While the Mangala Sutta deals with the way of life conducive to progress and happiness, the Parabhava Sutta supplements it by pointing out the causes of downfall. He who allows himself to become tarnished by these blemishes of conduct blocks his own road to worldly, moral and spiritual progress and lowers all that is truly noble and human in man. But he who is heedful of these dangers keeps open the road to all those thirty-eight blessings of which human nature is capable.
This Sutta depicts the dialogue between a deva (deity) and the Buddha in very clear and simple terms the causes of spiritual decline, leading to one’s personal downfall.
Thus have I heard: Once the Buddha was living near Sãvatthi in the Jeta Grove at Anäthapindika’s monastery. Then, one beautiful night, a certain deva, having illuminated the whole Jeta Grove with surpassing splendour, came to the Buddha and, making salutations, stood on one side and uttered these words:
I wish to ask you, Gotama, about a person who suffers downfall. I have approached you in order to inquire as to the causes of downfall. (91)
Easily known is the progressive one, easily known the one who declines. He who loves Dhamma progresses, he who hates it declines. (92)
Thus much do we see: this is the first cause of one’s downfall. Pray, tell us the second cause. 2 (93)
One who loves the company of the vicious finds no delight with the virtuous; he prefers the doctrine of the vicious this is a cause of one’s downfall. (94)
Being fond of sleep, talkative, lethargic, lazy and irritable – this is a cause of one’s downfall. (96)
He who being sufficiently affluent does not support his father and mother who are old and infirm — this is a cause of one’s downfall. (98)
He who deceives by falsehood a priest, monk or any other spiritual preceptor — this is the cause of one’s downfall. (100)
Having ample wealth, assets and property, enjoying them alone – this is a cause of one’s downfall. (102)
If a man is conceited through his birth, wealth or community and looks down on his own kith and kin – this is a cause of one’s downfall. (104)
To be a womaniser, a drunkard, a gambler, and to squander all one earns — this is a cause of one’s downfall. (106)
Not to be contented with one’s wife but to be seen with a prostitute or the wives of others — this is a cause of one’s downfall. (108)
Being past one’s youth, to take a young wife and to be unable to sleep for jealousy of her — this is a cause of one’s downfall. (110)
To place in authority a woman given to drink and squandering, or a man of like behaviour — this is a cause of one’s downfall. (112)
If a member of an influential family [or social or other group-ing], with vast ambition and of slender means, seeks power or control over others — this is a cause of one’s downfall. (114)
Reflecting thoroughly on those causes of downfall in the world, the wise one, endowed with insight, enjoys bliss in a happy state.
1. This sutta is placed in the Chapter of the Snake (Uragavagga, [Chapter 1]) of the Sutta Nipata. It is so called Chapter of the Snake because the first sutta in this section i.e. Uraga Sutta (or Discourse of the Snake’s Skin) refers to the monk who discards all human passions as being compared to a snake that casts its skin. A comparative study among the records of various early Buddhist schools suggests that the verses here were originally separate poems, spoken on separate occasions, and that they have been gathered together because they share the same refrain.
2. The questioning stanza by the deva – 95,97,99,101,103,105,107,109,111,113 have been omitted.
3. Numbers in brackett at the end of each stanza represents the order as published in the Pali version.