... Petavatthu 13

This is the first translation completed by The Thālaka Group (@fiachra.harte, @khagga, @ficus, @a.messenger, @gillian). We are students of Pali, so please critique the following fully, from any point of view you can think of.

1. Saṁsāramocakapetivatthu

Deliverance from one realm to another - A Ghost Realm Story.

[Question from Sariputta to a female ghost]
“Naggā dubbaṇṇarūpāsi,
“You, who are naked and grotesque in form,
kisā dhamanisanthatā;
thin and strewn with veins,
Upphāsulike kisike
ribs protruding and scrawny,

Kā nu tvaṁ idha tiṭṭhasī”ti.
who are you, standing here?”

[response of ghost to Sariputta]
“Ahaṁ bhadante petīmhi,
“I, Bhante, am a Peti [female ghost]
duggatā yamalokikā;
resident of the bad realms, the world of death;
Pāpakammaṁ karitvāna,
having done evil deeds,
petalokaṁ ito gatā”ti.
I have therefore gone to the world of the Peta.”

[Response of Sariputta to the ghost]
“Kiṁ nu kāyena vācāya,
manasā dukkaṭaṁ kataṁ;
“What evil deed was done with the body, with speech, or with the mind?
Kissa kammavipākena,
What action’s result
petalokaṁ ito gatā”ti.
caused you to go to the world of the Peta?”

[Response of the ghost to Sariputta]
“Anukampakā mayhaṁ nāhesuṁ bhante,
Pitā ca mātā athavāpi ñātakā;
My father, mother, and other relatives, were not compassionate to me, Venerable,
Ye maṁ niyojeyyuṁ dadāhi dānaṁ,
they should have urged me to give dana
Pasannacittā samaṇabrāhmaṇānaṁ.
from a devoted heart to the ascetics and brahmins.

Ito ahaṁ vassasatāni pañca,
Since then, for five hundred rains [years],
Yaṁ evarūpā vicarāmi naggā;
I wander thus, in this naked form;
Khudāya taṇhāya ca khajjamānā,
consumed by hunger and thirst,
Pāpassa kammassa phalaṁ mamedaṁ.
this is the fruit for me of such evil conduct.

Vandāmi taṁ ayya pasannacittā,
I salute you, venerable one, with a devoted heart
Anukampa maṁ vīra mahānubhāva;
Have pity on me, O majestic hero,
Datvā ca me ādisa yaṁ hi kiñci,
Give and then dedicate to me [the merit of] anything whatsoever
Mocehi maṁ duggatiyā bhadante”ti.
Deliver me from the bad place, Bhante!”

[in reference to Sariputta]
Sādhūti so paṭissutvā,
Having assented, he said “Good”.
Compassionate Sāriputta,
Bhikkhūnaṁ ālopaṁ datvā,
Having given to the Bhikkhus a bit of food,
pāṇimattañca coḷakaṁ;
a hand-measure of cloth, and
Thālakassa ca pānīyaṁ,
water from a drinking bowl,
tassā dakkhiṇamādisi.
he dedicated the offering to her.

As soon as [this act] was acknowledged,
vipāko udapajjatha;
the result [of the karmic action] arose.
Food, cloth, and drinking water
dakkhiṇāya idaṁ phalaṁ.
[became] this fruit of the offering:

Tato suddhā sucivasanā,
Thus [she was] purified, clad in bright clean cloth,
wearing the upper garment of Kāsi,
and an ornamented gown
sāriputtaṁ upasaṅkami.
She came to Sariputta.

[Sariputta’s statement to her]
“Abhikkantena vaṇṇena,
"With most excellent appearance,
yā tvaṁ tiṭṭhasi devate;
how you are divine!
Obhāsentī disā sabbā
Shining in all directions
osadhī viya tārakā.
Like the planet Osadhī.

Kena te tādiso vaṇṇo,
By what means is such an appearance yours?
kena te idha mijjhati;
How did you come to be here like this?
Uppajjanti ca te bhogā,
ye keci manaso piyā.

Wealth and whatever is dear to your mind arise for you

Pucchāmi taṁ devi mahānubhāve,
I inquire of you, goddess of great splendour.
Manussabhūtā kimakāsi puññaṁ;
What meritorious deed did you do in human form?
Kenāsi evaṁ jalitānubhāvā,
By what means are you like this, aflame with splendour?
Vaṇṇo ca te sabbadisā pabhāsatī”ti.
Your beauty shines in all directions,” he said.

[her response to Sariputta]
“Uppaṇḍukiṁ kisaṁ chātaṁ,
"Pale, thin, hungry,
naggaṁ sampatitacchaviṁ
naked and flabby,

Muni kāruṇiko loke,
taṁ maṁ addakkhi duggataṁ.

You, compassionate sage in the world, were able to see me in that state of miserable existence

Bhikkhūnaṁ ālopaṁ datvā,
Having given to the Bhikkhus a morsel of food,
pāṇimattañca coḷakaṁ;
a handful of cloth,
Thālakassa ca pānīyaṁ,
and water from a drinking bowl,
mama dakkhiṇamādisi.
you dedicated the offering to me.

Ālopassa phalaṁ passa,
See the fruit of the morsel you gave:
bhattaṁ vassasataṁ dasa;
Nourishment for a thousand years.
Bhuñjāmi kāmakāminī,
I enjoy after my heart’s content all the pleasures I could wish for,
Numberless pleasant taste experiences.

Pāṇimattassa coḷassa,
The hand measure of cloth,
vipākaṁ passa yādisaṁ;
behold how great is the consequence [of that]:
Yāvatā nandarājassa,
vijitasmiṁ paṭicchadā.

Covering as far as the [reaches of] the empire of the Nanda King.

Tato bahutarā bhante,
Greater than that, Bhante,
vatthānacchādanāni me;
are my clothes:
silk, wool,
khomakappāsikāni ca.
linen, and cotton.

Vipulā ca mahagghā ca,
[they are] extensive and expensive
They even hang down from the sky.
Sāhaṁ taṁ paridahāmi,
I myself am clothed
yaṁ yaṁ hi manaso piyaṁ.
in whatever is pleasing to the mind.

Thālakassa ca pānīyaṁ,
The water from the bowl,
vipākaṁ passa yādisaṁ;
See how great is the consequence [from that]:
Gambhīrā caturassā ca,
pokkharañño sunimmitā.
Deep, four cornered, symmetrical lotus ponds

Setodakā suppatitthā,
With clear, still water,
sītā appaṭigandhiyā;
Cool, sweet smelling.
Covered with lotuses and blue lotuses
Filled with other kinds of lotus.

Sāhaṁ ramāmi kīḷāmi,
I frolic and play
modāmi akutobhayā;
I rejoice, having nothing to fear from anywhere.
Muniṁ kāruṇikaṁ loke,
Compassionate sage of the world,
bhante vanditumāgatā”ti.
I, myself, have come to honor you, Bhante.”


Sadhu sadhu!!! I hope you keep going to complete the whole book.

Normally verses are considered the most difficult to translate. How did your group find this to be with these?


SuttaCentral … Perhaps you could rephrase – the grammar’s not crystal clear here!!


Sorry. How difficult was it?


Ah. It’s far too difficult for me to do alone – I listen and learn, and format!
@fiachra.harte @a.messenger should answer.


@Snowbird thanks for your encouragement.

It’s much more difficult than prose but not more difficult than other verse such as the Dhammapada.

One question we have for the forum is the tranlation of Ito here.

We couldn’t decide if Ito meant “since then” or “therefore”. This would make a meaningful difference. It could either be:

Since then, for five hundred rains [years],
I wander thus

Therefore, for five hundred rains [years],
I wander thus

The former would mean that 500 years have passed since she entered the Peta realm. The latter might mean that her term in the Peta realm is to last 500 years - but Ven. Sariputta could have met her and realeased her in her first year.


But the selected Dhammapada verses in the textbook are often a breath of fresh air after sutta extracts with sentences of what feels like endless length. :wink:


The commentary offers this:
99.Ito ahaṃ vassasatāni pañca, yaṃ evarūpā vicarāmi naggāti idaṃ sā petī ito tatiyāya jātiyā attano petattabhāvaṃ anussaritvā idānipi tathā pañcavassasatāni vicarāmīti adhippāyenāha.

Which I don’t fully understand (tatiyāya? why her third birth?)
But it seems to me the ‘ito’ [in the verse] has the sense of ‘therefore’, ‘henceforth’.

Have you looked at the Horner translation?


We haven’t……………………… looked at Horner.


From “Stories of the departed”, tr Henry S. Gehman, in Minor Anthologies of the Pali Canon, volume IV, 1942, Pali Text Society:

From Peta Stories, tr. U Ba Kyaw and P. Masefield, 1980, Translation of Petavatthu Commentary.


Hi @Gillian :slight_smile:

That’s so cool that you and your group are having a go at translating, Sadhu X 3

I don’t actually have any thing constructive to say as I’m not well versed in pali but am rejoicing in your efforts

Carry on :anjal:


Thanks @stephen, maybe we could have multiple births in the ghost realm? No, we should probably have a look at the available translations but we haven’t done it yet…

Thanks @Snowbird, for digging those out. It’s very helpful. So, it seems people translate Ito both ways.


and that @Snowbird has access to a good library: thank you for the photoscans.

@AdrianMagno :pray:


“maybe we could have multiple births in the ghost realm?”

Yes, that is what the commentary seems to be saying.
“sā petī ito tatiyāya jātiyā attano petattabhāvaṃ anussaritvā”
“Having recalled her existence as a Petī in the third birth before this…”

Perhaps multiple Petī existences (this is her fourth?) which she expects to total 500 years.
This seems to support your second reading choice.


PS Sorry for my confusion, the PTS Minor Anthologies Vol. 4 has the Horner translation of Vimanavatthu, but indeed the translation of Petavatthu is by Gehman.


Makes sense :). Thanks again.


@johnk have you seen this?


As this was the first full text we’d worked on together there was quite a lot of discussion around how to balance producing as accurate a mirror of the Pali grammar as possible with being as maximally accessible in English as possible. Individual opinions fell variously along the cline, but out of the discussion I drafted this alternative translation to the one presented in the OP.

Being Rescued from one Realm into Another – A Ghost Story

Who are you standing there naked, a grotesque form so thin that your veins stand out?

I’m a hungry ghost Sir, a Peta spirit who lives in that horrible place the World of the Dead. I had to go to the Hungry Ghost Realm because of the evil I did.

What did you do [on Earth]? Or say or think? What took you to the World of the Hungry Ghosts?

My parents and relatives didn’t rear me compassionately; they should have taught me me to open my heart and give generously to the monks and holy men. Since then I’ve been wandering naked for five hundred years, consumed by hunger and thirst. This is what I get for the bad way I behaved.

Hello Dear Kind Sir, do please have pity on me! Give me the merit of anything at all that you can offer. Just get me out of this horrible place!

“Right,” Sariputta agreed compassionately.

He gave each of the monks some food, a piece of cloth and some drinking water, then he dedicated the merits of the gifts to her. As soon as the gifts were accepted, their karmic force was activated and the offerings bore fruit. She approached Saruiputta, purified and wearing clean clothes, resplendent in a blouse from Karsi and an ornament-covered cloak.

“You look wonderful, absolutely divine! You shine in every direction like the planet Osadhi. How did you get such an appearance? How do you come to be here like this? Everything you could imagine has materialised for you.

I ask you, Splendid Goddess, what virtuous actions did you perform as a human? How do you come to be lit up with splendour? Your beauty is shining in all directions,” he said.

You, Compassionate Holy Man of Earth, saw me pale, thin, hungry, naked, and flabby in that dreadful state. You gave the monks some cloth, food and water, and dedicated the offering to me.

See the fruits that grew out of your small gift: nourishment for a thousand years! I enjoy to my heart’s content all the pleasures I could wish for, including innumerable taste sensations. That small measure of cloth now covers all the Kingdom of Nanda. My clothes are even more marvellous, Sir – silk, wool, linen, cotton – expensive and so extensive that they hang right down from the sky. I wear whatever I fancy!

See how a little drinking water fills symmetrical square lotus ponds with clear still water, cool and sweet smelling, covered with all sorts of lotus, even blue ones, and other kinds as well! I frolic and play, and am so happy that I have nothing to fear from anywhere. Compassionate Holy Man of Earth, I have come to honour you myself, Sir.