[541. {544.}1 Vaṅgīsa2]

The Victor, Padumuttara,
the One with Eyes for everything,
the Leader [of the World,] arose
a hundred thousand aeons hence. (1) [6118]

Just like the waves on the ocean,
[and just] like the stars in the sky,
thus the word of the [Sambuddha,]
is thought out by the arahants. (2) [6119]

The Supreme Victor, in a crowd
mixed with [Buddhist] monks and brahmins,
is honored by people along
with the gods, titans and snake-gods. (3) [6120]

The Victor, the World-Surpasser,3
illuminates4 the world with rays,
causing to open5 through his words
the tractable lotus[-people].6 (4) [6121]

The Supreme Person, Endowed with
the Four Perfect Confidences,7
Fear [and] Timidness Abandoned,8
is Confident,9 with Peace Attained.10 (5) [6122]

The World-Chief is acknowledged as
the entire sphere of Buddhahood,11
[which is] the Excellent Bull’s place;12
there is no one who refutes [that]. (6) [6123]

When the Neutral One, [the Buddha],
fearlessly roars13 [his] lion’s roar,
no god nor man nor God Himself14
exists who contradicts [his words]. (7) [6124]

Preaching the excellent Dhamma,
ferrying [the world] with [its] gods,
Confident among Multitudes,
he’s turning the wheel of Dhamma. (8) [6125]

Praising the lofty virtue of
a well-regarded follower,
foremost among eloquent15 [monks],
he placed him in that foremost place. (9) [6126]

I then [lived] in Haṃsavatī,
a brahmin [likewise] well-regarded,
born knowing all of the Vedas,
lord of speech,16 debater-crusher.17 (10) [6127]

Approaching him, the Great Hero,
having heard that Dhamma-preaching,
I obtained overwhelming joy,18
loving the follower’s virtue. (11) [6128]

Inviting [him], the Well-Gone-One,
World’s Delighter, with Assembly,
I served [them] food19 for seven days,
[and] then I covered [them] with cloth.20 (12) [6129]

Bowing with [my] head at [his] feet,
granted leave, hands pressed together,
happy, standing [off to] one side,
I praised the Ultimate Victor: (13) [6130]

“Praise to you, Leopard of Sages!21
Praise to you, O Best of People!
Praise to you, Chief of Every World!
Praise to you, Fearlessness-Maker!22 (14) [6131]

Praise to you, Confuser of Death!23
Praise to you, Crusher of [False] Views!24
Praise to you, Peaceful Comforter!25
Praise to you, Gone Beyond Refuge!26 (15) [6132]

Revered One:27 Lord for the lordless,
Courage-Giver28 for the frightened,
Resting Place for the exhausted,29
Refuge for those seeking refuge.” (16) [6133]

Praising the One of Great Virtue,30
the Sambuddha, in such-like ways,
I said to the God of Speakers:31
“I’m attaining that monk’s station.”32 (17) [6134]

He of Limitless Eloquence,33
the Blessed One, said at that time:
“This one who worshipped34 the Buddha
with followers for a week, and
uttered praises of my virtue,
[feeling well-]pleased by [his] own hands,
is wishing [to attain] the place
of the monk who’s god of speakers. (18-19) [6135-6136]

Very far into the future,
he’ll receive that delightful [place,]
enjoying, with nothing lacking,
happiness35 among gods [and] men. (20) [6137]

In one hundred thousand aeons,
arising in Okkāka’s clan,
the one whose name is Gotama
will be the Teacher in the world. (21) [6138]

Worthy heir to that one’s Dhamma,
Dhamma’s legitimate offspring,
the one whose name is Vaṅgīsa
will be the Teacher’s follower.” (22) [6139]

After hearing that I was thrilled,
[and] then for as long as [I] lived ,
loving-hearted, I provided
the Thus-Gone-One with requisites. (23) [6140]

Due to that karma done very well,
with intention and [firm] resolve,
discarding [my] human body,
I went to Tāvatiṃsa [then]. (24) [6141]

And now, in [my] final rebirth,
I’m born in a mendicant clan.
Birth was behind [me] when I was
[only] seven years past [my] birth. (25) [6142]

I’m born knowing all the Vedas,
confident among speech-teachers,
lovely-sounding, varied speaker,
trampling out other speeches. (26) [6143]

Born in Vaṅga, I’m “Vaṅga Lord,”36
or [I’m known as] “the lord of words;”37
“Vaṅgīsa” [thus] became my name,
which is honored throughout the world. (27) [6144]

When I had attained discretion,
still38 in the first stage39 of [my] youth,
then in lovely Rajgir [city]
I saw [the monk] Sāriputta, (28) [6145]

The Twenty-Fifth Recitation Portion
wandering about for alms food,
bowl in hand, very self-composed,
eyes undistracted, of few words,40
not looking [beyond] a plough’s length.41 (29) [6146]

Having seen him, being awestruck,
I spoke as was fitting for me,
[in eloquent] verses and feet,
free of spots of [mere] fleeting thoughts.42 (30) [6147]

Then he, the wise one, the hero,
spoke back [thus] to me in response:
“The one described my Teacher,
the Sambuddha, the World’s Leader.” (31a-b) [6148]43

[He then] made an impassioned speech,
hard to encounter,44 ultimate.
Pleased by45 [that] colorful46 speaking
by the neutral [Sāriputta],
bowing with [my] head at [his] feet,
I said, “give me47 ordination.” (31c-d, 32) [6149]48

Then he, the one of great wisdom,
led me to the Best of Buddhas.
Bowing with [my] head at [his] feet,
I sat in the Teacher’s presence. (33a-b) [6150]49

The Best Debater50 said to me,
“Vaṅgīsa, do you know any
art at all?” I spoke about it
and [then] I said [to him] “I know”. (33c-d) [6151]51

“Through your distinction in knowledge,
if you can, [then now] speak about
a dead skull thrown out in the woods,
even [after] twelve years [have passed].” (34) [6152]

When I agreed [saying], “Yes, [Sir,]”
he showed three [such dead] skulls [to me].
I said52 that they were [now] reborn
in hell, as a man,53 with the gods. (35) [6153]

At that time the Leader showed [me]
the skull of a Lonely Buddha.
After that, without a basis,54
I requested ordination. (36) [6154]

After going forth, I praised the
Well-Gone-One in this [and] that place.55
Therefore the monks became annoyed
at me, “he has a poet’s mind.” (37) [6155]

Therefore in order to test [me],
the Guide, the Buddha said to me:
“Are these verses thoughtful figures,56
or are they spoken groundlessly?” (38) [6156]

“Hero, I’m not poet-minded;
they are spoken by me with grounds.”
“In that case, [then,] O Vaṅgīsa,
you sing your praises of me now.”57 (39) [6157]

At that time I praised the Hero,
the Seventh Sage, with [my] verses.
Then at once, [becoming] happy,
the Victor placed me as foremost. (40) [6158]

Through [my] speaking and through [my] mind
I then despised [some] others who
were well-behaved.58 Stirred up59 by that,
I attained [my] arahantship. (41) [6159]

“No other one at all is found who’s
foremost among the eloquent
as is this monk [named] Vaṅgīsa;
so should you consider60 [him], monks.” (42) [6160]

Karma done a hundred thousand
[aeons hence] showed me [its] fruit here:
well-liberated, arrow-quick,
I have destroyed my defilements. (43) [6161]

My defilements are [now] burnt up;
all [new] existence is destroyed.
Like elephants with broken chains,
I am living without constraint. (44) [6162]

Being in Best Buddha’s presence
was a very good thing for me.
The three knowledges are attained;
[I have] done what the Buddha taught! (45) [6163]

The four analytical modes,
and these eight deliverances,
six special knowledges mastered,
[I have] done what the Buddha taught! (46) [6164]

Thus indeed Venerable Vaṅgīsa Thera spoke these verses.

The legend of Vaṅgīsa Thera is finished.

  1. Apadāna numbers provided in {fancy brackets} correspond to the BJTS edition, which contains more individual poems than does the PTS edition dictating the main numbering of this translation.

  2. a historical monk, famous as a poet and foremost among those with ready expressions (paṭtibhānavataŋ). See DPPN II: 802-803. The text understands the meaning of his name as both “Lord froṅm Vaṅga” and “Lord of Speakers” (see v. 27 [6144], below)

  3. lokantagū, lit., “who has gone to the ends of the world” (understood by BJTS to refer to bhavotpattiya, the process of rebirth or re-existence itself)

  4. or “is coloring”: anurañjanto

  5. vibodhento, BJTS Sinh. gloss pobayamin, which refers to the “opening” of both minds (i.e., “enlightening” “teaching”) and of flowers (“en-lightening” like the sun, to whose rays lotuses open)

  6. veneyyapadumāni, lit., “lotuses that can be taught” or “lotuses that can be led”. I follow BJTS Sinh. gloss in taking the term to refer to people. I have explored a developed use of this metaphor in the introduction to Vaṃsatthappakāsini, in my “Buddhist History: The Sri Lankan Pāli Vaṃsas and their Commentary,” in Inden, Walters and Ali, Querying the Medieval (Oxford, 2000):126ff.

  7. vesārajjehi sampanno cchatuhi

  8. pahīna-bhaya-sārajjo, lit., “with fear and timidity abandoned”

  9. visārado

  10. khemappatto. BJTS Sinh. gloss takes “peace” to mean nirvana, and its attainment to be the very nature of the confidence of boldness exhibited by the Buddha.

  11. buddhabhumiŋ ccha kevalaŋ

  12. āsabhaŋ pavaraŋ ṭhānaŋ, i.e., “the excellent best place”

  13. nadato

  14. brahmā

  15. paṭibhānavataŋ, lit., “possessing ready expression”

  16. vāgīso

  17. vādisūdano

  18. pītivaraŋ paṭilabhiŋ

  19. or “fed [them]”

  20. i.e., “I gave robes to each of them”

  21. reading isisaddula [°saddūla] with PTS alt. for PTS vālisaddūla (“Furry Leopard”) and BJTS vādisaddūla (“Leopard among Debaters”) and BJTS alt. vādimaddana (“Debater-Crusher”), though any of these might indicate the original meaning (or not), and all of them (plus perhaps others, at least in the minds of audiences) have witness in the manuscripts, i.e., have been “the” meaning at least for some Buddhists through the generations.

  22. abhayaṅkara

  23. māramathana

  24. diṭṭhisūdana

  25. santisukhada, lit “Giver of Peaceful Comfort” or “Giver of Peace and Comfort” or “Giver of Peace and Happiness”

  26. saraṇantaga, lit., “Gone to the End of Refuge”

  27. bhavan, BJTS reads bhavaṃ. This could be a nom. sing. or a voc. sing.; “The Revered One” or “O Revered One.

  28. abhayappado

  29. reading vissāmabhūmi santānaṃ with BJTS for PTS vissāna [=gift?] bhūmisantānam (“Land of Gifts for the lineage” or “in continuity” ?); BJTS alt. vissāsabhūmi, “place of confidence” “place to breathe easy”

  30. mahāguṇaŋ

  31. vādisurassa, or “God of Debaters”. Sura is a word for “god” which invokes the cosmic battle with the titans (“not suras,” asuras), “The [Conquering] God”

  32. gatim pappomi

  33. anantapaṭibhānavā

  34. lit., “did pūjā

  35. or “fortune”: sampattiŋ

  36. Vaṅgīsa, the protagonist’s name.

  37. vacchane issaro ti vā, a second etymology for his name

  38. ṭhito, lit., “remaining,” “standing” “fixed”

  39. or “prime” or “first bloom”: paṭhamayobbane

  40. mitabhāsiŋ, lit., “of limited speaking”

  41. yugamattañ nirikkitaŋ [BJTS reads nirikkhakaṃ], both variants on the typical construction with pekkhati rather than ikkhati), lit., “looking ahead the extent of a plough,” i.e., just a little, keeping his eyes on the ground in front of him

  42. reading kaṇikaṃ ṭhānaracchitaṃ with BJTS for PTS kaṇṇikāraparicchitaŋ (“heaping up [metaphors of?] dinner-plate [trees]”), though it is tempting to read in the latter a mild criticism of the frequency of such metaphors in earlier poems by the appropriately, and especially skilled poet of the present apadāna

  43. here PTS seems to omit the first two feet of the verse, provided in BJTS: ācchikkhi so me satthāraṃ/Sambuṃddha lokanāyakaṃ. PTS provides BJTS [6148c-d] as its (31a-b); it then makes BJTS [6149a-b] into its (30c-d). BJTS presents the subsequent verse as a six-footed one, making up the difference, but the problem recurs below

  44. lit., “hard to see,” reading duddasaṃ with BJTS (and PTS alt.) for PTS uddayaŋ (“profit” ?)

  45. lit., “in”

  46. or “varied”: vicchitta

  47. reading maṃ with BJTS for PTS c’

  48. BJTS presents this as a six-footed verse; PTS breaks it into one and a half verses, probably misled by the omitted line (see the note on the previous verse numbers)

  49. here too PTS seems to omit a line, which BJTS reads as: nipaccchcha sirasā pade/nisīdiŋ satthu santike.

  50. vadataŋ seṭṭho. I read kaccchchi vaṅgīsa jānasi with BJTS for PTS (and BJTS alt.) saccchchaŋ Vaṅgīsa kaccchchi te (“O Vaṅgīsa, what is the truth”?), though both versions convey a similar sense to the Buddha’s rhetorical question

  51. here too PTS seems to omit a line, which BJTS reads as: kiñcchi sippan ti tassāhaṃ/jānāmi ti ccha abraviṃ. I follow BJTS Sinh. gloss in parsing the grammar here.

  52. reading avācchayiṃ with BJTS for PTS avācchayi (“he said”)

  53. reading nara with BJTS for PTS atho (“then”)

  54. vigatārambho. BJTS (and PTS alt.) reads vihat° (“being one with basis destroyed”). The point is that despite his great wisdom, Vaṅgīsa cannot see where the Lonely Buddha has gone, since he (the Lonely Buddha) has not been reborn anywhere

  55. or “here [and] there”: yahiŋ tahiŋ

  56. reading takkitā patimā gāthā with BJTS for PTS takkitānam imā gāthā (“are these verses of thinkers”?]

  57. reading tena hi dāni with BJTS for PTS tena dānena (“through that alms-giving”)

  58. reading pesale tena with BJTS for PTS pesal’ etena

  59. saŋviggo

  60. dhāretha, lit., “carry” “recall” “remember” “regard”