Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 25:
uṭṭhānen’appamādena saññamena damena ca |
dīpaṃ kayirātha medhāvī yaṃ ogho nābhikīrati || 25 ||
25. By energy and heedfulness, by taming and by self-control, the one who’s wise should make an isle no flood can overwhelm.
The Story of Cūlapanthaka
While residing at the Veluvana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to Cūlapanthaka, a grandson of a banker of Rājagaha. The banker had two grandsons, named Mahāpanthaka and Cūlapanthaka. Mahāpanthaka, being the elder, used to accompany his grandfather to listen to religious discourses. Later, Mahāpanthaka joined the Buddhist religious order and soon after became an arahat. Cūlapanthaka too followed his brother and became a monk, but could not even memorize one verse in four months. About that time, Jīvaka came to the monastery to invite the Buddha and the resident monks to his house for a meal. Mahāpanthaka, who was then in charge of assigning the monks to meal invitations, left out Cūlapanthaka from the list. When Cūlapanthaka learnt about this he felt very much frustrated and decided that he would return to the life of a householder. Knowing his intention, the Buddha took him along and made him sit in front of the Gandhakuti hall. He then gave a clean white piece of cloth to Cūlapanthaka and told him to sit there facing east and rub the piece of cloth with his hand. At the same time, he was to repeat the word “Rajoharanam”, which means “taking off impurity.” The Buddha then went to the residence of Jīvaka, accompanied by the monks.
Meanwhile, Cūlapanthaka went on rubbing the piece of cloth, all the time muttering the word “Rajoharanam”. Very soon, the cloth became soiled. Seeing this change in the condition of the cloth, Cūlapanthaka came to realize the impermanent nature of all conditioned things. From the house of Jīvaka, the Buddha through supernormal power learnt about the progress of Cūlapanthaka. He sent forth his radiance so that the Buddha appeared to Cūlapanthaka to be sitting in front of him, saying: “It is not the piece of cloth alone that is made dirty by the dust; within oneself also there exist dusts. Only by removing the dirt could one achieve one’s goal and attain arahatship”. Cūlapanthaka got the message and attained arahatship. At the house of Jīvaka, they were about to offer water before serving food, as it was customary, but the Buddha covered the bowl with his hand and asked if there were any monks left at the monastery. On being answered that there were none, the Buddha replied that there was one, and directed them to fetch Cūlapanthaka from the monastery. When the messenger from the house of Jīvaka arrived at the monastery he found not only one monk, but a thousand identical monks. They had all been created by Cūlapanthaka, who by now possessed supernormal powers. The messenger was baffled and he turned back and reported the matter to Jīvaka. The messenger was sent to the monastery for the second time and was instructed to say that the Buddha summoned the monk by the name of Cūlapanthaka. But when he delivered the message, a thousand voices responded, “I am Cūlapanthaka.” Again baffled, he turned back for the second time. Then he was sent to the monastery, for the third time. This time, he was instructed to get hold of the monk who first said that he was Cūlapanthaka. As soon as he got hold of that monk all the rest disappeared, and Cūlapanthaka accompanied the messenger to the house of Jīvaka. After the meal, as directed by the Buddha, Cūlapanthaka delivered a religious discourse confidently and bravely, roaring like a young lion.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 25)
uṭṭhānena appamādena saññamena damena ca
medhāvī dīpaṃ kayirātha yaṃ ogho na abhikīrati
uṭṭhānena: (endowed) with steadfastness; appamādena: with mindfulness; saññamena: with restraint; damena: with control of the senses; ca: and;medhāvī: the wise person; dīpaṃ [dīpa]: an island; kayirātha: builds; yaṃ: which; ogho: the floods; na abhikīrati: will not overwhelm.
Note: It is lamentable that most English translations render the word dīpa in these contexts like the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta of Dīgha Nikāya as ‘lamp’. dīpa: this term has two meanings: 1) lamp; 2) island. Here, in the above verse, “island” is the preferable meaning.
The whole world is full of defilements. The sensualities of life are a vast and forceful flood. But the wise person builds steadfastly for himself an Island that cannot be washed away by those vast floods. The Island is built of steadfastness, mindfulness, restraint and discipline. Once steadily established on that island, the flood cannot overwhelm the wise.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 25)
medhāvī: the wise ones are people in whom the right insights are present.
dīpaṃ: An island situated on a higher level cannot be flooded although the surrounding low lying land may be inundated. Such an island becomes a refuge to all. In the same way the wise man who develops insight should make an island of himself by attaining Arahanthood so that he may not be drowned by the four floods of sensedesires (kāma), false beliefs (diṭṭhi), craving for existence (bhava) and ignorance (avijjā).