Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 162:
yassa accantadussīlyaṃ māluvā sālamiv’otataṃ |
karoti so tath’attānaṃ yathā naṃ icchatī diso || 162 ||
162. He whose conduct’s very bad like oak-tree choked by ivy, so he does towards himself what enemies would wish.
The Story of Devadatta
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to Devadatta.
One day, some monks were talking amongst themselves when the Buddha came in and asked the subject of their talk. They answered that they were talking about Devadatta and then continued as follows: “Venerable! Devadatta is, indeed, a man without morality; he is also very avaricious. He has tried to gain fame and fortune by getting the confidence of Ajātasattu by unfair means. He has also tried to convince Ajātasattu that by getting rid of his father, he (Ajātasattu) would immediately become a powerful king. Having been thus misled by Devadatta, Ajātasattu killed his father, the noble king, Bimbisāra. Devadatta has even attempted three times to kill you, our most venerable teacher. Devadatta is, indeed, very wicked and incorrigible!”
After listening to the monks, the Buddha told them that Devadatta had tried to kill him not only now but also in his previous existences. The Buddha then narrated the story of a deerstalker.
“Once, while King Brahmadatta was reigning in Bārānasi, the future Buddha was born as a deer, and Devadatta was then a deer-stalker. One day, the deer-stalker saw the footprints of a deer under a tree. So, he put up a bamboo platform in the tree and waited with the spear ready for the deer. The deer came but he came very cautiously. The deer-stalker saw him hesitating, and threw some fruits of the tree to coax him. But that put the deer on guard; he looked more carefully and saw the deerstalker in the tree. He pretended not to see the deer-stalker and turned away slowly. From some distance, he addressed the tree thus: ‘O tree! You always drop your fruits vertically, but today you have broken the law of nature and have dropped your fruits slantingly. Since you have violated the natural law of trees, I am now leaving you for another tree.’
“Seeing the deer turning away, the deer-stalker dropped his spear to the ground and said, ‘Yes, you can now move on; for today, I have been wrong in my calculations.’ The deer who was the Buddha-to-be replied ‘O hunter! You have truly miscalculated today, but your evil kamma will not make any mistake; it will certainly follow you.’ Thus, Devadatta had attempted to kill me not only now but also in the past, yet he had never succeeded.” Then the Buddha continued, “Monks! Just as a creeper strangles the tree to which it clings, so also, those without morality, being overwhelmed by lust, are finally thrown into niraya.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 162)
yassa accanta dussīlyaṃ sālaṃ māluvā iva otataṃ
diso naṃ yathā icchatī so attānaṃ tathā karoti
yassa accanta dussīlyaṃ [dussīlya]: one’s extreme lack of virtue; sālaṃ māluvā iva otataṃ [otata]: just like the māluvā creeper crushing a sāla tree; disaṃ [disa]: as an enemy; yathā icchatī: intending to harm; attānaṃ tathā karoti: harm one’s own self
The extremely evil action of the person lacking in virtue is similar to that of the parasitic māluvā creeper. The creeper grows on the tree and crushes it into destruction. The evil doer’s action too crushes himself in that way.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 162)
accanta dussīlyaṃ: complete lack of discipline and virtue. What is meant here is the lack of discipline of monks. The extreme lack of discipline and virtue are brought about, according to traditional commentaries, due to thirteen serious defaults (garukāpatti).
The names of the thirteen are:
- kāya saṃsagga,
- duṭṭhulla vācā,
- dutiya sanghabheda,
- dubbaca and
The stanza was occasioned by the extreme lack of discipline of Devadatta.