Itivuttaka: The Buddha’s Sayings

The Section of the Threes

91. A Means of Subsistence

This was said by the Lord…

“Bhikkhus, this is a contemptible means of subsistence, this gathering of alms. In the world, bhikkhus, it is a form of abuse to say, ‘You alms-gatherer! Wandering about clutching a bowl!’ Yet this means of subsistence has been taken up by young men of good family for a reason, for a purpose. They have not been reduced to it by kings nor by robbers nor because of debt nor through fear nor from loss of an alternative means of livelihood, but with the thought: ‘We are beset by birth, ageing and death, by sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair; overcome by suffering, afflicted by suffering. Perhaps an end can be discerned of this whole mass of suffering!’

“So this young man of good family has gone forth (into homelessness), but he may be covetous for objects of desire, strongly passionate, malevolent, corrupt in thought, unmindful, uncompre­hen­ding, unconcentrated, of wandering mind and uncontrolled faculties. Just as a brand from a funeral pyre, burnt at both ends and in the middle smeared with excrement, can be used as timber neither in the village nor in the forest, so by such a simile do I speak about this person: he has missed out on the enjoyments of a householder, yet he does not fulfil the purpose of recluseship.”

He has missed both a layman’s pleasure
And his recluseship, too, the luckless man!
Ruining it, he throws it away
And perishes like a funerary brand.

Far better for him to swallow
A fiery hot iron ball
Than that immoral and uncontrolled
He should eat the country’s alms.