What are your favorite verses from the suttas?

I’m looking to put together a book of short, pithy verses from the suttas for daily reflection, somewhat like the Roman stoics had. Ideally, they’d capture a major theme from the Dhamma (enlightenment, impermanence, etc), but not necessarily. Thoughts?


On rousing a sense of urgency:

Taking Up Arms

Peril stems from those who take up arms—
just look at people in conflict!
I shall extol how I came to be
stirred with a sense of urgency.

I saw this population flounder,
like a fish in a little puddle.
Seeing them fight each other,
fear came upon me.

The world around was hollow,
all directions were in turmoil.
Wanting a home for myself,
I saw nowhere unsettled.

Yet even in their settlement they fight—
seeing that, I grew uneasy.
Then I saw a dart there,
so hard to see, stuck in the heart.

When struck by that dart,
you run around in all directions.
But when that same dart has been plucked out,
you neither run around nor sink down.

From Snp4.15


“One whose mind is like a rock,
Steady, never trembling,
free of desire for desirable things,
not getting annoyed when things are annoying,
from where will suffering strike one,
whose mind is developed like this?”
from UD4.4

I love the whole sutta, where a cheeky Yakka strikes ven. Sariputta’s head and he gets a slight headache, while the Yakka falls straight to hell.


One of my early favorite; Sutta Nipata III (Padhana-Sutta), translation Nyanaponika.
Further verses following - but up to just this: it is a key-meme for me…


SC 1 Np-bh 425 Als an dem Ufer der Neranjara dem Kampf ich hingegeben war;
Um Bürdenfreiheit zu gewinnen, in starkem Mühen tief ich sann,
SC 2 Np-bh 426 Da nahte sich Namuci mir und sprach gar mitleidvolles Wort:
„Hager bist du, häßlich anzusehen! Dem Sterben bist du nahe schon!
SC 3 Np-bh 427 Zu tausend Teilen bist du schon des Todes, dein Leben mißt nur einen Teil!
So lebe, Herr! Denn besser ist ja Leben, und lebend kannst Verdienst du wirken!
SC 4 Np-bh 428 Wenn du den Reinheitswandel führst und darbringst auch die Feuerspende,
Gar reich Verdienst mag wachsen dir! Was kannst du durch den Kampf erwirken?
SC 5 Np-bh 429 Schwer gangbar ist der Weg des Kampfs, ist schwierig, schwer auch zu vollenden!“
Māra, diese Verse sprechend, nahe bei dem Buddha stand er.
SC 6 Np-bh 430 Und als Māra so geredet, sprach zu ihm dann der Erhabene:
„Du Freund der Lässigen, du Böser! Wenn dies ist deines Kommens Sinn,
SC 7 Np-bh 431 Auch noch so winziges Verdienst, nicht hat es für mich fürder Zweck.
Für die noch Zweck erfüllt Verdienst, die anzureden mag es Māra lohnen!


Namo Buddhaya!

As to prose & inspiring verses, there are several compilations and much is scattered throughout the canon & commentaries.

The dhammapada is essentially a compilation like this and you could pick what you like from it.

So lovely to see such an inspiring thread :slightly_smiling_face: :pray: :sparkling_heart:

When I want inspiring verse I turn to the Itivuttaka. There are so many it is a treasure trove… if I want to feel inspired, I just take my hard copy by John Ireland and open it randomly.

So here are a couple that I recently enjoyed. I find they inspire such a deep sense of peace.

This was said by the Lord…

“Bhikkhus, there are these three kinds of search…”

Sensual search, the search for being,
The search for a holy life of one
Who takes his stand upon a view
And holds it tightly as the truth—
These are heapings of defilements.

For a bhikkhu wholly dispassionate
And freed by the destruction of craving,
Searches have been relinquished
And uprooted the standpoint of views.
With the destruction of searches a bhikkhu
Is free from desire and doubt.

This was said by the Lord…

“Bhikkhus, these are the three times. What three? Past time, future time, and present time. These, bhikkhus, are the three times.”

Perceiving what can be expressed through concepts,
Beings take their stand on what is expressed.
Not fully understanding the expressed,
They come under the bondage of Death.

But by fully understanding what is expressed
One does not misconceive the speaker.
His mind has attained to freedom,
The unsurpassed state of peace.

Understanding what is expressed,
The peaceful one delights in the peaceful state.
Standing on Dhamma, perfect in knowledge,
He freely makes use of concepts
But no more enters into concept’s range.

This was said by the Lord…

“Bhikkhus, the formless is more peaceful than the form realm, and cessation is more peaceful than the formless.”

Those beings who reach the form realm
And those established in the formless,
If they do not know cessation
Come back to renewal of being.

Those who fully understand forms
Without getting stuck in the formless,
Are released into cessation
And leave Death far behind them.

Having touched with his own person
The deathless element free from clinging,
Having realized the relinquishment of clinging,
His taints all gone,
The Fully Enlightened One proclaims
The sorrowless state that is void of stain.

May you all thrive in the Dhamma and enjoy a beautiful peaceful day :pray: :sparkling_heart: :relieved:


On old age by the nun Ambapali, formerly most beautiful courtesan of Savatthi:

My hair was as black as bees,
graced with curly tips;
now old, it has become like hemp bark—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

Crowned with flowers,
my head was as fragrant as a perfume box;
now old, it smells like dog fur—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

My hair was as thick as a well-planted forest,
it shone, parted with brush and pins;
now old, it’s patchy and sparse—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

With plaits of black and ribbons of gold,
it was so pretty, adorned with braids;
now old, my head’s gone bald—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

My eyebrows used to look so nice,
like crescents painted by an artist;
now old, they droop with wrinkles—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

My eyes shone brilliant as gems,
wide and indigo;
ruined by age, they shine no more—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

My nose was like a perfect peak,
lovely in my bloom of youth;
now old, it’s shriveled like a pepper;
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

My ear-lobes were so pretty,
like lovingly crafted bracelets;
now old, they droop with wrinkles—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

My teeth used to be so pretty,
bright as a jasmine flower;
now old, they’re broken and yellow—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

My singing was sweet as a cuckoo
wandering in the forest groves;
now old, it’s patchy and croaking—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

My neck used to be so pretty,
like a polished shell of conch;
now old, it’s bowed and bent—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

My arms used to be so pretty,
like rounded cross-bars;
with age, they wrinkle and sag as a patala tree—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

My hands used to be so pretty,
adorned with lovely golden rings;
now old, they’re like red radishes—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

My breasts used to be so pretty,
swelling, round, close, and high;
now they droop like water bags—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

My body used to be so pretty,
like a polished slab of gold;
now it’s covered with fine wrinkles—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

Both my thighs used to be so pretty,
like an elephant’s trunk;
now old, they’re like bamboo—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

My calves used to be so pretty,
adorned with cute golden anklets;
now old, they’re like sesame sticks—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

Both my feet used to be so pretty,
plump as if with cotton-wool;
now old, they’re cracked and wrinkly—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.

This bag of bones once was such,
but now it’s withered, home to so much pain;
like a house in decay with plaster crumbling—
the word of the truthful one is confirmed.



Another one on old age, by the Buddha to Ananda, when the latter notices signs of deterioration on the Buddha’s body:

“Curse this wretched old age,
which makes you so ugly.
That’s how much this delightful puppet
is ground down by old age.

Even if you live for a hundred years,
you’ll still end up dying.
Death spares no-one,
but crushes all underfoot.”



Not verse, but pithy nonetheless. I gleaned this from this post on mindfulness of the body. For those who like to keep things simple.

Just as one who encompasses with his mind the great ocean thereby includes all the streams that run into the ocean, in the same way, whoever develops and cultivates mindfulness directed to the body includes all wholesome qualities that pertain to true knowledge

(Unfortunately Suttacentral isn’t working too well for me in China at the moment so I can’t verify the link for the citation)

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“Seclusion is happiness for the contented
“Sukho viveko tuṭṭhassa,
who see the teaching they have learned.
sutadhammassa passato;
Kindness for the world is happiness
Abyāpajjaṁ sukhaṁ loke,
for one who’d not harm a living creature.
pāṇabhūtesu saṁyamo.

Dispassion for the world is happiness
Sukhā virāgatā loke,
for one who has gone beyond sensual pleasures.
kāmānaṁ samatikkamo;
But dispelling the conceit ‘I am’
Asmimānassa yo vinayo,
is truly the ultimate happiness.”
etaṁ ve paramaṁ sukhan”ti.

(Udana 2.1 or Mahakhandhako 3)


Thanks for your thread, I love seeing what everyone else’s favourite verses are.

Not EBT or Theravadan, but the Sutra I deeply enjoy most is the Heart Sutra (especially in Tibetan, Sanskrit and Chinese), which interestingly, Ajahn Chah has confirmed to be description of the “highest wisdom”. See video right at the bottom of this message.

Where pithy-ness is concerned, the Chinese version of the Heart Sutra is 260 characters. Here it is in Tibetan (longer version):

Here’s the English version by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Here’s a recollection on Ajahn Chah and the Heart Sutra (need to pump up volume):