Thag 18.1 From… Mahākassapattheragāthā: Mahākassapa

“You shouldn’t live for the adulation of a following;
it turns your mind, making it hard to get immersion.
Seeing that popularity is suffering,
you shouldn’t consent to a following.

A sage should not visit respectable families;
it turns your mind, making it hard to get immersion.
If you’re eager and greedy for flavors,
you’ll miss the goal that brings such happiness.

They know it really is a bog,
this homage and veneration in respectable families.
Honor is a subtle dart, hard to extract,
and hard for a sinner to give up.”

“I came down from my lodging
and entered the city for alms.
I courteously stood by
while a leper ate.

With his putrid hand
he offered me a morsel.
Putting the morsel in my bowl,
his finger dropped off right there.

Sitting by a wall,
I ate that lump of rice.
I did not feel any disgust
while eating or afterwards.

Anyone who makes use of
leftovers for food,
fermented urine as medicine,
the root of a tree as lodging,
and cast-off rags as robes,
is at ease in any quarter.”

“Where some have fallen to ruin
while climbing the mountain,
there Kassapa ascends;
an heir of the Buddha,
aware and mindful,
owing to his psychic powers.

Returning from almsround,
Kassapa ascends the mountain,
and practices absorption without grasping,
with fear and dread given up.

Returning from almsround,
Kassapa ascends the mountain,
and practices absorption without grasping,
quenched amongst those who burn.

Returning from almsround,
Kassapa ascends the mountain,
and practices absorption without grasping,
his task completed, free of defilements.”

“Strewn with garlands of the musk-rose tree,
these regions are so delightful, so lovely,
echoing with the trumpeting of elephants:
these rocky crags delight me!

Glistening, they look like blue storm clouds,
with waters cool and streams so clear,
and covered all in ladybugs:
these rocky crags delight me!

Like the peak of a blue storm cloud,
or like a fine bungalow, lovely,
echoing with the trumpeting of elephants:
these rocky crags delight me!

The rain comes down on the lovely flats,
in the mountains frequented by hermits.
Echoing with the cries of peacocks,
these rocky crags delight me!

It’s enough for me,
who loves absorption and is resolute, to be mindful.
It’s enough for me,
a resolute monk who loves the goal.

It’s enough for me,
a resolute monk who loves comfort.
It’s enough for me,
resolute and poised, loving meditation.

Covered with flowers of flax,
like the sky covered with clouds,
full of flocks of many different birds,
these rocky crags delight me!

Empty of householders,
frequented by herds of deer,
full of flocks of many different birds,
these rocky crags delight me!

The water’s clear and the rocks are broad,
monkeys and deer are all around;
festooned with dewy moss,
these rocky crags delight me!”

“Even the music of a five-piece band
can never give such pleasure
as when, with unified mind,
you rightly discern the Dhamma.”

“Don’t get involved in lots of work,
avoid people, and don’t try to acquire things.
If you’re eager and greedy for flavors,
you’ll miss the goal that brings such happiness.

Don’t get involved in lots of work,
avoid what doesn’t lead to the goal.
The body gets worn out and fatigued,
and when you ache, you won’t find serenity.”

“You won’t see yourself
by merely reciting words,
wandering stiff-necked
and thinking, ‘I’m better than them.’

The fool is no better,
but they think they are.
The wise don’t praise
pompous people.

Whoever is not affected
by the modes of conceit—
‘I am better’, ‘I’m not better’,
‘I am worse’, or ‘I am the same’—

with such understanding, poised,
steady in ethics,
and devoted to serenity of mind:
that is who the wise praise.”

“Whoever has no respect
for their spiritual companions
is as far from the true teaching
as the earth is from the sky.

Those whose conscience and shame
are always rightly established,
thrive in the spiritual life;
for them, there are no future lives.

When a mendicant who is haughty and fickle
wears rags from the rubbish-heap,
that doesn’t make them shine:
they’re like a monkey in a lion skin.

But if they are steady and stable,
alert, with senses restrained,
then, wearing rags from the rubbish-heap, they shine
like a lion in a mountain cave.” …


To learn more about the dangers of honour and praise, the suttas in the Lābhasakkārasaṁyutta are useful, especially SN 17.3: Kummasutta and SN 17.5: Mīḷhakasutta.

Legend says that Arahant Mahākassapa loved to live on Gurpa Hill, about 16km from Bodhgaya. That might be the place he is talking about in these verses. If you ever go on pilgrimage in India, it is a less popular, but very inspiring, place to visit.

Read the entire translation of Theragāthā 18.1 Mahākassapattheragāthā: Mahākassapa by Bhikkhu Sujato on SuttaCentral.net. Or read a different translation on SuttaFriends.org. Or listen on Voice.SuttaCentral.net.

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