Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 266-267:
na tena bhikkhū hoti yāvatā bhikkhate pare |
vissaṃ dhammaṃ samādāya bhikkhu hoti na tāvatā || 266 ||
yo’dha puññañca pāpañca bāhetvā brahmacariyavā |
saṅkhāya loke carati sa ve bhikkhū’ti vuccati || 267 ||
266. Though one begs from others by this alone’s no bhikkhu. Not just by this a bhikkhu but from all Dhamma doing.
267. Who both good and evil deeds has gone beyond with holy life, having discerned the world he fares and ‘Bhikkhu’ he is called.
The Story of a Brāhmin
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke these verses with reference to a brāhmin.
The story goes that this brāhmin retired from the world and became a monk of an heretical order. As he went about on his alms-round he thought to himself, “The Buddha addresses as monks his own disciples who go about on alms-round; he ought to address me also as a monk.” Accordingly, he approached the Buddha and said to him, “Venerable, I also support my life by going about on alms-round;address me as a monk.” But the Buddha said to him, “Brāhmin, I do not call a man a monk merely because he receives alms. For a man who adopts and practices all the forms is not therefore a monk. But he that weighs well all the aggregates of being and acts accordingly, he is a monk indeed.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 266)
yāvatā pare bhikkhate tena bhikkhu na hoti,
vissaṃ dhammaṃ samādāya tāvatā bhikkhu na hoti
yāvatā: because (someone); pare: from others; bhikkhate: begs; tena: by that; bhikkhu na hoti: (he) does not become a monk; vissaṃ dhammaṃ [dhamma]: repulsive belief; samādāya: embracing;tāvatā: to that extent; bhikkhu na hoti: does not become a monk
No one becomes a monk merely because he begs from others. An individual, though begging, does not become a monk if he embraces vicious and repulsive beliefs.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 267)
idha yo puññaṃ ca pāpaṃ ca bāhetvā brahmacariyavā
loke saṅkhāya carati sa ve bhikkhū iti vuccati
idha: in this (dispensation);yo: if someone; puññaṃ ca: merit; pāpaṃ ca: and evil actions; bāhetvā: giving up (rising above); brahmacariyavā: living higher discipline; loke: in this world; saṅkhāya: reflecting wisely; carati: if one lives; ca: that person; ve: certainly; bhikkhū iti: a monk; vuccati: is called
Who rises above both good and bad and treads the path of higher discipline, reflecting wisely, that person indeed deserves to be described as a monk.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 266-267)
The Buddha’s encounters with brāhmins: In the course of his earthly mission the Buddha encountered mostly aggressive brāhmins, who confronted him. One of these is the nameless brāhmin who occasioned the present verses. Although he was not significant enough to have his name known, some other brāhmins He had to deal with were remarkably well-known. Some of them were:
Soṇadaṇḍa: The Buddha, accompanied by a group of many monks, arrived in the city of Campā, in the Kingdom of Anga, and was staying on the bank of the pond Gaggarā. At that time, the brāhmin Soṇadaṇḍa was living in Campā, enjoying the area donated to him by King Bimbisāra.
The people of the city who heard of the qualities and the attainments of the Buddha went in large numbers towards the pond Gaggarā where the Buddha was staying. Soṇadaṇḍa who saw the people going in large numbers in the direction of the pond, heard from his attendant that they were going to see the Buddha. Soṇadaṇḍa told his attendant to inform the people that he himself wished to join them and see the Buddha.
About five hundred brāhmins who had come to Campā heard of the wish of Soṇadaṇḍa to see the Buddha, and went and told him that it was beneath his dignity to go and see the Buddha, and that the proper thing was for the Buddha to come and see Soṇadaṇḍa. When these brāhmins reminded Soṇadaṇḍa of his birth, qualities and attainments, he spared no pains in describing to them the high birth, the supreme virtues, and the attainments of the Buddha in detail. Finally, Soṇadaṇḍa succeeded in convincing them of the greatness of the Buddha, and went in their company to see the Buddha.
Soṇadaṇḍa entered into conversation with the Buddha, and was able to listen to a long exposition of the doctrine. Being fully satisfied with the teaching of the Buddha, he took refuge in the Triple Gem, and offered himself as a life-long devotee of the Buddha. After inviting the Buddha and the monks to meals, he offered them alms the next day at his residence.
Kūṭadanta. When the Buddha was travelling in Magadha in the company of about five hundred monks. He came to the brāhmin village of Khānumātā and was staying at its mango grove. At this time, the brāhmin Kūṭadanta was living in this village donated to him by King Bimbisāra. He also had made preparations for an animal sacrifice on a large scale, and cattle, calves, goats and lambs, numbering seven hundred in each group, were tethered for sacrifice.
The people of the village were going in large numbers to the mango grove to see the Buddha, and were seen by Kūṭadanta. When he heard of the purpose of their visit, he also intimated to them his wish to join them. However, the hundreds of brāhmins who had come to take part in the sacrifice tried to dissuade him from going to see the Buddha, and referred to his status and attainments in lofty terms. After listening to them, Kūṭadanta spoke to them of the greatness of the Buddha in all respects, and after convincing them of the greatness of the Buddha, he went in their company to the mango grove to see Him.
The Buddha preached to him a long discourse, dwelling mainly on morality and the observance of the precepts, and unfolded the Four Noble Truths. Kūṭadanta, while listening to the doctrine, realized the fruit of Sotāpatti. He abandoned the animal sacrifice, and offered alms to the Buddha and the monks the next day at the sacrificial hall.
Pokkharasāti. When the Buddha was travelling in the kingdom of Kosala, in the company of about five hundred monks, He came to the brāhmin village of Icchānaṅgala, and began to spend the time in Icchānaṅgala Grove. At this time, the brāhmin Pokkharasāti was living in the city of Ukkaṭṭhā, and was enjoying its proceeds. This city had been donated to him by Pasenadi, the King of Kosala.
Pokkharasāti had a learned pupil called Ambaṭṭha under him, and he asked his pupil to go and see the Buddha at the grove and ascertain whether the Buddha had the greatness attributed to Him by the people. The pupil asked the teacher how he could ascertain whether the Buddha had the greatness attributed to Him. He advised his pupil to look for the thirty-two marks of a great person in the Buddha, for such a person, according to their teaching, is destined to be a Universal Monarch if he remains a layman, and a fully enlightened Sanctified One if he renounces the world.
Ambaṭṭha took leave of his teacher, and went by chariot, in the company of a large number of young men, to the grove in which the Buddha dwelt. When he knocked at the door of the chamber of the Buddha, as he was told by the monks who were outside, the Buddha opened the door. Ambaṭṭha entered the chamber with his followers, and his followers sat down. He kept standing and walking while talking to the Buddha.
The Buddha asked him whether that was the way he used to talk to his teachers and elders. He said that it was different with them, but with shaven-headed dark monks, he was used to talk in that manner. The Buddha remarked that he was ill-educated and undisciplined. Ambaṭṭha then found fault with the Sākyans, and referred to them in disparaging terms. The Buddha pointed out to him that he descended from a servant girl of the Sākyans, and he admitted the fact.
After listening to a long discourse of the Buddha and satisfying himself that He had the thirty-two great marks, Ambaṭṭha took leave of the Buddha, and went to his teacher Pokkharasāti, He told Pokkharasāti that the Buddha was endowed with the thirty-two marks of a great man and that he had a long conversation with Him. When Pokkharasāti heard how his pupil had spoken to the Buddha, he lost his temper, and kicked him in anger.
Pokkharasāti forthwith went to the Buddha, apologized to Him for the shortcomings of his pupil, and listened to the doctrine of the Buddha. He realized the doctrine and took refuge in the Triple Gem, and offered himself as a life-long devotee of the Buddha.
Jānussoni. Jānussoni was a learned brāhmin who lived in the brāhmin village of Manasākata in the kingdom of Kosala. When the Buddha was residing at the Jetavana Monastery in Sāvatthi, Jānussoni was travelling at noon through the city of Sāvatthi in a chariot drawn by allwhite mares. On the way he met the wandering ascetic Pilotika, and asked him where he was coming from. He said that he was coming from meeting the Venerable Gotama.
“What do you think of the Venerable Gotama? Is He highly learned? Is He very erudite?” asked Jānussoni. “Who am I to fathom the wisdom and estimate the erudition of the Venerable Gotama? It is only another person like the monk Gotama who is capable of measuring and estimating his wisdom and erudition.”
“You are speaking very highly of the monk Gotama,” remarked Jānussoni. “Who am I to speak highly of the monk Gotama? He is praised by the praiseworthy. He is the greatest among all deities and men,” said Pilotika. Jānussoni asked, “How did you come to be so pleased with the monk Gotama?” Pilotika explained the greatness of the Buddha, making use of the simile of the feet of the elephant. After listening to Pilotika, Jānussoni hastened to see the Buddha, and met Him. He also told the Buddha everything that Pilotika said about the Buddha, using the simile of the feet of the elephant. The Buddha completed the discourse of the simile, and preached the Cūlahatthipadopama Sutta in full. At the end of the discourse, Jānussoni praised the Buddha and became a life-long disciple of the Buddha.
On another occasion, the Buddha preached to him the Bhayabherava Sutta, where He explained the theory of cause and effect, and said that His doctrine is a middle way teaching which avoids both materialism and nihilism.
Sela and Keniya. When the Buddha was travelling with one thousand two hundred and fifty monks in the region of Anguttarāpa, He came to the suburb of Āpana. The matted-haired ascetic Keniya who had heard much about the greatness of the Buddha went to see the Him. After he listened to the admonition of the Buddha, he was highly pleased with Him, and invited Him to alms with the fraternity of monks.
The Buddha, however, did not accept the invitation, as the fraternity of monks was large and Keniya was a follower of the brāhmins. When Keniya pleaded for the third time and made his request, the Buddha accepted his invitation in silence. Keniya went to his hermitage and with the help of his friends and relations made all preparations for the great feast in honour of the Buddha. The building of the pavilion was undertaken by Keniya himself.
When these preparations were in progress a highly educated brāhmin called Sela, who was a teacher of three hundred pupils and a follower of Keniya, came to this spot and inquired what all those preparations were for, and heard that they were for the Buddha who was dwelling in their suburb, Āpana. When Sela saw the personality of the Buddha endowed with the thirty-two marks of a great being, he was highly satisfied, and praised the personality of the Buddha in a number of verses. After the Buddha replied to him, he begged for ordination, and with his following entered the order and received higher ordination. In due course, they became sanctified ones.
The next day, Keniya entertained the Buddha and the fraternity of monks with a great feast at his hermitage, at the end of which the Buddha gave over the merits to him in two verses.