Home Page    Previous Chapter    Next Chapter

Chapter 23

Nàga Vagga
The Elephant
(Text and Translation by Ven. Nàrada)

 

1. Aha§ nàgo' va saïgàme Þ
            càpàto patita§ sara§
Ativàkya§ titikkhissa§ Þ
            dussãlo hi bahujjano. 320.
2. Danta§ nayanti samiti§ Þ
            danta§ ràjàbhiråhati
Danto seññho manussesu Þ
            yo' tivàkya§ titikkhati. 321.
3. Varam assatarà dantà Þ
            àjànãyà ca sindhavà
Ku¤jarà ca mahànàgà Þ
            attadanto tato vara§. 322.

THE MAJORITY ARE UNDISCIPLINED

1. As an elephant in the battlefield withstands the arrows shot from a bow, even so will I endure abuse; verily most people are undisciplined. 320.

THE CULTURED ENDURE ABUSE

2. They lead the trained (horses or elephants) to an assembly. The king mounts the trained animal. Best among men are the trained who endure abuse. 321.

BLESSED IS HE WHO CONTROLS HIMSELF

3. Excellent are trained mules, so are thoroughbred horses of Sindh and noble tusked elephants; but far better is he who has trained himself. 322.

Story

    Bribed by a lady of the court who had a grudge against the Buddha, many people severely abused the Buddha. The Venerable ânanda, unable to endure such abuse, suggested to the Buddha that He leave the place and go to another city. But the Buddha advised him to practise patience and compared Himself to an elephant who had entered the battlefield prepared to endure all attacks.


 

4. Na hi etehi yànehi Þ
            gaccheyya agata§ disa§
Yathà' ttanà sudantena Þ
            danto dantena gacchati. 323.

SELF-CONTROL LEADS TO ONE'S GOAL

4. Surely never by those vehicles would one go to the untrodden land (Nibbàna) as does one who is controlled through his subdued 1 and well-trained 2 self. 323.

Story

    A monk who had been an elephant-trainer was watching an elephant-trainer failing to control the animal. He made a suggestion to another monk. The elephant-trainer overheard it and, adopting the suggestion, succeeded. When this matter was reported to the Buddha, the monk was advised to train himself to reach his ultimate goal.


 

5. Dhanapàlako nàma ku¤jaro Þ
            kañukappabhedano dunnivàrayo
Baddho kabala§ na bhu¤jati Þ
            sumarati nàgavanassa ku¤jaro. 324.

AN ELEPHANT CARED FOR HIS MOTHER

5. The uncontrollable, captive tusker named Dhanapàlaka, with pungent juice flowing, eats no morsel; the tusker calls to mind the elephant forest. 324.

Story

    An old man was neglected by his children. One day he went to see the Buddha, who made a suggestion to him which proved very successful. Later, the children tenderly cared for their father. Commenting on their attention, the Buddha uttered this verse to show the loving care of a captive elephant towards its mother.


 

6. Middhã yadà hoti mahagghaso ca Þ
            niddàyità samparivattasàyã
Mahàvaràho' va nivàpapuññho Þ
            punappuna§ gabbham upeti mando. 325.

BE MODERATE IN EATING

6. The stupid one, when he is torpid, gluttonous, sleepy, rolls about lying like a great hog nourished on pig-wash, goes to rebirth again and again. 325.

Story

    Owing to overeating King Kosala had to experience much discomfort. As advised by the Buddha he became moderate in eating and improved in health.


 

7. Ida§ pure cittam acàri càrika§ Þ
            yena'icchaka§ yatthakàma§ yathàsukha§
Tadajj' aha§ niggahessàmi yoniso Þ
            hatthippabhinna§ viya aïkusaggaho. 326.

CONTROL YOUR THOUGHTS

7. Formerly this mind went wandering where it liked, as it wished and as it listed. Today with attentiveness I shall completely hold it in check, as a mahout (holds in check) an elephant in must. 326.

Story

    A young novice who led a very virtuous life later desired to leave the Order. But his mother dissuaded him from doing so. Finally he realized the manifold advantages of the Holy Life. The Buddha uttered this verse in admonition.


 

8. Appamàdaratà hotha Þ
            sacittam anurakkhatha
Duggà uddharath' attàna§ Þ
            païke sanno' va ku¤jaro. 327.

AVOID THE EVIL WAY

8. Take delight in heedfulness. Guard your mind well. Draw yourselves out of the evil way as did the elephant sunk in the mire. 327.

Story

    An elephant got stuck in the mud. The mahout appeared as if ready for battle and battle drums were also beaten. Soon the elephant exerted itself and extricated itself from the mud. This matter was reported to the Buddha and He advised the monks to exert themselves as did the elephant stuck in mud.


 

9. Sace labetha nipaka§ sahàya§ Þ
            saddhi§ cara§ sàdhuvihàridhãra§
Abhibhuyya sabbàni parissayàni Þ
            careyya ten' attamano satãmà. 328.
10. No ce labetha nipaka§ sahàya§ Þ
            saddhi§ cara§ sàdhuvihàridhãra§
Ràjà' va raññha§ vijita§ pahàya Þ
            eko care màtaïgara¤¤' eva nàgo. 329.
11. Ekassa carita§ seyyo Þ
            natthi bàle sahàyatà
Eko care na ca pàpàni kayirà Þ
            appossukko màtaïgara¤¤' eva nàgo. 330.

ASSOCIATE WITH THE WISE

9. If you get a prudent companion (who is fit) to live with you, who behaves well and is wise, you should live with him joyfully and mindfully, overcoming all dangers. 328.

WANDER ALONE IF THERE IS NO SUITABLE COMPANION

10. If you do not get a prudent companion who (is fit) to live with you, who behaves well and is wise, then like a king who leaves a conquered kingdom, you should live alone as an elephant does in the elephant forest. 329.

A SOLITARY CAREER IS BETTER

11. Better it is to live alone. There is no fellowship 3 with the ignorant. Let one live alone doing no evil, care-free, like an elephant in the elephant forest. 330.

Story

    The Buddha on one occasion lived alone in a forest. Commenting on His solitary life, the Buddha uttered these verses.


 

12. Atthamhi jàtamhi sukhà sahàyà Þ
            tuññhã sukhà yà itarãtarena
Pu¤¤a§ sukha§ jãvitasaïkhayamhi Þ
            sabbassa dukkhassa sukha§ pahàna§. 331.
13. Sukhà matteyyatà loke Þ
            atho petteyyatà sukhà
Sukhà sàma¤¤atà loke Þ
            atho brahma¤¤atà sukhà. 332.
14. Sukha§ yàva jarà sãla§ Þ
            sukhà saddhà patiññhità
Sukho pa¤¤àya pañilàbho Þ
            pàpàna§ akaraõa§ sukha§. 333.

BLESSED ARE FRIENDS IN NEED

12. When need arises, pleasant (is it to have) friends. Pleasant is it to be content with just this and that. Pleasant is merit when life is at an end. Pleasant is the shunning of all ill. 331.

BLESSED IS MINISTERING UNTO PARENTS

13. Pleasant in this world is ministering to mother. 4 Ministering to father too is pleasant in this world. Pleasant is ministering to ascetics. Pleasant too is ministering to the Noble Ones. 5 332.

BLESSED ARE VIRTUE, FAITH AND WISDOM

14. Pleasant is virtue (continued) until old age. Pleasant is steadfast confidence. Pleasant is the attainment of wisdom. Pleasant is it to do no evil. 333.

Story

    Màra, the Evil one, invited the Buddha to become a King. The Buddha remarked that He has nothing in common with him and mentioned the causes of happiness.


End Notes

1 Dantena by sense-control.

2 Sudantena by the development of the Noble Path.

3 Sahàyatà. By this term are meant morality, austere practices, insight, Paths, Fruits and Nibbàna. (Commentary) See v. 61.

4 Matteyyatà does not mean motherhood or "to have a mother". The Commentarial explanation is good conduct (sammà-pañipatti) towards the mother, that is, ministering to the mother. The other terms are similarly explained.

5 The Buddha, the Arahants, and so on.