Introduction to the Text and Translation Edition

This collection of verses, made by one of the leading scholar-monks in Sri Lanka in the 20th century, is one of the most useful compiliatons on the moral life of the layman that can be found.

Drawn mainly from the great verses collections in the Pāḷi Nikāyas See The Source of the Verses for the exact location of the verses. almost all aspects of the lay life have been covered, and it brings together in a fairly comprehensive way many teachings that would otherwise be lost in obscurity.

Throughout the book it is possible to find teachings on all matters of the ethical life, that will help guide anyone to make better life-choices whether it be at business and work, or in the home life and their various relationships.

Around two-thirds of the verses are drawn from the Jātaka stories, and it was this great storehouse of wisdom stories that formed the ethical thinking of most of the Buddhist societies in the Middle Ages, but which now has gone out of fashion.

The great heroes of those days, in such strong contrast to the present day, were the Bodhisatta, the penitant hermits in the woods, the great Kings who ruled justly, and the clever and mischievous animals who had a moral to illustrate, and who all came alive on the greater canvas of the moral universe.

These days, of course, things appear to be much more confusing. They are, in the sense that the lines between right and wrong can often be very grey, and actions may seem remote from results; they are not, when ethical principles are clearly understood and applied.

The teachings herein cover how to live in the right way and avoid the wrong way; how to honestly gain one’s wealth and use it fruitfully; how to choose one’s friends and be wary of the treacherous; what are helpful and harmful modes of speech; how to judge the character of others; and many other topics, that are all dealt with in a memorable and succint way.

This is also a book that can be returned to time and again to remind oneself of the teachings, and in that sense each of the stories is a meditative reflection. In its present form it also acts as an easy source book for some of the many teachings there are for the lay community in the Canon, and can be utilised to find guidance when in doubt.

There are altogether 251 sections to the book, and each story has anywhere between one and eleven verses See Sakkasaṁyuttaṁ (SN 1.11.4) vs. 390-400 in this collection. attached to it. Sometimes we also find that different verses have been drawn from the same source, but separately, so as to illustrate different moral points. For instance there are 23 verses that have been extracted from the Sigālasuttaṁ (DN 31), but they appear in 6 different places.

In this Text and Translation edition I have given a fairly literal translation of the text, so that the student should be able to begin to understand the Pāḷi which is printed along with it, For a much freer translation, which omits the annotation, see the edition in the English Only section of the website. and indeed the main purpose of this edition is to enable a better understanding of the Pāḷi verses themselves.

I have also given the variant readings when the meaning differs significantly from the reading in the text, But here I do not reproduce all the variants, which are numerous and mainly quite trivial. For that you should see the established text in the Original Texts section of the website, where all the metrical information is given also. although these variations are interesting they are generally quite minor, and only occasionally include things like the omission of a negative, which thereby reverses the meaning of the text.

I have translated passages from the various commentaries when the meaning of a passage seemed to me to be in doubt or in need of explanation, and have included comments of the grammar of the verses where this seemed necessary, and other explanatory material needed for a better comprehension of the text.

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
February 2011