Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 124:
pāṇimhi ce vaṇo nā’ssa hareyya pāṇinā visaṃ |
nābbaṇaṃ visamanveti natthi pāpaṃ akubbato || 124 ||
124. If in the hand’s no wound poison one may bear. A woundless one is poisoned not, non-doers have no evil.
The Story of Kukkuṭamitta
While residing at the Veluvana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to the hunter Kukkuṭamitta and his family.
At Rājagaha there was once a rich man’s daughter who had attained sotāpatti fruition as a young girl. One day, Kukkuṭamitta, a hunter, came into town in a cart to sell venison. Seeing Kukkuṭamitta the hunter, the rich young lady fell in love with him immediately; she followed him, married him and lived with him in a small village. As a result of that marriage, seven sons were born to them and in course of time, all the sons got married. One day, the Buddha surveyed the world early in the morning with his supernormal power and found that the hunter, his seven sons and their wives were due for attainment of sotāpatti fruition. So, the Buddha went to the place where the hunter had set his trap in the forest. He put his footprint close to the trap and seated himself under the shade of a bush, not far from the trap.
When the hunter came, he saw no animal in the trap; he saw the footprint and surmised that someone must have come before him and let out the animal. So, when he saw the Buddha under the shade of the bush, he took him for the man who had freed the animal from his trap and flew into a rage. He took out his bow and arrow to shoot at the Buddha, but as he drew his bow, he became immobilized and remained fixed in that position like a statue. His sons followed and found their father; they also saw the Buddha at some distance and thought he must be the enemy of their father. All of them took out their bows and arrows to shoot at the Buddha, but they also became immobilized and remained fixed in their respective postures. When the hunter and his sons failed to return, the hunter’s wife followed them into the forest, with her seven daughters-in-law. Seeing her husband and all her sons with their arrows aimed at the Buddha, she raised both her hands and shouted, “Do not kill my father.”
When her husband heard her words, he thought, “This must be my father-in-law”, and her sons thought, “This must be our grandfather” and thoughts of loving-kindness came into them. Then the lady said to them, “Put away your bows and arrows and pay obeisance to my father.” The Buddha realized that, by this time, the minds of the hunter and his sons had softened and so he willed that they should be able to move and to put away their bows and arrows. After putting away their bows and arrows, they paid obeisance to the Buddha and the Buddha expounded the Dhamma to them. In the end, the hunter, his seven sons and seven daughters-in-law, all fifteen of them, attained sotāpatti fruition. Then the Buddha returned to the monastery and told Venerable Ānanda and other monks about the hunter Kukkuṭamitta and his family attaining sotāpatti fruition in the early part of the morning. The monks then asked the Buddha, “Venerable, is the wife of the hunter, who is a sotāpanna, also not guilty of taking life, if she has been getting things like nets, bows and arrows for her husband when he goes out hunting?” To this question the Buddha answered, “Monks, the sotāpannas do not kill, they do not wish others to get killed. The wife of the hunter was only obeying her husband in getting things for him. Just as the hand that has no wound is not affected by poison, so also, because she has no intention to do evil she is not doing any evil.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 124)
ce pāṇimhi vano na assa pāṇinā visaṃ hareyya
visaṃ abbanaṃ na anveti akubbato pāpaṃ natthi
ce: if; pāṇimhi: in one’s palm; vano: wound; nā assa: is not present; pāṇinā: in the palm; visaṃ [visa]: poison; hareyya: can be taken; visaṃ [visa]: the poison; abbanaṃ [abbana]: one without the wound in the palm; na anveti: will not enter; akubbato [akubbata]: in the same way to the person does not commit evil; pāpaṃ natthi: no evil occurs
If a person has no wound in his palm, that person can carry poison in his hand. This is because the poison will not get absorbed into that person’s system. In the same way, to a person who has not committed an evil action, there is no fear of evil consequences.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 124)
visaṃ: the poison. If a man without a wound in his palm touches poison, it will not affect his system. Similarly, evil will not affect one who does not do evil things.