The Causes of Downfall
Thus have I heard — At one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthi in the Prince Jeta grove in Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Then a certain deity, when the night was far spent, illuminating the entire Jeta grove approached the Blessed One. Having approached he paid homage to the Blessed One and stood at once side. Standing at one side that deity addressed the Blessed in verse:¹
“I wish to ask you, Gotama, about a man who suffers downfall.
I have approached you to ask about the causes of downfall.
[The Buddha replied:]
“Easily known is the one who progresses, easily known is the one who declines.
One who loves the truth progresses, one who detests the truth declines.
[The deity asked again:]
“Thus we understand the first cause of downfall.
We ask the Blessed One about the second cause of downfall? ²
[The Buddha replied:]
“He is fond of the wicked,³ having no affection for the peaceful.
He approves of the doctrine of the wicked, this is the cause of downfall.
“Slothful by nature, talkative, a man without energy.
Lazy, angry and irascible, this is the cause of downfall.
“Whose mother or father are decrepit, their youthfulness gone,
Though affluent, if one does not support them, this is the cause of downfall.
“Whoever deceives a priest or recluse, or another alms mendicant,
By telling lies, this is the cause of downfall.
“The man who has abundant wealth and gold.
Eating delicious food alone, this is the cause of downfall.
“The man who is obdurate due to his birth, wealth, or clan,
Looking down on his own relatives, this is the cause of downfall.
“The man who is a womaniser, drunkard, or gambler.
Squandering all that he earns, this is the cause of downfall.
“Not content with his own wife, he visits prostitutes,
Corrupting the wives of others, this is the cause of downfall.
“Though past his youth, he brings a young wife with breasts like the Timbaru fruit.⁴
Due to jealousy for her he cannot sleep, this is the cause of downfall.
“A woman addicted to drink,⁵ a spendthrift, or a man like that,
Placing such a one in authority, this is the cause of downfall.
“One of little wealth, with great ambition, from a family of rulers,
Seeks power over others, this is the cause of downfall.
“These causes of downfall in the world, a wise man considers carefully.
Endowed with noble one’s vision, he is blessed with happiness.”
2. This verse is repeated after each reply, but with different numbers. Hereafter, they are omitted from my translation.
3. According to the Commentary, wicked (asanta) refers to the six heretical teachers, and wicked doctrines refers to the 62 wrong-views. The peaceful (santa) refers to the Buddha and his disciples, and Pacceka Buddhas, who have tranquillised the defilements.
4. Strychnos nux vomica. It has a firm fruit the size of a large apple. It is probably no accident that the Timbaru fruit was used for comparison, as it contain the powerful toxin, strychnine. The Commentary glosses: Timbarutthaninti timbaruphalasadisatthaniṃ taruṇadārikaṃ = “A young girl with breasts like Timbaru fruits.” Wealthy men have always been able to obtain wives much younger than themselves. Being already married has never been a problem. Millionaires either keep a mistress or get a divorce if polygamy is illegal. In cultures where daughters are treated like one’s own property, marriages of teenage girls to older men is still common.
5. The Commentary glosses: “Greedy for fish, meat, etc.,” i.e. addicted to sensual indulgence.