Dhammapada Commentary ( Dhammapada Atthakatha )
25 — Bhikkhu Vagga
Guard the Senses
1. Cakkhunā saṃvaro sādhu, sādhu sotena saṃvaro
Ghāṇena saṃvaro sādhu, sādhu jivhāya saṃvaro.360
2. Kāyena saṃvaro sādhu, sādhu vācāya saṃvaro
Manasā saṃvaro sādhu, sādhu sabbattha saṃvaro
Sabbattha saṃvuto bhikkhu, sabbadukkhā pamuccati.361
1. Good is restraint in the eye; good is restraint in the ear;
good is restraint in the nose; good is restraint in the tongue.
2. Good is restraint in deed; good is restraint in speech; good is restraint in
mind; good is restraint in everything. The monk, restrained at all points,
is freed from sorrow.
Five Sense-guarding Monks
Five monks, each of whom guarded one of the sense doors asked the Buddha
which was the most difficult to restrain. The Buddha said that they were all
difficult to restrain, and that not only now, but in the past too they had not been
able to restrain their senses. At their request he related a story from the past to
show that they had come to destruction because their senses were not guarded,
and then he uttered the above verses, on the conclusion of which the five monks
A Monk is Fully Controlled
3. Hatthasaṃyato pādasaṃyato,
eko santusito tam āhu bhikkhuṃ.362
3. He who is controlled in hand, in foot, in speech, and in the highest (i.e.,
the head); he who delights in meditation, and is composed; he who is
alone, and is contented — him they call a monk.
The Stone-throwing Monk
After bathing in the Aciravatī River, two monks stood on the bank drying off
in the sun’s rays, talking. One monk killed a flying goose by hitting it in the eye
with a stone. Other monks, standing nearby, seeing this, took the monk to the
Buddha. The Buddha, admonished him, saying that in times gone by wise men
were scrupulous about the slightest fault. Having said this, he related the
Kurudhamma Jātaka (Jā 276).
Sweet is His Speech Who Controls His Mouth
4. Yo mukhasaṃyato bhikkhu, mantabhāṇī anuddhato
Atthaṃ dhammañca dīpeti, madhuraṃ tassa bhāsitaṃ.363
4. The monk who controls his mouth, who speaks wisely, who is not puffed
up, who explains the Dhamma’s meaning, sweet is his speech.
The Buddha uttered this verse with reference to Kokālika who reviled the two
chief disciples, accusing them of having evil wishes.
1 When the monks were
talking about Kokālika, the Buddha came and asked them what they were talking
about. On being told, he related the Kacchapa Jātaka to show that not only in this
life, but in a previous life too, Kokālika had come to destruction due to not
controlling his tongue. At that time he had been a turtle in a lake that was drying
up. Two geese offered to carry him to another lake by holding a stick between
their beaks while he held on tightly with his mouth. He agreed to this, but on the
way some youths looked up and remarked at the sight of a turtle flying through
the sky between two geese. The turtle immediately retorted in reply to their
remarks, fell to the ground in the courtyard of the king of Benares, and was
reborn in hell. The Bodhisatta took the opportunity to preach to the garrulous
king on the dangers of being too talkative, and the king heeded his advice.
Who Delights in the Dhamma Does Not Fall
5. Dhammārāmo dhammarato, dhammaṃ anuvicintayaṃ
Dhammaṃ anussaraṃ bhikkhu, saddhammā na parihāyati.364
Kokālika Sutta, S.i.140, Sn vv 662-683. In the Suttanipāta he is called Cūḷa Kokālika to
distinguish him from Devadatta’s pupil, also called Kokālika.
Having approached the Buddha, Kokālika paid homage, and said that the Elders Sāriputta
and Moggallāna had evil desires. The Buddha advised him not to say … contd. on p.209
5. That monk who dwells in the Dhamma, who delights in the Dhamma,
who meditates on the Dhamma, who well remembers the Dhamma, does
not fall away from the sublime Dhamma.
The Elder Dhammārāma
The Elder Dhammārāma, hearing that the Buddha would attain parinibbāna
in four months’ time, refrained from associating with other monks and instead
meditated with the aim of attaining Arahantship. Thinking that he had no
affection for the Teacher, the monks reported his behaviour to the Buddha. When
the elder explained his reasons, the Buddha praised him, saying that those who
had affection for him should be like Dhammārāma, and honour him by practising
sincerely in accordance with the Dhamma. He uttered the above verse and the
Elder Dhammārāma attained Arahantship on conclusion of the verse.
6. Salābhaṃ nātimaññeyya, n’āññesaṃ pihayaṃ care
Aññesaṃ pihayaṃ bhikkhu, samādhiṃ n’ādhigacchati.365
7. Appalābho’pi ce bhikkhu, salābhaṃ n’ātimaññati
Taṃ ve devā pasaṃsanti, suddhājīviṃ atanditaṃ.366
6. Let him not despise what he has received, nor should he live envying
others. The monk who envies others does not attain concentration.
contd. from p.208 so, as they were well-behaved monks. Kokālika repeated his accusation
three times, then paid respects and left. Soon afterwards, boils erupted all over his body,
steadily growing to the size of quinces, when they burst. He died from this disease and
was reborn in the Lotus Hell. Brahmā Sahampati approached the Buddha during the night
and reported that Kokālika had died and had been reborn in the Lotus Hell, due to having
hardened his heart against the Elders Sāriputta and Moggallāna.
The following day, the Buddha told the monks about this, and a certain monk asked,
“How long is the lifespan in the Lotus Hell?” The Buddha replied that was not easy to
measure in terms of so many years, so many thousands of years, or hundreds of
thousands of years. The monk asked if it was possible to explain by a simile. The Buddha
replied that if there was a wagon-load of sesame seed, and if a man took away a single
seed every hundred years, that wagon-load of sesame would be used up before the life-
span of the Abudda hell. Twenty times that is the lifespan in the Nirabbuda hell … the
Ababa hell … Aṭaṭa hell … Ahaha hell … Kumuda hell … Sogandhika hell … Uppala hell
… Puṇḍarika hell, twenty times that is the lifespan in the Paduma (Lotus) hell.
7. Though he receives little, if a monk does not despise his gains, even the
gods praise such a one who is pure in livelihood and is not slothful.
The Monk Who Kept Bad Company
A certain monk, while on his almsround, met a friend who was a follower of
Devadatta. His friend told him that they received lavish offerings, and invited
him to stay at the monastery built for Devadatta by King Ajātasattu. He spent a
few days enjoying his friend’s hospitality. When he returned to the Veḷuvana
monastery the other monks reported the matter to the Buddha. The Buddha
called the monk and asked him about his behaviour. The monk replied that
though he had stayed there, he had not adopted Devadatta’s heretical views. The
Buddha admonished him that though he had not accepted heretical views, others
would think that he had, so he should not behave in that way. He should be
content with whatever alms he received. The Buddha added that this was not the
first time that monk had kept bad company, and related the Mahiḷāmukha
1 The Buddha uttered the above verses, and many attained Stream-
A Monk Has No Attachment
8. Sabbaso nāmarūpasmiṃ, yassa natthi mamāyitaṃ
Asatā ca na socati, sa ve “bhikkhū”ti vuccati.367
8. He who has no thought of “l” and “mine” whatever towards mind and
body, who does not grieve for what is not his, he is called a monk.
The Brahmin Who Gave the First Fruits
A Brahmin was in the habit of donating before he made use of anything
himself — at the time of harvesting, threshing, storing, cooking, and serving.
One day, he was sitting down for his meal with his back to the door, when the
Buddha arrived for alms. The Brahmin’s wife, not wishing to cook again, tried to
conceal the Buddha’s arrival from her husband. Going to the door she whispered
to the Buddha that there was nothing to give. The Buddha shook his head and
remained standing there. The woman laughed loudly, and the Brahmin looked
Jā.26. In a former life that monk was an elephant with a gentle face, but when robbers
slept in the stable, he became wild and killed his keepers. The Bodhisatta, who was the
king’s minister, investigated, and finding out the reason, arranged for good men to stay
in the stable for some time, until the elephant resumed his former gentle behaviour.
round to see what the reason was. Seeing the Buddha, he scolded his wife, and
donated the remainder of the food from his plate to the Buddha, apologising for
having consumed half already. The Buddha graciously accepted his offering,
saying that even the last spoonful would be suitable. The Brahmin was pleased,
and asked “Venerable sir, you call your disciples ‘monks’ — what is the meaning
of ‘monk’?” The Buddha uttered the above verse by way of explanation, and the
Brahmin and his wife attained the fruit of Non-returning.
A Monk Radiates Loving-Kindness
9. Mettāvihārī yo bhikkhu, pasanno Buddhasāsane
Adhigacche padaṃ santaṃ, saṅkhārūpasamaṃ sukhaṃ.368
10. Siñca bhikkhu imaṃ nāvaṃ, sittā te lahum essati
Chetvā rāgaṃ ca dosañca, tato nibbānam ehisi.369
11. Pañca chinde pañca jahe, pañca c’uttari bhāvaye
Pañca saṅgātigo bhikkhu, “oghatiṇṇo”ti vuccati.370
12. Jhāya bhikkhu mā1 pāmado,
mā te kāmaguṇe ramessu2 cittaṃ
Mā lohaguḷaṃ gilī pamatto,
mā kandi “dukkham idan”ti ḍayhamāno.371
13. Natthi jhānaṃ apaññassa, paññā natthi ajhāyato
Yamhi jhānañca paññā ca, sa ve nibbānasantike.372
14. Suññāgāraṃ paviṭṭhassa, santacittassa bhikkhuno
Amānusī rati hoti, sammā dhammaṃ vipassato.373
15. Yato yato sammasati, khandhānaṃ udayabbayaṃ
3 pīti pāmojjaṃ, amataṃ taṃ vijānataṃ.374
16. Tatrāyam ādi bhavati, idha paññassa bhikkhuno
Indriyagutti santuṭṭhī, pātimokkhe ca saṃvaro.375
17. Mitte bhajassu kalyāṇe, suddh’ājīve atandite
Paṭisanthāravuty’assa, ācārakusalo siyā
Tato pāmojjabahulo, dukkhass’antaṃ karissati.376
9. The monk who abides in loving-kindness, who is pleased with the
Buddha’s teaching, attains to that state of peace and happiness, the
stilling of conditioned things.
10. Empty this boat, O monk! Emptied by you it will move swiftly.
Cutting off lust and hatred, to nibbāna you will thereby go.
11. Five cut off, five give up, five further cultivate. The monk who has gone
beyond the five bonds is called a “Flood-Crosser.”
12. Meditate, O monk! Be not heedless.
Do not let your mind whirl on sensual pleasures.
Do not be careless and swallow a ball of lead.
As you burn cry not “This is sorrow.”
13. There is no concentration in one who lacks wisdom, nor is there wisdom
in him who lacks concentration. In whom are both concentration and
wisdom, he is in the presence of nibbāna.
14. The monk who has retired to a lonely abode, who has calmed his mind,
who perceives the doctrine clearly, experiences a joy transcending that of
15. Whenever he reflects on the rise and fall of the aggregates, he
experiences joy and bliss. To “those who know” that is deathless.
16. This is the beginning for a wise monk: sense-control, contentment,
restraint in the monastic discipline.
17. Association with good and energetic friends, of pure livelihood, and
constant. Let him be cordial in his ways and refined in conduct.
Filled thereby with joy, he will make an end of ill.
The Nine Hundred Thieves
In the district of Avantī, Soṇa1 was the son of Kālī, a devout disciple of the
Elder Kaccāna. Although from a very wealthy family, he wished to go forth under
the elder. The elder turned down his request two times, saying that the monk’s
life was hard. On the third time of asking the elder relented and gave Soṇa the
Going Forth. In that border region it was difficult to find monks, so it was three
years before the elder could assemble the ten monks required for the higher
ordination. Wishing to see the Buddha, Soṇa sought permission to visit the
teacher at Sāvatthī. The elder agreed, and travelled by stages to the Jetavana
monastery. When Soṇa arrived, the Buddha greeted him warmly and arranged a
place for him to stay in the Perfumed Chamber. Having spent much of the night
meditating on the veranda, Soṇa finally went to rest in the place arranged for
him. In the morning, the Buddha asked him to recite what he had learnt, and
Soṇa recited the Book of the Eights from the Gradual Sayings. The Buddha
congratulated him on his eloquent recital, saying, “Sādhu” three times, and the
deities also applauded. At the same time, 1,200 miles2 away, Kālī heard the
deities applauding, and when the deity in her house told her the reason. Kālī’s
body was suffused with the five kinds of joy.
The Buddha asked Soṇa if he needed anything. Soṇa took this opportunity to
convey the request from his teacher to permit the higher ordination in the border
regions with only five monks, at least one of whom was learned in the Vinaya,
and the Buddha granted this request. After staying a few more days with the
Teacher, Soṇa took his leave and returned to his preceptor.
On his return, Soṇa went for alms with his preceptor to his mother’s house,
and Kālī invited Soṇa to give a public discourse. She arranged for the construction
of a pavilion in the monastery, and when all was ready, she went there with her
entire household, bar only one maid servant who was left at the mansion, which
was protected by seven walls and savage guard dogs.
While Soṇa was preaching the Dhamma to his mother and many others, a
band of nine hundred robbers managed to gain entry to Kālī’s mansion by
He was the son of Kālī. She became a Stream-winner on the night that the Buddha
taught the Dhammacakka and Hemavata Suttas, while listening to the conversation
between the deities Hemavata and Sātāgira. At that time, Kālī was pregnant, and Soṇa
was her unborn son.
A hundred and twenty yojanas (about ten miles).
digging a tunnel. Their ring-leader sent one thief to observe the woman, with
instructions to kill her if she should return before they had finished. The maid
servant came and informed Kālī that the thieves were taking the copper coins, but
she sent her away saying, “Let the thieves take what they want,” telling her not to
disturb her while she was listening to the Dhamma. A second time she came to
inform her that they were taking the silver coins, and a third time that they were
taking the gold coins, but Kālī sent her away telling her not to disturb her again.
Hearing from his spies what had happened, the ring-leader was impressed by
Kālī’s devotion to the Dhamma. He ordered the robbers to replace all of the
stolen property, fearing that they would surely be struck by lightning for robbing
such a virtuous woman. They all went to the pavilion and listened to the
remainder of the Dhamma talk. They asked for forgiveness from Kālī, and asked
her aid to obtain the Going Forth from her son. Thus they all became monks, and
each having been given a suitable meditation object, went to practise meditation.
When they were engaged in meditation, the Buddha projected an image of
himself before them and uttered the above verses having considered the
temperament of each. On the conclusion of the verses they all attained
Arahantship with analytical knowledge.
Cast Off Lust and Hatred
18. Vassikā viya pupphāni, maddavāni pamuñcati
Evaṃ rāgañca dosañca, vippamuñcetha bhikkhavo.377
18. As the jasmine creeper sheds its withered flowers,
even so, monks, you should totally cast off lust and hatred.
The Jasmine Flowers
Five hundred monks, having taken a meditation object from the Buddha,
were practising meditation. One day, observing the falling of some withered
jasmine flowers, they were stimulated to practise meditation strenuously. The
Buddha projected an image of himself before them and uttered the above verse,
on the conclusion of which they all attained Arahantship.
A Monk is Peaceful
19. Santakāyo santavāco, santavā susamāhito
Vantalokāmiso bhikkhu, “upasanto”ti vuccati.378
19. The monk who is calm in body, calm in speech, calm in mind, who is
well-composed, who has renounced worldly things, is truly called a
The Serene Monk
A monk was very calm and quiet and his composure attracted the attention of
the other monks. The Buddha, hearing of his exemplary behaviour, advised the
monks to emulate him and uttered this verse.
Self-guarded One Lives Happily
20. Attanā coday’attānaṃ, paṭimaṃsetha1 attanā
So attagutto satimā, sukhaṃ bhikkhu vihāhisi.379
21. Attā hi attano nātho, [ko hi nātho paro siyā],
attā hi attano gati, tasmā saṃyamamattānaṃ,
assaṃ bhadraṃ ’va vāṇijo.380
20. By self do you censure yourself. By self do you examine yourself.
Self-guarded and mindful, O monk, you will live happily.
21. Oneself is one’s own protector. What other protector could there be?
Oneself is one’s own refuge. Therefore, control yourself as a merchant
controls a noble steed.
The Loin-cloth Elder
A monk saw a poor ploughman who had for his only possessions a loin cloth
and a plough. He asked him why he didn’t become a monk. The man agreed and,
leaving his meagre possessions hanging on a tree, he became a monk. He soon
became discontented and thought of disrobing. Then he went to the tree and
admonished himself. The other monks, seeing him go back and forth every few
days asked where he was going. He replied that he was going to see his teacher.
After some time he gained Arahantship so no longer went to the tree. The monks
asked him why he no longer went to see his teacher. He replied that since he had
severed his connection with the world he no longer need to see his teacher. The
not in some books
monks reported this to the Buddha, who confirmed that he had attained
Arahantship, and uttered the above verses.
Strive with Joy and Faith
22. Pāmojjabahulo bhikkhu,
Adhigacche padaṃ santaṃ,
22. Full of joy and contentment in the Buddha’s teaching,
the monk will attain peace, the bliss of stilling conditioned things.
The Elder Vakkali’s Story
A youth, obsessed by the physical form of the Buddha, went forth in order to
be able to look at him constantly. For some time the Buddha said nothing, but
when he realised that Vakkali’s insight had matured, the Buddha admonished him
not to keep gazing at him, saying, “He who sees the Dhamma sees me.” When it
was time to enter the Rains at Sāvatthī, the Buddha departed, telling the Elder
Vakkali to return to Rājagaha. Unable to bear being separated from the Buddha
for three months, Vakkali intended to commit suicide by jumping off Vultures’
Peak. The Buddha projected his image before him, and uttered the above verse.
Vakkali overcame his grief and felt happy. Then the Buddha spoke again:
Come Vakkali! I will lift you up, as one pulls an elephant from the mud.
Come Vakkali! I will release you, as Rāhu releases the eclipsed sun.
Come Vakkali! I will release you, as Rāhu releases the eclipsed moon.
Though not seeing any path by which he could go to the Buddha, Vakkali
sprang into the air from the mountain top1 and attained Arahantship with the
supernatural powers. Descending in front of the Buddha and paying homage,
Vakkali stood in front of him.
Don’t try this at home! Vakkali had the necessary perfections to attain the supernatural
powers and Arahantship. He was later singled out and praised by the Buddha as the monk
with the strongest faculty of confidence in the Buddha.
A Devout Monk Illumines the World
23. Yo have daharo bhikkhu,
So’maṃ lokaṃ pabhāseti,
abbhā mutto’va candimā.382
23. The monk who, while still young, devotes himself to the Buddha’s
Teaching, illumines this world like the moon freed from a cloud.
Sumana Sāmaṇera’s Story
During the time of the Buddha Padumuttara, a certain man, having seen the
the Teacher praise a monk as supreme among those possessing the divine eye,
offered lavish alms to the Buddha and the Saṅgha for seven days. Having done
that he made an earnest wish that he too would be the supreme of those with the
divine eye in the time of a future Buddha. The Buddha Padumuttara predicted this
would come to pass in the time of Buddha Gotama. When the Buddha
Padumuttara attained parinibbāna, the youth set up a circle of lights surrounding
the cetiya built the honour his remains.
Having been reborn in celestial realms for a long time, he was in due course
reborn as a poor worker call Annabhāra (food-carrier) who worked for a
generous millionaire named Sumana. One day, Annabhāra came into the divine
eye of a Solitary Buddha named Upariṭṭha who, wishing to bestow a blessing on
Annabhāra, took his almsbowl and went to stand in front of him. Annabhāra
asked him to wait, and going quickly to his house brought the food that his wife
had prepared for himself. Offering that as alms to the Solitary Buddha he made
an earnest wish never again to hear the word “natthi” — “there isn’t any.” The
deities applauded his offering and the deity who dwelt in the parasol of the
wealthy donor Sumana also applauded. Hearing this applause for the first time,
Sumana wondered what the reason was. The deity told him that the applause was
not for him but for the alms offered by Annabhāra, one of his workers. Sumana
asked Annabhāra to share half of his merit for a thousand gold pieces. Annabhāra
went to ask the advice of the Solitary Buddha who told him that by sharing the
merit it would be doubled, as a torch-light shared with a hundred other
households would only increase the amount of light available to all. Annabhāra
accepted the offer of Sumana, who told him to build a house for himself with the
money he had received and to take whatever else he needed from his stores. Thus
did Annabhāra become a friend of the wealthy donor Sumana.
In due course, Annabhāra was reborn as a cousin of Siddhattha Gotama in the
family of Amitodana1 the Sakyan at Kapilavatthu, and was named Anuruddha.
While playing with his friends he repeatedly sent word to his mother to send
cakes until at last she decided it was time that he learnt a lesson, so sent back an
empty bowl with the message “there isn’t any cake.” Due to the vow made in his
previous life, the deities filled the bowl with celestial cakes. When Anuruddha
returned he asked his mother if she really loved him as she had never before sent
such delicious cakes. From then on, whenever Anuruddha asked for cakes, his
mother sent an empty bowl and the deities filled it with celestial cakes.
When Anuruddha came of age, his elder brother Mahānāma suggested that
one of them should go forth as a monk as no one from their family had yet gone
forth. Anuruddha thought he would not be able to endure the hard life of a
monk, so his brother explained to him the duties of farming. Since Anuruddha
had been spoiled so much, he didn’t even know where food came from. While his
friend Kimila thought it came from the granary, and his friend Bhaddiya thought
it came from the cooking pot, Anuruddha thought it came from a golden bowl, as
he had never even seen food prepared. Thus, when Mahānāma had explained all
the duties of farming, Anuruddha decided that he should go forth and let his
brother Mahānāma remain to look after the family’s land. Thus Anuruddha,
Kimila, and Bhaddiya, the three royal princes and good friends from childhood,
went forth together in the dispensation of the Buddha Gotama.
2 In due course,
Anuruddha gained Arahantship with the threefold knowledges. He remembered
his previous life when he had given alms to the Solitary Buddha Upariṭṭha. He
wondered what had happened to his friend of that time, the wealthy donor
Sumana. Reflecting on that he realised that Sumana had been reborn in the
market town of Muṇḍa in the Viñjha forest as Cūḷa Sumana, the younger son of a
lay disciple named Mahā Muṇḍa. Since the Rainy season was near, Anuruddha
travelled there through the air using his supernormal powers and alighted at the
gate of the town. Seeing the Elder Anuruddha putting on his robe, the lay disciple
sent his elder son to fetch the elder’ almsbowl and himself prepared a seat for
him. Throughout the three months of the Rains, the lay disciple waited devotedly
upon the elder, and when the time came for the Pāvāraṇa festival, he offered
sugar lumps, oil, husked rice, etc. The elder refused, and when asked why, said
that he had no novice to attend him. When the lay disciple offered Mahā Sumana
The brother of Suddhodana, the father of Siddhattha.
At the same time as Ānanda, Bhagu, Devadatta, and their barber Upāli
as his novice, the elder again refused saying he had no need for Mahā Sumana.
Then the lay disciple asked the elder to admit Cūḷa Sumana to the Saṅgha, and the
elder consented. While Sumana’s head was being shaved he attained Arahantship.
Having stayed there a further fortnight, the elder took leave and departed with
the novice, returning to his forest hut in the Himalayas.
One day when the elder was troubled by indigestion, the novice fetched
water from the Anotatta lake. When the elder and the novice visited the Buddha,
some of the monks treated the novice like a child. Wishing to show the boy’s
powers, the Buddha told the Elder Ānanda to ask the novices to fetch some water
from the Anotatta lake to fill a water jar. Only Sumana was able to do this.
Praising Sumana for his supernormal powers, the Buddha uttered the above verse.