SuttaCentral

Tracking a quote about good qualities not fading away

I’m trying to track down a scriptural quotation that might correspond to the following: “Compassion and knowledge and virtue are the only possessions that do not fade away.”

The statement about skillful qualities, unlike material possessions, not fading away, sounds familiar although so far I haven’t been able to recall where I might have seen it, or to track it down.

Given the unreliability of the book this quote was in (several other quotes were altered or misattributed) the actual terms compassion, knowledge, and virtue may not be the exact ones used in the sutta I think I remember.

Does this quote ring bells for anyone else?

2 Likes

It does indeed:

AN1.76:1.1: “Loss of relatives, mendicants, is a small thing. Wisdom is the worst thing to lose.”
AN1.77:1.1: “Growth of relatives, mendicants, is a small thing. Wisdom is the best thing to grow. So you should train like this: ‘We will grow in wisdom.’ That’s how you should train.”
AN1.78:1.1: “Loss of wealth, mendicants, is a small thing. Wisdom is the worst thing to lose.”
AN1.79:1.1: “Growth of wealth, mendicants, is a small thing. Wisdom is the best thing to grow. So you should train like this: ‘We will grow in wisdom.’ That’s how you should train.”
AN1.80:1.1: “Loss of fame, mendicants, is a small thing. Wisdom is the worst thing to lose.”
AN1.81:1.1: “Growth of fame, mendicants, is a small thing. Wisdom is the best thing to grow. So you should train like this: ‘We will grow in wisdom.’ That’s how you should train.”

Actually, this is not quite it. Hmm … A dim memory tells me there is perhaps still something similar elsewhere, but I can’t find it right now. Perhaps there isn’t.

2 Likes

That’s exactly my feeling too. I seem to remember a contrast being made between what does not fade away (decline, get lost, perish) and what does. Thank you, though!

1 Like

Still found something, Kp 8:

But by giving and morality,
restraint and self-control,
a women or man
keeps their savings safe.

But there could perhaps be still something else …

2 Likes

I think that’s probably the one! I was reading it just last month, in fact. Thank you!

If anyone comes up with quotes on similar themes, please let me know.

1 Like

I can’t remember where it was , but I think that something similar was said in relation to kamma, with the only things that don’t perish upon death being virtue and development of mind - everything else is lost/left behind with rebirth. The ‘knowledge’ seems out of place to me - virtue and wisdom yes, but knowledge??

3 Likes

SN 3.3 ends with:

“The fancy chariots of kings wear out,
and this body too gets old.
But goodness never gets old:
so the true and the good proclaim.”

Also, there is the sutta SN 47.13 where Buddha rhetorically asks Ananda:

“Well, Ānanda, when Sāriputta became fully extinguished, did he take away your entire spectrum of ethical conduct, of immersion, of wisdom, of freedom, or of the knowledge and vision of freedom?”

1 Like

Thanks. That’s a lovely quote, but it’s definitely not the one I was thinking of.

Another one thematically similar is AN 7.7

“Well, Ugga, that is wealth, I can’t deny it. But fire, water, rulers, thieves, and unloved heirs all take a share of that wealth. There are these seven kinds of wealth that they can’t take a share of. What seven? The wealth of faith, ethical conduct, conscience, prudence, learning, generosity, and wisdom. There are these seven kinds of wealth that fire, water, rulers, thieves, and unloved heirs can’t take a share of.

7 Likes

That’s really excellent, thanks. It’s the best candidate I’ve seen so far.

1 Like

I think it’s worth pointing out here that while virtue is a wealth others cannot steal, Buddhism, unlike some Hindu cosmologies, is more realistic than to say that virtue always increases. In MN 5 for example, Sāriputta warns that unwise attention and not recognizing our virtues can lead to their decay:

Take the case of the person who doesn’t have a blemish but does not understand it. You can expect that they will focus on the feature of beauty, and because of that, lust will infect their mind. And they will die with greed, hate, and delusion, blemished, with a corrupted mind.
Suppose a bronze dish was brought from a shop or smithy clean and bright. And the owners neither used it nor had it cleaned, but kept it in a dirty place. Over time, wouldn’t that bronze dish get dirtier and more stained?

While others cannot steal our virtue directly, association with the unwise can, over time, have quite a similar effect. Thankfully, the opposite is also true and sometimes virtuous friends can rub off on us in a good way. :smile_cat:

Yes, indeed. There’s an extraordinary amount of material where the Buddha talks about the kinds of friends and associates one should and shouldn’t keep company with.

Our body is like a filing cabinet, everything good and bad will be memorized. All the truth/wisdom that we have learnt in previous life, lay dormant deep inside our unconsciousness. And meditation, help us to wake those truth/wisdom that has sleep in us.

What are the Pali words for the seven kinds of wealth, especially conscience and prudence?. Could not open the dual version. Thanks

Here:

The wealth of faith, ethical conduct, conscience, prudence, learning, generosity, and wisdom.
Saddhādhanaṁ, sīladhanaṁ, hirīdhanaṁ, ottappadhanaṁ, sutadhanaṁ, cāgadhanaṁ, paññādhanaṁ.

I was never quite sure what the difference between “hirī” and “ottappa” is.
UPDATE: Suddhāso Bhikkhu’s footnote on MN 37 says:

  1. The two Pāli terms “hiri” and “ottappa” are here rendered with the single English term “sense of conscience.” There is no adequate translation for these two terms, which indicate moral sensitivity – an awareness of right and wrong, coupled with a natural inclination to avoid doing that which is wrong. These terms are often rendered using such inaccurate terms as “embarrassment,” “shame,” and “fear of wrongdoing,” all of which convey strongly negative connotations which are completely alien to the Pāli terms. “Conscience” and “moral sensitivity” are much closer to the intended meaning.

Thank you for the explanation. Suddhaso Bhikkhu’s translation of ‘Hiri’ and ‘Ottapa’ together as ‘conscience’ and ‘moral sensitivity’ conveys the meaning of the pali words better than other translations like ‘moral dread’ or ‘moral shame’. They arise in wholesome ethical mental states as strong protective qualities found in the noble leaders and guardians of the world. Also relevant here are ‘Ahiri’ (lack of conscience) and ‘Anottappa’ (lack of remorse).

1 Like