4:15  The Rod Embraced

“When embraced,

the rod of violence1

breeds danger & fear:

Look at people in strife.

I will tell how

I experienced


Seeing people floundering

like fish in small puddles,

competing with one another—

as I saw this,

fear came into me.

The world was entirely

without substance.

All the directions

were knocked out of line.

Wanting a haven for myself,

I saw nothing that wasn’t laid claim to.

Seeing nothing in the end

but competition,

I felt discontent.

And then I saw

an arrow here,

so very hard to see,

embedded in the heart.

Overcome by this arrow

you run in all directions.

But simply on pulling it out

you don’t run,

you don’t sink.2

[Here the trainings are recited.] 3

Whatever things are tied down in the world,

you shouldn’t be set on them.

Having totally penetrated

sensual pleasures,

sensual passions,4

you should train for your own


Be truthful, not insolent,

not deceptive, remote

from divisiveness.

Without anger, the sage

should cross over the evil

of greed & avarice.

He should conquer drowsiness,



shouldn’t consort with heedlessness,

shouldn’t stand firm in his pride—

the man with his heart set

on unbinding.

He shouldn’t engage in lying,

shouldn’t create affection for form,

should fully fathom conceit,

and live refraining from impulsiveness;

shouldn’t          delight in what’s old,

prefer what’s new,5

grieve over decline,

get entangled in

what’s dazzling & bright.6

I call greed

a great flood;

hunger, a swift current.

Preoccupations are ripples;

sensuality, a bog

hard to cross over.

Not deviating from truth,

a sage stands on high ground

: a brahman.7

Having relinquished

in every way,

he is said to be

at peace;

having clearly known, he

is an attainer-of-knowledge;

knowing the Dhamma, he’s


Moving rightly through the world,

he doesn’t envy

anyone here.

Whoever here has gone beyond

sensual passions—

an attachment hard

to transcend in the world—

doesn’t sorrow,

doesn’t fret.

He, his stream8 cut, is free

from bonds.

Burn up what’s before,

and have nothing for after.

If you don’t grasp

at what’s in between,9

you will go about, calm.

For whom, in name-&-form,

in every way,

there’s no sense of mine,

and who doesn’t grieve

over what is not:

He, in the world,

isn’t defeated,

suffers no loss.10

To whom there doesn’t occur

‘This is mine,’

for whom nothing is others’:

He, feeling no sense of mine-ness,

doesn’t grieve at the thought

‘I have nothing.’

Not harsh,

not greedy,

not perturbed,11



This is the reward

—I say when asked—

for those who are free

from theorizing.

For one unperturbed

—who knows—

there’s no accumulating.

Abstaining, unaroused,

he everywhere sees


The sage

doesn’t speak of himself

as among those who are higher,


or lower.

At peace, free of stinginess,

he doesn’t embrace, doesn’t


the Blessed One said.

vv. 935–954


1. Nd I: The rod of violence takes three forms: physical violence (the three forms of bodily misconduct), verbal violence (the four forms of verbal misconduct), and mental violence (the three forms of mental misconduct). See AN 10:176 and Dhp 129–142.

2. Nd I: “One doesn’t run” to any of the destinations of rebirth; “one doesn’t sink” into any of the four floods of sensuality, views, becoming, and ignorance. See SN 1:1, SN 45:171, and AN 4:10.

3. This phrase, a kind of stage direction, seems to indicate that this poem had a ritual use, as part of a ceremony for giving the precepts.

4. “Sensual pleasure, sensual passions”: two meanings of the word kāma.

5. Nd I: “Old” and “new” mean past and present aggregates.

6. Nd I: “what’s dazzling & bright” = craving and other defilements.

7. See AN 7:15.

8. Nd I: The stream here stands for craving and the various defilements that arise in its wake. See Dhp 251, 337, 339­–340, and 347. It could also stand for the stream of becoming, mentioned in Sn 3:12.

9. Nd I: “Before,” “after,” and “in between” = past, future, and present.

10. “Isn’t defeated, suffers no loss”—two meanings of the Pali phrase, na jiyyati.

11. Nd I defines “perturbation” as meaning “craving,” and “unperturbed” as meaning unmoved by gain, loss, status, loss of status, praise, criticism, pleasure, or pain (see AN 8:6–7). However, when the Buddha discusses the meaning of “unperturbed” in Sn 5:3, he relates it to the practice of concentration. See Sn 5:3, note 5.

12. Sama. See Sn 1:12, note 11.

13. See Ud 2:10.