Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dhammapada Commentary - Bala Vagga

Dhammapada Commentary ( Dhammapada Atthakatha )

Edited by
Bhikkhu Pesala

5 — Bāla Vagga
Long is Saṃsāra for the Foolish
1. Dīghā jāgarato ratti, dīghaṃ santassa yojanaṃ
Dīgho bālānaṃ saṃsāro, addhammaṃ avijānataṃ.60
1. Long is the night to the wakeful; a journey is long to the weary; long is
saṃsāra to fools who do not know the Dhamma.
The Dangers of Adultery
While making a tour of Sāvatthī in state procession, King Pasenadi spied a
beautiful woman and lusted for her. On making inquiries he learned that she was
married. Looking for some pretext to get rid of her husband, he enlisted him into
the king’s service, and had him sent on a long journey to fetch some rare lotuses.
With help from the nāgas, the man returned in time, but the city gates were
locked. He left the flowers by the gate, and went to stay with the monks.
During the night, on fire with lust, the king could not sleep well and had a
terrifying nightmare, hearing agonised cries. In the morning he asked the royal
astrologer what this portended. He said it was a terrible omen, and that he must
perform a great sacrifice of living beings, including human beings. There was a
great uproar as the sacrifice was prepared. Queen Māllikā scolded the king, and
told him to go and ask the Buddha the meaning of his bad dreams.
The Buddha explained that the awful sounds the king had heard were the
cries of four men who had committed adultery in former lives, and were now
suffering in hell. They were only able to utter one syllable before falling back into
hell again. They regretted their misdeeds and vowed to do many good deeds
when the opportunity arose.
The king realised how serious his fault was, and said that the previous night
had been very long. The woman’s husband who was sitting nearby, remarked that
his journey the previous day was also very long. The Buddha summed up by
adding that Saṃsāra is long to those who are ignorant of the Dhamma.

Avoid Companionship with the Foolish
2. Carañce nādhigaccheyya, seyyaṃ sadisam attano
Ekacariyaṃ daḷhaṃ kayirā, natthi bāle sahāyatā.61
2. If, as the disciple fares along, he meets no companion who is better or
equal, let him firmly pursue his solitary career. There is no fellowship
with the foolish.
The Rebellious Pupil
A pupil neglected to do any duties for his teacher, Mahākassapa, but schemed
to take the credit for work done by another pupil. When the elder admonished
him, the pupil bore a grudge. While the elder was away, he set fire to his hut and
fled. He died and was reborn in hell. The Buddha recommended solitude rather
than companionship with the foolish.
One is Not One’s Own
3. Puttā m’atthi dhanam m’atthi, iti bālo vihaññati
Attā hi attano natthi, kuto puttā kuto dhanaṃ.62
3. “Sons have I; wealth have I”; thus is the fool worried.
He himself is not his own. Whence sons? Whence wealth?
Ānanda the Millionaire
A miserly millionaire named Ānanda died and was reborn in a nearby
settlement of poor workers. From the day he was conceived in his mother’s
womb, the villager could obtain no work. By dividing into two groups while
looking for work, they deduced that his mother was the cause of their problems
and cast her out. She had to struggle on alone. When the child was born he was
hideously deformed. She didn’t abandon him, but brought him up with great
hardship until he was old enough to beg, and then sent him off with a pot in his
When the boy came to the house where he had dwelt in his previous life, he
went straight in to his former son’s inner room, but he was beaten and thrown
out into a rubbish-heap. The Buddha, knowing what had happened, told the
man’s son that the beggar was none other than his own dead father. The beggar
pointed out some hidden treasure in his former house, so the son gained faith in
the Dhamma.

The Wise Fool
4. Yo bālo maññati bālyaṃ, paṇḍito vā’pi tena so
Bālo ca paṇḍitamānī, sa ve “bālo”ti vuccati.63
4. The fool who knows he is a fool is wise in that at least;
the fool who thinks that he is wise is called a fool.
The Escaped Criminal
Two friends went to hear the Dhamma. One attained Stream-winning, the
other stole a small amount of money. The latter taunted the former as foolish for
not stealing enough to buy some food. The former man reported this to the
Buddha, who explained the difference between a fool and a wise man.
The commentary explains that one who takes pride in learning, preaching,
morality, or austerity, thinking, “Others are not like me” is called a fool, and does
not become accomplished in learning or practice. He is like an escaped criminal.
A Fool Cannot Appreciate the Dhamma
5. Yāvajīvam’pi ce bālo, paṇḍitaṃ payirupāsati
Na so dhammaṃ vijānāti, dabbi sūparasaṃ yathā.64
5. Though a fool associates with a wise man his whole life, he understands
the Dhamma no more than a spoon knows the flavour of soup.
The Elder Udāyi
The Elder Udāyi used to sit on the preaching seat after elders had left.
Assuming him to be a learned elder, visiting monks questioned him about the
Dhamma. Discovering his ignorance, they reported the matter to the Buddha,
who then explained the attitude of a fool towards the Dhamma.
The Wise Appreciate the Dhamma
6. Muhuttam api ce viññu, paṇḍitaṃ payirupāsati
Khippaṃ dhammaṃ vijānāti, jivhā sūparasaṃ yathā.65
6. Though an intelligent person, associates with a wise man for only a
moment, he quickly understands the Dhamma as the tongue knows the
flavour of soup.

Thirty Youths of Pāveyyaka
Thirty friends set out to enjoy themselves in the forest with their wives. One
who had no wife brought along a prostitute. She stole their property and ran off.
While searching for her they came across the Buddha and asked him if they had
seen a woman. The Buddha asked them whether it was better to search for a
woman or to search for themselves. They sat and listened to the Dhamma and
instantly attained Stream-winning. Obtaining the going-forth with the words
“come monks,” they soon gained Arahantship.
Bitter is the Fruit of Evil
7. Caranti bālā dummedhā, amitten’eva attanā
Karontā pāpakaṃ kammaṃ, yaṃ hoti kaṭukapphalaṃ.66
7. Fools of little wit move about with the very self as their own foe, doing
evil deeds the fruit of which is bitter.
Suppabuddha the Leper
A leper was known as Suppabuddha because his moaning woke up anyone
sleeping nearby. He heard the Dhamma from the Buddha and became a Stream-
winner. He stayed behind when the crowd returned to as he wished to tell the
teacher about what he had gained. Sakka decided to test him, so appeared before
him saying, “You are very poor and wretched, I will give you great wealth if you
repudiate the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha.” Suppabuddha asked, “Who are
you?” Sakka said, “I am Sakka.” Suppabuddha replied, “You are foolish and
shameless. You are not fit to talk with me. You say I am poor and wretched, but I
have the sevenfold wealth of confidence, morality, shame, dread, learning,
liberality, and wisdom. I am not poor. I am very wealthy. The Buddhas do not
call one poor if one possesses these seven treasures.”
Sakka left him there, and told the Buddha what he had said. The Buddha
confirmed it and told Sakka that he could not bribe Suppabuddha. Suppabuddha
went to the Buddha, who welcomed him warmly. He paid his respects and left.
He had not gone far when a young cow killed him.
The monks asked about his destiny and his past. The Buddha explained that
he had been reborn in Tāvatiṃsa. He was a leper because in a past life he had
spat at a Solitary Buddha, and he was killed because he had killed a prostitute.
The dying prostitute vowed revenge, and fulfilled her wish when she was reborn
as the cow that killed Suppabuddha.

Evil Deeds Lead to Remorse
8. Na taṃ kammaṃ kataṃ sādhu, yaṃ katvā anutappati
Yassa assumukho rodaṃi, vpākaṃ paṭisevati.67
8. That deed is not well done, which having done it, one repents, one
weeps with a tearful face, on reaping its results.
A Farmer is Accused of Theft
Some thieves gained access to a rich man’s house by digging a tunnel from
the storm gulley. One of the thieves secreted a purse of money in his garments to
deceive the others. They shared their loot in a field and departed. The purse
dropped from the thief’s garment, but he didn’t notice.
Seeing that the farmer would benefit, the Buddha walked for alms through
that field. On coming to the place where the money lay he said to the Elder
Ānanda, “Do you see that poisonous snake, Ānanda?” The Elder Ānanda replied,
“I see it, Lord. It is a very poisonous snake.” Hearing this, the farmer took a stick
to kill the snake. Seeing the money, and not knowing what to do with it, he
buried it and continued with his plowing. The rich man discovered his loss, and
his men followed the tunnel to the field. Discovering the hidden gold, they
arrested the farmer, and carried him off to court.
The farmer was hastily judged guilty and sentenced to death. As he was being
led off for execution, he kept repeating the words uttered by the Buddha and the
Elder Ānanda, “Do you see that poisonous snake, Ānanda? I see it, Lord. It is a
very poisonous snake.” Intrigued by his odd behaviour, the king’s men brought
him before the king. After hearing his story, the king took him to the Buddha,
who explained what had happened, and uttered the above verse. The farmer was
released and gained Stream-winning on hearing the verse.
Good Deeds Cause No Repentance
9. Tañca kammaṃ kataṃ sādhu, yaṃ katvā nānutappati
Yassa patīto sumano, vipākaṃ paṭisevati.68
9. That deed is well done when, after having done it, one repents not, and
when, with joy and pleasure, one reaps the fruit thereof.

Sumana the Garland Maker
Sumana, a garland-maker, saw the Buddha walking into Rājagaha for alms
and wished to honour him. Believing that he might be risking his life or liberty,
he offered to the Buddha some jasmine flowers that were set aside for King
Bimbisāra. His foolish wife scolded him and disowned him, but the pious king
was pleased with his meritorious act and rewarded him lavishly with “the Gift of
the Eights.” The monks talked about the great benefit enjoyed by Sumana. The
Buddha said that he had done what was difficult to do in surrendering his life to
the Tathāgata, and commented on the benefits of good deeds.
Evil-doers Come to Grief
10. Madhu vā maññati bālo, yāva pāpaṃ na paccati
Yadā ca paccatī pāpaṃ, bālo1 dukkhaṃ nigacchati.69
10. As sweet as honey is an evil deed, so thinks the fool so long as it ripens
not; but when it ripens, then he comes to grief.
The Rape of Uppalavaṇṇa
Uppalavaṇṇa was so beautiful that all the princes of India sent requests to her
father for her hand in marriage. Looking for a way out of this predicament of
displeasing thousands of princes by giving his daughter to one of them, he asked
her if she wanted to become a nun. Due to her accumulated merits this was
exactly what she wished to hear. She agreed at once, and was duly ordained. She
soon gained Arahantship, and went to dwell in a thick forest. A cousin of hers,
who had been in love with her for years, hid under her bed while she was going
for alms. Since she came into the dark hut from the bright sunlight, she didn’t see
him. He raped her and, after taking his pleasure, he left. Due to the wickedness
of his crime, he was swallowed up by the earth and fell straight into the hottest
hell. On hearing of the incident, the Buddha commented on the suffering that
accrues to evil-doers.
The monks discussed whether the Arahants could also enjoy sexual pleasures.
The Buddha came, and explained that Arahants do not cling to pleasures as water
does not wet a lotus leaf, or as mustard seed does not stick to the point of an awl.
The Buddha then asked King Kosala to build a nunnery within the city walls and

atha bālo

made a rule forbidding nuns from dwelling in remote areas, to protect them
from such dangers.
Realisation is Superior to Fasting
11. Māse māse kusaggena bālo, bhuñjetha bhojanaṃ
Na so saṅkhātadhammānaṃ,
1 kalaṃ agghati soḷasiṃ.70
11. Month after month a fool may eat only as much food as can be picked up
on the tip of a kusa grass blade; but he is not worth a sixteenth part of
they who have comprehended the Truth.
Jambuka the Naked Ascetic
In the time of the Buddha Kassapa a monk took meals regularly at a layman’s
house. One day an Arahant happened to come by. Noticing his gracious
deportment, the devout layman served him respectfully, called a barber to shave
his head, offered him a robe, and a bed. The resident monk was insanely jealous
and later abused the visitor soundly, saying it would be better for him to eat
excrement than to eat the almsfood offered by his supporter, better to pull out his
hair by the root than to have his head shaved by a barber, better to go naked than
to use the robe that had been offered, better to sleep on the floor than to make
use of the bed that was offered.
The visitor decided to leave at first light. The next day, the visiting monk
awoke early, and thinking the visitor was still sleeping, he flicked the bell with
his fingernail and went for alms. He told the layman that the visitor was still
sleeping, and didn’t wake when he rang the bell. The layman was wise, and
became suspicious, but dutifully served the monk, then filled his bowl again with
choice food, asking him to take it for the visitor. The monk threw the food away
by the road, thinking he would never leave if he got such good food. On his
return he discovered that the visitor had already left. Due to his evil deed he was
reborn in hell where he suffered for aeons.
In the time of the Buddha Gotama, he was reborn in Rājagaha. Though there
was abundant food he would eat nothing but his own exrement. He threw off his
clothes, and would only sleep on the floor. His habits didn’t change as he grew
up, so his parents took him to the naked ascetics. To initiate him into the
community they put him in a pit, laid planks over his shoulders, squatted on the


planks, and pulled out his hair. When they went for alms he remained behind,
eating excrement from the latrines. Realising that people would blame them, the
naked ascetics banished him. Thereafter he lived by the public toilets on his own.
When people came, he would stand on one leg with his mouth open. When asked
why he did that he told them, “I am a wind-eater, I eat nothing else. I stand on
one leg because if I used two the earth would shake.” The people believed what he
said, for they had never known him to take any food. As his reputation grew,
people came bringing all manner of food, wishing to make merit, but he always
refused it as regular food was repulsive to him. When they pressed him repeatedly
to accept at least a little for their sake, he took a tiny morsel of ghee and molasses
on the tip of a blade of Kusa grass, and placed it on his tongue, saying, “That is
enough for your welfare and happiness.”
After he had lived like this for fifty-five years, his evil kamma from the past
finally became exhausted. One morning, when the Buddha surveyed the world in
his meditation, he realised that it was time to visit Jambuka. He told the Elder
Ānanda of his intention, and set off late in the afternoon. Knowing the Buddha’s
intentions, the deities washed the place with a sudden storm, so that the flat rock
where Jambuka stayed was spotless. The Buddha asked Jambuka if there was
anywhere he could stay for the night, but Jambuka said that there wasn’t. The
Buddha pointed to a cave nearby, and Jambuka told him to suit himself.
During the night, powerful deities including the Four Great Kings, Sakka, and
Mahābrahma came to pay respects to the Buddha, illuminating the whole forest.
Jambuka wondered who it might be. In the morning, Jambuka asked the Buddha
and the Buddha told him. Jambuka replied, “For fifty-five years I have lived by
eating the wind, and have stood on one leg, but no one came to pay respects to
me. The Buddha told Jambuka, “You may have deceived the foolish majority, but
you cannot deceive me. Is it not true that you have lived on excrement all these
years, going naked, sleeping on the ground, and pulling out your hair?” Then the
Buddha told Jambuka about the evil deeds he had done in the time of Buddha
Kassapa. He regained a sense of shame, so the Buddha gave him a bathing robe to
put on, and taught him the Dhamma. Due to his long practice of meditation in
his previous life, Jambuka attained Arahantship. He requested the going forth,
spontaneously gaining a set of robes and an almsbowl as the Buddha said, “Come
It was the day that the people of Aṅga and Māgadha came to offer alms to
Jambuka, so a great crowd gathered. Seeing the Buddha there, they wondered

who was the greater of the two, and concluded that since the Buddha had come to
see Jambuka, that Jambuka must be the greater monk. The Buddha told Jambuka
to dispel their doubts, so he rose into the air to the height of a palm tree, and
paid homage to the Buddha, saying, “This is my teacher, I am his disciple.”
The Buddha spoke the above verse, and many people gained comprehension
of the Dhamma.
Evil Deeds Take Effect When Ripe
12. Na hi pāpaṃ kataṃ kammaṃ, sajju khīraṃ ’va muccati
Ḍahantaṃ bālam anveti, bhasmacchanno’va1 pāvako.71
13. Yāvadeva anatthāya, ñattaṃ bālassa jāyati
Hanti bālassa sukkaṃsaṃ, muddham assa vipātayaṃ.72
12. An evil deed does not immediately bear fruit, just as milk does not curdle
at once; evil follows the fool like smouldering embers covered with ash.
13. To his ruin the fool gains knowledge and fame;
they destroy his brilliance and crush his wisdom.
Some Ghost Stories
While descending from Vulture’s peak to go for alms in Rājagaha
accompanied by the Elder Lakkhaṇa, the Elder Moggallāna smiled. The Elder
Lakkhaṇa asked him why, but he asked him to wait until they were in the
presence of the Blessed One. When asked again later, the Elder Moggallāna
described various ghosts he had seen. The Buddha confirmed that he had also
seen them, and described their past evil deeds.
A crow ate some food offered to the Saṅgha and was reborn as a crow ghost.
An indignant farmer set fire to the hut of a Solitary Buddha and was born as a
snake ghost. A fool skilled in throwing stones killed a Solitary Buddha and was
reborn as a hammer-head ghost. Referring to his past skill, the Buddha remarked
that the knowledge of the vicious tends to their own ruin.
A Fool Desires Undue Fame
14. Asantaṃ bhāvanam iccheyya, purekkhārañca bhikkhusu
Āvāsesu ca issariyaṃ, pūjā parakulesu ca.73


15. Mam eva kata maññantu, gihī pabbajitā ubho
Mam ev’ativasā assu, kiccākiccesu kismici
Iti bālassa saṅkappo, icchā māno ca vaḍḍhati.74
14. The fool will desire undue reputation, precedence among monks,
authority in the monasteries, honour among families.
15. Let both laymen and monks think, “by myself was this done; in every
work, great or small, let them refer to me.” Such is the ambition of the
fool; his desires and pride increase.
Citta the Householder
The Elder Mahānāma, one of the first five disciples, was walking for alms in
the city of Macchikāsaṇḍa.
1 Citta, a wealthy householder, invited him to take food
in his house, and gained Stream-winning. He donated his own garden as a
monastery and welcomed visiting monks from all directions. The Elder
Sudhamma became a resident monk.
Having heard about the virtues of Citta, the two chief disciples decided to
visit him. Hearing that they were coming with a thousand monks, he went out
half a day’s journey2 to meet them and accompanied them to his house. Though
they were weary from the journey, Citta asked the Elder Sāriputta to teach the
Dhamma in brief, and gained the path of Non-returning. He invited the elders
and the visiting monks for alms the following day. Then he invited Sudhamma.
Being jealous of the honour paid to the chief disciples, and slighted by not being
invited first, Sudhamma refused, saying he would walk for alms. The next day he
went to Citta’s house to see what food was being prepared and refused to sit
down, though invited. Citta rebuked him, and Sudhamma reported the matter to
the Buddha, who told Sudhamma that he was inferior in faith and serenity to
Citta, and ordered him to ask for forgiveness. Sudhamma went and asked Citta to
forgive him, but he refused, so Sudhamma had to return to the Buddha. The
Buddha told him that a monk should not think, “This monastery is mine, this
room is mine, this is my devotee,” then spoke the above verses. Then he sent him
back with a companion monk to ask forgiveness again, thinking that the journey

The name means city of many fishermen, so this must have been on the south bank of
the Ganges, in the kingdom of Aṅga.
A day’s journey (yojana) seems to have been about ten miles.

of thirty days would humble his pride. This time Citta forgave him, and asked
forgiveness in return.
Thinking that he had gained Stream-winning and Non-returning even
without seeing the teacher, Citta thought he should go to pay his respects to the
Buddha. He loaded five hundred carts with goods and set off for Sāvatthī.
Hearing that Citta had arrived, so many people and gods brought offerings that
he was unable to use what he had brought even after a month of offering alms
daily, so the Buddha told the Elder Ānanda to empty a place to store Citta’s
offerings. When Citta set off to return with empty carts, the people and gods
came to fill them again with all manner of precious goods.
The Path to Nibbāna
16. Aññā hi lābhūpanisā, aññā nibbānagāminī
Evam etaṃ abhiññāya, bhikkhu Buddhassa sāvako
Sakkāraṃ nābhinandeyya, vivekam anubrūhaye.75
16. Surely the path that leads to worldly gain is one, and the path that leads
to nibbāna is another; understanding this, the monk, the disciple of the
Buddha, should not rejoice in worldly favours, but cultivate detachment.
Tissa the Novice
A novice from a respected family was showered with gifts, but he spurned
them and lived a life of poverty in a forest and attained Arahantship. The monks
spoke in praise of his exemplary conduct. The Buddha, hearing their talk,
described the two different paths that lead to gain and nibbāna.


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