

280. Uṭṭhānakālamhi anuṭṭhahāno,
yuvā balī, ālasiyaṁ upeto,
saṁsannasaṅkappamano kusīto –
paññāya maggaṁ alaso na vindati.

The one who has not timely energy,
youthful, strong, but given to laziness,
lacking right intention and indolent –
the lazy one does not find wisdom’s path.

Undertaking the seers’ path

Ven. Moggallāna saw a ghost with a pig’s head and reported it to the Buddha who explained that in a previous life he was someone who broke up a sincere friendship, and after arising in Avīci, the hell of relentless suffering, was later reborn as a ghost with a pig’s head because of his misdeed, and then the Buddha spoke this verse.

281. Vācānurakkhī manasā susaṁvuto,
kāyena ca akusalaṁ na kayirā,
ete tayo kammapathe visodhaye,
ārādhaye maggaṁ isippaveditaṁ.

Verbally guarded, well-restrained in mind,
not doing demerit with the body,
one should purify three paths of action,
and undertake the path shown by seers.

From effort arises wisdom

Ven. Poṭhila had been a reciter of the Tipiṭaka under all seven Buddhas, but had never truly put the teaching into practice, so the Buddha started calling him Empty Poṭhila; taking the hint he went far away to practice meditation, and later the Buddha appeared to him and spoke this verse to encourage him.

282. Yogā ve jāyatī bhūri, ayogā bhūrisaṅkhayo,
etaṁ dvedhāpathaṁ ñatvā bhavāya vibhavāya ca,
tathattānaṁ niveseyya yathā bhūri pavaḍḍhati.

From effort arises wisdom,
without effort wisdom is lost,
having understood these two paths
of development and decline,
one should then establish oneself
so that one’s wisdom increases.

Cut down the forest of desire

Some laymen heard the Buddha teaching and ordained in old age, but even after ordaining they still visited their families for meals; when a former wife of one of them died they fell into deep lamentation; the Buddha explained they did that also in previous lives as crows, and gave the monks this teaching.

283. Vanaṁ chindatha mā rukkhaṁ, vanato jāyatī bhayaṁ,
chetvā vanañ-ca vanathañ-ca, nibbanā hotha bhikkhavo.

Cut down the forest and not just a tree,
from the forest arises a danger,
having cut down the forest and thicket,
you should be without forests, monastics.

284. Yāva hi vanatho na chijjati
aṇumatto pi narassa nārisu,
paṭibaddhamano va tāva so,
vaccho khīrapako va mātari.

For as long as an atom of desire
of a man for a woman isn’t cut down,
for just so long is his mind in bondage,
like calf is in bondage to mother’s milk.

Cut off affection for the self

Ven. Sāriputta’s young disciple made no progress with his meditation subject so he took him to the Buddha, who, understanding his inclinations, gave him a different subject: to look upon a lotus flower, which soon disintegrated, giving the young monk insight into impermanence; the Buddha then appeared and gave this instruction.

285. Ucchinda sineham-attano,
kumudaṁ sāradikaṁ va pāṇinā,
santimaggam-eva brūhaya
Nibbānaṁ Sugatena desitaṁ.

Cut off any affection for one’s self,
like an autumn lotus plucked with the hand,
develop fully the path to peace and
Nibbāna as taught by the Happy One.

A fool knows not the danger

The merchant Mahādhana arrived at Sāvatthi to sell his goods, and thought he will stay there all year round; the Buddha, however, saw that the merchant would die in seven days and sent Ven. Ānanda to warn him; the merchant then gave meals to the Buddha and the Saṅgha, and on hearing the teaching in this verse attained stream-entry before dying.

286. “Idha vassaṁ vasissāmi, idha hemantagimhisu”,
iti bālo vicinteti, antarāyaṁ na bujjhati.

“Here I will dwell during the rains,
here during winter and summer”,
in just such a way a fool thinks,
not understanding the danger.

Attachment to cattle and children

Kisā Gotamī’s child died but she did not believe it and went round trying to find a cure; someone sent her to the Buddha who asked her to bring mustard seeds from a house that has never seen death; she was unable to, of course, and realised death is pervasive; the Buddha then taught her with this verse and she became a stream-enterer.

287. Taṁ puttapasusammattaṁ byāsattamanasaṁ naraṁ,
suttaṁ gāmaṁ mahogho va maccu ādāya gacchati.

That person whose mind is attached,
besotted by cattle and children,
is snatched away by death just as
a sleeping village by a flood.

Clear the path to Nibbāna

After losing all her relatives in various disasters Paṭācārā also lost her mind; eventually she wandered into the presence of the Buddha who gave the teaching in this verse at which point she became a stream-enterer.

288. Na santi puttā tāṇāya, na pitā na pi bandhavā,
Antakenādhipannassa natthi ñātisu tāṇatā.

Children are not a true refuge,
nor fathers, and not kin, for one
overcome by the End-Maker
there’s no refuge in relatives.

289. Etam-atthavasaṁ ñatvā, paṇḍito sīlasaṁvuto,
Nibbānagamanaṁ maggaṁ khippam-eva visodhaye.

Understanding the truth of this
the wise one, endowed with virtue,
should quickly purify the path
that is leading to Nibbāna.

Maggavaggo Vīsatimo
The Chapter about the Path, the Twentieth