An Invitation to the Book of Verses

The Connected Discourses (Saṃyutta Nikāya) is unique among the collections in the Pāli Canon in that its texts are grouped by topic rather than length or numerical scheme, providing a look at how the elder masters, and perhaps Gautama Buddha himself, prioritized pre-sectarian Buddhist teachings.

There are five books in the Connected Discourses: 1) Book of Verses, 2) Book of Causation, 3) Book of Aggregates, 4) Book of the Six Sense Bases, and 5) The Great Book, which is comprised of chapters on central doctrines like the Four Noble Truths.

The Book of Verses (Sagatha-vagga), which has largely been overlooked in English speaking countries, features concise meditative aphorisms—typically following an exchange with an enlightened master or celestial entity—on a spiritual or existential matter.

If you’ve never read the Book of Verses, I highly recommend giving this splendid and applicable text a try. An anthology can be freely read on DhammaTalks, or it can be read it in its entirety on SuttaCentral. Below is an excerpt from SN 1.41, translated by Bhikkhu Sujato:

When your house is on fire,
you rescue the pot
that’s useful,
not the one that’s burnt.

And as the world is on fire
with old age and death,
you should rescue by giving,
for what’s given is rescued.

What’s given has happiness as its fruit,
but not what isn’t given.
Bandits take it, or rulers,
it’s consumed by fire, or lost.

Then in the end this corpse is cast off,
along with all your possessions.
Knowing this, a clever person
would enjoy what they have and also give it away.
After giving and using according to their means,
blameless, they go to a heavenly place.

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