Sayings of Buddha: Justin Moore’s 1908 introduction to the Itivuttaka

I’m working on an introduction to the Itivuttaka, and came across the first English translation, which thanks to the wonders of the Internet Archive, you can read here.

I’m not familiar with Moore’s work, but I was pretty impressed by the Introduction. Obviously a lot is out of date, but he gives a nice survey of different aspects of the text. I cleaned up the Internet Archive version and present it here for your reading pleasure.


The title of this translation, Sayings of Buddha, is a free rendering of the corresponding Pali title, Itivuttaka. Literally these two words mean “thus it hath been said” and refer to the fact that they claim to be the authentic Logia of Buddha. This particular phrase, itivuttaka, is repeated again and again in the course of the text, and its frequent recurrence was the reason for its use as a designation of this collection of Buddha’s sayings.

Place in the Buddhist Canon.

The Itivuttaka is one of the canonical books of Buddhism, and is found in the second grand division of the three “baskets”, or piṭakas, of which the canon is composed. The second division is called the Suttapiṭaka, “basket of religious instruction”, and consists of five nikāyas, or “collections”. In the fifth of these latter, or the so-called khuddaka-nikāya, “collection of brief selections”, there are found fifteen different works of a varied nature. In the fourth place of this collection of the shorter works of the Buddhist canon stands the Itivuttaka: included with it in this group of fifteen, be it said in passing, are the well-known Jātakas, or “Birth-Stories”, and the beautiful Buddhist anthology called the Dhammapada.

Extent of the Text

In size the Itivuttaka is one of the shortest of the Buddhist books, although it comprises 125 pages in the edition by Windisch, in the Pali Text Society Publications, London, 1890. This edition is the only Occidental one, and it furnishes the text on which this translation is based. In this admirable work of Windisch, only about two thirds of each page is taken up by the text proper, the other third being taken up by the editor’s summary of the variant readings.

Arrangement of the Itivuttaka

The entire work is divided into one hundred and twelve sections, each partly in prose and partly in verse. There is also a further arrangement into parts, nipātas, which are, in their turn, subdivided into chapters, vaggas. As this latter arrangement is of no practical service to the modern reader, I have for the most part ignored it, merely including in the translation the headings of these so-called parts and divisions. When a reference is made, therefore, to a word in any portion of the book, I have given the section number, and to indicate the line in which the particular word occurs, I have appended a figure, 1, 2, 3, etc., if the word be in the prose portion of the section, or have affixed a small letter, a, b, c, etc., if the word be in the poetical part of the section.

Age and Authorship

The date of the Itivuttaka is a matter of extreme uncertainty. According to native tradition, the entire Buddhist canon was settled definitely at the first great convention at Rājagaha, shortly after the death of Buddha. No less an authority than the famous Buddhaghosa repeats this statement in his introduction to the Sumaṅgala Vilāsinī, his commentary on the Dīghanikāya. The twenty-five pages of his introduction, of which I have a translation under way, give an account of the composition of the whole Buddhist canon. But it must be remembered that Buddhaghosa lived toward the end of the fourth century A. D., and his views may have to be taken with some qualification, as the progress of our knowledge continues to throw more light into the murky darkness of Buddhist chronology.

The authorship of the Itivuttaka, both prose and poetical portions, is attributed to the Blessed One, Buddha, and his teachings are reported to have been heard and afterwards written down by one of his disciples. The disciple keeps himself anonymous, and contents himself with saying merely: “This verily was said by the Blessed One, said by the Sanctified One, so I have heard”. There is nothing to disprove the authenticity of the stanzas in the Itivuttaka as Buddha’s own sayings; some scholars may be inclined to hold, as some have already held about those in the Jatakas and elsewhere, that the moral teachings in this work may have been current in India long before Buddha’s time, and may have been adapted and changed by him to suit his own purposes. But it seems doubtful to me that the prose portions of the Itivuttaka came originally from Buddha’s mouth, although others may hold a different opinion. In many cases, as will be noted more particularly (see p. 9), the prose portions bear all the ear-marks of a short commentary on the succeeding verses; these prose portions our anonymous redactor may have written himself, or they may have been done previously by another and thus lay ready to his hand when the redactor undertook his compilation. At best their authorship seems highly uncertain.

Subject Matter

A glance at the table of contents which I have prefixed to the volume shows the Itivuttaka to be a collection of ethical teachings of Buddha, on a wide range of moral subjects. Passion, Anger, Pride, Lust, and other shortcomings of body, word, and thought, are inveighed against or deprecated. Friendliness, Charity, Virtue, Modesty, and Truth are among the good qualities which the Master inculcates. Several characteristic Buddhist doctrines, the technical terms for which are hard to translate adequately, are dwelt upon; among them are Nirvana, the Aggregates, the Substrata, Previous Existence, and Supreme Enlightenment.

It is to be noted that Buddha’s rules and commands and dicta are seldom directed to mankind in general, but are usually addressed to his bhikkhus, his “monks, mendicants, members of his order”, as the word may be translated. The bhikkhunī, or “female devotee, nun”, is only once mentioned in the course of the work (§69). Sinners have the terrors of perdition preached to them to deter them from misdoing; to the virtuous there is promised Deliverance and escape from this imprisoning body, as a reward for their good deeds. Seldom is the didactic tone of the work broken by matters of a different tenor; yet, here and there, a changing note is heard. This point is well illustrated in the curious passage about the crossing of species in §42, and in another way in §107, by a portrayal of the attitude of the Buddhists toward the brahman householders, to whom they owed their sustenance. Occasional metaphors or similes add a pleasing touch to the style, as will be noted more particularly below.

Proper Names in the Text

Buddha is mentioned many times and under many titles. The word “Buddha” itself is a title meaning the “Enlightened One, the Wise One” and it is to be noted that the great reformer’s true name, Gotama, never occurs in the course of this book. Among his other appellatives are found the epithets of the “Blessed One”, the “Sanctified One”, the “Consummate One”, the “Great Sage”, the “Master”, the “Teacher”, and others. His cousin and arch-enemy, Devadatta, is once referred to (§89h). Māra, or Satan the tempter, is named no less than five times (§§58, 68, 82, 83, 93). I have noticed only a single geographical name, the reference being to “Vulture-Peak”, a mountain in the Magadha country (§24).

The Uddānas

Scattered at varying intervals throughout the course of the text are found brief metrical resumes, in the Pali language, of the particular sections that precede each. The word uddāna has the same spelling in Sanskrit as in Pali, and means, literally, “binding together, fastening”, and secondarily, “table of contents, summary, resume”. Although Monier-Williams in his Sanskrit Dictionary notes the fact that the native lexicographers assign this secondary meaning to the word in Sanskrit, there is no actual citation of its occurrence in any Sanskrit text. In Pali, however, the meaning “summary”, or “resume “is common, and the word uddāna is found in other books of the Buddhist canon, for example in the Sutta-piṭaka. In the Itivuttaka there are eleven of these resumes. Eight of them sum up, or recapitulate very briefly, the ten sections of the work immediately preceding each; one resume sums up seven preceding sections, another sums up thirteen sections, and still another refers to twenty-two sections immediately before it. This latter resume, however, is in part a repetition of the one preceding, and we may note incidentally that this repeated portion shows wide variation in wording from the same matter in the previous resume. The fact that the resumes in eight instances give a recapitulation of the series of ten sections preceding is not significant of anything especial; this choice of ten sections is, in my opinion, purely a mechanical arrangement and does not indicate that the ten in question have any particular interconnection. This opinion is plainly borne out by the fact that the second uddāna happens to fall between two sections (§§20 and 21) closely related in subject matter, style, and treatment.

The form of the uddānas, as already stated, is metrical, although the versification is but a sorry affair in spite of the efforts made to attain it. The native redactor’s method of procedure was to take some salient or important word or words from each section, and to arrange in metrical form the various words thus obtained. In order to satisfy the requirements of the meter, he has been obliged to resort to various makeshifts and expedients. Sometimes a word is given in its stem form, and sometimes in the nominative case, according as the final syllable of the word in question is required by the meter to be light or heavy; sometimes, in order to fill in an extra syllable or two that may be exacted by the meter, a word is given in some case other than the nominative. For these latter instances see Uddana 5. 4, 7, 8; 6. 3; 9. 4; 11. 4. Singulars instead of the plurals in the text passages are used, and vice versa. Worse than this, the redactor frequently not only does not give a word from the text at all, but even goes to the extent of substituting a word or expression of his own. This latter procedure may, and often does, meet the situation demanded by the meter, but, to me at least, seems to vitiate the value of these resumes. Another drawback, and again a serious one, to the value of the uddānas, is the fact that a certain word chosen to sum up, or recapitulate, a section, is a word which is neither salient nor important, but on the contrary, is quite subordinate in the section thus summarized. This again offers, in my opinion, a proof of the lack of value which the resumes have for any purpose whatsoever. Compare, for example, Uddana 2. 2; 3. 1, 2; 4. 1, 2, 4; 5. 3; 7. 2; 9. 3; 10. 2, 3; 11. 2, 4. It is to be noted, furthermore, that all the uddānas refer back to the prose portions, and when, therefore, the prose and the poetical portions of a section are different in subject matter, as happens occasionally, the verse portion is not touched upon at all in the resume.

As regards the meter in which the uddānas are written, it is found that ten are composed in the śloka meter, but a śloka of a highly irregular character, having, as it often does, verses with more than eight syllables. So irregular, in fact, are the verses of the uddānas, and so manifestly artificial is their character, that I have not included them in my metrical analysis of the work. As regards the sixth uddāna, the only one which is not written in the śloka meter, we are tempted to assume different authorship; this sixth resume is written in a regular triṣṭubh meter, with four verses of eleven syllables each, and all the feet of each one of the four lines are normal. It is to be noted further that this resume is the most accurate of the eleven in the book.

In general we may say of the resumes that they are merely jingles of little utility and less precision, abounding in errors of many kinds, loose in execution, and, in short, extremely ineffectual.

Connection between the Sections

Although, as said before, the Itivuttaka is a collection of short disquisitions on widely different moral subjects, there nevertheless does exist in many parts of the work an apparent sequence in the contents and subject matter of the different stanzas. The most common relationship between such interdependent stanzas is one of contrast — contrast between that which is good and that which is bad, between temperance and intemperance, between a moral man and an immoral man. Examples of such contrasting stanzas are found in §§20 and 21, 28 and 29, 32 and 33, 54 and 55, 56 and 57, 64 and 65, 70 and 71. A noticeable fact in these contrasts between good and bad, is that the evil attribute always has the first place, while the good attribute has the second. Other kinds of inter-sectional relationship besides this one of contrast, are to be found. At the opening of the book, the first six stanzas are all practically identical, save for the use in each of a different word for a different sin. Except for this single word, the six stanzas are absolutely alike. The series is summed up in a section of similar character (§7), which epitomizes the preceding six in the word sabba, “the All”. Exactly the same series is again repeated without the least variation in §§9–13, but there the corresponding prose introductions are different from those in the group preceding. Another shorter group of stanzas similar to each other in content is found in §§52–56, where the first, third, and fifth stanzas of the group are identical, except for the varying cardinal words, like vedanā, “feelings”, esanā, “cravings”, and āsavā, “taints”. In other parts of the work sundry less extensive parallel and similar phrases and expressions are to be noticed, but in these latter cases, the inter-stanza relationship is not so pronounced as in the examples just cited.

Repetition of Passages

Not only are a few sections couched in phraseology that is nearly identical, but downright repetitions as well are found. It is to be remarked that these repeated passages are not contiguous or even near to each other, but are widely separated. For example, 15 a–h = 105 a–h; 22 a–h = 60 a–h; 35 e–j = 36 e–j; 38 h–i = 46 c–d; 48 i–l = 91 e–h; 51 a–j = 76 g–n; 53 e–h = 72 e–h = 85 e–h; 68 a–b = 69 a–b; 86 e–f = 110 a–b; 93 w–b’ = 95 k–p. All these citations are taken from the verse portions. A few examples from the prose parts of the work might also be included, but they are passed over as being of minor importance. In my opinion, the fact that these repeated passages occur at such wide intervals in the composition strengthens the view already advanced, that the Itivuttaka is not a continuous work, but is rather a compilation, an arrangement of material previously composed, at some time not known to us.


It has already been stated that each of the 112 sections of the Itivuttaka consists roughly of two equal portions of prose and verse. For purposes of convenience we may examine these two parts separately, and we shall find this procedure of great advantage, as the treatment of each must necessarily be different.


In judging of the style of a literary composition, we must not merely examine and study the form, but we should also give appropriate attention to the subject matter, the question of the author’s purpose, and the influence of contemporary and previous literary works. Thus, in estimating the Itivuttaka, we must remember that the purpose of the prose portions is to introduce and amplify, to explain and expound the moral stanzas which follow. As these stanzas contain practically no mythological, historical, biographical, or narrative passages, and as their prose introductions adhere in general very closely to the subject matter, we do not find in the prose divisions, for example, the charming folklore of the Jatakas, the vivid images of jewels, trees, mountain, and flowing river of the Jinalaṅkāra, the fascinating devil stories of the Saṁyuttanikāya (cf. Warren, Buddhism, p. 426). Furthermore, the religious teachings of the Itivuttaka are not seasoned with the piquant, homely details and incidents of daily life, as are the doctrines of the Dīghanikāya. On the contrary there is in the present work a marked and close adherence to the main subject matter, so much so that one welcomes such a description as that of the sharks and demons in §69 as a pungent example of Buddhist folklore. The prose style is, in general, bald, abrupt, inelegant. It is matter-of-fact and long-winded; it abounds in repetitions. The repetitions are both of phrase and formula, and it is of the latter that we shall speak first.


At the opening of every prose portion of the Itivuttaka, with the exception of §§81–98, and 101–111, which will be discussed later, there is the formal sentence — “This verily was said by the Blessed One, said by the Sanctified One, so I have heard”, and at the close of each a second formula — “To this effect spake the Blessed One, and hereupon said the following”. This second formula refers to the poetical portion which immediately follows. At the end of the poetical portion there is adjoined a third formula — “Exactly to that effect was it spoken by the Blessed One, so I have heard”. These formulas indicate clearly the Buddhistic view, that not only the verse, but also the prose comes actually from Buddha’s own lips. As indicated above, however, the prose portions were probably not spoken by Buddha at all, but are, it is likely, later than his time, and are a commentary on the Teacher’s sayings in verse.

Dialogue Form

A conversational turn is given to the prose by the incessant repetition of the vocative bhikkhave, “O monks”. The use of this word may be thought possibly to give an esoteric coloring to the teachings. In most of the sections, the dialogue form is further emphasized by direct questions, for example in the opening sentence of §54: “There are these three Cravings, O monks”. “What three?” “The Craving for Lust, the Craving for … ”, etc.


Besides the repetition of a formula, there is also found, especially in the latter half of the work, a considerable, and sometimes rather tiresome, reiteration of phrases and sentences. This fact is of course no new thing in a Buddhist book, and the general view is that such repetitions were for pedagogic purposes. Without entering on the difficult problem as to how long Buddhistic doctrines were handed down by oral tradition, it is certain that oral tradition did at one time prevail, and that in the Itivuttaka, as in other canonical works, the frequent repetition was for mnemonic or didactic reasons.

Relation between the Prose and the Verse

The most casual perusal of the Itivuttaka confirms, it seems to me, the statement made above that the prose portions of the 112 sections are disguised commentaries on the metrical portions of these 112 sections. In §18, for example, the verse says — “One that doth disturb the Order is tormented for an aeon in perdition”. The prose portion says on the same topic — “There is one thing, O monks, which, in coming into being, ariseth to the disadvantage and unhappiness of many people, to the detriment, disadvantage, and misery of many people, gods as well as men. What is this one thing? It is dissension in the Order. For in an Order that hath been divided, there are reciprocal quarrels as well as reciprocal abuse, reciprocal disagreement and desertion, and there (in such an Order) they are discontented and enjoy no contentment, and there is diversity of opinion (even) among those who are content”. Many similar examples might be adduced as illustrations of the point.

Even more decisive evidence is at hand, it seems to me, in §109. This section contains an allegorical passage about the Flood of Passion, with an enumeration of the dangers of the Flood. The prose takes up the different allegorical details, and proceeds to elucidate them as follows: “‘Flood of the river’ is the designation of Thirst; ‘pleasant and delightful in aspect’ is allegorically the designation of private dwellings; ‘a pool below’ is the designation of the five Bonds of sensual life; ‘with waves’ is the designation of the frenzy of anger; ‘with whirlpools’ is the designation of the five varieties of Lust; ‘with crocodiles and demons’ is the designation of womankind; ‘against the flood’ is the designation of Separation; ‘struggling with hands and feet’ is the designation of the exertion of one’s strength; ‘the spectator standing on the shore’ is the designation of the Consummate One, the Sanctified One, the Perfectly Enlightened One.”

Occasionally when the stanza is difficult of comprehension, or involved in impenetrable subtlety, the writer of the introductory prose adroitly crawls out of the difficulty and cleverly conceals his own miscomprehension of the verses, either by giving the baldest, broadest possible outlines of the verse, or by summing up the meaning in an ambiguous word or phrase. The latter point is best illustrated by §63, which, in my judgment, is the most difficult section of the whole book. A fuller treatment of this subject will be given in the course of the translation, in the notes on the various sections.

Another possible confirmation of this view as to the prose of the Itivuttaka, may be found in the more or less independent subject matter included in it for the purpose of filling out and amplifying the stanzas that follow. Although we hold to the above opinion as to the prose, it is by no means our intention to belittle its general value or its general interest. On the contrary the prose, although not so interesting as the verse, contains much that is of deep philosophical import, and its ethical dicta, although perhaps somewhat lacking in rhetorical polish, are lofty and noble in the extreme.


Before discussing the style and substance of the stanzas, it would be expedient to give here a full discussion of their form, that is of the meters in which they are composed.

But owing to the length and somewhat technical character of this metrical analysis, it seems unnecessary to include such a discussion, of interest only to the specialist, within the confines of this more or less general introduction. The metrical analysis of the Itivuttaka will be found in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, New Haven, Conn., vol. 28, pp. 317–330. In that article I have classified the various types of meter found in the Itivuttaka, and have arranged statistical tables. I have also made a comparison with Vedic meters and likewise with those of Epic poetry in Sanskrit.


Turning to the style of the stanzas in the book, we may appropriately devote a word of praise to their general simplicity. Hardly any trace is found of the artificial diction occasionally present in other Pali works, for example, in the professedly rhetorical Jinalaṅkāra of Buddharakkhita (edited and translated by James Gray, London, 1894), where we find (p. 10) the reversible line namo tassa yato mahimato yassa tamo na, which Gray renders: “Honor to him (Buddha), inasmuch as to him, deserving of honor, no darkness is”. No such artificialities are found in the Itivuttaka; there is likewise a total lack of internal rhyme, and also of the so-called paragrammatic echoing rhymes. Occasional instances of paronomasia are to be found, for example in §90, a passage of some interest, owing to the play on the word agga, “chief, top”, a term repeated eleven times in the course of the stanzas.

Figures of Speech

Great assistance was obtained in making an examination of the rhetorical make-up of the Itivuttaka, from an opportune article by Mrs. Rhys Davids, entitled “Similes in the Nikāyas”, in the Journal of the Pali Text Society, London, 1906–7. The article consists of a painstaking list in Pali of similes in the whole range of books composing the Sutta-piṭaka, and it offers evidence of the most diligent toil.

In general the use of figures of speech in the Itivuttaka, while not sparing, is hardly abundant, there being a round fifty in the work. Although a few rather striking similes and metaphors are found, they are as a rule not especially vivid. We may conveniently divide the figures of speech into (a) those drawn from the realm of nature; (b) those from animals and their actions, and (c) those from man and his relations in daily life.

(a) Among the most common figures of speech are similes based upon some natural phenomenon, the element of water playing an important part. This prominence of similes drawn from water is due to the frequent occurrence of the Buddhistic image that the righteous man is he that crosses (tarati) beyond, or to the other side (para) of the Flood (ogha) of Passion and Lust. The latter word, ogha, occurs but once (§107) in the course of the work, but the idea of crossing over it, taraṇaṁ, to the other shore, is quite frequent, as it occurs a dozen of times. Another more common word for the same idea is samudda, “ocean”, in the expression “he crosseth the ocean … difficult to traverse” (§69 c). The impulse of Passion or Desire is compared to a river (nadī) of rapid current (sota), with many a treacherous whirlpool (āvaṭṭa) to catch the helpless straggler (see §109). Different from this is the figure of the River of Subsistence (āhāra-netti) in §43. The drop of water (udabindu, §88 1) and the pool (rahada, §92 i) are other forms of aqueous metaphors.

Almost as frequent as the water comparisons are the various similes and metaphors based upon light. The sun and moon are naturally foremost among the more concrete images, and each is mentioned twice in the work (§§59d, 88 a” and §§27, 74 i, respectively). In the first moon-passage, we find mention also of the morning-star, osadhi-taraka. Luminous terms in comparisons are many; to the general word for light, pabhā (§§27, 104), must be added pajjota, “brightness” (§104), obhāsa, “radiance”, āloka, “splendor”. The monks must be “torch-bearers” for the laymen who are in darkness. To the same category of images from the realm of light, belongs the passage on the “funeral torch” (§91) which illumines the village dunghill. Contrasting with these words, is the threefold occurrence of the idea of “darkness” in §§14 f, 38 e, 47 h.

Two other nature-images of a different kind are the vivid description of the bursting of a rain-cloud, with its resultant inundation (§75 o), and the eloquent stanzas in §24 with their simile of the lofty, mountain of Vulture Peak.

(b) Turning next to the animal similes, we find that animal imagery is rare. The lion, sīha (§112), the fish, maccha (§76), and the shark or crocodile, gaha (§§69, 109), alone are mentioned in comparisons; we might, however, include with them the rakkhasas, or “demons” (§69) which inhabit the ocean. An animal likeness is perhaps also to be discerned in the epithet siṅgi, “horned”, that is applied to a sinning monk in §108.

(c) Much richer than the animal category, is the third class of similes and metaphors, namely, those derived from man and his relations in daily life. An interesting paragraph, probably to be taken allegorically, is found in §74, where there occurs a description of children who are superior or equal or inferior to their parents. A prototype of Bunyan’s hero. Christian, casting off his load, occurs in §44, where the Sanctified monk is said to have “laid his burden aside”. In §68, we hear the words of an Oriental psalmist, as it were, in the scathing epithet applied to erring sinners who are called in biting phrase “Bond of Māra, ye snare of Māra (i. e. the Devil)”. A fine image occurs in §§28, 29, where the monks are exhorted to keep the “doors” to their senses closely guarded. The “door” is used again in personification in §84 where the Great Sage and his faithful followers are said to disclose the “door of Immortality (dvāraṁ amatassa)”.

Among other objects of every-day life which are used figuratively, may be mentioned the arrow {sara) that imparts to its quiver (kalapa) the poison with which it is smeared (§76). Further the javelin (salla) is used symbolically of pain or suffering (§53). Various other comparisons, drawn this time from the vegetable realm, are of less importance; such for example is the figurative use of mūla, “root” (§42 c), tasa-sara, “of excellent bark”, i. e. the bamboo (§56), and tala-pakka, “the ripe Tal fruit, or Palmyra” (§88x). Finally we may refer to two epithets applied to the Master, Buddha, one where he is called the “charioteer”, and the other, an interesting phrase found in §100, where he calls himself “the brahman … a healer, or physician, who is a ‘causer of pain’ sallakatta”.

Synonyms and Titles of Buddha

Reference has already been made (p. 4) to the use in the Itivuttaka of many titles and appelatives given to Gotama. Although one would of course presuppose a use of such epithets in the course of the prose portions of the work, we would hardly expect to find them in the verses, which are professed to be the Master’s own words to his disciples. He is spoken of impersonally in the verses as Buddha, ” the Enlightened One “( §§21 d, 35 h, 36 h, 52 b, 54 b, 56 b, 68 e, 90 c, 112 i, m); as Tathāgata Buddha, “the Consummate, Enlightened One “(§§38 a, 39 a); as Tathāgata alone, “the Consummate One” (§89J, u); as Sammāsambuddha, “the Perfectly Enlightened One” (§§511, 73111). Occasionally other adjectives are employed, such as, for example, Bhagavan, “the Blessed One” (§§3Sc, 36c, 98b); Mahesi, the “Great Sage” (§§24d, 26b, 35 f, 36 f, 84 a), and also Purisuttama, “the Excellent One” (§61 d). This inclusion of the word Buddha or other titles for Gotama within the stanzas themselves neither proves nor disproves his authorship of them.

Use of Internal Quotations

In further connection with this whole question of quotation, that is to say, of citation of formulas within the stanzas, which attest Buddha as the author, we may note the fact that in one stanza (§69h) the Master’s words are given direct, with the added words iti brūmi, “so I say, so I declare”, within the stanza itself. This direct discourse is also found several times in the Dhammapada, compare, for example, verses 409–414 and many others. Redundant quotes of an indirect character, that is to say in the third person, are found in the following verses: yathā vuttaṁ mahesinā, “so was it said by the Great Sage “(§26 b), and akkhāsi purisuttamo, “the Excellent One hath proclaimed” (§61 d). In my opinion these lines were introduced into the stanzas by the compiler of the Itivuttaka, in order to fill the metrical requirements to give the stanzas the proper number of verses. That is, it seems probable that the compiler took from some earlier work, whether an oral or a written one, it is not known, a certain number of verses; in order to have of these verses the number requisite to make a complete group, or stanza, he added in the stanza such superfluous statements of Buddha’s authorship. Additional confirmation of this view is to be found, it seems to me, in the words ti me sutaṁ, “so I have heard”, introduced into verse h of §89.

Stanzas not addressed to the Laity

Although the poetical portion of the Itivuttaka is far from being so didactic as the prose that paraphrases it, nevertheless in the stanzas themselves the didactic element is well marked. The appeal of this collection of Buddha’s teachings was not addressed to the laity in general, for, as remarked above, they were directed to his bhikkhus, the Brethren of the Buddhist Order. Although the term bhikkhu, “monk”, does not occur in the stanzas with the same tiresome frequency with which it is reiterated in the prose, yet the word is found no less than thirty times within the verses of this book. This frequent occurrence of the word “monk” deserves some emphasis, in order to point out forcibly that Buddha’s teaching, as set forth in the Itivuttaka, was distinctly not a world-teaching, a wide, universal exhortation of mankind to higher ideals, but was, on the contrary, confined to a comparatively narrow circle of monastic followers.

Inter-canonical Quotation

The view has been more than once advanced in this essay that the Itivuttaka is probably a compilation from various works of the Pali canon; if this view be right, the date of the compilation of the Itivuttaka must of course be later than the composition of the other Buddhistic works from which it is derived. Although this view may be substantiated in several ways from internal evidence, it cannot, unfortunately, be definitely proved until a complete concordance of all the canonical works (some of which have not yet even been edited), has been made. While preparing this translation, I made a beginning of such a concordance, or cross-reference work, commencing with the Jatakas, and had collected a large number of index slips, when I learned that Professor R. O. Franke, of Konigsberg, was already at work upon a complete first-line index of the Pali canon, which is to be published in the Harvard Oriental Series. Accordingly I abandoned the task so as to avoid a duplication of the work. It is not possible, therefore, to settle the interesting question of inter-canonical quotation until Dr. Franke’s valuable concordance is completed. A few such cross-references, however, may be made, to show the possibility of further developments in this line. The Itivuttaka, for instance, has four passages in common with the Dhammapada, a work which is itself a compilation, or anthology. Thus Iti-v., §§25 a–d, and 48 a–l, are identical with Dhp., vs. 176, 306–8. Not only are these four verses common to the two works, but many intangible likenesses in style, in expression, and in phrasing are to be observed. Several rather brief identical passages are to be found in the Samyutta nikāya (edited by Feer, PTS., London, 1884–1904), and these are noted by Windisch in the critical notes to his edition. Many long passages in the latter sections of the Itivuttaka, he observes, are repeated, verbatim, in the Anguttaranikāya. This coincidence, when taken together with the different character generally of the latter part of the Itivuttaka, and also in connection with the fact that so many of the latter sections are not to be found in the Chinese translation of the work by Yuan Chwang (Huan Tsang) (see Watanabe, Chinese Collection of Itivuttakas, in JPTS., London, 1907, pp. 44–49), seems, in my opinion, to show that many of the latter sections of this book are of later introduction as compared with the former portions.


In the course of this translation there are given in the notes a number of interesting grammatical points presented by the language of the Itivuttaka, both in respect to inflection and syntax. Although a discussion of such matters would naturally be out of place here, we may briefly outline a few of the more important questions. In inflection there occur several archaic plurals, which we may term Vedic plurals, and which are occasionally found elsewhere in Pali. Thus luddhāse, dutthāse, mulhāse, kuddhāse, makkhāse, mattāse in the first six sections, in place of the more usual forms luddhā, dutthā, muḷhā, etc. One instance of the use of a dative case as an infinitive is worth noting (see §86, note i). There are two examples of the exceedingly rare conditional mood, agamissa (§42. 7), and abhavissa (§43. 3). In syntax we may note the very common use of the gerund and gerundive, particularly of the former. The gerund ending -tvāna, corresponding to the Vedic -tvānam occurs nine times. The use of the aorist as an indefinite past tense is very common, occurring on every page of the book. The syntax of the stanzas is usually quite simple, but occasional inversions and omissions of verbs are found, and these instances will be found treated in the notes. The style is somewhat marred by the frequent use of the indefinite relative clause, and this slight stylistic blemish, or mannerism, is but too manifest, I fear, in the translation.


The choice of words in the Itivuttaka is naturally dependent on the subject matter, and is to be expected that the words should be largely religious terms. The work is rich in categorical moral terms, with their opposites, such as Friendliness, Charity, Virtue, Lust, Hate, Sloth, and many others. In rendering these words into English a translator is beset with a task of some difficulty. The various European translators of Buddhistic works show great lack of accord in their ways of translating these and other cardinal words. I have naturally felt some hesitation in deviating from such great scholars as have helped to open up the vast field of Buddhist history and religion, but it is absolutely impossible to keep in harmony with all, so that an eclectic attitude has been adopted. Where, however, there is general accord among European translators — such as, for example, in the translation of the Pali terms upādi, khandha, samkhāra, samkhata, by “Substrata”, “Attribute”, “Aggregate”, “Compound”— I have not differed from them save for the weightiest reasons.

Besides this matter there are other obstacles before a translator. Even where the meaning of a certain Pali word is clear, and when only a single English equivalent exists, this English word unfortunately has sometimes one or more connotations which do not belong to the Pali term at all. Such, for example, is the word vimutti, rendered “Emancipation”, for here the English, as I think, has a religious implication foreign to the Pali. To avoid having the reader in this way read too much into the Pali sentences, owing to his having taken the English with too full an extension perhaps, I have adopted, where necessary, the plan of capitalizing the English words, thus — Sin, Delusion, Faith, and similar terms. The reader will, therefore, be on his guard against taking such words in their full English meaning with all nuances and connotations. For the convenience of the reader a list of the more important Pali terms, with my English renderings of them, is included in the index.

Other Difficulties of Translation

The question of Pali etymology is largely based on comparison with analogous forms in Sanskrit. A blind adherence to Sanskrit as an aid to solving questions of etymology in Pali is not to be indulged in, for without doubt the Pali language, although it has the greatest similarity with the Sanskrit in grammar and vocabulary, has cut out for itself, in many respects, entirely new linguistic paths. The rise of Buddhism, and also of the Jaina sect, taken together with the ever-increasing use of Pali as a means of literary expression, was not without influence on the Sanskrit.

Unfortunately, however, there are times when etymology is both doubtful and perplexing. In this particular respect it must be said that the Pali Dictionary of Childers (London, 1875) is often inadequate and faulty, but we could not expect it to be otherwise of such a pioneer work. To say that this dictionary abounds in omissions, errors, mistakes, and confusions, or to say that its list of words is from a very limited portion of Pali literature, is merely to say that it is the first and only occidental dictionary of the Pali language. Considering the paucity of published texts in Childers’ day, the retarded state of philological information at the time, and the general lack of facilities for such a work, we must look on his achievement as little short of marvelous. But from the nature of the case, the book is unreliable in many respects. Turning to the grammars of Pali which we now have, we find much left to be desired. For etymological purposes Franke’s Pali und Sanskrit (Strassburg, 1902) is of great use. The same may be said of the Grammaire Pālie of Henry (Paris, 1904), though it errs in many ways both in treatment and content. A comprehensive grammar of Pali, similar to Whitney’s Sanskrit Grammar, would fill a longfelt need, as would also a biographical and mythological Buddhist encyclopedia. In etymology, therefore, as in other matters, rigorous testing must be done at every step, and the suggestions that are here given in the notes as to new solutions are presented with the caution proper in the present state of Pali linguistics. The meaning of such a word as nipaka, “prudent”, for example, is fairly certain, but its etymology is far from clear; vice versa there are one or two instances of words whose etymology is obvious, but whose precise significance it is almost hopeless to determine.

It seems desirable in a work of this character to try to render a word always by a constant, unchanging English word. But although this process may be advisable as a rule, it is by no means always feasible in practice. As Paul Cauer, in his admirable little work, Die Kunst des Ubersetzens, Berlin, 1894, p. 48, indicates from the classical standpoint, a qualifying adjective, a varying context, a change in locution, frequently necessitates a different rendering for the same word of the text. In this present translation it has sometimes been necessary to follow this procedure; a noun and a verb, or a noun and an adjective, for instance, which may come from the same Pali root, have had occasionally to be translated by two words from different roots in English.

It is hoped, furthermore, that the plentiful citation of the obscurer or less common Pali words within parentheses will enable the reader to use this translation for comparative purposes by the side of other translations from Pali texts. It has been thought best to give throughout a fairly literal rendering. The conciseness of the Pali makes the unavoidable amplitude of the English seem somewhat rigid and verbose in comparison. It is hoped that my strict adherence to the original will not be found too close; for when it has become a question of preference between an elegant rendering and one awkward but more accurate, I have purposely always chosen the latter. It was found impossible to make a metrical translation of the stanzas which should be at all faithful or close to the original. As an aid to the appreciation of the spirit, or tone, of the book, I have made use of the archaic English ending -eth in the verbal forms throughout.