The Dhammapada: Verses and Stories

Dhammapada Verse 25
Culapanthaka Vatthu

The Dhammapada Commentary
Courtesy of
Translated by the Department of Pali
University of Rangoon, Burma

Utthanena' ppamadena
samyamena damena ca
dipam kayiratha medhavi

yam ogho nabhikirati.

The Teacher while in residence at the Bamboo grove gave this religious discourse beginning with "Utthanenappamadena" with reference to the Elder Culapanthaka.

It is said that in Rajagaha, the daughter (of the family) of a rich banker, on coming of age was closely guarded by her parents on the upper story of a seven-storied palace. Because of her caprice due to her young age she developed an ardent longing for the opposite sex and she cohabited even with her own slave and fearing that other people might come to know of it, said "It is impossible for us to live here. If my parents come to know of this misdeed, they will cut me into pieces. Let us go and live somewhere else". Taking with them their personal effects they left by the main gate thinking "We shall go and live in some place unknown to others" and took residence at a certain place. As a result of their living together she became conceived.

When she was in the advanced stage of pregnancy, she discussed with her husband thus, "My pregnancy has reached the advanced stage; confinement in a place devoid of friends and relations would just be courting trouble, let us go to the home of our parents". Fearing that he would lose his life if he were to go there he procrastinated saying, "We will go to-day, we will go tomorrow."

She thought, "Due to the gravity of his own misdeed, this fool does not dare to go; in fact parents only wish for the good (of their children). Whether he goes or not, I shall go." As she was leaving that house, she arranged the house in order and informing her next door neighbours of her departure to the home of her parents she set out on her journey.

He returned home and not finding her, enquired of the neighbours and, learning that she had left for her parent's house, followed her hastily and overtook her on the way. She gave birth to a child at that very place. He enquired of her "What is it my dear?" "Sir, it is a son", replied she. "What should we do now?" "The purpose for which we are going to the house of our parents is accomplished on the way. What is the use of our going there? Let us turn back." Both of them being of one accord, turned back. That child being born on the way, was named Panthaka.

Before long she became conceived once again. The detailed account of what happened on the previous occasion should be repeated all over here. Because of the fact that that child was also born on the road the first born child was named Mahapanthaka and this other Culapanthaka. Taking both the boys they returned to their own home. While they were living there, the boy Mahapanthaka heard other children addressing their uncles and grand-parents, and asked his mother, "Mother, other boys speak of their uncles and grand-parents. Have we no relations, mother?" "Yes, son, you have no relatives here. In the city of Rajagaha, however, you have a grandfather who is a rich banker and we have many relations there." "Why do not we go there, mother?" asked the son. She did not tell her son the reason why she did not go, but when her sons spoke about it repeatedly she said to her husband, "These boys are worrying me very much. My parents are not going to eat us (our flesh) when they see us. Come let us take the children to their grand-parents."

"It is impossible for me to face them, however, I shall take you (there)" said the husband. "Very well, somehow or other it is only right that the boys should see the family of their grand-parents." Both of them, taking the sons, went to Rajagaha by stages and stopped at a certain rest-house at the gate of the city. The mother sent information to her parents about her arrival with the two boys. On hearing that news, they said thus, "In this round of rebirths there is no one who has not been a son or a daughter, (but since) they have offended us so greatly, it is impossible for us to have them in our presence. Let the two take this much wealth and go and live where they please. But let them send the boys here."

They took the wealth sent by the parents and sent the boys after entrusting them to the messengers who had come. The boys grew up in the home of grand-parents. Of them Culapanthaka being very young, only Mahapanthaka used to go with his grand-father to listen to religious discourse. While visiting the Teacher regularly, he developed an inclination to become a monk and he said to his grand-father, "If you would give me permission, I should like to become a monk." "What do you say, dear, for me your renunciation is preferable to that of the people of the whole world. If you can undertake to do so, do it." Saying so, he took him to the Master and being asked, "What O householder, have you got a child?," he replied, "Yes, your reverence, this is my grandson who wants to become a monk under you." The master gave orders to a monk, who practises the vow of living on alms-food obtained by begging, saying, "Admit him into the Order". The Elder taught him a five-item meditation ending with the skin*, and initiated him. He mastered many teachings of the Buddha and when he attained the right age, he was ordained and, carrying out the subject of meditation with careful attention, he attained arahatship.

While living in the bliss of meditation and the fruition, he thought thus, "Would it not be possible to give this bliss to Culapanthaka". Then approaching the banker, the grandfather, he said thus "If you would permit, may I admit him into the Order." "You may do so, O Venerable one'. The banker was well-known to be very devoted to the teachings of the Master, and when he was asked, the sons of which daughters were these, he felt ashamed to say that they were the sons of the daughter who had run away. And so he gladly admitted them to become monks. The Elder admitted him into the Order and established him in the moral precepts. Soon after his admission into the Order, he was found to be slow in his (spiritual) progress.

He was unable to master even this one verse in four months.

"Behold the Buddha in resplendent glory, like the fragrant red Lotus blossoming in the morning, and the shining sun in the sky."

So it is said that at the time of Kassapa, the Perfectly Enlightened One, he was a monk. Being of sharp intelligence he made fun of a dullard monk as the latter was repeating his lesson. And that monk felt embarrassed by his mockery, would neither learn nor repeat his lessons. As a result of that action, he was born dullard. While learning further, he used to forget what he had already learned. Thus four months elapsed as he was striving to learn that very single verse. Then Mahapanthaka said to him, "Panthaka, you are not worthy of (remaining longer) in this Order, you have not been able to master even a verse in four months. How would you bring to maturity your life of a monk? Leave this monastery," and drove him out. Culapanthaka, out of attachment to the teachings of the Buddha had never aspired for a life of a householder. At that time Mahapanthaka was in charge of assigning monks to (invitations) to meal.

At that time Jivaka, the Komarabhacca (the foster child of a prince), taking with him plenty of flowers and scents went to his mango-grove, offered them to the Master. Having listened to the preachings, he left the seat, paid obeisance to the Master and approaching Mahapanthaka enquired, "Sir, how many monks are living with the Teacher?" "Monks numbering about five hundred". "Sir, tomorrow may you please take your food at my house with five hundred monks headed by the Buddha." Said the Elder, "Lay-devotee, a certain Culapanthaka is dull and unprogressive in the Dhamma, except him I accept your invitation for the rest." Culapanthaka heard this and thought "The Elder in accepting the invitation for so many monks has left me out. Surely he must have been disappointed with me. Then, what good is there for me (to stay on) in this Order? I should (better) revert to a household life and live giving charity and doing other meritorious deeds." On the next day early in the morning he set out to give up his monkhood. The Master surveying the world early in the morning, saw that incident and going ahead, was strolling about in front of the door by which Culapanthaka was passing by. Culapanthaka on his way saw the Master and, approaching him, paid him obeisance.

Then the Teacher asked him, "Culapanthaka, where are you going at this time (of the day) ?" "Lord, my brother drives me away, therefore I am going to leave the Order" "Culapanthaka, your admission is my concern, when you were driven out by your brother why did not you come to me? What good can there be for you to turn back to household-life, come, stay with me. So saying, (the Teacher) stroking him on the head with his palm marked with auspicious marks and took him along and made him sit down in front of the Gandhakuti (the perfumed hall). The Master gave him a clean piece of cloth produced by the Supernormal power, said to him "Culapanthaka, remain here facing the East and go on rubbing this piece of cloth, while reciting repeatedly these words "Taking on the impurity, Taking on the impurity" (rajoharanam). Then when He was informed of the time, went to the residence of Jivaka accompanied by the order of monks and sat down on the seat prepared.

Culapanthaka sat on looking at the sun, and while rubbing that piece of cloth muttered the words (rajoharanam rajoharanam). As he went on rubbing that piece of cloth it became soiled. And as sequel he thought: "This piece of cloth was very clean, but because of me it has changed its original form and has become soiled." Thus he reflected on the thought that constituted things indeed are impermanent, he fixed his mind on the decay and destruction and intensified his spiritual insight. Master knowing that the mind of Culapanthaka was set upon spiritual insight, said thus, 'Culapanthaka, be not impressed by the thought that the piece of cloth alone is soiled and made dirty by the dust; within you there exists the dust of passion and so on, remove them." Saying so he sent forth his radiance so that he appeared to be sitting in front of (Culapanthaka) uttering these verses:

"Raga is termed as raja. It does not mean dust; it means passion. Having abandoned this raja (passion) the monks abide in the teachings of the One who is free from raja (passion).

Dosa is termed as raja. It does not mean dust; it means hatred. Having abandoned this raja (hatred), the monks abide in the teachings of the One who is free from raja (hatred).

Moha is termed as raja. It does not mean dust; it means delusion. Having abandoned this raja (delusion), the monks abide in the teachings of the One who is free from raja (delusion).

At the end of the utterance of the verses Culapanthaka attained arahatship together with analytical knowledge and simultaneously with this mastery of analytical knowledge he came to understand the implication of the three Pitakas.

So the story goes. That in this former existence he was a king and as he was moving round the city, perspiration rolled down his forehead which he mopped with a clean piece of cloth. The cloth became soiled. "The piece of cloth, though clean, has changed its nature and because of this body of mine it has become soiled." Thus he developed the idea of impermanence thinking "Unstable indeed are constituted things." Because of that antecedent, the removal of the moral dirt became the supporting factor of spiritual development.

Jivaka Komarabhacca was bringing libation water to pour as a mark of donation to the Dasabala (Buddha). And the Master covered the bowl with his hand saying, "Jivaka, are there no monks staying back at the monastery ?" "Has not, Lord, Mahapanthaka stated that there were no monks left at the monastery?" Master replied "There is, O Jivaka." Jivaka sent a man, saying. "Friend, in that case, go and see whether there are any monks or not in the monastery."

At this moment Culapanthaka thinking, "My brother said that there were no monks at the monastery, I will show him that there are." He created a thousand monks and filled the entire mango-grove with them, some tending to the robes, some dyeing and others being engaged in their studies, thus differing in pursuits. That man, seeing many monks in the monastery, turned back and reported to Jivaka. saying "Master, the entire mango-grove is full of monks."

"The Thera Culapanthaka having created a thousand monks like himself, sat in the beautiful mango-grove awaiting intimation of the time (for meal)."

Thereupon the Master said to the person "Go to the monastery and say that the Teacher summons the monk by name Culapanthaka." "When he went and said that, voices saying "I am Culapanthaka, I am Culapanthaka" came out of thousand mouths. The man went back and reported "Lord, all of them said that they were Culapanthakas." "Then please go and catch hold of the monk who first says that he is Culapanthaka and the rest will disappear." He did as he was told. And at that very moment the rest of the monks disappeared.

The Elder also accompanied that man. Then after the meal the Master said to Jivaka, "Jivaka, take hold of Culapanthaka's bowl. He will do the preaching that is usually done after a meal. Jivaka did so. He delivered a religious discourse embracing the three Pitakas roaring like a young lion. The teacher rising from his seat returned to the monastery accompanied by the assembly of monks. And after the monks had performed their usual service to him, he stood at the entrance of the perfumed chamber, gave admonition to them and instructed them in the subjects of meditation and sent them away. He then entered the gandhakuti made fragrant with sweet scent and lay down lion-fashion on his right side. At that time at about even-tide monks from various places gathered together and sitting down like an encircling woolen screen, started to talk about the virtues of the Teacher thus, "Brethren, Mahapanthaka for not understanding Culapanthaka's intrinsic worth, expelled him from the monastery with the thought that he was dullard as he could not master even a single verse in four months. The Perfectly Enlightened One through his unexcelled supremacy in respect of the Dhamma, helped him attain arahatship together with analytical knowledge even within a short time of the duration of a meal time and he (Culapanthaka) became versed in three Pitakas and the analysis of them. Mighty and powerful indeed are the Buddhas."

At the same time the Bhagava, becoming aware of the theme of that discussion in that religious gathering, decided to go there immediately. Rising from his bed and putting on his well-dyed double-layered robe, fastening the girdle like the streak of lighting, donning himself with his upper robe which was like the red woolen blanket, he came out of the perfumed chamber and went straight to the religious gathering with all the immeasurable grace of the Buddha, and with the stride of a noble elephant in rut and in the heroic mien of a lion. Then stepping into the seat well prepared for him in the centre of the decorated hall, he sat down on the seat well prepared for him in the centre of the decorated hall, shedding forth six-rayed lustre of the Buddha, like the morning sun on the top of the Yugandhara mountain, plumbing the depths of the ocean. The moment the Perfectly Enlightened One did arrive, the assembly of monks stopped talking and remained silent. The Master looked at the assembly with a heart full of tenderness and loving-kindness, and thought, "So pleasant is the conduct of this assembly that there was neither movement of hand or foot, nor sound or coughing, or sneezing, so full of respect for the Buddha and awed by His glory. Were I to sit without speaking even for the whole of my life they would not break the silence by speaking first. I should find the way to inmate the talk and I myself will speak first. And in a sweet and dignified tone, he addressed the monks by asking "What are you talking about, seated here? What may be the topic which had been interrupted?" When they replied such and such was the topic, the Master declared, "O monks, not only now is Culapanthaka a dullard. In the former existence also he was the same. Not only now I am his refuge but in the past existence also I had been so. Not only had I made him the possessor of material wealth in the former existence, now too I have made him the possessor of transcendental virtues." Being requested by the monks who were intent on hearing in detail, the Teacher brought forth the past.

"O monks, in the past a youth who was a citizen of Banaras went to Takkasila to acquire arts and became the resident pupil taking instructions from a universally renowned teacher. Among the five hundred pupils he was the one who gave the greatest service to the teacher. He used to do everything, beginning from massaging the feet. But because of his dullness he could not learn anything. Though his teacher consented to teach him he was unable to teach him anything. He lived there for a long time but not being able to learn even a single verse he became disheartened and asked the teacher permission to leave.

The teacher thought, "He is of service to me. I want him to be learned but I am not able to do so. Surely I ought to do a return service to him and I shall compose a mystic charm and give it to him." He took him to the forest and composing this stanza. "You are transgressing, you are transgressing, why for do you transgress? I am aware of that." He made him learn it by repeating many hundred times. He then asked, "Have you grasped it ?" When said "Yes, I have," the teacher thought, "When a dullard has exerted himself and had mastered an art, he is not likely to lose it." Providing him with provision for the journey he said, "Go now and eke out your living with this charm, however, you should recite this always so that it does not fade away'' and sent him away. At the time of his arrival at Banaras his mother gave him a great reception in honour of him with the thought that her son had returned after acquiring the arts.

At that time the King of Banaras thought to himself "Have I any fault in me with reference to physical and other actions and not finding any deed of his which is undesirable, thought "One does not see one's own fault, but others do. I shall investigate among the citizens." Then at dusk he went out incognito with the idea, "Usually all kinds of topics are discussed amongst the people when they sit together after their evening meal. If I am ruling the kingdom unrighteously they will say we are being oppressed by penalties and taxes imposed by a bad and unrighteous king; if I rule righteously, they will speak in praise of me saying "May our king live long etc" and he went about skirting along the wall of individual houses. At that moment tunnel-boring thieves bored a tunnel between two houses so that they could enter the two houses through a single tunnel. The king saw them and stopped in the shadow of the house. While they, after boring the tunnel, entered the house and were searching for the goods, the youth woke up and recited that charm "You are transgressing, you are transgressing, what for do you transgress? I too know what you are doing." Hearing him they thought "We are found out by this one and now he will do us harm." Through fear they discarded the clothes they were wearing and fled in any direction they could take. The king, after seeing them run away after hearing his recitation of the charm, went round the city and returned to his palace. Early in the morning, the king summoned a man and said to him, "Go on man, there is a youth who has returned after getting his education at Takkasila living on such and such a road, in the house where a tunnel has been dug into, and bring him." He went to the youth and saying "The king summons you" brought him. The king then asked him "Are you the young man who had returned from Takkasila after acquiring the arts there ?" "Yes, Your Majesty." "Give it to me." "Very well, Your Majesty. May you sit on seat of the same level with me and take it." The king, after doing so, learnt the charm and gave him a thousand coins as the teacher's fee.

About this time the general enquired of the barber as to when the king would have his beard shaved. When told that would be either the next day or the day following, on the day he gave him a thousand coins saying, "I have a job for you to do" and being enquired to what it was, he told him, "Whet your razor very sharp and while pretending to shave the king, you cut his throat. You will be the general while I the king." He consented saying "Very well" and on the day the king was to have his shave he soaped the beard with scented water and after sharpening the razor, he held the forehead of the king and finding that the razor was a little blunt and realizing that he should cut the throat with one stroke, he stood side and sharpened the razor.

At that moment the king recollecting the charm, started to recite thus, "You are transgressing, you are transgressing, why are you doing so? I too know what you are doing" The barber started perspiring with the thought that the king was aware of his action and being frightened he dropped the razor on the ground and fell prostrate at his feet. Sharp-witted are the kings, so he said to him "Hey, you vile barber, you thought the king was not aware of it."

"Pardon me, Your Majesty." "Let it be, have no fear and tell me what it is." He said, "Your Majesty, the general gave me a thousand coins and said, "While pretending to shave the king you cut his throat. I shall be king and I shall appoint you the general." The king thought that he owed his life to the teacher and summoning the general he banished him from the country saying, "General, is there anything that you do not get from me? But now it is not possible for me to look at you. Leave my kingdom." He then sent for the teacher and conferring upon him great honour saying, "Teacher, because of you my life has been saved," and bestowed upon him the office of the general. Thus having brought forth the past the Teacher said, "On that occasion I was the well renowned teacher. Oh monks, Culapanthaka was a dullard also in the former existence. I too was then his refuge and set him up with material wealth.

Again one day when the conversation turned upon the Master being the refuge of Culasetthi.

"A wise and discerning man even with a little capital can elevate himself as one can fan a small fire (into a big blaze.)"

Having uttered this verse he continued, "O monks, it is not only now that I have been a refuge to him, in the past too I had been so. Previously I made him the master of material possessions, (but) now I have made him the possessor of spiritual wealth. At that time too. Culapanthaka was the pupil of Culasetthi and I myself was Culasetthi. Thus did the Buddha link the present with the past.

Again one day they discussed this matter in the religious assemblage, "Brethren, though Culapanthaka was not able to master a verse of four lines in four months, only because he did exert to put forth effort was he established in arahatship and has now become the possessor of spiritual wealth. The Teacher having come asked, "O monks, what are you talking about, seated together?" When told such was the topic, He said "Monks, a monk who is strenuous in his efforts in this religious Order of mine, becomes the master of transcendental Dhamma" and added this verse.

Through vigilance and by earnestness and control, the wise man may make an island for himself which no flood (of mental defilement) can overwhelm.

Therein Dipam kayiratha means that (1) by vigilance (utthanena) which equates with (viriya) (2) by earnestness (appamada) which equates with ever-present mindfulness (satiya avippavasa), (3) by restraint (samyama) which equates with the four groups of moral precepts (Catuparisuddhisila) and (4) by control (damena,) which equates with the control of the sense faculties (Indriyani). By reason of these four factors the wise man who is endowed with knowledge of the essence of truth factors is able to make an island of arahatship, which becomes a refuge for himself in this excessively deep ocean of round of existences where in safe landing is very hard to come by. An island of what sort? Yam ogho nabhikirati means that island the fourfold currents of mental impurities cannot overflew and destroy, because Arahatship cannot be shattered by the floods of moral defilements.

At the end of the recitation of the verse many became Sotapannas and so on, and thus the discourse was of benefit to the assembled gathering.

* Tacapancaka Kammatthana = hair; hair of the body; nails; teeth; and skin.



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*These two stories have the same verse.