Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 141:
na naggacariyā na jaṭā na paṅkā |
nānāsakā thaṇḍilasāyikā vā |
rājo ca jallaṃ ukkuṭikappadhānaṃ |
sodhenti maccaṃ avitiṇṇakaṅkhaṃ || 141 ||
141. Not going naked, nor matted hair, nor filth, nor fasting, not sleeping on bare earth, no penance on heels, nor sweat nor grime can purify a mortal still overcome by doubt.
The Story of Venerable Bahūbhāṇḍika
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to Bahūbhāṇḍika, a monk with many possessions.
Once there was a rich man in Sāvatthi. After the death of his wife, he decided to become a monk. But before he entered the sangha, he built a monastery, which included a kitchen and a store room. He also brought his own furniture, utensils and a large stock of rice, oil, butter and other provisions. Whatever dishes he wanted were cooked for him by his servants. Thus, even as a monk he was living in comfort, and because he had so many things with him, he was known as Bahūbhāṇḍika. One day, other monks took him to the Buddha, and in his presence told the Buddha about the many things he had brought along with him to the monastery, and also how he was still leading the luxurious life of a rich man. So, the Buddha said to Bahūbhāṇḍika, “My son, I have been teaching all of you to live an austere life; why have you brought so much property with you?” When reprimanded even this much, that monk lost his temper and said angrily, “Indeed, venerable! I will now live as you wish me to.” So saying, he cast off his upper robe.
Seeing him thus, the Buddha said to him, “My son, in your last existence you were an evil spirit; even as an evil spirit you had a sense of shame and a sense of fear to do evil. Now that you are a monk in my Teaching, why do you have to throw away the sense of shame, and the sense of fear to do evil?” When he heard those words, the monk realized his mistake; his sense of shame and fear to do evil returned, and he respectfully paid obeisance to the Buddha and asked that he should be pardoned. The Buddha then said to him, “Standing there without your upper robe is not proper; just discarding your robe etc., does not make you an austere monk; a monk must also discard his doubt.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 141)
naggacariyā na jaṭā na paṅkā na ānāsakā na thaṇḍilasāyikā vā,
rajo jallaṃ va ukkuṭikappadhānaṃ va avitiṇṇa-kaṅkhaṃ maccaṃ na sodhenti
naggacariyā: by going about naked; jaṭā: by matted hair; paṅkā: by smearing body with mud; ānāsakā: by fasting; thaṇḍilasāyikā vā: even by lying on bare earth; rajo jallaṃ vā: by accumulating dust on one’s body; ukkuṭikappadhānaṃ [ukkuṭikappadhāna]: by squatting; avitiṇṇa-kaṅkhaṃ [kaṅkha]: who has not been able to overcome his wavering of mind; maccaṃ [macca]: mortal; na sodhenti: will not become spiritually cleansed
A person seeking the purification of his soul may practice the ritual of wandering about naked; or else he may wear turbans; he may even smear his body with mud; he may even refrain from partaking of food as an austerity to obtain purity; he may lie on bare earth; or else he may throw dust all over his body. And again, some may practice a squatting posture. All these will not wash a person into spiritual purity if his wavering of mind has not been overcome.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 141)
na naggacariyā: not by wandering naked. This stanza refers to innumerable rites and rituals practiced by various ascetics and liberationseekers. Their mistaken efforts are considered here.
Gymnosophism is still practiced in Jambudīpa. External dirtiness is regarded by some as a mark of saintliness. The Buddha denounces strict asceticism confined to such externals. The members of His celibate sangha follow the middle path, avoiding the extremes of self-mortification and self-indulgence. Simplicity, humility, and poverty should be the chief characteristics of monks as much as cleanliness. Unwashed matted hair is regarded by the foolish as a mark of holiness. The noncleaning of teeth and smearing the body with mud and fasting alone do not tend to purification. The monks too fast daily between midday and the following dawn. Sleeping on the ground does not lead to purity. Monks only avoid luxurious and high couches. Rubbing the body with ashes is still practiced by some ascetics.
Superficial observances and vows do not purify a person, no matter how long it is practiced. As long as the mind wavers between good and bad (and has not achieved integrity where the mind is set on being good without hesitation), purity of mind has not been achieved. Overcoming wavering is the achievement of this integrity, which is the beginning of the process of mental purification.