Dhammapada Verse 160
Atta hi attano natho
ko hi natho paro siya
attana hi sudantena
natham labhati dullabham.
Verse 160: One indeed is one's own refuge; how can others be a refuge to one?
With oneself thoroughly tamed, one can attain a refuge (i.e., Arahatta Phala),
which is so difficult to attain.
The Story of the Mother of Kumarakassapa
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (160) of
this book, with reference to the mother of Kumarakassapa.
Once, a young married woman asked permission from her husband to become a
bhikkhuni. Through ignorance, she went to join some bhikkhunis who were the
pupils of Devadatta. This young woman was pregnant before she became a
bhikkhuni, but she was not aware of the fact at that time. But in due course,
the pregnancy became obvious and the other bhikkhunis took her to their teacher
Devadatta. Devadatta ordered her to go back to the household life. She then said
to the other bhikkhunis, "I have not intended to become a bhikkhuni under
your teacher Devadatta; I have come here by mistake. Please take me to the
Jetavana monastery, take me to the Buddha." Thus she came to the Buddha.
The Buddha knew that she was pregnant before she became a bhikkhuni and was
therefore innocent; but he was not going to handle the case. The Buddha sent for
King Pasenadi of Kosala, Anathapindika, the famous rich man, and Visakha, the
famous donor of the Pubbarama monastery, and many other persons. He then told
Thera Upali to settle the case in public.
Visakha took the young girl behind a curtain; she examined her and reported
to Thera Upali that the girl was already pregnant when she became a bhikkhuni.
Thera Upali then declared to the audience that the girl was quite innocent and
therefore had not soiled her morality (sila). In due course, a son was born to
her. The boy was adopted by King Pasenadi and was named Kumarakassapa. When the
boy was seven years old, on learning that his mother was a bhikkhuni, he also
became a samanera under the tutelage of the Buddha. When he came of age he was
admitted to the Order; as a bhikkhu, he took a subject of meditation from the
Buddha and went to the forest. There, he practised meditation ardently and
diligently and within a short time attained arahatship. However, he continued to
live in the forest for twelve more years.
Thus his mother had not seen him for twelve years and she longed to see her
son very much. One day, seeing him, the mother bhikkhuni ran after her son
weeping and calling out his name. Seeing his mother, Kumarakassapa thought that
if he were to speak pleasantly to his mother she would still be attached to him
and her future would be ruined. So for the sake of her future (realization of
Nibbana) he was deliberately stern and spoke harshly to her: "How is it,
that you, a member of the Order, could not even cut off this affection for a
son?" The mother thought that her son was very cruel to her, and she asked
him what he meant. Kumarakassapa repeated what he had said before. On hearing
his answer, the mother of Kumarakassapa reflected: "O yes, for twelve years
I have shed tears for this son of mine. Yet, he has spoken harshly to me. What
is the use of my affection for him?" Then, the futility of her attachment
to her son dawned upon her, and then and there, she decided to cut off her
attachment to her son. By cutting off her attachment entirely, the mother of
Kumarakassapa attained arahatship on the same day.
One day, at the congregation of bhikkhus, some bhikkhus said to the Buddha,
"Venerable Sir! If the mother of Kumarakassapa had listened to Devadatta,
she as well as her son would not have become arahats. Surely, Devadatta had
tried to do them a great wrong; but you, Venerable Sir, are a refuge to
them!" To them the Buddha said, "Bhikkhus! In trying to reach the
deva world, or in trying to attain arahatship, you cannot depend on others, you
must work hard on your own."
Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:
|Verse 160: One indeed is one's own refuge; how can
others be a refuge to one? With oneself thoroughly tamed, one can
attain a refuge (i.e., Arahatta Phala), which is so difficult to