Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 253:
paravajjānupassissa niccaṃ ujjhānasaññino |
āsavā tassa vaḍḍhanti ārā so āsavakkhayā || 253 ||
253. Who’s always seeing other’s faults, taking offence, censorious, pollutions spread for such a one who’s far from their exhaustion.
The Story of Venerable Ujjhānasaññī
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse with reference to Venerable Ujjhānasaññī.
Venerable Ujjhānasaññī was always finding fault with and speaking ill of others. Other monks reported him to the Buddha. The Buddha replied to them, “Monks, if someone finds fault with another so as to teach him good ways, it is not an act of evil and is therefore not to be blamed. But, if someone is always finding fault with others and speaking ill of them just out of spite and malice, he will not attain concentration and mental absorption (jhāna). He will not be able to understand the Dhamma, and moral intoxicants (āsavas) will increase in him.
Then the Buddha pronounced this stanza.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 253)
paravajjānupassissa niccaṃ ujjhānasaññino
tassa āsavā vaḍḍhanti so āsavakkhayā ārā
paravajjānupassissa: those who are given to the habit of observing faults of others; niccaṃ [nicca]: constantly; ujjhānasaññino [ujjhānasaññina]: deride others; tassa: his; āsavā: taints; vaḍḍhanti: grow; so: he; āsavakkhayā: from the state of taintlessness; ārā: is far away
There are those who are given to the habit of observing the faults of others. They deride others constantly. Their taints keep on thriving, and are far away from the state of taintlessness.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 253)
ujjhānasaññino: tending to divide others. The name of the Venerable in the story derives from his personal weakness in finding fault with others, merely to destroy them.
paravajjānupassissa: those who are given to the habit of observing the faults of others. This is a shortcoming of most men. It is almost a byproduct of worldly life. In day to day life, much unhappiness is caused by this habit. This habit arises partly due to the inclination of some to be talkative. When they talk without inhibition fault-finding, too, happens.
“Much talking is a source of danger,
Through silence misfortune is avoided,
The talkative parrot in a cage is shut,
While birds that cannot talk fly freely.”
How often do we speak deliberately? How often do we know what we are going to say before words have come tumbling out of our mouths? And sometimes we can even surprise ourselves by what we have said as much as we may have surprised and shocked the person to whom we were talking. And quite often we wish we had not said something after we have said it. But then it is too late, for words that have once come out can never be withdrawn, even though we may apologize for them and retract them. For they have been expressed and there they abide forever. The sound vibrations made by our vocal cords have become something in the world, part of the world. Some people believe that the same is true of thought; that a thought once made, whether good or bad, never disappears out of existence again. This is a very serious idea when we remember how lightly we utter words in anger, dislike, contempt or unkindness, and these words are conditioned reflexes. An event occurs that annoys us and before we are aware of it certain angry words have tumbled out. And the next stage, of course, after noticing what we are saying is to notice what we are thinking, for we must think before we speak, although generally the thought is so rapid as to merge itself with the words.
The injunction we often hear from grown ups to “Think before you speak!” (although they seldom do so themselves) means to slow up the rate of our replies so that we know our thought before we express it aloud;then we know what we are saying. If you can form the habit of noticing what you are saying, and if you think about it, you will soon be able to see what sort of remarks come out the most rapidly and the most violently–the ones that hurt other people the most. When you reason something out you have to think and therefore speak slowly, but when your emotions are aroused, when you feel anger or dislike or pity or sorrow or resentment, then your emotions (whose centre is the middle of the brain) send their direction to the tongue and rapid, violent words pour forth before you can stop them. Thoughts controlled mean words controlled, and words controlled mean actions controlled, for angry words are often followed by blows, and control of words and actions means that you cannot be provoked into a fight and perhaps into drawing a knife and doing someone serious injury. Indeed, it is quite good fun trying to see the effect you produce on someone by refusing to allow yourself to be provoked. They tend to get more and more infuriated because they are trying to anger you and just cannot do it. Then you can watch and see how silly people look when they are losing their tempers, and you will know how silly you would look when you lose yours. So remember, the tongue is really your servant and you are its master, and it should therefore say what you want it to say, and not run off on its own as it does so often. For unfortunately, with most of us, it’s our tongue that is master of us and we are its slaves, and we have to listen to what it speaks in our name, and we seem unable to stop it wagging.
“One does not become a wise man just by talking a lot, neither is he versed in the doctrine because he speaks much.” (Buddha)
Sometimes it is very difficult to find out the truth through arguments. One who possesses oratorical power could twist and hide the facts for his own sake, and could easily run down another’s point of view. Especially, heated arguments never bring any good results. One who wants to know the real facts must think quietly and discuss with others calmly and gently. The truth will never come out through heated arguments, or by hurting the feelings of others; because everybody tries to defend his own prestige even though he knows he is in the wrong.