Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 30:
appamādena maghavā devānaṃ seṭṭhataṃ gato |
appamādaṃ pasaṃsanti pamādo garahito sadā || 30 ||
30. Heedfulness is always praised, heedlessness is ever blamed. By heedfulness did Magha go to lordship of the gods.
The Story of Magha
While residing at the Kūtāgāra Monastery near Vesāli, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to Sakka, king of the devas. A Licchavi prince named Mahāli, who lived at Vesāli, hearing the Buddha recite the Suttanta entitled Sakka’s Question, thought to himself, “The Supremely Enlightened has described the great glory of Sakka. Has the Buddha seen Sakka? Or has he not seen Sakka? Is the Buddha acquainted with Sakka? Or is he not acquainted with Sakka? I will ask him.” So the Licchavi prince Mahāli drew near to where the Exalted One was, and having drawn near, saluted the Exalted One and sat down on one side. And having sat down on one side, the Licchavi prince Mahāli spoke thus to the Exalted One, “Venerable, has the Exalted One seen Sakka king of gods?” “Yes, Mahāli, I have indeed seen Sakka king of gods.” “Venerable, it must certainly have been a counterfeit of Sakka; for, Venerable, it is a difficult matter to see Sakka king of gods.” “Nevertheless, Mahāli, I know Sakka; I know what qualities made him Sakka; I know by the cultivation of what qualities Sakka attained Sakkaship.
“Mahāli, in a previous state of existence Sakka king of gods was a human being, a prince named Magha; therefore is he called Maghavā. Mahāli, in a previous state of existence Sakka king of gods was a human being who in a previous state of existence gave gifts; therefore is he called Purindada. Mahāli, in a previous state of existence Sakka king of gods was a human being, who gave alms assiduously; therefore is he called Sakka. Mahāli, in a previous state of existence Sakka king of gods was a human being who gave a dwelling-place;therefore is he called Vāsavā. Mahāli in a previous state of existence Sakka king of gods was a human being who could think of as many as a thousand things in an instant; therefore is he called Sahassakkha. Mahāli, Sakka king of gods has an Asura maiden named Sujata to wife; therefore is he called Sujampati. Mahāli, Sakka king of gods bears sway as lord and master over the Gods of the Thirty-three; therefore is he called King of Gods. Mahāli, Sakka king of gods in a previous state of existence as a human being took upon himself and fulfilled seven vows. Because he took upon himself and fulfilled these seven vows, Sakka attained Sakkaship.
“Now what were the seven? ‘So long as I live, may I be the support of my mother and father. So long as I live, may I honour my elders. So long as I live, may I speak gentle words. So long as I live, may I never give way to backbiting. So long as I live, may I live the life of a householder with heart free from taint of avarice, generous in renunciation of what is mine, with open hand, delighting in liberality, attentive to petitions, delighting in the distribution of alms. So long as I live, may I speak the truth. So long as I live, may I be free from anger. Should anger spring up within me, may I quickly suppress it.’ Mahāli, Sakka king of gods in a previous state of existence took upon himself and fulfilled seven vows. Because he took upon himself and fulfilled these seven vows, Sakka attained Sakkaship.” The Buddha said, “That, in a previous birth, Sakka was born as Magha. During that birth with thirty companions he built roads and resting places for the benefit of the masses. His unflagging effort brought him into the exalted position of king of gods, and recited this stanza.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 30)
maghavā appamādena devānaṃ seṭṭhataṃ gato
appamādaṃ pasaṃsanti pamādo sadā garahito.
Maghavā: Magha (Mānavaka); appamādena: through mindfulness; devānaṃ [devāna]: of gods; seṭṭhataṃ [seṭṭhata]: leadership; gato: reached; appamādaṃ [appamāda]: mindfulness; pasaṃsanti: the wise praise; pamādo [pamāda]: slothfulness; sadā: always; garahito [garahita]: is condemned.
The brahamin youth Magha, through his mindfulness, was born as the Chief of Gods. Therefore mindfulness is always praised, and sloth and unmindfulness are always condemned.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 30)
pamādo garahito sadā: those who lag behind are condemned because the lethargic cannot achieve their goals–worldly or spiritual. Unawareness is of course always censured, deprecated by those noble ones. Why? Because it is the root condition for all calamities. Every calamity, whether human adversity or birth in a state of woe, is, indeed, based on unawareness.
Maghavā: Maghavā is synonymous with Sakka, king of the gods. The Maghamānavaka Jātaka relates that in the remote past a public-spirited person, who had spent his whole lifetime in welfare work with the cooperation of his friends, was born as Sakka as the result of his good actions.
Devās: lit., sporting or shining ones, are a class of beings with subtle physical bodies invisible to the naked eye. They live in the celestial planes. There are also earth-bound deities.