Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 201:
jayaṃ veraṃ pasavati dukkhaṃ seti parājito |
upasanto sukhaṃ seti hitvā jayaparājayaṃ || 201 ||
201. Victory gives rise to hate, those defeated lie in pain, happily rest the Peaceful surrendering victory-defeat.
The Story of the Defeat of the King of Kosala
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse with reference to the King of Kosala who was defeated in battle by Ajātasattu, his own nephew.
In fighting against Ajātasattu, the King of Kosala was defeated three times. Ajātasattu was the son of King Bimbisāra and Queen Vedehi, the sister of the King of Kosala. The King of Kosala was ashamed and very much depressed over his defeat. Thus his lamentation: “What a disgrace! I cannot even conquer this boy who still smells of mother’s milk. It is better that I should die.” Feeling depressed and very much ashamed, the king refused to take food, and kept to his bed. The news about the king’s distress spread like wild fire and when the Buddha came to learn about it, he said, “Monks! In one who conquers, enmity and hatred increase; one who is defeated suffers pain and distress.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 201)
jayaṃ veraṃ pasavati parājito dukkhaṃ seti
upasanto jayaparājayaṃ hitvā sukhaṃ seti
jayaṃ [jaya]: victory; veraṃ pasavati: generates hatred; parājito [parājita]: the defeated one; dukkhaṃ [dukkha]: in unhappiness; seti: lives; upasanto [upasanta]: the tranquil person; jayaparājayaṃ hitvā: having risen above both victory and defeat; sukhaṃ [sukha]: in happiness; seti: dwells
Victory brings hatred into being. The defeated person lives in misery. But the person whose mind is calm and tranquil lives happily, as he has risen above both victory and defeat.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 201)
King Kosala. This verse, which sums up the reality of victory and defeat was given by the Buddha, on the occasion of the defeat suffered by King Kosala, at the hand of King Ajātasatta, his own nephew. King Pasenadi Kosala, the son of King Mahā Kosala, who reigned in the kingdom of Kosala with its capital at Sāvatthi, was another royal patron of the Buddha. He was a contemporary of the Buddha, and owing to his proficiency in various arts, he had the good fortune to be made king by his father while he was alive. His conversion must probably have taken place during the very early part of the Buddha’s ministry. In the Samyutta Nikāya it is stated that once he approached the Buddha and questioning Him about His Enlightenment referred to Him as being young in years and young in ordination.
The Buddha replied, “There are four objects, O’ Mahārāja, that should not be disregarded or despised. They are Khattiya (a warrior), a snake, fire, and a mendicant monk. Then He delivered an interesting sermon on this subject to the King. At the close of the sermon the King expressed his great pleasure and instantly became a follower of the Buddha. Since then, till his death, he was deeply attached to the Buddha. It is said that on one occasion the king prostrated himself before Buddha and stroked His feet covering them with kisses.
His chief queen, Mallikā, a very devout and wise lady, well versed in the Dhamma, was greatly responsible for his religious enthusiasm. Like a true friend, she had to act as his religious guide on several occasions.
One day, the king dreamt sixteen unusual dreams and was greatly perturbed in mind, not knowing their true significance. His brāhmin advisers interpreted them to be dreams portending evil and instructed him to make an elaborate animal sacrifice to ward off the dangers resulting therefrom. As advised, he made all necessary arrangements for this inhuman sacrifice which would have resulted in the loss of thousands of helpless creatures. Queen Mallikā, hearing of this barbarous act about to be carried out, persuaded the king to get the dreams interpreted by the Buddha whose understanding infinitely surpassed that of those worldly brāhmins. The king approached the Buddha and mentioned the object of his visit. Relating the sixteen dreams he wished to know their significance, and the Buddha explained their significance fully to him.
Unlike King Bimbisāra, King Kosala had the good fortune to hear several edifying and instructive discourses from the Buddha. In the Samyutta Nikāya there appears a special section called the Kosala Samyutta in which are recorded most of the discourses and talks given by the Buddha to the king.
Once, while the king was seated in the company of the Buddha, he saw some ascetics with hairy bodies and long nails passing by, and rising from his seat respectfully saluted them calling out his name to them, “I am the king, your reverences, of the Kosala, Pasenadi.” When they had gone he came back to the Buddha and wished to know whether they were arahats or those who were striving for arahatship. The Buddha explained that it was difficult for ordinary laymen enjoying material pleasures to judge whether others are arahats or not and made the following interesting observations: “It is by association (samvāsena) that one’s conduct (sīla) is to be understood, and that, too, after a long time and not in a short time, by one who is watchful and not by a heedless person, by an intelligent person and not by an unintelligent one. It is by converse (samvohārena) that one’s purity (soceyyam) is to be understood. It is in time of trouble that one’s fortitude is to be understood. It is by discussion that one’s wisdom is to be understood, and that, too, after a long time and not in a short time, by one who is watchful and not by a heedless person, by an intelligent person and not by an unintelligent one.”