Dhamma Verses

24. The Chapter about Craving

Similes about craving

In the time of the Buddha Kassapa one Kapila went forth and was renowned as a great teacher, but would pronounce other monks wrong even when they were right just to disparage them; at the time of our Lord Buddha he was reborn as a fish with foul breath; he was caught and brought to the Buddha, who explained his fate and then spoke these verses.

334. Manujassa pamattacārino
taṇhā vaḍḍhati māluvā viya,
so palavatī hurāhuraṁ
phalam-icchaṁ va vanasmi’ vānaro.

For a human who lives life heedlessly
craving increases like clinging creeper,
he rushes from one place to another
like a monkey desiring forest fruit.

335. Yaṁ esā sahatī jammī taṇhā loke visattikā,
sokā tassa pavaḍḍhanti abhivaṭṭhaṁ va bīraṇaṁ.

That one who is overcome by
these low cravings and attachments
in the world, for him griefs increase
like grass that has had heavy rain.

336. Yo cetaṁ sahatī jammiṁ taṇhaṁ loke duraccayaṁ,
sokā tamhā papatanti udabindu va pokkharā.

Whoever overcomes craving
in the world, which is difficult
to get past, griefs fall from him like
drops of water from a lotus.

337. Taṁ vo vadāmi: “Bhaddaṁ vo yāvantettha samāgatā”,
taṇhāya mūlaṁ khaṇatha, usīrattho va bīraṇaṁ,
mā vo naḷaṁ va soto va Māro bhañji punappunaṁ.

This I say to you: “Good luck to
as many as have assembled”,
dig up the root of craving, like
one seeking the root digs up grass,
do not let Māra push you down
like a stream pushes down the reed.

Cutting out craving

One day the Buddha saw a sow and smiled; when Ven. Ānanda asked him the reason for his smile he told of the various forms of existence that the sow had been through, including being reborn in the Brahmā worlds in the life before this one; he then taught the monastics on the evils of craving with these verses.

338. Yathā pi mūle anupaddave daḷhe
chinno pi rukkho, punar-eva rūhati,
evam-pi taṇhānusaye anūhate
nibbattatī dukkham-idaṁ punappunaṁ.

Just as when the root remains untroubled
though the tree was cut down, it grows again,
so when craving is not rooted out this
suffering appears again and again.

339. Yassa chattiṁsatī sotā manāpassavanā bhusā,
vāhā vahanti duddiṭṭhiṁ saṅkappā rāganissitā.

He in whom the thirty-six streams
flow pleasantly and strong, the one
with wrong view, is carried away
by his passionate intentions.

340. Savanti sabbadhī sotā, latā ubbhijja tiṭṭhati,
tañ-ca disvā lataṁ jātaṁ mūlaṁ paññāya chindatha.

Streams are flowing everywhere,
the creepers remain where they grow,
seeing this, cut the creeper’s root
that has arisen with wisdom.

341. Saritāni sinehitāni ca
sŏmanassāni bhavanti jantuno,
te sātasitā sukhesino,
te ve jātijarūpagā narā.

There are flowing streams of affection and
mental happinesses for a person,
pleasure-dependent they seek happiness,
those people undergo birth and old age.

342. Tasiṇāya purakkhatā pajā
parisappanti saso va bādhito,
dukkham-upenti punappunaṁ cirāya.

People surrounded by craving
crawl round like a hare in a trap,
attached and clinging to fetters
they come back again and again
to suffering for a long time.

343. Tasiṇāya purakkhatā pajā
parisappanti saso va bādhito,
tasmā tasiṇaṁ vinodaye –
bhikkhu ākaṅkha’ virāgam-attano.

People surrounded by craving
crawl round like a hare in a trap,
therefore he should remove craving –
the monk who longs for dispassion.

Running away from freedom

A young monk who had high concentration attainments was enchanted by golden objects and decided to leave the monastic life; unable to find work he became a thief and was caught and sentenced to death; on his way to the execution ground he attained fourth jhāna; the Buddha appeared to him and taught him with this verse, and he became an Arahat and escaped his punishment.

344. Yo nibbanatho vanādhimutto,
vanamutto vanam-eva dhāvati,
taṁ puggalam-etha passatha,
mutto bandhanam-eva dhāvati.

The one who is free from desires,
who is intent on the forest,
though free, runs back to the forest,
come here and look at that person,
though free, he runs back to bondage.

The real bondage

Some monks while on almsround saw various criminals in the prison house where they were bound with ropes and chains; they reported it to the Buddha who explained that these bonds are paltry compared to the bonds of craving, and he taught them further with these verses.

345.346. Na taṁ daḷhaṁ bandhanam-āhu dhīrā,
yad-āyasaṁ dārujaṁ pabbajañ-ca,
sārattarattā maṇikuṇḍalesu
puttesu dāresu ca yā apekhā –
etaṁ daḷhaṁ bandhanam-āhu dhīrā,
ohārinaṁ sithilaṁ, duppamuñcaṁ,
etam-pi chetvāna paribbajanti
anapekkhino, kāmasukhaṁ pahāya.

That bondage is not so strong say the wise,
that is made of iron or wood or reeds,
impassioned and excited they seek out
jewels and earrings and children and wives –
that bondage is really strong say the wise,
dragging down the lax, hard to get free from,
having cut this down they wander about,
seeking nothing, abandoning pleasure.

The wise abandon suffering

Queen Khemā, who was married to King Bimbisāra, was so intoxicated with her own beauty she would not visit the Buddha, but eventually she was persuaded into his presence by praise of the Bamboo Grove, where he was residing; the Buddha caused the image of a beautiful woman to go through the stages of decay in front of her, and then he taught her with this verse, upon hearing which, she became an Arahat.

347. Ye rāgarattānupatanti sotaṁ
sayaṁkataṁ makkaṭako va jālaṁ,
etam-pi chetvāna vajanti dhīrā,
anapekkhino sabbadukkhaṁ pahāya.

Those who are impassioned follow the stream
like a spider a web made by itself,
having cut this away the wise proceed,
seeking nothing, abandoning suff’ring.

The attractive makes the bond firm

The merchant’s son Uggasena fell in love with an acrobat whom he saw performing, but her father would only give her to him if he joined them, which he readily agreed to do; later he learned acrobatics himself and performed in Rājagaha; this is the teaching the Buddha gave him, by which he became an Arahat.

348. Muñca pure, muñca pacchato,
majjhe muñca, bhavassa pāragū,
sabbattha vimuttamānaso,
na punaṁ jātijaraṁ upehisi.

Be free of the past, future and present,
after crossing over all existence,
with mind liberated in ev’ry way,
you will not return to birth and old age.

Cutting Māra’s bonds

When Ven. Culla Dhanuggaha obtained water from the house of a young maiden she soon started giving him porridge also and striking up a conversation, and eventually he began to feel discontent; when the Buddha heard of the situation he described how this woman murdered him at the drop of a hat in a previous existence and further gave him this teaching.

349. Vitakkapamathitassa jantuno
tibbarāgassa, subhānupassino,
bhiyyo taṇhā pavaḍḍhati,
esa kho daḷhaṁ karoti bandhanaṁ.

For a person who is crushed by his thoughts,
and pierced by passion, contemplating
the attractive, craving increases,
this surely makes the bond more firm.

350. Vitakkupasame ca yo rato
asubhaṁ bhāvayatī sadā sato,
esa kho vyantikāhiti,
esacchecchati Mārabandhanaṁ.

Whoever delights in calming of thoughts,
who cultivates what is unattractive,
will surely abolish all this craving,
he will then cut off the bond of Māra.

In the final body

One night because of the arrival of several great elders Ven. Rāhula, who was eight years old at the time, gave up his room and slept near the Buddha’s kuṭi; Māra thought to frighten him and took the form of a great elephant and trumpeted near him; the Buddha explained with these verses that Ven. Rāhula was an Arahat and was therefore unafraid.

351. Niṭṭhaṁ gato asantāsī, vītataṇho anaṅgaṇo,
acchindi bhavasallāni, antimoyaṁ samussayo.

Having gone to the end, without
trembling, craving, impurity,
cutting the darts of existence,
this one is his final body.

352. Vītataṇho anādāno, niruttipadakovido,
akkharānaṁ sannipātaṁ jaññā pubbaparāni ca,
sa ve antimasārīro mahāpañño (mahāpuriso) ti vuccati.

Without craving and attachment,
skilled in words and explanation,
knowing how syllables are arranged,
which come before and which after,
the one in his final body
is said to be of great wisdom.

The Buddha has no teacher

After the Buddha had attained Awakening and decided to teach he set out for Bārāṇasī and on the way came across the Ājīvika Upaka who expressed his admiration of the Buddha’s appearance, and then asked him who his teacher was; this was the Buddha’s reply.

353. Sabbābhibhū sabbavidūham-asmi,
sabbesu dhammesu anūpalitto,
sabbañjaho taṇhakkhaye vimutto,
sayaṁ abhiññāya, kam-uddiseyyaṁ.

All-Conquering, All-Wise am I,
undefiled regarding all things,
having given up ev’rything,
liberated through craving’s end,
when having deep knowledge myself,
who should I point to as Teacher?

The Dhamma surpasses all

The gods led by Sakka had four questions which none of them was able to answer, they therefore went to the Buddha at Jetavana with their questions and the Buddha told them it was in order to answer these sorts of questions that he strove to attain Awakening, and he answered them with this verse.

354. Sabbadānaṁ Dhammadānaṁ jināti,
sabbaṁ rasaṁ Dhammaraso jināti,
sabbaṁ ratiṁ Dhammaratiṁ jināti,
taṇhakkhayo sabbadukkhaṁ jināti.

The gift of the Dhamma surpasses other gifts,
the taste of the Dhamma surpasses other tastes,
the love of the Dhamma surpasses other loves,
craving’s destruction overcomes all suffering.

The fool destroys himself and others

In a previous life a rich man gave a meal to a Paccekabuddha but almost instantly regretted it; later, out of greed, he also killed his brother’s son; when reborn, because of his gift he was again rich, but because of his evil deed he was childless, lived as a miser and was unable to enjoy his riches; when he died all his wealth went to the King; the Buddha explained the situation with this verse.

355. Hananti bhogā dummedhaṁ no ve pāragavesino,
bhogataṇhāya dummedho hanti aññe va attanaṁ.

Riches destroy the stupid one
who does not seek the way beyond,
through his craving the stupid one
destroys both others and himself.

Gifts to the free have great fruit

Aṅkura was a good brahmin who set up many fire places and worshipped the gods for ten thousand years, yet his position in the heavens was less than Indaka who gave just one spoonful of rice to Ven. Anuruddha; the Buddha explained with these verses that one should give with discrimination, as gifts given to those who are free of defilements yield great fruit.

356. Tiṇadosāni khettāni, rāgadosā ayaṁ pajā,
tasmā hi vītarāgesu dinnaṁ hoti mahapphalaṁ.

Fields are ruined by grassy weeds,
people are ruined by passion,
therefore there is great fruit for that
given to those without passion.

357. Tiṇadosāni khettāni, dosadosā ayaṁ pajā,
tasmā hi vītadosesu dinnaṁ hoti mahapphalaṁ.

Fields are ruined by grassy weeds,
people are ruined by hatred,
therefore there is great fruit for that
given to those without hatred.

358. Tiṇadosāni khettāni, mohadosā ayaṁ pajā,
tasmā hi vītamohesu dinnaṁ hoti mahapphalaṁ.

Fields are ruined by grassy weeds,
people are ruined by delusion,
therefore there is great fruit for that
given to those without delusion.

359. Tiṇadosāni khettāni, icchādosā ayaṁ pajā,
tasmā hi vigaticchesu dinnaṁ hoti mahapphalaṁ.

Fields are ruined by grassy weeds,
people are ruined by desire,
therefore there is great fruit for that
given to those without desire.

Taṇhāvaggo Catuvīsatimo
The Chapter about Craving, the Twenty-Fourth