8- Sahassa Vagga

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Chapter 8

Thousands
(Text and Translation by Ven. Nàrada)

 1. Sahassam api ce vàcà Þ
anatthapadasa§hità
Eka§ atthapada§ 
1 seyyo Þ
ya§ sutvà upasammati. 100.

 

ONE USEFUL SENTENCE IS BETTER THAN A THOUSAND USELESS WORDS

1. Better than a thousand utterances, comprising useless words, is one single beneficial word, by hearing which one is pacified. 100.

Story

    A bloodthirsty villain joined a band of thieves and committed many crimes.

Later, he acted as the public executioner. The Venerable Sàriputta converted him. Subsequently he underwent such a complete transformation that after death he was born in a heavenly state. The Buddha explained that his good rebirth was due to the compassion and salutary advice of so spiritual an adviser as the Venerable Sàriputta.


2. Sahassam api ce gàthà Þ
anatthapadasa§hità
Eka§ gàthàpada§ seyyo Þ
ya§ sutvà upasammati. 101.

 

ONE USEFUL VERSE IS BETTER THAN A THOUSAND USELESS VERSES

2. Better than a thousand verses, comprising useless words, is one beneficial single line, by hearing which one is pacified. 101.

Story

    A ship-wrecked person swam with difficulty to the shore and saved himself. As be went about clothed with the bark of trees people mistook him for an Arahant. Realizing his folly, he went to see the Buddha and was converted by His beneficial words of wisdom.


3. Yo ce gàthàsata§ bhàse Þ
anatthapadasa§hità
Eka§ dhammapada§ seyyo 
2 Þ
ya§ sutvà upasammati. 102.

4. Yo sahassa§ sahassena Þ
saïgàme mànuse jine
Eka¤ ca jeyya attàna§ Þ
sa ve saïgàmajuttamo. 103.

 

BETTER THAN A HUNDRED USELESS WORDS IS ONE WORD OF THE DHAMMA.
SELF-CONQUEST IS THE BEST OF ALL CONQUESTS

3. Should one recite a hundred verses, comprising useless words, better is one single word of the Dhamma, by hearing which one is pacified. 102.

4. Though one should conquer a million 3 men in battlefield, yet he, indeed, is the noblest victor who has conquered himself. 103.

Story

    A wealthy maiden fell in love with a thief and married him. Later, the husband took the wife to the top of a cliff and wanted to rob her of her jewellery and kill her. The wife’s entreaties proved useless. Under the pretext of paying her last respects to him she got behind him and pushed him down the cliff. Later, she became a nun and, meeting the Venerable Sàriputta, heard the Dhamma, and attained Arahantship. The bhikkhus discussed how she had battled with a bandit and later, hearing a few words of the Dhamma, had become an Arahant. The Buddha then spoke on the efficacy of the words of Truth and on the importance of self-conquest.


5. Attà have jita§ seyyo Þ
yà cà’ya§ itarà pajà
Attadantassa posassa Þ
nicca§ sa¤¤atacàrino. 104.

6. N’eva devo na gandhabbo Þ
na màro saha brahmunà
Jita§ apajita§ kayirà Þ
tathàråpassa jantuno. 105.

 

BE RATHER A VICTOR OF YOURSELF THAN A VICTOR OF OTHERS.
NONE CAN TURN INTO DEFEAT SELF-VICTORY

5-6. Self-conquest 4 is, indeed, far greater than the conquest of all other folk; neither a god nor a gandhabba, 5 nor Màra 6 with Brahmà, 7 can win back the victory of such a person who is self-subdued and ever lives in restraint. 104-105.

Story

    A gambler questioned the Buddha about the causes of loss. The Buddha answered his question and inquired of him how he earned his living. When he replied that it was by gambling, which resulted in both gain and loss, the Buddha explained that real victory was self-victory.


7. Màse màse sahassena Þ
yo yajetha sata§ sama§
Eka¤ ca bhàvitattàna§ Þ
muhuttam api påjaye
Sà y’eva påjanà seyyo Þ
ya¤ ce vassasata§ huta§. 106.

 

A MOMENT’S HONOUR TO THE WORTHY IS BETTER THAN LONG CONTINUED HONOUR TO THE UNWORTHY

7. Though month after month with a thousand, one should make an offering for a hundred years, yet, if, only for a moment, one should honour (a Saint) who has perfected himself – that honour is, indeed, better than a century of sacrifice. 106.

Story

    The Venerable Sàriputta’s uncle used to spend much money monthly on the naked ascetics with the object of being reborn in a heavenly realm. The Venerable Sàriputta took him to the Buddha, who directed him on the proper path.


8. Yo ca vassasata§ jantu Þ
aggi§ paricare vane
Eka¤ ca bhàvitattàna§ Þ
muhuttam api påjaye
Sà y’eva påjanà seyyo Þ
ya¤ ce vassasata§ huta§. 107.

 

A MOMENT’S HONOUR TO THE PURE IS BETTER THAN A CENTURY OF FIRE-SACRIFICE

8. Though, for a century a man should tend the (sacred) fire in the forest, yet, if, only for a moment, he should honour (a Saint) who has perfected himself – that honour is, indeed, better than a century of fire-sacrifice. 107.

Story

The Venerable Sàriputta’s nephew was in the habit of slaying a beast monthly in tending the sacrificial fire, expecting rebirth in a heaven as taught by his teacher. The Venerable Sàriputta conducted him to the presence of the Buddha, who taught him the right path.


9. Ya§ ki¤ci iññha§ va huta§ va loke Þ
sa§vacchara§ yajetha pu¤¤apekho
Sabbam pi ta§ na catubhàgameti Þ
abhivàdanà ujjugatesu seyyo. 108.

 

BETTER THAN SACRIFICIAL SLAUGHTER OF ANIMALS IS HONOUR TO THE PURE ONES

9. In this world whatever gift 8 or alms a person seeking merit should offer for a year, all that is not worth a single quarter of the reverence towards the Upright 9 which is excellent. 108.

Story

    A friend of the Venerable Sàriputta annually made a sacrificial slaughter at great expense. The Buddha convinced him of the right kind of homage.


10. Abhivàdanasãlissa Þ
nicca§ vaddhàpacàyino
Cattàro dhammà vaóóhanti: Þ
àyu vaõõo sukha§ bala§. 109.

 

BLESSED INDEED ARE THEY WHO HONOUR THOSE WORTHY OF HONOUR

10. For one who is in the habit of constantly honouring and respecting the elders, four blessings increase – age, beauty, bliss, and strength. 109.

Story

    Hearing that his son would die in his childhood, a father, as advised by the Buddha, invited the bhikkhus to recite the Scriptural Texts continuously for seven nights and seven days. On the last day the Buddha Himself was present to recite the Sacred Texts. By the power of the Teacher’s compassion the child gained longevity. When the monks discussed how the child who would have died in his childhood gained long life through the Buddha’s compassion, the Buddha spoke on the blessings that accrue to one who honours the worthy.


11. Yo ca vassasata§ jãve Þ
dussãlo asamàhito
Ekàha§ jãvita§ seyyo Þ
sãlavantassa jhàyino. 110.

A SHORT BUT VIRTUOUS LIFE IS BETTER THAN A LONG BUT IMMORAL LIFE

11. Though one should live a hundred years, immoral and uncontrolled, yet better, indeed, is a single day’s life of one who is moral and meditative. 110.

Story

    Some men in their old age became monks and wished to retire to the forest to meditate. The Buddha, foreseeing a danger, advised them to take with them the young novice Saïkicca, an Arahant. A band of thieves, hearing of their presence in the forest, approached them and demanded a monk to be given as a votive offering. All the monks from the most senior to the youngest volunteered to offer their lives. But the young novice obtained their permission to sacrifice his life for the sake of the others. The bandits took him to their lair and made preparations to kill him . The novice quietly attained to Supreme Ecstacy.10 The ringleader twice tried to kill him with his sword but failed. Awestricken, the ringleader prostrated himself before him, heard the Dhamma and desired to become a monk. All his followers expressed the same desire. The novice ordained them and returned safely to the other monks who were still meditating in the forest. He then took leave of them and going to the Buddha mentioned to Him what happened. The Buddha spoke on the value of a virtuous life.


12. Yo ca vassasata§ jãve Þ
duppa¤¤o asamàhito
Ekàha§ jãvita§ seyyo Þ
pa¤¤avantassa jhàyino. 111.

A BRIEF LIFE OF WISDOM IS BETTER THAN A LONG LIFE OF STUPIDITY

12. Though one should live a hundred years without wisdom and control, yet better, indeed, is a single day’s life of one who is wise and meditative. 111.

Story

    A monk, having attained Arahantship in a forest, was coming to see the Buddha. As he was tired he sat on a flat rock and was enwrapt in Jhàna ecstasy. Some thieves, having plundered a village, were carrying their boot when they came up to the rock where the monk was seated in meditation. Mistaking him for a tree stump as it was dark they piled their stolen goods on his head and slept. When the day dawned they discovered their mistake and begging pardon from him became monks. With their teacher they came to the Buddha. Hearing of their conversion, the Buddha praised a life of wisdom.


13. Yo ca vassasata§ jãve Þ
kusãto hãnavãriyo
Ekàha§ jãvita§ seyyo Þ
viriyam àrabhato dalha§. 112.

 

A BRIEF LIFE OF REFLECTION IS BETTER THAN A LONG LIFE OF NON-REFLECTION

13. Though one should live a hundred years idle and inactive yet better, indeed, is a single day’s life of one who makes an intense effort. 112.

Story

    A youth of good repute became a monk endowed with faith but, getting disappointed, attempted to kill himself. He tried to cause a serpent to bite him but it did not. Then he took a razor and tried to cut his windpipe. At that moment he reflected on his flawless life, meditated and attained Arahantship. The monks inquired of the Buddha how in an instant he who had attempted to commit suicide could have attained Arahantship. The Buddha spoke in praise of energetic striving.


14. Yo ca vassasata§ jãve Þ
apassa§ udayavyaya§
Ekàha§ jãvita§ seyyo Þ
passato udayavyaya§. 113.

 

ONE DAY OF EXPERIENCING THE DEATHLESS IS BETTER THAN A CENTURY WITHOUT SUCH AN EXPERIENCE

14. Though one should live a hundred years without comprehending how all things rise and pass away, 11 yet better, indeed, is a single day’s life of one who comprehends how all things rise and pass away. 113.

Story

    Pañàcàrà, lost her husband, her children, her parents and her only brother under tragic circumstances. The Buddha comforted her and she became a nun. One day while she was washing her feet, she noticed how the water flowed away in three stages – some drops of water flowed and subsided close to her, some farther away from her, some still farther away from her. This induced her to meditate on the transiency of life, of which she had personal experience. The Buddha saw her with His Divine Eye and, projecting Himself before her, uttered this stanza. Soon she attained Arahantship.


15. Yo ca vassasata§ jãve Þ
apassa§ amata§ pada§
Ekàha§ jãvita§ seyyo Þ
passato amata§ pada§. 114.

 

ONE DAY OF PERCEIVING THE DEATHLESS IS BETTER THAN A CENTURY WITHOUT SUCH AN EXPERIENCE

15. Though one should live a hundred years without seeing the Deathless State, 12 yet better, indeed, is a single day’s life of one who sees the Deathless State. 114.

Story

    A young mother named Kisà Gotami, lost her only child. As she had never come across an instance of death she carried the corpse on her hip believing the child to be ill and searching for a remedy. A wise man directed her to the Buddha who advised her to collect some mustard seed from a household where none had died. She got mustard but found no household where none had died. The Truth dawned upon her. When she returned, the Buddha preached the Dhamma to her. She became a nun. One day she observed the flickering of a lamp and reflected on the impermanence of life. The Buddha projected His image before her and uttered this stanza comparing life to a flickering lamp.


16. Yo ca vassasata§ jãve Þ
apassa§ dhammamuttama§
Ekàha§ jãvita§ seyyo Þ
passato dhammamuttama§. 115.

 

ONE DAY OF PERCEIVING THE DHAMMA IS BETTER THAN A CENTURY WITHOUT SUCH PERCEPTION

16. Though one should live a hundred years not seeing the Truth Sublime, 13 yet better, indeed, is a single day’s life of one who sees the Truth Sublime. 115.

Story

    A wealthy widow had several sons and daughters. At the request of the children, who promised to support her she distributed her property amongst them. But the ungrateful children neglected her. Greatly disappointed, she became a nun. constantly she reflected on the Dhamma. The Buddha preached to her on the importance of the Dhamma and she attained Arahantship.


End Notes

1 Editor’s note: In Ven Nàrada’s Dhammapada the reading given at this point is Eka§ gàthàpada§ seyyo, which is evidently a mistake as it makes this verse exactly the same as the next verse. All other editions (BJT, PTS, ChS, Thai etc) follow the reading that is given in the text here.

2 Editor’s note: Again in Ven Nàrada’s Dhammapada the reading given at this point is Eka§ gàthàpada§ seyyo, all other editions (BJT, PTS, ChS, Thai etc), and Ven Nàrada’s translation follow the reading that is given in the text here.

3 Sahassa§ sahassena, thousand multiplied by a thousand, that is, ten lakhs. (Commentary).

4 Atta -The Buddha often uses this term in the sense of oneself or mind but not in the sense of a soul or special self.

5 A class of beings who are supposed to be heavenly musicians.

6 Here Màra is used in the sense of god.

7 Another class of beings, even superior to the gods in heaven, who have developed the Jhànas (ecstasies).

8 According to the Commentary iññha§ is that which is given on festival occasions, and huta§ is that which is prepared and given either to guests or with a belief in kamma and results. The idea conveyed by this stanza is that reverence paid to a Saint is far superior to gifts and alms given to worldlings.

9 They are the Sotàpannas (Stream-Winners) and others who have attained sanctification.

10 Nirodhasamàpatti. This is a state when the stream of consciousness temporarily ceases to flow. When in such a state, a Saint is immune from danger.

11 The rise and decay of mind and matter – namely: the impermanence of all conditioned things. A disciple of the Buddha is expected to contemplate the fleeting nature of life, so that he may not be attached to illusory material pleasures.

12 Amata§ pada§, the unconditioned state of Nibbàna, free from birth, decay and death.

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