Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 251:
natthi rāgasamo aggi natthi dosasamo gaho |
natthi mohasamaṃ jālaṃ natthi taṇhāsamā nadī || 251 ||
251. There is no fire like lust, nought seizes like aversion, unequalled is delusion’s net, no river’s like to craving.
The Story of Five Lay-Disciples
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse with reference to five lay-disciples.
The story goes that these five men went to the monastery desiring to hear the Dhamma and, having saluted the Buddha, sat down respectfully on one side. Now in the case of the Buddhas, no such thought ever enters their mind as the following, “This man is a Khattiya, this man is a Brahman, this is a rich man, this is a poor man; I will preach the Dhamma to this man in such wise as to exalt him; I will not do so, however, in the case of this other man.” It matters not with reference to what subject the Buddhas preach the Dhamma. They place reverence for the Dhamma before all else, and preach the Dhamma as though they were bringing down the Celestial River from the sky.
But though the Buddha preached the Dhamma in this wise to the five men who sat about him, one of them was asleep while sitting, the second one was drawing lines with his fingers on the ground, the third was trying to shake a tree, the fourth was looking up at the sky. The fifth was the only one who was respectfully and attentively listening to the Buddha. Venerable Ānanda, who was near the Buddha, fanning him, saw the different behaviour of the five disciples and said to the Buddha, “Venerable Sir! While you were expounding the Dhamma like big drops of rain falling from the sky, only one out of those five people was listening attentively.” Then Venerable Ānanda described the different behaviour of the other four to the Buddha and asked why they were behaving thus.
The Buddha then explained to Venerable Ānanda, “Ānanda, these people could not get rid of their old habits. In their past existences, the first one was a snake;as a snake usually coils itself up and goes to sleep, so also, this man goes to sleep while listening to the Dhamma. The one who was scratching the earth with his hand was an earthworm, the one who was shaking the tree was a monkey, the one who was gazing up at the sky was an astronomer and the one who was listening attentively to the Dhamma was a learned astrologer. In this connection, Ānanda, you must remember that one must be attentive to be able to understand the Dhamma and that there are many people who cannot follow what is being said.”
Venerable Ānanda then asked the Buddha, “Venerable Sir! What are the things that prevent people from being able to take in the Dhamma?” And the Buddha replied. “Ānanda, they are unable to do so by reason of lust, by reason of hatred, by reason of delusion. For there is no fire like the fire of lust, consuming living beings as it does, without leaving so much as ashes behind. To be sure, the world-conflagration which closes an epoch burns up the world without leaving anything behind, but this is a fire which breaks out only on the appearance of the seven suns, and this fire burns only at times and at seasons. But as for the fire of lust, there is no time when the fire of lust does not burn. Therefore, I say that there is no fire like the fire of lust, no grip like hatred, no snare like delusion, and no river like Craving.” At the end of the discourse, the one who was listening attentively attained sotāpatti fruition.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 251)
rāgasamo aggi natthi, dosasamo gaho natthi,
mohasamaṃ jālaṃ natthi, taṇhāsamā nadī natthi
rāgasamo [natthi rāgasama]: comparable to lust; aggi: a fire; natthi: there is not; dosasamo [dosasama]: comparable to hatred; gaho: a grip; natthi: there is not; mohasamaṃ [mohasama]: comparable to ignorance; jālaṃ [jāla]: a net; natthi: there is not; taṇhāsamā: comparable to desire; nadī: a river; natthi: there is not
There is no fire like passion. There is no grip like hatred. There is no net like ignorance. There is no torrent like craving.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 251)
rāgasamo, dosasamo, mohasamaṃ, taṇhāsamā: All the main blemishes of the human mind are compared to various disasters that affect man. Lust (rāgo) is compared to fire. Hatred (dosa) is thought of as a grip. Ignorance (moha) is compared to a net. Craving (taṇhā) is compared to a furious flood: this enables people to understand mental blemishes in physical terms.