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Pali text edited and translated by
Buddhist Publication Society
BPS Online Edition © (2011)
Digital Transcription Source: BPS Transcription Project
For free distribution. This work may be republished, reformatted, reprinted and redistributed in any medium. However, any such republication and redistribution is to be made available to the public on a free and unrestricted basis, and translations and other derivative works are to be clearly marked as such.
I. Departed (Nikkhantam)
II. Disliking (Aratim)
III. Despising the Well-behaved (Pesala-atimaññana)
V. Well-spoken (Subhasita)
VII. The Invitation Ceremony (Pavarana)
VIII. More than a Thousand (Parosahassam)
IX. Overcoming (Abhibhuyya)
XIII. Vangisa (1)
XIV. Vangisa (2)
I. Non-Canonical Verses of Vangisa
II. Vangisa and the Vimanavatthu
Burmese-script edition of Th (Sixth Council)
European edition of Thag (PTS)
Elders’ Verses I (K.R. Norman’s trans. of Th; PTS 1969)
Pali Text Society
Suttanipata Commentary (Paramatthajotika II)
Theragatha Commentary (Paramatthadipani)
(All references are to the PTS editions of Pali texts unless indicated otherwise.)
The Theragatha, the Verses of the Elders, is a work found in the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon. As its name indicates, this is a collection of verses ascribed to various elder monks, mostly celebrating their attainment of arahatship. As with a number of other works in the Pali Canon, such as the Anguttara Nikaya and the Itivuttaka, the Theragatha is divided into sections (nipata) with progressively increasing numbers of verses. It begins with a section of single verses, then continues with pairs, triplets, and so forth. In the later sections this system breaks down and the number of verses which the poems actually contain only approximate to the number of the section.
The present work is a translation accompanying the original Pali text of the final and longest section of the Theragatha, the Mahanipata or “Great Section.” This is a self-contained anthology of fourteen poems with seventy-one verses, composed by a single elder, the Venerable Vangisa. Although not indicated in the text, the various occasions for the composition and recitation of these poems is to be found in the commentary. These in turn are a summary of the information supplied by the Vangisa-samyutta of the Samyutta Nikaya, where we find a parallel version of these poems embedded in a series of short suttas giving the circumstances of their composition. Interestingly, the two versions of the poems are not identical, though the differences are mostly slight. They consist mainly of dialectical variants from a time when Pali was an oral literature being collected from the several dialects of Magadhi, the actual spoken language of that region of Northern India in which the Buddha and his early followers lived and preached the Dhamma.
The author of these poems, the Venerable Vangisa, was designated by the Buddha as the foremost of his disciples with respect to spontaneity of speech (patibhanavantanam, A I 24). This gift is evidently a reference to the Parosahassa Sutta (S I 192–93) where, after reciting a poem (No. VIII of the translation), the Buddha asked Vangisa whether it had been devised by him beforehand or had occurred to him “on the spot” (thanaso va tam patibhanti). When Vangisa affirmed the latter, the Buddha invited him to compose some more verses, and the result was the next poem (No. IX).
Apart from what we can glean from the poems themselves and the suttas of the Vangisa-samyutta, we know very little about the Venerable Vangisa himself. The commentary (Th-a III 180–81) says he was a brahmin by birth and that, prior to meeting the Buddha, he made a living by tapping the skulls of deceased people and telling thereby where the owners had been reborn. The Buddha tested him by presenting him with several skulls, including that of an arahat. He was successful with his first few guesses, but when he came to the arahat’s skull he was mystified, for an arahat is not reborn anywhere. He decided to enter the Order to discover the secret. He was ordained by the Elder Nigrodhakappa and later became an arahat. The commentary adds that after composing some verses in praise of the Buddha he gained a reputation as a poet.
According to the Apadana (Ap II 497) Vangisa was so called both because he was born in the country of Vanga (modern Bengal) and also because he was a “master (isa) of the spoken word (vacana).” In Buddhist Sanskrit works, such as the Mahavastu, his name appears unambiguously as Vagisa, “Lord of Speech.” This is, of course, an assumed name and we do not know his actual personal name, as is common with individuals in this early Buddhist literature. “Lord of Speech,” or perhaps better, “Master of Words,” is an apt title for a poet.
The poems themselves give us the picture of a man of sensitive and artistic temperament who found it difficult to control his innate sensuality, manifest in his attachment to the opposite sex. He would have appreciated this passage from the Anguttara Nikaya: “They fetter him who has forgotten mindfulness, with gaze and smile, disordered dress, sweet blandishments …” (A III 69). Furthermore, he was proud of his gift of poetic invention, but recognised this pride as a fault to be overcome (No. III). The sole reference in the poems to his life before he met the Buddha says only that he was obsessed by the poetic art (No. XIII). All of this tends to cast doubt on the authenticity of the bizarre tale of the skull-tapping brahmin. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary it is perhaps best to be noted as a curiosity. The importance of Vangisa lies in his talent as a poet, a gift that must have been nurtured and developed over a period of time before the present poems were composed. We might also conclude that for someone able to compose verse spontaneously, as Vangisa could, his output might well have been enormous. The few “religious” poems that have survived may be only a small fraction of an opus that is now lost forever.
After these preliminary remarks I ought to discuss some points arising from the poems themselves, but first I wish to make a general observation concerning the translation. My aim has been to convey the exact verbal meaning of the poems, and for this purpose I felt a literal prose translation would be more suitable than one in verse. Moreover, a verse translation could be positively misleading if it made a pretence of conveying the “feel” of the original poems; hence also the decision to reproduce the Pali text alongside the translation. In recent decades much scholarly work has been done in restoring and correcting the text of the Theragatha and I took the opportunity to incorporate the results of such research into this edited version of Vangisa’s verses. I leave the assessment of Vangisa as a poet to those better qualified to judge. Pali metre and Indian poetics in general are difficult subjects of which the present translator has little knowledge.
My aim in both the text and the translation has been to adhere as closely as possible to what was originally intended by the poet and to the meaning understood by his contemporaries. With this in view the translation occasionally departs from the interpretations of particular words and phrases proposed by the (later) commentaries. For instance, in v.1221 we find the term maggajina. The commentary interprets this as “a path-victor” or “conqueror (by means) of the path.” In the Cunda Sutta (Sn 83–90) maggajina is the first of the four kinds of samana (ascetic) listed there. According to the commentary, “One who has overcome all defilements by means of the path is called a path-victor” (Sn-a I 162). However, as K.R. Norman has pointed out, the suffix -jina is unlikely to mean “conqueror” here, but was a dialect form from Skt. jña (to know). Hence it is probable that the commentary is mistaken and that the word originally meant “a path-knower.” I have translated it in this way on the assumption that this was what Vangisa himself intended by the expression.
Another innovation is my translation of the term puthujjana as “outsiders” (vv. 1217, 1271). This term is usually translated “ordinary persons,” “worldlings,” “manyfolk,” etc., taking puthu in its sense of “numerous,” “various” (= Vedic prithu). However, another meaning of puthu is “separate,” “apart” (= Vedic prithak). Although this sense was deemed inappropriate for puthujjana by earlier translators and the PTS Dictionary, there is no real reason why it could not be so understood. The term refers to those people who are apart from, separate from, those in possession of the Dhamma of the noble ones (ariya), the Buddha and his disciples. The commentaries use puthujjana to refer to anyone and everyone who has not yet reached at least the path of stream-entry; thereafter they become noble disciples (ariya-savaka) and lose their designation as puthujjana. It is possible, however, that the term was originally used in a still more restricted sense, as referring to those incapable (abhabbo) of understanding the Dhamma, in contrast to the viññu (wise, intelligent persons) who could do so when it was taught to them. Being apart from Dhamma, the puthujjana are established in what is not-Dhamma (adhamma or unrighteousness). They are unable to relate to the Buddha’s Teaching because they are attached to and blinded by the many wrong and speculative views that are at variance with the Dhamma.
I decided to use “Fortunate One” as a translation of bhagava (bhagavantu). This seems to be closer to what was intended than the common rendering “Blessed One,” which could give rise to the query, “Blessed by whom?” Again, “Lord” or even “Exalted One” is suggestive of dominance over others by a god-like being, which is surely not intended here. All such renderings have strong theistic overtones and so can be misleading. In Hinduism bhagavan is used as a term for God, and thus in that context “Lord,” e.g. “Lord Krishna,” is appropriate.
In translating Vangisa’s verses my guiding principle has been to leave as few words as possible untranslated. With this aim “monk” is used for bhikkhu and “god” for deva, words which I had left in the original Pali in an earlier translated work. I decided to retain Dhamma and Tathagata, which are generally held to elude satisfactory rendering into English. But the occurrence of the word naga in v.1240 became an exception to the rule. One meaning of naga is “bull elephant.” Naga is used as an epithet of the Buddha and his arahat disciples (see also v.1279), and I had first thought to translate v.1240 thus: “You are called an elephant, Fortunate One.…” However, in English, instead of suggesting the intended feelings of reverence and awe, on initial encounter this might well be taken in a pejorative sense (of ungainliness, clumsiness); hence I decided to leave it untranslated. In Th 691–704 various attributes of the Buddha are equated with parts of the elephant—feet, tusks, trunk, and so forth. The word naga is also used for the serpent (cobra) and a class of semi-divine beings, depicted in art as half-human and half-snake; perhaps it originally referred to certain indigenous tribal peoples who worshipped the cobra. A naga cult still exists in India today.
The subject matter of the poems is diverse. The first four poems show Vangisa articulating his inner struggle to overcome various failings and elementary obstacles: sensual thoughts, doubt, attachment, views, pride and conceit, ways of thinking not to be entertained by one who has gone forth into homelessness. Foremost among these failings is sensual desire, which arises through unguarded contact with desirable sights, sounds, etc. In the first poem these objects of desire are conceived as devices of Mara, the Evil One, to overpower the mind and prevent progress upon the path. The fourth poem shows how arisen sensual desires can be extinguished and dispelled by appropriate attitudes and meditation practices. In this latter poem it may be questioned whether it is actually the Venerable Ananda who is here addressed as “Gotama” or the Buddha himself. However, there is no problem if we understand that Vangisa’s query is being answered by the Buddha, whose word was memorised and transmitted through his disciple Ananda.
The fifth poem is unique in being a verse summary of a sermon by the Buddha on truth as the “well-spoken word.” This poem is also to be found in the Suttanipata (Sn 451–54), and the fact that the three versions hardly differ may indicate that it enjoyed wide popularity. The sixth is the first of three sketches of the Buddha’s disciples. Here it is Sariputta; the others are Kondañña (No. X) and Mahamoggallana (No. XI). This poem gives a rare glimpse of Sariputta as a skilled teacher and speaker able to captivate the monks with his pleasant voice.
“All are the Fortunate One’s sons …” (v.1237): that the Buddha’s arahat disciples are regarded as his “sons” is a recurrent idea in the Theragatha and elsewhere. In the Itivuttaka the Buddha says: “Monks, … you are my own legitimate sons, born from my mouth, born of Dhamma, fashioned by Dhamma, heirs of Dhamma, not heirs of material things” (It 100). In v.1248 Vangisa calls the Elder Kondañña “the Awakened One’s heir” and Nigrodhakappa in v.1279 “a true son of the naga” (i.e. of the Buddha). The idea is extended in Th 536, where Kaludayin actually addresses Suddhodana, the Buddha’s natural father, as his grandfather! It is the tradition that the Buddha had a son named Rahula who became a monk. But the Venerable Rahula found in the Sutta Pitaka, when called the Buddha’s son, has no special claim to that position over and above that of any other disciple. In the suttas Rahula is portrayed as the ideal novice monk, eager for instruction in the Teaching.
Poems VIII and IX extol the Buddha and his Teaching and in v.1241 the poet actually refers to himself by name. No. XII consists of just a single verse praising the Buddha. No. XIII is Vangisa’s declaration of añña, the attainment of final knowledge or arahatship. Up to this point the differences between the versions of the poems in the Theragatha and the Vangisa-samyutta have been quite minor. But the verses of this poem are so different from those of the Vangisa Sutta in the Samyutta Nikaya that it should be regarded as a separate poem. It is therefore inserted here as Poem XIV for the sake of completeness and for purposes of comparison. Although the subject matter of both poems is the same, the Samyutta version is half the length of the other, with only five stanzas, in contrast to the ten of the Theragatha version. Circumstantial evidence suggests the shorter poem was the original, which was later expanded, either by Vangisa himself or someone else, to create the longer poem.
The Vangisa Sutta concludes the Samyutta collection and is in keeping with what has gone before, in as much as none of the poems exceed five stanzas in length. Also the Vangisa-samyutta is found in the first and probably the most ancient division of the Samyutta Nikaya, the Sagathavagga. In contrast, the longer poem comes almost at the end of the Theragatha and is followed by yet one more, the final and inordinately long Nigrodhakappa poem of seventeen stanzas, which concludes this entire collection. It is known that the Theragatha grew over a long period of time and received additional material even up to the time of Emperor Asoka. It is therefore more than likely that these final two poems came into existence after the Samyutta anthology was finalised.
How the longer poem was constructed from the shorter is best seen by analysing each of the Pali gatha (stanzas) into their constituent four pada (metrical units). Thus the first three stanzas of the shorter poem were expanded to five by the insertion of extra pada. All the original pada were retained, but not in the same order. Stanzas six and seven of the longer poem, referring to the Four Noble Truths, have nothing corresponding to them in the shorter poem and are therefore new material. Three pada from the last two stanzas of the shorter poem were discarded (fourth stanza, pada 3; fifth stanza, pada 1 and 2), but the rest utilised to make the final three stanzas of the longer poem.
The final poem in this anthology (No. XV), as already indicated, is missing from the Samyutta collection. However, a corresponding version is found at Sn 343–58, called there variously the Vangisa Sutta, Kappa Sutta, or Nigrodhakappa Sutta. Apart from its much greater length, this poem differs from the preceding poems in a number of other ways. The fact that it directly addresses the Buddha and is in a more ornate, even extravagant style sets it apart from the simpler, unvarnished verse of the earlier poems. Expressions such as that in v.1266 referring to “the thousand-eyed Sakka,” are characteristic of a late period of Pali composition. And indeed, the comparison of the Buddha’s voice to the honking of a goose (v.1270) is a device suggestive of the highly ornate poetry of a much later age. That the elder is variously called Nigrodhakappa, Kappa, Kappiya, Kappayana, is, of course, to conform to the requirements of the metre.
Although the Nigrodhakappa poem is ostensibly a request to the Buddha for information about the attainment of the deceased elder, Vangisa’s teacher, the manner and persistence of the “urge to speak Dhamma” and other such expressions point to a deeper meaning. An underlying idea is that the Buddha alone, when proclaiming the Dhamma, is capable of producing a profound effect upon his hearers (the literal meaning of savaka). He is able to establish them on the noble path of the sotapanna, etc., at least those who are ready to receive it, by the Dhamma-words issuing forth through his speech and apparently without any prior practice on the part of the recipients. This is a special gift exercised by the Buddha alone and not by his disciples. Although this idea is not taken up to any extent by the Theravada, which stresses the human side of the Buddha, it was a factor affecting other Indian schools of Buddhism and the so-called Mahayana, which tended to emphasise the Buddha’s transcendental nature.
Both the Theragatha and the first volume of the Samyutta Nikaya, where these verses are found, were first translated by Mrs. Rhys Davids under the respective titles Psalms of the Brethren (PTS 1913) and Kindred Sayings I (PTS 1917). The Theragatha was re-translated more recently by K.R. Norman as Elders’ Verses I (PTS 1969). The present translator has relied heavily upon Norman’s erudite translation and his copious notes to the original Pali text.
As a new monk, recently gone forth, lustful passion was aroused in the Venerable Vangisa when he saw a number of women adorned in all their finery who had come to visit the monastery. He dispelled this lust, recording the experience in these verses:
nikkhantam vata mam santam agarasmanagariyam
vitakka upadhavanti pagabbha kanhato ime.
1209. Alas! Now that I have departed from home to the homeless state, these reckless thoughts from the Dark One  come upon me.
uggaputta mahissasa sikkhita dalhadhammino
samanta parikireyyum sahassam apalayinam.
1210. Mighty warriors, great archers, trained, steady bowmen, one thousand fearless men, might surround me on all sides.
1211. Even if more women than these will come,  they will not cause me to waver, for I am firmly established in the teaching.
sakkhim  hi me sutam etam buddhassadiccabandhuno
nibbanagamanam maggam tattha me nirato mano.
1212. In his presence I heard from the Awakened One, the Kinsman of the Sun, of this path leading to nibbana; it is there that my mind is attached.
1213. Evil One, while I am living thus, if you assail me, so shall I act, O Death, that you will not see my path.
While staying at Alavi the Venerable Vangisa’s teacher, the Elder Nigrodhakappa, after returning from the alms round, remained in seclusion for long periods. On one occasion, when discontent arose in the mind of the Venerable Vangisa and his mind was tormented by lust, he composed these verses to reprove himself and to dispel the conflicting emotions that harassed him:
aratim ratiñ ca pahaya sabbaso gehasitañ ca vitakkam
vanatham na kareyya kuhiñci nibbanathavanatho sa hi bhikkhu. 
1214. Entirely giving up disliking and liking, and the thinking associated with the life of a householder, one should not have craving for anything. He indeed is a monk who is wholly without craving.
yam idha pathaviñ ca vehasam rupagatam jagatogadham kiñci
parijiyyati sabbam aniccam evam samecca caranti mutatta. 
upadhisu jana gadhitase ditthasute patighe ca mute ca
ettha vinodaya chandam anejo yo h’ettha na lippati tam munim ahu. 
1216. Regarding objects of attachment, people are greedy for what is to be seen and heard and touched and otherwise experienced.  Being unmoved, dispel desire for them, for they call him a sage who does not cling to them.
1217. Then, caught in the sixty,  full of (speculative) thoughts, because of being outsiders,  they are established in wrong teaching. But one who is a monk would not take up a sectarian viewpoint, much less seize upon what is bad.
dabbo cirarattasamahito akuhako nipako apihalu
santam padam ajjhagama muni paticcaparinibbuto kankhati kalam.
1218. Intelligent, for a long time composed (of mind), not deceitful, wise, not envious, the sage has experienced the peaceful state, depending on which, attained to quenching, he awaits his time. 
On another occasion, full of conceit because of his gift for composing extemporaneous verse, the Venerable Vangisa caught himself despising the other monks who were not so gifted. Repenting these thoughts, he composed the following poem:
manam pajahassu Gotama manapathañ ca jahassu asesam
manapathasmim samucchito vippatisar’ahuva cirarattam. 
1219. Abandon conceit, Gotama,  get rid of the way of conceit completely. Because of being infatuated by the way of conceit, for a long time you have been remorseful.
makkhena makkhita paja manahata nirayam <pa>patanti 
socanti jana cirarattam manahata nirayam upapanna.
1220. Soiled by contempt (for others), destroyed by conceit, people fall into hell. Persons destroyed by conceit grieve for a long time upon being reborn in hell.
na hi socati bhikkhu kadaci maggajino sammapatipanno
kittiñ ca sukhañ c’anubhoti dhammadaso’ti tam ahu tathattam.
1221. A monk never grieves who is a knower of the path,  one who has practised it properly. He experiences fame and happiness; truthfully they call him “a seer of Dhamma.”
tasma akhilo’dha padhanava  nivaranani pahaya visuddho
manañ ca pahaya asesam vijjay’antakaro samitavi.
1222. Therefore be without barrenness  here ( in this world), energetic, purified by abandoning the hindrances. Having completely abandoned conceit, be an ender (of suffering) through knowledge and become one who dwells at peace.
Once, soon after his ordination, Vangisa accompanied the Venerable Ananda on a visit to the house of one of the king’s ministers. A number of women of the household came and paid reverence to the elder, asked questions, and listened to his preaching. But at the sight of these women sensual desire was aroused in Venerable Vangisa, which he immediately confessed to the Venerable Ananda. He recorded the incident in this poem: 
kamaragena dayhami cittam me paridayhati
sadhu nibbapanam bruhi anukampaya Gotama.
1223. “I burn with sensual desire, my mind is enflamed (with passion). Out of pity please tell me, Gotama,  the effective extinguishing of it.”
saññaya vipariyesa cittan te paridayhati
nimittam parivajjehi subham ragupasamhitam. (A)
1224. “Your mind is enflamed because of distorted perception. Shun the aspect of beauty associated with passion. (A)
sankhare parato passa dukkhato ma ca attato
nibbapehi maharagam ma dayhittha punappunam. (B)
asubhaya cittam bhavehi ekaggam susamahitam
sati kayagata ty atthu nibbidabahulo bhava.
1225. “Devote the mind, one-pointed and well-composed, to the contemplation of foulness.  Let mindfulness be directed towards the body and be full of disenchantment for it.
animittañ ca bhavehi mananusayam ujjaha
tato manabhisamaya upasanto carissasi.
1226. “Contemplate the signless  and cast out the underlying tendency to conceit. Then by the penetration of conceit you will go about at peace.”
These verses came to the Venerable Vangisa while he was listening to a talk delivered by the Buddha on the “well-spoken word.” Having received permission from the Teacher, he then recited this poem in his presence: 
tam eva vacam bhaseyya yay’attanam na tapaye
pare ca na vihimseyya sa ve vaca subhasita.
1227. One should speak only that word by which one would not torment oneself nor harm others. That word is indeed well spoken.
piyavacam eva bhaseyya ya vaca patinandita
yam anadaya papani paresam bhasate piyam.
1228. One should speak only pleasant words, words which are acceptable (to others). What one speaks without bringing evils to others is pleasant.
saccam ve amata vaca esa dhammo sanantano
sacce atthe ca dhamme ca ahu santo patitthita.
1229. Truth is indeed the undying word; this is an ancient verity. Upon truth, the good say, the goal and the teaching are founded. 
yam buddho bhasati  vacam khemam nibbanapattiya
dukkhass’antakiriyaya sa ve vacanam uttama.
1230. The sure word the Awakened One speaks for the attainment of nibbana, for making an end of suffering, is truly the best of words.
Verses spoken in praise of the Venerable Sariputta:
gambhirapañño medhavi maggamaggassa kovido
Sariputto mahapañño dhammam deseti bhikkhunam.
1231. Of profound wisdom, intelligent, skilled in knowledge of the right and wrong path, Sariputta of great wisdom teaches Dhamma to the monks.
samkhittena pi deseti vittharena pi bhasati
salikayeva nigghoso patibhanam udiyyati. 
1232. He teaches in brief, he speaks with detailed explanation, his voice is (pleasing) like that of the mynah bird; he demonstrates readiness of speech. 
tassa tam desayantassa sunanta madhuram giram
sarena rajaniyena savaniyena vagguna
udaggacitta mudita sotam odhenti bhikkhavo.
1233. Listening to his sweet utterance  while he is teaching with a voice that is captivating, pleasing, and lovely, the monks give ear, with minds elated and joyful.
Verses spoken in praise of the Buddha on an occasion of the Invitation Ceremony: 
ajja pannarase visuddhiya bhikkhu pañcasata samagata
samyojanabandhanacchida anigha khinapunabbhava isi.
1234. Today on the fifteenth (of the fortnight)  five hundred monks have gathered for the Dceremony of purification, cutters of fetters and bonds, untroubled, seers finished with renewed existence.
cakkavatti yatha raja amaccaparivarito
samanta anupariyeti sagarantam mahim imam
evam vijitasamgamam satthavaham anuttaram
savaka payirupasanti tevijja maccuhayino.
1235–36. As a wheel-turning monarch, surrounded by his ministers, tours all around this ocean-girt earth, so do the disciples with the threefold knowledge, who have left death behind, attend upon the victor in battle, the unsurpassed caravan leader.
sabbe bhagavato putta palap’etthai  na vijjati
tanhasallassa hantaram vande adiccabandhunam.
1237. All are the Fortunate One’s sons; there is no chaff found here. I pay homage to the destroyer of the dart of craving, the Kinsman of the Sun.
A poem composed on the occasion of a Dhamma-talk concerning nibbana, delivered by the Buddha to a large company of monks:
parosahassam bhikkhunam sugatam payirupasati
desentam virajam dhammam nibbanam akutobhayam.
1238. More than a thousand monks attend upon the Happy One as he is teaching the stainless Dhamma concerning nibbana, where no fear can come from any quarter.
sunanti dhammam vimalam  sammasambuddhadesitam
sobhati vata sambuddho bhikkhusanghapurakkhato.
1239. They hear the taintless Dhamma taught by the Fully Awakened One. The Awakened One is truly resplendent as he is revered by the community of monks.
naganamo’si bhagava isinam isisattamo
mahamegho va hutvana savake abhivassasi.
divavihara nikkhamma satthudassanakamyata
savako te mahavira pade vandati Vangiso.
1241. Leaving his daytime abode, wishing to see the Teacher, your disciple Vangisa pays homage at your feet, Great Hero.
Further verses composed by the Venerable Vangisa when the Buddha, after hearing the previous poem, invited him to speak more extemporaneous verses: 
ummaggapatham Marassa abhibhuyya carati pabhijja khilani
tam passatha bandhanamuñcam  asitam va bhagaso pavibhajja.
1242. Overcoming the devious ways and range of Mara, he walks (free), having broken up the things that make for barrenness of mind.  See him producing release from bonds, unattached, separating (the Teaching) into its constituent parts. 
oghassa hi nittharanattham anekavihitam <su->maggam akkhasi 
tasmiñ ca amate akkhate dhammadasa thita asamhira.
1243. He has shown the path in a variety of ways with the aim of guiding us across the flood. Since the undying has been shown (to them), the Dhamma-seers (are those who) stand immovable.
pajjotakaro ativijjha sabbatthitinam atikkamam adda
ñatva ca sacchikatva ca aggam so desayi das’addhanam. 
evam sudesite dhamme ko pamado vijanatam dhammam
tasma <ti ha>  tassa bhagavato sasane appamatto sada namassam anusikkhe.
1245. When the Dhamma has been thus well taught, what indolence could there be in those who know the Dhamma? Therefore, vigilant and ever revering, one should follow the training in the Fortunate One’s dispensation.
Verses composed on an occasion when the Elder Aññata Kondañña came to pay his respects to the Teacher:
buddhanubuddho yo thero Kondañño tibbanikkamo
labhi sukhaviharanam vivekanam abhinhaso.
yam savakena pattabbam satthusasanakarina
sabb’assa tam anuppattam appamattassa sikkhato.
1247. Whatever is to be attained by a disciple who does the instruction of the Teacher, all that has been attained by him, vigilant and disciplined.
mahanubhavo tevijjo cetopariyakovido 
Kondañño buddhadayado pade vandati satthuno.
1248. Having great power and the threefold knowledge, skilled in knowing the thoughts of others, Kondañña, the Awakened One’s heir, pays homage at the Teacher’s feet.
Verses in praise of the Elder Mahamoggallana:
nagassa  passe asinam munim dukkhassa paragum
savaka pariyupasanti tevijja maccuhayino.
1249. Disciples, possessors of the threefold knowledge who have left death behind, attend upon the sage seated on the mountain side, who has gone to the far shore beyond suffering.
cetasa anupariyeti Moggallano mahiddhiko
cittam nesam samanvesam vippamuttam nirupadhim.
1250. Moggallana, of great supernormal powers, encompasses (their minds) with his mind, seeking their minds, completely freed, without attachments. 
evam sabbangasampannam munim dukkhassa paragum
anekakarasampannam payirupasanti Gotamam.
1251. Thus do they attend upon Gotama endowed with so many virtuous qualities, the sage possessed of all the attributes and gone to the far shore beyond suffering.
Once when the Buddha was seated by the Gaggara Lotus-pond near the town of Campa, surrounded by a large assembly, the Venerable Vangisa composed this verse in his praise:
cando yatha vigatavalahake nabhe virocati vitamalo va bhanuma
evam pi Angirasa tvam mahamuni atirocasi yasasa sabbalokam.
1252. As the moon shines in the sky free from clouds, as also the spotless sun, even so, Resplendent One, Great Sage, do you outshine the whole world with your fame.
This, the Venerable Vangisa’s “autobiographical” poem, was composed shortly after he attained arahatship:
kaveyyamatta vicarimha  pubbe gama gamam pura puram
ath’ addasama sambuddham sabbadhammana paragum.
1253. Intoxicated with skill in the poetic art, formerly we wandered from village to village, from town to town. Then we saw the Awakened One gone to the far shore beyond all (worldly conditioned) phenomena.
so me dhammam adesesi muni dukkhassa paragu
dhammam sutva pasidimha saddha no udapajjatha.
1254. The sage gone to the far shore beyond suffering taught me the Dhamma. On hearing the Dhamma we gained confidence in him; faith arose in us.
tassaham vacanam sutva khandhe ayatanani ca
dhatuyo ca viditvana pabbajim anagariyam.
1255. Having heard his word and learnt of the aggregates, bases, and elements, I went forth into homelessness.
bahunam vata atthaya uppajjanti tathagata
itthinam purisanañ ca ye te sasanakaraka.
1256. Indeed Tathagatas appear for the good of the many men and women who practise their teaching.
tesam kho vata atthaya bodhim ajjhagama muni
bhikkhunam bhikkhuninañ ca ye niyamagataddasa.
1257. Indeed the sage attained enlightenment for the good of those monks and nuns who see the course to be undergone. 
sudesita cakkhumata buddhenadiccabandhuna
cattari ariyasaccani anukampaya paninam.
1258. Well taught are the Four Noble Truths by the Seeing One, the Awakened One, the Kinsman of the Sun, out of compassion for living beings.
dukkham dukkhasamuppadam dukkhassa ca atikkamam
ariyañ c’atthangikam  maggam dukkhupasamagaminam.
1259. Suffering, the origin of suffering, the overcoming of suffering, and the noble eightfold path leading to the allaying of suffering.
evam ete tatha vutta dittha me te yathatatha
sadattho me anuppatto katam buddhassa sasanam.
1260. Thus these things, thus spoken of, have been seen by me as they really are. The true goal has been reached by me; the Awakened One’s instruction has been done.
svagatam vata me asi mama buddhassa santike
samvibhattesu dhammesu yam settham tad upagamim.
1261. It was good indeed for me, my coming into the presence of the Awakened One. Among things shared out I obtained the best.
tevijjo iddhippatto’mhi cetopariyakovido.
1262. I have attained the perfection of the direct knowledges, I have purified the element of hearing, I have the threefold knowledge and obtained supernormal powers and am skilled in knowing the minds of others.
The shorter version of the previous poem (at S I 196):
kaveyyamatta vicarimha pubbe gama gamam pura puram
ath’ addasama sambuddham saddha no udapajjatha.
1. Intoxicated with skill in the poetic art, formerly we wandered from village to village, from town to town. Then we saw the Awakened One and faith arose in us.
so me dhammam adesesi khandhe ayatanani dhatuyo ca
tassaham dhammam sutvana pabbajim anagariyam.
2. He taught me the Dhamma concerning the aggregates, bases, and elements. Having heard his Dhamma, I went forth into homelessness.
bahunnam vata atthaya bodhim ajjhagama muni
bhikkhunam bhikkhuninañ ca ye niyamagataddasa.
3. Indeed the sage attained enlightenment for the good of the many monks and nuns who see the course to be undergone.
svagatam vata me asi mama buddhassa santike
tisso vijja anuppatta katam buddhassa sasanam.
4. It was good indeed for me, my coming into the presence of the Awakened One. The three knowledges have been attained; the Awakened One’s instruction has been done.
pubbenivasam janami dibbacakkhum visodhitam
tevijjo iddhippatto’mhi cetopariyayakovido.
5. I know my former abodes, (I possess) the purified divine eye, I have the threefold knowledge and obtained supernormal powers and am skilled in knowing the minds of others.
In this, the longest of the poems, the Venerable Vangisa asks the Buddha whether his deceased preceptor, the Elder Nigrodhakappa, had attained final nibbana. This provides an opportunity for Vangisa to sing the praises of the Buddha himself:
pucchami sattharam anomapaññam
ditth’eva dhamme yo vicikicchanam chetta
Aggalave kalam akasi bhikkhu
ñato yasassi abhinibbutatto.
1263. “I ask the teacher of superior wisdom, one who in this very life is the cutter-off of doubts: The monk, well known and famous, who has died at Aggalava, was he completely quenched in mind?
Nigrodhakappo iti tassa namam
taya katam bhagava brahmanassa
so tam namassam acari mutyapekho
1264. “Nigrodhakappa was the name given to that brahmin by you, Fortunate One. Looking for release, strenuously energetic, he went about revering you, O seer of the secure state (i.e. Nibbana).
tam savakam Sakka mayam pi sabbe
aññatum icchama samantacakkhu
samavatthita no savanaya sota 
tuvam nu sattha tvam anuttaro’si.
1265. “Sakka, All-seeing One, we all wish to know concerning that disciple. Our ears are ready to hear. You are the teacher, you are unsurpassed.
chind’eva no vicikiccham bruhi m’etam
parinibbutam vedaya bhuripañña
majjh’eva no bhasa samantacakkhu
Sakko va devana sahassanetto.
1266. “Sever our doubt. Tell me this, you of extensive wisdom, that he experienced quenching. Speak in our very midst, All-seeing One, like the thousand-eyed Sakka in the midst of the gods.
ye keci gantha  idha mohamagga
tathagatam patva na te bhavanti
cakkhum hi etam paramam naranam.
1267. “Whatever bonds exist here (in the world), ways of delusion, on the side of ignorance, bases for doubt, they no longer exist on reaching the Tathagata, for that vision of his is supreme among men.
no ce hi jatu puriso kilese
vato yatha abbhaghanam vihane
tamo’v’assa nivuto sabbaloko
na jotimanto pi nara tapeyyum. 
1268. “If no man were ever to disperse the defilements as the wind disperses a mass of clouds, the whole world, enveloped, would surely be darkness, and even illustrious men would not shine forth.
dhira ca pajjotakara bhavanti
tam tam aham dhira tath’eva maññe
vipassinam janam upagamimha
parisasu  no avikarohi Kappam.
1269. “But the wise are light-makers. O Wise One, I think you are just such a one. We have come upon him who knows and is gifted with insight. Make evident to us, within the companies (of disciples), the fate of Kappa.
khippam giram eraya vaggu vaggum
hamso va paggayha sanikam nikuja 
sabb’eva te ujjugata sunoma.
1270. “Quickly enunciate your beautiful utterance, O beautiful one! Like a goose stretching forth (its neck), honk gently with your melodious and well-modulated voice; we are all listening to you attentively.
niggayha dhonam vadessami dhammam
na kamakaro hi puthujjananam
1271. “Pressing the one who has completely abandoned birth and death, I shall urge the purified one to speak Dhamma. For among outsiders there is no acting as they wish, but among Tathagatas there is acting with discretion. 
samujjupaññassa  samuggahitam
ayam añjali pacchimo suppanamito
ma mohayi janam anomapañña.
1272. “This full explanation of yours, (coming from) one with upright wisdom, is well learnt. This last salutation is proffered. You of superior wisdom, knowing (Kappa’s fate), do not keep us in ignorance.
parovaram  ariyadhammam viditva
ma mohayi janam anomaviriya
varim yatha ghammanighammatatto
vacabhikankhami sutam pavassa.
1273. “Having known the noble Dhamma in its full extent, you of superior energy, knowing (Kappa’s fate), do not keep us in ignorance. I long for your word as one overcome by heat in the hot season longs for water. Rain down on our ears. 
yadatthiyam brahmacariyam acari
Kappayano kacci ’ssa tam amogham
nibbayi so adu saupadiseso
yatha vimutto ahu tam sunoma.
1274. “Surely the purpose for which Kappayana practised the holy life was not in vain. Was he quenched or had he a residue remaining?  Let us hear in what way he was released.”
acchecchi tanham idha namarupe
tanhaya sotam digharattanusayitam
atari jatimaranam asesam
icc abravi bhagava pañcasettho.
1275. “He cut off craving here for mind-and-materiality”, said the Fortunate One, “the stream of craving which for a long time had lain latent within him. He has crossed beyond birth and death completely.” So spoke the Fortunate One, the foremost of the five. 
esa sutva pasidami vaco te isisattama
amogham kira me puttham na mam vañcesi brahmano.
1276. “On hearing your word, O best of seers, I believe. My question was truly not in vain; the brahmin did not deceive me.
yathavadi tathakari ahu buddhassa savako
acchecchi Maccuno jalam tatam mayavino dalham.
1277. “As he spoke, so he acted. He was a disciple of the Awakened One. He cut through the strong, spread-out net of Death the deceiver.
addasa bhagava adim upadanassa Kappiyo
accaga vata Kappayano maccudheyyam suduttaram.
1278. “Kappiya saw the starting point of grasping, O Fortunate One. Kappayana has certainly gone beyond the realm of Death, so difficult to cross.
tam devadevam vandami puttam te dvipaduttama
anujatam mahaviram nagam nagassa orasam.
The Theragatha, with the Vangisa-samyutta and the Suttanipata, does not exhaust the verses ascribed to the Venerable Vangisa. Another pair of verses is attributed to him in the post-canonical Milindapañha, “The Questions of King Milinda” (p.390):
Yatha pi suriyo udayanto rupam dasseti paninam
suciñ ca asuciñ capi kalyanañ capi papakam
tatha bhikkhu dhammadharo avijjapihitam janam
patham dasseti vividham adicco v’udayam yatha ti.
Just as the sun rising in the sky shows shapes to creatures,
What is pure and what is impure, what is good and bad,
So the monk knowing Dhamma shows the path in various ways
To people cloaked in ignorance, as does the rising sun.
This work also contains verses ascribed to other elders, such as Sariputta and Anuruddha, that are not to be found elsewhere. The Milindapañha records a dialogue between the Elder Nagasena and King Milinda, the Indic form of the Greek name Menander. He is identified with a Greco-Bactrian king of the 2nd century B.C. who exercised rule in Northwest India. The work was probably composed originally in Prakrit or Sanskrit—even Greek has been suggested—and was subsequently translated into Pali. It is therefore possible that these verses came from the Tipitaka of another Buddhist school, possibly the Sarvastivada.
There are also some verses extolling the virtues of the Buddha attributed to Vangisa (or Vagisa) in the Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit work the Mahavastu, which formed part of the Vinaya of the Lokuttaravadin school.  Among these is the following (p.130):
As the glorious sun shines in the sky, and the full moon when the sky is clear, so dost thou, O Man, firm in concentration, shine forth like burnished gold.
This is reminiscent of Th 1252. Then we find (p.131):
Since through thine own understanding, thou has apprehended the truth and knowledge unheard of before, O Foremost Man, who shinest like thousand-eyed Maghavan,  pray give utterance to it.
This may be compared with Th 1266. In the Mahavastu itself the words, “pray give utterance to it,” have no obvious connection with what has gone before or what follows, but they do have a significance in the Theragatha context, where the poet questions the Buddha about the fate of Nigrodhakappa.
Another reference to Vangisa is found in the Mahavastu when the Buddha addresses him thus, “Let there come to your mind, Vagisa, the recollection of a former association of yours with the Tathagata.” Vagisa then proceeds to tell in verse a story of a former life when the bodhisattva or Buddha-to-be, as a wise brahmin, was his teacher (pp.222f.).
The Vimanavatthu of the Khuddaka Nikaya is a collection of 83 stories in verse describing the vimana—a kind of personal heavenly mansion—inhabited by beings reborn as gods or goddesses (devata) as a reward for meritorious deeds performed by them as human beings. All the stories follow a similar pattern. They begin with an introductory verse (or verses) in which the god or goddess is asked about the cause for his or her rebirth with that particular mansion. The deva thereupon relates his or her previous good deeds.
Usually the Venerable Mahamoggallana is the questioner, but occasionally another elder plays this role. Generally, it is only in the commentary that the questioner is named and the background supplied; otherwise the verses are anonymous. In four stories Vangisa is identified as the interlocutor: No. 16 (Sirimavimana), No. 35 (Sesavativimana), No. 41 (Nagavimana), and No. 61 (another Nagavimana). In No. 37 (Visalakkhivimana) it is Sakka the ruler of the gods who questions the goddess. However, at the conclusion the commentary states that Sakka related it to Vangisa, who in turn told it to the compilers of the Canon.
We cannot be certain whether the ascription of these verses to Vangisa is authentic. There is nothing notable in the verses of the two Naga mansion stories that can link them to the poet. If Vangisa did recite the verses of No. 37, although allegedly receiving them from Sakka, could they be regarded as his own composition? The introductory verses of Sesavati are, interestingly enough, unique in the Vimanavatthu as constituting a seven-verse descriptive poem in its own right. There is none other comparable to it in length, and as it is ascribed to Vangisa, a translation of it is appended here. However, it is the Sirima poem that is the most interesting of all the mansion stories, for it has a doctrinal content lacking elsewhere in the work. In it Sirima describes how she became a disciple of the Buddha and a sotapanna, one who has entered the stream leading to final emancipation. A translation of it is therefore presented as possibly a poetical work of Vangisa.
“I see this delightful and beautiful mansion, its surface of many a colour, ablaze with crystal and roofed with silver and gold. A well-proportioned palace, possessing gateways, and strewn with golden sand.
As the thousand-rayed sun in the autumn shines in the sky in the ten directions, dispelling the dark, so does this your mansion glow, like a blazing smoke-crested fire in the darkness of the night.
It dazzles the eye like lightning, beautiful, suspended in space. Resounding with the music of lute, drum, and cymbals, this mansion of yours rivals Indra’s city in glory.
White and red and blue lotuses, jasmine, and other flowers are there; blossoming sal trees and flowering asokas, and the air is filled with a variety of fragrances.
Sweet-scented trees, breadfruits, laden branches interlaced, with palm trees and hanging creepers in full bloom, glorious like jewelled nets; also a delightful lotus pool exists for you.
Whatever flowering plants there are that grow in water, and trees that are on land, those known in the human world and heavens, all exist in your abode.
Of what calming and self-restraint is this the result? By the fruit of what deed have you arisen here? How did this mansion come to be possessed by you? Tell it in full, O lady with thick eyelashes.”
“How it come to be possessed by me, this mansion with its flocks of herons, peacocks, and partridges; and frequented by heavenly water-fowl and royal geese; resounding with the cries of birds, of ducks and cuckoos;
containing divers varieties of creepers, flowers and trees; with trumpet-flower, rose-apple, and asoka trees—now how this mansion came to be possessed by me, I will tell you. Listen, venerable sir.
In the eastern region of the excellent country of Magadha there is a village called Nalaka, venerable sir. There I lived formerly as a daughter-in-law and they knew me there as Sesavati.
Scattering flower-blossoms joyfully I honoured him skilled in deeds and worshipped by gods and men, the great Upatissa  who has attained the immeasurable quenching.
Having worshipped him gone to the ultimate bourn, the eminent seer bearing his last body, on leaving my human shape I came to (the heaven of) the thirty (-three) and inhabit this place.”
“Your yoked and finely caparisoned horses, strong and swift, are heading downward through the sky. And these five hundred chariots, magically created, are following, the horses urged on by charioteers.
You stand in this excellent chariot, adorned, radiant and shining, like a blazing star. I ask you of lovely slender form and exquisite beauty, from which company of gods have you come to visit the Unrivalled One?”
“From those who have reached the heights of sensual pleasures, said to be unsurpassed; the gods who delight in magical transformation and creation. A nymph from that company able to assume any desired appearance has come here to worship the Unrivalled One.”
“What good conduct did you formerly practise here? How is it that you live in immeasurable glory and have gained such pleasures? Due to what have you acquired the unrivalled power to travel through the sky? Why does your beauty radiate in the ten directions?
You are surrounded and honoured by the gods. From where did you decease before you came to a heavenly bourn, goddess? Or of what teaching were you able to follow the word of instruction? Tell me if you were a disciple of the Awakened One.”
“In a fine well-built city situated between hills, an attendant of a noble king endowed with good fortune, I was highly accomplished in dancing and singing. As Sirima I was known in Rajagaha.
But then the Awakened One, the leader among seers, the guide, taught me of origination, of suffering and impermanence; of the unconditioned, of the cessation of suffering that is everlasting; and of this path, not crooked, straight, auspicious.
When I had learnt of the undying state (nibbana), the unconditioned, through the instruction of the Tathagata, the Unrivalled One, I was highly and well restrained in the precepts and established in the Dhamma taught by the most excellent of men, the Awakened One.
When I knew the undefiled place, the unconditioned, taught by the Tathagata, the Unrivalled One, I then and there experienced the calm concentration (of the noble path). That supreme certainty of release was mine.
When I gained the distinctive undying, assured, eminent in penetrative insight, not doubting, I was revered by many people and experienced much pleasure and enjoyment.
Thus I am a goddess, knowing the undying, a disciple of the Tathagata, the Unrivalled One; a knower of Dhamma established in the first fruit, a stream-enterer. Henceforth there is no bad bourn for me.
I came to revere the Unrivalled One and the virtuous monks who delight in what is skilled; to worship the auspicious assembly of ascetics and the respectworthy Fortunate One, the Dhamma-king.
I am joyful and gladdened on seeing the sage, the Tathagata, the outstanding trainer of men capable of being trained, who has cut off craving, who delights in what is skilled, the guide. I worship the supremely merciful Compassionate One.”