a collection of
Buddhist Wisdom Verses

5: Atthavaggo

Jā 342 Vānarajātakaṁ
The Monkey

Seizing the Advantage

A crocodile, wishing to get a monkey’s heart for his wife, entices a monkey onto his back, but at the critical time, the monkey persuades him that he left his heart in a tree and escapes when land is approached.

80. Yo ca uppatitaṁ atthaṁ na khippam-anubujjhati,
He who does not attend quickly to the advantage that is present,

Amittavasam-anveti, pacchā ca anutappati.
Goes under the power of foes, he regrets it in the future.

81. Yo ca uppatitaṁ atthaṁ khippam-eva nibodhati,
He who attends quickly to the advantage that is present,

Muccate sattusambādhā, na ca pacchānutappati.
Is freed from the press of his enemy, he does not regret it in the future.

Jā 370 Palāsajātakaṁ

Not all Growth is Advantageous

A goose warns a tree-god that a banyan sapling that was taking hold in its home would eventually destroy it. The warning was ignored and the tree succumbed.

82. Na tassa vuddhi kusalappasatthā,
That growth is not praised by the virtuous,

Yo vaḍḍhamāno ghasate patiṭṭhaṁ;
Which, when established, consumes what is prospering;

Tassūparodhaṁ parisaṅkamāno,
Suspecting (it may be) an obstacle,

Patārayī mūlavadhāya Dhīro.
The Wise try to destroy it at the root.

Jā 218 Kūṭavānijajātakaṁ
The Fraudulent Merchant

A Cheat is Cheated in Return

Someone stole some ploughshares and when questioned said that mice had taken them away; in return his accusor carried off the thief’s son and said a hawk had done it. This is the Bodhisatta’s comment and solution to the problem.

83. Saṭhassa sāṭheyyam-idaṁ sucintitaṁ,
This treachery towards the treacherous is well thought-out,

Paccoḍḍitaṁ paṭikūṭassa kūṭaṁ,
Fraudulence towards the fraudulent is but a snare laid in return,

Phālaṁ ce adeyyuṁ ChS, Thai: Phālañ-ce khadeyyuṁ; [If mice] can eat a ploughshare. mūsikā,
If mice can carry off a ploughshare,

Kasmā kumāraṁ Text: kumāre; plural form, I suppose we could translate: Why can't a hawk carry off boys. kulalā no bhareyyuṁ? Text, BJT, Thai: hareyyuṁ; bear off [a boy]?
Why can't a hawk carry off a boy?

84. Kūṭassa hi santi kūṭakūṭā,
There is fraud upon fraud for the fraudulent,

Bhavati cāpi Thai: paro; [There is cheating] by another? [in return for the cheat]. nikatino nikatyā,
There is cheating in return for he who cheats,

Dehi puttanaṭṭhaphālanaṭṭhassa phālaṁ,
The one who lost a child should give the ploughshare to the one who lost his ploughshare,

Mā te puttam-ahāsi Text: putte ahāsi, plural, but in the story only one child had been taken. phālanaṭṭho.
And the one who lost his ploughshare must not carry off his child.

Jā 189 Sīhacammajātakaṁ
The Lion’s Skin

Keeping Quiet

A merchant used to dress his donkey up like a lion to scare away the villagers while it was eating, until one time the donkey gave the game away.

85. Ciram-pi kho taṁ khādeyya gadrabho haritaṁ yavaṁ,
For a long time the donkey may have eaten grass and barley,

Pāruto sīhacammena, ravamāno va dūsayi.
While covered with a lionskin, (but) he spoiled it all by braying.

Jā 426 Dīpijātakaṁ
The Panther

More than Gentle Persuasion is Sometimes Necessary

A goat tries with kind words to persuade a panther not to attack and eat her; the panther however didn't listen and got his prey.

86. Neva duṭṭhe nayo atthi na dhammo na subhāsitaṁ,
There is no reason, truth, Comm: dhammo ti sabhāvo. or well-spoken words in the wicked,

Nikkamaṁ Text: Nikkhamaṁ; [You should endeavour] to send away [the wicked]. duṭṭhe yuñjetha, so ca sabbhi na rañjati.
You should endeavour to endure the wicked, (but) the virtuous take no delight.

Jā 223 Puṭabhattajātakaṁ
The Pot of Food

A Limit to One’s Duties

A queen is neglected by the King who lets her starve. To chastise the King the Bodhisatta spoke these verses, which led to the King repenting.

87. Namo namantassa, bhaje bhajantaṁ,
Reverence to the reverent, honour the honourable,

Kiccānukubbassa kareyya kiccaṁ,
She should do her duty to one doing his duty,

Nānatthakāmassa kareyya atthaṁ,
(But) she need not do good to one wishing her harm,

Asambhajantam-pi na sambhajeyya.
No one need love those who do not love (in return).

88. Caje cajantaṁ vanathaṁ na kayirā,
She should abandon the one who abandons (her), not having desire,

Apetacittena na sambhajeyya.
She need not love the one who is devoid of thought.

Dvijo dumaṁ khīṇaphalan-ti Thai: phalaṁ va; as [a bird, knowing a tree is devoid of fruit]. ñatvā,
A bird, knowing that a tree is devoid of fruit,

Aññaṁ samekkheyya mahā hi loko.
Can seek out another (tree) in this great wide world.

Jā 539 Mahājanakajātakaṁ This verse also occurs in Jā 483, Sarabhamigajātakaṁ.
King Mahājanaka

The Necessity for Effort

The Bodhisatta is nearly lost at sea, but through his courageous and determined effort makes it to land again. Later he reflects on his success.

89. Acintitam-pi bhavati, cintitam-pi vinassati,
(Sometimes) the unthought of occurs, and (what is well) thought-out fails,

Na hi cintāmayā bhogā itthiyā purisassa vā.
The happiness of a man and a woman is not made by thought.

Jā 164 Gijjhajātakaṁ
The Vulture

When Faculties Wane

A vulture who had been stealing things in the city is captured and brought before the King, and the following dialogue takes place.

90. “Kin-nu gijjho yojanasataṁ kuṇapāni avekkhati,
“Why, when a vulture sees corpses a hundred leagues away,

Kasmā jālañ-ca pāsañ-ca āsajjā pi na bujjhasi?”
When approaching, did you not see the net and snare?”

91. “Yadā parābhavo hoti poso jīvitasaṅkhaye,
“When a creature is in decline and life is coming to an end,

Atha jālañ-ca pāsañ-ca āsajjā pi na bujjhati.”
Then approaching, he does not see the net and snare.”

Jā 100 Asātarūpajātakaṁ This verse also occurs at Udāna 2.8.
The Disagreeable Form

Craving brings Suffering

The story is of Suppavāsā who carried her child for seven years and took seven days to bear him. Still she desired more children.

92. Asātaṁ sātarūpena, piyarūpena appiyaṁ,
The disagreeable having an agreeable form, the unlovely having a lovely form,

Dukkhaṁ sukhassa rūpena, pamattam-ativattati.
The painful having the form of pleasure, overcomes the one who is heedless.

Jā 126 Asilakkhaṇajātakaṁ
The Sign of the Sword


Through a stratagem a sneeze wins a bride and a kingdom for a prince, but a brahmin who sneezes loses his nose.

93. Tad Thai: Tath'; in the next line also. -ev' ekassa kalyāṇaṁ, tad-ev' ekassa pāpakaṁ,
That which is good for one, (maybe) that which is bad for another,

Tasmā sabbaṁ na kalyāṇaṁ, sabbaṁ cāpi na pāpakaṁ.
Therefore is nothing completely good, there is nothing completely bad.

Jā 97 Nāmasiddhijātakaṁ
A Lucky Name

A Name is Just a Name

In the story a man called Wicked hates his name so he is advised to search for a new one. He comes across Life who had just died, Wealthy who was poor, and Guide who was lost in a forest. Then he realised a name is just a name, nothing more.

94. Jīvakañ-ca mataṁ disvā, Dhanapāliñ-ca duggataṁ,
Having seen Life lying dead, Wealthy who was poor,

Panthakañ-ca vane mūḷhaṁ, Pāpako puna-r-āgato.
And Guide lost in the wood, Wicked came (home) again.

Jā 207 Assakajātakaṁ

The Impermanence of Desire

A negligent queen gets reborn as a worm, and is made by the Bodhisatta to speak to her grieving King, who when he hears about her love for her new husband abandons his grief.

95. Navena sukhadukkhena porāṇaṁ apithīyati,
Former pleasure and pain are shut out by the new,

Tasmā Assakaraññā va kīṭo piyataro mamaṁ.
Therefore a worm to me is more lovely than King Assaka.

Sn 1.11 Vijayasuttaṁ

Lack of Insight

The Buddha describes the loathsomeness of the body and concludes the discourse with these verses.

96. Dipādako yaṁ asuci duggandho parihīrati,
The two-legged one takes care of the impure, bad-smelling (body),

Nānākuṇapaparipūro, vissavanto tato tato.
Which is full of various corpses, oozing from here and there.

97. Etādisena kāyena yo maññe unnametave?
Having such a body, who would think to be conceited?

Paraṁ vā avajāneyya? Kim-aññatra adassanā.
Or who would disparage another? This is due to PED: kiṁ aññatra what but, i. e. what else is the cause but, or: this is due to. lack of insight.

Dhp 129 Chabbaggiyabhikkhuvatthu
The Group-of-Six Monks

Comparing Oneself with Others

The group of six monks chase off the group of seventeen monks and take their rooms. The Buddha lays down a rule and speaks the following verse.

98. Sabbe tasanti daṇḍassa, sabbe bhāyanti Maccuno,
Everyone trembles at the stick, everyone is in fear of Death,

Attānaṁ upamaṁ katvā, na haneyya na ghātaye.
After comparing oneself (with others), one should not kill or have (them) killed.

Dhp 131 Sambahulakumārakavatthu Dhp 131 = Udāna 2.3.
Many Youths

The Desire for Happiness

As the Buddha goes on his alms-round he sees a group of boys tormenting a snake for fun. He admonishes them with this verse.

99. Sukhakāmāni bhūtāni yo daṇḍena vihiṁsati,
* He who harms with a stick beings who also desire happiness

Attano sukham-esāno, pecca so na labhate sukhaṁ.
While himself seeking happiness, will not find happiness after passing away.

Jā 362 Sīlavīmaṁsajātakaṁ
Enquiring into Virtue

Virtue and Learning

The Bodhisatta wishes to find out which is more important, virtue or learning, and takes a coin a day from the King until on the third day he is arrested. He then understands which is most valued in the world.

100. Mogho jātī BJT: jāti; where a plural is appropriate. ca vaṇṇā ca, ChS, Thai: Moghā jāti ca vaṇṇo ca; Birth and (bodily) beauty are vanities. sīlam-eva kiruttamaṁ,
Birth and beauty Comm: sarīravaṇṇo abhirūpabhāvo. are delusions, virtue is supreme it is said,

Sīlena anupetassa, sutenattho na vijjati.
For one unendowed with virtue, there is no value in learning.

Paṭhamaṁ Satakaṁ
The First Hundred