You also said this: ‘The world is wanting, insatiable, the slave of craving.’ How should I see the meaning of this statement?” “What do you think, great king? Do you dwell in the prosperous land of Kuru?” “Indeed I do.” “What do you think, great king? Suppose a trustworthy and reliable man were to come from the east. He’d approach you and say: ‘Please sir, you should know this. I come from the east. There I saw a large country that is successful and prosperous and full of people. They have many divisions of elephants, cavalry, chariots, and infantry. And there’s plenty of money and grain, plenty of gold coins and bullion, both worked and unworked, and plenty of women for the taking. With your current forces you can conquer it. Conquer it, great king!’ What would you do?” “I would conquer it and dwell there.”
“What do you think, great king? Suppose a trustworthy and reliable man were to come from the west, north, south, or from over the ocean. He’d approach you and say the same thing. What would you do?” “I would conquer it and dwell there.” “This is what the Buddha was referring to when he said: ‘The world is wanting, insatiable, the slave of craving.’ And it was after knowing and seeing and hearing this that I went forth from the lay life to homelessness.” “It’s incredible, Master Raṭṭhapāla, it’s amazing, how well said this was by the Buddha. For the world is indeed wanting, insatiable, the slave of craving.”
This is what Venerable Raṭṭhapāla said. Then he went on to say:
“I see rich people in the world who,
because of delusion, give not the wealth they’ve earned.
Greedily, they hoard their riches,
yearning for ever more sensual pleasures.
A king who conquered the earth by force,
ruling the land from sea to sea,
unsatisfied with the near shore of the ocean,
would still yearn for the further shore.
Not just the king, but others too,
reach death not rid of craving.
They leave the body still wanting,
for in this world sensual pleasures never satisfy.
Relatives lament, their hair disheveled,
saying ‘Ah! Alas! They’re not immortal!’
They take out the body wrapped in a shroud,
heap up a pyre, and burn it there.
It’s poked with stakes while being burnt,
in just a single cloth, all wealth gone.
Relatives, friends, and companions
can’t help you when you’re dying.
Heirs take your riches,
while beings fare on according to their deeds.
Riches don’t follow you when you die;
nor do children, wife, wealth, nor kingdom.
Longevity isn’t gained by riches,
nor does wealth banish old age;
for the wise say this life is short,
it’s perishable and not eternal.
The rich and the poor feel its touch;
the fool and the wise feel it too.
But the fool lies stricken by their own folly,
while the wise don’t tremble at the touch.
Therefore wisdom’s much better than wealth,
since by wisdom you reach consummation in this life.
But if because of delusion you don’t reach consummation,
you’ll do evil deeds in life after life.
One who enters a womb and the world beyond,
will transmigrate from one life to the next.
While someone of little wisdom, placing faith in them,
also enters a womb and the world beyond.
As a bandit caught in the door
is punished for his own bad deeds;
so after departing, in the world beyond,
people are punished for their own bad deeds.
Sensual pleasures are diverse, sweet, delightful;
appearing in disguise they disturb the mind.
Seeing danger in the many kinds of sensual stimulation,
I went forth, O King.
As fruit falls from a tree, so people fall,
young and old, when the body breaks up.
Seeing this, too, I went forth, O King;
the ascetic life is guaranteed to be better.”