Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 165:
attan’āva kataṃ pāpaṃ attanā saṃkilissati |
attanā akataṃ pāpaṃ attan’āva visujjhati |
suddhi asuddhi paccattaṃ n’āññamañño visodhaye || 165 ||
165. By oneself is evil done, by oneself defiled, by oneself it’s left undone, by self alone one purified. Purity, impurity on oneself depend, no one can purify another.
The Story of Cūlakāla Upāsaka
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to Cūlakāla, a lay disciple.
Cūlakāla, a lay disciple, observed the Uposatha precepts on a certain fast-day and spent the night at the Jetavana Monastery, listening to religious discourses all through the night. Early in the morning, as he was washing his face at the pond near the monastery, some thieves dropped a bundle near him. The owners seeing him with the stolen property took him for a thief and beat him hard. Fortunately, some slave girls who had come to fetch water testified that they knew him and that he was not the thief. So Cūlakāla was released.
When the Buddha was told about it, he said to Cūlakāla, “You have been let off not only because the slave girls said that you were not the thief but also because you did not steal and were therefore innocent. Those who do evil go to niraya, but those who do good are reborn in the deva worlds or else realize Nibbāna.” At the end of the discourse, Cūlakāla the lay disciple attained sotāpatti fruition.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 165)
attanā eva pāpaṃ kataṃ attanā saṅkilissati,
attanā pāpaṃ akataṃ attanā eva visujjhati,
suddhi asuddhi paccattaṃ āñño aññaṃ na visodhaye
attanā eva: if by one’s own self; pāpaṃ [pāpa]: evil action; kataṃ [kata]: (is) done; attanā saṅkilissati: one’s own self gets defiled; attanā: by one’s own self; pāpaṃ [pāpa]: evil action; akataṃ [akata]: is not done; attanā eva: one’s own self; visujjhati: gets purified; suddhi: purity; asuddhi: impurity; paccattaṃ [paccatta]: depend on one’s own self; āñño: one; aññaṃ [añña]: yet another; na visodhaye: does not purify
It is by one’s own self that evil is done. It is one’s own action that defiles a person. If a person does not commit evil action, one is purified. A person is cleansed entirely by one’s own self. One cannot purify another. Purity and impurity both depend on one’s own self.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 165)
añño aññaṃ na visodhaye: one cannot purify another. In the Buddhist system, each individual must purify himself, others, religious teachers or priests, cannot purify one. The Buddha process of purification is described as visuddhi.
visuddhi: purification, purity. The seven stages of purification (sattavisuddhi) form the substructure of Upatissa’s Vimutti-Magga (The Path to Freedom), preserved only in Chinese; as well as of Buddhaghosa’s monumental work, Visuddhi-Magga, The Way of Purification, based on the former work. The only place in the Canon where these seven kinds of purification are mentioned is the simile of the stage-coach, wherein their purpose and goal is illustrated. There it is said that the real and ultimate goal does not consist in purification of morality, or of mind or of view, etc., but in the total deliverance and extinction. Now, just as one mounts the first coach and travels to the second coach, then mounts the second coach and travels with it to the third coach and so on in exactly the same way the goal of (1) the purification of morality (sīla-visuddhi) is (2) the purification of mind (citta), its goal: (3) the purification of view (diṭṭhi), its goal; (4) the purification of overcoming doubt (kankhā-vitarana) its goal: (5) the Purification of Knowledge and Vision of what is path and not-path (maggāmagga-ñānadassāna), its goal: (6) the purification of knowledge and vision of the path-progress (patipadā-ñānadassāna), its goal: (7) the purification of knowledge and vision (ñānadassāna); but the goal of this purification is deliverance freed from all clinging.
Of these, purification of knowledge and vision (ñānadassāna-visuddhi) is the knowledge associated with any of the four kinds of supermundane path-consciousness. “Immediately upon this adaptationknowledge there arises the maturity-knowledge (gotrabhū-ñāna) taking as object the unconditioned, the standstill of existence, the absence of becoming, cessation, Nibbāna, while at the same time transcending the rank (gotta–gotra, lineage), designation and plane of the worldling (puthujjana), and entering the rank designation and plane of the noble ones (ariya), being the first turning towards Nibbāna as object, the first thinking of it, the first concentration on it, and the condition for the path–forming the culmination of insight, and never as such coming back again.
“As the immediate continuation following upon that maturity knowledge (gotrabhū-ñāna), there arises the first path-consciousness (Stream-entrance) for ever destroying the first three of the ten fetters of existence (saṃyojana), and closing the entrance to the lower worlds. Immediately after this path-knowledge, there arise, as its result, two or three path-produced states of consciousness, the fruitional consciousness (phala-citta). Immediately after the sinking of this consciousness into the subconscious stream of existence, the retrospective knowledge (paccavekkhana-ñāna) arises, having the pathconsciousness as its object.”
Each of the four kinds of path-consciousness performs, at one and the same time, four functions, namely: the function of full understanding (pariññā) of suffering, the function of Overcoming (pahāna) the origin of suffering, the function of realizing (sacchikiriyā) the extinction of suffering, the function of developing (bhāvanā) the supermundane holy eight-fold path (magga).