Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 11-12:
asāre sāramatino sāre cāsāradassino |
te sāraṃ nādhigacchanti micchāsaṃkappagocarā || 11 ||
sārañca sārato ñatvā asārañca asārato |
te sāraṃ adhigacchanti sammāsaṃkappagocarā || 12 ||
11. Conceiving the real in unreality while seeing unreal the truly real, roaming fields of thought ill-formed: never they at the real arrive.
12. That which is real they know as real, that unreal, to be unreal; roaming fields of thought well-formed they at the real arrive.
The Story of Monk Sāriputta
While residing at Veluvana, the Bamboo Grove Monastery in Rājagaha, the Buddha spoke these verses, with reference to Sanjaya, a former teacher of the Chief Disciples, the Venerable Sāriputta and the Venerable Moggallāna (formerly Upatissa and Kolita).
Before the Buddha appeared in the world, there were two Brāhamaṇa villages not far from Rājagaha named Upatissa village and Kolita village. One day a Brāhamaṇa’s wife named Rūpasari, who lived in Upatissa village, conceived a child; and on the same day a brahamin’s wife named Moggali, who lived in Kolita village, likewise conceived a child in her womb. We are told that for seven generations these two families had been firmly knit and bound together in the bonds of friendship; they performed the Protection of the Embryo for the two expectant mothers on the same day. On the expiration of ten lunar months, both women gave birth to sons.
On the day appointed for the name of the children, they gave the name Upatissa to the son of the brahamin woman whose name was Sāri, because he was the son of the principal family in Upatissa village; to the other boy, because he was the son of the principal family in Kolita village, they gave the name Kolita. As they grew up, both boys attained the highest proficiency in all the arts and sciences. Whenever the youth Upatissa went to the river or the garden to enjoy himself, five hundred golden litters accompanied him; five hundred chariots drawn by thoroughbreds accompanied the youth Kolita. The two youths had retinues of five hundred boys apiece.
Now there is a festival celebrated every year in Rājagaha which goes by the name of Mountain-top festival. A couch for the two youths was set up in one place, and the two youths sat together and witnessed the passing show. When there was occasion to laugh, they laughed; when there was occasion to weep, they wept;when it was time to give alms, they gave alms. In this way they witnessed the festivities for several days. But one day, when they had grown wiser, there was no laugh when they might have laughed, as on preceding days, there were no tears when they might have wept, and when their alms were sought they gave no alms.
The following thought, we are told, occurred to the two youths, “Why should we look at this? Before a hundred years have passed, all these people will have gone hence and will no more be seen. It behoves us rather to seek the Way of Release.” And taking this thought to heart, they sat down. Then Kolita said to Upatissa, “Friend Upatissa, you do not appear to be pleased and delighted as on previous days. Nay rather, you are afflicted with melancholy. What is in your mind?” “Friend Kolita, I sit thinking, ‘There is no lasting satisfaction in looking upon these folk; this is all unprofitable; it behoves me rather to seek the Way of Release for myself’. But why are you melancholy?” Kolita said the same thing. When Upatissa discovered that Kolita’s thoughts were one with his own, he said, “Both of us have had a happy thought. It behoves us both to seek the Way of Release and to retire from the world together. Under what teacher shall we retire from the world?”
Now at this time a wandering ascetic named Sanjaya entered the city of Rājagaha, accompanied by a large retinue of wandering ascetics. “We will retire from the world and become monks under Sanjaya,” said Upatissa and Kolita. So they dismissed five hundred retainers, saying to them, “Take the litters and the chariots and go,” and, together with the remaining five hundred, retired from the world and became monks under Sanjaya. From the day when these two youths retired from the world and became monks under Sanjaya, Sanjaya reached the pinnacle of gain and renown. In but a few days they had passed the bounds of Sanjaya’s teaching. Therefore they asked him, “Teacher, is this all the religious truth you know, or is there something more besides?” “This is all there is; you know all.”
The questions Upatissa and Kolita asked, the others, too, were not able to answer; but every question the others asked, Upatissa and Kolita answered. In this manner they travelled over the Land of the Rose-apple; then they retraced their steps and returned to their own homes again. Before they separated, Upatissa said to Kolita, “Friend Kolita, whichever of us first attains the Deathless is to inform the other.” Having made this agreement, they separated.
One day, the wandering ascetic Upatissa saw the Monk Assaji. Upatissa said to him, “Calm and serene, brother, are your organs of sense; clean and clear is the hue of your skin. For whose sake, brother, did you retire from the world? And who is your teacher? And whose doctrine do you profess?” “Brother, I am as yet a mere novice; its not long since I have been a monk; but recently did I approach Buddha’s doctrine and discipline.” Said the ascetic, I am Upatissa; say much or little according to your ability; I will understand the meaning in a hundred ways or a thousand ways.” At what Monk Assaji said Upatissa received higher excellence. Upatissa next saw his friend Kolita and informed him that he had attained deathless. He pronounced the same stanza Assaji had pronounced. Kolita was established in the fruit of conversion. They decided to visit the Buddha. They thought they should ask their former instructor Sanjaya to join them. “You may go; I cannot come,” Sanjaya said, “In the past I have gone about as a teacher of the multitude. For me to become a pupil again would be absurd.”
“Do not act thus, teacher,” Upatissa said. “Teacher, from the moment of the Buddha’s appearance in the world the populace has adored Him. Let’s also go there. What do you intend to do now?” Sanjaya replied, “Friends, which are more numerous in this world, the stupid or the wise?” “Teacher, the stupid are many, the wise are few.” Sanjaya said: “Well then, friends, let the wise men go to the wise Monk Gotama and let the stupid come to stupid me.” Upatissa and Kolita departed. About two hundred and fifty wandering ascetics of Sanjaya’s group also joined the two friends.
Then Kolita and Upatissa saw the Buddha and became his chief disciples. Upatissa became Sāriputta, and Kolita became Moggallāna. They informed the Buddha how Sanjaya would not come to see the Buddha.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 11)
asāre sāramatino sāre ca asāradassino
micchāsaṅkappagocarā te sāraṃ na adhigacchanti
asāre: what are not values; sāramatino [sāramatina]: if seen as values; sāre ca: and what are values; asāradassino [asāradassina]: if seen as not values; micchāsaṅkappagocarā: given to wrong aspirations; te: those (ignorant people); sāraṃ [sāra]: to the values; na adhigacchanti: do not attain.
A person interested in spiritual progress must be aware of spiritual values. It is true that material things are also necessary. But they are not the values to be sought after for spiritual progress. If people were to give prominence to material values they cannot attain any spiritual heights.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 12)
sāraṃ sārato ca asāraṃ asārato ca ñatvā sammā
saṅkappa gocarā te sāraṃ adhigacchanti.
sāraṃ [sāra]: the true values; sārato ca: as true values; asāraṃ [asāra]: what are not values; asārato ca: as not values; ñatvā: having understood; sammā saṅkappa gocarā: blessed with right aspirations; te: those (wise individuals); sāraṃ [sāra]: true values; adhigacchanti: attain to.
The wise person who is able to recognize the true values leading to spiritual attainments, is capable of attaining to spiritual heights. Such a person is possessed of right views.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 11-12)
This pair of verses stresses the importance of a proper ‘sense of values’ which is essential to the practice of the spiritual path. Our sense of values is what gives direction to our lives. The purity and richness of our lives depend on our sense of values. In fact, our judgement of superiority and inferiority, and our happiness and sense of achievement, are also dependent on this sense of values.
Those who have a wrong understanding of values have wrong aspirations, and they never attain the true riches of life.