Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 107:
yo ca vassasataṃ jantu aggiṃ paricare vane |
ekañca bhāvitattānaṃ muhuttampi pūjaye |
sā yeva pūjanā seyyā yañce vassasataṃ hutaṃ || 107 ||
107. One might tend for a hundred years the forest’s sacred fire, but if for only a moment one might honour the self-developed, such honour then were better by far than a century of sacrifice.
The Story of Venerable Sāriputta’s Nephew
While residing at the Veluvana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to Venerable Sāriputta’s nephew.
For the Venerable went to his nephew also and said, “Brāhmin, do you ever do a single good deed?” “Yes, Venerable.”
“What do you do?” “Month after month, I slay a single beast and tend the sacrificial fire.”
“For what purpose do you do that?” “That, they say, is the way to the World of Brahma.”
“Who told you so?” “My teachers, Venerable.”
“Neither you nor your teachers know the way to the World of Brahma. Come, let us go to the Buddha.”
So Venerable Sāriputta conducted his nephew to the Buddha, informed the Buddha of the incident, and said to him, “Venerable, tell this man the way to the world of the Brahma.”
Said the Buddha, “Brāhmin, are you correctly reported?” “Yes, Venerable.”
“Brāhmin, though you should thus tend the sacrificial fire for a hundred years, yet would the merit of your performance not attain the worth of honour done to my disciple for even a single instant.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 107)
yo jantu vane ce vassasataṃ aggiṃ paricare bhāvitattānaṃ ekaṃ
muhuttaṃ api pūjaye vassasataṃ yaṃ hutaṃ sā pūjanā eva seyyo
yo jantu: some individual; vane: in the forest; ce: if; vassasataṃ [vassasata]: for a hundred years; aggiṃ paricare: worships fire; bhāvitattānaṃ [bhāvitattāna]: disciplined and restrained in self; ekaṃ: one noble arahat; muhuttaṃ api: just for one moment only; pūjaye: adores; vassasataṃ [vassasata]: for a hundred years; yaṃ hutaṃ [huta]: if fire worship has been conducted; sā pūjanā eva: that one adoration alone; seyyo [seyya]: is nobler
A person may perform fire-worship ritual in the forest for a hundred years. Yet, for a person who adores just for one moment, a self-restrained, disciplined Arahant, that moment’s adoration of the Arahant is far nobler than the fire-worship of a hundred years.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 107)
aggiṃ paricare vane: if someone were to dwell in the forest offering sacrifices to the fire. In the two stories, that gave rise to verses, relating to Venerable Sāriputta’s uncle, his nephew and his friend, the sacrifices sanctioned by the Vedic Hindu practices of the Buddha’s day are referred to. Here, in this verse, Chief Disciple Sāriputta’s nephew is told that offering sacrifices to Fire-God, dwelling in the forest is a futile pursuit, if he intends to attain higher spiritual goals through that rite. The Teaching of the Buddha, emphasizing inner purity and unblemished conduct exercised a strong force against contemporary systems that sought to achieve liberation through externalized practices like Fire-worship. In the instance of this stanza, the fire-worship takes place in the forest. The fire-worshipper has renounced his lay life and has gone into the forest to practice fire-worship as his whole activity. He has attributed such importance to this ritual of fire-worship because he is convinced that it was only this ritual that will ensure him life in the world of Brahma.