Chapter 2: Heedfulness

Translated by Ven Nārada


21. Heedfulness1 is the path to the deathless,2 heedlessness is the path to death. The heedful do not die; 3 the heedless are like unto the dead.

22. Distinctly understanding this (difference 4), the wise (intent) on heedfulness rejoice in heedfulness, delighting in the realm of the Ariyas. 5

23. The constantly meditative, 6 the ever steadfast ones realize the bond-free, 7 supreme Nibbāna. 8

24. The glory of him who is energetic, mindful, pure in deed, considerate, self-controlled, right-living, and heedful steadily increases.

25. By sustained effort, earnestness, discipline and self-control let the wise man make for himself an island, 9 which no flood overwhelms.

26. The ignorant, foolish folk indulge in heedlessness; the wise man guards earnestness as the greatest treasure.

27. Indulge not in heedlessness; have no intimacy with sensuous delights. Verily, the earnest, meditative person obtains abundant bliss.

28. When an understanding one discards heedlessness by heedfulness, he, free from sorrow, ascends to the palace of wisdom and surveys the sorrowing folk as a wise mountaineer surveys the ignorant groundlings. 10

29. Heedful amongst the heedless, wide awake amongst the slumbering, the wise man advances as does a swift horse, leaving a weak jade behind.

30. By earnestness Maghavā 11 rose to the lordship of the gods. 12 Earnestness is ever praised; negligence is ever despised.

31. The Bhikkhu 13 who delights in heedfulness, and looks with fear on heedlessness, advances like fire, burning all fetters 14 great and small.

32. The Bhikkhu who delights in heedfulness, and looks with fear on heedlessness, is not liable to fall. 15 He is in the presence of Nibbāna.


End Notes

1 Appamāda, literally, means non-infatuation i.e., ever-present mindfulness, watchfulness or earnestness in doing good. The ethical essence of Buddhism may be summed up by this word - appamāda. The last words of the Buddha were - appamādena sampādetha - strive on with diligence.

2 Amata - Nibbāna, the ultimate goal of Buddhists. As this positive term clearly indicates, Nibbāna is not annihilation or a state of nothingness as some are apt to believe. It is the permanent, immortal, supramundane state which cannot be expressed by mundane terms.

3 This should not be understood to mean that they are immortal. No being is immortal, not even Buddhas or Arahants. The idea implied herein is that the heedful, who realize Nibbāna are not reborn, and so do not die. The heedless are regarded as dead because they are not intent on doing good, and are subject to repeated births and deaths.

4 Knowing well that there is emancipation for the heedful, but not for the heedless.

5 Here Ariyas mean the pure ones like the Buddhas and Arahants. The realm of the Ariyas means the thirty-seven factors of Enlightenment (Bodhipakkhiyadhamma) and the nine supramundane states. See notes on v.44 and v.115.

6 Here meditation includes both concentration (samatha) and contemplation or insight (vipassanā).

7 Yogakkhema - free from the four bonds of sense-desires (kāma), craving for existence (bhava), false views (diṭṭhi), and ignorance (avijjā).

8 Nibbāna = ni + vāna, lit., departure from craving. It is a supramundane state that can be attained in this life itself. It is also explained as extinction of passions, but not a state of nothingness. It is an eternal blissful state of relief that results from the complete eradication of the passions.

Metaphysically Nibbāna is the extinction of suffering; psychologically it is the elimination of egoism; ethically it is the eradication of lust, hatred and ignorance.

9 An island situated on a higher level cannot be flooded although the surrounding low-lying land may be inundated. Such an island becomes a refuge to all. In the same way the wise man who develops insight should make an island of himself by attaining Arahantship so that he may not be drowned by the four floods of sense-desires (kāma) false beliefs (ditthi), craving for existence (bhava) and ignorance (avijjā).

10 The sorrowless Arahants look compassionately with their Divine Eye upon the ignorant folk, who, being subject to repeated births, are not free from sorrow.

11 Maghavā is synonymous with Sakka, king of the gods. The Maghamānavaka Jataka relates that in the remote past a public-spirited person who had spent his whole lifetime in welfare work with the cooperation of his friends, was born as Sakka as the result of his good actions.

12 Devas. lit., sporting or shining ones, are a class of beings with subtle physical bodies invisible to the naked eye. They live in the celestial planes. There are also earth-bound deities.

13 A fully ordained disciple of the Buddha is called a Bhikkhu. "Mendicant monk" may be suggested as the closest equivalent for "Bhikkhu". He is not a priest as he is no mediator between God and man. He has no vows for life but he is bound by his rules which he takes of his own accord. He leads a life of voluntary poverty and celibacy. If he is unable to live the Holy Life, he can discard the robe at any time.

14 Saṃyojana - lit., that which yokes beings to the ocean of life. There are ten kinds of fetters- namely: self-illusion (sakkāyadiṭṭhi), doubts (vicikicchā), indulgence in (wrongful) rites and ceremonies (sīlabbataparāmāsa), sense-desires (kāmarāga), hatred (paṭigha), attachment to the Realms of Form (rūparāga), attachment to the Formless Realms (arūparāga), conceit (māna), restlessness (uddhacca) and ignorance (avijjā).

The first five, pertaining to This Shore (orambhāgiya) are regarded as small, the rest, pertaining to the Further Shore (uddhambhāgiya) as great.

The first three are eradicated on attaining the first Stage of Sainthood (Sotāpatti).

The second two are attenuated on attaining the second stage of Sainthood (Sakadāgāmi).

The second two are destroyed on attaining the third stage of Sainthood (Anāgāmi).

The last five are eradicated on attaining the fourth stage of Sainthood (Arahatta).

15 From his spiritual heights which he has attained.