Ja 279 The Story about the Woodpecker

In the present the group of six monks try to prevent others from correcting them in matters of Dhamma and Vinaya. The Buddha tells a story of a youth who collected a thousand pieces of money, and mistaking friends for foes, and foes for friends came into a forest full of thieves.

1. Yathā māṇavako panthe siṅgāliṁ vanagocariṁ,
Atthakāmaṁ pavedentiṁ, anatthakāmā ti maññati,
Anatthakāmaṁ satapattaṁ, atthakāmo ti maññati.

As the young brahmin on the path thinks the jackal who ranged the woods, declaring she desired his good, was one who desired to harm him, so he thinks the woodpecker, who desired harm, one who desired good.

[There is no word commentary to this verse.]

2. Evam-eva idhekacco puggalo hoti tādiso,
Hitehi vacanaṁ vutto, paṭiggaṇhāti vāmato.

So does a certain person here, who is of such a kind, when a beneficial word is spoken, take it in the opposite sense.

3. Ye ca kho naṁ pasaṁsanti, bhayā ukkaṁsayanti vā,
Tañ-hi so maññate mittaṁ satapattaṁ va māṇavo ti.

Those who do praise him, or exalt him out of fear, he thinks is a friend, as the young brahmin thinks of the woodpecker.

In this connection, beneficial means having the desire for his benefit and development.

When a beneficial word is spoken means when a word of instruction and advice is spoken bringing happiness and benefits.

Takes it in the opposite sense means not accepting this advice: “This does not bring good to me, this brings harm,” grasping at the opposite he certainly takes it.

Those who do praise him, that person who stands firm, grasping hold of his own view, they praise, saying: “Having grasped the point firmly, they should be like you.”

Or exalt him out of fear, through clearly depending on this view fear of this and that will arise for you, do not dismiss him, these do not provide you with deep learning, having a family retinue, and so on, so because of being released, showing fear, they exalt him.

He thinks is a friend, those who are such, amongst all of them, a certain foolish person in his foolishness thinks he is a friend, thinking: “This is my friend who desires my good.”

As the young brahmin thinks of the woodpecker, just as the young brahmin in his foolishness considered the woodpecker, who desired his harm, think: “He desires my good,” but a wise one, not grasping at such a friend who speaks flattery, avoids him from afar.

Therefore this is said: DN 31 vs 14.

The friend who only takes away, the friend who speaks about others, the one who speaks flattery, the one who’s a friend to the fallen.

These four are not our friends, understanding in this way, the wise one, should avoid them from afar, as one avoids a dangerous path.