Dhammapada Verses 21, 22 and 23
pamado maccuno padam3
appamatta na miyanti4
ye pamatta yatha mata.5
Evam visesato natva
ariyanam gocare rata.6
Te jhayino7 satatika
ni ccam dalhaparakkama
phusanti dhira nibbanam8
Verse 21: Mindfulness is the way to the Deathless (Nibbana); unmindfulness is
the way to Death. Those who are mindful do not die; those who are not mindful
are as if already dead.
Verse 22: Fully comprehending this, the wise, who are mindful, rejoice in
being mindful and find delight in the domain of the Noble Ones (Ariyas).
Verse 23: The wise, constantly cultivating Tranquillity and Insight
Development Practice, being ever mindful and steadfastly striving, realize
Nibbana: Nibbana, which is free from the bonds of yoga; Nibbana, the
1. appamada: According to the Commentary, it embraces all the meanings
of the words of the Buddha in the Tipitaka, and therefore appamada is to be
interpreted as being ever mindful in doing meritorious deeds; to be in line with
the Buddha's Teaching in Mahasatipatthana Sutta, "appamado
amatapadam", in particular, is to be interpreted as "Cultivation
of Insight Development Practice is the way to Nibbana."
2. amata: lit., no death, deathless; it does not mean eternal life or
immortality. The Commentary says: "Amata means Nibbana. It is true that
Nibbana is called "Amata" as there is no ageing (old age) and death
because there is no birth."
3. pamado maccuno padam: lit., unmindfulness is the way to Death.
According to the Commentary, one who is unmindful cannot be liberated from
rebirth; when reborn, one must grow old and die; so unmindfulness is the cause
4. appamatta na miyanti: Those who are mindful do not die. It does not
mean that they do not grow old or die. According to the Commentary, the mindful
develop mindful signs (i.e., cultivate Insight Development Practice); they soon
realize Magga-Phala (i.e., Nibbana) and are no longer subject to
rebirths. Therefore, whether they are, in fact, alive or dead, they are
considered not to die.
5. ye pamatta yatha mata: as if dead. According to the Commentary,
those who are not mindful are like the dead; because they never think of giving
in charity, or keeping the moral precepts, etc., and in the case of bhikkhus,
because they do not fulfil their duties to their teachers and preceptors, nor do
they cultivate Tranquillity and Insight Development Practice.
6. ariyanam gocare rata: lit., "finds delight in the domain of
the ariyas." According to the Commentary the domain of the ariyas consists
of the Thirty-seven Factors of Enlightenment (Bodhipakkhiya) and the nine
Transcendentals, viz., the four Maggas, the four Phalas, and Nibbana.
7. jhiyino: those cultivating Tranquillity and Insight Development
8. phusanti dhira nibbanam: the wise realize Nibbana. Lit., phusati
means, to touch, to reach. According to the Commentary, the realization
takes place, through contact or experience, which may be either through Insight
(Magga-Nana) or through Fruition (Phala). In this context, contact
by way of Fruition is meant.
9. yogakkhemam: an attribute of Nibbana. Lit., it means free or secure
from the four bonds which bind people to the round of rebirths. The four bonds
or yoga are: sense pleasures (kama), existence (bhava), wrong
belief (ditthi), and ignorance of the Four Noble Truths (avijja).
The Story of Samavati
While residing at the Ghosita monastery near Kosambi, the Buddha uttered
Verses (21), (22) and (23) of this book, with reference to Samavati, one of the
chief queens of Udena, King of Kosambi.
Samavati had five hundred maids-of-honour staying with her at the palace; she
also had a maid servant called Khujjuttara. The maid had to buy flowers for
Samavati from the florist Sumana everyday. On one occasion, Khujjuttara had the
opportunity to listen to a religious discourse delivered by the Buddha at the
home of Sumana and she attained Sotapatti Fruition. She repeated the discourse
of the Buddha to Samavati and the five hundred maids-of-honour, and they also
attained Sotapatti Fruition. From that day, Khujjuttara did not have to do any
menial work, but took the place of mother and teacher to Samavati. She listened
to the discourses of the Buddha and repeated them to Samavati and her maids. In
course of time, Khujjuttara mastered the Tipitaka.
Samavati and her maids wished very much to see the Buddha and pay obeisance
to him; but they were afraid the king might be displeased with them. So, making
holes in the walls of their palace, they looked through them and paid obeisance
to the Buddha everyday as he was going to the houses of the three rich men,
namely, Ghosaka, Kukkuta and Pavariya.
At that time, King Udena had also another chief queen by the name of
Magandiya. She was the daughter of Magandiya, a brahmin. The brahmin seeing the
Buddha one day thought the Buddha was the only person who was worthy of his very
beautiful daughter. So, he hurriedly went off to fetch his wife and daughter and
offered to give his daughter in marriage to the Buddha. Turning down his offer,
the Buddha said, "Even after seeing Tanha, Arati and Raga, the daughters
of Mara, I felt no desire in me for sensual pleasures; after all, what is this
which is full of urine and filth and which I don't like to touch even with my
On hearing those words of the Buddha, both the brahmin and his wife attained
Anagami Magga and Phala. They entrusted their daughter to the care of her uncle
and themselves joined the Order. Eventually, they attained arahatship. The
Buddha knew from the beginning that the brahmin and his wife were destined to
attain Anagami Fruition that very day, hence his reply to the brahmin in the
above manner. However, the daughter Magandiya became very bitter and sore and
she vowed to take revenge if and when an opportunity arose.
Later, her uncle presented Magandiya to King Udena and she became one of his
chief queens. Magandiya came to learn about the arrival of the Buddha in Kosambi
and about how Samavati and her maids paid obeisance to him through holes in the
walls of their living quarters. So, she planned to take her revenge on the
Buddha and to harm Samavati and her maids who were ardent devotees of the
Buddha. Magandiya told the king that Samavati and her maids had made holes in
the walls of their living quarters and that they had outside contacts and were
disloyal to the king. King Udena saw the holes in the walls, but when the truth
was told he did not get angry.
But Magandiya kept on trying to make the king believe Samavati was not loyal
to him and was trying to kill him. On one occasion, knowing that the king would
be visiting Samavati within the next few days and that he would be taking along
his lute with him, Magandiya inserted a snake into the lute and closed the hole
with a bunch of flowers. Magandiya followed King Udena to Samavati's quarters
after trying to stop him on the pretext that she had some presentiment and felt
worried about his safety. At Samavati's place Magandiya removed the bunch of
flowers from the hole of the lute. The snake came out hissing and coiled itself
on the bed. When the king saw the snake he believed Magandiya's words that
Samavati was trying to kill him. The king was furious. He commanded Samavati to
stand and all her ladies to line up behind her. Then he fitted his bow with an
arrow dipped in poison and shot the arrow. But Samavati and her ladies bore no
ill wills towards the king and through the power of goodwill (metta), the
arrow turned back, although an arrow shot by the king usually went even through
a rock. Then, the king realized the innocence of Samavati and he gave her
permission to invite the Buddha and his disciples to the palace for alms-food
and for delivering discourses.
Magandiya realizing that none of her plans had materialized, made a final,
infallible plan. She sent a message to her uncle with full instructions to go to
Samavati's place and burn down the building with all the women inside. As the
house was burning, Samavati and her maids-of-honour, numbering five hundred,
kept on meditating. Thus, some of them attained Sakadagami Fruition, and the
rest attained Anagami Fruition.
As the news of the fire spread, the king rushed to the scene, but it was too
late. He suspected that it was done at the instigation of Magandiya but he did
not show that he was suspicious. Instead, he said, "While Samavati was
alive I had been fearful and alert thinking I might be harmed by her; only now,
my mind is at peace. Who could have done this? It must have been done only by
someone who loves me very dearly." Hearing this, Magandiya promptly
admitted that it was she who had instructed her uncle to do it. Whereupon. the
king pretended to be very pleased with her and said that he would do her a great
favour, and honour all her relatives. So, the relatives were sent for and they
came gladly. On arrival at the palace, all of them, including Magandiya, were
seized and burnt in the palace court yard, by the order of the king.
When the Buddha was told about these two incidents, he said that those who
are mindful do not die; but those who are negligent are as good as dead even
Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:
Verse 21: Mindfulness is the way to the Deathless
(Nibbana); unmindfulness is the way to Death. Those who are mindful do
not die; those who are not mindful are as if already dead.
Verse 22: Fully comprehending this, the wise, who
are mindful, rejoice in being mindful and find delight in the domain
of the Noble Ones (Ariyas).
Verse 23: The wise, constantly cultivating
Tranquillity and Insight Development Practice, being ever mindful and
steadfastly striving, realize Nibbana: Nibbana, which is free from the
bonds of yoga*; Nibbana, the Incomparable!
* The bonds of yoga are four in number, viz., sense-pleasures (kama),
existence (bhava), wrong belief (ditthi) and ignorance of the Four
Noble Truths (i.e., avijja).