Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 219-220:
cirappavāsiṃ purisaṃ dūrato sotthimāgataṃ |
ñātimittā suhajjā ca abhinandanti āgataṃ || 219 ||
tatheva katapuññam’pi asmā lokā paraṃ gataṃ |
puññāni patigaṇhanti piyaṃ ñātiṃ’va āgataṃ || 220 ||
219. One who’s long away from home returns in safety from afar, then friends, well-wishers, kinsmen too are overjoyed at his return.
220. In the same way, with merit done when from this world to another gone those merits then receive one there as relatives a dear one come.
The Story of Nandiya
While residing at Isipatana Wood, the Buddha spoke these verses, with reference to Nandiya. The story goes that at Benāres there lived a youth named Nandiya, son of a family endowed with faith. He was all that his mother and father wished him to be, faithful, believing, a servitor of the Sangha. When he came of age, his mother and father desired that he should marry his maternal uncle’s daughter Revati, who lived in the house opposite. But Revati was an unbeliever and was not accustomed to giving alms, and therefore Nandiya did not wish to marry her. So Nandiya’s mother said to Revati, “Dear daughter, sweep the floor neatly and sweep in this house where the congregation of monks are to sit, prepare seats, set stands in their proper places, and when the monks arrive, take their bowls, invite them to sit down, and strain water for them with a straining-cup; when they have finished their meal, wash their bowls. If you will so do, you will win the favour of my son.” Revati did so. Nandiya’s mother said to her son, “Revati is now patient of admonition.” Nandiya then gave his consent, the day was set, and they were married. Said Nandiya to his wife, “If you will minister faithfully to the congregation of monks and to my mother and father, on this condition you will be privileged to dwell in this house; therefore be heedful.” “Very well,” said Revati, promising to do so. In a few days she learned to conduct herself like a true believer. She rendered true obedience to her husband, and in the course of time gave birth to two sons.
When Nandiya’s mother and father died, she became sole mistress of the household. Nandiya, having come into great wealth on the death of his mother and father, established alms for the congregation of monks, and likewise established at the door of his house regular distribution of cooked food to poor folk and travellers. Somewhat later, after hearing the Buddha preach the Dhamma considering within himself the blessings which would accrue to him through the gift of a dwelling to the monks, he caused a quadruple hall, a four chambered hall to be erected and furnished at the Great Monastery of Isipatana. And having caused beds and couches to be spread, presented this dwelling to the congregation of monks presided over by the Buddha, giving alms, and pouring water of donation into the right hand of the Buddha. As the water of donation fell into the right hand of the Buddha, there arose in the world of the thirtythree a celestial mansion extending twelve leagues in all directions, a hundred leagues high, made of the seven kinds of jewels and filled with celestial nymphs. One day when Venerable Mahā Moggallāna went on a pilgrimage to the world of the deities, he stopped near this palace and asked some deities who approached him, “Through whose merit came into existence this celestial mansion filled with a company of celestial nymphs?” Then those deities informed him who was lord of the mansion, saying, “Venerable, a householder’s son named Nandiya caused a monastery to be erected at Isipatana and gave it to the Buddha, and through his merit this celestial mansion came into existence.” Thereupon the company of celestial nymphs descended from that palace and said to the elder, “Venerable, we would be the slaves of Nandiya. Although we have been reborn here, we are exceedingly unhappy because we do not see him; pray tell him to come here. For putting off human estate and taking the estate of a deity, is like breaking a vessel of clay and taking a vessel of gold.” The elder departed thence, and approaching the Buddha, asked him, “Venerable, is it true that while men yet remain in the world of men, they attain heavenly glory as the fruit of the good works which they have performed?”
The Buddha replied, “Moggallāna, you have seen with your own eyes the heavenly glory which Nandiya has attained in the world of the deities; why do you ask me such a question?” Said the elder, “Then it is really true, Venerable!” Said the Buddha, “Moggallāna, why do you talk thus? If a son or a brother who has long been absent from home returns from his absence, whoever at the village-gate sees him hurries home and says, ‘So-and-so is back.’ And straightaway his kinsfolk, pleased and delighted, will hasten forth and greet him, saying, ‘Dear friend, you have returned at last!’ Even so, when either a woman or a man who has done works of merit here, leaves this world and goes to the next, the heavenly deities take presents of ten sorts and go forth to meet him and to greet him, saying, ‘Let me be first! Let me be first!”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 219)
cirappavāsiṃ purisaṃ dūrato sotthiṃ āgataṃ
ñātimittā suhajjā ca, sāgataṃ abhinandanti
Cirappavāsiṃ purisaṃ [purisa]: an individual who had lived away from home for a long time; dūrato [dūrata]: from afar; sotthiṃ āgataṃ [āgata]: when returns home safely; ñātimittā: friends and relations; suhajjā ca: well wishers; sāgataṃ [sāgata]: his safe return; abhinandanti: welcome
When a person, who had lived away from home for a long while, returns home safely, his friends, relations and wellwishers welcome him back.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 220)
tathā eva kata puññaṃ api asmā lokā paraṃ
gataṃ puññāni gataṃ piyaṃ ñātiṃ iva paṭigaṇhanti
tathā eva: similarly; kata puññaṃ api: one who has done merits (here); asmā lokā paraṃ gataṃ [gata]: leaving this world has gone to the next; puññāni: merits; gataṃ piyaṃ ñātiṃ iva: like a close relative who has returned from a journey; paṭigaṇhanti: welcome him
In the same way, when those who have done meritorious deeds in this world go to the next world, their meritorious actions welcome them, like relatives welcoming back relatives returning from a long journey.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 219-220)
puññāni paṭigaṇhanti: welcomed by their meritorious actions (puñña).
puñña: merit; meritorious. Puñña is a popular term for kammically wholesome (kusala) action. Opposite terms: apuñña, demerit; pāpa, bad, evil. The value of meritorious action is often stressed, e.g., in the Treasure-Store Sutta. The community of holy monks (ariya-sangha), the third refuge is said to be the incomparable field of merit in the world (anuttaram puññakkhettam lokassa).
There are ten kinds of such meritorious actions (kusalakamma)–namely,
- Generosity (dāna),
- Morality (sīla),
- Meditation (bhāvanā),
- Reverence (apacāyana),
- Service (veyyāvacca),
- Transference of merit (pattidāna),
- Rejoicing in others’ good actions (anumodanā),
- Hearing the doctrine (dhamma savana),
- Expounding the doctrine (dhammadesanā), and
- Straightening one’s own views (diṭṭhijjukamma).
Sometimes, these ten moral actions are regarded as twelve by introducing sub-divisions to (7) and (10).
Praising of others’ good actions (pasamsā) is added to rejoicing in others’ merit (anumodanā). Taking the Three Refuges (sarana) and mindfulness (anussati) are substituted for straightening of one’s views.
Generosity yields wealth. Morality gives birth in noble families and in states of happiness. Meditation gives birth in realms of form and formless realms, and helps to gain higher knowledge and emancipation. Transference of merit acts as a cause to give in abundance in future births. Rejoicing in others’ merit is productive of joy wherever one is born. Both expounding and hearing the Dhamma are conducive to wisdom. Reverence is the cause of noble parentage. Service produces large retinue. Praising others’ good works results in getting praise for oneself. Seeking the Three Refuges results in the destruction of passion. Mindfulness is conducive to diverse forms of happiness.
Kusala kamma which may ripen in the realms of form.
These are the following five kinds of (rūpa-jhānas) or ecstasies which are purely mental:
(1) The first jhāna, moral consciousness which consists of initial application (vitakka), sustained application (vicāra), pleasurable interest (pīti), happiness (sukkha), and one-pointedness (ekaggatā);
(2) The second jhāna, moral consciousness which consists of sustained application, pleasurable interest, happiness, and one-pointedness;
(3) The third jhāna, moral consciousness which consists of pleasurable interest, happiness and one-pointedness;
(4) The fourth jhāna, moral consciousness which consists of happiness and one-pointedness; and
(5) The fifth jhāna, moral consciousness which consists of equanimity (upekkhā) and one-pointedness.
These jhānas have their corresponding effects in the realms of form.
Kusala Kamma which may ripen in the formless realms:
These are the four arūpa jhānas which have their corresponding effects in the formless realms–namely,
(1) Moral consciousness dwelling in the infinity of space (akāsānañcāyatana);
(2) Moral consciousness dwelling on the infinity of consciousness (viññānañcāyatana);
(3) Moral consciousness dwelling on nothingness (akiñcaññāyatana); and
(4) Moral consciousness wherein perception neither is nor is not (n’eva saññānāsaññāyatana).
The Buddha indicated to Anāthapiṇḍika the various gradations of meritorious activities. Once, the Buddha, discoursing on generosity, reminded Anāthapiṇḍika that alms given to the Sangha together with the Buddha is very meritorious; but more meritorious than such alms is the building of a monastery for the use of the Sangha; more meritorious than such monasteries is seeking refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha; more meritorious than seeking refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha is the observance of five precepts; more meritorious than such observance is meditation on loving-kindness (Mettā) for a moment; and most meritorious of all is the development of Insight as to the fleeting nature of things (vipassanā). It is evident from this discourse that generosity is the first stage on the way of Buddhist life. More important than generosity is the observance of at least the five rules of regulated behaviour which tend to the disciplining of words and deeds. Still more important and more beneficial is the cultivation of such ennobling virtues like loving-kindness which lead to self-development. Most important and most beneficial of all self-discipline is the sincere effort to understand things as they truly are.